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Helping multilingual families at MPS

The Marshall Public School District is having family engagement events for parents

Photo by Mike Lamb Pauline Htoo and Day Ku Shee, in the front, and Moo Say Paw were busy playing with blocks and Legos inside a Marshall Middle School classroom Saturday while their parents participated in roundtable discussions during the family engagement event held at the school.

MARSHALL — As young children played with Legos and wooden blocks in a nearby classroom, parents of different backgrounds and cultures sat at tables inside the multipurpose room at Marshall Middle School on Saturday morning. It was there that language interpreters connected parents with teachers.

“I got excellent feedback from my table,” Marshall Public School District English learning teacher Chris Hess said. “I broke down and cried.”

The roundtable discussions were set up as one of four family engagement events for the parents of multilingual learners in the school district. Multilingual learners are those students that the primary language that is spoken at home is something other than English.

Saturday’s event was scheduled as an informational event about the English learners program

Both Hess and fellow teacher Elizabeth Ritter found the session as a “personal connection” between them and the parents. The teachers then answered questions from the parents.

“The purpose of the roundtable discussions it to learn things such as — what’s going well for them in school, what would they like to learn more about, what is something more we should know about their culture, how do they feel parent/teacher conferences went?” Ritter said.

“We had excellent discussions at our table and they (parents) really appreciated it,” Hess said. “It’s things they need help with. Like a lot of my Somali parents, they don’t know how to get on the parent portal. So I told them the next time we will definitely have a station that they can come to and learn how to do that so they can access their kids’ grades and missing assignments.”

Ritter said the sessions will hopefully help parents navigate the school system “because it’s so different.”

The language interpreters at the family engagement event are called connectors and often are used by teachers to connect with students and parents.

“The parents are very comfortable with them. They really bridge the gap between home and school. If there is ever an issue we can contact them and they help us with the families. We would be lost without them,” Ritter said.

She also said the family engagement events are set up to break down language barriers.

“Sometimes there is a language barrier,” she said. “How do we break them down. Get our families more involved in our schools.”

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