The people who have direct and daily influence on the emotional well-being and educational progress of ESL students are of course the classroom teachers, but the influence of administrators, although indirect, is even more significant. This is because administrators make decisions on the nature of the educational offering as a whole and on the teachers who are to deliver it. Following is a summary of the main areas where administrators' influence is of crucial importance:
Support of mother-tongue programmes There is
strong evidence that ESL students do better in English when they continue the
academic development of their own language. In the Parents section of this
website there is a
brief summary of the pedagogical and other reasons for the maintenance and
development of the mother tongue. The
ESOL Online website has links to much
of the essential research literature for administrators who wish to inform
themselves of the educational and human rights case for the introduction of bilingual
programmes in their school.
Curriculum There is plenty of research
that supports a thematic approach for ESL students. It is clear also that
ESL students do better and feel better in school when their cultures and cultural
perspectives are integrated into day-to-day teaching. Administrators who wish
to be responsive to the needs of ESL students take these issues into account
when planning new or assessing existing curricula. Read
more on this.
Creating inclusive schools An inclusive school is one that gives students the message that they are all equally valued. This message is most strongly conveyed through curriculum. However, it can also be achieved by the creation of a school environment that has posters and signs in the various languages and by the existence of an extra-curricular activity program that fully and equally reflects the interests of the various cultures. It does not mean trivializing minority groups by the occasional "celebration" of ethnic dance or food.
Hiring of faculty In hiring new faculty, administrators can look for evidence of an understanding of the needs of ESL students and an awareness of strategies to support them. At the very least new teachers should show evidence of a positive attitude to the presence of ESL students in their classes,
and the willingness to take part in training programmes and work closely with
the ESL teachers.
Evaluation of faculty In schools where faculty are evaluated by administrators, one of the criteria for tenure should be the teacher's ability and willingness to modulate his teaching according to the needs of the ESL students in his classes. The other pages of this teachers' site contain a great deal of advice on how to do this.
Training of faculty Administrators can make time and money available so that new faculty are given some training in how to support the ESL students in their classes. Tenured faculty can be encouraged to keep themselves up-to-date on the issues concerning ESL students; for example by reading some of the pages on this site.
Placement of ESL students There is a danger
that ESL students may be misplaced as a result of misconceptions on the part
of the administrator. Either the student may be prematurely exited from the
ESL program, or not even placed in it, because "he speaks such good English!";
or the student may be placed in a remedial class for native English speakers
on the assumption that a lack of English language proficiency is synonymous
with the kind of learning difficulty that needs remediation. Administrators
need to be aware of the difference between everyday spoken language and the
academic language proficiency necessary for educational success. They should
also know how long it typically takes to acquire this proficiency. Read
more on this.
Dealing with parentsIt has been shown that ESL students do better when their parents are engaged in their education and when their parents feel that they are welcomed in the school. Administrators can build school-home links by organising meetings with ESL parents at which the parents can ask questions about their children's education and raise any concerns they may have. It is best to have a single language meetings and arrange for an interpreter to be present.
Some of the questions that parents may ask are answered on the following pages
of this website: Parents FAQ1 and
So a short answer to the question What should administrators know about the education of ESL students? is: Everything that classroom teachers should know, plus the advice on this page
and the advice in the parents pages!