What impact do culture and language have on a family’s involvement in school and on their child’s education?
Page 7: Promoting Family Involvement
Research demonstrates that when families participate in their children’s education, those children make academic gains. This being the case, it is important for teachers to work to increase family involvement in students’ academic lives. Culturally responsive teachers acknowledge that cultural and linguistic differences can play a big part in whether families become involved with school. The table below outlines a few of the challenges related to family involvement and suggests some ways that school staff can respond.
|Challenge||Possible School Solutions|
|Language differences between the school and the student and his or her family.
|Varied family compositions.||
|Culturally based perceptions about school involvement.
|Anxiety about residency and its effects on family participation in school.||
Listen as Clint McDougal contrasts what some parents consider to be their responsibility to their child’s education and the teacher’s expectations of parents’ responsibility for educating their children (time: 0:50).
Teacher Preparation Coach, Career Development Program
(Former general education teacher and bilingual educator)
Albuquerque Public Schools and University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Transcript: Clint McDougal
Studies have shown that when parents are involved in the children’s education, involved with the school, the children have better success with school. There are issues, especially with parents who come from immigrant communities. Often in their home countries, schools are seen as very much an expert realm, and parents have very little interaction with schools other than to just send their children to the school. When they come to the United States, many of them are unaware of the fact that schools in the United States encourage participation on the part of parents, want them to, would like them to come to school, meet with them about their children’s social learning, their academic learning. But it’s extremely important that a teacher would try to engage the parents of all of the children, specifically the parents of children who come from a culture other than that of mainstream American culture.
Listen as Luz Hernandez shares her advice about working with families from diverse backgrounds (time: 1:19).
Luz A. Hernandez
Hispanos Unidos Para Niños Excepcionales (HUNE)
Transcript: Luz Hernandez
My words of wisdom to school personnel, quite honestly, is listen to families. Try to understand where they’re coming from. Realize that everyone has different needs. And, yet, families know their children very well, and they need to respect and use the families so that they can appropriately educate their children and so that families can feel more as a part of the school and be more willing to go to those meetings that the schools hold and then they say that parents don’t want to attend. It’s how they’re welcomed. If they’re parents who have limited English proficiency, they need to make accommodations for them and not have excuses every time a family comes to try to join a group. If they’re families that have children with different disabilities or differently-abled, they need to acknowledge that and really try to help them maybe not even only with school issues, but have at least resources available for families that they can help them out in other ways so that they can be a stronger family and ultimately be able to advocate and assist the schools as well.
Just as family involvement can increase a student’s success in school, creating partnerships within the community may also positively influence the academic success of students from diverse backgrounds. Members of the community might offer a deeper understanding of a given cultural background than is otherwise available to school personnel. To strengthen programs and policies in the educational environment, school staff might:
- Invite community members to supplement classroom instruction in the students’ home language.
- Inform family members about classes and programs offered by community organizations (e.g., career planning, citizenship, computer literacy, health).
- Encourage community and business leaders to support and participate in school functions.
- Invite community members to participate in daily school activities such as involving them in instructional tasks, enlisting their help in the lunchroom, asking them to help with tutoring, and calling upon them to take part in special events.
If you would like a more detailed look at family involvement, please view the following IRIS Module:
Teachers might not realize that the way they interact with their students can influence family involvement. To assess your own beliefs, take a moment to answer the questions below.
- Do I think that I know and understand a student’s abilities and level of development better than his or her parent or guardian?
- How accurate do I believe a parent’s report and suggestions to be?
- Do I believe that the parents of my students can teach their children as well as I can?
- How much effort do I make to learn from the parents of my students about their unique backgrounds?
- Do I visit the homes or communities of my students?
- Do I respect and put into action the views and ideas of my culturally and linguistically diverse families?
- Do I utilize interpreters when in conference with students’ families who are not fluent in English?
Mr. Bennet met with the family resource coordinator, Mrs. Gomez, about his difficulty contacting Maria’s parents. In turn, Mrs. Gomez was able to contact Maria’s parents and arrange a meeting at a restaurant near their home. Mrs. Gomez acted as the translator during the discussion, which was informative both for Maria’s parents and Mr. Bennett and allowed them to come up with a plan to help Maria in school.