By Katherine Rodriguez-Agüero
The Covid-19 Pandemic brought a new experience for educators, leaders, and our school systems. Most importantly, it sparked a change in the communication strategies we utilize to support families. Now educators use electronic communication as more than an additional form of family outreach: it is a means of teaching.
How can this outreach extend itself further to multilingual families? Moreover, how can it support families through a culturally responsive mindset?
Depending on your student population and resources, children experience online learning on an extensive learning curve. It’s the same for their families. As an educator, it is crucial that you survey your families to discover what works best for them.
First, consider the outreach your school or teaching team sends to families. Are the communications written or offered in the families’ home language? Go deeper! Is the family literate in this home language? My grandparents were illiterate, yet spoke Spanish fluently. Consider the way you survey and communicate with families, and make sure you’re engaging in a culturally responsive manner. Provide voice recordings within communications through QR Codes and utilize technology on Google Translate to support families.
Second, discuss with families their time frames and the support synchronous or asynchronous lessons provide. Synchronous lessons provide first-hand support, with interaction among students and the teaching team. Asynchronous lessons provide activities, with time frames outside of a scheduled session. Both types of learning support and affect families differently. By surveying families, educators can note their working schedules, family structure, and even support the schedule created at home by the family.
Remember that families with essential workers and multiple children can have trouble meeting a certain time frame, especially if they only have one electronic device at home. Ask families how comfortable they are with technology and then support them wherever they need assistance. Do they know how to access Google Classroom? If not, you can send families how-to videos in their home-language by searching for them online.
Furthermore, utilize the families’ funds of knowledge. Is there a family member who can play an instrument, create videos, or even share a personal story related to the class’s current unit or theme? As educators, we often try to find new resources and create new materials, but families are assets right in front of you! Encourage family communication by creating a parent group or establishing classroom roles. Set up a heritage partnership between families on a school-wide basis. Heritage partnerships allow families of the same cultural community to share resources, ask questions, and receive answers in their home-language. It builds a partnership based on trust.
Lastly, connect families with community-wide resources that will offer guidance and support. Certain libraries and educational organizations are providing virtual tutoring, language services, how-to videos, and partnering with heritage groups to offer language translations. By taking the initiative to support families through a culturally responsive mindset, we convey the message that our families are a priority. We recognize their hard-work and look to support them at their level as they need.
Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Family Engagement in the Time of COVID-19 and Remote Learning, and Always. New York University Steinhardt, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.
Mrs. Katherine Rodriguez-Agüero is a Doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University. She works as an Early Childhood Instructional Coordinator for the Department of Early Childhood Education in NYC. Ms. Katherine Rodriguez-Agüero is an advocate for family engagement in schools.