The ESL for Families program grew out of a community need for education for parents of school-age children who were English language learners: a class that would give parents language skills and also knowledge and resources to navigate the U.S. school system.
In this program– created and run through a partnership between the Carlos Rosario School and the DC public schools– adult ESL classes are held at local public elementary schools generally where children of the adult language learners are studying. ESL for Families teacher Ruth Ticktin explained the program saying, “Parents find information, navigation tools and resources by learning and practicing communication with the classroom community that is formed in this unique program.” Teachers who lead the classrooms in this program are bilingual, bicultural and have a depth of experience working with low income parents with limited resources and education.
Students’ language levels in the classes range from language literacy to beginning ESL. Class objectives include everything from how to read school calendars and report cards to family budgeting and what to ask teachers during parent-teacher conferences. These busy students attend class 12 hours a week Monday through Thursday often times while working one to two jobs and raising a family. Maria, mother of four who is also caring for her 8-year-old grandson said, “Now I know what it’s like to be a student at school. I tell my daughter and grandson, I know it’s hard but you need to go. It’s important for the future.”
During a recent Carlos Rosario ESL for Families class at Truesdell Elementary School, eight parents sat around a large table in front of laptop computers. They were spending their computer lab hour creating Gmail accounts and sending emails, in some cases for the first time ever. One teacher and an assistant walked students through creating a profile and explained the importance of a strong yet memorable password. In this class composed of Spanish and Amharic speakers, students with more technology experience helped their classmates until everyone had set up an account and emailed their teacher. Having an email account is essential in today’s digital society and a key tool for teachers and parents to stay connected.
In the 2014-2015 school year the Carlos Rosario School is offering six classes at local elementary schools: Bruce Monroe, Luther Place Church, Truesdell, Barnard, Brightwood and Powell. Seventy-eight families are currently benefiting from this program.