Authored by WendySue Claussen, VATESOL President, ESL Teacher in Virginia Beach
Advocacy is defined by the dictionary as “the act of speaking on the behalf of or in support of another person, place, or thing”.
I completely agree with this definition, and I truly feel that as an educator of multilingual learners this is our duty. We wear many hats as teachers, but I feel being an advocate is one of the most important roles that we play in the lives of our students.
Please see below for some of the ways that I have been involved with advocacy for my students and families. I hope this blog will spark some ideas for you in ways that you can help advocate for your students.
- Coach/train your homeroom teachers in your buildings how to differentiate independent work for your language learners.
- Connect with other specialists in the building (i.e. Math and Reading Specialists) to discuss the best way to meet the needs of your students.
- Collaborate with the Library Media Specialist in your building to ensure that there is a multilingual book section offered in the library.
- Teach colleagues how to obtain translation services (i.e., our district uses Voiance) for conversations, conferences, and connections with families.
- Suggest building administrators order signage in other languages so all students feel valued. In our school the whole building is labeled in Spanish as well as English.
- Host parent outreach meetings to connect with families.
- Find a way to communicate with all families to make sure they know about events happening in the school: PTA events, kindergarten registration, concerts, etc.…. I personally use the TalkingPoints App. Which allows me to communicate with families in their native language. Many homeroom teachers use Seewsaw to translate messages for parents.
- Offer to help the school social worker contact families that may need help. I have even gone on home visits and doctors appointments.
- Find ways to have important paperwork sent home in native language whenever possible.
- Collaborate with school counselor and/or school social worker to make sure families know what community resources are available (i.e., food banks, clothing drives, utility bill assistance, WIFI connection, etc.….).
- Reach out to community members to see if they are willing to volunteer at your school.
- Utilize your Partners in Education companies to be part of the school community (i.e., participate in PTA events, make donations, volunteer, etc.…)
- Invite local heroes (i.e., FD, PD, EMTs) to be guest readers at your school or attend celebrations at your school.
- Arrange for a mentorship program with local heroes (i.e., at my school we had bi-lingual sheriffs be mentors for our ESL kids).
- Speak at school board meetings when necessary to stand up for your students.