In my five years of teaching, I have had many students who were English Language Learners (ELL). This can make contacting families especially challenging, but as with everything, we learn as we go! Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, as well as services that your district should provide. (If they don’t, get out there and advocate for your students!)
Did you know…
Did you know that in May of 1970, Lau v. Nichols helped establish a memorandum essentially requiring school districts to provide services to help all students participate in their education?
Technically it’s the district’s duty to help the students be part of the community of learners— so don’t feel like you have to do this all on your own! School districts should have resources for teachers to use when having conversations, sending notes home, holding parent-teacher conferences, or simple day-to-day contact.
You might have to dig to find these resources, but in my district, we can request a translator to attend meetings or conferences, and we also have a language line that lets teachers have conference calls with the parents and a translator.
Using technology to translate
Google Translate is an option for help translating simple messages to send home. Being able to send short messages quickly can help bridge the gap caused by language barriers. Just remember, when using a program like this, that the translation may not be 100% accurate! Google Translate has a tendency to lose part of the message “in translation,” so I typically only use it for short or emergency messages.
ClassTag is another amazing resource to use when needing to communicate with parents or guardians. When setting your class up, you can specify the language that the messages will be sent in. If you have seven different languages spoken at home, you can write one message, hit “send” and ClassTag translates it into those seven languages! This comes in super handy when setting up events, conferences, making announcements, or other requests.
Did you know that ClassTag will automatically translate your messages to parents into the language of their choice? It also translates your message to their preferred type (email or SMS) and reaches them on any device (even before they sign up).
Tap into translation services
Now let’s talk conferences. With ELL families, it is vital to get a translator to attend to help facilitate the conversation. Again, by law districts need to provide some type of assistance, so if you’re told that it’s not in the budget, you need to advocate for your students!
The power of community groups
If you encounter a situation where you need help contacting parents of ELL students, reach out to the ELL teacher in your building. They’ll have the right resources to help engage students and also the parents. They may already have procedures to contact parents, like phone trees or community groups that assist new families. In the last few years, my district has had an influx of families moving from Africa. We have a community group (outside of the school district) that helps African families become acclimated to their new area, get registered for school, find housing, etc.
You can do it!
ELL students deserve the right to have the same opportunities at school as students who only speak English. This absolutely includes their right to have parents involved in their education! Just remember your action plan:
- Be creative
- Take advantage of free technology
- Discover and use resources (often non-obvious) provided by your school district
- Engage your ELL teacher and their knowledge of local resources to connect and involve your ELL students and their families
ClassTag is the only technology that really empowers you to reach any parent. To get set up for success in 18/19, sign up free today >>