Public School districts around the United States are culturally diverse often with more than 80 languages represented. While working as a kindergarten teacher at Cedar Crest Academy in Bellevue, WA, I developed relationships with families from around the world. I worked with students whose first languages were Chinese, Korean, Telugu, Russian, and Japanese. One boy, Syeva, was from Russia and didn't speak English yet. His mom was very concerned that he wouldn’t know what was going on in the class. I reassured her that with my ELL training he was going to learn English while maintaining love, language, and pride for his Russian heritage. I advised her to continue to speak Russian with Syeva at home because we learn a new language by making connections from our first language.
On the first day of school Syeva's mom stepped into my classroom and saw the desk set up. Why weren’t they in rows? In Russia the desks would all be facing forward, not in groups facing away from the board. How will he learn? This is one example of why it is so important exchange accurate information with a parent from a different culture. As a teacher I needed to communicate and prove my educational philosophy/expertise and it was a sensitive subject being that this was her child's first school experience in a new country. I explained my reasoning for the arrangement which included giving students a chance to meet new friends in the first month of school by grouping desks together. I change the desk set up every month as a behavior management technique so that students have a new perspective and to accommodate introvert/extrovert personality types. I assured her that at some point in the year all the desks will be facing forward towards the board. I also explained that in my class the students will not always be at desks, they will be moving around the room to work. All of this was very new and I could tell she was not yet sure of my philosophy but she trusted me based on our mutual level of respect in face-to-face communication.
This was in 2013, the Bloomz translation feature was still in it's incubation phase. If I had this tool while working with my Russian student's family our communication would have been immensly improved. Throughout the year I communicated with my class parents by writing daily emails and monthly newsletters. With Bloomz I now have the opportunity to translate my communication. Families can set their preferred language and see content posted by the teacher in that language. Whether teachers or parents are posting in English, Spanish, or any of the other 80+ languages users can toggle the auto translate button for optimum comprehension.
Though I didn't have an auto translate feature at this time I did manage to successfully connect with my student's family. Riding together on field trips provided us an opportunity to chat and connect on a personal and professional level. By the end of the year we were both in tears as I said goodbye to Syeva when he graduated to first grade. This was a tough goodbye because where they are from in Russia students stay with the same teacher from kindergarten until they graduate high school. I’ve stayed in touch with Syeva’s parents online, his father gave me a positive recommendation on LinkedIn. He stated, “Ms. Miqueli is a wonderful teacher, who loves her work and her class, has lots of experience with ESL students and can find a personal approach to every child. Every kid in her class feels being special. Parents stay connected and participate in many school activities thanks to the daily mails with pictures and teacher's observations. Academic program aside, children learn to communicate and understand others emotions, be responsible and kind to each other.”
Think about how ELL families' school experiences are now enhanced by advances in communication technology such as Bloomz App. Are you a teacher or parent utilizing the translation feature in Bloomz? If so, please share your experiences in the comment section below.