THIS WEEK IS NATIONAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE WEEK- we want to say first of all, YOU ARE AMAZING TEACHERS! Teaching in the elementary school brings it's own challenges and we salute all you dedicated professionals who make every day a special one in the life of a child!
WE ALSO KNOW that elementary programs can find themselves in insecure positions, especially during difficult budget years or in those districts that lack great vision for the future. Whether your program is secure or not, however, it is of ongoing importance to advocate for, and educate about, your program. Here are some ideas to keep your program front and center, reaching parents, administration, and the community:
*BE PRESENT IN YOUR SCHOOL: Attend Open Houses, be visible and available during conferences, participate in grade level or school wide events such as performances and assemblies. While these may not be foreign language specific, your presence allows parents to get to know you, putting a face with a name, and giving them opportunities to ask questions about your program.
*COMMUNICATE with parents via newsletters and/or notes home. Put a blurb in the school newsletter or create one yourself for your program, highlighting what is happening in your classes. Create a Facebook, Twitter, or blog account for your program, and encourage parents to follow it. Parents want to know what is going on in their child's life; this is a good opportunity to not only share your themes and activities, but also information about why elementary programs are important- there is ample research showing their importance, share it with parents! (A great resource for this is NNELL, National Network for Early Language Learning)
*HOST A FOREIGN LANGUAGE NIGHT or team up with other "Specials" classes to have a night focused on your program and invite parents and administrators.
*ACTIVITIES DONE IN CLASS can serve as ambassadors for your program- when you send home activity pages, projects, etc these give your students an opportunity to share their excitement about what they are learning, making a home school connection with families. If you have the time, attach a note telling parents about the activity or the theme to further educate them on what your program is about.
*CONNECT WITH THE MEDIA in your town. Local newspapers love to feature events in school, so give a call and see if they would be interested in doing a piece on a special event or activity you are doing in your program. This raises awareness in the larger community (who vote on school budgets, and may not have kids in your school) about your program- don't underestimate the power of those grandparents and community members who value language instruction!
*GIVE A BOARD PRESENTATION about your program. Tell them about the why and how of what you do; if you can, invite some students to demonstrate a song or activity. Remember, board members come and go, so keeping them appraised about the value of the program is an ongoing need.
*SEND PERTINENT ARTICLES to your administrators and board members... when a great article comes along that outlines why foreign language instruction or being bilingual is important, send the link along to those decision makers in your district. It is always good to keep your program and it's value on the front burner.
*ORGANIZE A FUNDRAISER that supports a cause related to Spanish speaking countries. Kids can get really excited and involved in fundraising events, sharing their enthusiasm with families and neighbors. This is a win-win for your program- a wonderful reinforcement of philanthropy combined with heightened awareness of your program. See our post on ideas for charity here, which includes links to several great non profit organizations.
Happy National Foreign Language Week!