Looking for improvement
April 26, 2020
As the number of ELL students has only been seeing an increase throughout the years, Neels seeks to find improvement in the ELL program.
“The state likes to look and to make sure that students are progressing and of course we look at those results as a district to see what areas do we need to improve on as far as our instruction,” Neels said.
A required course that is not offered through the ELL program is health class. In order to graduate from West, every student is expected to take the health class unless waived due to religious reasons.
For Lin, the lack of a health class for ELL students led to her struggling outside of school.
“The health course was pretty hard for me, I did a lot of work outside of class. I have to come home and then use Google Translate to translate everything on the sheet and then writing those stuff in Chinese and then use Google Translate to translate it back to English, so it was a pretty hard class for me,” Lin said. “I wish there’ll have a ELL health class because that might be very helpful and easier for ELL students to learn that course.”
Not only is there an absence in an ELL health class, but there’s a lack of other necessary classes that prepare students for the future. To combat this problem, Heenan recommends having business class offered to ELL students to give them the opportunity to learn where to apply for jobs, how to pay bills and money management skills.
“Many of the ELL students only have a very short time to learn English before they graduate and either continue their schooling in a post secondary setting or go directly into the workforce. I think it would be great to have classes that helped them with more life skills in adjusting to life in the United States and how to survive in the United States,” Heenan said.
Compared to non-ELL classes, the class size for each ELL class is smaller, something that Mohamed Nour found to be a benefit.
“[The smaller classes sizes] makes [us] feel that someone cares about [us]… It helps us feel welcoming,” Mohamed Nour said.
When an ELL student is enrolled in a non-ELL class, English teacher Garrett Hartwig doesn’t require the students to participate, but seeks to have the ELL students feel safe in the class.
Every student is treated fairly, but that does not mean every student is treated the exact same.”
— Garrett Hartwig, English teacher
“Participation in my classes is largely voluntary. My goal is to make all students feel comfortable speaking in class, no matter their English speaking abilities. I try to develop relationships with every student so they feel comfortable to share their perspective on class activities. I also try to present a wide range curriculum so all students find interest or have background on class activities at some point,” Hartwig said. “When students like and enjoy the content, they will participate in most classes.”
According to Hartwig, it’s crucial to make connections with every student, regardless of their proficiency level in English.
“I always remind myself that ELL or not, students are students. Most want to learn what a course offers and are nervous, excited or ready for a class [but] they are all students first,” Hartwig said. “Every student is treated fairly, but that does not mean every student is treated the exact same.”
As the ELL program has only been increasing in the number of students, Neels hopes that the ELL program helps the students to be able to communicate more and to give them more opportunities.
“When they are to celebrate little milestones of being able to learn the language and being able to communicate with their friends […] that’s when I think they’re realizing what this program has in their destinies and what we are able to provide for them,” Neels said.