As ESL teachers, we not only support our students, but also other teachers in our building to some degree. If our content teachers don't feel supported, they won't feel confident in supporting our multilingual learners. The first step to supporting our content teachers is by cultivating relationships with them, and this is important to start doing at the very beginning of the school year.
Think of it from the other end. If you have another teacher who it is necessary to collaborate with, how likely are you to collaborate effectively if there isn't a relationship there at first? Here are some ways to build a solid foundation in order to continue supporting our teachers throughout the school year.
Be an active listener
According to Verywell Mind, active listening "is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice." As a peer coach, we have practiced active listening and I have to say, it's difficult at first! Getting into the habit of letting the other person speak without interrupting with your feedback and ideas is tough. But active listening involves letting the person you are speaking with talk without interruption while you show cues that you are listening. It may be mean you are nodding your head, holding eye contact, and showing with body language or smiling that you are listening, not working on another task while doing so. So no checking your email, teacher friends!
Other aspects of active listening are:
Respect their point of view
The other teacher sees the student you share in a totally different setting. This can alter their point of view of this student, so keep some things in mind:
Come together with the students in mind
When meeting, there should always be a common goal: supporting students you share. No matter if there are any opposing views, remember who you are there to ultimately help. Yes, you may be also supporting the content teacher, but it is for the benefit of your students in the end. Include student interests and background, student data, informal assessments, and student behavior when discussing the student you share.
I am in a large building with around 120 faculty members. In high school, that means we all have different planning periods and we might have different teacher duties to attend as well (hello, bathroom duty! Me currently). Respect that you may not have a great time in your schedule to meet with teachers, but try to be flexible. Showing that you are flexible will likely (hopefully) inspire them to meet when it may not be the most convenient for them either.
So don't show up at their door ready to talk when:
One of the awesome things that has come out of the virtual teaching year is the ability to easily meet virtually and skip the step of walking across the building for a meeting. There may be a time and a place for this, but it's easier now more than ever to cultivate relationships by making a virtual meeting in your calendar. And if it's not quite easy to make that time to meet, you can always send out a progress monitoring report such as this one to make sure your students are being supported in the content-areas.
So, make that meeting appointment, prepare to actively listen, have respect for where they are coming from, and always have the student in mind. Using these four ways to cultivate relationships with other teachers will only lead you to a path of enrichment for you and your language learners.
Want to learn more about high school strategies and collaborating with teachers and also get lesson plans delivered straight to you? Join our membership for high school teachers, My MLL Mentor, starting June 1st!
I teach high school ESL and peer coach high school ESL teachers in my district. I enjoy sharing my strategies and materials online and love learning new things from other teachers of Multilingual Learners! Let's learn together in my high school teacher membership just for Multilingual Learners!