Teacher Education for English Language Learners: What We Know and What We Need to Do

Today’s blogger is Adrian D. Martin, New Jersey City University, whose essay (co-authored with Ana Maria Villegas, Kit SaizdeLaMora, and Tammy Mills) on preparing future teachers to teach ELLs appears in The Educational Forum.

In many respects Cecilia is a typical third grader.

She enjoys spending time with her friends, loves her family, and dreams about the possibilities for her future. Cecilia’s favorite class is art, where she creates masterpieces with watercolors, paints, brushes, scissors, glitter, and glue to adorn her bedroom walls. She hopes to one day become an art teacher and inspire boys and girls to create masterpieces of their own.

Yet in September 2017, her hometown of Corozal, Puerto Rico, experienced the widespread destruction and devastation of Hurricane Maria. Although Cecilia and her immediate family survived this tragedy, their home and her school suffered significant damage. As a result, Cecilia’s family decided that it would be best to leave Puerto Rico and live with relatives on the mainland United States.

The challenges of this major transition were compounded when Cecilia enrolled in her new school in Cleveland, Ohio. Although she had some instruction in English as a second language while in Corozal, Cecilia struggled to understand Ms. Williams, her new teacher; and as the only speaker of Spanish in her class, she experienced difficulty in communicating with her new peers. For Ms. Williams, teaching Cecilia was challenging. Like many mainstream teachers, Ms. Williams was a monolingual speaker of English and lacked professional experience with linguistically diverse students. Because Ms. Williams had never studied a second language, she had no personal insight into Cecilia’s experience learning English as a second language. Without preservice preparation or ongoing professional learning experiences to teach English language learners (ELLs), Ms. Williams struggled to identify ways she might aid Cecilia’s academic progress while simultaneously advancing her English language development.

Given the increasing number of students who speak a language other than English at home and are emergent speakers of English, along with the trend to place ELLs in mainstream classrooms, it is imperative for teacher educators to develop a teaching workforce that possesses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions conducive to the affirmative inclusion of ELLs in mainstream classes. Unfortunately, research suggests that ELLs are often marginalized in schools and classrooms, and that many mainstream teachers, despite best intentions, are unresponsive to these students’ academic, linguistic, and socio-emotional development. From a social justice perspective, such an approach to educating ELLs is not only negligent, but also antithetical to the aims of education in our democracy.

Yet despite this urgent problem, little is known about ongoing initiatives within preservice teacher education to promote teacher learning for linguistically diverse students. To address this knowledge gap, the article I co-authored with Ana Maria Villegas, Kit Saiz de la Mora, and Tammy Mills on the preparation of future mainstream teachers for today’s linguistically diverse classrooms offers a systematic review of existing research on this topic. Our critical appraisal of the empirical literature published since 2000 synthesizes the findings from 21 studies to identify the nature and outcomes of learning experiences provided to preservice teachers for teaching ELLs. Using the central tasks for learning to teach at the preservice level proposed by Sharon Feiman-Nemser to guide our analysis, we identified a variety of learning activities teacher educators are using to engage preservice mainstream teachers in learning to teach ELLs. Specifically, the review paints a detailed portrait of how teacher educators can help teacher candidates interrogate their beliefs about ELLs and how to teach them, develop their skills for learning about these students’ out-of-school experiences, and build their practices as linguistically responsive teachers.

To be sure, had Ms. Williams—and other teachers like her—been provided with professional preparation to teach ELLs along the lines depicted in the studies we reviewed, she would likely feel confident in her ability to support Cecilia in learning academic content while developing English language skills. Struggles to determine how to modify instruction, scaffold classroom activities, and promote a linguistically inclusive classroom would have been mitigated by professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in a linguistically responsive, affirmative, and sustainable pedagogy. Thus, our literature review serves as an entry point for teacher educators, education researchers, professional development providers, and other stakeholders in the field of education committed to supporting students like Cecilia, who struggle in schools due to linguistic differences.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Adrian D. Martin’s essay with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through April 30, 2018.

Twice-Exceptional Learners: Reaching Full Potential

Today’s bloggers are Chin-Wen Lee, University of Louisville, and Jennifer A. Ritchotte, University of Northern Colorado, whose essay on twice-exceptional (2e) learners appears in The Educational Forum.

