What’s the best way to get involved in your child’s education? Probably the most traditional way is to get involved in the PTA. But for parents whose first language is not English, trying to follow rapid-fire discussion in English can be intimidating. For many, despite the fact that they care deeply about their children’s education, it’s enough to keep them away.
This semester we had the privilege of working with a diverse group of parents at Southwest Elementary in Durham as they tried a new way of getting involved. Teacher Laurel Stolte had heard from many parents – both English-speakers and Spanish-speakers – that they were interested in getting to know one another. And many were interested in improving their language skills too. Enter the ‘PAL’ program (‘Pareja de Aprendizaje y Liderazgo’ or Learning and Leading Partners) in which English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parents are paired together with a new ‘PAL’ to meet weekly for language exchange, to discuss their children’s education, and share a bit of their own background and culture.
All PAL parents also get together once a month for a more structured meeting or activity. Recently participants had the chance to get together to thank their PALs, give their feedback on the program and let the kids have a little fun. (Scroll down to the pictures below. Yes, that is a piñata!)
Here are just some of the results from the first semester survey:
- The majority of parents “Strongly agree[d]” that “being a ‘PAL’ helped me support my child in school.” One Spanish-speaking parent said she particularly appreciated the program “because we learned a lot about how to help our children with their homework.”
- 80% of parents reported that “being a ‘PAL’ helped me learn Spanish/English.”
- Nearly all parents who participated said they would like to continue in the program next year.
Congratulations to the great parents who participated this semester and got this program off the ground! Please let us know if you would be interested in the possibility of having a similar program at your local school.