Family Picture Board

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.


How do you say “Good morning” in Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Tagalog, & German?

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:

Siri photo from


Nature Inside

I spend a lot of time on computers. Graphic design. Photography. Making home videos. Introverted kind of stuff. I like it. It’s how I like to spend my free time.

I also like the outdoors. Well, I “love-hate” the outdoors. The sweeping views under a sweltering hot sun. The cool ocean breeze as seagulls attack for food. Taking a leisurely hike in a humidity-ridden forest. See what I mean? Love-hate.

Still, I like nature. In fact, I like to bring nature into my home. How? Fake plants. Amazon has some great ones and they look good on book shelves and in the kitchen. Why not real plants you may ask? Well, I don’t have a good track record with live plants. I mean, they’re alive when I get them. Wished they stayed that way.

Bringing the outdoors inside gives me the sense of nature that I crave since my hobbies and creative interests are indoors. And I go without the sun, humidity and the bugs that make it miserable.

There is also another inside place where I spent a lot of time: the classroom. The teacher’s  classroom is often a reflection of the instructor. Some like a bare bones classroom (and I’m thinking high school here). Others spend a month’s salary getting fade resistant butcher paper and borders. I understand.

What influenced my classroom design. Well, of course, fake plants. Moving around a lot from room to room (San Francisco living), my fake plants were put into storage. Saw them one day and figured they would be better served in the classroom than a closet.

There happened to be some shelves near some of my classroom windows within the library. The plants added a cozy factor to the space. I added velcro to the bottom of the plants and the top of the shelf to increase stability.


Also, I would occasionally add a real plant. Don’t worry, it wasn’t put necessarily at child level (depending on the pottery material). Also, don’t worry, I wasn’t the primary care giver. For the sake of the plants, it’s life was better put in the hands of the kiddos (and my assistant teacher).

Adding my own personal touch not only worked out for the classroom design, but also gave me some comfort. I didn’t intentionally design my classroom in this way, but I rather stumbled and discovered that, yeh, I like having plants around me. Just like I do at home. I know it’s  a place for kiddos, but it’s a place I have to be in as well. I might as well have some familiar things that comfort and soothe me if I’m spending 40+ hours a week in this place.