How can I best help the community I serve?
This question is fundamental in education. Having taught in multiple settings, I find this question to be a challenge that I am willing to confront. Teachers spend instructional time teaching during the day and then put in time at home planning. It’s a challenge to find the time and energy for more, but at Ocean Academy Charter School, we do.
Our community is made up of many Latino families with U.S.-born children. The challenges that are faced by our families are immensely influenced by politics, socio-economic status, and access to resources.
Having taught at other schools in the area, I vowed to bring to a familiar population when I joined Ocean Academy Charter School. I didn’t know how to truly change the lives of families in our community, but I knew that the opportunity to work at a charter school would afford me the flexibility to achieve this goal. I was unsure if my idea to pilot the Latino Family Literacy Program would be welcomed, as there are usually many hoops to jump through when starting a parent program. Thankfully, there was no hesitation or doubt from my administration that our families would benefit greatly from a program such as this.
I was ecstatic (and intimidated) by my new promise to the parents of our students. Thankfully, I have a seasoned Latino Family Literacy presenter and paraprofessional, Ada Roman, by my side to assist me in our endeavors. The Latino Family Literacy program provides an opportunity for parents to learn about the importance of reading at home. We are currently conducting our 10-week program for the second time. This year, we have added a supplemental component that teaches parents English language literacy and phonics. Our intention for adding Family Phonics is to help parents understand the phonics skills their children are learning in school.
During our two-hour session, we have two instructional components. We read a bilingual Spanish-English book and discuss questioning strategies that parents can use at home when reading with their children. The parents then borrow the book for the week to read with their children using the strategies we discussed in our session. The second component provides English instruction to parents. I am proud of our charter school in recognizing the need for the program and believing in my vision.
Ultimately, I believe our program is empowering for parents as they are also becoming comfortable expanding their own linguistic repertoire. As they learn English, they become more confident in their ability to help their children with homework or communicate with teachers. Language barriers, conflicting schedules, and complicated personal factors often influence the home-school connection—which has proven to be an important factor in a child’s academic success. In choosing to place their child in our charter school and attend the Latino Family Literacy Project, parents are given valuable tools needed to overcome these obstacles. I am thankful that because I work at a public charter school, I can have an active voice in designating programs that will best suit our population.
Each Thursday night in our classroom at Ocean Academy Charter School, the connections may seem inconsequential, but our families are gaining resources and knowledge necessary for academic and personal success.
Harley Place is an ESL teacher and coordinator for Ocean Academy Charter School. She also oversees the Latino Family Literacy parent program.