Parent Teacher Conferences with ELL Parents

Later this week we have our spring conferences. As a classroom teacher, I loved conferences because it gave me a better insight into my students, and provided a great opportunity to talk with parents who are not as available.

As I have transitioned to a full time ESL teacher, I’ve found that one of the hardest transitions was during conferences. I cannot be at all of my kids conferences due to time restraints and the fact that I work in two separate buildings. This makes me miss my time in the classroom, getting to really interact with families.

Once I became the ESL teacher, I was in charge of finding all of the needed interpreters for conferences. I have to be honest, before I became the full time ESL teacher, our families had to find interpreters on their own, or their children tried to interpret.

My district is small enough, that out of three elementary schools, we only have one bilingual para, and she is located in the building I do not work in. Now we use a service to provide interpreters for our families. This service has always been around, I just finally figured out how to really make it work.

Here are some hints to using and scheduling multiple families who need interpreters during conferences, when you have to be budget minded and keep the number of interpreters down to a minimum.

1. Schedule your conferences FIRST. Do not let teachers schedule anyone else first. (Keep in touch with SPED teachers as IEP’s might be scheduled during this time).  This allows you the flexibility to fit one student per slot, and keep them all together. Be sure siblings are scheduled back to back.

2. Really communicate (over and over) with classroom teachers the times that have been chosen for their students.

3. Be sure to check in with the business that the interpreters will arrive on time, and as expected. It’s even better if they can give you names of interpreters so you can let your classroom teachers know.

4. Document everything. Keep everything. You never know.

5. Check in with your teachers as often as possible to make sure conferences don’t change. When they do change and you don’t have a translator, check back in with the teacher to see if another time will work.

6. Let your school office know that you have an interpreter coming. I always like to give them a copy of the schedule so they can help guide the interpreter if they get off track.

7. Be nice to your interpreter. Be overly organized and give them a list of all the conferences they will need to translate, the time the conference begins, and the location. I even like to color code (this is because my school is broken up into different color pods).

8. Be even nicer to your interpreter. Have water available, at the bare minimum. They’ll be doing a lot of talking.

Up next week: Information to share with classroom teachers about how to work with an interpreter. Including a free printable that you can just slip in teachers mailboxes.