Strategies for Involving ELL Parents in School Governance

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Would you like to know how to involve parents/guardians of ELL students in school governance? This lesson gives you a range of strategies that begin with initial engagement and go towards active participation of parents.

Definition of School Governance and Parents as Participants

Before we begin, let's define school governance. This term refers to the number of processes that schools adopt in order to ensure that their educational mission is transparent and in compliance with regulations.

Janet is the principal in a school with a significant number of English Language Learners (ELLs). Janet reflected on her performance, and she feels that her job could be done better if she knew how to involve parents of ELLs in school activities. Janet is right to think this because parents can be of great support in a school. In fact, it is not only in the interest of the school to involve parents. It is also in the interest of parents to be involved in their children's education.

Since this is a win-win situation, let's explore which strategies we can apply to involve parents of ELLs in school governance. In the process of involving ELL families, we must consider that there may be language and cultural barriers that we can overcome.

Aspects to Consider First

Before parent involvement in direct governance can be expected, the district must have taken preliminary steps to understand the demographics of its parents/student body, create two-way lines of communication in the parent's native languages, and offer a variety of ways for parents to participate in school events and activities.

Once this accepting school environment has been established, administrators and teachers can employ strategies to involve the parents of ELL students in school leadership positions. Some strategies could include hiring bilingual parents/staff to connect to parents who don't speak English, having all staff participate in cultural sensitivity/awareness trainings, and ensuring that all relevant policies or changes are communicated in ways all parents have access to. Now, let's see how we can include ELL parents in leadership roles.

Including ELL Parents in Leadership Roles

Very often, administrators forget to analyze the representation of ELL parents within a parent committee. An efficient way to involve parents is to make sure all parents committees include ELL parents. This can be done by asking bilingual staff members to reach out to non-English speaking parents and providing committee information in multiple languages. Once ELL parents are part of a committee, the school can request from them what is needed depending on a situation. For example, ELL parents can offer their opinions regarding a new school program or be asked come up with solutions for school-wide issues.

Responsibilities for ELL parents who are part of a committee can increase with time. However, it is very important that ELL parents who become involved in leadership always understand precisely what is expected from them. This is a key aspect for success in their leadership role, as any misunderstanding due to language barriers or cultural background could mean the leadership role is not properly carried.

Including ELL Parents in School Community Events

Often, schools organize events to create a sense of community. The active participation of ELL parents is very important during events such as open houses, fundraising projects, or school celebrations. The moment ELL parents are included in the organization and execution of these events, they begin to feel they are members of the community. This feeling is perhaps particularly important in the case of ELL parents since they usually come from foreign countries and have to go through an adaptation process to the new country.

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