Building Relationships With Families of ELLs

Connecting-ELL-parentsThis post was originally published on Education Week.

One of the hardest thing to go through as a parent is to watch your child struggle to learn a new language, as well as try to fit in socially at school. Building a relationship with parents and guardians of English language learners can help to alleviate some aspects of those stressors.

What does building a relationship exactly mean when it comes to ELL parents? How does a teacher go about doing this?

There are several strategies that teachers can practice and implement in their English Language learners parental outreach that can help to actively involve and connect with the parents.

Answer their FAQs: Many ELL parents have questions that need to be answered when their sons/daughters first join the new school. Some of these questions might relate to the child’s language level, making friends or doing homework. Invite them to ask these questions early on, as many of them might not feel comfortable to ask questions. In many cultures, asking questions might be inappropriate, or can seem to be challenging the authority of the teacher. It’s best if the teacher specifically invites them to chat and share their concerns. A face to face chat can make a difference. Communicating questions and concerns through letters, or email might also be a good idea.

Some parents might need help with the language themselves, seek out your school’s resources and see if an translator can help out with communicating. Also, Google Translate is a fantastic resource to help with communicating and translating to parents some of the letters/emails/memos.

Share Student Progress: Every parent is interested in knowing about the progress of their child in the classroom. Many parents of English language learners worry about progress as well as other aspects of school that may be challenging to ELLs. Making friends, learning the second language, and even the students’ progress compared to others in the classroom are some of the concerns that parents have. Sharing the students’ progress frequently helps to build a strong relationship with the parents and the student pedagogically. By sharing the student’s’ progress, the parent and the student will most likely start to have conversations about their progress, which will impact the student’s’ growth and learning in and out of the classroom.

Have parents help the students with their homework. In the case that the parents don’t understand the homework assignment (assignment should have clear & simple instructions), suggest to the parent to ask the student to explain the assignment. In this way, the parent will be able to see whether the student has a good grasp on the assignment themselves.

Connect through Culture: Connecting ELL parents through a cultural understanding is the best way to build a strong relationship to ensure the student’s success in school. Educating oneself about the race, culture and ethnicity by doing research will help to build a culturally competent foundation to communicating and connecting with the parents. It’s important to be mindful, respectful, and understanding when it comes to different cultural practices, events and holidays.

Create a class calendar where students can add their cultural holidays and traditions. In this way, the class can celebrate together by learning about the event. Inviting parents to such events helps them to feel welcome, and creates a safe environment for them.

Connecting with ELL parents can be challenging due to cultural and language barriers, however, with a positive mindset, consistent communication and cultural understanding, a teacher can work together with the parent to ensure the best learning environment for the students.

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