Barriers & Strategies to Education
“Familia” and Its Importance to Education
In the Hispanic culture, the term family is not limited strictly to just parents and children. The extended family is included in this nucleus (aunts, uncles, and cousins). Individuals within the family share a responsibility to support other members of the family during struggles or challenges from health to financial issues. It is important for educators to understand this dynamic. In many cases when solving conflicts with students, an influential extended member of the family might be the appropriate person to contact. It is not rare to see members of the extended family attending parent-teachers meetings or other school events particularly when the parents are involved in extensive and demanding work schedules.
Barriers and Limitations to Education
The education of Hispanic students in the United States is facing a crisis. Although the number of Hispanic students attending public schools has increased dramatically, Hispanic students as a group have the lowest level of education and the highest dropout rate of any group of students. Poverty, health status, as well as other social problems create a complicated scenario for Hispanics living in the United States to improve their educational status.
Many Hispanic students begin formalized schooling without the economic and social resources that many other students receive. Schools often do not have the appropriate means to compensate for these disparities. The initial disadvantages often come from parents’ immigrant and socioeconomic status and their lack of knowledge about the education system. In addition, inadequate school resources and weak relationships with their teachers continue to challenge their academic success. Due to these disadvantages, Hispanics have the lowest rates of high school and college degree attainment, which hinders their chances for stable employment.
In addition to the challenges posed by disabilities, students face many other challenges; including communicating in two languages and accommodating two cultures. In order to benefit students, Hispanic families and teachers have to learn to work together towards reaching the student’s educational goals. Understanding the concerns, needs, and priorities of Hispanic families with children with disabilities and successfully addressing those concerns is crucial for the educational process.
Educators must be prepared to teach a diverse population of students. Current studies suggest that teachers believe they have not been adequately prepared to teach children from cultural and linguistic backgrounds different from their own and that they need to learn more specific skills. Although many teacher training and professional development programs offer general course work on diversity, teacher education programs should consider adding or requiring more specific course work and internship programs to adequately prepare teachers to meet the needs of today’s diverse classes.
Strategies for teachers working with Hispanics students with disabilities
Teachers need to learn specific strategies for working effectively with linguistically and culturally diverse children and families. Here are some strategies that can help facilitate a successful learning environment:
- Teachers must relate teaching content to the cultural backgrounds of their students. Understanding the student’s culture can help develop a positive self-concept by providing knowledge about the histories, cultures, and contributions of diverse groups.
- Facilitate a learning environment that increases the connection between home and school culture. For example, use home language and culture during instruction especially in the instruction of English Language Learners (ELL).
- Use cooperative learning. Cooperative learning uses small groups in which students have specific roles in order to accomplish specific tasks and activities. Cooperative learning activities influence Hispanic students by providing opportunities for students to communicate with each other while developing social, academic, and communication skills.
- Use Technology-enriched instruction such as multimedia to facilitate auditory skill development by integrating visual presentations with sound and animation. Digitized books are also effective tools that allow Hispanic students to request pronunciations for unknown words, request translations of sections, and ask questions.
- Make an attempt to get to know the student and learn about their family. Try to get to know any siblings or cousins a student has at school, especially since older siblings are often expected to look after their younger siblings.
- Include elements in the curriculum that are familiar to your student and relevant to his or her experiences.
- Visit the student’s home once or twice during the school year to speak with his or her parents and gain a better understanding of his or her culture and surroundings.
- Nourish and grow a student’s demonstrated interest by providing that child with more information on the subject or supplies used to study that subject. For example, if a student demonstrates an interest in maps, let the student go on the computer to use a geography program.
- Do not ask Hispanic students to display their knowledge in front of the class.
- Allow them to be bicultural! Treat their language and ethnicity as assets rather than hurdles to overcome.
- Do not make your students feel like they need to choose whether they are Mexican, etc. or American, let them be both!
- Do not punish students for using their native language in contexts where English is not expressly called for.
- Don’t forget that although “Hispanic” is a convenient label for many of us, most Hispanics consider themselves first and foremost Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, and so forth.
- Design staff development to help teachers and other staff serve language-minority students more effectively. Many common and harmful mistakes could easily be avoided if staff members were simply made aware of the cultural dynamics Hispanic children are raised with. For example a Hispanic not looking at someone while being corrected might be perceived as a sign of disrespect for many; however, in most Hispanic cultures, looking at someone directly while being corrected is a sign of defiance!
- Encourage parents of language-minority students to become involved in their children's education.
- Stay current on the demographics of the communities you serve and build relationships with community partners.
- Make sure your materials are not only in Spanish but culturally relevant, use artwork or pictures that reflect the Hispanic culture.
In order to help Hispanics students to be successful in school, it is extremely important for parents to be knowledgeable and involved in the education process. The law requires that students classified as needing special education have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Parents know their child strengths, abilities, and what makes them unique. This information is relevant and necessary during the IEP meetings. Parents are one of the most important members of an IEP team. Educators should help parents to be engaged in the IEP process by providing relevant information regarding the IEP process itself and information regarding the school. Here are some tips for an IEP meeting:
- Educate parents on the U.S. school system:
- How the school operates
- School curriculum, standards, benchmarks, and materials
- Teacher/school expectations
- Parental rights
- Language programs
- Ways parents can help
- Special Education services
- Meet with the family prior the IEP meeting to explain to them the process and connect them with some community resources.
- The day of the IEP meeting, meet with the interpreter before the meeting and give him or her a list of acronyms and terms that are going to be used.
- Remind professionals involved in the meeting to pause after two or three sentences.
- Have one of the IEP team members and the interpreter escorts the parents to the meeting.
- Always ask for the parents’ input (concerns, questions, or comments).
- Make sure the parents understand what is going to happen after the IEP meeting and give them the meeting minutes in Spanish and the translated document in a timely manner.