This coming academic year will be my 20th year teaching Kindergarten through Fourth Grade in the elementary Spanish program I established in our school. I continue to be eternally grateful to the parents who initiated and advocated for putting a foreign language program in place, who continue to support me and the program, and for recognizing the immense value it has for their children.
Parents, in my opinion, are the strongest and most effective advocates for an elementary foreign language program. Today’s post shares several tips to help you get the conversation going in your child’s district to develop a foreign language program in it’s elementary school.
Related Post: Tips on Foreign Language Learning With Young Children
ADVOCATING for a FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM
Form a Parent Group
Join forces with other like minded parents; many voices make an impact. School boards and superintendents are more likely to listen to a group of parents as opposed to an individual family; if they see a desire in the school community for a program, your chances of opening a conversation and having it continue to fruition are much higher.
Have a Vision
Give thought to the goals of the program and how that fits into the district as a whole. When my program was formed in 1997/1998, the district formed long term goals for students going through a K-12 Spanish program, not just the elementary school. Giving students the opportunity to study and learn for 13 years in an articulated program means a much higher level of proficiency upon graduation, which then translates into greater advantages in the job market and in their personal lives.
Do Your Homework
Inform yourself about what an elementary foreign language program entails; this will help you understand the realities of putting a program in place and therefore make you a better advocate. Research what programs look like in other districts, looking at details such as which language is offered, how often students receive class, whether the teacher is employed full or part time, the history of the program and so on. Districts have a lot to take into account when considering adding a program- budget, scheduling, professional development, long term viability- so having a solid proposal goes a long way.
Funding is often one of the biggest obstacles to implementing an elementary foreign language program; for many districts it is expensive to hire a teacher. Search out alternative funding sources, at least to help the program get off it’s feet. If a district sees the program is successful, they will be more likely to advocate for including it in the school budget going forward.
It may take months or even years to get a program off the ground, but it is worth it! Continue to contact school board members and the superintendent to let them know you want to have this conversation. Talk about it in the community, with other parents, at PTA meetings, at Parent Night, etc. Getting the word out, creating a buzz will pay dividends!
Continue to Support the Program
Once you successfully help bring a program to your child’s elementary school, don’t forget to continue to support it. Like a small business, an elementary foreign language program needs several years to get it’s legs underneath it, so keep advocating!
Send thank you notes to the teacher, principal, superintendent, and school board, not just in the first year, but into the future so the program remains front and center. Write letters to the newspaper telling about a great activity your child did in the foreign language class, or why you are so glad the school has a program.
Remember, there are many in the community who do not have children in the school but still pay property taxes. Volunteer to help in class or arrange special events in collaboration with the teacher. I am always greatly appreciative of parents who express an interest in my class and offer support on my behalf!
Need some resources to help you out as you advocate for an elementary foreign language program in your child’s school? Consider joining NNELL, National Network for Early Language Learning! They are a national advocacy group focused on helping teachers and parents support foreign language in the elementary school. They have a number of resources to help in these efforts. You can visit them here: https://nnell.org
Best of luck! 🙂by
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