Multilingual Learners: Family and School as Partners
By: Amy Halsall
Now, more than ever, multilingual learners and their families need schools to work for them and with them to ensure student and family success. I have taught multilingual learners for 20 years and have worked with students and their families to ensure that both succeed. This has created a welcoming environment where the families felt comfortable and able to advocate for their needs and has resulted in a partnership that benefits everyone. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has only magnified the need to work together to overcome the challenges that multilingual learners and their families face and to leverage the strengths that the multilingual learners and their families bring with them.
Parents need to know from the moment they walk into your school that they and their students are welcome. All school staff can welcome families by smiling, saying hello to families and students and offering translation/interpretation services to multilingual families. This puts families at ease and shows them that the school cares and wants to hear from them.
After the initial meeting, regular contact needs to occur from home to school and school to home to make sure that student and family needs are met. The social-emotional piece is critical to the success of multilingual learners and their families. Families should know that school is not just the place where education happens but is a place where we care about students and their families as well.
Throughout the school year, families need to be provided with opportunities to share their needs, their triumphs and their challenges. The school then needs to work to provide solutions to those needs and challenges. Our school district set up a resource center, food and clothing pantry, and a technology help desk for families. In addition, free wifi has been provided and technology devices have been provided to help bridge the gap that occurs when students do not have access to devices and the internet. For our multilingual learners and their families, we provided workshops, zooms, help videos, and one to one support in our families’ native language. This has helped our families to feel less stressed and more connected to school.
Our teachers and staff work with heart to make sure that our students and their families have what they need to succeed. Our families know that teachers care about their students and the whole family. This enables our students to feel like school is an extension of their family and enables.their families to be successful when they feel heard and feel as though they are partners with the school.
Parents, if your school is like mine, keep working together. If your school isn’t, advocate for your students and make your school better. This should be the goal of every school with multilingual learners.
A little about the Author:
Amy acquired a Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University Bloomington, and a Master’s Degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. She has spent 19 years teaching at MSD Warren Township in Indianapolis, and is a member of IN TESOL, and has attended many national conferences, including National SIOP conference 2020, Attended La Cosecha, ATDLE Dual Language conferences 2015-2019, and Dual Language Institute at CAL 2015 and has been and GLAD SIOP trained in 2018.