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SecondaryESL SecondaryESL is offline
 
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SecondaryESL
 
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First Year ESL Teacher Needs Suggestions & Support
Old 04-06-2016, 07:29 PM
 
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I teach middle and high school ESL. This is my first year teaching at this school and with these students. Previously, I student taught at another school that had a bigger diversity among the students and staff, so perhaps that may have been a difference. Plus, I have taught adult ESL. So as I came to my current job I just knew that I could do this. It's not like I never rode this rodeo before, right? Anyhow, at the beginning of the school year, the kids were nice and were rather receptive. I had a few who gave me trouble such as some opposition and defiance which is pretty typical. Contrarily, it seems the students no longer like me. They barely talk to me or want to acknowledge me. Even the good ones don't want to be bothered with me.

I noticed this change when I had my assistant contact a parent to translate about extreme cell phone usage. This cell phone abuse with my 11th grader had been going on continuously for several months. I have tried to address this several times, and never got anywhere. Therefore, a phone call home was needed. Now, this student who once used to be a charmer is now hostile and disrespectful toward me. He ignores me whenever I ask him a question or ask him to do something. He has become argumentative. Since his behaviors have become worse, I have banned him from our classroom. Coming to our room was a privilege, so he's now booted out only to receive push in services. In the midst of this, the majority of the students now don't want to be around me. They always sit at my assistant's desk and follow her around. Some have even refused my help and want to receive hers instead. I feel so alone and like I'm losing power.

Our atmosphere that once was pleasant and cheery has now made me feel sad and depressed. I feel like I'm the one being penalized when I try to follow protocol and do things ethically while my assistant has no boundaries such as, letting them sit at her desk. I have even walked in while she was doing their nails at lunch time; and she allows them to eat/ hangout inside our classroom during our lunch period. She has also brought them pizza a couple of times. I realize that the students have a cultural connection with her since they speak the same language, and she has been there for four years whereas this is my first year being there. So these types of boundary issues have been going on for a while before I came. Yet, I don't even know if it's my place to address this with her. On the flipside, she does an excellent job and goes above and beyond to help whenever I need her. I couldn't ask for a better assistant and we get along great. But I often feel so isolated to the point of what if one day she tries to take over? I realize these fears may sound rather silly but this is how I truly feel

Another concern I have is that I have made mistakes since I'm learning. For example, today a Lang arts teacher had me pull out one of my students so he could take his test on homophones. She specifically told me to, "read him the questions and help with process of elimination, but do not help him with answers." I did exactly what she had suggested. It turns out that he scored a 40%. Of course he was upset so he showed his score to my assistant. My assistant had said to me (in front of the students; which was a little embarrassing) that it was pointless of me "helping him" if I'm only going to be "sitting there" or "only reading the questions" because he could just do the test by himself in that case. She and I had talked with his teacher to get clarification on this and it turns out that I was actually allowed to help him with "finding connections" without giving the answers. Of course it sucks that I was informed afterwards! But my concern is that I feel like such a failure. I made this student fail, yet I tried my very best. I do my best everyday and yet I feel like I'm losing everyone. My assistant is doing a better job than me. She connects with the students better and knows the odds and ends of support better than me. Is there something that I'm doing wrong? Can somebody help me? Any suggestions? Or am I being too paranoid? Behind closed doors, I have cried about this. What can I do?


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Tiamat Tiamat is online now
 
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Is your assistant a teacher?
Old 04-07-2016, 01:49 PM
 
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Or is she an aide/para? She is over-stepping boundaries left, right and centre. As she is your assistant, I will assume she isn't a teacher. You need to talk to her. It's your classroom and you need to take the control. She doesn't make the decisions, she implements your decisions. If you don't want kids sitting at teacher/assistant desks, they don't sit there. If you don't want them in there at lunch, they aren't in there. She buys them pizza out of school time. And so on.

Do you have a teacher supervisor (in our system, each assistant principal supervises a group of teachers)? If so, talk to them about the situation, and ask their advice for your specific situation. But you do need to take control of the classroom back. It will not be easy, but it needs to be done.

And, so what if the kid got in trouble for using his mobile phone at school and is now snarky at you? That's what kids that age are like. You followed the rules, and followed the protocol. He is the one who made the dumb choices. He likely got in strife at home and is blaming you (because teenagers do that - they don't like to see their own choices get them in trouble).

As for the test, that was unfortunate, but I wouldn't blame yourself. I would however be having a come to Jesus talk with the assistant about not correcting you in front of the students. That's ridiculous.

Basically, your assistant has the power in this situation and is wielding it. You need to take it back.

Good luck!
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SecondaryESL SecondaryESL is offline
 
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Feedback from Secondary ESL
Old 04-07-2016, 05:16 PM
 
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Thank you for your feedback. No, my assistant is not a teacher. She is more so in a para position. However she has been there for 4 yrs and this is my year being there. So, she knows the ropes there a little more than I do. My assistant is also fluent in Spanish whereas I'm only at an intermediate level. So this is partially why the kids gravitate toward her more. We do have a superior (my mentor/ ESL director) that we answer to. I often ask her for suggestions and help since she has been there for 15 yrs. So, I suppose I could ask her how to address the boundary issues with my assistant. I once asked my mentor about how to get the control of my class back. She had suggested me to assign new seats which I have. I have also assigned my assistant to work 1:1 with one of the students since he is usually unruly while I work with the others. Since our class doesn't do well as a whole group, I have to split them into two separate groups. As for her letting them hang out in the room during our lunch period, we are now down to 8 weeks left of the semester. So, am I too late with addressing this issue? I'm thinking about emailing her of new changes that I want to make. Is this a start?
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Old 04-07-2016, 05:49 PM
 
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Quote:
My assistant is doing a better job than me. She connects with the students better and knows the odds and ends of support better than me.
I'd watch and learn from her. I don't care if she is a para. You said she is better at this than you are. So figure out what she does that works and mimic that. I learn from support staff all the time.
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K12ESLteacher K12ESLteacher is offline
 
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I feel for you!
Old 04-08-2016, 04:08 AM
 
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I taught high school ESL a few years ago when I was a first-year teacher. Needless to say, it was a rough year to say the least. Out of 32 freshmen and sophomores I had only one kid who was eager to learn. In any case, back to your situation...

