Education column: Schools open doors to parents after hours

Generally, around 3 p.m. school is out, and students head home; but, not always. More and more of our schools are opening doors to parents and community members outside normal school hours for learning-related activities.

At the end of October, La Casita Elementary held its Fall Literacy Festival and, along with a variety of related activities, students dressed up as characters from their favorite books. Kids and parents alike loved this, and the stories were made memorable.

More recently, La Casita held Parent Night literacy workshops with great success. Sylvia Martinez, principal, kicked off the evening in the school cafeteria, which was filled with parents, students and staff. La Casita's own student Folklorico Dancers, decked out in brightly colored costumes, opened the evening. The dancers were followed by Clovis High School students' dance routines, students from Patricia Natividad and Rodolfo Arceo's Spanish classes. Arceo, in "vaquero" style, also demonstrated his remarkable lassoing skills.

Following these lively events, the parent workshops began. Individuals received color-coded passes and rotated through different classrooms, participating in the literacy exercises teachers had prepared for parents to support student learning at home. Every classroom workshop was conducted in English and Spanish, and teachers guided parents through practical tips, providing creative tools and resources for more effectively supporting literacy at home.

Lockwood Elementary is doing breakfast; Kiwanis members are headed to Lockwood to prepare a pancake breakfast for parents who come to the school to participate in literacy activities. Each classroom room has specific literacy-supporting activities organized through the school's Leadership Team. Books with character-building themes have been chosen for the activities. Groups of parents and students rotate through classrooms and, at the completion of the activity, parents enjoy pancakes with their children. Parent volunteers, recruited from each class, are also helping out with making pancakes. This should prove to be a wonderful, literacy-rich experience shared by students, parents, staff, and community members. Perhaps this is what education should look like, with literacy more important than ever in this age of digitized lives.

Author Pat Conroy noted: "The world of literature has everything in it…I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in "Lonesome Dove" and had nightmares about slavery in "Beloved" and walked the streets of Dublin in "Ulysses" and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I've been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious give of the English language."

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org

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