Team Elm – Kelly Comeau, Brandi Dutton, Geoff Westervelt
Pennichuck – Kris Rousseau, Maureen Cawley
On the evening of Monday, October 6th, three teachers from Elm Street Middle School (EMS) and two from Pennichuck Middle School (PMS) held an open conversation with CLD parents at the Adult Learning Center. Invitations were sent out to all ELL and CLD students at EMS and many students from PMS inviting parents in from 6:00-6:30pm to discuss topics such as current programs in schools, parental concerns, and parent ideas of ways to increase the success of their children. Veronica was also invited as a Spanish translator.
A mother of a girl that Kelly and Brandi had worked closely with showed up 15 minutes early with Veronica, with notes taken on her invitation and full of energy and enthusiasm. She was extremely excited and grateful we had invited her in and wanted her ideas. Conversation began slowly as we patiently waited for more parents to join us before we began our conversations. We quickly realized the mother that had joined us early was going to be the only parent to join us. She was more than comfortable being the center of attention due to her familiarity with about half of us.
As we waited, she shared how different schools in the states are from Ecuadorian schools. She quickly noticed that it sparked our interest and continued explaining the system in more detail. The first idea she had was directly reflective upon her positive experience in the Ecuadorian school system. Children go to school for grades 1-5, until they are 11 years old. At this school, teachers may keep a child back up to three times. When the child turns 12, the next school may choose not to accept the child at which point the parents would have to find a different school to take their child. At the age of 12, they begin a new school which begins with the same rotation of grades 1-5. Grades 11-17 are the high schools years. The big point the mother made was children had to earn their way into the next grade.
As the conversation began wrapping up, Geoff asked her what challenges her daughter experienced in school. Mom shared that they were worried about bullying when they first moved here, but it has not been an issue. Her daughter was worried about the language barrier but is a very resilient girl and is overcoming that. The daughter and mom both have become very trusting in the school and teachers and have gotten to know a few teachers they can rely on when either of them needs to. Mom expressed gratitude toward all of the teachers and the hard work we do to include all students.
Kris explained a Culture Night that PMS has each Fall. During this event, parents and children are asked to come in and share information, food, etc. about their culture. She mentioned that it has not been very successful and reached out to mom for ideas of how to increase the attendance at this event. Mom quickly shared that she didn’t like the idea and thought it has ‘played out’ and feels more like they are ‘on display’ rather than sharing information and their assets they can offer the schools.
Mom had clearly thought about an alternative for Culture Nights before she arrived to meet us. She offered the idea of all students researching their culture and family’s heritage and putting together a movie or Power Point to teach others about it. This would allow students to learn about all cultures and would also give parents, especially CLD parents, a terrific reason to come into the schools. Throughout this discussion, teachers from both schools decided that we would love to work with our ELL and writing teachers to plan a research unit based around this idea and plan a celebration night.
A big concern mom brought up was the amount of time we miss due to weather. She shared the idea of doing Blizzard Bags on the days school is cancelled. Teachers could begin compiling the bags as soon as storms are predicted. She mentioned that when schools are not in session, children are slowly losing what they were learning the previous days. It is extremely important for CLD children learning the language to have consistent access to the curriculum.
Another terrific idea that was shared was to focus on a new culture each month. During a particular month, phrases and words could be used to greet each other and could be found around the school representing everyday school words. This culture could be discussed during advisory as well as during morning announcements. Posters, pictures, maps, etc. about the particular culture could be visible throughout the school.
As the conversations ended, the mother expressed the desire to continue working with us to improve the educational experience for CLD learners. She will stay in contact with Veronica and pass along any ideas, activities, or lessons that she comes up with or comes across in her own schooling. (Attached is an activity we recently got from her. Although it is in Spanish, Veronica and at least one of us will be doing a home visit to discuss it further with her)
Click her for: Activity Provided by Mom.