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.
Highlight the Importance of Student Time Spent with You
For example, provide sentence stems and language expressions that could be relevant to learning objectives being planned for in-classroom instruction. Share a few of your stories, poems, songs and additional materials that will extend student learning from your EL lesson into the classroom. Don’t think of this extra effort as time spent proving yourself. Instead, think of this as time demonstrating that you’re a team player and that you want what’s best for your students throughout the entire day, not only when they’re with you.
Every moment of the school day has importance and purpose, whether it’s a detailed lesson or recess. Let the homeroom teacher know when you plan to work with ELL students in their class and stay committed to that schedule. Assuming that you can breeze in and out at your convenience can set the stage for disaster. Let them know well in advance when the schedule is going to change and avoid assuming that it won’t matter.
In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
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