Guide for Families from Other Cultures

By Suzette J. Jones and Nancy G. Todd
Department of English Language Learning
Burlington Public Schools

This guide was written with the assistance of parents, teachers and administrators, in the hope that it will help families of elementary ELL students to understand our school culture.

Contents

1. Students Taking Care of Themselves in School
2. Clothing
3. School Spirit Days
4. Homework
5. Contacting Teachers
6. Pledge of Allegiance
7. Field Trips
8. Open House/ Back­to­School Night
9. Volunteering
10. Conferences
11. Performances/ Open House
12. Birthdays
13. Snacks
14. Tooth Fairy
15. Teacher Professional Development Days
16. No School Days/ Delayed Opening
17. PTO
18. MCAS
19. Columbus Day
20. Halloween
21. Election Day
22. Veterans Day
23. Thanksgiving
24. December Holidays
25. New Year
26. Martin Luther King Day
27. Groundhog Day
28. Valentines Day
29. Presidents Day/ February Vacation
30. Chinese New Year
31. St. Patrick’s Day
32. Easter
33. April Fools Day
34. Patriots Day/ Spring Vacation
35. Memorial Day
36. Flag Day
37. Field Day
 
1. Students Taking Care of Themselves in School
Teachers are always willing to help students when necessary. However, all students
should be able to take off and put on their own sweaters, jackets, hats, mittens or gloves, and boots. They should wear clothes which are easy to manage by themselves in the bathroom. They need to wash their own hands, and use a tissue to blow their nose themselves. It is expected that children will bring or buy food which they can eat without assistance.
 
2. Clothing
All students must wear clothes which are comfortable for sitting on the floor, playing in
gym class, and playing outdoors at recess. There will be outdoor recess every day except when the weather is really bad. Children must be able to manage their own clothing. A light­weight jacket or heavy sweater is needed in the fall and the spring; a heavy jacket, hat, mittens/gloves, and boots are needed in the winter. Only children wearing winter clothes plus snow pants and boots will be allowed to play in the snow. Hats, snow pants, and boots are worn outside only. Shoes or sneakers (sneakers required for gym) should be in the school bag and put on inside.
 
3. School Spirit Days
Throughout the year some days are announced as days to wear certain colors in support
of things like local sports teams (for example, the Boston Red Sox). Some of the students and some of the teachers do this. Many students and teachers do not. It is not necessary to buy special clothing for these days.
 
4. Homework
Students usually have homework four nights a week (Monday to Thursday). If your child
has difficulty doing the homework, please contact the teacher. There is an after­school “Homework Club” two or three days a week for one hour. Your child will bring home a letter that tells you about the days of the club, the hours, and the payment. You will need to sign the letter, if you are interested in having your child attend. If you sign your child up for this club, you must pay money. You must come and get your child after the club ends. There is no bus.
 
5. Contacting teachers
If you have any questions or concerns about your child in school, please contact the teacher. You can telephone the school or send the teacher an email. (You can get the address from the teacher or the school secretary.) In order to meet with a teacher, you need to make an appointment before you come to the school. When you come to the school, you should go to the school office to check in before you go to the teacher’s classroom.
 
6. Pledge of Allegiance
Students say the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the American flag every day,:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for
which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Every student is expected to stand and look at the flag during this time.
 
7. Field Trips
Several times a year each grade goes on “field trips” as part of their learning. The children come to school at the regular time and then are taken by bus to a museum, theatre, etc. A letter describing the trip will be sent home before each trip, and must be signed by a parent so that the child may go. This letter will tell about lunch that day and the cost of the trip; it may also ask for a few parents to volunteer to go on the trip (chaperone) to help the teachers. Parents at School
 
8. Open House/Back to School Night
In the fall, near the beginning of each school year, parents (not students) are invited to
come to school in the evening to listen to the teachers talk about the school year. This evening is for parents only.
 
9. Volunteering Parents are sometimes invited to come to school to help in the classroom or the school library. If you are interested, please ask the teacher or the school secretary. If you want to volunteer or chaperone, you must go to the Superintendent’s Office (behind the High School) and complete a “CORI” application.
 
10. Conferences
There is a day in December when teachers make an appointment with parents to come to school and talk privately for a few minutes about their child. There is no school for students on that day. You or the teacher may ask for another meeting at any time during the year.
 
11. Performances/Open House
During the school year there are times when the students demonstrate what they have
learned and parents are invited. Sometimes this is during the school day, and sometimes in the evening (for example, school concerts).
 
12. Birthdays
Most classrooms celebrate each child’s birthday in some way
. Please talk with your child’s teacher about what is done in that class.
 
