Teachers working in a diverse classroom: Have you thought about hosting a Parents Night event especially for your bilingual families? It’s a great chance to make a personal connection with parents who have a unique set of concerns, as well as a valuable skill set they can bring to your school. Parents in bilingual households, tell your school that you’d like to help organize a Bilingual Parents Night!
1. Calling All Bilingual Parents!
Get the word out! Use every style of communication at your disposal (emails, letters and even phone calls) to make sure all the bilingual families in your class get the message: You want to meet with them! Send multiple reminders in the days leading up to the event.
Offering childcare and/or dinner for the families can go a long way in removing roadblocks that might otherwise keep parents from attending. You may want to consider an alternative meeting time or location that better suits their work schedules. Would hosting at a community center or library minimize their travel distance, and help them feel more comfortable?
2. Research & Prepare Your Presentation
Find out about possible cultural expectations the parents may have by doing your research beforehand. For example, in some cultures, teachers are considered an authority figure, and it can be disrespectful for parents to speak up. Do cultural norms lead mom and dad to play different roles in their kids’ upbringing? Knowing about cultural differences ahead of time gives you a chance to address them directly and creates a common set of expectations with parents.
After you find an interpreter for your Bilingual Parents Night and meet with them beforehand to go over your presentation. Leave plenty of time in your presentation for lengthy translations. Try to speak in shorter bursts, to ease the translator’s burden, and make it easier for parents to process all of that valuable information.
If you haven’t already, proudly display your multicultural and bilingual items. Create a welcoming and inclusive environment with posters, books and decorations. Why not leave them up in your classroom all year? Your students will appreciate seeing and having access to items that represent their home cultures.
3. Encourage Parent Involvement & Celebrate Bilingualism
During your Bilingual Parents Night, ask the parents to volunteer as classroom and school helpers. Bilingual parents have a unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences that can be a great benefit to all of your students. Schedule days when they can introduce their cultural traditions to the classroom. (Traditional holidays, foods, and stories are always a hit!)
Encourage the use of each family’s home language. Make it clear that you value bilingualism, and see it as an asset. Emphasize the importance of reading with their children every night.
Offer translated resources to take home. If you already have a bilingual classroom library, now is a great time to show it off!
Give parents time to mix and mingle. Bilingual Parents Night is a great opportunity for families to meet, network, and develop a sense of community, which can lead to a whole host of benefits for their children and the school overall.
Leave plenty of time for questions and discussion. You might be surprised by the specific concerns each parent has, so be ready to write them down for future follow up.
4. Follow Up and Be Consistent
You put a lot of time and effort into planning your Bilingual Parents Night, so nurture the valuable connections you worked so hard to establish. Reach out to the parents frequently via translated emails, letters, or phone calls. Offer additional bilingual resources when you find them throughout the year, and make sure you’re following up on the concerns they addressed.
Hosting a Parents Night just for your bilingual families can “translate” into lifelong benefits – not just for their children, but for all of the students in the class.