Parents & Schools: International Week: Cause for Celebration – 2

By Kathryn B. Wood
Principal, March/April 2012
The 504 students at Queen of Angels Catholic School traveled the world for a week in November 2011 without leaving the K-8 school. International Week is an example of the best of what any parent-teacher organization or home and school association can hope to achieve. This parent-school partnership is cause for celebration.
International Week is a schoolwide, volunteer-driven annual program that the Home and School Association created to help students embrace cultures of other countries. It also allows teachers to provide academic enrichment for students without adding to their workload or draining funds from the school budget. The program focuses on five countries that represent the ethnic diversity of our school community, as well as the world. The highlighted countries change every year. A team of 40 to 50 parent volunteers implement an array of activities throughout the week. My only roles are to approve the plans and enjoy the diverse sampling of foods, speakers, and music.
As students enter school during International Week, they see the represented countries’ flags prominently displayed outside the building. Artifacts from the countries are displayed inside the school, and posters of each country, created by eighth graders, hang in the hallway. As each country is featured on a separate day, guest speakers read the morning prayers in the native language of that country. The Morning Show announcements also feature fun facts about the country of the day. Traditional music from the countries plays during the Morning Show and in specials classes such as music, art, and physical education.
The enrichment continues at lunchtime as both students and teachers sample food from the country of the day. In 2011 the school community sampled Turkish pizza and sour cherry juice from Turkey, kifle from Serbia, manjar jelly roll cakes from Chile, ntochi bread from Zambia, and almond cookies from China. Throughout the week guest performers reinforce the theme of cultural diversity. In addition, students receive two small gifts during the week as a reminder of International Week.
Using parent volunteers as the work engine, the school receives resources and tools that enhance the students’ environment and academic experience. This program does not require parent intrusion in the classroom, but instead focuses on providing teachers with a variety of materials and activities that can be incorporated into their classroom schedule. Through the combined efforts of teachers, staff, and parents, students gain an appreciation for the cultures of other countries without any additional expenses to the school. Students are exposed each day to the language, geography, food, history, music, literature, sports, and fine arts of the different cultures.
The parent volunteers also benefit. They too learn more about the countries being studied, and parents can directly witness the difference that this program makes in students’ appreciation of the world’s cultures. This program goes far beyond the typical International Night event as an enrichment approach, giving students more than a two-hour taste of the world’s nations. However, International Night events also serve an important purpose in attracting parents from diverse backgrounds to a school event. Most importantly, our International Week provides enrichment for students.
  • Students gain geographic connection and awareness of the world;
  • Students realize the origin of ethnic foods, art, and music assimilated into American culture;
  • Students develop an acceptance and appreciation of cultural variations within the school and the world; and
  • The school boils over with excitement as the fun of learning for students and the love of teaching for educators and parents is reinforced.
Queen of Angels’ home and school association fully embraces its mission to support and enrich the educational endeavors of the school as evidenced by International Week. The parent organization seeks to:
  • Provide spiritual opportunities and fellowship to develop a strong and meaningful Christian community among school families, faculty, and administration;
  • Provide a vehicle of communication between parents and the school;
  • Plan and coordinate fundraising activities; and
  • Provide interesting and informative programs relevant to the needs of the school community.
International Week is a key component of the home and school association’s mission to provide interesting, informative, and relevant programs. Where in the world will our students travel to in 2012? With our parents’ assistance, they will go far.
Kathryn B. Wood is principal of Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell, Georgia.
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