Just like previous posters pointed out, a student being snarky is typical for students of teenage years. As far as test goes, you did not fail, the student did. You followed the other teacher's directions and did what you were told. If the student got a 40% grade, then it was on him. Besides, that is the point of an assessment. Now you and the other teacher know how to help that student based on the result of this particular quiz/test.

On to your assistant... It is understandable why she is in more control in the classroom since she has known the kids for so long. However, you still are the teacher and need to establish that in your classroom. I know you mean well and you want to be on good terms but remember, you are the teacher and it is your responsibility to effectively manage the classroom. I would sit and chat with her. You can explain that as a first year teacher at that school you would like her to help you navigate the ropes, and maybe tell you a few tricks to get to know the kids better. It is clear why the kids tend to like her, since she brings them pizza. Which teenager would not like that? Also, is she a classroom para or a 1-to-1 para? In any event, do you plan together? Does she know what your expectations for her are? I think the two of you also need to establish some sort of teacher-aide relationship.

I am not sure of your classroom management, but I would then suggest as an incentive, have a pizza party! Let's say, if each table (assuming students are clustered in groups) earn x number of x, they get to have a pizza party. Play around with this idea.

Also, to establish close connections with my freshmen, I did something what Erin Gruwell did in real life and the movie - I gave each of my student a notebook. It was so amazing to see how well they all opened up! You may want to try to do this. Also, this is a great way for students to practice writing!

Lastly, being consistent and fair is important. I am sure you are already, but if not, try to be so. Gaining teenager's trust is rather challenging. Think of ways to make learning fun both when you push in and pull out. Do a lot of collaborative group projects. Involve parents in your daily teaching. For example, back when I taught high school and now that I am teaching elementary, I run a Mommy and Me adult ESL class where I teach English to parents of my students! Each month I also ask my parents to give students a lesson on how to do x. Some of the parents teach zumba, others teach how to cook ethnic dishes. I see the students feel so proud of their heritage. Some of my students do it together with their parents!

Please, let me know if you would like any more ideas!


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Questions
Old 04-08-2016, 05:41 PM
 
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I have a lot of questions for you that will determine the advice I would give.

Are your students assigned to your classes or are you more like a resource room where students drop in?
Is your assistant in your room all day or does she also provide services in content classes? What about you?
When she interacts with the students--in class and at lunch--what language do they use?
Are your students beginners, new to the country with limited English or are they fluent speakers of social English?
How many students are in your class at a time?
When she is 1-1 with the student are they in your room? If so, is there a place like the library they could go?

With regards to the test, I think the content teacher wanted you to read between the lines and basically give him the answers! I hate when that happens. If that is what the teacher wants, she needs to just say so.
As to how your assistant responded-- well the reason to have him test in a separate room or with read aloud is because that will help him be successful, that is part of his plan and (at least in my state) he needs to be getting those accommodations all year if he is to receive them on his state tests.

I am sorry for the bad situation. In my experience assistants are either wonderful or terrible. l will post some specific ideas and advice if you answer my questions above.
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My Thoughts
Old 05-10-2016, 11:19 AM
 
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I'm a first year ELL teacher too, but my situations are a little different. I teach at an Elementary school and have anywhere from 105-85 students, depending on who's moving around. I do not have an assistant or para. Because of our district rules, we are not allowed to pull students from the classroom unless they are either newcomers (1st year in a US school), or under 3rd grade. Otherwise we go to the kids in the classroom and work with them there.

I am very confused as to why a lang. arts teacher would be telling you which accommodations a student would have. The ESL/ELL teacher is the one who is supposed to set accommodations/modifications/etc. and check that they're being upheld. Do you have LIEP forms for your students? If not, get them. ASAP.

I do NOT know any other language, and you don't need to to teach ELL/ESL. You are not the Spanish teacher, you're there to help them learn English. The para/TA should not be speaking to them in Spanish unless they're a newcomer and totally lost. That defeats the purpose. If the students want to speak Spanish, fine, just not during your class time.

Speak to your para/TA. She may not even know you're having this much trouble or these feelings. The para's and TA's in a school are there to support the Teacher first, students second. (That's why they're called Teacher Assistants.) And you really need to step up to her. She should never correct you in front of students. I don't even correct students in front of other students. It's your classroom, not her's. She's not the one who took classes, tests, training's, etc. to do your job.

It's never too late to fix a problem. But, if the problem seems really big, take baby steps and go slow. It's very difficult to change something suddenly and not have to struggle with students stubborn as donkeys.

Never be afraid to call parents or the principal. We have a language line at our school. Interpreters are on call 24/7 for all languages. Parents are usually quick to help teachers with any problems. If the problem persists, then speak to your principal.

Don't keep this all bottled up inside. Tell people when you're having problems. It's okay to let your principal know that you need help. Take a deep breath, stay calm and talk with a commanding yet quiet voice. You are the teacher; you are in charge. You can do this! (And yes, I know it's the end of the year, but you need to set a little precedent for next year. Try to end the year on a good note that you're comfortable with.)
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