Thursday, 20 July 2017

Social Justice Leadership for English Language Learners

After reading “Leading inclusive ELL: Social Justice Leadership for English Language Learners”, it is argued that ”social justice leadership has a necessary connection to creating more equitable and better services for ELL students and their families”. (p. 37) In two elementary schools mentioned in the article, the leaders maintained a stance that language is a valuable resource.  Both schools were able to promote social justice for ELLs while providing access for educational opportunities.  Both principals understood the pedagogy behind ESL instruction, the value of inclusion, collaboration, co-teaching, building capacity within the school and viewing parents as partners.    
I view these factors as essential to creating a socially just school for elementary ELLs.  I will speak to my own teaching experience at three schools.  I taught from grades K to 6 and in most cases had combined grades.  Each year I had anywhere from 10% to 25% ELLs in my classroom.  Each of my schools was assigned an ESL itinerant teacher.  My first two schools used a withdrawal model.  The students met one block per week with the ESL teacher in another classroom.  Students were often pulled out during the Language Block. My third school had an ESL teacher who was comfortable with co-teaching, co-planning and collaboration.  We would often meet to go over the STEP framework to determine which next steps were beneficial for our ELLs.   I prefer the inclusive model.  My students thrived this way.  Most of the time, the itinerant was able to support the activities presented by scaffolding for the ELL student.  She also rotated her scheduling to work with the students during other subjects.
We tried to work on cross-curricular activities that blended in well with our Language block. My third school had evidence that “the success of ELL inclusion depends on the full and consistent pedagogical and attitudinal commitment of all educators.” (p. 8)  In this case, the school did.  Although our instructional leader was not an ESL specialist, he did meet with the itinerant teacher,classroom teacher and resource teacher each term to go over class profiles.  Additional support systems, if warranted, were put in place.   These included support of an interpreter, MLO, speech therapist, psychologist or itinerant resource teacher if needed.
A question comes to mind after thinking about the three schools I taught at. How could I begin to initiate a collaborative approach to inclusive learning opportunities for ELLs?
Another question has me questioning the different approaches to ESL teaching. How do I in my new role as ESL consultant begin to support the 30 itinerant teachers in developing strategies for inclusive programming?  In other words, how am I going to put research into practice?
Thinking of the two schools in the article and their approaches, they had strong instructional leaders who brought a wealth of knowledge, were able to access resources, funding and build communities with release time, teacher voice, parent partnerships and community involvement. “Their example brings hope and clarity to the field by redefining integrated, inclusive services for ELLs and promoting the ongoing evolution of socially just ways to meet the needs of ELLs and their families.” (p. 36)  
Article: Theoharis & O’Toole, “Leading Inclusive ELL: Social Justice Leadership for English Language Learners.” Educational Administration Quarterly, Queen’s University, 2011.

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