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125. Empowering ELL Educators: Addressing the 5 Reasons This Year Might Have Felt Really Hard
Episode 1253rd May 2024 • Equipping ELLs • Beth Vaucher, ELL, ESL Teachers
00:00:00 00:19:21

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Teacher, did this year feel really hard?

In this episode of Equipping ELLs, host Beth Vaucher explores some common challenges faced by teachers of ELLs and offers actionable strategies for success. Delving into the five reasons why this school year might have felt particularly tough, Beth addresses issues such as the education gap, diagnosing language barriers, and the disconnect between training and reality in professional development. She also discusses staffing challenges, student overload, and communication gaps between educators. By providing practical insights and strategies, Beth hopes to help you leave these struggles in this year, as you move forward in preparing for the next.



Thank you for spending your valuable time with me and learning together how we can continue to do better to support our incredible ELL students.

As educators, we often find ourselves at the crossroads of enthusiasm and exhaustion, particularly when it comes to teaching English Language Learners (ELLs). The landscape of ELL education is filled with challenges stemming from inadequate initial education, lack of proper training for new demands, and an ever-widening gap between theory and practice. Understanding and addressing these issues is crucial not only for our professional growth but also for significantly improving our students' learning experiences.

My personality naturally leans towards optimism, half glass full, and positivity, but as we near the end of the year, I think it's only right to pause and take a look and some of the reasons this year might have felt really hard and tiring for you. We want you to know we see you, we see what's being asked of you, and we are here to help as best as we can. You are not alone, and sometimes just knowing that helps to keep moving forward.

So, we aren't going to sit in the negative forever, but in today's episode I want to highlight 5 reasons this year might have felt really hard, and to give you a space to reflect on what's been really hard for you so that we can leave it in this year and make a plan to do what we can to start off next year prepared for some of these challenges.

Unpacking the Education Gap

More than ever teachers are working with ELL students who are coming with very little foundational skills even in their native language and interrupted education. This requires a different approach from students who might have worked with in the past. It's like learning a whole new approach.

Many ELL students come to us with varying levels of prior education. Some have robust foundational knowledge, while others might lack basic skills that are often presumed in classroom settings. This discrepancy can create a steep learning curve not only for students but also for teachers. Identifying these gaps early through assessments and tailored observations allows us to customize our teaching strategies to better suit individual needs, thus fostering a more inclusive and effective learning environment.

Diagnosing Language vs. Learning Issues

Distinguishing between a language barrier and a learning disability is a critical skill for any teacher of ELLs. Misdiagnosis can either overwhelm the student or fail to challenge them adequately. Implementing initial and ongoing assessments can guide us to better understand our students' challenges. Strategies such as differentiated instruction and bilingual support can be particularly effective in addressing specific needs without stigmatizing or isolating students.

Training vs. Reality: The Disconnect

In a recent survey we sent out, 84% of you shared that the PD your school has provided has not been helpful or about how to become a better teacher when it comes to supporting ELLs.

We've all sat through professional development (PD) sessions that are inspiring on a theoretical level but fall short in practical application, especially in diverse classrooms. The new demands placed on us—whether it's integrating technology or adopting new pedagogical theories—often come without the necessary training or resources. Recognizing this, we must push for PD that bridges the gap between inspiring ideas and classroom realities, ensuring that what we learn is both applicable and actionable. Current PD often dazzles with high-level concepts that, while theoretically sound, do not always translate well into everyday teaching practices. To combat this, we need to advocate for PD that focuses on real-world classroom scenarios, equipping teachers with strategies that can be immediately implemented. Moreover, PD should be adaptive, evolving based on feedback and the changing dynamics of our student populations.

Staffing Challenges and Student Overload

The imbalance between the growing number of ELL students and the availability of qualified teachers is reaching critical levels. This not only strains existing resources but also dilutes the quality of education each student receives. Schools must prioritize recruitment and retention of skilled teachers and ensure adequate support is in place to handle larger classes without compromising on the quality of instruction.

Bridging Communication Gaps Between Different Educators

Frequently, content teachers and language teachers operate in silos, using different terminologies and approaches that can confuse students and hinder their learning. Fostering a collaborative environment where content and language educators work together to develop cohesive teaching strategies can significantly enhance the learning experience for ELLs. Regular interdisciplinary meetings and shared planning sessions can be instrumental in achieving this integration.


The journey through the complexities of ELL education is challenging but incredibly rewarding. By understanding the multifaceted needs of our students and advocating for more practical resources and training, we can enhance both our teaching practices and our students' learning outcomes.

If you are reflecting right now and feeling the weight of some of these same challenges, know that you are not alone. Together, let's create ways to overcome these challenges, and help you have an amazing year next year.





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