Building a Relationship Between Homeroom & ELL Teachers

When I became a Professional Learning Specialist whose job it is to provide training, coaching, modeling, feedback and meaningful support to amazing ELL teachers, one common theme began standing out me. The communication between the ELL teacher and the homeroom teacher, in many situations, was either non-existent or very limited. When I would suggest an idea like finding out what the homeroom teacher is doing during math or science in order to integrate some of that vocabulary into the language expressions being acquired during the English lesson, I was often met with comments like “we don’t really talk” or “oh, I never thought about that…what a great idea!” On the flip side, when asking homeroom teachers if they’re noticing the amazing impact that the English lessons are having on their ELL students, I would sometimes hear “I’m sure that they must be making a positive impact, but I’m not really sure what my students are doing during that time.” Building relationships with colleagues, particularly between ELL and general education teachers, especially in today’s educational climate, is essential. With just a little bit of time and intentionality it can be done and can lead to amazing partnerships. So how can you tackle this? Here are a few ideas:

Begin with an in-person, face-to-face, friendly introduction of yourself.
Rather than being that mystery pull-out teacher down the hall, present yourself as a colleague who cares about student success and who is doing meaningful lessons. Show that you want to build a partnership and share ideas. Share how you can be reached, offer to sit down and collaborate once a month before school and volunteer to bring the bagels & coffee, or write a mini-newsletter to share what’s going on during your lessons. Discuss insights that you may have about certain students. Either one of you may know a particular child’s learning style, family dynamic, or academic strengths that the other is unaware of.

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Let’s All Learn from ELL Best Practices

In today’s unprecedented and challenging times in education, administrators, teachers, and others in the field are admittedly searching for strategies and teaching tools, even gimmicks and gadgets, that claim to help children ‘catch up’ academically and socially. Rather than recreating the wheel, though, why not take some cues from a group of teachers who have been ‘catching children up’ academically and socially for years? Who would that be, you ask? The answer is English Language Learner teachers! Consider this: often, ELL newcomer students enter US classrooms from places where the education system is quite different and, in some cases, limited. Perhaps formal education is only for male students, or for the wealthy, or for a certain religious group in their home country. Newcomer students may be joining US classrooms from places where interrupted education is somewhat common due to widespread violence, like gang or military conflict. When newcomer children enter US schools, they may not just be experiencing English as an instructional or conversational language for the first time; they also may be experiencing what it is like to be a student for the first time---or in a very long time---as well.  Because there simply isn’t enough time in the day to sit down and review every single item that may have been missed along their journey in education, best practices for ELLs have been developed and very successfully implemented over time, as a means to get students ‘up to speed’ in a realistic and even enjoyable way.

Would you agree that this has a familiar ring to it? Kids whose learning has been interrupted through no fault of their own. Teachers with limited time to get them up to speed.

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Cultivate a Caring, Confident Classroom Community (Yes, Even During a Pandemic!)

Ah, ‘back-to-school’ season. It’s here! Newly polished floors, perfectly pointy crayons, freshly sharpened pencils, warm and welcoming teachers, and school staff …the list goes on. The primary objective of school, you ask? Well, that’s an easy one: to facilitate learning in a space that’s physically and emotionally safe, of course. But there’s a bit more to it than that.

You see, school is a special place where many children are experiencing a structured setting outside of their homes for the very first time. And within the walls of each classroom, something exceptional is happening. Meaningful relationships and routines are being built. A new community is beginning to form and blossom. Carving out time to cultivate an environment where each student takes ownership and feels valued is essential. That community is the firm foundation for all the ‘must-do’ learning to be built upon! But, you may be asking yourself, can that joyful, productive vibe of a caring classroom community really come to fruition in the midst of a lingering pandemic? Absolutely. It can and it must! Here are a few simple, usable ideas to get you started:

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Balance Teacher-Led Instruction and Screen Time: And They All Lived Happily Ever-After!

Once upon a time, in what now seems like a far-away land, adults like principals, teachers and parents pleaded with children to turn off their computers and gadgets. Then, suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, along came the years 2020 and 2021, with their friend 2022 not far behind! Turning the world sideways, they caused those very same adults to scurry around in a frenzy, working diligently to give all the boys & girls near and far access to technology! Rather than telling the children to turn their devices off, they were, instead, encouraging them and even checking to make sure they had turned them on! Overtime, the start of the 2021-2022 school year began.  Ever so slightly, the scurrying and frenetic pace slowed down. Everyone---the principals, teachers, parents and even the children--- dusted themselves off, looked around, and realized that while there was so much good that comes from in-person, face-to-face, teacher-led instruction, there was also a big benefit to educational technology.

If you’re an educator, you know the power and impact of effective teacher-led instruction. Of the seemingly infinite number of ‘pros’, teacher-lead instruction and learning allow for:

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Back to School with a Bang!

Raise your hand if you can’t believe how quickly Summer 2021 zipped by. Okay, put your hand down. Now, raise your hand if getting back to the ‘normal’ routine of a school year seems like a crazy concept because it feels as though we haven’t even had a normal routine in 100 years. Put your hand down again. We could go on and on, but let’s jump in…

For those of us in education, the beginning of a new school year almost always begins with mixed emotions ranging from eager anticipation, to overwhelming anxiety, and everything in between.

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