Non English speaking students

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Poodle15, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Poodle15

    Poodle15 Companion

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    Mar 22, 2013

    Scenario: A family moves to the US from a foreign country where education is not required. The parents view school (mandatory here in the US) as daycare so they don't care what the child (in 3rd grade) does, if anything. You get an interpreter for two hours three days a week. Meanwhile, this child cannot read or write a single letter of any language, much less English.

    After a couple of weeks the child stops caring and wanting to try, seemingly picking up his parents' attitude. He loves the computer games (based on pre-k and 1st grade concepts) but refuses to keep trying at the ones he thinks are hard. The interpreter doesn't show up half the time but your other students love the new kid and keep trying to involve him in lessons he cannot possibly understand. You have, however, been able to teach him to write his own name in English and to write the entire alphabet.

    He throws tantrums, refuses to work with anyone but the flaky interpreter but is otherwise a sweet kid.

    Where do you draw the line? When do you give up if you do at all? What would do to try to remedy such a crappy situation? If the parents don't care and don't speak English and the ONE interpreter for that language cannot be relied upon, what do you do? This seems like such a serious issue and so difficult. I've seen this child's teachers (ESL, reading and reg ed) complain about him while he is within earshot and I was appalled but I'm also not in their positions. I know how mad I get when my son throws tantrums all day for days at a time, I know the frustration of a stubborn child but...

    What would you do?
     
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  3. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Mar 22, 2013

    In many foreign countries it's not so much a matter of school not being mandatory so the parents don't care, rather the parents can't afford books, tuition, uniform, etc., or requires financial help from the children, so the children have to work. Most of those families would die for the opportunity to have their children educated as opposed to having the child help them sell candy or other items in the streets or wherever. My guess is that both parents are working their tails off so their child can have a better life because they care for him or her. If this child has not been in school and cannot understand the language being used, then I can see where the problem exists. It sounds like you need to find an interpreter who is dedicated to his/her job and shows up.
     
  4. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Mar 22, 2013

    And if his teachers are speaking poorly of him within earshot he's not in a very good environment. Even if he can't understand them, there's a good chance that he is picking up on the negative vibes.
     
  5. Eurydike

    Eurydike Rookie

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    Mar 23, 2013

    Agreed with TamiJ. Sometimes it's not that the parents don't care, but that they couldn't afford it in their own country and therefore didn't take the child to school. Not to mention, social mobility is something that is incredibly difficult in some countries. It's near impossible sometimes and the education available isn't great. So, it might be that the kid's parents don't see the value in their child's education.

    My parents never went to college. My mother never finished the 6th grade in her country. They didn't understand anything about the college process, let alone the application process. They've never had to apply for jobs that required advanced degrees so sometimes that sort of thing can be confusing for them. Maybe the parents need to understand how the education system works and that they have to put in effort too for their child to succeed.
     
  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Mar 23, 2013

    TamiJ and Eurydike have raised some good points. Another thing to consider when looking at the child's inability to read or recognize letters in any language is that their native tongue may not have a written form, so written language is not something the child may be familiar with.

    This is a frustrating situation, particularly when you feel as though you aren't receiving any support. As far as when you give up? My answer is never. Ask the ESL teacher to help you with some activities he can do independently in the classroom--simple puzzles which match letters and pictures, books with photos and vocabulary words, etc. He certainly won't be able to keep up with, or attend to, lessons taught to the rest of the class, but he can/should be learning regardless of whether or not there is an interpreter present. (We don't have interpreters for our ESL students and only call them in when meeting with parents. We use lots of sign language, pictures, and charades!)
     
  7. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Mar 23, 2013

    Well he's obviously scared. He doesn't want to work with anyone except the interpreter because she's easiest to work with and he doesn't have to try. When my 4th graders figured out I speak Spanish all they do is speak to me in Spanish instead of trying English. I have to constantly remind them "ask me in English..." and they'll try when they know I won't answer them if they speak in Spanish.

