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Many of you work in schools like I do, where English is one of many languages spoken in the homes of your students. With schools cutting paper costs and districts encouraging more use of “green” communications, the Internet has become an important tool to help us meet these challenges.
- Find out which parents/guardians utilize an email address and which do not. Identify a list of students who should receive hard copy communications of everything you hit “submit” on your email communications. If they do not return the form or your phone call, consider them an HCF (hard copy family). Survey your families from time to time to find out which technologies they are “accessing.” Provide professional development opportunities on how to use various technology tools. Post archives on your site to refer new parents to later.
- Put Google Translate or another text-translating opportunity on your website at the very top of the page. If they have to scroll to the bottom of the page to find it, will your second language parents really take the time if they can’t read what is on the page in the first place? Remember, literal translation services like Google Translate will not interpret exactly what you are trying to communicate all of the time, but in speaking to parents who currently use these services, they can usually get a good idea of what the message provides. Make sure you “advertise” to your second language families that you have put this on your website. The fact that you are “making an effort” speaks volumes to your families and helps them be more comfortable within the “partnership” you are trying to build.
- Last, but certainly not least, TALK to your families to find out their access needs. Although technology is fantastic and is changing the world daily, there is not a better way of identifying ways you can level the playing field other than engaging in a meaningful dialogue. Invite parents to your family engagement team meetings to get more information. Show them you care by making changes that provide them equitable access to your learning community. Use an interpreter or a language service like the Language Line to help get the most colorful message you can from the parents you serve.