Creating space for families can be challenging as a French immersion teacher. Most families don’t speak French at home. There is lots of research pointing towards the benefits of parent involvement in their child’s school-based learning. This involvement can occur in many different ways, and it doesn’t always need to happen within the hours of the school day. But sometimes we’d like it to.
I believe connected communities are healthier and more joyful places.
Since I teach kindergarten, I believe I can play a key role in establishing the initial connection that parents/families will feel towards the school and in turn their child’s life at school. I believe connected communities are healthier and more joyful places. I love teaching kindergarten because I get to play a role in relationship building that has the potential to benefit the child their whole school life.
When I greet my learners each day, I am very intentional about making eye contact and making them feel like they are important to me and I am glad to see them. Setting this intention allows me to develop a caring relationship with my learners. They feel like they belong with me.
The thing about connected communities is that we are all seeking this sense of belonging in a new place. When families first join the school community, I believe part of my job is to also make the adults feel like this community is for them. The school serves the learners and their families. We are working together to love kids and to help them learn to be their truest, best selves. So, am I about to close the door on families because they don’t speak French? Not a chance. Home languages matter, literacy matters, and connected communities matter. Learning to speak French is a goal parents have for their children when they enrol them in French immersion. We need to feel like we are partners in meeting this goal. I also want to create opportunities for parents to strengthen their connections with this place and with one another. My hope is for every member of the school community to feel that sense of belonging. I believe contribution and generosity can help strengthen sense of belonging.
Of course I need help from families any time I wish to venture off the school grounds with my learners in order to meet legal supervision ratios. This is an obvious opportunity for parent involvement, but I don’t stop there. Let this post serve as encouragement or permission to invite families in for family reading. Once my learners have overcome any difficulties with separation anxiety, and morning drop off times are running smoothly, then I can consider inviting families to stay for family reading. Why wait to get started? One simple truth: not all families will be able to participate, and I don’t want the children whose parents can’t stay to feel like they are missing out. The goal of this time is to strengthen relationships as much as it is to promote literacy.
I love watching and listening to other people read stories to kids. In my line of work, I have many opportunities for this. Not all parents can say the same. I want them to get that chance, because I know I get better at doing it myself when I see others who are magic.
I usually offer the family reading time for the first 15 minutes of the day on Friday mornings. I set out tons of fun books in French around the classroom. I spread out some additional carpets to make things cozier and even more inviting. I set books on tables too; some parents will prefer not to sit on the floor. I also encourage families to bring books from home in their home language(s) if they don’t feel comfortable reading in French. Does this happen? Yes, so often!
I don’t control the reading time; to me this time is all about connection. Small groupings will form naturally based on interests and connections. I use this time to strengthen my connections with any learners who seem connection thirsty. I pull out a special story to read in French which the kids haven’t seen yet. They will also bring me their requests from the classroom library.
Some mornings only a few parents are able to stay while on other mornings the room will be packed. Either way, we start our day in a relaxed way reading and looking at books together. I thank everyone who came for the gift of their time.