story. This can be a long process, filled
with trial and error, but it’s worth the
effort. ELL families are an invaluable
source of wisdom regarding their
children. Getting to know each family
might save time in the long run and
make your job a little (or a lot) easier
throughout the year.
Here are eight ways to build
relationships based on trust and
respect with students’ families.
Be a Creative Communicator
Without doubt, one of the greatest
challenges school staff and ELL family
members face in building relation-
ships is the complex question of how
to communicate. Various factors—
including language differences and
mismatched schedules—can make or
break communication. Although U.S.
schools are required by federal law to
provide information on topics like ELL
identification and special education
in a language parents will understand,
each school also needs a system to
handle informal, ongoing communi-
cation between teachers and parents.
Good ways to do this include
n Finding out whether parents
prefer communication through phone,
e-mail, or text message.
n Using bilingual interpreters
or parent liaisons to help translate
classroom signs and labels, activities
students take home, and parent news-
letters—or to help during parent
meetings or open houses.
n Training parents or community
volunteers to interpret key communi-
cations to parents.
Also check on district resources for
interpretation, such as a language line
you can call to have a conference call
with a parent.
It’s best to avoid having students
Often, parents are so deeply
translate, especially for their parents.
This task can be stressful, and students
might know school-related vocabulary
only in English. When kids translate
in school-family communication, they
may learn private information. They
might also take liberties, as in the case
of a student who told his parents that
F was for “¡Fantástico!” (Robertson,
Also avoid relying on translation
websites. Although such websites and
apps have improved in recent years,
they remain inaccurate and imprecise.
In a pinch, this tool might help you
with a word or phrase, but such trans-
lations are not foolproof. A language
committed to their children’s
education that they’ve traveled to
a new country, at great risk, to offer
their children better schooling.
© SUSIE FI TZHUGH