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2teaching_and_learningYou know it’s the end of the term when the trees get leaves overnight, everything has a dusting of pollen on it, sneezes and itchy eyes greet you each morning, your throat closes up…

Oh, and then there’s the grading.

And the students needing help RIGHT NOW.

I wish there were a way to get my mainstream colleagues to see how our students function on immediate relevancy. And how giving them a month’s notice doesn’t really help them on their journey toward graduation.

That’s a hallmark of Students with Limited or Interrupted Education–or SLIFE. It’s a new catchphrase. I just wrote about it last week at the training.

At one session at MATSOL, I heard that Massachusetts is moving toward not just making sure that these students get a suitable education, but also naming them as SLIFE. Not just EL (English Learners) or LEP (Limited English Proficient, the unfortunate federal code for our students). But SLIFE.

What makes a student SLIFE? Here’s what WIDA has to say in a recent focus bulletin:

SLIFE usually are new to the U.S. school system and have had interrupted or limited schooling opportunities in their native country. They have limited backgrounds in reading and writing in their native language(s) and are below grade level in most academic skills (Freeman & Freeman, 2002). Students who have these characteristics could be refugees, migrant students, or any student who experienced limited or interrupted access to school for a variety of reasons, such as poverty, isolated geographic locales, limited transportation options, societal expectations for school attendance, a need to enter the workforce and contribute to the family income, natural disasters, war, or civil strife.

So I’ve been helping bunches of students hurry up and get stuff done before classes end on Monday. It’s been exhausting. And headachy.

And what’s worse is that we could avoid this end of term rush, if we were all addressing these students needs in a culturally appropriate way. What we call procrastination in students who grew up here and should be able to respond to forward thinking assignments is really an inevitable thing for these students.

It has to be relevant. Now. Tomorrow will come tomorrow.

It’s all about the relationship. If you know me and I know you, I’ll work for you.

It’s all about moving them from the oral to the written, from the collective to the individual.

These students all come from collectivist societies. I just read last week that 85% of all societies are collectivist. Only North America and Europe are not. And Australia. Can’t forget Australia.

We are individualistic. We all need to fight our own way. It’s a dog eat dog world. If you want something done right, do it yourself. We all need to earn our own grade. We simply have not been taught to sink or swim together, whereas our students might have to miss school if there is something more pressing at home.

I’m going to be working toward becoming a MALP trainer in the fall. That’s Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm, a plan created to move these students more toward our version of academic thinking.

Maybe then I’ll make some headway in helping people bridge this gap. Instead of spending every free moment of my spring sneezing and talking students through assignments that mean nothing to them.

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