Welcoming Newcomer Students

The following is an excerpt from The Newcomer Teacher: An Educator’s Guide to Aid Transition (Rowman & Littlefied International) available HERE.

We know that a whole family approach serves our students’ highest learning welfares. We understand that community interest and involvement is a school asset with tremendous payouts.  However, such presence is not instantaneous or guaranteed.  Instead, it is meticulously cultivated.  Who is responsible for this charge?  The school and its’ staff. Us.

Strong community relations cannot occur without strong communication efforts by the school.   In fact, robust school-to-home communication is an apparent quality of America’s healthiest schools.  Positive community outreach disseminates the breakdown of barriers between families and the school and endorses collaboration.  Communication is a crux of school success, and it is one that requires support, nurturing, and creative perseverance. (8).

A school can work to foster whole family engagement in any combination of ways.  The most common efforts include outreach and inclusion programs.  In our classrooms, we also employ home visits, conferencing, parent/guardian correspondence and volunteer/chaperone opportunities.  (9).

The same communication tactics are applicable in Newcomer settings.  However, they demand significant manipulation and elaboration in order to be successful.  The truth is that home communication in multi-lingual, exceptionally diverse school settings doesn’t always go over so smoothly.  There are translations, liaisons, caseworkers and older-child spokespersons.  There are misunderstandings, misgivings, fears, and discomforts.  There are frustrations, question marks, and lines of cultural jurisdiction.  There is language, language, and language. 

Despite obvious exchange barriers, the roots of parent-school partnership efforts are generally coherent across all socio-economic platforms.  In most cases, parents in every category do wish the very best for their children.  Similarly, the vast majority of teachers also manifest high hopes and expectations for every single student in their care. 

This is the meeting ground.  Under optimal conditions, the school is synonymous with safety and collaboration.  It is viewed as an action point for trustful collaboration.  In the Newcomer setting, this is non-negotiable, as many families may not be aware of or comfortable with Western academic expectations.  That’s a big responsibility.  We must make the most of it.

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