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ASCD / www.ASCD.org 89 couple of years ago, I talked with a high school history teacher as we waited for an after-school meeting to begin. He began by saying that he and his colleagues were struggling to help a large population of English language learners (ELLs) who recently arrived at the school. Supporting these students was a new challenge for the staff; teachers had received no formal assistance to prepare them for the role. I asked him if he’d figured out any approaches that seemed useful. He nodded and explained that he had thought about what it would feel like if he were 17 and trying to make his way through high school in a new country. He con- cluded he’d feel hopeless if he were expected to take home five heavy textbooks each night and read 20 pages in each of them. “It just wouldn’t be pos- sible,” he said. “I’d be so slow in translating that I couldn’t do the work even if I stayed up all night. There just wouldn’t be enough hours.” That reality led him to highlight small sections in his students’ history textbooks. He chose text, photos, and graphics that captured the essence of a chapter, thinking these selections would feel more manageable to his students. “It made a big difference,” he said. “You could see the students’ faces light up because someone cared.” If I were an English language learner, I’d want to be in that class—a class where the teacher put himself in my shoes, imagined the challenges I faced, and did something concrete to help me find my way. Other Good Places to Learn I’d want to be in the class of the 5th grade teacher who explained that everyone had to take their own next steps in learning and that there would be several times a week when students worked on their own agendas. During personal agenda time, students worked alone, in pairs, in triads or quads, or with the teacher on everything from academic vocabulary to math. Each student had his or her own work to do but also took some time to help his or her peers because that’s what members of really good teams do. In that class, I wouldn’t have felt alone or scared—at least not all of the time. There would have been consistent times set aside for me to learn to read and write in a new language, and maybe even better, the opportunity to talk with class- mates in small groups, a space that felt safe for trying out a new language. And I wouldn’t have felt even more like an outsider by being singled out for special help. I would have taken my own next steps, just like everyone else. I would have wanted to be in the 7th grade English class where the teacher believed there were always many sides to a story. In this class, students regularly encountered texts that repre- sented multiple cultures and perspectives on issues like prejudice, friendship, family, and stereotyping. There were opportunities to read in pairs, listen to recorded text, and use translation apps. On other occasions, community volunteers translated for ELLs in whole-class discussions. The teacher often gave students questions the night before a dis- cussion so they could prepare answers. She always told the class how much respect she had for stu- dents who had to think and speak in two different languages simultaneously. Every Voice Heard I’d have wanted to be in the high school history class whose teacher emphasized the importance of each student’s voice and perspective being heard Carol Ann Tomlinson ONE TO GROW ON They learned about ELLs and from ELLs, as they always had with all their students, so they could teach them effectively. A If I Were an ELL . . . © JOHN JAY CABUAY Hoerr.indd 89 12/31/15 12:21 PM attitudes, and efforts are important in setting a tone for your school, so they need to feel like part of the team. Sharing information is one way to support teams. “Most organiza- tions are more concerned with how best to control information than how best to share it,” McChrystal says. If we want everyone to be charging toward the same goal, we need to give them information that will help them succeed. What do you share and with whom? For example, do you share the results from your parent surveys with your faculty? Teachers need to know the community’s perceptions. Similarly, each year you set profes- sional goals for yourself, but have you shared some of them with your staff? I believe that you should use staff input when determining your goals and that periodically sharing your successes and frustrations is a way to model the focus and grit in professional learning that you hope to see in your staff. It’s what team members do. Often the most unyielding silo is the principal’s office. Believe me, I know that taking the time to meet with others and hear their opinions— especially if they are different from yours—isn’t easy. But if we want everyone to grow, including ourselves, we must create opportunities to col- laborate with others. That doesn’t mean abdicating our responsibility. It does mean empowering others with information and recognizing that even if we think our answer is the right one, the truly best solution is one that everyone owns. So, who is on your team? EL 1 McChrystal, S. (2015). Team of teams. New York: Portfolio/Penguin. Thomas R. Hoerr (trhoerr@newcity school.org) is emeritus head of school at the New City School in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the author of The Art of School Leadership (ASCD, 2005) and Fostering Grit: How Do I Prepare My Students for the Real World? (ASCD, 2013). Follow him on Twitter @tomhoerr. Teeming Teamwork Continued from p. 88 in every discussion. This teacher knew the class was poorer if any voice was silent. During class discussions, she prompted students to summarize the previous speaker’s statement and then add to it. When students newly arrived from Somalia were clearly reluctant to speak, she’d say, “A word or a phrase that seems important to you will do just fine.” In a very brief time, students took quite seriously the importance of their voices being heard—and more to the point, that they really heard the voices of others. On a year-end course evaluation, a common response from students was, “When the year began, I thought only some of us in this class were smart. Now I realize how much I have to learn from everyone.” I’d want to be in the math class of the 3rd grade teacher who consistently encouraged students to find varied ways to communicate their math- ematical thinking—with numbers, words, drawings, charts, colors, and manipulatives. “There are many ways to speak the language of math,” she’d remind everyone. “Let’s see how many of those ways can work for us today.” Students regularly analyzed and responded to what the teacher called “one another’s displays of math- ematical reasoning.” No student was ever voiceless in that room. That’s really it. None of those teachers was any kind of ELL expert. They were humans who understood the immense challenge of starting over in a strange new place. They sought to contribute to their students’ successes and to their sense of belonging. They used common sense to figure out how they might do that a little better each day. They embraced newcomers with hope and a spirit of partnership. They learned about ELLs and from ELLs, as they always had with all their students, so they could teach them effectively. Ideally, I’d want to be in a class where the collective approaches of all these teachers were common practice—regardless of my back- ground. EL Carol Ann Tomlinson (cat3y@virginia .edu) is William Clay Parrish Jr. Professor and Chair of Educational Leader ship, Foundation, and Policy at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She is the author of The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners (2nd ed., ASCD, 2014) and, with Michael Murphy, Leading for Differentiation: Growing Teachers Who Grow Kids (ASCD, 2015). Even if we think our answer is the right one, the truly best solution is one that everyone owns. If I Were an ELL Continued 90 Educational lEadErship / FEbruary 2016 Hoerr.indd 90 12/31/15 12:21 PM ed to give them information that will help them succeed. What do you share and with whom? For example, do you sh