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!
If you know me well, you'd know how much I advocate for family engagement and family support to ensure student success. Ever since I started working for our school system I've organized ESL family nights to provide educational interventions aimed at promoting student success.
One reason why I feel strongly about family engagement is that it is something I felt I didn't have when attending school in the US.
Another reason was and still is because of the vast demands our schools have of our students and family support to ensure student academic success.
Just last week I thought about starting a blog in Spanish to provide "adequate" support and strategies that Latinxs parents and readers can use to utilize to support students academic success.
Though my intentions are not bad - as a matter fact, I have great intentions to support families - I started thinking about the core of my intentions. You see, I began these family meeting with our ESL families because I questioned or perhaps devalued ESL families' competence to support their children at home. I know this sounds wrong - and it is! However, I need to be honest with myself and the families I serve; and understanding the reason why I do what I do is imperative.
"As teacher and school leaders we have a responsibility to shake out the notion of what traditional parent engagement looks like. We need to be creative and persistent". - Allison Rookman
There are two books I read recently that helped me see family engagement through a different lens.
Reading these two novels made me think of a book I read a few years ago while getting my graduate ESL degree. Con Respeto by Guadalupe Váldes is a study that brings to life the everyday worlds of 10 newly arrived immigrant Mexican families. The core of this book and the two novels I mentioned above is to showcase immigrants' family life as a great resource.
As an educator, I see my colleagues and school systems well-meaning intentions in creating and providing educational interventions aimed at promoting school success based on teacher knowledge and based on school context - but not based on parent knowledge.
A New Lens
You see, instead of looking at our families' childrearing styles as a deficit, we can start by changing the way we look at our ESL families' parental knowledge.
From now on I want to make sure my families are being honored for who they are. My teacher knowledge must increase in cultural understanding to be able to embrace and maintain a comfortable environment for my ESL families and my students.
The support and tools I will be presenting my ESL parents from now on, will NOT be with the idea of changing who they are or devaluing their family support.
My ideas and tools will now be to provide parents with the tools they need to navigate the standard and expectation our schools in the US hold.
My ultimate intention, as well as our ESL families' intention, is to support our students in becoming successful adults, who although they find themselves between two words, may they be empowered to be the best they can be to represent their two worlds.
I would love to know your thoughts on this topic! Please share your comments and lets continue learning together.
Thank you for reading!