I've heard ESL teachers say that on their campus they feel less valued as a team, as educators, and as a department.
They are frequently asked to do duties other than serving English learners. Duties like covering classes when teachers are in a pinch, running copies, covering lunch duty, and more when they should be serving students, English learners.
Some teachers aren't able to attend planning with grade level teachers or they aren't asked to attend RTI meetings. Others say they miss important professional development that mainstream teachers are able to attend.
I often hear ESL teachers say they think that mainstream teachers and administrators don't understand the daily responsibilities of ESL teachers. Often this misunderstanding leads to misconceptions and reputations that are unwarranted.
So how do we change this?
1. In order to create your ESL brand, the first step is to identify your beliefs about teaching ESL. If there are others on your team, doing this together builds your community and creates a cohesive lens from which all your work will evolve. As a group, list your beliefs about ESL and your goals for the team.
Here are some questions to help guide you:
2. Using these beliefs, create a mission statement for your team together. One to two sentences that state your overall mission for the ESL team.
Some examples are:
3. Once you have created beliefs and a mission, decide on non-negiatables. What are the critical roles and responsibilities that are necessary in order for your vision to come to life?
4. Step four is critical. Secure a meeting with campus administration to discuss the ESL team vision. You need administrative support. If administrators understand why your role is essential and how to best utilize your expertise, then teachers (in turn) will begin to see it too. During this meeting, it might be necessary to share with administrators the past concerns and how they hindered student success. But overall, keep the meeting positive by focusing on the results you intend to create by setting the goals you have as a team and holding yourselves to these standards. Remember that your administrator is the boss, so they have the last word. However if you are positive in your approach and take a kid-first stance, how can they not support you!?
Bottom line is that if the ESL team/department is viewed negatively by staff it creates a negative effect on students. And nobody wants that. Our students deserve the best from all of us.
The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect and begin this powerful work.