Climbing Maslow's Steps in 2014
By Roselyn Rauch
[Editor’s Note: This article has been printed in previous versions and in various places. It is the author’s conviction that students’ affects, ELL or not, have to be seriously considered in the learning process.]
Summer is over and school has begun. Teachers think about their new students; the students worry about whether they will like their teachers and whether or not their friends are in their classes. The smell of fresh paint mixed with the stuffy air of schoolrooms closed for most of July and August permeates the air. Schools have their own particular aromas: tuna and peanut butter and new crayons and markers mixed with gym socks and sneakers and sweat.
American students and teachers are used to these environmental “expectations”. But what about our English language learners whose background experiences differ greatly? Do these sights, sounds, and smells enchant them or nauseate them? Do mainstream teachers think about the effect that these dynamics and that of many other facets of the American public school culture and how they impact student social and academic achievement?
Bilingual and ESL teachers have been schooled in the many variables that affect ELLs’ successes. But what about mainstream teachers? Aides? Support staff? Cafeteria workers? Custodial staff? How do these individuals respond to the needs of English language learners who are barely able to navigate through an American school day?
As advocates for our ELL students, we need to maintain a sort of vigilance; we need to act as a buffer between ELL and school staff, so that the consciousness of the school staff is raised to a level wherein our students are supported by all.
Remember Maslow and his “Hierarchy”? In Motivation and Personality (1954), Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, proposed that there are at least five (5) levels of physical and emotional needs that must be met before individuals can move onto fulfilling their potentials. And while this “theory” is over fifty years old and others have tried to revise it, for me it still holds true. I’ve witnessed it in action time and time again.
At the lowest level, humans need to satisfy hunger and thirst. Ever been hungry or thirsty? Can you function? What preoccupies your thoughts then? Once these basic life-sustaining needs are met, one needs to feel a sense of security, stability, and protection. Do you live in a safe community or one where you need to be off the streets before dark? Or even in daylight, you need to stay out of certain areas in your community? What about living in a “safe” community where none of the street or window signs make any sense to you thereby raising your anxiety level? Remember how you felt vacationing in a strange land where little made sense to you. How does a child with limited life experience respond to these challenges? What fears are stirred?How often do you move? Do you need to keep starting over with new faces, sights, sounds, smells, and languages? Many of our ELLs face these challenges long before the school day begins!
Once you have the “luxuries” of food and water, security, stability and protection, you still aren’t ready to move onto fulfilling your potential. You need to feel love and be loved, to not feel lonely, to have a sense of belonging. Think about many of our ELL students and why they have had to leave/flee their native lands: what does this do to their sense of belonging? Think of your students and how they must feel transplanted from the security of their homelands. Think about ELL students whose families are left behind/split up/divorcing. These fundamental needs apply to all students regardless of socio-economic levels. What does this do to students’ feelings of being loved while perhaps exacerbating a sense of loneliness? What must schools do to act as surrogate families to give these students a sense of belonging?
Should the schools succeed and be able to provide that psychological fulfillment, there is still another step up the hierarchical ladder before our kids can “make it”. Esteem needs of self-respect and having the respect of others is vital to well being. Often when an ELL is the only representative of his group, his/her “differentness” is not well tolerated by some/many in the school community. This can be devastating. The only way to overcome this issue is through education. The more people know and understand something, the more tolerant these individuals are likely to become. What must we, as educators within our own secure classroom walls, do to ensure that all of our students are accepted? What foundations must we lay before we can begin to worry about WIDA and ACCESS testing, AYP, and SGOs?
Too many questions? Lots to think about. While it may seem as if this piece is“preaching to the choir," even those whose have been trained often lose focus. The stresses and expectations of everyone’s daily lives influence how we perform. Educators, too, have Maslow’s steps to climb.
Certainly our professional goals are to ensure academic and social growth for all of our English language learners. Maslow and his successors have provided us with a psychological framework of steps to transcend, independently or concurrently, in an attempt to fulfill human growth potential. But, we, the education professionals teaching the next generations, must work collaboratively to ensure that our students are not viewed solely as robotic test-takers racing unrealistically against an artificial time-line to achieve one-dimensional test scores. They are children first.
So read on through this new school year edition of Voices with Maslow in the back of your mind. Have a great school year.
By Sandee McBride
The Year Ahead
Welcome back to the new school year! I am pleased to announce three upcoming regional mini-conferences for this year.