13. Snacks
Most classrooms have a time during the morning when the children may eat or drink
something they have brought from home. This snack is in addition to, not in place of, breakfast at home.
 
14. Tooth Fairy
In the U.S., when a tooth comes out, the child puts it under his or her pillow for the “Tooth
Fairy”. In the morning the child finds money under the pillow in place of the tooth. Therefore, when a tooth comes out at school, it is put in an envelope for the child to take home.
 
15. Teacher Professional Development Days
There are one or two days each year when the students do not attend school, but the 
teachers have professional meetings.
 
16. No­School Days/Delayed Opening
If there is no school or school begins two hours late because of very bad weather, you may receive a telephone call from the school. This will also be listed on television channels 4, 5, 7, and 9. If the opening of school is delayed, the buses will run two hours later than the usual time to pick up children in the morning. School will still end at the normal time in the afternoon.
 
17. P.T.O.
PTO is the Parent­Teacher Organization, which encourages parents to help with school
activities. The PTO helps raise money for special school programs, field trips, etc. All parents are welcome to join this organization and to attend its meetings.
 
18. MCAS
Massachusetts state tests are given each year. MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive
Assessment System) tests are for all students in grades 3 and higher. In addition, there are state English language tests for students in all grades who receive ELL (English Language Learning) services. Your child will bring home a notice telling you the dates of these tests. SPECIAL DAYS If your culture has a special holiday which your family celebrates, you are welcome to contact your child’s teacher about it.
 
19. Columbus Day
There is no school on the second Monday in October, which is celebrated as the day that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, in 1492.
 
20. Halloween
October 31
st no longer has any religious meaning in the U.S. In the evening, children wear costumes and go to neighbors’ houses asking for candy (“trick or treat”). At school there are sometimes parties and/or costume parades.
 
21. Election Day
In a year when there is an election for US President (every 4 years), there is no school on the first Tuesday in November.
 
22. Veterans Day
There is no school on November 11
th, in honor of men and women who have been in the United States Army, Navy, or Air Force.
 
23. Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Day is the 4
th Thursday in November. There is no school Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday that week. This is a holiday when families get together to eat and to celebrate all the good things in their lives.
 
24. December Holidays Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa
There is no school from December 24th until January 2nd. At this time of year there are decorations on houses, stores, etc. People give presents to friends and family, particularly to children. There are often holiday activities at school (craft projects, worksheets, concerts, performances, classroom parties).
 
25. New Year
The first of January is celebrated in the U.S. as a time to start a new year with new ideas and “resolutions” (promises) to be better.
 
26. Martin Luther King Day
There is no school on the 3
rd Monday in January, to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was an African­American who worked hard for his dream that all people could be equal.
 
27. Groundhog Day
February 2
nd, Groundhog Day, is not a school holiday. It is the day when a small furry animal is said to come up out of the ground and either see his shadow (which means that Spring is six weeks away) or not see his shadow (which means Spring will come soon).
 
28. Valentines Day
February 14
th is not a school holiday, but it is often celebrated at school with class parties. Children give each other valentines (friendly cards) which they either buy or make.
 
29. Presidents Day/ February Vacation
The third Monday in February is celebrated as the birthday of two famous American presidents ­ George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. That Monday is the beginning of a week of no school.
 
30. Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not a school holiday, but it is often celebrated at school with special art projects.
 
31. St. Patrick’s Day
March 17
th is not a school holiday, but is often celebrated by wearing green, talking about finding good luck in shamrocks (green plants) and gold at the end of rainbows. There is a parade in Boston because of the many people from Ireland who live there.
 
32. Easter
There is no school on “Good Friday,” which is the Friday before the Christian celebration of 
Easter Sunday. This holiday comes at the beginning of Spring and often includes an Easter bunny, Easter candy (jelly beans and chocolate), and Easter eggs (colored hard­boiled eggs). There is no religious meaning to any school celebrations.
 
33. April Fools Day
April 1st is not a school holiday. It is a day when people try to play silly tricks on each other.
 
34. Patriots Day/ Spring vacation
The third Monday in April is a holiday celebrating the start of the American Revolution in 1775. It is the beginning of a week of no school.
 
35. Memorial Day
There is no school on the last Monday in May, a day when we remember the men and women who have died in the American Army, Navy, or Air Force. There are ceremonies at cemeteries, and graves are decorated with American flags and flowers.
 
36. Flag Day
June 14
th is not a school holiday. It is remembered as a day to celebrate the creation of the 1st American flag.
 
37. Field Day – in June
Each school does this day in its own way. It involves outdoor games and activities. Students must wear sneakers and gym clothes and often get wet. Students often bring a bathing suit and/or a change of clothes. Everyone has fun!