This past Thursday, I met with an awesome group of proactive and professional people who work as advocates for English Language Learners. This group, the ELL Educator Cadre, is comprised of 16 educators from across the United States. We meet in Washington DC at the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) headquarters twice a year. Our team discusses issues in the field of English language acquisition, such as testing, equitable access to programs and materials, professional training, research, and best practices. This effort, coordinated by the AFT, is an opportunity for real practitioners to contribute expertise and knowledge to policy-makers, public relations specialists, and elected representatives at the state and national level.
Today, one in five students in this country is Hispanic. This fact is an obvious indicator of the changes our country is experiencing. Whether we look at this fact as an “issue” or an opportunity says a lot about how we approach the education of our children. We certainly have to make many adjustments as we plan for and deliver instruction.
While talking with my colleagues in Washington, it became apparent that great strides are being made in the areas of English language learning, bilingual education, and ESL instruction. However, I also see how a lot of this progress is overshadowed by the impossible demands of NCLB, accompanied by a lingering resentment toward immigrants and a clear resistance to becoming more appreciative of that which is “different”.
I wonder, are all of my brothers and sisters in teaching ready to look at things differently? Are you ready to experience a paradigm shift? As the numbers of English Language Learners grow in your schools, will you stand up for the rights of all children to receive the very BEST that you have to offer?