“Don’t let him fool you; he’s been here since 2nd grade.” “Administration doesn’t want us to translate in their L1.” Those statements were made to me when I asked about what strategies were being used to help a particular ELL student. I left that school but was left with scars which revealed themselves in the form of tears at a job interview. The question was, “Why do you want to work with this population?” I answered, “I am that population.” Although I have an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Endorsement, the term Long Term English Language Learner is brand new to me. I am a Long Term English Language Learner.
English is my third language. In elementary school, I was briefly placed in the ESOL program. I remember being given some exams in the fourth grade and after some time I wasn’t being pulled out of class. They showed me pictures of animals and other mundane items which I had to name. I don’t know if staying in the program would have made a difference to mastering the English language but I often feel as if I haven’t quite mastered the language.
As a special education teacher, I always gave my English Language Learners special education accommodations. As one of my Professional Developments, I decided to take an ESOL class at the district. It was completely ineffective. There was no classroom management. We watched two movies and the teacher’s accent was completely incomprehensible. That training had no impact on my ability to teach ELLs. As one teacher expressed in one study, I used to feel inadequate around Level 1 students. Because of where I taught, I was able to use my students’ L1 but I never felt effective. Being able to speak a common language has nothing to do with teaching educational concepts.
As I reflect on what I have learned in this class, I realize that my past schools have missed the mark. The objectives in this book have not been addressed at my one of previous schools. After earning my ESOL Endorsement, I was able to help a Pakistani student who neither spoke nor understood a word of English. I do support communicating in a students’ L1 however it isn’t always possible. One approach in Hite, C. E., & Evans, L. S. article that is worth mentioning is to have a student centered environment rather than a teacher centered one. This helps to lower the affective filters. By doing this the students don’t feel like their actions are punitive. Contrary to Simmons, Ronald D., Jr. and O’Brien, J. articles where the participants found it useless to focus on cultural awareness, I believe that being aware of a person’s culture is most important. We often make jokes that we view as innocent but can misconstrued by people who aren’t in our same culture. Furthermore, respect is one of the key elements to succeeding with one’s students.
Hite, C. E., & Evans, L. S. (2006). Mainstream first-grade teachers understanding of strategies for accommodating the needs of english language learners. Teacher Education Quarterly, 33(2), 89-110.
O’Brien, J. (2011). The system is broken and it’s failing these kids: High school social studies teachers’ attitudes towards training for ELLs. Journal of Social Studies Research, 35(1), 22-38.
Simmons, Ronald D., Jr. (2009). The efficacy of Florida’s approach to in-service english speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher training programs. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 2(2), 112-126. ∞