Translating Home and School

Oliver’s school has large population of new immigrant students, and not all of their parents speak English. At the Prince Street Home and School we began to become concerned last year that because of this the activities of the association were excluding large numbers of parents from active participation.

And so, with the help of the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada and the support and cooperation of the school’s principal, we’ve been working to address this.

Our first effort, a small, tentative one, was to have the invitation to our annual Spring Fling translated into as many languages as possible back in 2009 and again in 2010. We also started talking about how we could improve written communication to parents.

And then, after many years of Home and School meetings where parents would be outnumbered by teachers and staff, suddenly last month we had 30 parents show up for our first meeting of the year, many of them non-English speakers. We stumbled our way through the meeting, but I think everyone was conscious that not everyone could understand everything that was being talked about.

For this week’s meeting we arranged to have translators for Chinese and Bhutanese parents at the meeting (as a bonus, our Bhutanese translator pitched in to also translate into Hindi!).

It was a new experience for all of us, and we weren’t sure how it would work. But it did. Things went a little more slowly than usual, as we’d have small bits of presentation in English, then wait for it to be translated. But we all made our way, and I think there was a good feeling on everyone’s part at the end of the meeting that we’d done better this time.

The highlight of the meeting, from a practical perspective, was when one of the Bhutanese parents was able to bring forward an issue about a change in school bus drop off points and have it addressed by the principal.

And that’s what home and school is all about at its heart: addressing concrete, practical issues with the day to day life of our children at school.


Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on November 10, 2010 - 16:59 Permalink

Bravo to you and to the school.
Double bravo, in fact.

Lori's picture
Lori on November 11, 2010 - 20:46 Permalink

What a fabulous idea!! We can’t get English speaking parents to our Home and School meetings; forget about ones for whom language is a barrier. Way to go Prince Street School!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 16, 2011 - 16:40 Permalink

Just a brief update on this: our attendance at home and school meetings has only increased since November, and we’re getting a good crowd of parents out for every meeting, and many eager and willing volunteers for our projects. It’s shaping up to be a banner year for “parent engagement” at Prince Street.