Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Home Visits

I recently was a guest blogger on Raki's Rad Resources. I posted this entry there.  If you haven't checked out her blog, please do so...right now! 

Raki's Rad Resources

Home Visits:  Making Connections with Students and Their Families

            One of the most powerful strategies a teacher can use to make connections with students and their families is by making home visits. Over my past few years as an English as a Second Language teacher, I have made several home visits.   I have found that they take extra time and effort, but the eventual results are worthwhile.  In fact, I believe the “payoffs” are huge!

            One of my students was struggling to access an online student reading program.  After trying several notes back and forth with the child’s mother, I offered to make a home visit to see what I could do to help.  When I arrived, Mother and the three children welcomed me to their home.  They offered me a tray of traditional sweets and pistachios along with a cold can of Pepsi.  I sat and chatted with Mother for about 20 minutes before I began to work on their home computer.  It took me more than an hour of tinkering with several possible solutions to figure out why they couldn’t access the online reading program, but finally, it worked!  Hurrah!  We celebrated and then I waited while my student completed one of the online lessons.  I wanted to make sure she was successful before I left.  Mother observed how the online lesson was supposed to work so she could help her daughter in the future.  While we were waiting on my student finish her lesson, Father called on his cell phone.  He couldn’t be there in person to meet me, but he wanted to talk with me and to thank me for visiting his home and helping his child. 

            Another time I visited a family who lived in an apartment complex housing many families from the same country and culture.  As a teacher colleague and I along with our school district interpreter walked between buildings, a cry arose of “Teachers are here!”  Suddenly, doors opened and children streamed out.  They were excitedly yelling at each other in their first language while interspersing their conversation with the English words, “Teacher, Teacher!”  We were quickly engulfed by a crowd of children hugging us and saying our names. As we made our way to the apartment, we must have looked like a small parade to any onlookers!  The children of the family we were scheduled to visit thrust themselves importantly to the head of the group and led us to their home.  They escorted us into their apartment and sat down cross-legged on the floor.  We greeted Mother and Auntie and started our meeting.  During the visit, other children kept peeking in the open door of the apartment.  They giggled, whispered and waved to us as we talked with the adults of the family. 

            I’ve met many families and found that every one of them appreciated the time I’ve taken to visit their homes.  I’ve eaten a variety of food such as Latin American candy,  Middle Eastern pastries and cookies, spicy Asian hot wings and Somali sambusis (triangular shaped fried pastries filled with a spicy ground meat, onion and peppers mixture).  I’ve sipped hot tea, spiced chai, assorted soft drinks and unfamiliar fruit juices.  It seems to be a universal gesture from all of the families I’ve visited to offer the teacher a treat or drink.   I always try to accept graciously even if I don’t care for something because I know it’s important to my students. 

            Home visits have made a difference for me in how I relate to my students and their families.  Parents are always more comfortable communicating with me after they have hosted me in their homes.  I find now that mothers, fathers, “aunties” and others make the time to stop in my classroom when they come to school for Open House nights or when they come to pick up their children during the school day.  I see them at district meetings and cultural events and, yes, sometimes even at the grocery store, hardware store or the mall!  Without fail, they greet me with a smile, a handshake or even a hug (from the women).  If you have not tried home visits with your students, I suggest you try.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the positive results.   

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