2023 IATEFL Conference Plenary: Sharing words and worlds: ESOL teachers as allies, advocates, and activists

2023 IATEFL Conference Plenary: Sharing words and worlds: ESOL teachers as allies, advocates, and activists


The field of ESOL teaching is growing exponentially, as is the global humanitarian crisis of forced displacement and migration. It is a complicated context that presents ESOL teachers, many of whom are volunteers, with multiple challenges. Their learners have possibly left war-torn countries, suffered trauma, and made harrowing journeys to find safety. Many have had interruptions in their education and maybe have low literacy in their first languages. The English language classroom is often the primary space for them to share their stories, be listened to, feel welcomed, and learn about practical resources they need to help them settle into their new homes. It is a place to access and understand the new country’s culture while making sense of their identities and finding their voices. ESOL teachers have to adopt many roles to address their learners’ multi-dimensional needs which often extend far beyond simply teaching English. Their work has been compounded by the surge in the pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric many of us have witnessed in recent years. ESOL teachers are their learners’ allies, advocates, and activists.
In this presentation, I explore ESOL teachers’ myriad roles and question how we prepare and equip ESOL teachers for this challenging field. I suggest that a multimodal approach to ESOL classroom practices, including cultural responsiveness, restorative practices, and responsive curriculums while using an asset-based, international-mindedness lens, supports teachers in navigating and addressing their learners’ linguistic, social, and emotional needs.

About Lesley:

Lesley Painter-Farrell (M.Sc. Aston University, EdD in progress at Bath University) worked as a teacher of English as a foreign language in Portugal, Poland, and many countries in Asia. She began teacher training when based in Poland for International House, the Soros Foundation, and Longman publications. She moved to New York to head a teacher training department and designed courses for teaching younger learners, teaching using new trends, and language development courses for teachers. She also ran CELTA courses. During this time, she became involved in the ESOL context, volunteering as a teacher to immigrants and refugees. While working on the MA TESOL program at the New School University in New York, she established the English Outreach program. The mission of the Outreach is to provide free English classes to refugees, immigrants, and migrants living in New York. Currently, she is the coordinator of the TESOL certificate program at a State university in New York- Westchester Community College- where she has established another free English program for refugees and immigrants. Her research focuses on reflective practice in teaching, international mindedness in education, and asset-based approaches to education. Her own published materials for ELT include The Role Play Book, Homework, and Lessons Learned: First Steps Towards Reflective Teaching in ELT. Currently, she is working on a book about teaching beginner language learners for Bloomsbury Press with Gabriel Diaz Maggioli.

Lesley Painter-Farrell
Publication date: 
Friday, 19 May, 2023
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