Today some teachers from another school came to my school to observe our ELD rotation. ELD is a specific subject area for English Language Development. We rotate our kids in our grade level by their proficiency in English. The idea is to have homogeneous grouping to be able to push the kids ahead in their acquisition of reading, writing and speaking in English.
Anyway...I was one of the lucky few observed. The person who came to observe came half way through the lesson. I wish that she had been there for the whole lesson so that she could have understood how I do things in my rotation. I teach the newcomers as well as the kids who are the least proficient in English. When the rotation was done, I told the visitor that I was going to get someone to take over my class for a few minutes so I could explain how we work the rotation and teach using our new program. After all, she was here to learn about what we do and how we do it. The response was "we already have one person at our school piloting the materials. She can tell us how to use it. " Now the lady didn't say this in a snotty was to me but it was rude just the same. She then asked if she coul stay and continue to observe me.
I told her that there would be nothing to observe because at that moment in time we go directly into independent work for 15 minutes on skill drill work. She said that would be fine. I then clarified for her that I would not be formally teaching at this point. She said that was fine. At this point two other teachers came in to observe. I gave them the same spiel. They then started walking around my room and checked out my walls.
Then, it became clear to me what was going on with these teachers. These teachers are not used to working with English Learners. At my school English Learners are the majority of our population. I think that they must have thought that they were coming to see a completely different world in teaching than what they do in their rooms. I could tell by the comments such as "i have that in my room" or "hey....look at that focus wall - we are on that story," that they were surprised to see that we teach the same subjects, content and standards. I think these teachers were surprised to see that our rooms look just like their rooms. I know that the teacher that observed my rotation group was surprised to see my students working quite well on note taking using simple phrases and sentences. I think she almost passed out when at one point in our note taking I asked the students for some synonyms for the word great and I got the following list of words "cool, fabulous, awesome, stupendous and marvelous!" Ha! My kids ROCK!
I don't know what these teachers carried away with them as far as how to work with English Learners since they didn't seem to interested in talking to me. I do hope that they learned that working with English learners is the same as working with any other child. They can do the same things as other kids can, they are just as capable, all they need is a teacher who believes in them, vocabulary development and lots of scaffolding.