Note: The final article in our October 2019 series on relevant discussion topics showing how
the Dear Dr. Mooney community offers teachers of English Learners a unique chance to give
and receive support.
At the beginning of October, I said we all need teacher-friends. And we do!
But what about those colleagues that are not your friends, particularly those who seem to be doing harm to the English learners you care so much about?
You know the ones I’m talking about. There’s the colleague down the hall who is a perfectly nice person. Perhaps they’re even a decent teacher, but they just don’t seem to understand English learners’ needs. Their feelings come across when they question why you scaffold your lessons or provide accommodations on projects and assessments. They may contend that your teaching isn’t rigorous enough. You’re simplifying the curriculum – babying the students.
You may be the EL specialist in your building, and you encounter teachers who resist changing anything about their practice in order to accommodate English learners. They don’t want to provide more time on assessments or find alternative ways for students to access the content. They claim to teach Science, not English!
Some may say that it’s not that they don’t want to implement the accommodations. They just don’t have the time because of everything else they’re required to do. Others don’t say anything at all; they just seem to ignore the ELs in their classes.
How do you handle this resistance?
Keep them close.
You’ve heard the saying – Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It’s a shrewd reminder to keep your enemies close enough to know what they’re doing. Don’t ignore them. Maybe the saying also implies that you treat your “enemies” in a way that they don’t even realize you’re not friends.
Now, I am NOT saying that teachers who do not accommodate for ELs are your enemies. They’re not, even though it may feel that way. Those are your feelings, but they may not be the facts.
Your colleagues are right; they are overburdened with so much to do. In recent years, it seems like more and more policy and expectations are pushed down from above to the classroom teacher.
Although their plates are full, it’s also true that ELs deserve certain accommodations in the classroom. Common sense, and the law, says they do.
So, what are you to do?
Develop allies, not enemies.
Perhaps your colleagues resist accommodations because they really don’t know what to do or how to do it.
What would you do if this were your teacher-friend? You would help them, right? Why not do that for your non-teacher-friends?
Share a scaffolded lesson plan or offer to modify an assignment for them. Help them write a few language objectives. Show them how you use the WIDA Can-Do Descriptors to adjust your lesson plans for ELs’ needs. You don’t have to wait for them to ask for your help. Gently interject ideas into conversations. Talk about these suggestions as if you know they want to know.
Don’t roll your eyes.
There really are colleagues who will welcome help when it is offered with the right spirit and at the right time. It needs to be help they perceive as help, not as condemnation of their current practice. Look for colleagues that seem open to your assistance and start with them. Come alongside, helping and encouraging them to see ELs in a new light. It will take time, but it can work.
Remember, not everyone will be your ally in this endeavor, but that’s okay. The more allies that are on your side, the fewer there are on the other.
What about your experiences?
- Have you tried to develop allies in the teaching of English Learners?
- How do you deal with teachers who are resistant to implementing accommodations?