“To believe is to look at the tiniest seed and envision a blossoming flower.” —Anonymous

Schools should provide educational opportunities that help all students reach their full potential.

Too often, a focus on ensuring all students are performing at grade level overshadows the critical need to develop potential in our brightest students. A high-quality education needs to be accessible to all students; equity in education is critical. Failing to fully address the unique learning needs of gifted students implies an inequity in our educational system that is simply indefensible. Unfortunately, this issue is most pervasive for gifted students from underserved populations, such as twice-exceptional (2e) students.

Many parents of 2e students express frustration over receiving little help for their children within the school system. Parents commonly report that their requests for additional services at the school and district levels are denied because their 2e children appear to be performing at grade level. Teachers of 2e students often report this same frustration. Limited access to training and resources limits teachers’ ability to effectively meet their 2e students’ unique learning needs.

Twice-exceptional learners, defined by the National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice (2e CoP), demonstrate “exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances.” A unique set of circumstances includes masking of abilities and disabilities. The 2e CoP’s definition highlights that twice-exceptional learners “may perform below, at, or above grade level.” Supporting these learners requires specialized methods of identification, enriched educational opportunities, and simultaneous supports for academic and social-emotional growth.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, holds promise for providing educational services to twice-exceptional students. The Supreme Court concluded that for students with disabilities, meaningful educational benefits should be made possible through individualized education plans. In other words, providing meaningful educational benefits does not stop when students with both gifts and disabilities demonstrate that they can perform at grade level.

To provide educational services for 2e learners, educators need specialized academic training and ongoing professional learning. There is also a need for recruiting a more diverse, representative sample of professionals to support 2e learners. General and special education teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and other specialized service professionals should be part of the teamwork.

Of course, there is no single solution that will fix the educational system for learners who are not receiving adequate opportunities for talent development. Keeping an active agenda for advocacy and striving for policy change is critical, especially given that states where the coexistence of giftedness and disabilities is addressed in state law may have better opportunities to improve their practices than states where gifted education is not mandated.

All students deserve opportunities to develop their gifts and talents. This represents a unique challenge for those parenting and teaching 2e learners because of commonly used non-comprehensive approaches to identification, a lack of training on the specialized needs of this student population, and limited access to resources that might improve 2e students’ educational experiences. We contend that the first step to empowering 2e students is to empower ourselves and those around us with the knowledge needed to provide these students with the education they deserve.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Lee and Ritchotte’s essay with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2018.

Chin-Wen Lee

Jennifer Ritchotte

Seven Tips for Preparing for the PRAXIS Elementary Education Exam: Multiple Subjects (5001)

The Praxis Education exams must be passed by those who want to become professional educators. Most states require the test for Education students. The exact Praxis tests you will take depends on the grade levels and the content areas you plan to teach. Because the test is computer-based, take time familiarizing yourself with the process of Praxis.

The 5001 Praxis Multiple Content Area Exam includes questions based on all of the major content areas for elementary education, including mathematics, social studies, science, and reading/language arts. . The reading and language arts section represents the majority of the questions with 80. The social studies section has 55 questions, while science and mathematics each include 50 questions.

Since this exam covers all of the major content areas, it is best to be prepared properly. The 240Tutoring PRAXIS Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects 5001 Study Guide has 1000 practice questions to help you prepare.

Education exams are expensive, so the best strategy is to spend as much time as possible preparing. A worst case scenario is having to retake the test in a few months because you failed due to inadequate preparation. You can avoid this scenario by spending some time with the practice questions and reviewing these tips.

