Many years ago a man I know, whose family spoke only Polish, entered school on his first day of first grade unable to speak a word of English. His teacher sent him home and conveyed to his family that he wouldn’t be allowed to return to school until he was speaking English. Today that story seems preposterous. Sending home a non-English-speaking child is not an option! And considering that some teachers now are faced with multiple languages, there might be some rather empty classrooms should all of the English language learners be sent home.
But if you don’t speak the same language, how will you welcome English language learners to your classroom? How will you build a relationship with them? How will you help them build relationships with the other children? These are some of the questions I asked panelists Mary Renck Jalongo, Karen Nemeth, and John Spencer in a Gryphon House-sponsored episode of Studentcentricity. The episode, which was jam-packed with practical solutions, can be accessed here.
Beyond what she had to say during the interview, Mary wants teachers to know that they can’t expect young children to simply “pick up” English. She calls this a “destructive myth” and states that “children need opportunities to learn supported by competent, committed, and compassionate teachers in order to acquire another language.”
In terms of making English language learners feel comfortable in what has to be an uncomfortable – and possibly terrifying – situation, Karen advises:...