Fear and miscommunication keeping ESOL students, native English speakers apart


ESOL Students siting separate from English speaking students in a World history class. (Photo: Sartre Ndebaneza)

By Sartre Ndebaneza,

Patterson High School is well known for its diversity of students from around the world. But students have developed a skeptical attitude toward each other which causes an strained relationship. ESOL students claim that they feel uncomfortable when they are with their classmates who are “English speakers”.

Mr. Tola is a teacher at Patterson High school. He has been a teacher since 2010. He used to teach English, History and United States Government and other ESOL programs. Mr. Tola has unveiled the beauty of Patterson students. According to Mr. Tola, “I think generally Patterson students are friendly and want to make new friends.” But a group of ESOL students I have talked with state that they feel apprehensive about going home in the same bus with their English speaking classmates because some of these students insult and bully them. One of them added that, “I don’t like to take class on the second floor,” referring to the fact that the second floor is where the English speaking students attend class.

Many teachers seem to believe that there has been a lot improvement on the issue of bullying at Patterson. Mr. Tola has said that, “we use to have that problem (bullying) here at Patterson” but that it is no longer as big of a problem as it once was. He explained that it was largely due to miscommunication. The English speaking students wanted to learn more about the culture of the ESOL students but did not know how to obtain this information. This led to anger and misconduct.  To restore a friendly relationship between the English speaking and the ESOL students and to help ESOL students feel welcome in the community, Mr. Tola suggests that all students join and participate in certain groups, such as PGC and the Refugee Youth Project (RYP), that connect students from different backgrounds. He also has encouraged all of the teachers to put their hearts and souls into making things better at Patterson.

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