Tonight was a successful night. We held a parent informational night with a slight twist..."in Spanish". We really didn't have too many families attend, about five, but I truly believe that those five families really benefited from the information, networking, and collaboration we all engaged in. It was a night full of bonding, we talked a lot about what was happening at the school but we also talked about things that are in these families' minds, like Puerto Rico's devastation after the hurricane. It was quite a small setting and we got to talk to families individually.
Parent nights are great ways to get to know families of students, whether they are in a different language or not.
There are other ways to engage families that might feel a little shy because their native tongue is not English. One of those way is by attending events that are hosted by a place of worship or even a local festival that highlights their culture. You might even get a chance to meet leaders of their community. Another successful way to engage families of other ethnicities or nationality would be via oral and written communication. Families will respond and feel more included if you communicate with them in a language familiar to them. That makes sense, right? It's easier for them to support if they know you need support.
Inviting parents to volunteer doesn't always mean they have to be proficient in English. Actually if you invite them to the school to help cut out letters or stuff Friday Folders (in elementary) or even help make copies, they could practice their English and also be helping out at the same time.
Having a bilingual staff member who speaks their native tongue would also go a long way. Oh and last but not least...maybe you could learn a few words or even label a few items in the classroom in their primary language. These kind of gestures say, "I care about you".
Adding English classes help parents become proficient in the language which eventually will mean they can help their child with homework, etc. Also I have found that making home visits really helps build positive relationships with parents and students.
If you've never tried any of these strategies, I would probably start with one parent informational night..."in Spanish".
Those are easy because the content is the same or similar to the content shared on your first parent night for all parents.
After all, everyone knows that people don't normally care until they know YOU care!