Almost 40 percent of the 669 educators who serve English learners around the world said they should have repeated a grade last year due to learning loss linked to the pandemic, according to a recent survey.
More than 56% of those polled said that the formal education of these students had been significantly disrupted, but that they were not the only children to have suffered: most did not think they were affected in any way. disproportionate to their English-speaking peers, despite evidence to the contrary.
The answers were gleaned from a survey conducted in October by Off2Class, a company that provides programs, assessments and professional development tools to ESL teachers. The seven-year for-profit company is headquartered in Canada, but serves more than 90,000 students in 120 countries.
Almost three-quarters of the survey respondents were teachers: the rest were tutors. About half live in the United States, although many are Americans living and working in other countries.
Several questions were answered on a sliding scale, although teachers were able to write down their responses to open-ended questions. The results reveal their concerns about the long-term consequences of lower expectations for English language learners – and about their turning back, especially in the area of grammar.
Some respondents were concerned about the mental health of students and the return of behavioral problems usually seen in elementary school – getting up from their seats at inappropriate times and name calling – while others questioned whether the enthusiasm of the students for school would come back.
“Most of them just logged into Zoom, left the computer and pretended not to care,” wrote one educator. “My main concern is that it made them less interested in studying / engaging in future courses. “
Still others have focused on the difficulty of learning a new language without close interaction with school staff.
“I think learning English as a second language is extremely difficult on the Internet when it comes to pronunciation,” said another educator. “Students benefit from the ability to mimic the movement of the mouth and this can get lost in the video chat. “
More than 44% of those polled said their schools had provided them with enough technology to overcome the closures. But more than a quarter disagreed.
It’s no surprise, then, that over 62% of respondents paid out-of-pocket for some of the tools they needed to serve their students during the pandemic: they spent hundreds – even, in some cases, thousands of dollars. – in additional material. , including books, computers, routers, printers, webcams, headsets, and subscriptions to online educational resources.
But no matter what they bought, the problems persisted. Motivation was a big barrier for students who learned at home. Not only did they face a massive disruption in their lives due to school closures, they also struggled with a faltering economy and in many cases lost wages for themselves or their families.
Educators said they too felt the tension: While many respondents reported an even greater passion for their work – one said the pandemic, “has only increased my desire to improve myself so that I can be even more useful to my students ”- some were clearly overworked.
Not all teachers received the help they needed from their school. While more than 48% said they were supported by their employers during the crisis, almost 20% strongly disagreed with the statement. Over 58% of those polled said their stress levels had risen sharply during the crisis.
“The way we’re treated, the amount of work versus the pay, the disrespect and disregard for the mental health of teachers,” one teacher began. “I want to quit for good every day. “
Despite burnout, there were some bright spots: Almost half of respondents – 46% – said their confidence in online education had skyrocketed during the pandemic. Kris Jagasia, CEO and co-founder of Off2Class, was happy to see teachers develop their skills in this area.
“Going forward, now that ed technology is here to stay, it is really important that the technology is viewed in a very targeted way to ensure that the right investments are made for ELLs,” he said. .
Some respondents were contacted through a Facebook group founded by Off2Class while others were contacted by email through the company’s customer database. Most use its software and were enticed to participate through T-shirt giveaways and / or a $ 25 credit toward the purchase of company products.
The 74 responded to several survey questions, including those on school perseverance.
The results, collected between 22 and 29 October, were revealing: while some educators might have wanted English learners to repeat a grade, only 22% recommended it to their own students.
Tim Boals is the Founder and Director of WIDA, an organization that provides language development standards, assessments and resources to those who support multilingual learners. Based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, WIDA has 41 member states and territories that use their language standards and follow their guidelines for teaching these children.
Boals is well aware of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on traditionally underserved populations, including multilingual learners, but doesn’t think retention is the answer: he said schools should remember that learning ‘a language takes time.
The real problem, he said, is the lack of confidence some educators have in these children: if teachers label them as failure, the children themselves will believe they are doomed.
“If we see children as ‘behind their peers’ the danger is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that denies them the future opportunities they need,” he said. “There are a lot of anecdotal examples of people going through most of their school careers at the bottom of the ladder and then something happens that shows them their potential greatness and they turn it around.”
Success depends on buy-in from the whole school, with every adult on campus striving to create a welcoming and engaging environment for newcomer children and committed to helping them learn English while mastering the subjects. . All of this, said Boals, while respecting and drawing on the languages and cultures of their students.
“It’s a big job, but there are many examples of schools that are successful,” he said. “We need to share these examples and ensure that educators have the resources and understanding to create and maintain these learning spaces for multilingual learners. “
This article was published in partnership with The 74. Subscribe to The 74 newsletter here.