Authored by Cammie Wilson, Adult Ed Special Interest Group leader for the VATESOL Board of Directors.
For me, 2019 was a year of many goodbyes and many endings, some painful, some hopeful, and I welcome 2020 as a year of beginnings, open doors, new paths, and new opportunities.
Three years ago, when I accepted the position of daytime ESOL instructor, I was hopeful that our program might be able to buck the trend of employing mostly part-time, mostly K-12-certified instructors.The field of Adult ESOL is full of highly-skilled, highly-qualified, passionate, enthusiastic, inadequately-compensated instructors.
Over the years, I've been told time and time again how lucky I am to have work that I love, for which I have a passion, for which I felt a calling, and from which I have gained deep satisfaction. Unfortunately, as those of you know who have struggled as adjuncts to find enough teaching credits, as part-time employees to rely on a spouse for benefits, as underpaid K-12 teachers who've agreed to teach night classes for additional income... the satisfaction that comes with student success can be overshadowed by growing workloads, income instability, and the general demands of life and family.
We are good at our jobs, and we deserve to be fairly compensated for our work. We deserve sick time, holidays, and snow days without worrying about how we're going to make up that income because we're in a don't-work-don't-get-paid situation. We deserve opportunities for advancement, professional development, and at the very minimum, cost-of-living pay increases.
This was the year I realized that my Adult Ed program was in no better situation than others across the state. In December, after a year of watching our program struggle with cuts to local funding, including the reduction of our staff by over 40% and the potential dissolution of the ESOL program entirely, I made the difficult and painful decision to leave my position. I initially balked at the idea of having to leave the field of Adult Education to find a permanent full-time job with benefits, but now I find myself in a position where my schedule and salary allow me the freedom to volunteer with a local literacy organization, keeping me connected to the ELL community and continuing to support adult learners in my region and beyond.
I am hopeful that in 2020, my colleagues in Adult Ed will be able to find meaning in their work while also being fairly compensated for their time and skill; that the adult ELLs of Virginia will find growing opportunities for education and employment; and that VATESOL can provide additional avenues to connect practitioners and learners across the state.