  1. On the day of your Praxis exam, arrive early to the test center. If you’re running late, you might not be allowed to take the test, thus wasting the money you spent on the test. To avoid any surprises, view this short video on what to expect on test day
  2. The testing center prohibits all electronic devices. They do not allow drinks or food either. Leave your phone in your vehicle and put it out of your mind for the next four hours.
  3. Eat a good breakfast that will not leave you hungry in an hour, but don’t eat so much food that you’re groggy or running to the bathroom every so often.
  4. The Praxis exam is scored based on your correct answers. If you are unsure about an answer, make your best guess. There is no penalty for missing a question. Remember, you get credit for correct answers, you are not penalized for wrong answers.
  5. Read questions carefully. Missing a question based on a technicality or carelessness is avoidable. Some questions require more than one answer, while others require you to select a sentence, while others might require you to select an entire paragraph in a story. Never assume what the question is asking, read it carefully before answering.
  6. Since your Praxis exam covers all content areas, determine what grade level is implied within the question. For example, you would probably not give the same math advice to a kindergarten student as you would to an eighth grader. Read closely to determine which age group to the question refers to.
  7. Finally, if you are unsure about an answer, you are allowed to mark it and return to it later. The test is long and you can easily become frustrated when you’re stuck on a problem. Simply skip the problematic question and return to it later. The time crunch won’t feel so oppressive if you know you have one remaining question and 30 minutes to solve it.

Follow these tips and keep calm while taking the Praxis 5001 exam. Half of the battle is arriving to the testing center with a positive attitude. Watch the video so you know exactly what to expect. Spend time leading preparing for the exam by doing practice questions. After all, without preparation, you are actually preparing to fail. With proper preparation, you’ll have a great shot at passing the exam the first time you take it!

Scott Rozell is the Director of 240Tutoring, Inc. 240Tutoring is the premiere provider of PRAXIS study guides and has helped over ten thousand teachers pass their certification exam and get into the classroom.

5 Tips for Introducing Your Style in a Mentor Teacher’s Context

After weeks of observing, co-teaching, and getting a feel for the school, my mentor teacher finally hands over the reins of the classroom and says, “Now it’s your turn. What would you like to do?”

It can be tricky to introduce your own teaching style and values into your mentor teacher’s classroom context, especially if your styles are different. Overcome the challenge of establishing your approach while maintaining respect for your mentor teacher with these tips.

  • Be open and honest.

Keep your mentor teacher in the loop with your lesson planning, especially if it deviates from what your mentor teacher normally does. Don’t be secretive or try to surprise them with what you are going to do. If you tell them what you are thinking and planning, they can offer their perspective, suggestions, and additional ideas.

  • Ask for permission.

To respect your mentor teacher and their space, there are certain ideas that you should run past your teacher before implementing. For example, ask them for permission before rearranging the desks in their room or assigning students homework. It is better to ask for your teacher’s permission and support than for their forgiveness.

  • Support your decisions with research.

If your mentor teacher disagrees with your instructional choices, find research to share with them to explain your decisions. You also might provide your mentor teacher with successful examples of other teachers implementing your idea. If your instructional plan is backed by research, you’ll more easily convince your mentor teacher to let you try it in their classroom.

  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

There are times when your mentor teacher will share ideas for your lesson that you do not want to use. For example, my mentor teacher showed me several short stories I could use in a lesson I taught on discrimination, but I chose a different story that I thought the students would like better. It is okay to say no to your mentor teacher’s ideas; just be respectful and polite.

  • Put students’ needs first.

The goal of your instruction should be to do what is best for your students’ learning. Sometimes you will need to be honest with yourself and consider if you want to use a strategy because it sounds fun or because it will help students better understand the material. If you believe you are teaching the content in a way that genuinely puts the students’ needs first, then stand by your choices.

Finding the balance between introducing your teaching style and respecting the authority of your mentor teacher is challenging for all student teachers, but this is the time to establish your identity as a teacher and test some of your own ideas in the classroom. You only get one student teaching experience, so be confident in your values, take risks in your lesson planning, and try something different.

Resources:

Ms. Upah is a student teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is currently in a seventh-grade classroom where she enjoys interacting with her unpredictable yet inspiring students. She is passionate about language arts, reading, and educational technology … and blogging. Find her latest posts at https://www.lightbulbmomentsblog.com/ or on Twitter @upahk.

Celebrating World Teachers’ Day

If you ask a teacher why he or she chose a career in education, chances are that the answer will be to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of students.

