Advocating for EML students

I just submitted my final Quarter 3 grades, and now Spring Break begins. What a relief to have no specific travel plans. I can finally recover from an ear infection and a bad case of bronchitis that I caught at school. Never in my 23 years of public school career have I missed so many days of instruction! It was quite a scramble to get caught up after seven days with different substitutes covering my classes. Now I can breathe free before carefully planning the home stretch.

This week I testified before the MCPS Board of Education, driving home the need for increased funding to support our English Multilingual Learners (EMLs), formerly known as ESOL students. The staffing allocations are frozen on January 1st, even though newcomers continue to arrive throughout the year. Teachers serving EML students are constantly working at a deficit.

At my school – which, by most standards, is a very good school – newcomers might be placed in a resource class, art, music, or double PE class because the mainstream classes have reached capacity. This may slow down or change their graduation trajectory. Students learning English need enough trained teachers who can meet their unique language needs.

While the English Language Development (ELD) teacher is not the only friendly face for our students, we are sometimes a lifeline for newcomer families who do not know how to navigate the American school system. The ELD teacher is often the only trusted adult they know.

When our class sizes increase, students do not get the individualized attention they need. Teachers of EMLs routinely take on extra duties well after the last bell rings for dismissal. We act as counselor, spokesperson, interpreter, and advocate. But when we are stretched too thin, students suffer the consequences.

When teachers are too burned out to go the extra mile, students become disengaged in school. When the demands on ELD teachers are too great, the school system fails the neediest students in our county. Simply put: we need increased funding to pay for vital programs. ELD departments around MCPS need a reduced student-to-teacher staffing ratio.

The Board of Education will soon be voting on how MCPS programs will be funded. EMLs are the fastest-growing population in the district. They deserve teachers and programs that meet their needs.

I will keep using my teacher voice to speak out for them.

Excuse me, now, I’m going to enjoy some cherry blossoms 🌸🌸🌸