    You've done a great job so far to get him to be able to write a few things. Keep going!

    How long do you have him every day? I know it'll be more work, but try to come up with simple things for him to do apart from the class.

    How long have you had him during the year? I'm 100% sure he's picked up some English, he's probably too embarrassed to use it. Give him lots of encouragement "I know you know how to say this... just try"
     
  8. Avalon

    Avalon Rookie

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    Mar 23, 2013

    About 60% of my students are English learners. Most have a home language of Spanish, but others speak Punjabi, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Urdu. Few if any are literate in their home language. I have taught English learners for many years and have never had an interpreter.

    Of course this student is frustrated, others understand what is happening but he doesn't. Take a moment to imagine being in that position all day, every day. And having "teachers" who do not understand or provide for your needs, but feel free to show their contempt for you. Throwing a tantrum just might be an appropriate response to his hostile environment.

    His teachers might start with the elements of Dr. Stephen Krashen's language acquisition theory, two components of which are 1) lowering the affective filter, or providing a friendly, supportive environment where he feels safe to take risks and can learn (pretty much the opposite of trash-talking him and deriding his needs); and 2) providing comprehensible input so he can begin to match words to concepts.

    If you are talking about dogs, draw a sketch, show a picture, hand him a stuffed dog. Or even bark. He will get it. Keep real objects in the room - cup, flower, ball - and use them to illustrate your words. Incorporate visuals, learn cognates from his home language, use gestures, speak slowly and clearly, write on the board, use repetition, create an illustrated word wall, scaffold his understanding any way you can, and don't force him to participate until he has progressed past the silent phase, the initial stage of language acquisition where he is learning through listening but not yet capable of oral language production.

    Although it sounds like this child is getting little appropriate input from his teachers, he has already discerned that he can learn from non-linguistic technology, has self-assessed his productive learning level, and applies it appropriately to support his own learning. Smart kid.

    I hope you will think about how you know whether his parents value education or not. Since the teachers you mention presumably do not speak the parents' language, I wonder how they have determined what their views on education are? If the parents have little or no formal education, nor have ever had a child in school, just how are they expected to understand their role in the educational process? Has anyone tried to explain it to them? Suppose you have never played lacrosse, but were somehow dropped into the middle of a fast-moving game. What would you do? Freeze? Think about it.

    If you are a teacher, you NEVER give up. You are paid to teach every child, not just the ones you like, or the ones who present little challenge. This child is someone's precious darling, a unique and irreplaceable individual. His gifts and contributions will depend largely upon his education. I hope the teachers who are trusted and paid to educate him will begin to recognize his resilience, the assets he brings to his learning, and how they can best serve his needs. He needs kindness, understanding, and language support strategies. It's not about the teaching, it's about the learning, and it seems the little he is getting has not come from his teachers. I am sorry to say, the "teachers" in this case sound like barriers, not teachers at all.

    By the way, English learners in my district progress regularly in language acquisition, most of them advance one proficiency level per year, and usually take about 4 years to become fully proficient and fluent in English. And when they do, they regularly outperform English-only students in standardized testing and every other meaningful measure of learning.
     
  9. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Mar 23, 2013

    Great post, Avalon!
     
  10. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    Mar 23, 2013

    I think the teachers of this child should be aware that most people who do not speak a language actually understand a lot more than you think. Most people learning a new language will speak a lot less and listen a lot more. Basically they need to stop the rude words about the child. Would you want to work for someone who is speaking rudely about you in front of you?

    If the interpreter is supposed to be there a certain amount of time and is flaking, report the interpreter. I am appalled the teachers of this child sound like they have him already labeled as a failure. Give the kid a chance-he hasn't even learned English yet. He will learn it though and it is up to the staff at your school to support him and do a good job of teaching it to him.
     
