There. I said it.
I miss the interaction with my kids. I miss nagging them (gently of course) to do their best and focus in class (especially first hour math, oy!). Believe it or not, I even miss the sass those middles would give me because they were exhausted by 6th hour and couldn't deal with my Perky Polly-ness.
It is so incredibly difficult to help students with their English acquisition from afar. We are doing the best we can, but man, it is not easy.
Alas, one of the most important things I have realized is that my connections with my students and my team are vital. They are the only thing really pulling me through. Each week the ESL team meets to discuss our students, our struggles, how to support our families who are struggling, etc. There are only three of us and the other two have worked together for 18-plus years. I am definitely "the new kid." It's all good though because they are amazing and have welcomed me like I've always been there. They are exceptional educators and I am more than blessed to be able to call them colleagues and friends.
This week one of the things we talked about is how incredibly important it is for us to differentiate for our ELs. This morning as I was looking through some completed work, I got a stark example of this.
These two examples are both 7th graders.
3.5-4.5 range on WIDA which is between Developing and Expanding)
1.5-2.2 Range on WIDA which is between Entering and Emerging (this student is a Newcomer to America)
Student B, who wrote significantly less than Student A, still earned a 75% which is a "pass" grade in our school's grading policy. As a newcomer who is still acquiring English, the fact that this student was able to write this and answer both prompt questions is sufficient for the level they are working at. Had Student A submitted this particular writing, they would have received a 50% because they are at a different level and more capable of adding more details to support their thinking.
I think this is what makes online teaching tough. Imagine if you're a brand new teacher and you really don't know that much about differentiation (I would hope colleges are teaching it, but we all know that most of what we learned about teaching, we learned from being in front of students). My biggest fear is that my ELs are not being given any grace on grading based upon their language needs. This is really only an issue because I really learned this year most of my colleagues don't really know what is appropriate as an accommodation for an EL (and I don't fault them on that -- it's a systemic issue way bigger than them).
If there is anything at all good coming from this pandemic, it is that people are seeing teachers as the heroes they are. We have never been the problem -- the systems we are tied to are the problem. Additionally, I know for myself personally, I am really seeing gaps in how our ELs have been supported and I'm making plans for the fall when (hopefully) we are back together in person so I can make sure every student I work with and every parent I work with knows how to get ahold of me, what supports I can and will offer and how to access those resources.
We can't expect online learning to replace the classroom. But we can learn from and grow from the lack of choices we have right now in order to make better choices in the future to ensure we are serving our kids the best we can and meeting their needs along the way as we move forward.