Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

What Is My Child Learning at Elementary School? Culturally Contested Issues between Teachers and Latin American Families

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

What Is My Child Learning at Elementary School? Culturally Contested Issues between Teachers and Latin American Families

Article excerpt


This study is part of an extensive research project on children of Latin American immigrants, their teachers and families. Through participant observation in one designated Canadian school, we captured the perspectives of ten students, their parents and teachers. An additional thirty-five families from other elementary schools in Toronto were interviewed to test the trustworthiness of the initial analysis. From the stories of these families and our knowledge of their children's schools, we describe how the parents' practices interact with mainstream practices and how the former are constructed within the present school system. Findings reported include: 1) Issues in communication involved teachers' use of educational terms that the parents did not understand. Teachers' positively slanted reports of the children's progress were not understood as indicating the genuine weakness of the child's performance. 2) In most cases, the family's support was not effective in helping children improve their grades at school , and this resulted in family conflicts and parents becoming disengaged from their children's academic tasks. 3) Children and parents expected a more personal approach than the teachers provided. It is concluded that a critical interrogation of the structures of educational delivery is needed as well as attention to the perceptions, beliefs, goals and knowledge of minority parents.

La presente etude fait partie d'un projet de recherche approfondi sur les enfants des immigrants de l'Amerique Latine, leurs enseignants et leurs familles. Grace 1'observation des participants dans une ecole canadienne designee, nous avons capte les points de vue de dix eleves, de leurs parents et de leurs enseignants. Trente-cinq autres families dans d' autres ecoles elementaires a Toronto ont passe des entrevues afin de verifier la verite de l'analyse initiale. En se basant sur les histoires de ces families et notre connaissance des ecoles de leurs enfants, nous decrivons comment les methodes des parents interagissent avec les methodes courantes, et comment celles-ci sont concues a l'interieur du systeme scolaire actuel. Les conclusions rapportees comprennent 1) Les problemes de communication concernent l'utilisation par les enseignants de termes pedagogiques que les parents ne comprenaient pas. Les rapports orientes positivement des enseignants sur les progres des enfants n'etaient pas compris comme indiqu ant la faiblesse reelle de la performance de 1' enfant. 2) Dans la plupart des cas, l' appui de la famille n' etait pas efficace pour aider les enfants a ameliorer leurs notes a l'ecole. Cela entrainait des conflits et les parents se retiraient des taches scolaires de leurs enfants. 3) Les enfants et les parents esperaient une attitude plus personnelle que celle offerte par les enseignants. II a ete conclu qu'un questionnement essentiel des structures de diffusion pedagogique est necessaire, ainsi qu'une attention aux perceptions, aux croyances, aux buts et aux connaissances des parents minoritaires.

Mrs. Lorca (1) (speaking of her Nicaraguan Canadian daughter, eight years of age):

I would like to know what it is that Monica needs? Why in the report cards the teacher says she needs more math, more reading and at home ...? Although we don't speak much English, we are always helping her in everything. She always does her homework and knows everything we ask her, but the report card always arrives as if she is failing.

Mrs. Cordoba (speaking of her Guatemalan Canadian son, thirteen years of age):

It is very worrisome that an intelligent child like Roberto needs Learning Centre year after year and does not progress sufficiently to be at grade level; it has been three years already. I am worried that our children are streamed into these programs and the teachers do not say why the problems occur and do not seem to come up with any solutions. I want to know who the teacher is at Learning Centre, what they teach and what he does in that class. …

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