Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Musings: Perseverance and ELL Teachers

Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, was based in Cartagena in Iberia and from there, set out to conquer Rome.  In 218 B.C., he crossed the Pyrenees and the Alps with his army and 37 war elephants.  Crossing the snow-covered mountains with elephants had never been done before and the army met with difficulties such as rivers that needed to be forded and hostile tribes that needed to be placated.  However, Hannibal persevered and eventually reached the outskirts of Rome.

Why Hannibal is a role model for ELL teachers
Hannibal's invasion; source: Wikimedia Commons
Hannibal and the ESL/EFL teachers I know are not all that different.  I wouldn’t say the teachers go to war but they certainly go to bat for their students.  They are persistent in advocating for ELLs and their families and when faced with “no,” will often keep trying until they achieve their objective.  Hannibal was creative in his use of war elephants and ESL/EFL teachers definitely must be creative: in devising teaching schedules, in obtaining materials, in communicating with students’ family members, in finding ways to work effectively with colleagues who may not completely understand the needs of ELLs in their classes, and in making their lessons entertaining and interesting to students with varying proficiency levels, educational backgrounds and abilities while simultaneously imparting language and content knowledge.

For most of my public school teaching career, I had to create my program of work myself.  Juggling nine different grade levels when I was teaching K – 8th grades was quite tricky and time-consuming; perhaps it wasn't as massive a task as crossing the Alps but it, too, had to be done and so it got done.  When I began teaching in a public school, I was the first ESL teacher there and had to build the program from the ground up; I quickly acquired needed textbooks, materials and supplies from various sources.  I found the most effective ways to reach parents--coming from teaching adults, working with parents was new for me.  I worked hard to establish productive relationships with the teachers and other staff in the school, most of whom had never worked with an ESL teacher before, as Hannibal worked to establish peaceful relationships with the tribes whose lands he traversed on his journey to Rome.  I made my classes rigorous but enjoyable as best as I could.

Why Hannibal is a role model for ELL teachers
Carthaginian war elephants; source: Wikimedia Commons
Hannibal never actually conquered Rome, though.  He died around 183 B.C. and many Turks believe he is buried near present-day Istanbul.  The photo below, which I took in 2009, shows his purported tomb site.  It is on the grounds of a military base so, unfortunately, I was not able to go and visit it.

Why Hannibal is a role model for ELL teachers
Hannibal's possible grave site; source: The ESL Nexus
Nevertheless, as an ELL educator, I find much I can relate to in this quote by Hannibal.