Communication between the teacher and parents is vital to provide students with a full and 3-dimensional learning experience. The teacher can, likewise, learn a lot about the students by interacting with the parents, varying from student backgrounds, such as culture family, to the student’s readiness, interests and learning profiles. However, communicating with parents whose primary language is not Engllish provides a unique challenge to the teacher and school. It is imperative to overcome this language barrier so as not to unintentionally silence a minority group. Such an unfortunate outcome would result in a social injustice since teacher-parent communication is key to a student’s education.
Parents can help support their child’s education at home; however, many may not know how they can help. For instance, some parents who did not have the educational opportunities that their children have may not feel qualified to actively participate in helping their child succeed. They may not realize that they can positively influence their child’s education simply by emphasizing the message that education is important in order to succeed in life. In addition, parents have important life lessons to impart on their children. My goal is to befriend the parents and help them understand that I am part of their child’s success team. I have their child’s best interests in mind. In addition, I want parents to feel comfortable talking about their concerns and questions with me.
In order to achieve these goals, I think it’s important to reach out to parents regularly through periodic e-mails, newsletters, phone calls, and informal “coffee chats”. Simply making parents feel more comfortable approaching me in my classroom may help lower the language barriers. Currently, at my school site, when the parents of a student do not speak English, teachers must fill out a form and send it to the ELL coordinator. He then assigns a translator to calls home for the teacher and communicate what is written on the form for the teacher. Then, the translator writes a summary of the phone conversation at the bottom of the form, returns it to the teacher, and I file it in my records. The process is detached and impersonal. I rarely meet the parents, and the final message is diluted, a bit like playing “telephone”. Parent conferences can be requested with translator present to facilitate the conversation but very few teachers make the time to do this. In addition, I’ve had great difficulty having documents translated to other languages (e.g. Spanish). For instance, I wanted to send home a newsletter to parents but received very little support from the ELL department on how to translate this document (and a mandatory lunchtime tutoring contract). Additionally, it is almost impossible to obtain parent e-mails at my school site. Parent contact, in general, is very poor.
My goal as a teacher in the future is to obtain e-mails from parents directly by sending students home with a very simple form at the beginning of the year. In addition, I will prepare documents like back-to-school newsletters early so I can spend time translating the documents myself, using on-line translators. I will also call home or e-mail periodically to give updates on students when they do exceptionally well on assignments. Parents need to know when their child is excelling in school, not just failing. Finally, I will schedule informal “Meet-and-Greets” periodically when parents can drop by to introduce themselves or have questions answered.