Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to school

Although classes at Emily Griffith don't resume until September 2, the kids attending Denver Public Schools return to classes very soon--August 18. If your student is the parent of a DPS child, there are ways you can support her (him) in getting the kids ready for school.
  • School supplies: Most schools provide a comprehensive shopping list prior to the start of the fall semester. Consider donating a few supplies to the cause. School supplies are drastically on sale right now. Click here for a list of schools and links to their Websites, which link to supply lists

  • Uniforms: Many of the kids on the east side of town will attend Place Bridge School. Although uniforms are not required, per se, there is a very specific dress code for students. Parents might need some help getting the right clothing for their kids. Some will have the money to do this, some might appreciate a helping hand. It is better to buy the clothes outright rather than giving money.

  • Start-of-school papers: It amazes me that considering the level of diversity within K-12 schools, teachers still send home very complicated information packets for parents. Our students can't understand any of it, and this can be a real source of stress and frustration. Anything coming from the school must be critically important, right? Often it isn't. You can help by sitting with your student and separating the important from the not-so-important, and if possible, explaining what each thing is in simple language. Also, some things will need to be signed, and you can explain those, too.

  • Expectations: In many cultures, parents have no involvement in their child's education. In U.S. culture, we expect parents to monitor homework, assist with school projects, and attend parent-teacher conferences. In the schools, there is often a misinterpretation of parent interest regarding a child's education. It isn't that refugee and immigrant parents don't care or don't wish to be involved, rather, they don't know they're supposed to. Also, parents may feel embarrassed because they speak less English than their children or have no formal education themselves. Role-playing the parent-teacher conference--maybe even going along--might be one of the most helpful tings you can do.

  • Homework: Explain what it is and that parents should make sure their children do it. You may be called upon to help with homework or at least to check it. Whether or not you actually do this is entirely up to you! Parents may feel frustrated and ashamed that they cannot help their children in this regard. Be sensitive to this fact and reassure your student that someday she'll be able to do it!

  • Nutrition: Some of our refugee kids will be enrolled in school breakfast and lunch programs. A good lesson for the parents would be to explain what good nutrition is for kids and how critically important it is that children are properly fed at breakfast and lunch. A hungry child cannot learn effectively, but if parents have never had to prepare their kids for school, this may not be something they have thought about until now. See the earlier post on this blog about nutrition lessons created specifically for refugees.
If your student's child comes home with a paper that requires more explanation, don't hesitate to call the school directly. While you're at it, help your student learn the language of asking questions on her child's behalf. This is a skill your student really needs!

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