While those of us in education share in this desire and have witnessed the difference a teacher can make in the lives of their students, a 2016 study by the United Nations revealed just how critical the role of teachers is in making the world a better place. In monitoring the progress toward achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals—goals that aim to realize a world with no hunger, no poverty, gender equity, peace, and more—it was determined that without achieving the goal of quality learning for all and lifelong learning, none of the other 16 goals will ever be realized.

World Teachers’ Day is October 5, a day to recognize and celebrate the committed educators around the globe who help youth and adults to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to live a happy and productive life.

Celebrated since 1994, it has become an occasion to empower educators, to assess the state of the teaching profession around the globe, and to consider ways to address the remaining challenges, especially the acute shortage of teachers. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, if we are to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030, the world needs 69 million new teachers.

In today’s world, teachers are more important than ever before.

While we add our voice in acknowledgment of teachers on World Teachers’ Day, in the KDP community, we celebrate teachers every single day.

KDP strives to continually support its educators through professional development opportunities, networking, online resources, publications, and financial assistance. Just as we understand our students need differentiated instruction, professional development and resources also need to be tailored to differing needs of our educators; so resources, such as our monthly newsletters, vary by professional position. Whether you are a preservice teacher, a teacher preparation faculty member, or practicing professional, we strive to meet you where you are. We are united by a shared commitment to excellence in education and to one another’s professional growth.

As the world celebrates teachers on October 5, we know one day of recognition isn’t sufficient given the critical role of teachers in society.

So, KDP celebrates teachers each and every day. We applaud you, thank you, and cheer you on because you are indeed making the world a better place.

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi.

Research from The Educational Forum: Lifting the Smog: Coaching Toward Equity for All

Today’s bloggers are Jacobe Bell and Reshma Ramkellawan, self-employed instructional coaches in New York. They reflect here on what led to their research article recently published in The Educational Forum.

A man stabbed, his fresh blood splattered all over the bodega counter. A crumpled body in the middle of the street, framed by paramedics, police officers, and weeping bystanders. What was supposed to be a rare lunch break with school administrators became a day that shook Jacobe to her core. It’s not every day a teacher wanders onto the scene of a murder. But Jacobe will never forget the incident for another reason: the perceived indifference of the school administrators. She still wonders if their response might have been different if the murder victim had been of a different race or a higher socioeconomic class. Who knows? What we do know is that a person’s lived experiences affect how they interact with and think about others. What causes educators to become desensitized? What causes educators to see some people differently than they see themselves?

We don’t have simple answers to these questions. Our experiences as instructional coaches, however, have allowed us to gain insight into how teachers develop nuanced understandings of the students they serve in the contexts in which they choose to teach. Smog and Discourse (Tatum, 2003; Gee, 2015) are two theoretical concepts that explore how our subconscious is a manifestation of our lived social, economic, racial, and cultural experiences. In the case of Discourse, implicit beliefs around class, economics, and education are articulated in our word choices (e.g, “these kids can’t do this,” or “stuff like this happens everyday—no big deal”).

Teachers engage in these language patterns because they are surrounded by smog that reinforces their beliefs. The administrators’ reaction to the murder scene is an example of this. They likely had been bombarded by media reports and personal experiences that perpetuated the image of the school community as violent, aggressive, and dangerous. This district in particular has several police officers on consistent patrol. As a result of their lived experiences, administrators (and teachers) often subconsciously fail to see the narratives of their school constituents beyond their own psychological constructions of them. No one ever wants to believe they have made their implicit biases explicit, whether they have chosen to work in an urban setting with children of color or in any community where ethnicities and races are different from their own. However, we cannot always control the smog within which our psyche formulates meaning of the world, especially if we do not have a say in our formative experiences. Institutional racism has significant influence on the smog we are surrounded by and its manifestation in Discourse.

As women of color, we are keenly aware of subtle indicators of racism. We want as many allies as possible in the fight for educational equity. In order for urban educators to be true allies, it is imperative that all of us spend time unpacking the reasoning behind the things we say, the topics we choose to teach, and manner in which we enact pedagogy. As instructional coaches, we help teachers unpack belief systems that impact the instructional decisions they make. It can often be uncomfortable having these difficult conversations with teachers. The approach we ultimately utilized, outlined in our article in The Educational Forum, relied on the foundation of trust and good intention that we established with our teachers. In order for us to ask difficult inquiry questions (e.g., “Why do you believe your students are incapable of learning?” or “Did you notice your tendency to make deficit-oriented statements?”), the teachers we coached needed to understand that we were not judging them for the Discourse and smog that shaped who they are. Rather, we wanted to support their transition to empathetic teachers who are responsive to the needs of their students, moving toward equity for all.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Reshma and Jacobe’s article free with the education community. Access this article and the whole issue at Taylor and Francis Online, free through October 31, 2017.

