This Year's Crop

5th November 2013

The life of an EAL teacher is predictable only in its unpredictability. As the new school year settles into its own rhythm, and children and teachers find their feet, that’s when everything gets upended. October always brings a swathe of new admissions, but you can never predict who, or when, or how old, or where from. So you carry on until they arrive.

There I was; planning with teachers, getting ahead in my organisation and generally feeling like all was going swimmingly. Maybe even having a moment or two of smugness.

Then the lovely office lady called me “Judith,” she said, in her brisk and cheerful way, “new children for you to see.”



All to start the same week.

So now we know: three Pushto speakers, two Vietnamese speakers, all with very minimal experience of English.

Years 3, 4 and 5.

First things first: prepare the teachers. Smile. I always say I have  “Good news,” I give the teacher as much information as I can. I tell them what I will do to help. The format I use to pass on information is here.

Then I make a cup of tea.

Secondly: prepare the children. Finding good buddies is quite an art, some children who you think will be good turn out not to be.

Buddies need to be:

·      Chatty

·      Secure in the social hierarchy of your classroom

·      Able to share

·      Sensible and caring

·      Not too anxious

·      Positive about bi-lingualism

People often think girls will be better at it than boys, but actually some of my best buddies in the current crop are boys. It is worth cultivating the role of the buddy and preparing a few children so you always have some on hand.

Hampshire EMTAS team have produced a Young Interpreters Pack which is an excellent resource on training buddies, and well worth the £30 it costs.

Watch like a hawk in the first few days; watch out for smotherers who fuss too much, and for those who cannot make allowances. Watch out for your power players who will try to exert control.

Remember the buddy is not necessarily going to be a long term friend, we just want there to be someone who is looking out for our new arrivals and helping them out.