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Strategies for Puerto Ricans Parent Involvement
Language and cultural differences have become a more predominant matter at hand
during the last century in the United States of America from immigrants, both legally and
illegally. This phenomenon has brought to light the way we as Americans and more specifically
teachers perceive others. The United States is now undergoing more than ever before a great
cultural and language unsettling due to immigration affairs. Nowadays, the number of immigrant
students is increasing greatly who most either have very little command of English or do not
speak or understand it at all. These students are forced into a new life perspective in which they
are supposed to learn, behave, and mature as they often become intimidated by the daily school
life in a complete foreign culture to them.
In the article, “Actions Speak Louder than Words- or Do They?” (Ariza, 2000) the author
lists some of possible reasons why parents decide to step out of their children’s academics. These
include reasons such as: parents do not speak English, the teacher does not speak their language,
and parents are not supposed to interfere with the teacher’s role or authority. Acknowledging the
results of my cultural interview with Ms. Villanueva (2011) and the most relevant facts why
immigrant parents do not participate in school functions, I began researching the Puerto Rican
culture and linguistic methods in an effort to formulate and implement an appropriate
environment to motivate parent involvement in their children’s learning and achievement
process.
In her article Cultural Considerations: Immigrant Parents Involvement, also by Ms.
Eileen N Ariza (2002), she explains that American teachers assume immigrant parents do not
closely pay attention to their children’s academic development. As educators, it is vital to
understand the “why” this is happening. One of the most prevalent concepts based on the
preconceived idea that immigrant parents’ absence in mentoring their children’s formal
education is rooted in the fact that the parents themselves have either partial or complete lack of
command of the English language. Even though Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States of
America, according to the website American Fact Finder ("Puerto Rico," 2008), the 2007 census
reported that 95.2 percent of the population in Puerto Rico speak predominantly Spanish, making
Spanish the official language of Puerto Rico. Needless to say, the linguistic background Puerto
Ricans bring into the United States determines some of the drawbacks they will encounter,
especially when parents attempt to engage in their offspring education.
Teachers need to reevaluate their misconception regarding immigrant families, especially
young school-aged children in an effort to make them feel more welcome in the school
environment. The teacher has a vital role in the success of immigrant children and parents in
their adaptation to the American school system and its own culture by being a proactive team
member of professional and highly skilled school staff who is aware and progressive in orienting
immigrant family members into the public school system seamlessly. Educators are the very first
individuals to receive new immigrant student and parents and should have a positive foundation
to build on their interaction with the children’s academic standing and learning process.
As the United States of America has become more culturally diverse, it is important for
educators to utilize as many ways as possible to build an alliance with the parents who are not
literate in English. In the book Bridging Cultures between Home and School (Trumball,
Rohstein-Fisch, Greenfield & Quiroz, 2001), the authors state “there is no universally successful
way to involve parents”. This statement leads to a very interesting theory which denotes that we
cannot expect to follow the same strict and out-of-date steps to communicate with parents
without taking into consideration their cultural backgrounds.
Bearing culture, ethnicity, and nationality, one of the driving factors parents do not
participate or volunteer in school functions is due largely to the language barrier. Most nonAmerican parents take for granted that most of the teachers are Americans and do not speak the
parents native tongue. Cultural and language contrast can be an unbreakable wall between
parents and educators if teachers do not take further steps to communicate with non-speaking
English parents. For instance, learning about the immigrant student, in the case of my interview
Puerto Ricans, and consider learning queue phrases in Spanish might have an invaluable
significance for Puerto Rican parents as they will sense their culture and language is valued and
respected. Undoubtedly, teachers might not be able to uphold a conference in a foreign language
without a bilingual assistant, but the teacher’s knowledge of a few basic phrases in the immigrant
language will open one of the most important doors to integrate parents in the school settings. It
will improve the teacher-student-parent rapport, and most significantly it will ensure immigrant
students success academically.
A more dynamic teacher might consider doing perhaps a one-time little research into
where English as a Second Language (ESL) classes or courses are taught at various levels of
competency in the community, both professionally and voluntarily based a list of resources to
provide the parents an unknown opportunity to immerse themselves in the English language
themselves such as the Literacy Services in Pinellas County or the Hillsborough Literacy
Council to name a few.
