<b> Forum for elementary education ESL/EFL teachers </b>
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It is always a struggle because the parents often feel as left out of social and academic meetings as the kids do. They are as afraid to show off their limited English skills and are often left out because they don't understand or aren't able to make themselves understood. It takes some really understanding parents to include them and of course, school staff to go the extra mile. There is often outright hostility if there are too many ELL students and some parents think those students are holding their children back because the teacher/staff have to spend extra time with them. These are all issues that have to be dealt with by caring and compassionate people. It just takes a few to turn the tide around. Find them in your school.
We have Parental Involvements in our school once a month. The parents come into the classroom to do various activities each month. The more that the parents come in; the more comfortable they are to attend events like this and also, events like parent and teacher conferences. I try to send notes home two weeks ahead of the date to invite parents in. I feel that the most important element to getting the parents into your classroom is by making an impact at the initial meeting. I make a big deal at “Open House” and make all the parents feel welcomed. There is a ton ideas out there; here is an article on some: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/pr ... v124.shtml
I try to involve the student's parents as much as possible in the various activities we do throughout the school year. I send reminders home for back to school night and parent teacher conferences. I also invite their parents twice during the year for story time. At this time the parents can listen to their children read and also look at their writing. I always try to have something light to eat, that always seems to get my parents to come!
I communicate with my students' parents often because the majority come to the school in the morning and at dismissal; constant communication has made possible participation in activities and attendance to parents/teachers meetings. I appreciate very much the level of interest they demonstrate and the responses I receive from them, along with their volunteer services whenever I approach them with a request.
The parents of my ELLs have not been active in our school or my classroom as yet. I understand that it would be difficult for them for a few reasons. The language barrier may make them uncomfortable, or they may feel that it would not help for them to interact if they do not comprehend what is happening or the topic being discussed. They work long hours at minimum wage jobs, any time away from work would be costing them potential income. My students are young. As my students age, I hope the parents are able to learn English, if they wish, and feel comfortable participating in school functions.
Unless there’s a special activity it’s really hard to get parent to participate, as English is not perceived as one of the important school subjects (here in Quebec). Often parents concentrate their efforts on “main subjects” and neglect English. Unless there’s a special event or class activity, parents mostly interact with their child’s teacher and neglect music, English, art, etc., teachers.
ELL parents are the most active parents at my school. They have highest attendance for report cards and parent nights. It is up to the teacher to make parents welcome. Also if flyers are written in Spanish, if meetings have a translator. Also having a parent coordinator that is bilingual is very helpful. At my school we have all these things.
Many parents of ELL's are timid about speaking the English language. They feel inferior to speakers of the English language and are often embarrassed to ask questions and seek advice. We currently offer an Adult ELL class in our school district from 3:30-5:00. Parents and their children come to learn the English language, learn strategies to help their child at home and in computer skills and much more. I can see that the parents that attend this workshop feel more comfortable at speaking and asking questions. They often participate and attend teacher conferences. However, we would like to see more parents of ELL's involved, but sometimes their schedule does not allow.
A good way to get ELL parents involved is to start small. Invite them into your classroom to teach your class something about their native country with their child. Even if they can't speak English well themselves, they would see that their own culture offers value to the classroom. Another idea if your time and district allow is an after-school family literacy session. It would help their language skills, and make them like a part of their child's education. Maybe as their comfort levels grow, they would be less apprehensive about coming to the school for other events.