Thursday, August 6, 2015

ESL Teacher Hints: Parent Communication

If you follow my blog, you will know that I have been doing a weekly link-up about being an ESL Teacher.

                                July 16 - Kickoff Week - Setting Up Classrooms (my post)
                                July 23 - Procedures and Policies (my post)
                                July 30 - Getting to Know You Strategies (my post)
                               August 6 - Communicating with Parents
I've been dreading this post the entire time. . . Communicating with Parents.  It's not that I don't want to communicate with parents.  It's just there are many barriers to this communication-- language, work schedules, cultural viewpoints of schools, and so on.  I also think there are so many teachers at my school that parent communication is sometimes thought of as a classroom teacher or parent liaison's job.  I was not pleased with how little communication I had with parents last year.  I've already taken some steps to be more active this year.

Our school holds 3 parent teacher conferences a year.  Two of them are around the time report cards go home-- that is usually the focus.   The first, however, is the first weeks of school.  The purpose is not for teachers to give a report about their student; it is for parents to give information about their child.

Last year, my schedule had not been set so I was not included in any of these conferences.  The other ESL teachers expect us to not do these (to be fair, we aren't paid for them while the classroom teacher is).  However, I have already asked my team to be a part of students that I will probably work with.  I may not be able to make it to all of these and I won't have my schedule or direct service list yet.  I think it will make a powerful statement to these parents that I am a teacher and my job is to help their student.

Last year, my school made the controversial move of doing away with Halloween and Valentine's Day.  We instead had Cultural Celebrations.  These celebrations were designed to learn more about different cultures.  We had parents come in to talk about their festivals-- Day of the Dead, Chinese New Year, etc.  Some parents were not comfortable coming in but they brought cultural food.  It was a great learning opportunity and showed parents that school is a two way street-- their children learn from us but we also learn from them.

Usually we have several evening events each year-- reading night, math night, music night, PTO fundraisers, etc.  Several were cancelled last year due to construction.  While I went to several last year, I am sure this year will bring more.  I called a couple of parents prior to a couple of school events to personally invite them and make sure they had rides.  Some families still didn't come but I think this helps build that bridge to school.

While some parents don't feel comfortable attending school events, they are more willing to speak to you outside of school.  I live close to many of my students.  I see students at the park, grocery store, or the fair.  In addition, I attend Fiesta Mexicana and the Indian Taco sale.  These simple visits show students and parents that I am like them and they can trust me. 

Finally, I want to try sending some notes home.  I had a couple of kids that I met with one-on-one.  We set academic goals and I checked if they met their goals either every day or every week.  I would write 1-2 sentences about this for them to share with their parents.  Sometimes I would get it translated but since it can take a week for documents to get translated, I usually just relied on pictures to get the picture across.

I still feel uncertain about this area but I am hopeful that this year will be better than last year.  If I can say that every year, it's a good thing!

I also liked the ideas on this post from Everyone deServes to Learn.   I would love if you shared your ideas for me! 



  1. I decided to visit your blog after you left a comment on mine, and already I'm hooked. My husband took some graduate courses in teaching ESL, and for a time, was planning to go to Japan to teach English. I taught a lot of ESL students in my music classes, and these tips would've been a great reference :)

    1. You are so sweet. I was planning to go to Japan to teach English but then I bought a house, got married, and had a baby. It probably won't happen now. :)

  2. I loved meeting with my ESL parents and guardians! I was always required to attend the parent conferences my school had and while not all parents were able to come in, a lot of them did because teachers had to schedule appointments with the parents so they came at their convenience. I wrote a blog post that included a lot of ideas about how to reach parents of ELLs. You can read it here if you're interested:

    1. Great! I also attend parent teacher conferences. I'm off to check out your blog post now.

  3. We lived in France for three years, and our three older children attended FLE (francais langue etranger- french language for strangers) classes for about 6 months before they were fully integrated into their regular classes. I met the FLE teacher twice, I think. I was impressed that her first questions to my children, in french, asked if they lived "pre ou loin d'ecole?" She insisted that they answer in french right off, right then. My children, the only Americans, were the 37th nationality in that middle school, just outside Paris, that year. The 37th!! Imagine the work that FLE teacher did each year!

    1. We have quite a few languages/ nationalities represented at my school. I live in a college town.

      I had to look up the French phrase you used. Does it mean "Do you live close to or far away from school?"