I am excited to be one of the new WIDA bloggers and thrilled to add to the online discourse surrounding ELLs. This is a wonderful platform for us to share our insights, thoughts, and experiences. My academics and professional interests include challenges surrounding language learning versus learning disabilities, increasing schools’ cross-cultural competencies, and empowering content area teachers to adapt and modify instruction for ELLs. Most importantly on my agenda, I am more than simply an ESL teacher; I am an advocate for ELLs. We are known in our schools as ESL teachers. This title simplifies the true nature of our professional responsibilities; I believe that an ESL teacher assumes the role of an ESL advocate. Advocacy is the heart of ESL education. To all the ESL teachers out there reading this, think: how are you ESL advocates?
Advocacy includes disseminating constructive and accurate information about ELLs. It is an opportunity to showcase the contributions and value of ELLs to all those in the education arena: administrators, PTAs, native English speaking students, teachers, school staff, school boards, and the community. The ESL teacher provides a rich-language environment and is experienced on culturally and linguistically responsive teaching methods, but role of the ESL advocate includes a deeper complexity. The ESL advocate provides professional development to content area teachers to maximize ELLs’ access to the curricula, as well as collaborating with content area teachers and other school staff to establish appropriate programs for ELLs of varying levels of English proficiency. The ESL advocate has knowledge of the legal underpinnings, federal requirements and state guidelines governing the education of students with limited English proficiency. As ESL advocates, we are constantly addressing affective needs of our ELLs that often times extend to their families that include providing a variety of school and community resources and services available to them. We are charged with the education and involvement of ELL families, other educators, students, and community members on issues and topics affecting ELLs. With the added role as advocates, we are sometimes faced with challenges, limitations and dilemmas. Over the past 15 years, I have felt a shift in the connotation of ESL advocacy from positive to a neutral or more negative meaning. The ESL teacher as an advocate is the link and intermediary to assist our schools in navigating the all-encompassing complex nature that is ESL; we are ESL advocates. Let’s continue to use our voice for those who have not yet found theirs.
Welcome, Holly. In case you missed it, we introduced another new WIDA blogger, Heather Jung, yesterday.
Photos courtesy of Holly Niemi