T E S O L32510 Whiting


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From Isolation to Community for Teachers in Low-Incidence Settings
TESOL, Boston 3/25/10

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T E S O L32510 Whiting

  1. 1. From Isolation to Community for Teachers in Low-Incidence Settings James Whiting, Ph.D. Plymouth State University, Plymouth NH [email_address]
  2. 2. Today’s Talk <ul><li>Low-incidence ELL teaching in Northern New England </li></ul><ul><li>Some ways isolated teachers have established community </li></ul>
  3. 3. Northern New England School Population 1995-2005 Non-ELL ELL Population -13% +25% ME -17% +98% VT +1.6 +257% NH
  4. 4. Low-Incidence <ul><li>In these three northern New England states, ELLs are found in districts statewide. </li></ul><ul><li>However, despite the overall growth in their numbers, in most districts ELLs are a small segment of the overall population. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of these small populations, ELL teachers often work one-on-one with students and travel among schools to provide services to individual students throughout the district. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Isolation <ul><li>These low-incidence, small-population settings can easily lead to isolation for both ELLs and their teachers. </li></ul><ul><li>While these students are often the only ELLs in their classes, their teachers are likely to be the only ELL teacher in the school or district. </li></ul>
  6. 6. ELL Teachers in Northern New England <ul><li>A 2008 survey of ELL teachers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (n=168) found: </li></ul><ul><li>82% of respondents reported being the only ELL teacher in their school and </li></ul><ul><li>38% reported being the only ELL teacher in their district. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Isolation is Compounded <ul><li>Survey found 55% work in more than one school, and </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly a third work in three or more schools. </li></ul><ul><li>These itinerant teachers are on the move, not rooted to any one school </li></ul>
  8. 8. Creating Community <ul><li>ELL teachers are often absent for the informal yet vitally important interactions that occur in staff lounges, hallways and other informal school settings. </li></ul><ul><li>These interactions between professional peers are crucial opportunities for building community, but ELL teachers in low-incidence settings must look for them in other ways. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Creating Community <ul><li>ELL teachers in these low-incidence settings have addressed this professional isolation by coming together with fellow ELL teachers in three ways. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In all three states electronic state-wide listservs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In NH, monthly network meetings. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>At least one network meeting has established a wiki. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Types of Community <ul><li>Almost 100% of all respondents reported that they subscribed to their state’s listservs. </li></ul><ul><li>80% of respondents in NH reported that they attend network meetings. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Listserv <ul><li>Each of the three states has an ELL listserv to which anyone can subscribe. </li></ul><ul><li>The listservs are places for participants to post questions, float ideas, get advice, or ask for help. </li></ul><ul><li>Date indicate very high value of listservs for isolated teachers. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Listservs <ul><li>An on-line equivalent of the types of interactions that colleagues normally have with one another on a regular basis in the hallways and staff lounges, during breaks or sharing lunch. </li></ul><ul><li>ELL teachers in low-incidence settings, who want advice from a fellow ELL teacher but rarely see one in the course of their normal work day, utilize the listserv for these types of exchanges. </li></ul><ul><li>The listserv becomes a virtual learning community that offers support, advice, and feedback for professional development, which is especially meaningful for ELL teachers working alone </li></ul>
  13. 13. Network Meetings <ul><li>The regional network meetings in NH are venues for teachers to come together at the end of the school day, once a month for a couple of hours. </li></ul><ul><li>The network meetings are usually maintained by a volunteer coordinator. Each member earns professional development hours for attending. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Network Meetings <ul><li>Opportunities to come together with people who teach the same subject in similar circumstances, with similar challenges and populations. </li></ul><ul><li>May be the only time during a typical month that colleagues have an opportunity to speak face-to-face with someone else who teaches the same subject. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Network Meetings <ul><li>In Northern New England, unique to New Hampshire. </li></ul><ul><li>On-going data collection indicate these meetings serve to lessen isolation and promote professional community building. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Wiki <ul><li>Members of one regional network meeting have also formed a wiki, a social networking website with multiple, ongoing discussion boards and resource pages. </li></ul><ul><li>Allow for more extended discussions. It is also useful for those unable to get to an in-person meeting. </li></ul><ul><li>Allows teachers to stay connected to regional ELL teacher colleagues; the wiki is private but any teacher who goes to the monthly network meetings can access and participate in it. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Wiki <ul><li>The wiki allows teachers to have a more regular, sustained community than monthly meetings allow for, and, since members already know one another, is more intimate than the listserv. </li></ul><ul><li>The wiki interactions and the network meetings support each other. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Wiki <ul><li>The wiki also opened up communication. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some professional exchanges that in the past were limited to one other person, for example emailing a question to a friend from the network meeting, have now migrated to the wiki, so such professional queries are open to a group of peers. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Greater communication and connection among the group. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Low-incidence ELL teachers’ unique challenges <ul><li>Often do not have any other professional ELL colleagues with whom they come into face-to-face contact on a daily basis. </li></ul><ul><li>Often geographically isolated from other ELL teachers, and </li></ul><ul><li>Typically the only ELL teacher in the district and/or the school. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Addressed Isolation with Community <ul><li>Through monthly network support meetings and two different types of virtual learning communities, these ELL teachers in low-incidence settings have bridged their geographic and professional boundaries, thus lessening their isolation, advancing their professional development, and aiding their students’ learning. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Other possibilities <ul><li>Social Networking sites </li></ul><ul><li>Websites </li></ul>
  22. 22. Low-Incidence <ul><li>In a 2008 survey of ELL teachers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (n=168), </li></ul><ul><li>68% reported that they taught in schools with 20 or fewer ELLs and of these teachers, </li></ul><ul><li>30% work in schools with fewer than five ELLs. </li></ul>