The Latino population in the United State encompasses more than 20 cultural backgrounds and a range of languages, belief systems, and customs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Spanish-speaking population will represent by 2050 a quarter of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008).
Recognizing the language and cultural barriers of Spanish-speaking parents is the first step in getting the parents involved within the school. Parents’ participation in their child’s education leads to better academic achievement and better social status.
As the non-English speaking population continues to grow in the US, teachers are looking for ways to improve the school / home relationships.
Spanish speaking parents may understand and speak English however when it comes to dealing with school matters, they may feel hindered by their command of the language.
Schools are increasingly taking this into account and are providing translated material (translating newsletters and school reports) and interpretation services, but there is still so much to do in the matter.
Here are 4 easy ways to engage with Latino families
1 – Ask parents their preferred language of communication
See with the parents directly which language they are the most comfortable with. They may be comfortable reading a newsletter in English but lack confidence at the moment of speaking English during parents meetings or gatherings.
2 – Create a Spanish-language-only parents gathering
Among Hispanics the sense of community is very strong and often they may feel more inclined to to get involved in their child’s education if the event is entirely in Spanish with members of their own community. It is important for teachers and educators to get the parents involved early in their child’s English immersion or ELL program. Make sure to have an interpreter at hand or a member of staff who speaks Spanish to interact directly with the families.
3 – Find online resources and materials to use in the classroom
It is important for teachers and educators to find materials that address Latino culture in an appropriate manner that they could use in the classroom and at home. Understanding the culture is the first step in getting a better integration of all the children and families.
4 – Use parent liaisons to facilitate informal communication with the school
Make sure that parents liaisons reflect the various communities present in the school as this will encourage parents to engage with them, take a proactive role in the education of their children.
Unfortunately, teachers sometimes misinterpret the lack of engagement of Latino families for indifference in their child’s education when in fact it may just be a language and/or culture barrier. Latino Parents will often view the teacher as the expert in their child’s education and everyone would benefit from the involvement of Latino families in the school environment.
About the Author:
Sabine Panneau is the Business Development Manager for Ocean Translations, http://www.oceantranslations.com/ – Argentina’s premier language service provider, providing English to US Spanish translations to various educational institutions in the US such as LASPAU, Clarke County Public Schools, Monroe Public Schools and others.