Last week I found out about International Children's Book Day - a wonderful worldwide celebration.
I immediately started looking into it - If you know me...you'd know that I am passionate about children's books. I love picture books. I used them when I taught elementary with students in Kindergarten through 5th grade and now I use them with my newcomer high school students.
There's just something magical about a children's books & picture book. I've used them to teach all genres and I've found that students connect with these books and encourages them to learn more.
So, as soon as I found out that International children's Book Day is celebrated on April 2nd, 2020 - I started brainstorming about what book to focus on. Of course, all my cultural and diverse background book collection is in my classroom and there was no way I was going to be allowed in the building to get some.
So I started digging through the books I have at home found a book author John Seidlitz sent me. I had not taken the time to read it so I started reading it...and...Oh...EM...Geeeeee! I started crying while reading it. I couldn't believe there was such an amazing book on my bookshelf and I have not read it!!!
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!
On Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 - I had the greatest privilege to present during the National Council of State Title III Directors (NCSTIIID) webinar! I shared my story and some resources and key elements to build great partnerships with our English language learners' families. Building partnership with our families will ensure student success.
**Webinar was recorded .** follow this link: My part is about 60 min into webinar!
Below you'll find my presentation slides and the links I mentioned during the presentation.
Link to online slides: Click here to access slides on Building Partnerships with Families to Ensure Student Success
You can also download slides as a PDF document here.
Links to resources mentioned during presentation:
Slide #8 ELLevation Podcast about Talking Points resource.
Slide #9 Con Respeto Blog Post link
Slide #10 Parent Survey sample link
Slide #16 Sarah Ottow’s blog based on my story link
After my presentation, I had the audience log into menti.com and answer question related to our topic. These questions and answers were to show our thinking and to see if we were in the same page when it comes to supporting our ELs and their families.
These were the results:
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!
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!