Teachers need support in a post-pandemic climate, including technology to address learning loss and additional opportunities for ELLs.

2 teacher perspectives on ELLs and learning loss


Teachers need support to succeed in a post-pandemic climate, including technology and additional opportunities for ELLs to build their learning

Tan Huynh: Learning loss creates a harmful deficit lens

Tan Huynh is a career teacher, consultant, and author specializing in language acquisition and literacy development. Tan began his teaching career with the Greater New Orleans Corp of Teach For America in 2007 and went on to work in Philadelphia. 

In a recent conversation I had with Tan, he expressed that the way teachers perceive students becomes their reality. He insists that this is particularly true for Multilingual Learners (MLs) and that this is harmful, as MLs face constant barriers that native speakers do not. This is only amplified with the introduction of the term learning loss, which was accelerated by this pandemic. Essentially, this term implies that learning can only happen at school, away from home and one’s cultural influences. This logic enforces the idea that they are not productive learning spaces for students. So, MLs and their families are viewed from a deficit lens. Thus it is harmful to focus on defining the term learning loss.

However, Tan is adamant that the skills learned by MLs during the pandemic are evergreen and relevant. These skills are not only influenced by technological intervention, but family involvement in a child’s development. A common mindset among teachers is that students have lost opportunities amid the pandemic, but Tan believes the contrary. He feels that MLs have gained invaluable skills as a result of the cultural settings in which they inhabit and teachers must consider this. 

Carol Salva: Take lessons from SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education) 

Carol Salva is an author, educational consultant, and instructional coach based in Texas. 

Carol insists upon the narrative that interruptions are commonly faced by students during their educational journey. Though students may have experienced an interruption in traditional education, it does not necessarily mean that they will be at a disadvantage in the 2021-2022 school year. 

From Carol’s perspective, SLIFE provides frameworks of various possibilities. It should be noted that the definition of SLIFE varies statewide but usually refers to students who have missed more than 2 years of formal education. Carol emphasizes the fact that many SLIFE have lived through war, violence, or persecution. She provides several examples of SLIFE that have not only overcome interruptions in education but achieved great professional success. From her perspective: “If SLIFE can make progress quickly, our students who missed some educational experiences due to COVID can make quick progress too.” With this in mind, teachers must actively consider the social inequities faced by SLIFE or any child. 

Supporting teachers is critical to addressing learning loss in ELLs amid the pandemic

Though every student has experienced the pandemic differently, ELLs have fallen further behind than their peers, which potentially affects their future education and career outcomes. Whether we use learning loss to describe this or not, we can agree on one thing: teachers are the answer to addressing the inequities faced by ELLs.

Ultimately, teachers need support to succeed in a post-pandemic climate. Whether this means providing technology to teachers or additional opportunities to ELLs, action needs to be taken. 

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