Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

A Latin-American Parents' Group Participates in Their Children's Schooling: Parent Involvement Reconsidered

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

A Latin-American Parents' Group Participates in Their Children's Schooling: Parent Involvement Reconsidered

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT/RESUME

Ethnicity, with race, gender and class is a critical determinant in a number of social institutional interactions. This paper looks at a group of Latin American parents as they become more effective within a mainstream Canadian institution, their children's schools. Over an eight-month period, a group of eight to twelve Latino parents met monthly to discuss issues regarding their children's primary level schooling. The parents not only learned to assert their interests and collaborate with teachers, but they also became able to affirm the worth of their ethno-cultural differences. The parents began to take action and make their voices heard as they accomplished several goals in relation to the schools. This exploratory study focuses on how the parents' group helped its members understand their role in supporting their children's educational practices without devaluing their own cultural capital. Their adaptation may serve as a possible model for that required of a number of migrant groups in the coming millen nium.

L'ethnie, avec la race, le sexe et la classe, est un facteur determinant crucial dans un certain nombre d'interactions institutionnelles sociales. Cette communication examine un groupe de parents latinoamericains pendant qu'ils deviennent plus actifs au sein d'une institution canadienne populaire, les ecoles de leurs enfants. Sur une periode de huit mois, un groupe de 8-12 parents latinoamericains se sont reunis tous les mois dans le but de discuter de questions relatives a l'education de leurs enfants au niveau elementaire. Les parents ont non seulement appris a affirmer leurs interets et a collaborer avec les enseignants, mais aussi a etre en mesure de faire valoir leurs differences ethno-culturelles. Les parents ont commence a agir et a faire entendre leurs voix pendant qu'ils realisaient plusieurs de leurs buts relativement aux ecoles. Cette etude preliminaire s'est concentree sur la facon dont le groupe de parents a aide ses membres a comprendre leur role a soutenir les methodes pedagogiques de leurs enf ants sans devaluer leurs propres ressources culturelles. Leur adaptation pourrait servir de modele eventual pour ce qui sera exige des groupes migrants au cours du millenium qui vient.

When I go to meetings about the report card, I am not given many answers. I leave the same as I came. The teachers assume that you understand all this. You feel as though the teacher is saying there is nothing to discuss, especially if your child does not have serious problems, if your child is at grade level. They just give you the report card, assume you understood it, but don't give many opportunities to ask. So I leave as if I had understood what they said but in reality I did not understand.

Mrs. Blanco (1) in the above quotation is speaking to other Latin American parents in a group who meet regularly to discuss their children's problems in the educational system. Mrs. Blanco is a single mother of two, a nine-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. She migrated from El Salvador six years ago where she was a secretary for a legal firm. Like many of these parents, she respects the efforts of the teachers yet feels left in the dark about problems her child may be having. The parents frequently said they were worried about their children's schooling, but apparently sensed little acknowledgment of their concerns by the teachers.

Sometimes I notice that my daughter is falling behind in school. She never has homework because the teacher says that she doesn't have any problems. He told me that I do not have to worry. I think he must know why he is saying that.

Although Mrs. Blanco, like many other parents, lacks information, she is willing to be favorably disposed toward the teacher. She does not blame the teacher, but herself. These parents' remarks show a specific set of problems this group has in making their voices heard in the educational system. They have often felt excluded from decision making that could improve their children's learning and they have looked for ways to be heard. …

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