For one year, Justine Gosselin-Gagné and her team from the Université de Montréal were able to integrate the daily life of two Montreal elementary schools in order to identify the practices and attitudes of different staff members that aim to create an inclusive link with the students' families.
The participating primary schools welcome 85 % of pupils with an immigrant background, a large proportion of whom are in precarious financial situations. These schools had a reputation for seeking to adapt to the needs of their school clientele in various ways on a daily basis. Ms. Gosselin-Gagné wanted to document the situation experienced in these schools.
“Ethnocultural diversity is not a new phenomenon in the metropolis. However, the situation is taken into account differently from one setting to another. The schools that are most successful in creating a climate of openness and school-family collaboration are those that see diversity as an asset and take a leadership position to forge links with families, ”says Ms. Gosselin-Gagné.
Through their observations, members of his team identified inclusive practices, which can be applied to any school context.
1. Offer an explicit welcome
Many parents with an immigrant background do not know the Quebec school system and how it works. In order to feel like a stakeholder in their child's school, they need to feel welcomed and guided in the school, in order to create benchmarks. Guided tour of the school, meeting with the staff, establishing links with resources are some examples to put in place.
2. Maintain the dialogue
School teams benefit from setting up and maintaining two-way dialogue with parents. They like to be informed about what is going on in the school (and not just the bad news).
3. Communicate in the parents' language
Some parents simply do not have a sufficient command of French or English to understand what is going on at school. This incomprehension can confuse them. Do not hesitate to have recourse to translation for documents or even to interpreters during parent meetings.
4. Adopt a professional posture
Parents with an immigrant background have expressed that they feel uncomfortable going physically to their children's school for fear of being judged by school staff. Keep in mind that all parents aim for the best for their children, regardless of their language, appearance and values.
5. Diversify the means of getting in touch with parents
It may seem natural to communicate with parents by email in 2021. However, the use of this means of communication is not yet natural for everyone. In some cases, you should not hesitate to call parents directly or send messages on paper, through the children.
6. Be flexible in communications
More and more parents have atypical jobs and do not have regular working hours. Likewise, many simply cannot be absent or make phone calls during working hours. Sometimes you have to be available in the evening or on weekends to keep in touch with them.
7. Invite parents to the school
Parents can also find a place in the school outside of formal times. They can volunteer in classrooms, at the library, during special activities. They can come and share life experiences and knowledge with the students. This type of reception allows them to better understand the rhythm of school life and to create referents.
8. Equipping parents
All parents want their children to succeed in school. Do not hesitate to offer them additional resources (academic support, mentoring, etc.) to support their children, always by suggesting and not by imposing. Moreover, in some cases, the resources proposed will go beyond the school's initial mandate. Sometimes it could be providing medical or more personal support to parents.
Ms. Gosselin-Gagné presented the results of this research at the most recent ACFAS conference.