Supporting Our EAL Students To Be Well and Do Well

This month as we focus on the theme of ‘Being Well, Doing Well’, we wanted to explore and share perspectives on this topic from around ASH. As an international school, with a diverse community of almost 80 nationalities, our EAL program (English as an Additional Language) is an incredibly important part of the #ASHexperience for many of our students. In this week’s Into the Deep article, we spoke with Ms. Corney, Mr. Hirsch, Ms. Mattson, Ms. Munneke and Ms. Forde, our EAL teachers across different grade levels here at ASH, to understand how this idea of ‘Being Well, Doing Well’ factors into their teaching and what wellbeing means to them and their students. 
Mr. Hirsch, who works with our youngest EAL students in the ECC, begins by explaining, “as EAL teachers we are very cognizant of our students' wellbeing. Often students begin their new school year with a bit of trepidation due to the new language, culture, friends, etc. The role of the EAL teacher is to work with students, teachers and families to make the transition as easy and stress-free as possible. We try to integrate students into their new classes and teach them the social skills and language they will need for the first few months of school. We also help them deal with culture shock and reassure them they are doing great and that they will be fine. We also are supported by our colleagues in helping all students feel safe and happy in school.”
It is so important for our EAL students’ wellbeing and learning that they value and understand that being bi/multilingual is an important part of their identity. Ms. Munneke, who teaches our grade 5 and 6 students in middle school, explains this importance further, “learning English doesn’t mean we are ‘catching up’ to anyone in the school but rather that we are an emergent bi/multilingual. This is not a deficit but rather an asset. It is very important to me that students see their bilingualism as a tool for learning. In class we make connections to our home languages wherever we can, and use our home languages to access and share our thinking. We inquire into how English works by comparing it to how our languages work. It is through these connections to our identity, that we strengthen our knowledge of English.”
With all this great work our EAL teachers are doing to nurture and support being well and doing well in their students’ learning journey here at ASH, we wanted to hear how they look after their own wellbeing, especially during these current times coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Corney, “makes a conscious choice to have a positive attitude. I am grateful for all the things I DO have in life, rather than what is actually missing at the moment. On a regular basis, I run in the forest and FaceTime my family and friends.” This sentiment was echoed by Ms. Mattson who likes to “take time to enjoy my family, exercise, get outdoors, eat well and balance work and home.”
We wanted to finish this story with some thoughts directly from some of Ms. Forde’s grade 8 students on what wellbeing means to them, through the lenses of students learning in a different language, to their home language: