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.
3. School Spirit Days
5. Contacting Teachers
6. Pledge of Allegiance
7. Field Trips
8. Open House/ BacktoSchool Night
11. Performances/ Open House
14. Tooth Fairy
15. Teacher Professional Development Days
19. Columbus Day
21. Election Day
22. Veterans Day
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
33. April Fools Day
34. Patriots Day/ Spring Vacation
37. Field Day
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Most classrooms celebrate each child’s birthday in some way. Please talk with your child’s teacher about what is done in that class.
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.
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.
There are one or two days each year when the students do not attend school, but the teachers have professional meetings.
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.
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.
There is no school on the second Monday in October, which is celebrated as the day that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, in 1492.
October 31st 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.
In a year when there is an election for US President (every 4 years), there is no school on the first Tuesday in November.
There is no school on November 11th, in honor of men and women who have been in the United States Army, Navy, or Air Force.
Thanksgiving Day is the 4th 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.
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.
There is no school on the 3rd 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.
February 2nd, 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).
February 14th 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.
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.
Chinese New Year is not a school holiday, but it is often celebrated at school with special art projects.
March 17th 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.
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.
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.
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.
June 14th is not a school holiday. It is remembered as a day to celebrate the creation of the 1st American flag.
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!