n Does the student have family members who live far away?
n Does the student have home responsibilities—such as
caring for younger siblings—or a paying job?
n Is the student expected to fulfill certain expectations
tied to culture or religion, such as marrying at a young
n Are there any other stressors affecting the
It’s not necessary to ask a student or family
these questions directly, but keep your eyes and
ears open for situations that might be placing
extra strain on the family. Good clues to these
situations may come from students themselves during conversations or activities.
Some families may understandably be
reluctant to share too much information
about their personal lives, particularly
if they can’t discuss it in English.
With time, however, and as they
understand that your primary
aim is to support their child’s
learning, they might feel more
comfortable sharing, with help
from an interpreter.
to Share Information
About Their Child
Another effective strategy is to
simply ask parents to tell you
more about their children, either
in person or through a letter. If you
have interpreters available, the conversation or letter can be in the parent’s home language.
Albuquerque teacher Clara Gonzales-Espinoza asks parents to write her a letter
at the beginning of each school year telling
her about their child’s personality, interests,
and strengths. Not only does she begin establishing a relationship with parents on a positive
note, but she also gathers information that might
help her better understand and respond to this
student in the classroom, such as knowledge about a
student’s illness or a recent divorce.
Although some parents of ELLs aren’t literate in
either English or their primary language, Clara hasn’t
found this to be an obstacle. Typically, a number of
parents write lengthy, moving letters filled with details
relevant to the classroom. Consider the last paragraph of a
letter from an American Indian mother:
a chance to share
their stories and
support their children
in their own way gives
© SUSIE FI TZHUGH