Thursday, August 27, 2015

Appreciating Patience

My expectations of what I "want" and what "is" constantly seem to butt heads in my mind.  What I "want" tends to be either unrealistic thinking, future dreams/plans, or selfishness.  What "is" most certainly is always reality.  Reality isn't always the most fun to cross paths with, but I believe it is necessary for growth in ones human spirit and life.

I try to combat my "wants" vs. "needs" or "what is" by trying to recenter and focus on where I am and be/live in the moment.  Gratitude is all around us - sometimes it's just a matter of opening your eyes and moving something out of the way.  It's a bit like looking for that missing spice in the cupboard.  There are so many others in the way that are spices that makes you think of all the goodies you could bake, but what you're making right now requires the one that is sometimes in the far back of the cupboard.  So today, though I'm not where I want to be or doing what I want to do which because something unplanned happened (don't you hate the unplanned things in life? lol), I will make the best of today and enjoy it for what it is, not what I wanted it to be.

I'm grateful for true friendships in my life who I wouldn't have otherwise known had I not reached out of my comfort zone.  I appreciate their understanding of patience as it reminds me to actually be patient with myself.  It teaches me to be a blessing to others when sometimes I just want to do my own thing.

So with all of this, I am reminded of the old hymn originally written in 1905, "His Eyes Are On the Sparrow:"

"I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free;
His eye is on the sparrow;
And He watches over me."

The comfort of knowing I'm free - free in religion, free in Christ, free in America, free in my disability, etc, etc, - the comfort of knowing I'm FREE in Christ alone is what sustains me through life's unexpected plans.  And for that, I am happy and grateful.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

The CTEL Exam - Smoke and Mirrors

The California Teacher of English Language (CTEL).... a law that was passed in 2004 saying that all teachers in California needed to not only be credentialed, but also be able to teach students where English is not their primary language.  It is a great concept in theory, but not practical in reality.  Here is why.

First off, there are three subtests to this test, and one has the option to take them at three separate times (1st, 2nd, and 3rd), or all three at the same time.  You save a small percentage of money by opting to take all three at the same time and with money the way it is, I chose this option.  Oh, and we're not talking something like $10 a test.  Oh no.  Try $260 for a 6 hour test with only a 45 minute break (if you choose to take all three subtests at the same time.)

Here's the break down of each subtest:

     1. Language and Language Development
     2. Assessment and Instruction
     3. Culture and Inclusion

Each subtest includes between 40-60 multiple choice questions as well as one to two essay questions.  One must obtain a minimum passing score of 220 per subtest (out of 300) in order to pass.  All three subtests must be passed in order to acquire your required CTEL Certification.

I prepared as best as I could.  I researched ways to best study, took practice tests online, used flashcards, and memorized other methodologies among other things.  But here's the thing... my degree is in Music, and I'm a music teacher.  Have I had English Language Learners (ELLs) in my classroom?  Absolutely!  And the amazing thing about music is that it is universal, english syllables easily transfer to rhythm, and music covers all core subject areas.  But have I ever solely taught ELLs in an individualized classroom?  No.  Will I ever?  Probably not.  Yet this certification is required for ALL teachers in order to be a certified, credentialed teacher in the state of California.  Even substitute teachers have to have this certification!  Again, while I think it is great that substitute teachers actually have some knowledge of teaching (as opposed to a grandma who retired from nursing and just wants to give back to the community - yet has no control over high schoolers), the need for them to be certified in this type of extensive test is absurd.

I was prepared like I was for the SAT/ACT back in high school when I got to the testing center.  I had my #2 pencils ready only to be brought into a room full of computer cubicles.  Hmm.  Okay.  I was one of the first to get there, and because this is a neutral testing site, people were taking different tests other than me.  (I'm fairly certain I was the only one taking the CTEL test!)  I put my #2 pencils next to the keyboard wondering when I would need to use them, but it seemed as if they were showing my age more than anything.

The room filled up with 15 total stations, and about 10 of the stations were students with the Fire Department.  "Why can't I be taking that test?" I asked myself.  I settled in for an all day event.

In the top right-hand corner, 6 hours plus a 45 minute lunch break (yup, that's the only break!) is converted into minutes (405 minutes) counting down second by second as the first test begins.

The 1st and 3rd subtest were in the first part of the day (before lunch break), and then the 2nd part was taken after lunch.  As I pushed "End Test," I had one minute and three seconds showing left on the countdown.  This test was nothing like what I had studied for!  I compare it to studying for a science test only be given an algebra test.  I'm not even kidding.  I was dumbfounded after answering/guessing the first several questions.  Everything I had studied and memorized was worthless.  All the practice tests I took only were pointless.  They didn't even simulate what the test format was like.  Questions were asked that were nowhere located on the Study Guide provided by the CTEL testing website.

One example of a question that I clearly remembering thinking "WTH?" was:

     *  What is the second largest minority population in the state of California?
          A.  Vietnamese
          B.  Cuban
          C.  Some tribal language in another country I had never heard of
          D.  Another language I had never heard of

Why does this matter in my life what the second largest minority population is in the state of California, and why was this not prepped for me to know the answer to?  I chose Vietnamese, but I have no clue if that's right or wrong.  An English Learner is an English Learner.... it only matters to a certain extent what their primary language is.  The methods of them learning English are all the same.

For anyone who has to take this test, I don't even know how to direct you on how to study for this test.  I would probably recommend taking one subtest at a time if you are crunched for time (like I was) rather than taking all three on the same day (like I did.)  The study guide is literally what it is... a guide.  There is more information in the study guide than you need to know.  Don't memorize laws or definitions.  Know what the theories (not theorists) are and how to apply them to ELLs.  Application knowledge is huge, and the questions are tricky with convincing answers.  Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA's) are all important to know and know how to apply them.  But because it is on the computer, it's not like the old school way I was taught to glance through the entire test, answer the questions you know and then go back and spend the time on the ones you don't know. Nope.  You have to go one question at a time.  So, there were many questions I spent 5 minutes on because I had no idea what the answer was to the question!

Because I felt dooped what the test was actually like compared to how and what I studied that was recommended by various sites, I am not confident in what the outcome will be regarding my results.  I will find out in 4-6 weeks if I passed.  Again, I have to pass all three subtests in order to gain my certification which is a requirement for my California teaching credential.  My prediction is that I'll have to go through this hell again to learn a topic that I will never solely teach on my own and need to know to the extent this test takes it.

Needless to say, my #2 pencils stayed sharp, but my brain was extremely dull after 342 minutes of a complete conundrum of a test.

Update:  I did not pass any of the exam parts.  And honestly, I still do not know what to study.

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