Monday, October 03, 2005

Where are all the teachers?

Last week the school where my after-school program is had "Meet the Teacher Night" for all the parents. I've been told by a number of teachers that this is the only event that parents actually come to, so all the SES (aggressive and reasonable alike) providers and the PTA were running around setting up for it. Parent involvement is a big problem at the school and the turnout that night was pretty light, but I was amazed to hear that a lot of teachers didn't come. If there is only one night to connect with parents, how is it possible that the school didn't put everything it had into making the night great for the parents that bothered to show up.

The problem here is not the teachers, of course. It's the system. I heard complaints from the teachers that were here about the lack of parents showing up. I'm sure teachers are frustrated about the lack of parent involvement over the years (I know I am in the after-school program, and we tend to have the more involved ones), so it's hard to criticize them for not wanting to spend another night at school while parents don't bother to come and meet them.

And of course there is the language problem - the school makes very little effort to provide translators (the orientation course for parents of English Language Learners was staffed by a teacher who spoke no Spanish, despite the fact that all the parents in the room were Spanish-speakers and spoke less English than their kids), so many teachers can't communicate with the mostly immigrant parent population even if both parents and teachers showed up.

I wonder how we can begin to break out of cycles like these. Translators would be a big step - a lot of immigrant parents probably come once and are blown off because they don't understand English. But the problem is bigger than just dealing with the language barrier - parents need to feel like partners in their kids education, and I don't feel like that is happening here.

1 comment:

EdWonk said...

Having translators available is key when communicating with the non English-speaking parents and urging them to get involved in the school community. By providing translators, the school system sends a positive message. By not providing the translators, the school also sends a message. But, sadly, that message isn't positive.