July 18th, 2024

Newcomer parents gaining valuable language skills at George Davidson

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on March 9, 2024.

030924- A group of parents work together on a language worksheet alongside Brittany LeBlanc on Friday during the coffee and conversations program. -- NEWS PHOTO ANNA SMITH

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

Public school parents gathered on Friday for a chance to practice their English language skills and make important connections with members of their community.

The Medicine Hat Public School Division program runs every Friday at 3 p.m. at George Davidson Elementary School, as a joint effort from the Family School Liaison Worker and Cultural Liaison.

“We learned from speaking with them that something that they really need is an opportunity to practice English,” said Brittany LeBlanc, Family School Liaison Worker at the school. “They’re really enthusiastic about supporting their children academically, in every way. And English is sometimes a barrier. So we develop this program to try and meet that need.”

The program is very informal, offering parents a chance to take part in conversations with native English speakers and share experiences and tips with each other.

The experience has been helpful for parents such as Abboud Al Abdallah, who has completed up to Level Four of more traditional language courses, but found that it’s quite different learning from a book than it is holding a conversation.

“The only problem with the program is that it’s a short time,” said Al Abdallah. “It’s been really helpful in learning English and improving our language.”

Al Abdallah has seven children, and wants to be able to support their learning.

“This is only the second time I’ve been here,” said Al Abdallah. “The first time, we learned about the months of the year, the days of the week. It’s simple English, but it’s helped me and others; especially the newcomers, who have only been here for a few years, they need that.”

Perhaps even more important than the language lessons themselves, is the chance for parents to connect with each other, and with the school, creating a stronger sense of community over a cup of coffee on a Friday afternoon.

LeBlanc said that parents want to be able to help their kids, academically, and stressed the importance of providing resources to allow them to do that.

Feedback for the program has been overwhelmingly positive since it began roughly a month and a half ago, with one parent remarking that if the programming was being offered on the moon, they would still find a way to attend.

The program is innovative and unique, said school division communications manager Lee Krasilowez.

“To be able to say that this is this gap we’re seeing, and instead of just applying a blanket translation filter, from an electronic standpoint, we’re doing this really rich, connected, meaningful thing with people to make better opportunities for them and for kids,” said Krasilowez.

“It’s important for us as a school and a division, to ensure that all of our families know that they’re welcome. They belong here. The more connected the school is to the families, the better our kids do. And we know that so the more effort we can put into making sure all of our families are well connected and have what they need. We’re going to see our children thrive,” said LeBlanc.

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