Guest post by Susanne Aspley
“First day of school! Who will I meet? Where is my cubby? Where is my seat?”
Parents are often more nervous for the first day of school than the children, especially language immersion school. The following is some helpful advice.
Respect the teacher:
Every week we read in the news about a truly bizarre teacher, or truly awful teacher. Keep in mind that the ones that make the news are not the majority by any means. Most teachers in our schools are on our side, and want our children to be successful. They certainly don’t enter the profession for the money, so give them a benefit of the doubt and listen to their advice.
Many Immersion teachers are not native speakers of English. (This will only benefit your child to be taught by native immersion language speakers.) Therefore, the teacher’s English will be imperfect, in the most endearing way. Don’t discount that as a flaw, but a bonus. They are licensed, highly educated and degreed professionals so treat them as such. Remember, they are not teaching your child English, they are teaching your child standard American curriculum, just in a different mode of delivery (the immersion language.)
Check your child’s backpack every night, and get on a homework schedule. Immersion parents have an extra duty to make sure their kids keep up in English. Read to them or have them read english books every night.
We are all busy, whether it is working full time, kids activities or taking care of life in general. Set time aside to somehow get involved with your child’s school. Volunteering, class parties, fundraising, anything. Get in there and become part of the team that is educating your child.
Once school starts, get your routine down. Make a chart of weekly activities and homework assignments. This will help you immensely once the homework and school commitments begin to increase. Don’t waiver from the routine. Kids need routines as they feel safe, secure and at ease with knowing what is going to happen next.
Once your child is in immersion, keep in mind they will be with the same group of kids until middle school. Once middle school hits, it will all change. In my children’s school district, they have only two subjects taught in the immersion language; social studies and language arts. Math, science, and everything else will be English instruction in traditional classes, with perhaps unfamiliar kids. Therefore, make an effort to sign your immersion child up for after school clubs, scouts, sports, faith groups…anything that will encourage them to befriend non-immersion kids.
The language learning will come, but its a long haul. Please don’t put the child on the spot at family gatherings by asking them to ‘say something in Chinese!’ In the beginning, the child won’t be able to, and later may not want to. Just let the child develop the skills over time. Be patient, supportive, and most of all, don’t worrying! It will be fine!
Links The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) is a great resource. This is an interesting research article they published: Graduates of Language Immersion Programs: What are they doing now?www.carla.umn.edu/immersion/acie/vol12/no1/bridgeINSERT_Nov08.pdf
The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) Digests are a series of short reports that highlight current topics of interest covering a variety of subjects related to language learning, cultural orientation, and linguistics.www.cal.org/resources/digest/raisebilingchild.html
Susanne Aspley is the author of the I Know How to Books series- bilingual books for children beginning language immersion school. For more information, visitwww.aspleywrites.com, click on Children’s Books. Connect with Susanne on Twitter!