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ELL Teacher Interview

Hannah Ellison
TL 333
My interviewee was a Washington State University graduate, and she was a part of the

teaching program with an English language learner endorsement like myself. Her name is Lind-

sey Degroot, and she teaches at Glenridge Elementary School in Kent, Washington. Ms.

Degroot’s email address is lindsey.degroot@kent.k12.wa.us, and her phone number is 206-473-

9686. Ms. Degroot teaches 2nd grade currently, and has a very diverse classroom. I actually had

the opportunity to job shadow her about a year ago and it was an awesome experience. Ms.

Degroot has guided me a lot throughout my experience in the teaching program and is a big rea-

son I chose the ELL endorsement. I still talk to her to this day, about how she is doing and if she

has any experiences and stories she wants to share with me. I appreciate knowing new teachers

because it gives me the opportunity to see the process as a whole, and knowing in a few short

years, that could be me in my own classroom. When I first decided to go to Washington State

University, Ms. Degroot knew I wanted to be a teacher, so she asked me what my endorsement

was going to be. Back then, I did not even know what ELL was, and she told me all about it. Ms.

Degroot is a big facet to why I chose this endorsement. Seeing her so passionate about her cho-

sen career path, and her classes inspired me to learn more and do the same.

Throughout Ms. Degroot and my interview, I learned a lot about the amount of patience

teachers have to be able to support every single child in their classroom. Ms. Degroot decided to

teach primary because she absolutely loves the excitement students have to learn, and she enjoys

that elementary school is focused on “how to” strategies and the beginning stages. She has had

plenty of experience dealing with the issue of the school not providing her with the appropriate

tools to be able to cater to every student. Sometimes, when she wants to spend extra time with

her ELL students to explain something, or see where they are, she cannot because she has an en-

tire classroom to pay attention to as well. Ms. Degroot mentions that extra support would be
nice, so she could spend more time one on one with ELLs, to make sure they are understanding

the material and if there is anything else she can do as their teacher to improve. This is important

to her because if this is not provided, it would be easy for her to lose track of their progression or

lack there of. For example, Ms. Degroot does not have a specific seating chart in her classroom,

however she does have a seating arrangement for specific subjects like mathematics. Ms.

Degroot purposely seats her lower scored ELL’s together, because during this time, she has a

paraeducator present to be able to support her and focus on this group for extra help. Ms.

Degroot mentioned a lot that she is very thankful for the extra help because she cannot be every-

where at once like she wishes she could be. Ms. Degroot wants her classroom to be a place

where her general education students and her ELL students can collaborate with one another and

not feel like there is any sort of divide. Ms. Degroot also believes that incorporating culture into

her everyday curriculum is so important for this to happen. By incorporating her students culture,

it makes her students all feel equal and apart of the class. When I was job shadowing her, I actu-

ally witnessed Ms. Degroot doing a great job of this. She had different groups of students create

posters of things that represent different countries around the world, and students were so excited

to share things they knew about the country they came from, or their ancestors came from. One

thing Ms. Degroot finds very frustrating teaching primary grades is standardize testing, and what

that entails for ELLs. Ms. Degroot believes that the English Language Proficiency Assessment

test is basically setting ELL students up for failure because the test is so ridiculously written. Ms.

Degroot said it makes it very hard to exit the English Language Learner program, and that it

should not be that difficult considering they need exposure and that a simple test cannot deter-

mine whether or not they are understanding the material fully. She wishes there was a way that
ELL students did not have to prove their knowledge through a test. She would prefer something

that creatively expressed their knowledge that they could have fun with.

One topic brought up in our textbook, Foundations for Teaching English Language

Learners, is that teachers need to be familiar with or know about language. I interpreted this as

us as teachers need to be aware of the types of communication in our classrooms and how it will

effect the relationships with parents and students’, and learning (Wright, (2015). Ms. Degroot

mentioned in our interview that her not being bilingual does not necessarily effect her relation-

ships or communication with her students, but actually more so with parents. Ms. Degroot men-

tioned that she has a really hard time effectively communicating with parents because she does

not speak their native language. It is times like this when she wishes she was bilingual, but she

mentioned that learning a handful of languages to effectively communicate is not a reality for

her, and not for many other people as well. Ms. Degroot struggles with how to reach out,

whether that is via email, letter, or phone call. She said that over time, she has come up with

strategies for different events such as curriculum night, conferences, and any other time when

families come into the classrooms. Ms, Degroot assured me that it comes with practice, and that

is important to remember that as a teacher, it is okay to not get everything right the first or even

second time. Ms. Degroot says making mistakes is often how she learned the most affective way

of doing certain things, and she wished she knew that going into teaching. When I asked her how

she balances her time between general education students and her ELL students, she said that she

always plans ahead. For example, lessons that are heavy with academic language are much

harder for ELL’s to learn than social language, so they need more time (Wright, (2015). Ms.

