Every day we make hundreds of choices. We choose to get up, what to wear, what to have for breakfast, whether to take the long route or the short one to work, which activities to include in a lesson…. The list goes on and on.
Today, you have choices to make that aren’t part of your normal routine. You will choose to go to the polls or not. You will choose to vote for certain candidates over others. These are important choices we in the US have the freedom to make. They are worthy choices.
You’ve made other important choices, too. At some point in your past, you chose to teach English Learners. It’s possible the choice was thrust upon you as the students entered your classroom. Once they were there, you chose to teach them well. It’s not an easy task. Adding a language barrier to all of the other demands of teaching is complicated.
As you think about choices today, I encourage you to choose the following actions for your ELs to ensure they are getting the education you want them to have. These are worthy choices mostly up to you!
#1. Choose to be attentive to students’ acculturation levels.
How long have they been in the US? Could they be experiencing culture shock?
How could you make the classroom and your procedures more understandable or comfortable for them? Maybe their behavior or emotional reactions have a cultural reason.
#2. Choose to adjust your teaching methods to meet their needs.
Have you become stuck using a good teaching strategy when your ELs need a great one?
Some teaching methods work well for almost every student. Others work well for native English speakers but are not as effective for ELs. You may have to let go of a few good strategies to pick up better ones.
#3. Choose to persevere.
When ELs are not learning at the rate you expect, you can choose to keep going. Paying attention to their acculturation levels and adjusting your teaching strategies are important, but your ELs may just need more time.
When methods don’t work as expected, some teachers want to jump to the special education referral process. This leads to overrepresentation in Special Education programs, which is a problem. (Underrepresentation is just as problematic.) It’s a delicate balance.
You will need to consider acculturation issues, analyze your teaching, and keep detailed records over a set amount of time before a formal Special Education evaluation can occur anyway. This process is meant to keep ELs out of supplemental programs if they don’t need to be there. It’s possible your perseveration, not special education services, may be just what they need to be successful.
Thank you for choosing to teach ELs well!
They need advocates at the federal, state, district, and school levels. Even more, they need you in the classroom making important choices for them every day.
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