July 2, 2015

Independence Day, Poldark, and ELLs

What do the Fourth of July and Poldark have in common?  And what does Poldark have to do with teaching English Language Learners?  Well, I can think of a couple answers to both questions.  So in this post, I will take a break from writing book recommendations and discuss something else that is timely.
The connection between Independence Day, Poldark & ELLS
Celebrating the Fourth of July; source: Pixabay
First off, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, Poldark is a British TV miniseries currently being broadcast on PBS in the U.S.  It is a remake of another series of the same name shown in England in the 1970s and then in the U.S.  The TV shows are based on a series of books by Winston Graham.

Both the holiday and the TV shows have to do with reinvention.  The Fourth of July celebrates Independence Day, when the Thirteen Colonies redefined themselves as the United States of America.  And in Poldark, which is the last name of the main character, Ross Poldark, he has to reinvent himself when he returns from fighting on the losing side in the American Revolution and finds his estate in Cornwall in ruins and his love interest engaged to his cousin.

I moved to Arizona exactly one year ago this week.  Watching Poldark now, just as America is about to celebrate its 239th birthday, got me thinking about the convergence of these three events.  I left my teaching job in Massachusetts to be closer to my family and also because I was ready for new education challenges.  Moving from New England to the Southwest has also meant learning new ways of doing many things.  Opening my store on TeachersPayTeachers has been part of that process of forging a new beginning for myself.

Likewise, when ELLs emigrate to the U.S. they also have to reinvent themselves.  Just as Ross Poldark had to learn new ways of doing things because society had changed in his absence and just as the new country of America had to figure out how to make its way in the world, so, too, do immigrants.  They need to learn not just about a new culture and how to fit in to it but also, in many cases, a new language.  Ascertaining the nuances can be difficult for immigrants but teachers can offer support to students and their families to help ease the transition.  Teachers who understand what ELLs are going through or, at the very least, can empathize with their struggles will help smooth the process for them and make it more likely they will be successful in their new lives.

To find out if Ross Poldark will succeed, tune in to Masterpiece on PBS and see for yourself!  And in the meantime, Happy Independence Day!