First, we will present the Fall Conference, “Assessment and ELLs,” on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at The Richard Stockton College in Galloway, NJ. Dr. Erin Haynes from America Research Institutes will join us again this year. She has also agreed to be a featured speaker at our annual spring conference in May. In addition, JoAnne Negrin, Monica Schnee, Dr. David Hattem, and Dr. Waleska Batista will be presenting on different aspects of assessment at various grade levels. More details and registration information for our event at Stockton College can be found online at our NJTESOL/NJBE website by following this link: http://www.njtesol-njbe.org/fall-conference/default.htm
Our second regional mini-conference will be held at the Glassboro, NJ location of Rowan University. The date for this event will be Saturday, March 7, 2015. The planning is currently underway and Dr. Ken Bond from the New Jersey Department of Education will be our keynote presenter.
Finally, our third conference, also in the planning stages, is sponsored by our Bergen-Passaic Chapter of NJTESOL/NJBE and will take place at the William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey on Saturday, March 14, 2015. We are very grateful to these institutions of higher education for their support and collaboration. Information on these conferences will be available on our website as soon as the plans become finalized.
Details have already been initiated for our annual spring conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Our new Conference Chair/Vice President, JoAnne Negrin, from Vineland Public Schools is already working hard on the plans so set aside the dates of May 27-28, 2015 for our annual event. We will be looking forward to reviewing your proposals for workshops very shortly!
Sandee McBride, President NJTESOL/NJBE
The Power of Teachers
By JoAnne Negrin
Iwas going to write about formative assessment for this edition [of Voices] in preparation for the upcoming Fall Conference. I thought about it for a while, and then I decided that if you want to hear all about that, you definitely should go to the Fall Conference at Stockton on October 25. It will be worth it. But that is not what we’re talking about today.
One of my favorite bits of research is not exactly new and groundbreaking. It was done in the 1960’s by Rosenthal and Jacobsen. In this experiment, they told teachers in a school where a majority of the students were economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse that several of their students had shown via a Harvard designed test that they were about to bloom intellectually. These students, over the course of the school year, did indeed blossom. Not only that, but the gains they made that year put them at the head of their classes for the following two years, even when they were with teachers who knew nothing of their special status.
The great thing about this research is that the students who were “bloomers” were selected entirely at random. In other words, those students excelled because excellence was the expectation in the mind of the teacher.
Oh, the power you have!
I have seen this transformation with my own eyes. In recent years, my district has experienced a tremendous turnaround in achievement with our ELLs. It hasn’t been easy, and there is still a long road to travel. However, one thing that has fundamentally changed is our expectations. We have changed the conversation about our students from looking at them in terms of what they lack to looking at them in terms of what they bring and what they can achieve. With that, we’ve focused a lot less on what’s impossible, and a lot more on what’s possible for us to achieve as educators. It’s been hard, and many, many leaps of faith were involved. I give the teachers a lot of credit, more than they probably realize, for doing the hard work that is making a difference.
Seeing those high expectations result in higher achievement has brought about profound changes in the teaching staff as well. I have never seen such a fired up group of teachers as I have seen this summer! From the mainstream teachers who have professed that sheltered instruction training has completely transformed their outlook and practice, to a new crop of bilingual teachers that seems to have bonded to one another immediately, to venerated veterans excited to implement new practices, this group is ready to go. They also can’t wait to get the AMAO scores back which for me is a little scary. No pressure!
We are busy in our little part of far South Jersey creating a culture of high expectations for all of us. We hold our kids to high expectations, with supports in place so that they can meet them. I do the same for the teachers, offering guidance and professional development opportunities wherever possible. They do the same for me, always teaching me and helping me to be a better advocate. It’s a virtuous cycle. Self-efficacy then morphs into collective efficacy. This year, we will be offering teacher-led professional development so that we can all share our knowledge and practices.
In many ways, this article is a love letter to the teaching staff in my district. However, we are in no way unique. I hope that by me sharing our experience you can find some things in it that resonate with you. You don’t need a supervisor to make it happen. A supportive administrator is helpful, but teachers are fundamental in creating change. Trust me, I’m not responsible for the lion’s share of what has been accomplished. Again, you are more powerful than you think you are.
As I write this the week before Labor Day, you might be setting up your classroom, planning out your assignments, road-testing some shiny new apps or other materials. Maybe you already have your class list in hand, and you’re diligently collecting intel on your students and setting up schedules and groups. Take a moment now to think about all of the advantages your students have, and about how far you’ll take them this year. Imagine how they’ll sound and write when you’re done with them in June, and how they will rise to the challenges you set forth. Then think about what kind of lives they will have five, ten, twenty years from now because of the critical role you’ve played. You have that kind of power.
[Editor's note: While this was written pre-Labor Day with a September mindset for new school year readiness, the points made should be in the forefront of our consciousness throughout the year, particularly when new students arrive and it is their starting point.]
