Are you an ESL parent? How to talk with your child's teacher

Don't let lack of confidence or English skills stop you from helping your child in school. Photo: Wikipedia

WASHINGTON, September 6, 2013 – Good teachers know that involved parents, regardless of their backgrounds, make a difference in how well a child learns. A teacher who knows you care about your child’s progress will want to build a partnership with you on behalf of your child. 

Helping Each Other to Understand 

Many speakers of English as a Second Language (ESL) read and write English well. But even native speakers may have trouble with conversation if they are feeling nervous. If you and your child’s teacher have difficulty understanding each other, remember that you share the same goal: success in education for your child. 

If you don’t understand, don’t pretend you do. Keep trying and don’t give up. To make conversations easier, both you and the teacher can use phrases like these: 

  • “Would you please explain that?”
  • “Would you say that again?”
  • “Please repeat that.”
  • “I can understand better if you speak more slowly. Thank you.”
  • “Let me try again.”
  • “Please write that down for me.”

School Programs for Parents as Educational Partners

SEE RELATED: English as a Second Language: Colloquial expressions can be killers

Schools systems across the country have designed program for the growing numbers of ESL moms and dads who have emigrated to different parts of the United States in recent years. The purpose of these programs is to help parents become decision makers and advocates for their children. In many counties, specially trained teachers are ready, willing, and able to help immigrants become successful partners in each child’s education. 

All you have to do is ask to speak with the PEP teacher at your child’s school. Your language skills don’t matter. In many systems you can even request a translator if you need one. If you work during times that are normally scheduled for teacher meetings, call the school or stop by and let them know you need to make other arrangements. 

So don’t be shy. Your child’s teachers want to hear from you!

Fran Ponick, MA, is certified in P-ESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) and provides training in business presentations and interpersonal conversation skills for native and non-native speakers of English. Her company, Leadership English™, offers communications skills, training and coaching for non-native and native English speakers, as well as award-winning writing and editorial services for businesses large and small. 

SEE RELATED: Public speakers: How to confidently interact with any audience

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Frances Ponick

Fran Ponick is a speaker, author, commentator, teacher, and coach. She has decades of experience in technical, business, marketing, and proposal writing and editing, and has won awards in journalism, formal poetry, and acting. She has also served as a consultant to DoD. Her book, Only Angels Can Wing It: How to Prepare a Eulogy Quickly and Present It Compassionately, is available from


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