Teaching Tuesday: Teaching Students With Interrupted Formal Education

By Mirta Ramirez Espinola, Ed.D

ESL student completing homework online

The United States educates a diverse group of students. One group of students that can be challenging for teachers to prepare for are students with interrupted formal education (SIFE). Some of these students are from other countries where war, civil unrest or poverty has become rampant. Other students may live with family members without homes, living in shelters, or are foster children who move around and have interrupted time away from school. Teachers can maximize their ability to reach these students by working through these steps.

Teaching Diverse Learners

Educators can utilize strategies like differentiating instruction that support diverse learners. Teachers working with students that have experienced interrupted formal education should be certified in bilingual education, ESL or special education. However, if not available, then teachers should participate in ongoing professional development to address specialized challenges. Local universities, online universities and state education agencies can provide resources to support teachers. 

Promote Professional Development

The efforts to support these students academically, psychologically and emotionally should be school and district wide. Districts should provide yearly professional development for teachers to address the needs of all children. Professional development should focus on the “whole” child from culture to emotional stressors these students face, and should include strategies and methodologies to support students academically. Counselors, nurses, psychologists and other specialists at the district and school can be positive resources for these students.

Minimizing Language Barriers to Support ESL Students in the Classroom

Translators are essential to communicate with parents and provide communication between the school, staff and families. Translators should be available to schools in the district where students with interrupted formal education reside. Some schools may have individuals on staff who can assist with translating responsibilities, while other schools may opt for technology tools to serve this function, such as language lines.

Incorporate a Team Mentality

Family support should be available from the community and the district. This can include family or parent liaisons hired by the district or community members that work in libraries or community centers. Some districts have newcomer schools, where rigorous support is offered before mainstreaming students. Other alternatives like sheltered instruction, extra tutoring, peer helpers and mentors can be possible supportive measures.

As a teacher, if you or a colleague has students who meet the criteria for being a diverse learner, contact your district administrators or your faculty members for access to these types of resources to support your students.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. Learn more about the College of Education and our degree programs, and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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