For the past 15 years, I've organized ESL family engagement meetings at the elementary school level and all I had to do was send home an invitation and parents would show up!
Now that I am at a high school level I realize that the process and approach has to be different for family engagement nights.
So, I came to a firm understanding that in order to successfully support our students at the HS level, a group effort is a must. What I mean is, it is imperative to create a culture of opportunities and a sense of collaboration among staff so our families and students are supported and successful.
Culture of Collaboration and Responsibilities
In order to ensure success for our students and to encourage our ESL families to engage and participate in school events, our staff must have a strong sense of community and shared responsibility. As an ESL teacher, I feel very strongly about the need to have our ESL families' help in making sure that our students (especially ELs) have the support they need to be successful. Therefore, I invited several school staff members to team up with me in planning and implementing our very first ESL family engagement night.
Our form of communication was through email and we maintained a constant communication with all the details.
The perfect team to implement our first meeting consisted of our Spanish teacher (Ms. Perdomo), our ELA teacher (Ms. Armstrong), our bilingual secretary (Rina Rodriguez), our guidance counselors ( Mrs. Foster and Stacey Diaz), and admin (Dr. A).
Three of us (bilingual ones) called ALL our ESL parents and personally invited them to attend. We called them with about 2-3 weeks in advance. We also provided the opportunity to attend to either one of two sessions offered. Both sessions followed the same format.
We also sent home this form as a reminder.
ESL Parent Meeting Format
We didn't want this meeting to be a type of sit and get without engagement, so we provided our information in centers. We also wanted to model how we strive as teachers to have our students collaborate and work in groups with their peers. Also, being in small groups provides a more comfortable setting for parents to ask questions and engage without fear.
We started all together and received a welcome from all of staff who was present. I explained the format of the meeting and parents were divided into groups to begin learning.
The groups and information provided were as follows:
Parents spent about 15 minutes at each center and rotated to another center until they had been to all three.
Our principal was there in the room with us to answer questions and engage with our parents as well. Our ELA teacher, Ms. Armstrong, was present and greeted our families and also helped answer any questions regarding class grades or content questions.
Stacey Diaz, our county's ESL guidance counselor was with us during our first session and was able to share valuable information with our families too.
We also had a representative from a local community organization called "El Puente Hispano" who provided our families with all the available support they have for students and parents.
"As a community with shared responsibility for all learners in the school, school-based practitioners can collectively move their school forward to ensure an equitable, high-quality education for English learners and can create a responsive school for their parents and guardians." - #TESOL6ps
I must say that without the sense of collaboration and responsibility from everyone who helped - this 1st awesome meeting with our ESL families would have not been as successful as it was.
Our parents were very grateful for all the information we provided and were also happy to create connections with other parents in our school.
If you are having successful ESL parent meetings at the HS level, please share your experience with us! We'd love to continue what we started and the more ideas we have the better!!
Thank you for reading!
I believe without a doubt that the core of my students’ success relies on parent engagement and parent-teacher partnerships. So, in order to foster this success, I gather my students’ families quarterly and share relevant information with them in order to keep them engaged and well informed about their children’s success. I create a culture in my school that fosters an environment where parents feel welcomed and valued.
However, this year I started a new approach with our ESL families; I started our school year providing our parents the opportunity and the platform to have their voices heard. Our students' parents know our students best! They know their weaknesses and strengths much better than we do. Their dreams and aspirations for their children should be what drives our desire to do what is best for our students.
I made this simple "My Wish..." poster and gave each parent a sticky-note. We asked parents to write down their wish and desire for their children's school year and/future. Our focus was not necessarily with an academic approach, parents were also encouraged to think about their personal and social desires for their children.
These are some of our parents' wishes for their children:
In January, we met with our parents again...this time our focus was mid-year grades. I asked our parents to bring with them their children's report card and any intervention documentation they had received from their teacher. As we discussed the grading process and the desired academic target at each grade level, I could sense that our parents were feeling discouraged due to their child's current level and grades.
I didn't want our parents to leave our meeting discouraged so we switched gears and started talking about students' strengths. I gave then the mantra I stand for, "highlighting strengths to make weaknesses disappear". I reassured parents that even though we had some work to do...we could work together to support students to get where they need to get. They are not there YET...but then can be!
Each parent received a sentence strip to write their child's strengths. I asked them to think about what they love doing, what they like spending their time doing, what their favorite subject is, what they want to be when they grow up...etc.
These are some of our students' strengths highlighted by their parents
This was an amazing opportunity for parents to turn and talk with their children and ask them about what they love doing (if they didn't know). Students were excited to share their likes and what they were very good at. Parents' reactions were priceless! They realized there are was so much good and strength in their child. Once they started focusing on strengths, they realized that their weaknesses (academic, that is) were slowly disappearing.
We took every sentence strip and attached them together to create a chain. We talked about how we need to focus on strengths and make them stronger like a chain to strengthen our students' future! Our parents were excited and more receptive to ways they can support their children at home to help them achieve the required grade level.
Again, in order to support our students' success, we need to foster an environment where our parents feel part of the process and have an opportunity to voice their opinion about the children WE are educating at school. And don't forget Jimmy Casas' wise words: "UNLEASHING TRUE POTENTIAL BEGINS BY REMOVING THE LABELS THAT HOLD CHILDREN HOSTAGE."
Thank you for reading!