  11. Poodle15

    Poodle15 Companion

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    Mar 24, 2013

    You have all made some very good points and thank you for responding. As you may have seen I am a college student. I observed this situation this past fall. What I gathered about his parents was told to me by his teacher. She was the only one who really did try to work with him. I asked about the interpreter and she told me that he's the only one the school district has. The little boy and his family are from Iraq and I believe his father has a college degree from there.

    I asked you this because I didn't agree with how the situation was being handled and I wanted input on how to do it better if I have a similar situation.

    I have since contacted the teacher as a follow up thank you and asked about all the kids mentioning this one as well. She said he's doing great and progressing wonderfully. I think this experience was a new one for everyone involved, the reg ed and reading teachers included. I hope they learned a lot from it and I liked seeing it first hand because it can go into my bank of experience to draw from in the future.

    I would never want to give up and I like the reinforcement of that idea. Because of my inexperience I can't get the answers to my questions from teachers I interact with. I'm not sure why or what their attitude about me is but thank you all for answering.

    (I'd love to print these responses [sans names of course, even screen names] and send them off to the school anonymously!)
     
  12. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Mar 24, 2013

    Thanks for giving us the follow up, Poodle!

    The other thing to keep in mind with children from war-torn countries is that they are often dealing with having seen and experienced some horrific events.
     
  13. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Mar 24, 2013

    Very true. They also have a lot of holes in their learning. One year, I taught a student who was a new immigrant from a war-torn African country. He had no English and very little French. He went to school, when he could, be he had spent a good part of his life being moved from refugee camp to refugee camp. Even though he wanted to learn very badly, it was nearly impossible for him to do in that situation.
     
  14. Poodle15

    Poodle15 Companion

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    Mar 24, 2013

    I have to say (in my experience) it also depends on what country and which part. I went to school and church with three boys from an African country. They worked hard to earn every grade, every dollar and were so devout. They were the sweetest guys I'd ever met but they'd also had the ability and time to learn some English before finally coming here due to missionaries. I've also gone to school with girls from Iran whose father was an architectural engineer. Once here he decided to design lawns (upscale area that we lived in). He had three different degrees and pushed all three of his daughters to do well in school and he was sure to teach them English before they moved to the US. I've also gone to school with people whose parents didn't care but they did, whose parents cared and they didn't and some where no one in their family gave any care at all to education.

    In this case and with most cases, I think it's best to start with the child and be willing to do a little extra. But this is where I feel like I'm stepping on toes, whether it's here or in the actual room because I'm not a teacher yet and I have no experience, just my untested ideals. Which is why I come here. :)
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Mar 24, 2013

    Excellent post, Avalon.

    Poodle, if the boy's from Iraq and his dad has a college education, chances are the boy's home language is Iraqi Arabic. (His first language COULD be Kurdish, Turkmen, Armenian, or Farsi, but I'd bet against it.) Arabic script as produced like a child is likely to look like random scribbles to the casual observer - and an interpreter as "flaky" as you've described might not bother mentioning it if the boy is at all literate in Arabic.

    A bilingual visual dictionary might be very helpful - even if the boy can't read either the Arabic or the English, it's another source of pictures to point to. DK and Oxford both have good ones that you'll see on this Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Arabicâ-English-Bilingual-Dictionary-Dictionaries/dp/0756649838.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Mar 24, 2013

  17. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    Mar 25, 2013

    I have a student (11 years old) who came from the Philippines, did not speak ANY language (he is deaf), and had no experience with attending a school. He's been here for a year, and WOW!! Things have really changed for him! He's using sign language, reading Kindergarten level books, and progressing in math very well. I'm amazed with the progress he's been able to make in such a short amount of time. In the beginning, he had a lot of tantrums and became frustrated easily. His mom cared about his education, but she just didn't know how she was supposed to help.

    Others have given good techniques for helping ELL students. One game I play is to have two students working together... one student picks out a picture that I've created, of different dolls in different positions on various furniture (for example, the baby doll is laying on the bed). That person has to tell the other person what he sees, and the other student has to manipulate the dolls to match. When they're done, they both look at the picture and check their work, then switch roles.
     

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