Growing up in the public school system, I have always witnessed a huge disconnect between families and the school. I remember recognizing it when I was as young as 6th grade. That disconnect is often due to a gap in communication, which we have seen contribute to huge failures in the education system as it can lead to scholars not having access to the high-quality education that they deserve and further contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. I wanted to bridge this gap when I was as young as 16 because, even then, I recognized the effect of that disconnect.
I have strong relationships with the families at Impact Public Schools, particularly with Somali families. During my second week at Impact, one of the scholars was having a challenging day, to the point that we contacted the scholar’s parents. We needed the parents’ partnership! The scholar didn’t know I was Somali and could speak the family’s language. When I called the parent, the scholar was feeling quite comfortable and confident that he would not get in trouble with his mother at home because the parent couldn’t speak English. He knew the only way to communicate with her was to know the Somali language. When I called, I started off by saying “As-salamu Alaykum.” The scholar was immediately shocked.
As I continued to speak to the parent, the scholar looked like someone had pushed his eyes forward from the back of his head. He was out of words and didn’t know what to say. My favorite part about that phone call was when the parent said that this was the first time in her life that she didn’t feel forced to speak English in order to understand what was going on with her son at school. From that moment, I’ve seen incredible growth in that particular scholar. He knows that every action he takes, the parents will know about it. I know from all my experiences as a student and as a teacher that all parents want their scholars to succeed in the education system. I believe all parents want to hold their children accountable to getting a good high-quality education.
We can all recognize that communication in public schools has many problems. The school system has so many scholars who speak so many different languages and teachers can’t know them all. Because of that language barrier, the communication line between school and home is often diminished or even eliminated. Sometimes, teachers think that parents don’t hold their children accountable, but oftentimes the problem is the language barrier. If a parent doesn’t know what’s going on at school, how can they help? The parent has to know there is a problem. As Mr. Abdi says “without a problem, there is no solution.”