Field Notes: Inspect Your Ideology

Document Type


Publication Date



How would you complete this statement? An English language learner's (ELL's) first language is like a __ because __. What ideas come to mind?

The vocabulary you used to fill in the blanks can reveal a lot about the choices you might make in the classroom. For example, using words like barrier, roadblock, and hurdle to describe students' first languages may lead to classroom practices that devalue or seek to replace those languages with English. This kind of mindset makes students' first languages seem like deficits. On the other hand, words like key, bridge, or gift place importance on students' first languages and may frame the daily decisions of the classroom so that those languages instead become resources. To help ELLs reach their highest potentials in school, teachers must first be willing to uncover their beliefs and ideologies concerning their emergent bilingual students.

The children in today's classrooms are becoming increasingly multilingual. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, during the 2010–11 school year, 10 percent of K–12 students in U.S. schools were ELLs—almost 5 million students. Meanwhile, the teachers most often teaching ELLs are monolingual, middle class, white females. An ideological disconnect only compounds these linguistic, racial, and ethnic differences.


Published as:

Keller, T. & Kappus, B. (2016). Inspect your Ideology. ASCD Express,11,12.