In my last article on ESL Incluson, I presented several arguments against full inclusion for ESL students. In order to clarify, by full inclusion I mean that the student is engaged in entirely mainstream classes with no separate ESL class with only the ESL teacher and other LEP students. In this article I wish to explore ESL pull-out and inclusion (also called "push-in") programming a little more.
While the research I discussed in my last article tells us that co-teaching or "push-in" programming alone is not enough to meet the needs of our ESL students, this does not mean that it should not happen in addition to pull-out programming. The biggest problem with co-teaching is that often, the ESL teacher becomes little more than a para-professional.
Many times, classroom teachers forget that co-teaching means that both teachers need to spend quality time together outside the classroom planning the lesson, and that both teachers need to have equal presentation time when presenting the lesson to the class. This can be difficult because we, as teachers, tend to be very controlling about what goes on in our classrooms. Turning over the reigns to another teacher can be difficult.
Another important component when considering co-teaching is the compatibility of the two teachers who will be working together. They must have similar (but not identical) teaching philosophies and styles, as well as similar views on classroom management. When two teachers vary vastly in these areas, it can make too much friction for co-teaching to happen successfully.
I mentioned it briefly before, but this point I cannot stress enough. The teachers who are expected to co-teach must be allowed adequate planning time. One teacher alone cannot plan the lesson and hand a copy to the other. The point of co-teaching is to involve the expertise of both teachers involved in order to craft a lesson and activities that is not only meaningful, but that meets the needs of all students in the classroom.
ESL teachers should not be expected to co-teach in subject areas they are not comfortable with. For example, I am not very comfortable with math in general- the concepts and terminology are difficult for me and at the upper levels, confusing. Trying to teach in an area outside the teacher's comfort zone would not only put undue stress on the teacher, but may make it difficult to plan lessons that adequately meet the needs of the ESL students the teacher is supposed to be helping.
Another important point is that the ESL teacher must still have an opportunity to pull-out the ESL students on a regular basis and work exclusively with those students. These opportunities cannot be sporadic because as I mentioned in my last article on ESL Incluson, the ESL environment provides valuable support and reinforcement for these students that is not available during push-in or inclusion programming.