Rosenthal, R. and L.F. Jacobsen (1968). Teacher expectations for the disadvantaged. Scientific American, 218(4).
JoAnne Negrin is Supervisor of ESL, Bilingual Education, World Languages, and Performing Arts and NCLB/Title I Coordinator for the Vineland Public Schools. She is Vice-President and Conference Chair of NJTESOL/NJBE.
By Gwen Franks
Spring 2015 Conference registration forms are available now. Due to an overwhelming response last year, we had to turn away disappointed colleagues because we had reached our maximum capacity. . . so don’t delay. And, if your school is paying with a purchase order, please make sure you follow up with your district to make sure that the PO and registration form are sent it on time. For more information, check our website njtesol-njbe.org.
By JoAnne M. Negrin
It is with great pleasure that we announce our keynote and featured speakers for the 2015 Spring Conference.
Our keynote speakers will be Kate Kinsella and Diane Staehr Fenner. Dr. Kinsella is a national expert on the development of literacy in English learners, and Dr. Staehr Fenner is a leading voice in advocacy for English learners. Both women are dynamic and inspirational speakers, and both days promise to deliver a can't miss experience.
As they say in the infomercials, "But wait, there's more!" This year, in addition to our two keynote speakers, we also have three featured speakers. Dr. Erin Haynes, is an expert on helping English learners meet the Common Core standards. John Segota, CAE, is a public policy specialist for TESOL International and is very active in federal legislative advocacy. Sean Hadley, Esq., is Associate Director of Government Relations for NJEA and is an active advocate at the state level.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 40th anniversary of the Lau v. Nichols decision. Given the challenges to our students and to our profession in the form of testing regimes that defy research and best practices, we cannot take for granted that we will be able to continue to do what is right for our students. Complacency will simply not suffice. We hope that you will pay close attention to what our advocacy speakers have to say, because we will most certainly be called on, both as an organization and as individuals, to advocate for best practices now and in the years ahead.
Even with all of these amazing speakers, this conference won't be a success without one more key element - YOU! As a district supervisor and as an NJTESOL/NJBE officer, I know for a fact that New Jersey boasts some of the most knowledgeable and passionate teachers anywhere. I know that you do amazing things with your students every day. I always say that I can talk until I run out of air, but my words will never have the same impact as those of a teacher who is actually making things happen in the classroom. Please, please, consider sharing your tips, tricks, and learning with your colleagues by submitting a proposal for a workshop. Workshops will be 60 minutes in length, which goes by very quickly. If it's your first time presenting, consider the buddy system and co-present with a colleague. You will be surprised by how easy it is and how great it makes you feel. The submission form is on the website, and proposals are due by Halloween.
Can you tell I'm excited? I hope that you are excited enough to register for the conference and submit a proposal! I look forward to seeing you in New Brunswick on May 27 and 28.
Vice President and Conference Chair
By Marilyn Pongracz
As the school year begins and students look for assistance with writing, the following sites seem suitable for ELLs in high school or college ESL classes. These were taken from a list of sites in the E-School newsletter published on August 6, 2014.
http://www.brainyquote.com/ Brainy Quote, as the name suggests, is a site where students can get quotations from many famous people: authors, inventors, actors, sports heroes, and others. Students can click on topics or authors or use the search option. Note: the latter functions through Google. Students could use these independently, but since many are complicated, they may serve better as the inspiration for discussions that lead to writing.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ The Free Dictionary is a very useful resource for unusual words or for terms that are specific to a field of study. It also includes a thesaurus and an extensive, clearly defined idioms list. Besides these, there are articles about a variety of topics and some games although these are more appropriate for SAT practice. However, since the defining vocabulary is not simplified, I recommend the Longman online dictionary http://www.ldoceonline.com for general use.
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/grammar-and-usage The Oxford Dictionaries Grammar and Usage site is helpful for answering grammar questions and common usage problems. The site zeros in on typical questions like the use of he or she verses they. It addresses causes of confusion as with the words affect and effect. Adult students will appreciate the help for real life writing such as informal and formal invitations, letters of complaint, resumes, cover letters, and reports. The site lists and explains the contents for each of these and provides examples. The only drawback of the samples is that they are British, so some of the vocabulary is different from American vocabulary.
http://www.bibme.org/ Bibme is a popular site for students who need to create citations. Although the site has advertisements and is a little slow, the citations are formatted correctly following the latest conventions.
These sites should help your students have a good school year writing.
Marilyn Pongracz is the Technology Coordinator for NJTESOL/NJBE and the English Language Resource Center Supervisor at Bergen Community College