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Make Parents Your Allies in Language Immersion

March 28, 2013

Nightingale & Weise

From the Asia Society. Jamila Nightingale is doing great work here in the San Francisco Bay area to support African-American families with children in Mandarin immersion programs. I strongly encourage schools to reach out to Parents of African American Students Studying Chinese (PASSC) to talk about creating groups in your own schools and districts. San Francisco’s very successful Alice Fong Yu Cantonese Immersion school has long had a Black Student Union, for example. Our programs are often incorrectly seen as primarily for Asian and white families, but of course all children should benefit from the great advantage of being bilingual, and especially bilingual in Chinese. To do that, we’ve got to deal with some of the assumptions people have head on. Jamila’s work is helping all of us do that.



By Heather Clydesdale

“Parents, wait here.” In China, it is not uncommon for this message to be posted outside school entrances. By contrast, U.S. schools, in part because of strains caused by shrinking budgets, have flung their doors open for parent volunteers. This, coupled with a culture that lauds exhaustive parent involvement in children’s lives, can leave Chinese teachers can feeling drained and unsure about how to help parents advance students’ education.

Elizabeth Weise, founding member of the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council, and Jamila Nightingale, founder and director of Parents of African American Students Studying Chinese, frequently speak to audiences of Chinese language teachers and administrators, and share strategies for winning the support of parents and communities.

Weise, who has two daughters enrolled in language immersion classes and is writing a book aimed at parents, explains that mothers and fathers who have been absorbed by every moment of their children’s lives are jolted when their children enter a Chinese language program. Suddenly, “a curtain has come across six hours of their kid’s day. It is a black box. And if you don’t tell them what is happening, they’ll imagine it.”

Please read more here.

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