Parents are also Language Learners and Teachers
As a polyglot, it gives me great pleasure when I see students constructing meaning in a new language – especially if it’s the language I teach, and through which I learn with them. Nonetheless, when I see parents becoming engaged in this process and developing interest in the evolution their children are experiencing is when I can see the unity in our learning community.
Parents are part of the life long relationship triangle that gives meaning to the learning students experience in the classroom: not only can they be the receptacles of students’ curiosities, but can also be the recipients of lessons imparted by their very own children. Parents can collaborate with their children in the co-construction of new understandings and, hence, enrich their family environment. Similarly, they can be vessels that help children navigate the flow of their learning as they try to figure out how information acquires shape and form in the real world.
Thus, if all teachers are language teachers, parents –since they are part of the triangle of support, can also act as language teachers and learners. For this reason, at QAIS we have acknowledged the variety of languages that define our identity and want to welcome and involve parents in the language-learning universe.
In our first PYP Curriculum meeting on language learning, we decided to support parents who do not speak English by recording the key ideas of the workshop in Chinese and Korean, the two dominating languages in our environment. Yet, while we can celebrate our success thanks to the effective way in which the meeting evolved, what I believe we must commend and applaud is the community’s involvement to make this happen.
The engagement we witnessed could not have been possible without the help given by teachers and students who translated the key points of the dialogue and lent their voices to record the ideas. Moreover, it would not have been as meaningful if it had not been born from within our community. For this reason, today I would like to claim ownership on the community’s collaboration skills, faith and shared vision, for we have truly exemplified what we are all about and what we can do with what we know.
In this session, parents learned about how mother tongue is learned at different stages in their children’s development; how foreign language learning is different from mother tongue acquisition; and how both learning scenarios support each other in different ways, sometimes serving as foundation, sometimes serving as means to create meaning, and sometimes as a platform to observe similarities, identify patterns and formulate rules.
Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”, and it was our sincere hope that with today’s PYP meeting set up our intentions and efforts find a nest in parents’ hearts, so that they join this journey and live the experience of becoming a different person by learning language, as Murakami said.