Cultural and Linguistic Differences: What Teachers Should Know
View the movie below and then proceed to the Initial Thoughts section (time: 2:36).
Narrator: It’s three months into the new school year, and Mr. Bennett, a fourth-grade teacher, is chatting with Mrs. Casey in the teachers’ lounge. Their conversation soon turns to Maria, a student in Mr. Bennett’s class, who just transferred to the school this year.
Mrs. Casey: Hey, Jim. What’s wrong? Looks like you’re having a bad day.
Mr. Bennett: (Sighs heavily) I am having a bad day. One of my students, Maria, is just not making it academically. I feel like I’ve tried everything.
Mrs. Casey: Isn’t she the girl who just moved here from Mexico?
Mr. Bennett: Uh-huh.
Mrs. Casey: I remember when her parents brought her over to school to enroll her. What do you think is going on?
Mr. Bennett: I really don’t know. I feel like I’ve done everything I can possibly do to make contact. Frankly, I don’t have a clue what to do next.
Mrs. Casey: Well, just what kinds of problems is she having?
Mr. Bennett: Several, really. First of all, she’s tardy almost every day, which means that she misses part or sometimes all of reading. And that’s really a problem because she’s significantly behind in reading—almost three grade levels. She just can’t complete her assignments in either science or social studies because her reading is so poor. She’s even struggling in math, which I don’t understand because—let’s face it—you don’t need to know how to read English to do math.
Mrs. Casey: Well, that’s true. How’s her English?
Mr. Bennett: That’s another thing that I don’t understand. During recess, she chats away with the other kids—in English—without a problem. And yet, in the classroom, I just can’t seem to get her to say two words. And on top of that I’ve tried contacting her parents several times, but they don’t return my calls. I’ve even sent a note home with Maria—I’ve sent a note home with her every day this week, but so far no response.
Narrator: Mr. Bennett wants to help Maria improve her academic performance, but he isn’t sure where to begin.
Here is your Challenge:
What influence does culture have on a student’s school success?
How does linguistic diversity influence classroom performance?
What impact do culture and language have on a family’s involvement in school and on their child’s education?