Deb Goida, Brianna Parisi, Christina Collins, Karla Smith
Community Inquiry Newsletter
On Thursday morning before school, the first and second grade teachers met in the library to welcome all families in for a breakfast to have the opportunity to talk to their child’s teachers. Our intentions were to provide parents with the chance to ask any questions they may have about how to best support their child at home and in school. We sent an invitation with a questionnaire attached so parents could come prepared with questions concerning their child’s education. Our goal was to make ourselves available in a comfortable environment to begin to make a strong home school connection with as many parents as possible.
At our breakfast we made available informational materials, a bookmark, and reading tips, in both Spanish and English for parents to take. We had a presentation planned consisting of a quick video expressing positive and negative ways to support your child at home and then an opportunity for questions and sharing of their personal experiences and feelings regarding school. We were aiming to find what our parent’s expectations were for their child in school and how we can support them at home because, “the more we can find out about a situation, the more informed and better equipped we are to help our students’ succeed” (Herrera and Murray, 2005).
We felt this was important because in both articles, Community Teachers and It Takes a Village to Teach First Grade, it stressed the importance of bridging the gaps between home and school. This experience was a good opportunity to begin to establish a more open door and welcoming environment. Originally we were going to only invite our CLD parents, but, after considering our population and viewing the video ‘The Shoulders We Stand On’, we realized that socioeconomic status also plays a role in student achievement. In turn we felt it would be a valuable vehicle for providing all parents with strategies to best support their children’s learning.
Sitting with one parent, she discussed how her accent has an effect on how she helps her son with his spelling. She spoke of arguments they have had over writing spelling word sentences because of the difference in pronunciation. She was upset by his comments of her pronunciation being wrong because it “was different from his teacher’s”. She was frustrated in knowing how to support him with his homework without feeling inadequate. She wanted to know what she could do differently to make it a more positive and beneficial experience for both of them. This led us to be more empathetic to our students and their parents in an issue that we had never considered to be a challenge. Moving forward we need to be cognizant in relaying the message that it is more important to see the effort put forward rather than a polished finished product.
Another conversation with a parent expressed her distress in working on math with her daughter at home. The woman and her daughter arrived only a few weeks ago from Honduras with no English at all. She spoke of her desire to help her daughter learn her numbers but she was limited to helping her only in Spanish. She spoke of how helpless she felt and was searching for different ways she would be able to support her daughter’s acquisition of the English language. We expressed to her the importance of still teaching her these skills in Spanish while she is learning the English in school. We want her to continue to build the connections between the two languages to give her a better understanding and development of both languages. We also shared with the mother that through our readings we have learned that being proficient in one language will assist in the acquisition of the second language.
In moving forward, we feel a positive way to spread the message of the importance of their L1 usage is through our responsive classroom morning meeting discussions. We look forward to having the conversations with our students about the value of maintaining their connection to their L1 and culture. We also have intention to invite parents that we met into our classrooms to read to the children and share their cultures, much like the teacher recommends in the article “It Takes a Village to Teach First Grade”.
After reviewing all of our encounters from the breakfast, we feel we want to alleviate these stresses from our parents in supporting their children at home. We also want to make it known to our families and staff the importance of maintaining a student’s L1 and the role it holds in acquiring English. All of a child’s learning and conversation at home and in school does not have to be solely in English. We need to promote an Asset Thinking Model throughout our school community in order to “maximize the cultural identity of CLD students and families” (CLD Students and Families as Assets to School Culture). Incorporating their culture, values, and perspectives into our teaching practices and school community our some of the ways we can begin to create an Asset Thinking school here at Amherst Street School!
Click here to view the invitation.