America is often considered the melting pot of numerous different races, cultures, and traditions. Along with this wide facet of cultures, however, a wide margin of misunderstandings and ethnic differences could possibly exist. Such differences range from opposite belief systems or misinterpretations of gestures to the role education plays in the culture. For these various reasons, it is apparent teachers need to be well versed in cultural beliefs and understand better ways to teach children in spite of the cultural differences that could arise.
While there is an unlimited amount of possible cultures that an educator could experience in their classroom, teachers may choose to learn more about specific cultures that are of interest to them personally. Examples of such cultures are the very common Mexican culture and also Native Americans. The Mexican culture is a common one in the United States. If a child were to move from Mexico many differences would be obvious to them. In Mexico, gender roles are more set in stone. The mother typically fulfills the domestic role within a family, while the father would do more masculine things, like working.
A traditional Mexican personality would avoid confrontation and fear the loss of a positive public face. In other terms, they are afraid to look bad to other people. This can be both a positive and a negative thing when related to behaviors in schools. One may be less aggressive, however because they are worried about another’s opinions, become too afraid to take the proper risks required for educational growth. Mexican’s also are sensitive to other’s opinion, always being very aware of conflicting views. Again, this is a quality that could be either positive or negative.
Mexican children are taught to not make eye contact and make look downward when talking to an authority figure. While in America this can be seen as impolite or it indicates guilt, to Mexicans this is a sign of respect. Manners are a way of recognizing a successful family. Higher social status is directly associated with being more polite and respectful to others. This would relate to behavior in schools also. If a new student just moved from Mexico and may be standoffish or less polite than others, it would be important to note that it may not be personal.
This is just a direct outcome of cultural differences and how the student was raised within their respective culture. Much like the United States, moral values and characteristics are relative concepts. When it comes to the Native American culture in schools, there are many contrasting views regarding education and life in general. It is no secret Native Americans are a more spiritual group than Mexicans or even Americans. Being so spiritual and then being surrounded by those who don’t understand what being spiritual entails, it will be quite the culture shock in itself.
A Native American student is likely to be quiet and understated within the classroom. Typically, they only express their opinions or thoughts when asked. Silence is a form of interpersonal etiquette among Indians. When a Native American remains quiet, it could be for many reasons, whether it’s because they are angry or uncomfortable or they are just thinking. Many non-Indian students could mistake this as indifference, causing awkward relationships within your classroom. Patience is a very big and important characteristic among Native Americans.
They do not respond quickly or without thinking first, which is why teachers should try to avoid expecting a quick response when calling on a student. Native Americans work to accomplish something, so if a student is given busy work it defeats the purpose of working toward a goal. This becomes discouraging for the student. In the Native American culture, time is flexible and nothing is based on a set schedule, mostly due to the fact that everything is set to happen on its own terms in a spiritual based world.
It is also important to note that Native Americans are very cautious individuals and tend to not move forward in something without being positive in their abilities. It is necessary to be open, friendly, and sincere when dealing with an incoming Native American student. Regardless of culture, it is necessary for educators to be aware of these differences and be willing to have patience for a child who may not adjust so smoothly into the way of American schools.
When teaching a Native American in your classroom, it would be important to understand that to Indians school may be the highest priority. Because most Native Americans are so spiritual and work towards goals, they may see getting an education as irrelevant or pointless. This plays a huge role in why Native Americans have such high dropout rates. In order to reduce these rates a teacher could use specific strategies in order to relate better to the child. Such strategies could be one on one help.
Native Americans are much more quiet and cautious than typical children, so explaining to them in a more private setting and building trust with them will go a long way. With the same reasoning of Indian students being more non-verbal and cautious, educators need to allow for more wait time when expecting a response from a Native American child. Most Native American children do not see the point of busy work, especially if it is irrelevant. In order to make it easier on the Indian student, a teacher could make the information pertinent to the student or their life.
Native Americans tend to work in groups, cooperating with and relying on one another to complete tasks. Because they are used to this type of work, a group type project or form of instruction may be easier for them to complete. This relies more on how culturally immersed the student is within their culture. The final strategy for teaching Indian students also depends on this concept. If they are deeply rooted in Indian culture, they may be used to story-telling by watching medicine men or someone similar perform.
Between this and the quietness of Native Americans, role playing may be a good option to teach information. Strategies for teaching Mexican students are typically a little more straightforward. Like Native Americans, Mexicans are not as focused on individualism as American students and families are. This is why it may be a good idea to introduce some group work for Mexicans as well. Most Mexicans will not outwardly state their opinion or answer a question unless it is directed toward them.
Teachers should remember to directly ask the Mexican student if they understand the information or for an answer just to make sure the student isn’t falling behind due to the passiveness of their cultural upbringing. It may be useful to explain to the Mexican student that they are allowed to express their opinion, but also be understanding in the fact that they are used to trying to blend. Because of this conformity issue, teachers should also be careful to not call them out in front of the classroom as this may cause stress or anxiety depending on the student.
A teacher needs to also recognize if a Mexican student is uncomfortable or angry. These students often times will not express their concerns or emotions due to their cultural upbringing. With a teacher recognizing these struggles in America, it would provide a better and more secure educational setting for the student. These are only a few simple strategies to teach students from other cultures, specifically Native Americans and Mexican students. Teachers should take time to learn background cultural knowledge about the various ethnicities they may encounter in their classroom.
Learning about the behavioral, emotional, and social differences between American and the relevant culture, will help teachers to understand the hardships that their students may be going through. By getting a feel for these hardships, you would be able to implement different strategies that would make their educational career a more successful one. Educators may be aware of the many resources are available for culturally diverse students, but it’s extremely important to realize that to the student, the teacher is the main resource they have.