I worked with families that spoke English, Spanish, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and German. And that was just my initial class roster for one year!
Given all of the different primary languages – and the fact that I only speak one – it can be difficult to communicate with all of these families. You’re not expected to be your own translation service and Siri cannot be an assistant teacher. Still, you have to find ways to communicate with your families.
There is, at least, one thing everyone should communicate regardless of language barriers: everyone is welcomed in your classroom. And, despite the diversity of cultures and language, there is a universal way to communicate this feeling.
In my classroom, I dedicated one display space for family portraits. I asked families to bring one family photo to post in the classroom (one that they didn’t mind having in the classroom and not one that, if destroyed, would be devastating). Also, I communicated this in such a way that it felt like a requirement. Each family must have their photo on the wall. I mean, imagine if you were the only child who didn’t have their family portrait displayed?
And for the families who didn’t have a family portrait, I have a smartphone and a digital camera (and get a signed photo release too). Whether during a home visit or on the first day of school during sign-in, I’ll take their picture. If not on the first day, then the second or third. I’ll pester and nag. Why? Because I don’t want to imagine that only child who doesn’t have their family portrait displayed.
Nothing says that this is a welcoming classroom than to see a large display with families of all cultures and creeds posted prominently in your room. It’s a good thing. Do this!
Here are a few I found online: