How Does Your School Rate?
by Elizabeth Claire, Judie Haynes
Participate in a district goal to make your school a wonderful place for newcomers. Here are some practices you could adopt.
Establish a district goal to make your school a wonderful place for newcomers. Here are some low cost ideas to achieve that aim.
- School secretaries or intake personnel receive training in greeting new families, minimizing anxiety, and understanding culture shock.
- Bilingual interpreters of all needed languages are on duty during the first weeks of school. They help with registration, explain school practices to parents, and are available at lunch time to prevent chaos from overcoming new students.
- School handbooks for the parents and a school-year calendar are available in the native languages or in easy English.
- Mainstream students have been sensitized to cultural differences and practice acceptance and cooperation. Self-esteem and school morale are high.
- Greetings have been recorded or incorporated into a video in various native languages by volunteers, so newcomers can listen to a welcome and school orientation in their own language.
- New non-English speaking students are placed in the appropriate grade rather than routinely placed with younger children.
- Previously unschooled newcomers receive immediate literacy instruction beyond the allotted time for ESL instruction.
- There is a home/school liaison committee for each language group, and an active bilingual parent volunteer group.
- Classroom teachers receive some advance notice of a student's arrival so they can prepare seating, texts, and assign a buddy and create an nurturing atmosphere.
- A "half-day" option for the first week, particularly for younger students is offered. Parents are invited to stay in the building so they may help avoid traumatic adjustment difficulties.
- Bathroom doors have international male/female symbols painted or posted on them.Rules for leaving the classroom to use the bathroom are explained in native language.
- ESL classes for newly arrived students begin the first day of school, and include an orientation to the school.
- There is a file of standard school communications to parents written in the district's native languages or easy-to-comprehend English.
- The ESL teacher's schedule includes time to support classroom teachers and train parent and student volunteers.
- A percentage of media funds are spent for books and dictionaries in the native languages of the student body, as well as easy readers and picture books suitable for ESL students.
- Bilingualism is fashionable. Mainstream students are interested in and acknowledged for early language learning.
- The newcomers' native language is respected; maintenance and growth in native-language literacy and cognition are formally encouraged. (Bilingual classes or clubs, celebrations, festivals, heritage days, exhibits.)
- School walls, decorations, labels, reflect an awareness of and welcome to the newcomers. Signs in many languages welcome the community to the school.
- A list of all people in the school who speak each language represented in the school is kept in the main and nurse's offices in case of an emergency.
© 1998-2010 Judie Haynes, www.everythingESL.net