How can we help?

Posted by on Oct 18, 2012
How can we help?

Please help me help a friend of mine.

I received an email this week from a good friend asking for help that extends beyond my capacity, and I’m hoping that there are some people somewhere who can step in and provide some guidance and assistance. Because it could mean the world to some students.

The situation:

My friend started teaching three sections of a senior English class this year for students who have recently exited the ESL program but aren’t yet ready for a remedial-level general education classroom.

There is no curriculum for the course, and the only real feedback and guidance my friend is getting from within his department is, “you’ve got to give them blowoff movie days once every couple of weeks to keep them motivated.”

Many students in the class live with extremely challenging life circumstances that do not leave them motivated to engage in the class or the process of learning to be literate. Some of them very much resent that they are in school at all.

After two months of trying to find answers and working to create meaningful learning experiences, my friend is growing exasperated. Because it isn’t working.

So, the question. Does anyone have any resources, contacts, insights, ideas, or any other way to help my friend? I give him great credit for admitting he needs help.

I hope we can get that for him.


  1. TIm Holt
    October 18, 2012

    There is a lot of ways to attack this:
    1. There are not any blingual ed teachers on this campus? They dont have any resources? Does the district have a bilingual ed department? (Sometimes called ELL, DELA, etc) The central office people shoudl have some resources.

    2. He can go the Marco Torres route: Instead of expecting traditional WRITTEN English assignments, look into having the students create non-traditional work: Videos, comics, photo stories…have them work at translating from their language into English as part of the assignment…for instance having them create closed captioning in English….

    3. See if there is a local NABE chapter…National Association of Bilingual Educators…they might be able to point him in a direction…

    4. Use technology to translate: Google translate, Say HI app on iPad…etc. Have the kids learn how to use those tools to translate their work.

  2. David Phillips
    October 19, 2012

    Think about using a resource like Edmodo (highly recommended) to get students writing online. For this group, online discussions with prompts that require deep thinking will allow students to communicate/argue/collaborate with their peers. If they write more, even informally, language skills will improve.

  3. Julie Jee
    October 22, 2012

    Jerry Blumengarten has some great resources for ELL/ESL learners. Perhaps they could be helpful. Assignments geared toward real-life situations (resume writing, cover letters, letter to editor, etc.) might be helpful. When I taught in a low performing school with unmotivated students, I found Hollar If You Hear Me to be an inspirational read. Hope this helps!

  4. Ellyn
    October 24, 2012

    I have been thinking about this since I read it Ben. The part that resonates with me most is that these kids live with challenging life circumstances and most don’t want to be there. I forwarded it to an amazing Outreach Principal and friend of mine but she is so overworked presently, that she may not get back to it. My first thought is to go back to Dr. Brokenleg’s work with youth at risk and look at ways to make certain that each child feels that they belong there. Maybe through the use of Storify or some such simple and quick webtool, each can express his/her feelings about such challenges. Kaye, my principal friend, has relied on kids to build classroom shelves, taught them how to answer the class phone properly when she is busy, taken them to garage sales to purchase necessary needs for their living conditions, etc. etc. and once the relationship is solid, has successfully helped many graduate! Or, my daughter spent 10 days with a class of Japanese students where only one spoke English and she helped them express through song and sport??? I’ve been thinking so much about this and just wanted to throw a few things out there. Keep us posted! Ellyn

  5. Bill Fitzgerald
    October 24, 2012

    Has your friend made any personal relationships with any of the students in the class?

    Perhaps pivoting the course into a space where people can tell stories (memoir/autobiography/fiction) would help create a sense of connection that will help pull some of these kids through.

    FWIW, this does not sound like a situation where tech should be the lead. Intelligent use of technology to foster connections/curiosity created in the f2f interactions could be helpful, but serving a direct human/curricular need.

    He should also ask the kids what they want to accomplish. If he asks the question on a Friday, and lets them know that he will ask for their thoughts on Monday, they will have some time to thin things over.

    It’s also worth remembering that teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.

    • Ellyn Schaffner (@Gaiaellyn)
      October 24, 2012

      Bill, I love what you posted. Of course, asking the kids what they want to accomplish is huge and helps us to collaborate and co-own our visions.
      ~ Ellyn

  6. high resolution wallpaper
    December 22, 2012

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