Notes from the National Association
of Bilingual Education Conference
contributor Berthalina Hernandez
following is a guest reflection by Berthalina Hernandez, a fifth
grade bilingual teacher in Longmont, CO. Berthalina reports
on Georgina Tezer’s presentation entitled: "Cultural
Contrasts in a Multicultural World." (For
a two column chart on cultural contrasts, click here.) The notes/reflections
contain information that ESL teachers need to be continually
sensitive to, and therefore I think they are valuable to the
novice and experienced teacher. Thank you, Berthalina, for sharing.
Contrasts in a Multicultural World
arrive without any understanding of the U.S. schools system,
culture, etc. They often do not know what is expected of them.
school systems are unique:
No other school system in the world requires the amount of parent
participation and involvement that the U.S schools do.
expected from the parents in school systems in other countries
is VERY different from the U.S: Educators are revered- never
questioned. You don't use their names--you call them "Maestra/Teacher,"
"Señora o Señorita/ Mrs. or Miss."
a discipline "enforcer" in middle school and high
school (in Mexico he/she is called PREFECTO). Students are expected
to behave and attendance is not enforced, however, if you miss
a class you know you will be expected to make up anything you
missed or it will affect your grade. As a result, students almost
never miss school!
are handled at school, without parents (going to the office
is your worst nightmare! You would rather have your parents
involved than talk to the principal!!).
rely on report cards. Teachers call meetings, not parents. Parents
are neither expected nor encouraged to visit school. When a
parent goes to the school it is seen as disrespectful since
it seems like the parent is questioning what the teacher is
of private space can be misinterpreted as dislike if you stand
too far away. The closer you stand to a person, the more you
a child is unmotivated or shy, he/she is not taught to be ambitious
or competitive. In other cultures, ambition and competition
is seen as arrogant and ruthless.
pride is a foreign concept. Public display of self-acclamation
is false, sinful and discourteous. You do NOT compete with others--you
help and learn from others.
"right to the point" is considered rude. You have
to connect personally before getting down to business. Couching
commands in questions is not understood as a command, but as
a question. If you want a child to sit down you don't ask "Would
you sit down, please?" you say, "Sit down, please."
school is serious business; emphasis on making learning "fun"
is a hard concept to understand.
from idioms! It is VERY possible that someone from a different
culture/language background will not understand or misinterpret
what you say.
Cruz-Janzen, Assistant Professor of Multicultural Education
in Florida explains that in Hispanic/Latin countries, formal
education is only PART of the component, not necessarily the
most important part. The humanistic education, honor, respect,
responsibility to the family, integrity, is foremost.
There in the difference between:
letrado: book learned, and
educado (educated): the humanistic portion.
Think of culture simply in terms of its scientific definition:
an invented behavior adopted by a population, and passed on
to succeeding generations. This behavior will be closely related
to needs, beliefs, and environment of the group.
IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG, SIMPLY DIFFERENT!
For the two column chart on cultural contrasts, click here.
or comments? E-mail Tobey.