Help! They Don't Speak English: Partnering Preservice Teachers with Adult English Language Learners

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of California Santa Cruz]On: 12 November 2014, At: 06:12Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Early Childhood TeacherEducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:

    Help! They Don't Speak English:Partnering Preservice Teachers withAdult English Language LearnersLaura M. Hooks aa University of South Carolina Upstate , Spartanburg, South Carolina,USAPublished online: 19 Jun 2008.

    To cite this article: Laura M. Hooks (2008) Help! They Don't Speak English: Partnering PreserviceTeachers with Adult English Language Learners, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 29:2,97-107, DOI: 10.1080/10901020802059433

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    Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 29:97107, 2008Copyright National Association of Early Childhood Teacher EducatorsISSN: 1090-1027 print / 1745-5642 onlineDOI: 10.1080/10901020802059433

    UJEC1090-10271745-5642Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 29, No. 2, April 2008: pp. 123Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education

    Help! They Dont Speak English: Partnering Preservice Teachers with Adult

    English Language Learners

    Partnering Teachers and Adult ELLsL. M. Hooks LAURA M. HOOKS

    University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA

    It is well documented that parent and family involvement in childrens educationcorrelates with success in school. The increasing number of English LanguageLearners in public schools has created a need for teacher educators to prepare preser-vice teachers to be able to work with families who have limited English. This studyexamined the outcomes of one guided experience that preservice teachers had withadults who spoke English as a second language. Qualitative data indicated that thisexperience increased preservice teachers confidence when working with parents,broadened their knowledge base about diversity, and expanded their knowledge andunderstanding of strategies that support communication.


    Nine years ago, the University of South Carolina Upstates early childhood programembarked on a partnership with a child development center associated with a local schooldistrict, Dunbar Child Development and Family Learning Center. This center is accreditedby the National Association for the Education of Young Children and serves the childrenand families of a diverse population. The partnership between the center and the universityprovided an opportunity for preservice teachers to increase their understanding ofdiversity through immersion in that setting and the exploration of related issues inuniversity classes. In their weekly journals many preservice teachers expressed surprise atdiscovering that not all of the children in their classes spoke English as their firstlanguage. In fact, many children spoke little or no English at the beginning of the schoolyear. These preservice teachers voiced concern that as teachers they would most likelyhave students in their classes who had limited English. Simultaneously, they began tolearn more about the need to involve parents in their childrens education, and theirconcerns began to change to anxiety. It was obvious that these preservice teachers neededto develop strategies that would enable them to work confidently with those who spokelimited English. Being on-site at a center where English classes were provided for adultlearners of English, we were able to partner with the adult English class and providepreservice teachers with experiences that would enable them to develop strategies thatmight prove helpful when they had their own classrooms. These experiences with adultEnglish learners might also take away some fear of the unknown and increase theirconfidence in future experiences.

    Received 1 December 2007; accepted 11 January 2008.Address correspondence to Laura M. Hooks, 800 University Way, University of South

    Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, SC 29303. E-mail:




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  • 98 L. M. Hooks

    The value of family involvement in childrens education has been well documented(Comer, 2001; Epstein et al., 2002; Powell & Diamond, 1995; Swick, 1993). Epstein et al.identified these six types of involvement as important components for parent involvement:(a) parenting, (b) communicating, (c) volunteering, (d) learning at home, (e) decisionmaking, and (f) collaborating. When addressed systematically, these six components formthe foundation for school personnel to create new partnerships between schools andparents and strengthen existing ones, thereby improving their childrens overall education.Swick (2004) identified elements that are paramount to strong parentprofessionalpartnerships, and focused on parental views about what is important to them in theserelationships. Swick and Graves (1993) noted that in order for partnerships to work,participants should have a healthy sense of self, be able to communicate effectively, berespectful of each other, view others in the partnership positively, and have a sense ofpurpose and trust. Attention to these components provides professionals with ways toempower parents and leads to collaborative learning efforts. Swick (2003) notes thatcommunication is the key to developing partnerships and empowering families.

    Communication was identified by Epstein et al. (2002), Swick and Graves (1993),and Swick (2003) as one component needed for successful parental involvement. Due tochanging demographics, public schools now have growing numbers of children who arejust learning to speak English as a second language and whose parents may be learningEnglish at the same time. This language diversity makes communication difficult forteachers and increases the challenge to involve parents in their childrens education. Thevalue of parent/family involvement in their childrens education supports the need foreducators to meet this challenge and create strategies for communicating with parents whomay speak limited English.

    The number of children enrolled in public schools who are learning English as asecond language has increased 44% over the last decade (NCELA, 2007). At the sametime teacher education programs continue to train teachers whose backgrounds do notrepresent this population (Giambo & Szecsi, 20052006). Lim and Able-Boone (2005)examined current models of practice in teacher education programs that show promise fordeveloping cultural competency in preservice teachers. They identified four key features:(a) infusion of cultural diversity throughout the curriculum, (b) diverse field experiences,(c) opportunities for preservice teachers to confront their biases, and (d) partnershipsbetween universities and communities. Epstein and Sanders (2006) examined undergradu-ate programs in education and found that, despite some efforts, many lack experiences thatprepare future teachers to effectively develop partnerships with parents and communities.Early childhood teacher educators must include experiences that will enable futureteachers to develop the knowledge and confidence they need to work with parents whohave limited English.

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) supportsthe belief that teachers are most effective when they understand the needs and beliefs ofthe children and families in their classes. NAEYCs (2005) recommendations includeemphasis on teachers thorough understanding of the characteristics and needs of diversefamilies and children. Among the standards required by the National Council forAccreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE, 2002), one is designed to address this need.It states: The unit (i.e., the college) designs, implements and evaluates curriculum andexperiences for candidates to acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and dispositionsnecessary to help all students learn (p.