A program that empowers parents with the skills to be their child’s first teacher has come to Kent City Elementary School.
Parents Are Teachers has found a new home here, where migrant families and other English-language learners can use a boost to help their children succeed.
Laura Uhrbrock, a parent of first-grade twins and a sixth-grader, speaks impeccable English, having lived in the Kent City area for nearly 15 years since her migrant family decided to stay for good. Despite having overcome the language barrier, she has joined Parents Are Teachers.
“The information and the simple bond with the teachers and the school staff, it really helps,” Uhrbrock said. “Sometimes you feel overwhelmed when you’re there. To actually show you that they care, it makes you know you’re not alone.”
Uhrbrock wants to stay up-to-date with her children’s progress in school, know what lessons they’re learning, what they have assigned as homework, and what she can do at home to help them achieve goals.
P.A.T. also equips parents with knowledge of other resources, such as reading apps for smartphones, to provide more learning time outside of school. Finding affordable ways to keep her children engaged is crucial, Uhrbrock explained.
“Money-saving is one thing,” she said. “Especially if you come from alarge family. It’s really helping. They’re giving you resources on stores and brands… anything to help them learn reading.”
Report card confidence
In just the third week of regular Monday meetings, the P.A.T. lesson focused on upcoming parent-teacher conferences. For many families who are learning English, a conference can be an intimidating experience, ELL consultant Monica Diaz said.
“We help them know what kinds of questions do they want to ask, what does the report card look like, how do we read the report card,” Diaz said. “We encourage them in figuring out, ‘What do I need to listen for? What do I need to ask?'”
P.A.T. helps parents feel comfortable in the conference setting, as parents are shown examples of letter grades ranging from very positive to — as one parent put it for a round of laughter — “un desastre!”
The lessons are taught by Kent City Elementary teacher Kim Fox, while consultants Diaz and Marilyn Castillo co-teach and translate. Meanwhile, Assistant Principal Will Lepech gathers the parents’ children in a separate classroom, where students complete projects that prompt an opportunity for parents to continue their learning at home.
The first lesson focused on visualizing while reading, in which students created thought bubbles and drew the events of what they read, work which they took home to practice with their parents. Both parents and students returned the second week to share what they learned.
Parents are taught reading comprehension skills to follow along with their children, along with writing, listening and speaking skills.
Both Diaz and Castillo have taught the program at Godwin Heights, where it has existed for over 15 years. Diaz said she has witnessed countless transformations.
“Previously in my time working at the P.A.T. program, I’ve seen parents that would come into the building to drop off or pick up or come for parent-teacher conferences, but maybe really not come very often,” she said. “By the end of the program, we have parents that are volunteering on a daily basis.
“They’re much more comfortable asking to meet with their teacher. They’re following up with their teacher on daily things that their child is struggling with. They feel much more comfortable asking for practice.”
P.A.T. will soon take a trip to the local library, expanding the resources parents have access to outside the school.
Castillo said even without English fluency, parents can do a lot to help their children read in both languages.
“All of our lessons we’re doing here — literacy, accuracy, fluency — are what is expected for them to learn with their native language,” Castillo said. “Those skills transfer to the language, empowering them so they feel confident and secure that they can help their children even though they don’t know the language.”
Lara Uhrbrock said she has grown as a parent in the first three weeks of P.A.T., and the more information she has, the more comfortable she feels in the school setting.
“All the knowledge they’re giving you is a prize in itself,” she said. “That knowledge is passing onto your kids — free knowledge. When you pass it on, pretty soon you’re a powerhouse of a parent and you’ve just got this.”