The following article, written by Dr. Jeannette Groth, was designed for parents who have recently immigrated to the U.S. and may be preparing to send a child to a U.S. school for the first time. Groth has taught all grades from one to eight and taught middle school social studies for 10 years at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington. Her teaching experience has an international component. She has done education consultancy in Ghana, West Africa and Cambodia. Groth has an interest in international programs at the University of Kentucky College of Education and works to help students become more globally aware. Her area of research is citizenship and democracy.
Preparing for Your Child to Attend School in the U.S.
By Jeannette Groth, Ed.D., lecturuer, University of Kentucky College of Education
Throughout our children’s lives there are many things for which we prepare. We start by preparing for their birth and then follow through by preparing for their birthday each year. We prepare for what we feed them daily. We prepare for ways to supply their health needs. We also often prepare for the ways we get the things they need for success in school. Now it is time to prepare again.
Different cultures view the relationship of parent to school in different ways. Don’t let your own school experience cloud your child’s school career. Some think that it is the school and the teacher’s job when it comes to all aspects of actual education.
Our schools, however, are built on a partnership between students, teachers, and parents. “Together” is a key word for your child’s success in school. This often starts when the school year begins. Schools have times set for visiting or social activities to allow you to get acquainted with teachers, other parents, and children. This is a very good time to talk with other parents with whom you may share a language or culture. By doing this you can find out some of the expectations of the school or just make a friend with whom you can share questions.
It is usual that teachers try to obtain some contact information from parents. They may make a scheduled visit to your home. As the first weeks of school pass they may contact you for an informal conference or to share with you some of the wonderful things that your child is doing or to give you suggestions to help you work with your child at home. Remember your child’s education is a partnership and you are an important participant. At a certain time of the year you will be invited to school to talk personally with your child’s teacher. If this is unfamiliar to you, know that it is a normal occurrence. All parents will receive this invitation.
By now you may know a bit more about your child’s school. Is there someone in your school who speaks your language? Is there a fellow parent who can go with you to the conference to help you understand what is being said? Be sure to request a translator if you have difficulty understanding English. The school system is required to provide a translator for you.
When you arrive at the parent/teacher conference bring questions you may have about your child’s school performance, school routines and expectations. Remind the translator that he or she is to tell you exactly what the teacher is saying and not put his or her own ideas or slant on what is being shared. Tell the translator to communicate to the teacher that while you may not be able to speak in the teacher’s language you may understand what the teacher is saying. Focus your attention on the teacher and not on the translator. Share anything about your child that you think is important for the teacher to know to make your child successful. Be ready to write down words or ideas that you may not understand so that you can share these with the translator. If possible volunteer for something you can do at school. This puts you in constant connection with your child’s learning environment. It shows your interest in your child’s education. Remember that you, the teacher, and your child are partners in your child’s learning.
Congratulations! If you follow these suggestions once again you have prepared for an important ongoing event in your child’s life—the school career.