Welcoming Parents of Dual Language Learners to Parent-Teacher Conferences

Many schools schedule parent-teacher conferences during the month of November. In U.S. schools, conferences are arranged as a time for parents and teachers to meet to discuss each child’s learning and development. Parents and teachers may review samples of the child’s work, such as a child’s individual portfolio with examples of new knowledge and skills that the child has developed since the start of the school year. They share ideas about the child’s interests at home and school.

For families of dual language learners (DLLs), the parent-teacher conference may be a new experience. Families may come from a country where parent-teacher conferences are not part of the educational system. Federal law requires school districts to provide interpreters for parent-teacher conferences. It is important not to have children be interpreters for their families during parent-teacher conferences.

Schools may need to schedule training for interpreters so they are prepared in advance for conferences. This training may include learning education terms or concepts that are new to them. Schools and/or teachers may want to prepare a glossary with definitions of common education terms for interpreters.

During parent-teacher conferences, it is important to always speak directly to the parents. Allow extra time so parents have a chance to ask questions about their child. If you provide written materials to families to take home from the parent-teacher conference, make sure it is written in their home language. This includes child progress reports, community resource lists, program newsletters, etc.

Parent-teacher conferences should be planned as a warm, welcoming event for ALL families. At the early childhood level, parents are learning what to expect from their child’s school in the United States. Their experiences with parent-teacher conferences in the early years can set the stage for a positive view of their child’s schooling.

When parents of young DLLs have a positive parent-teacher conference experience, they will likely continue to engage with their child’s teachers throughout the school years.

Bernie Laumann
blaumann@illinois.edu

Dr. Bernadette M. Laumann is the coordinator of the Illinois Early Learning Project. She has been a child care teacher, an early childhood special education teacher, director of an inclusive early childhood program, researcher, and university teacher educator. Her research interests include mentoring and induction activities for beginning teachers and the use of technology in connecting evidence-based practice.