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T E S O L32510 Whiting

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From Isolation to Community for Teachers in Low-Incidence Settings

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 T E S O L32510 Whiting Presentation Transcript

  • From Isolation to Community for Teachers in Low-Incidence Settings James Whiting, Ph.D. Plymouth State University, Plymouth NH [email_address]
  • Today’s Talk
    • Low-incidence ELL teaching in Northern New England
    • Some ways isolated teachers have established community
  • Northern New England School Population 1995-2005 Non-ELL ELL Population -13% +25% ME -17% +98% VT +1.6 +257% NH View slide
  • Low-Incidence
    • In these three northern New England states, ELLs are found in districts statewide.
    • However, despite the overall growth in their numbers, in most districts ELLs are a small segment of the overall population.
    • 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.
    View slide
  • Isolation
    • These low-incidence, small-population settings can easily lead to isolation for both ELLs and their teachers.
    • 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.
  • ELL Teachers in Northern New England
    • A 2008 survey of ELL teachers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (n=168) found:
    • 82% of respondents reported being the only ELL teacher in their school and
    • 38% reported being the only ELL teacher in their district.
  • Isolation is Compounded
    • Survey found 55% work in more than one school, and
    • Nearly a third work in three or more schools.
    • These itinerant teachers are on the move, not rooted to any one school
  • Creating Community
    • ELL teachers are often absent for the informal yet vitally important interactions that occur in staff lounges, hallways and other informal school settings.
    • 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.
  • Creating Community
    • ELL teachers in these low-incidence settings have addressed this professional isolation by coming together with fellow ELL teachers in three ways.
      • In all three states electronic state-wide listservs
      • In NH, monthly network meetings.
      • At least one network meeting has established a wiki.
  • Types of Community
    • Almost 100% of all respondents reported that they subscribed to their state’s listservs.
    • 80% of respondents in NH reported that they attend network meetings.
  • Listserv
    • Each of the three states has an ELL listserv to which anyone can subscribe.
    • The listservs are places for participants to post questions, float ideas, get advice, or ask for help.
    • Date indicate very high value of listservs for isolated teachers.
  • Listservs
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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
  • Network Meetings
    • 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.
    • The network meetings are usually maintained by a volunteer coordinator. Each member earns professional development hours for attending.
  • Network Meetings
    • Opportunities to come together with people who teach the same subject in similar circumstances, with similar challenges and populations.
    • 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.
  • Network Meetings
    • In Northern New England, unique to New Hampshire.
    • On-going data collection indicate these meetings serve to lessen isolation and promote professional community building.
  • Wiki
    • Members of one regional network meeting have also formed a wiki, a social networking website with multiple, ongoing discussion boards and resource pages.
    • Allow for more extended discussions. It is also useful for those unable to get to an in-person meeting.
    • 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.
  • Wiki
    • 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.
    • The wiki interactions and the network meetings support each other.
  • Wiki
    • The wiki also opened up communication.
      • 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.
    • Greater communication and connection among the group.
  • Low-incidence ELL teachers’ unique challenges
    • Often do not have any other professional ELL colleagues with whom they come into face-to-face contact on a daily basis.
    • Often geographically isolated from other ELL teachers, and
    • Typically the only ELL teacher in the district and/or the school.
  • Addressed Isolation with Community
    • 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.
  • Other possibilities
    • Social Networking sites
    • Websites
  • Low-Incidence
    • In a 2008 survey of ELL teachers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (n=168),
    • 68% reported that they taught in schools with 20 or fewer ELLs and of these teachers,
    • 30% work in schools with fewer than five ELLs.