By Diane Staehr Fenner | January 13, 2017

Happy New Year! Here are SupportEd, we recognize that we are all moving into some uncertain times, and we would like to share our plan for addressing the anxiety that you may also be feeling when it comes to supporting your English learners. As you may be aware, our vision is for English learners (ELs) to achieve academic success while also feeling that they are respected and valued on a socioemotional level.

But, how can we accomplish this monumental task together, especially when perceptions of ELs by some may be at an all-time low? We’ve developed a top ten list of ways you can support ELs in 2017. While some suggestions may be straightforward, others may cause you to move outside your comfort zone a bit (such as #6 through #8). We hope these tips will be of use to you as we all navigate new waters together.

Here are our top ten ways you can support English learners in the new year.

  1. Recognize the anxiety that may be permeating the educational landscape for ELs and their families; continue talking to your ELs to see how they’re feeling.
  2. Get a sense of your own “sphere of influence” to figure out where you already have the ability to make the most positive changes for ELs. Your sphere of influence may currently be in the classroom, grade, school, or district level.
  3. Model empathy for ELs. As teachers, we model what we want our students to do in instruction. The same is true in our interactions with colleagues to help them develop empathy for ELs.
  4. Collaborate strategically with colleagues to support ELs – focus first on a small group of colleagues who you feel are open to supporting ELs encountering challenges. You probably already have a sense of who they are!
  5. Give teachers the tools and guidance they need to serve ELs (and other students who may also benefit.) Some examples are creating a graphic organizer or finding a text in ELs’ home language to share with a grade level or content teacher. By supporting your teachers with effective resources, you are simultaneously supporting your ELs.
  6. At the same time, start engaging in dialogue with a couple of colleagues who may not seem as open to supporting ELs at this point in time. Help those around you better understand the struggles faced by English learners.
  7. As you engage in dialogue, try to first listen and understand their perspectives on educating ELs–even if you may not agree with them on their approach. This openness to understanding will help develop their trust.
  8. Also serve as a support to colleagues on a socioemotional level – allow them to vent their frustrations when working with ELs as needed. However, be sure to have some potential solutions and strategies in mind to suggest to them (see #5).
  9. Recognize and acknowledge other teachers’ expertise when you experience it; you’ll continue to build their trust and just might make someone’s day.
  10. Reflect on and focus on the success you have supporting ELs and the teachers who work with them. We often get into the habit of concentrating on our challenges and failures. Note where you’re making progress, and keep going!