Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good Examples for Community Service Learning Students about Culture in Education

What does "parent involvement" mean in your culture?
by Ann Abbott

Earlier this month I participated in the "Responding to Immigrants National Conference: Bridging Research and Practice to Meet the Needs of Immigrants in New Growth Communities." My workshop was a "how-to" session on getting started with a community service learning (CSL) course.

Mostly, however, I was interested in the sessions I attended. There is a lot of really great research being done about serving the needs of immigrants in education and human services. One session in particular provided very good examples of what "culture" looks like in education: "Immigrant Integration and Civic Engagement in a Chicago Suburb" by Melissa Abad and Julio Capales, Sociology, University of Illinois-Chicago. Here are just a few examples of missed opportunities for transcultural competence in schools.

  • Officials felt that Latino parents were not involved in their children's education. Why? Because they didn't show up to the PTA meetings. If only one form of involvement is recognized, Latino parent involvement (in other ways) is invisible.
  • School officials felt that they were reaching out to Latino parents by sending home flyers. Latino parents expected someone to actually talk to them.
  • When Mexican families traveled back to Mexico to visit family, they stayed for a month. (Makes sense; if you go to the time and expense to go visit, then you extend your stay for as long as you can. Also, "vacation time" is viewed differently in other countries.) But when your children are out of school for that long, they are officially "dropped" from the school. When the families came back, they had to pay an expensive re-enrollment fee to get their children back on the books.
In Comunidades: Más allá del aula, Lección 6 ¿Sabemos cómo trabajar en la comunidad de manera culturalmente apropriada? is all about the presence of culture in schools--in visible and invisible ways; in what is taught as well as how it is taught; in expectations for students and expectations for children. When I teach this lesson next semester, I will add the above examples. 

Do you have other examples of how culture influences education and the institution of education? Please share them here!

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