Children are not the only ones weary about going to school and new situations. Parents oftentimes are apprehensive of going to their children’s school and meeting with staff and teachers. This can be even more stressful for parents of English Language Learners (ELLs), as they too are either ELLs or non-English speakers themselves. As teachers, we know that parental involvement is so important, so we need to make sure that parents feel welcome at their children’s school. Not sure of how to do that? Take a look at a fun way to break the ice with parents at school – a bilingual parent night.
Hosting a bilingual parent night is the perfect way to make parents feel comfortable with communicating with their children’s teachers and school administrators. This is the first step in fostering parental involvement among ELL parents. Also, you need to decide if this event is only for your classroom, or if you would like to get together with other teachers and turn it into a school-wide event. We have put together a guide to help you host a successful bilingual parent night at your school.
- Step 1: Encourage participation in the event, and ultimately get parents to attend the event. Send out invitations with an RSVP form in both English and the native language of your student’s parents. Be sure to call parents that have not returned the RSVP form and encourage them to come. If, for some reason, they cannot come because of work or another personal factor, ask them to meet with you at a time that is convenient for them.
- Step 2: Create a welcoming environment and have translators on hand for parents who do not speak or understand English.
- Step 3: Sometimes, parents cannot attend events because they do not have someone to watch their children. Therefore, it is important to provide childcare on campus during the event.
- Step 4: Provide light food and beverage, as some parents will be coming straight from work and will not have a chance to eat. Additionally, providing food is an act of kindness that is much appreciated.
- Step 5: Be sure to express that they are always welcome to communicate any and all questions, concerns, and comments.
- Step 6: Express the importance of parental involvement in the academic success of their children.
- Step 7: Encourage parents to volunteer in the classroom and at school events.
Hopefully, this guide provides some ideas to help you create your own bilingual parent night at your school. If you are interested in more tips and resources for working with bilingual, immigrant, or ELL parents and students, visit the Latino Family Literacy Project for more information. The Project offers webinars and workshops that better prepare teachers and school administrators for working with ELLs and their families.