Kirsten Barrett, EAL Teacher at Lamlash Nursery in Glasgow, blogs for International Education Week.
I have been working at Lamlash Nursery School for seven years. We are situated in the east end of Glasgow, where around 40% of the learners speak English as an additional language. In 2015, our Head Teacher, Margot Sagan, told me about our work in international education and how we share it with schools around the world. Cue eTwinning!
The platform lets us open a window into the learning that happens in our nursery. Families all over the world can be involved and, as Ms Sagan says, “eTwinning allows parents the opportunity to share their children’s learning with far-away friends”. It also allows grandparents living abroad to follow the daily lives of their grandchildren at play in the nursery.
For each project we give access to families through a shared online Twinspace. Our international projects also have local elements; for example, one titled ‘Our Favourite Things' encouraged young learners to share their selections with their international friends. Another project involved inviting parents into the nursery to share stories in their first language. We have enojoyed a lot of success with this appraoch and continue to develop short projects and add new parents to the platform.
"For one parent this has helped her confidence to go back into education"
We have connected with our local community centre to support our links with families. We were delighted when they joined our end-of-year trip to visit one of our partner schools on the Isle of Bute. It was a special visit, as we had a family from Syria with us and we were able to introduce them to other Syrian families that had recently moved to the island.
This was the farthest that some of our families had ever traveled. The Isle of Bute is about 90 minutes away from our nursery, including a short journey on a ferry. One sunny day we ventured out with three buses full of some 120 adults and children. It was an experience for the whole family and some parents left us comments in a last minute journal that we created.
The old saying ‘keep it simple’ proved true, as an old jotter and some pens was all we needed. We took photos of the messages and shared them with our partners in other countries, and they were impressed to recognise languages they knew.
We have been so lucky to have received International School Awards since starting our journey. On both occasions we invited parents to share in the celebrations and asked them to accept the award on behalf of our nursery. It is their award, after all, and it was great to see them go up on stage with their children.
These experiences can be transformative, as Ms Sagan says: “The recognition of the success of the eTwinning projects allowed parents to share the stage at the award ceremony; for some this was their first experience of collecting an educational award. For one parent this has helped her confidence to go back into education.”
I believe that education starts at home. As educators we should continue to encourage and engage with families. eTwinning allows parents to join in the amazing work we do and learn from other schools. In turn, we benefit from being able to learn something new about them too.