My Look Back at 2015-A Year of Expanding My Vision for ELLs!

Since it’s traditional to take a look back at the previous year’s events each January, I thought it would be fun to try and chronicle some of the myriad of initiatives and improvements made for English Language Learners (ELLs) in New York State in 2015. As I thought about all of the events which occurred around ELLs/MLLs (Multilingual Language Learners) in 2015, I was amazed! We are truly in a very exciting time of great transformation. One important transition to me was the movement away from students being thought of as Limited English Proficient (LEP) to that of being Multilingual Learners as a way of describing our ELLs. It portrays a much more positive view of language learning and bilingualism/multilingualism as an asset rather than a deficit.

This mindset shift is aligned with the new vision laid out by the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages Blueprint for ELL Success. The Blueprint for English Language Learners Success is a framework of eight guiding principles for administrators, policy makers, and practitioners which became a great step forward into 2015. It is a plan for preparing ELLs for success beginning in prekindergarten and will lay the foundation for college and career readiness.

I especially appreciated the principle that “All teachers are teachers of ELLs.” This is an important concept which encourages and promotes collaboration between the ESOL teacher and the General Ed. Teacher. In my past experiences, teaching ELLs could be lonely and isolating, and many times General Ed. teachers would be confused about my role as an ENL teacher. Some thought I was there to help students with their homework, while others thought I could speak many different languages depending on the language of the ELL or parent in need of translation/interpretation. I can remember pushing in to a middle school math class with a Chinese ELL student a few years ago. The math instructor smiled brightly as he handed me his personal cell phone on the first day and explained that I could spent the class time translating what he said into Chinese for the student by using his cell phone!

The expectation now is for all teachers to work together for the success of ELLs. ENL teachers can share their expertise in language development, academic vocabulary, scaffolding and culture, while General Ed. teachers can be trained in the use of effective instructional strategies for ELLs. All teachers need to include both language and content in their curriculums. This will lead to equity for teachers and students and a more successful future for our ELLs/MLLs in New York State!

Diane Garafalo
ENL Consultant on special assignment with Mid-State RBERN through DSF Consulting




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