The Role of ELL Teachers as a Resource & Advocate

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  • 0:03 Why Speak on Behalf of ELLs?
  • 0:44 Different Scenarios
  • 1:35 Under-Prepared Instructors
  • 3:14 Inadequate Policy
  • 4:43 Inadequate Materials
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

As a teacher of English language learners (ELLs), you can often find situations that make you feel like you need to speak on behalf of your students. Let's explore the different situations in this lesson and some recommendations so you can play your role as an advocate in a professional manner.

Why Speak on Behalf of ELLs?

Imagine you are teaching a class of English language learners (ELLs) and you notice that the materials the school provides for English as a Second Language instruction are not adequate. This makes the struggle of your students even worse. In this kind of situation, you should not be afraid to say something to the administration because your role as a teacher is not only that of an instructor, but also that of an advocate.

You might find yourself advocating on behalf of your ELLs for different reasons. The primary goal when you advocate for your students is to ensure their academic success. Let's look at some common situations to understand when and how to advocate for our ELLs.

Different Scenarios

You might encounter countless situations in which you'll be called upon to use your advocacy skills. However, before you decide to speak on behalf of your students, make sure you take these basic actions:

  • Identify a legal right or an ethical need ELLs have that are not being fulfilled. (i.e., inadequate materials, ELLs in your schools are being segregated, etc.)

  • Identify the person(s) to whom you can speak. (i.e., grade teacher, your school administrator, the Department of Education, etc.)

  • Prepare a few options to propose so that positive change occurs (you might suggest a specialized printing house for materials; you might propose a model to include students in regular English classes, etc.)

These steps ensure that your advocacy is reasonable and effective. Now, let's look at the possible scenarios in which advocacy might be required.

Under-Prepared Instructors

Very often, school teachers and administrators are not fully prepared to understand the struggle of ELLs. Diplomacy when advocating is key so that other professionals do not feel threatened. The best strategy is informed content to help those under-prepared persons in your school.

To illustrate, let's meet Susie. She is a third grade teacher who has a total of six ELLs in her class. Her ELLs struggle with math and science in particular. Susie knows her ELLs have limited English proficiency and she isn't prepared to deal with them because she is a grade teacher. Susie's ELL students are lucky because they also have Karen, a specialized ELL instructor. However, Susie wants to see progress in her ELLs as soon as possible. When she notices progress does not happen fast enough, Susie begins to suggest to the Literacy Department that her ELLs should be tested for learning disabilities.

Now, let's analyze this case. There is nothing wrong with grade teachers being unprepared to deal with ELLs, because even grade teachers who have ELL certifications may feel overwhelmed when working with ELLs. However, teachers can too often suggest learning disabilities in ELLs. In our case, Karen first talks to Susie. Karen shows understanding about Susie's frustration and explains to Susie how language lack of proficiency can affect academic progress of ELLs. Karen also gives some tips and easy strategies for Susie to apply with her ELLs. This way, Karen advocates for the six ELLs by talking to the grade teacher and by offering solutions to the slow academic progress ELLs make.

Inadequate Policy

Very often, federal, state, or school policies can be inadequate. Remember that policy is issued by human beings and error is a possibility. The good news is that policy is not unchangeable. We only have to keep in mind that policy change requires presenting good arguments in favor of change and following the right steps, which vary depending on each situation. Local authorities usually have the knowledge to guide us through the correct path to follow.

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