As part of the SEE-TEL project to strengthen equity and effectiveness in “English Learner” education in Missouri, teachers and school leaders across the state are working to enhance family engagement with multilingual, immigrant parents. One tactic is hosting family conversations among educators and parents, in small groups, where parents have a chance to share their educational perspective and experiences. In a story about Carthage School District’s participation in SEE-TEL, The Joplin Globe reported that families rarely have such opportunities. We truly need to ‘flip the script’ on typical parent programs in our schools. Rather than ask “What do we/the school need to ‘give’ to parents?” schools should more often ask families: “What would you like to share with us?”
Besides an immigrant parent panel about raising children in US schools, SEE-TEL educators attended presentations about new ways to value multiple languages and literacies at the SEE-TEL Summer Institute. About this work, Emeli Jimenez, a dual language teacher in Carthage, Missouri said: “Hearing the parent panel motivated me more to be part of this program, because it is my job to set the foundation to make sure that Spanish has a status that is higher than what it’s being given.” As someone who grew up speaking Spanish, she added: “I want to make sure that kids see me as a professional, and I want them to know and realize that Spanish is important and that people that speak it are also important and have value.” Over the next four years, SEE-TEL will study whether and how such programming shapes school climate, culture, and student outcomes; check back for updates!