Congratulations on your new ESL student! You are now part of the hottest new trend in public education. There’s a lot to learn and consider. Hang on, this ride can get bumpy!
But you are not alone.
The non-English speaking student is the fastest growing demographic in public education. It has grown 60% in the last decade. These students are more likely to live in areas close to cities, but they are increasingly living and enrolling in suburban and rural school districts that may not have strong English language support programs.
So what does a busy teacher like you have to do when a student that speaks little to no English sits down in your classroom?
There are many things that you can do to smooth this transition. With a couple of guidelines, you can help make it a good year for everyone.
On the first day,
1) Smile! - Make sure that your student knows that your classroom is a welcoming place, even if your student may not be able to understand what you are saying - just yet.
2) Make Sure Your Student Knows The Location Of The Bathroom And How To Ask To Go - First Thing First! Even if your student doesn’t know any other English, make sure they know how to say "bathroom" and where it is.
3) Write Down TheirBus and Lunch Numbers - Your student may not know their numbers in English just yet. Make sure they have a piece of paper handy with their lunch and their bus number for the times you will not be there to help.
4) Volunteer A Chatty Classroom Helper - Ask a particularly social student to buddy up with your new student to show them the daily school routines. Get the kid in your class that have to remind to keep quiet. They can talk to this kid all day!
5) Google Translate - One of the most frightening parts of having a student that does not speak English in your classroom is that you cannot communicate with them in an emergency. Use the free Google Translate webpage or phone app to communicate with your student in their language. It's not perfect. I wouldn't use it to translate a test. But it will work well enough if you must communicate something to your student. Just say or type what you want in English, choose the language, and Google Translate will provide an approximate written and spoken translation. You can even use your camera to translate or translate YouTube videos. Here is a tutorial about how to use the Google Translate app.
6) Keep A Sense of Humor and Resilience - Be patient with yourself. It is not possible to learn everything you need to know about teaching students with limited English in just one week. This will be one of those years that you will look back on as a learning experience. If you look stressed, your student will be stressed, so relax and practice some self-compassion. You can do this!