How Does Our Garden Grow?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to teach a kindergarten class. I spent days designing the lesson, and I will never forget the look of excitement in the eyes of the students as they participated in the lesson I created. A seed was planted; I wanted to become a teacher!

All teachers are responsible for inspiring students to contemplate and investigate career pathways as well as promoting college and career readiness. Teaching is one of those careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages throughout the nation in all geographical areas, subject areas, and grade levels (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, 2015).

While grow-your-own strategies have included initiatives, such as alternative licensure programs, formal efforts have not included the classroom teacher in the recruitment of future teachers. Teachers of all grade levels have the expertise to grow-their-own through purposeful efforts.

  1. Identify potential educators and plant the idea in their hearts and minds. Ask if they have ever considered becoming a teacher, then follow the question with specific, descriptive feedback on why they think they could be a successful educator. Encourage capable students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Include parents and guardians in the mission. During formal and informal conferences, share why their child would be a successful educator. Collective efforts produce an abundant harvest.
  2. Use “yes . . . but” in conversations to emphasize the positive aspects of the profession. Make it a practice to follow a voice of concern with a statement on the joys of teaching. Be mindful of how encouraging messages about teaching can influence a student who is entertaining the thought of teaching. Consider how your reactions to the challenges of teaching enhance and contribute to the grow-our-own approach. All careers have challenges, yet students in the public schools typically do not regularly interact with other career professionals nor do they hear about their difficult times. Teachers are part of a student’s daily life. Consequently, explicit positive messages are important during difficult times.
  3. Share your story. Reveal the motivation behind becoming a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Describe the events and special people who inspired the decision. Telling one’s own story inspires prospective educators and serves as a reminder as to why you entered the field. Reconnecting to your vision of teaching revitalizes your spirit and strengthens your mission of inspiring others to consider teaching. Share the chapters of your teaching life so that your students might begin writing their own.
  4. Create opportunities to explore teaching. Ask students to serve a mini apprenticeship as a teacher’s helper for a day or a week. During this time, reveal the positive aspects of a career in teaching. At the end of the apprenticeship, recognize the student with a certificate, a tangible reminder of the special event. This guided practice enables students to discover the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference in the lives of others. Students also can be assigned to work with teachers in the younger grades to build confidence in working with others while experiencing education from the teacher’s side of the desk. Student organizations, such as Educator Rising, provide the framework and support to encourage a career in education. Furthermore, Educator Rising promotes interest by allowing high school students to “test-drive” teaching and empowering teachers to act as ambassadors for teaching (Brown, 2016). These ongoing opportunities for practice exposes students to the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference.
  5. Think like a marketing agent and visually promote your profession. Positive messages in the classroom can inspire future educators. Posters that celebrate teaching and the power of learning can motivate students to consider a career as an educator. Highlight successful teachers on a bulletin board or in published news articles. Have students create works about teachers who have influenced them.
  6. Be a role model. Attract students to teaching by simply doing what you love to do: teach. Be the professional your students want to emulate. Welcome your students at the door with a smile. Facial expressions, attitude, and social interaction become your runway moves. Positive actions and reactions serve as fertilizer that encourage students to perceive education as a desirable calling.

The opportunity to teach during my senior year in high school planted the seed for a fruitful career in education. Teachers have the capacity to grow-our-own. Encouraging students to consider a teaching career begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Teachers hold the solution to cultivate and mentor the next harvest of teachers to make our garden grow.

Dr. Kathleen Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Secondary Education at Eastern New Mexico University. She teaches courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supervises teacher candidates during student teaching, and serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the College of Education and Technology. She is also the counselor of the Omicron Upsilon chapter at ENMU.