Thursday, July 07, 2005

Summer School

In my summer school class I have numerous English Language Learners who are taking the class for something otherthan, or in addition to, earning a lost credit. I commend these students, some who have very little English skills, for their desire to improve skills while immersed in an English speaking classroom.
The great difficulty I have though, is that I am not equipped, in my own teaching skills, to provide for the needs that they have. Language has already shown itself to be a great barrier in the communication of directions and lessons. While during the normal school year, ELL students have the appropriately educated people around the school to facilitate their learning, I do not have that available during the summer session.
I am charged with the task of not only communicating through the language barrier, but also evaluating each student's progress. As I sat with one student today, it was obvious that he was frustrated in his inability to communicate with me, and I was at a loss for ways to communicate with him. He finally looked at his watch and said he needed to catch a bus. I felt the same way. There is a sense of powerlessness that controls the tongue when one does not have the words needed. But here is what I did understand. My student didn't understand the book he is supposed to be reading. He didn't understand the directions for the assignment that went with it. Here is what I think about all of this.
How in the name of NCLB am I going to evaluate this student? He has asked for a Pass/Fail grade. But how do I know whether he is passing or not? How do I accomodate during a summer session without knowing what and where to accomodate?

6 Comments:

At 7:55 PM , Blogger Boston Dreamer said...

Hate to say it, but you have to fail the student. If he has not met the requirements, you have no choice. :( If I might ask, how many weeks is summer school out there?
PS-I know the Sox want Eddie Guardado, but I have no idea who they will trade for him.

 
At 9:25 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Summer school here is six weeks. We have two weeks down. August 5th is the final day.

 
At 12:36 PM , Blogger Pigs said...

Ah, the joy that is NCLB. Don't get me started. Thanks for visiting! I'll have more school related posts once the grind starts back in a month!

 
At 12:15 PM , Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

Since I don't teach K-12, I am really not equipped to answer this question, but I will ask you a few instead.

Is another book you can give the student that would cover the material but might be more accessible to him linguistically?

Is there anyone else in the class who speaks his native language and might be able to help?

And I must admit that I have a favor to ask. I would like to share your post at a workshop I am facilitating next week. We will be discussing this very issue of how to deal with ELLs when you aren't really trained to do it. I know your blog is out here for anyone to see, but I would not feel comfortable using it without letting you know/asking you first. Thanks!

 
At 12:10 PM , Blogger HH said...

To Boston Dreamer: go move to a country where you don't speak the language, enroll at the university and see how you feel. I hope that will make you a more compassionate and intelligent teacher.

Mr. McNamar,
I hear you loud and clear! I've been there. Here's my advice - just because there isn't an ESL specialist in your building, doesn't mean your principal can't get one for even a few hours. We must be ADVOCATES for our students and fight to get them what you need. If you approach the appropriate adminstrator out of concern rather than frustration, I am sure that you will get the help you need.
ESL is a challenge, not a problem. Yes, we need tons more support, but we are not helpless. Hang in there. Get talking to people. Search the internet for tips. Just having wrote this blog shows that you want to do more than follow Boston Dreamer's advice.

Best of luck!

PS - I'm one of the participants in Nancy's writing institute. Thanks for sharing with us!

 
At 9:54 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Thank you Heather for stopping by and sharing. I hope your conference is going well. I would like to say that I understand your perspective and that of Boston Dreamer. Trust me, if you take the time to check out his blog, you will find that he his intelligent, at least as far as I can tell; the proof is in his love of Red Sox baseball.
But on a serious note, consider his point for a moment. What if the student who was not understanding the book and was not understanding directions was an English language speaker. Would that change your perspective, or would you fail the student? I assure you that the reality is the availability of an ELL aide is limited at best. In fact, she was supposed to be there yesterday to help with a test but did not show. How does a teacher who can't communicate with the student evaluate their performance? They showed up and weren't a pain in the rear-end equals a passing grade? I have no way of knowing to what extent the student can perform. So, I understand where Boston Dreamer is coming from.

 

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