Degroot also mentioned that she puts her general education students with her ELLs on purpose
during partner talks to promote social interaction, which is something we have continuously dis-

cussed in class. This helps ELLs with learning English socially and academically. This is also a

great way to have students share their ideas and thoughts about their learning. Knowledge is so

important when it comes to the roles teachers have as communicators, educators, and evaluators.

It is important that we are aware of how we can develop strategies for students to learn English

in a way that best suits them and their learning style.

As teachers, it is also important to get to know our students attitudes and behaviors. I re-

member in school, if I was not familiar with a specific topic, or I did not know the answer, I

would try my best to steer clear of any classroom conversation or activity related to it. Ms.

Degroot made a really good point that throughout her career working with ELLs she has become

aware of the fact that they will avoid participating in lessons and conversations so they are not

embarrassed. This forced her have to rethink her teaching strategies and how she would approach

her ELL students in class to make sure they were actively participating without feeling uncom-

fortable. Ms. Degroot said that approaching them one on one is a great way to boost their confi-

dence in their thinking and to always encourage class participation. One of my favorite questions

that sparked my interest the most was which strategy is most effective when teaching ELLs. Ms.

Degroot believes that station teaching is the most effective strategy when it comes to being able

to cater to every student, mostly ELL’s. Station teaching allows students to be taught in small

groups, with students who are on similar academic levels, so the teacher can provide accurate

support to all the learners. This also makes it so students cannot group together and hide behind

each others answers. I believe that depending on the teacher and their teaching strategies, this

can change but it is great advice to incoming teachers. When students are all on the same aca-
demic levels in groups, it makes them more confident when it comes to sharing ideas and an-

swers. When it comes to assessments, Ms. Degroot and I have similar outlooks on how to ac-

commodate her ELL students. Ms. Degroot allows her tests to be read to her students, and then

her students tell her exactly, word for word, what they want to answer, and she will write it on

the board for them to copy. I really like this strategy because it allows her students to practice

reading, writing, and listening, while still taking the same test as everyone else. It is difficult to

get an accurate score on a test as a class whole when ELLs are taking different ones made specif-

ically for them. That is why accommodations are really important when it comes to ELLs taking

tests (Wright, (2015).

This interview was extremely informative to helping me prepare for my future ELL stu-

dents. It was nice being able to relate back to when I was job shadowing Ms. Degroot because I

remember her doing these small things to accommodate her students. ELLs have a disadvantage

in the United States education system and we need more people dedicated to making their expe-

rience in the classroom one where they can be comfortable and feel involved. I could not imag-

ine feeling that out of place, and still having to participate in class. Teachers also need to under-

stand the importance of communication in the classroom as Ms. Degroot mentioned. This comes

with experience, time, and effort. You have to find your own ways to best communicate with

parents and students so they know you want to talk to them and provide their students with an

appropriate education. Although I am not bilingual, I will find ways to effectively communicate

with parents and families so I can ensure my students are getting the best education possible

from me. Ms. Degroot even mentioned translating every letter or email sent home to parents in

their specific native language so she knows they can understand. This is the type of dedication

and care that I want to have for my students and families. I also will always take the time to get
to know my students learning style, because as Ms. Degroot mentioned, a lot of ELLs are shy

and will not participate because they are embarrassed. I want to make my students feel as com-

fortable as possible with their learning level so they know they can always participate with the

class. Teaching is the greatest job in the world because we get to positively influence the lives of

so many.
Bibliography
Wright, W.E (2015). Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners: Research, Theory,
and Practice (2nd ed.) Philadelphia: Carlson.

L. Degroot. Personal Communication, November 10, 2017.


Appendix
1. What grade level do you teach and why did you decide to teach that specific level?
2. Are you bilingual or speak a second language? If so, has it helped your teaching? If not, do
you feel it has hindered your teaching? Why or why not?
3. Have you ever experienced conflict between your teaching style and parent-preferred teaching
style?How do you accommodate your curriculum to help ELL students?
4. What qualities do teachers need to have to be able to teach ELL’s?
5. Do you have a certain seating arrangement in your classroom for your ELL students, if so,
why?
6. How do you balance teaching your ELL students and your gen-ed students?
7. What have you gained or learned from teaching ELL students?
8. In your opinion, what is the most effective strategy or teaching ELL students?
9. What made you want to be an ELL teacher?
10. What is one thing you wish you could change about current ELL policies in your school dis-
trict or any district?
11. How did you involve parents of ELL’s in their learning?
12. Do you have any assessment accommodations or alternatives that you use for your ELL’s?
13. What is one thing you wish you would have done differently with your ELL students?
14. How does your school district or school, support ELL students?
15. Do you have a different grading scale or grading process for your ELL students?
16. If you could give any advice to a future ELL teacher, what would it be?
17. What is the biggest stereotype you've had to face while teaching ELLs?