In taking into consideration the Puerto Rican cultural background, I need to highlight that
Puerto Rican parents perceive teachers as the ultimate authority in the classroom and are highly
respected in the community. Bearing in mind that concept, Puerto Rican culture does not
consider it appropriate or necessary to interfere with the teachers’ role. As other Hispanic
countries, Puerto Rican parents install in their children to respect teachers and undoubtedly
acknowledge the supremacy of the teacher. Puerto Rican parents do not only place their
children’s education in the teachers’ hands, but also recognize that teachers will play a secondparent role in their children’s life.
One of the insights I acquired during my interviewing Ms. Villanueva is that Puerto
Rican parents will extremely rarely if ever dare question or contradict any sort of punishment
children receive due to misbehaving in an academic setting. While in the American culture,
teachers are highly respected for the most part, I have found through experience and research that
the majority of Americans do not idolize schoolteachers; consequently, they will inquire if not
persist about the imparted educational knowledge in the classrooms if they feel there is some sort
of inequality, injustice, or discrimination whether it is warranted or not, even though the parent
has little to not the contribute to their children’s learning process.
For the most part, I have observed many immigrant parents simply do not comprehend
the American education system and educational laws as they are often minimally educated even
by their home country standards. As stated in the article Parent Involvement in Children’s
Education: Lesson from Three Immigrant Groups (Garcia, 2002) the participation of other
members in the community should be used to provide knowledge of the important participation
of parent involvement. Teachers should encourage the integration of the immigrant parents into
the American educational environment by assisting immigrant parents to become knowledgeable
about the limitless benefits the American educational system offers themselves and their
children.
Summarily, after researching the most prevalent issues why Puerto Ricans parents are
reluctant to participate in their children’s educational pursuits, I have come to realize that
American bilingual or non-bilingual teachers need to be mindful in terms on how to reach out to
and interact with immigrant parents while awakening them to their invaluable contribution in
their children success.
Comprehending that Puerto Rican families have a passive role in the educational success
of their children due to the lack of command of English, seeing teachers as supreme authority,
and believing American teachers do not speak their language (Spanish), I propose an invitation
should be sent to all parents to celebrate the National Hispanic Heritage Month, usually
September 15 to October 15 each year, as part of the history curriculum. The basis of this social
event is to let Puerto Rican families intermingle with the school community. Furthermore, I
intend to emphasize the school appreciate and respect Hispanic culture and language by
providing food, sodas, and music that identify with the entire Hispanic community, and as per
my interview, more so involving the Puerto Rican culture. This experience will allow the
teachers to serve as liaisons between parents and the school system and staff in a more
cooperative environment as both parties should be in a more relaxed atmosphere facilitating an
exchange of ideas and concepts to reinforce parent-teacher union in the children’s education, but
the community itself. It should afford auspicious reciprocate with each one of the non-speaking
English parents in their own language with the assistance of bilingual aids and other measures.
This would also present a unique setting for me as my first language is Spanish. I strongly
believe my Hispanic background will contribute positively in the development of my rapport
with Puerto Rican and other Hispanic families.
References
Ariza, E. (2000). Actions speak louder than words-or do they? debunking the myth of apathetic
immigrant parents in education. Contemporary Education, 71(3), 36-38.
Ariza, E. (2002). Cultural considerations: immigrant parent involvement. Kappa Delta Pi
Record, 38(3), 134-137.
Garcia, C., Aikiba, D., Palacios, N., Bailey, B., & Silver, R. (2002). Parental involvement in
children's education: lesson from three immigrant groups. Parenting, 2(3), 303-324. DOI:
10.1207/S15327922PAR0203_05
Trumball, E., Rohstein-Fisch, C., Greenfield, P., & Quiroz, B. (2001). Bridging cultures between
home and school: a guide for teachers: with special focus on immigrants latino families .
(p.33). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Retrieved from
http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=kvRug49xws8C&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=latino
+parents+prevent+from+participating+in+school+functions&ots=F0dwZUef4J&sig=OuzJi_e
5LPKXM2CMeH1Hzlw7jAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Puerto rico. WAshington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Retrieved from http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/STTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=04000US72&qr_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S1601&-ds_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_&-_lang=en&redoLog=false
Villanueva, C. (2011, September 03). Interview by M Desjardins Personal Interview]. Cultural
interview. , Tampa, FL.
Celebremos Todos Juntos
el Mes de la
Herencia Hispana
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