- More schools are focusing on building stronger connections between the parents of English learners (ELs) and educators. Those parents, who often struggle with English themselves, need support from schools so they can help their children be successful, District Administration reports.
- Carol Behel, the Alabama Teacher of the Year, created a resource room where parents can learn English with six donated laptops and a college intern. She also holds meetings that give parents the chance to keep up on their student’s progress.
- And Washington Elementary School in Norfolk, Nebraska, teamed up with a community college to hold workshops for EL parents twice a week. One session focuses on learning English and teaches parents how to interact with the child's school and educators.
More than half of U.S. educators are concerned about language barriers between them and parents with limited English. Without sufficient skills in English, these parents are sometimes unable to understand what type of support their children need. Many schools rely on siblings or the students themselves to translate information from educators to parents.
Parents and culture are critical connection points that link a student’s understanding of terms in their native language to similar terms in English. Cultural meanings help students bridge the language gap and parents can support that concept. Tan Huynh, who teaches English learners at private school in Vietnam, discourages schools from adopting an English-only format. Full understanding comes when students build on concepts they already know, rather than reinventing their vocabulary wheel. Bringing parents into the mix reinforces that concept.
When communicating with parents of ELs, experts recommend that schools use the parents’ preferred language. Interpreters can bridge the communication gap. Also, have any written communication translated so parents can easily stay connected. Schools should be sure that parents understand their rights to free and reduced-price lunch programs. Home visits that include the educator and the interpreter can help bridge the cultural barrier. Spanish back-to-school nights and tours are also beneficial.