Adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers typically do the following:
Students’ educational level and skills are assessed before they enter these programs. Teachers may conduct the assessments; however, sometimes another staff member assesses students. Based on the results of the assessment and the student’s goals, teachers develop an education plan.
Teachers must formally evaluate their students periodically to determine their progress and potential to go on to the next level of classes. However, teachers may informally evaluate their students’ progress continually.
Adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers often have students of various ability levels in their classes. As a result, these teachers need to use different strategies to meet the needs of all of their students. They may work with students in classes or teach them one-on-one.
There are three types of education that adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers provide:
Adult basic education (ABE) classes teach students the basics of reading, writing, and math. The students generally are age 16 or older and need to gain proficiency in these skills to improve their job situation. Teachers prepare students for further education and help them to develop skills that they will need in the workplace. For example, they may teach students how to write a resume.
Adult secondary education classes prepare students to take the test to earn a high school equivalency credential. Some programs are combined with career preparation programs so that students can earn a high school equivalency and a career-related credential at the same time.
The high school equivalency exam is composed of four subjects: language arts, math, science, and social studies. In addition to teaching these subjects, teachers also help their students improve their skills in communicating, critical thinking, and problem solving—skills they will need in preparing for further education and successful careers.
English as a Second Language (ESL), also called English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), classes teach students to read, write, and speak English. Students in these classes are immigrants to the United States or those whose native language is not English. ESL teachers may have students from many different countries and cultures in their classroom. Because the ESL teacher and the students may not share a common native language, ESL teachers must be creative with their communication in the classroom.
ESL teachers often focus on helping their students with practical vocabulary for jobs and daily living. They also may focus on preparing their students to take the citizenship exam.
Adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers in public schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some community colleges may prefer to hire those with a master’s degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a Second Language (ESL).
Programs in adult education prepare prospective teachers to use effective strategies for adult learners, work with students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and teach adults with learning disabilities. Some programs allow these prospective teachers to specialize in adult basic education, secondary education, or ESL.
Prospective ESL teachers should take courses or training in linguistics and theories of how people learn second languages. Knowledge of a second language is not necessary to teach ESL, but it can be helpful.
Teacher education programs instruct prospective teachers in how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include an opportunity for student-teachers to work with a mentor and get experience in a classroom. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.
Adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers may take professional development classes to improve their teaching skills and ensure that they keep up with research about teaching adults.
Adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers who work in public schools must have a teaching certificate. Some states have certificates specifically for adult education. Other states require teachers to have a certificate in elementary or secondary education.
To obtain a license, adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers typically need a bachelor’s degree and must complete a student-teaching program. For more information, contact the director of adult education for your state. Contact information is available from the U.S. Department of Education.