In an homage to my father’s heritage, I am choosing to welcome a family from Slovakia into my classroom. Here are some of the ways I would welcome the child and the family into the Kindergarten classroom. The classroom activities would depend on a number of factors such as the grade of the classroom and whether the new student is already speaking English. Additionally, it would also depend on whether I have local resources to tap into such as a community of speakers.
I would inform my class of the new student coming in on Monday. Then we would look at the map. We will look for their capital, Bratislava and mark it. I would also show pictures of some of the their known points of interest such as Bratislava Castle, HighTatras, and Michael’s Gate. We would keep the map up on the wall and create a welcoming sign. It would be put up next to the map.
If I could, I would have a translator come to the classroom to interpret for both our class and the family when we welcome the child and the family to the classroom. I would ask the family to introduce themselves in their native language and have the children introduce themselves as well. Then possibly, we would ask the parents to teach us how to pronounce the child’s first and last names.
We would have either one of the family members or a Slovakian community member talk about the history of Slovakia and use the welcoming map that we have on the wall.
We would then read a children’s book about Slovakia; possibly someone from the community of Slovakian speakers can read the book in Slovakia and then again in English. Slovakia: Picture Book is a great choice, and so is Ogistis ak souri li or Augustus and his Smile.
In consultation with the family, I would host a day when we would eat Slovakia food in the classroom. Although I know we eat stuffed cabbages, I would check with the family to make sure they still eat the same type of food as I did.
There is a list of folk festivals – usually during the summer months -- with dancing, local costumes, and food. I would consult with the family to see which folk festival or tradition that is important to them. Then invite them to host it for the class and if appropriate for the entire school body. I could ask the PTA to sponsor the event if it becomes a school-wide event.
Finally, even if the child has been welcomed into the classroom, I would periodically check in with the family to make sure they are adjusting to life in the United States and in the community where they live, whether there is anything they would like to know more about. Whether they think if their child is doing fine in the classroom. Whether there’s anything we could be doing more of for the child and the family.
The attention to the individual child benefits the child and the family by our communicating through our actions that the child is important and worth our taking actions to ensure that the child is adjusting and having her/his needs met.