Connecting with Diverse Members of Your Community

GH_1004010. Get to know the diverse languages and cultures represented in your local area and include them in the images and messages you share about your program.  You want the members of your community to know that your program will be a welcoming place for families who come from different languages and cultures.

9. Make sure that social service agencies and immigrant service organizations in your area know that you have staff and materials to support enrollment of families who speak languages other than English. Ask these services to refer new families to your program.

8. Invite some of your diverse parents to form a committee to evaluate the images you use in your brochures, handbooks, posters, website or wherever you tell the story about your school.  They can help you look for ways to show your commitment to diversity.

7. Take that evaluation into the individual classrooms.  Each teacher should be supported in his or her efforts to display culturally and linguistically relevant things.  Try to stay away from stereotyped or homogenous approaches, such as buying a tub of sombreros and having every teacher staple one to her bulletin board for families who happen to speak Spanish.

6. Avoid that stereotyped approach by getting to know each child’s family on a one-to-one basis so you can explore their habits, celebrations, foods, traditions and interests.  Let that individualized information serve as your guide for setting up the displays and materials in each classroom.

5. Some programs work with newcomers to create family scrapbooks.  This is a fun and engaging project that can happen at home or in school as families gather and compile pages that describe who they are and what is important to them. This book helps teachers build rapport with the child and the family members, and the scrapbook can travel with the child from class to class or grade to grade.

4. Honoring different languages and cultures takes more than a set of rules or policies, it takes professional development.  Find books, periodicals, webinars, speakers or podcasts to help all the staff learn more about cultural awareness and communicating across language barriers.

3. Professional development to support adaptations for cultural and linguistic diversity will not be a one-time-only proposition.  Teachers need ongoing support to learn more, to overcome miscalculations, to meet new challenges and to learn the languages needed in their classroom.  Establishing a professional learning network or community is a great way to approach that ongoing professional development.

2. Hire staff that are truly fluent in the languages needed in your program so there will always be someone that can assist in a conversation with a parent or child.  Sometimes this is not easy to accomplish. Another approach would be to ask your neighboring programs what languages they have to offer and arrange to reciprocate if they need one of your staff members to help.

1. Rethink how you write your parent handbooks, newsletters, handouts, posters and other important information that parents receive when they begin the enrollment process.  The more words you use, the more costly it will be for you to get those items translated and the more difficult it will be for an English learner to read.  Simplify as much as you possibly can, then get as much material as possible translated by a certified translator.

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