Often, English learners disappear in their classrooms and don't feel connected to their peers or teachers. Sometimes they are mislabeled as being disengaged or uncaring. Frequently, they are carrying burdens and hurt we don't know about. These barriers can be crippling – but with skillful teaching strategies, they can be transformed.
As a new high school teacher, Grace Dearborn found out that when she reacted to challenging situations with frustration or anger, it rarely helped. A few years into teaching, she realized that using compassion to teach her high school students school-appropriate behavior created a major shift in classroom dynamics. She started to see happier and more engaged students.
We especially love her suggestion to imagine an "invisible subtitle running in front of the students that communicates what they really need." Students need different kinds of support from us, and we can't make assumptions about why they are acting out or what their needs are. When considering English learners and other students who may not understand verbal instructions, something as simple as remembering to include visual cues can greatly improve communication with them – so they can truly learn and genuinely connect with their teachers and peers.
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