When English isn't spoken at home
Linda Milton was always interesting in teaching but for various reasons followed another career path until seven years ago when she became a teacher aide at Miramar Central School, in…
Linda Milton was always interesting in teaching but for various reasons followed another career path until seven years ago when she became a teacher aide at Miramar Central School, in the heart of the capital’s Wellywood. The school has a very well resourced special needs learning centre, which provides learning support mainly to children who don’t speak English at home. Children at the school come from 25 different cultural groups.
Every class has support staff allocated for up to 45 minutes a day to assist children’s learning.
Linda Milton works mainly with the school’s ESOL/Learning Support teacher, Trish Bathard, a qualified teacher of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL). But Trish says the programme is not limited to those children.
“Some students need more practice, an opportunity to speak and go back over things.”
They operate from a colourful cube of a room with two low circular tables. It’s warm and welcoming for children, many of whom have travelled long distances in their short lives. Here, they can feel safe and ask questions.
They’re offered targeted learning that makes strong links between oral language, reading and writing. New arrivals focus on speaking and get lots of encouragement in a very accepting environment.
On the day Education Aotearoa visits there’s a group of five English language learners aged from seven to 10″ “it’s an absolute bonus having Linda to follow up and go back over things,” says Trish. “It’s a calm environment, and we don’t have to be rushed.”
Linda says the collaborative school culture and its support for teacher aides mean she feels she has professional recognition, as well as being part of the wider school community as a parent. “Support staff are valued and take an integral part in school activities and initiatives.”
Effective for all students
And the school supports her professional development. As well as a Massey University teacher aide certificate, she’s completed the Ministry of Education’s English Language Assistants (ELA) programme. The school has had two groups of support staff through the programme, which involves six one-day workshops with a focus on supporting English language learners. “However, these skills and techniques are very effective for all students,” she says.
Linda and Trish are both on the school’s cultural team, which focuses on different ethnic groups in turn, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of local families. Children dress up in traditional costume, experience food, dance, and create art and craft displays. There are also classroom programmes linking learning to the cultural focus. Trish says as well as being a good fit with the curriculum, “it’s invaluable for recognising the different cultures of our students”. This focus helps families feel part of the school community and children feel proud of their cultural heritage.