Collaborating with your colleagues in any work environment can help guarantee success for everyone involved.
When working together, people can contribute their unique skills for a better overall result. This is the same when it comes to teaching and can be even more beneficial than in other work places because the students ultimately get more out of their educational experiences when teachers work together.
Here are some ways you can collaborate with others at your school.
How to Work as an ESL Team
English Teachers – Same Course, Different Students
If you are not the only teacher in charge of a particular course, for example English I, take the opportunity to collaborate with teachers of other sections of the class. During exams work together to develop a test that will provide a good baseline for all students. The results will allow you to see how classes compare to one another. Creating exams can also be a lot of work so breaking up the responsibilities will lessen your workload. Additionally, having multiple people review the test will lead to better accuracy which is really important when it comes to test sheets as students may become confused if questions or directions are unclear. Another thing you can do is create a project that all the classes can participate in. It may be challenging to work together if classes meet at different times but one thing you could consider doing is putting on a performance. Each class could have its own presentation or skit to perform for other students and even parents. This could be a lot of fun and you may even choose to turn it into a competition to see which class performance the audience liked best.
English Teachers – Different Course, Same Students
If your students take English classes besides yours, consider coordinating activities with their other instructor or instructors. An English reading course might have a chapter on poems which would be a great opportunity to talk about rhyming words and to encourage students to write poems of their own in your class. By talking to other teachers, you can help one another reinforce themes common in both classes. This will also benefit students because they will be able to examine various things related to a single topic in different classes.
It would make sense for art classes to focus on Asian art while students are studying Asia in their geography or history class right? The same thing can be done with English lessons if you are willing and able to coordinate themes with another instructor. Consider approaching art, history, and geography teachers to get some ideas. Especially with younger students incorporating topics from other classes should be very easy and enjoyable. The material at this level is not too challenging. First grade geography is pretty straightforward while calculus might be a stretch for some ESL teachers and also harder to link to the English language. Where possible, consider tying things together and let students teach you what they have been learning in other classes by using English and learning the related vocabulary along the way.
You can also present ideas to the principal about how to get your ESL students involved in other activities around the school. Perhaps you can set up a display in English about the class, school, town, or country. By approaching the principal with ideas like this one, you are showing that you are interested in English being part of the school’s identity and are thinking about how students can use their knowledge in practical ways not just theoretical ones. Students should be able to use English in real life situations and designing displays or booths for school fairs is a great way to encourage this. A display like the one suggested would be something students could be proud of. For students with a special interest in English, you can even create an optional English club that meets after school once or twice a week. Working with the principal will ensure that you are allowed to do certain activities and also have space either to display work or to meet with students.
You want to be able to work well with everyone in your school.
While this is not always possible, it is an admirable goal and collaborating with others will often help you form better working relationships with teachers. Always remember that your primary focus is teaching students English and while collaborating, be sure to share in the work and responsibilities of each project so that your colleagues do not start to resent you.
Tara has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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