In Chapter 4 of the work the authors suggest that teachers act as catalysts, engaging students and enabling them to achieve the best use for their multiple language skills. Ovando also describes how students actively create their own cultural identity (92). They are not simply passive learners. They do this by comparing information they are receiving in the classroom with their own experiences and forming their opinions and self-image based on their cultural background and experiences as well as the experiences they reap from the environment exposed to every day. This environment a product of classroom learning and experiences.
Cultural Conflict Students Face In Schools
Bilingual and bicultural students often face much cultural conflict and unique learning challenges when in school. In fact these very challenges and conflicts influence student cognitive acquisition and language acquisition because they inhibit students from achieving their highest potential. It is important that educators acknowledge the conflicts students face so that policies and procedures can be adopted that help eliminate these conflicts.
Ovando points out his own experiences early on in his work. He comments on how disturbing trends and politics in school made him feel "alienated and stigmatized" because he was forbidden to speak Spanish on school grounds (2). He also noted that many bilingual students fought about issues like interracial dating and that there was much pressure to learn English quickly. He asks legitimate questions like "why were there no teachers who looked like ma and who shared my culture and language" (2). Such problems may lead students to wonder why they would want to enjoy a classroom filled with indifference toward their culture, native history and success.
Educational policies have typically been "problematic for students of color, particularly bilingual students" in U.S. schools (Walsh, 1). This is due largely to educational inequities in urban school and funding issues (Walsh, 2). Other educators suggest that educational reform for bicultural and bilingual students fails to create "meaningful connections between schools, communities and parents" but has also failed to pay special attention to the educational needs of culturally diverse students (Walsh, 18). Adult members of the community according to some, must help promote more active involvement (Walsh, 1996; Lovett, 1981).
Some researchers have commented that neglect of a students home language and culture in the classroom are significant, as are inadequate teaching methodologies, lack of communication in the community and interpersonal barriers that isolates students and prevents them from developing English proficiency (Brisk, 1998). Many situational factors impact a bilingual students ability to perform well in school. These include "linguistic, cultural, economic, political and social influences" as well as how students are viewed by their Peers and their teachers (Brisk, 34).
Part of the problem bilingual students face in school is classmates and teacher ignorance regarding a bilingual students' native and historical background (Brisk, 40). Instructors have a tendency to make assumptions regarding a student's knowledge of a particular subject, and often assume that students have the historical and social background to comprehend all subjects even when their cultural and historical background may prevent them from doing so. Teachers can't assume that students' share the same background knowledge (such as knowledge about desegregation) if not all students share an American heritage (risk, 1998).
Part of the problem bilingual students also face is cultural difference that become more evident in a classroom setting. All cultures differ in their assumptions of correct ways to utilize language and engage in discourse (Brisk, 1998). In fact, the way anyone interacts and uses language tends to vary based on their culture (Brisk, 1998). Verbal and non-verbal cues also differ from student to student and culture to culture.
The manner in which adults and children interact are also different among various cultures (Conklin & Lourie, 1983). In most traditional U.S. classrooms for example, most teachers repeatedly ask questions of students to evaluate their achievement. This process may confuse bicultural students who grow up in a culture where adults only ask children questions when they don't know an answer themselves; students in this situation may not understand why a teacher would ask a question if they already had the answer causing a disruption in learning (Brisk, 1998; Heath, 1983). Text organization also varies among cultures.
While in the United States it is appropriate to start a business letter by directly addressing the subject at hand, in Latin American cultures it is necessary to begin a discourse with a salutation and personal greeting (Brisk, 1998). Lack of acknowledgement of this need may cause confusion in the classroom. Disciplinary traditions also vary from culture to culture. Teachers also present in a multicultural classroom with many biases that can impact their ability to interact well with students. Teacher biases may also affect a teacher's evaluation of a student's performance and subsequent quality of learning (Clayton, 1993; Brisk, 1998).
Freire (1994) emphasizes the importance of adequate learning in the classroom so that bilingual students can become knowledge workers that are capable of entering communities and providing opportunities to others through empowerment. He supports an educational theory entitled Critical Pedagogy whose focus is creating critical conscientiousness and thinking among individuals in the classroom through constructive dialogue, collective experiences and action. Students in this type of environment are better equipped to learn more about their own identity and culture and view themselves in relation to the world at large the people in it. The curriculum for students in this environment must be developed collaboratively by teachers and students, not by one or the other (Walsh, 1996). Shared experiences have the ability to transform not only students but also teachers.
The current number of bilingual programs available in the United Students serve a very small percentage of the actual number of bilingual students in need (Brisk, 1998).More and more bilingual students are being enrolled in mainstream classes which may lead to success or failure. More often than not these programs lead to failure because bicultural students aren't supported in a manner that promotes individual learning, cognitive and linguistic development and personal achievement.
Many theorists in the past have attributed a student's lack of success in this environment to their home life or even society, rather than acknowledge the deficits that currently exist in the classroom (Brisk, 33). Some claim that students' native culture is to blame, suggesting that "cultural deprivation" leads to student deficits in the home and at school (Brisk, 33).
Fortunately most modern studies now support the notion that bicultural and bilingual students have cognitive and linguistic abilities that may surpass that of their monocultural and linguistic peers. For students to realize academic and personal success however, educational policies and procedures must be designed in a manner that supports a collaborative and interactive learning environment. Collaboration and interaction must occur between teachers and students, parents, community members and educational staff.
Teachers more and more are facing an educational environment where minority students are the majority. Yet even though this trend is well documented, few educational policies have emphasized the importance of multiculturalism the classroom. Even more problematic, few educational facilities are making significant strides toward recruiting more diverse teacher populations to address the needs of increasingly diverse students. If more diverse teachers are not recruited, current staff will have to significantly alter their personal biases and traditional practices to accommodate the needs o bicultural learners.
The first step academic institutions must take is reviewing their current curricula and staff. They must learn what deficits currently exist with respect to curricula and the needs of culturally diverse student populations. Teachers must examine their curricula and teaching styles and develop policies that incorporate diverse teaching approaches that will address the needs of all students, regardless of their cultural background.
Again and again the research supports incorporation of culturally diverse learning practices to facilitate student achievement in the classroom. Bicultural and bilingual students who embrace their cultural identity are more likely to achieve and succeed on a cognitive and linguistic level than those who feel isolated and shameful of their culture. Thus it is vital that teachers and educators help students whether minority or not embrace various cultural contexts.
Much reform is necessary before minority students begin realizing their true potential in the classroom. Cognitive and linguistic achievement will be fully realized only when educators adopt policies tat support collaborative learning environments. Teachers must get rid of biases that influence the manner they teach and evaluate students. They would benefit by undergoing multicultural training and supporting diverse teaching practices in the classrooms.
Teachers must also understand that a culturally diverse student base means that not all students have the same reference point when learning the classroom. What is intuitive to one student may seem foreign to another based on their cultural heritage. Teachers must work to form individual bonds with students and embrace diversity. They must build closer and stronger relationships with students so students grow and learn in an environment they feel is supportive and…