Have you thought about hosting a Parents Night event just for your bilingual families? It’s a great opportunity to create a personal connection with parents who have a unique set of concerns, as well as a valuable skill set to bring to your classroom.
1. Roll Out the Welcome Mat
Don’t be shy! Use all available forms of communication (emails, letters and even phone calls) to make sure every one of your bilingual families understands how much you want to meet with them. Send multiple reminders in the days leading up to the event.
Try to remove the roadblocks that might prevent parents from attending. Offer childcare and/or dinner. Consider meeting dates/times that better accommodate their work schedules. Possibly use an alternative meeting location that is familiar to the parents, and minimizes their travel distance, like community centers or libraries.
2. Research & Prepare Your Presentation
Do your research beforehand, and look out for potential cultural expectations that parents might have coming into the meeting. In some cultures, teachers are considered the authority figure, which may keep parents from speaking up. Do moms and dads have cultural, differentiated roles in the upbringing of their children? Knowing about cultural differences ahead of time gives you a chance to address them directly, and lay down new expectations with the parents.
Find an interpreter for your Bilingual Parents Night, and meet with them beforehand to go over the main points of your presentation. Leave enough time in your speech for lengthy translations. Plan to speak in shorter bursts, to ease the translator’s burden, and improve the flow of your presentation.
If you haven’t already, proudly display your bilingual and multicultural items in your classroom. Posters, books and decorations create a welcoming and inclusive environment.
3. Celebrate Parent Involvement & Bilingualism
During your Bilingual Parent Night, 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!
Encourage classroom involvement. Bilingual parents have a unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences that can be a great benefit to all of your students. Ask them to introduce their cultural traditions to the classroom. (Traditional foods, holidays, and fables are always a hit!) Ask them to volunteer as classroom and school helpers.
Leave plenty of time for questions and discussion. You might be surprised by the specific concerns they have, so be ready to write them down for future follow up.
Give parents the opportunity to mix and mingle. If they have a chance to meet, network and develop a sense of community, it can lead to a myriad of benefits for their children and the school as a whole.
4. Follow Up and Be Consistent
You put a lot of care and effort into planning your Bilingual Parents Night, so make sure you maintain the valuable connections you have established throughout the year.
Reach out to the parents frequently via translated emails, letters or phone calls. Offer additional bilingual resources when you find them, and be sure to follow up on the concerns they addressed.
The extra effort you put into hosting a Parents Night especially for your bilingual families can “translate” into lifelong benefits – not just for their children, but for all of the students in the class.