Teaching Parents of English Language Learners

During the spring and summer I teach parents of English language learners in Massachusetts public schools. This is one part of my work that I enjoy immensely. I have complete freedom to determine curriculum and content and prefer to facilitate a discussion around topics rather than teach. Typically, twelve to eighteen parents attend and often bring their children. Some of the programs are on school nights and some children come to the program to guide parents with limited English.

Having kids present during the programs has been a great addition to the learning and conversation. At first, I was concerned about having books, toys and games for children while the program was going on. For children under ten, this is definitely necessary. But for children ten and older, they often prefer to sit at the table with the adults, translate at times but also add their own perspective when we’re talking about student experiences and school involvement for parents. I’ve realized that they’re not only expressing their opinions and ideas about the school experience they’re also allowing parents to view school through the eyes of the student in a way that I can’t provide.

One of the courses that I’ve created is Letting Go and Staying Close:
Staying connected with school as your child moves toward middle and high school.

Middle and high school students sometimes discourage their parents from coming to school; as this article on parent involvement advises, it’s more important than ever to your child’s academic success to remain involved. Parent involvement is linked to achievement in the upper grades, just as it is in elementary school.

Middle-school students are likely to be moving from learning in a single classroom with one set of classmates and a teacher, to a setting in which there are more teachers, many more students and higher performance expectations. They’re also going through the physical changes that make adolescence challenging.

Kids might not express that they’re nervous about the transition to a new school, but it doesn’t mean they’re not. Go over school rules and schedules together. Stop at the school over summer vacation to let kids see and learn the locations and names of rooms and buildings.

Keeping close can be as simple as having a casual chat in the car and will help your child feel more comfortable about sharing; avoid asking questions with “yes” or “no” answers. Listen to your child’s worries and work with them for changes when you feel that they are needed. And last, but certainly not least, help your child view failure as a normal part of learning and growing rather than as something to be feared and avoided.

Do you recall how adults in your life engaged with you when you were in middle and high school? If you have children, how do you engage with them?

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