By Winnie Rothman
The world’s population increases every day, which allows different cultures to come into contact with one another. Today in our country, it is quite difficult to not know or meet someone of a different culture, especially in South Florida. As more people are migrating to countries other than those that they are descent, the cultures within our country’s schools are becoming more diverse. Due to the fact of the growing cultural diversity of our country, it is important for today’s teachers to become more aware of different cultures within their communities. South Florida is a huge melting pot of different cultures, and one of the most common of the sub-cultures is the Hispanic culture. I feel that it is important for all South Florida teachers to make themselves aware of some of the aspects of the Hispanic community because Hispanic children make up a large part of the ESOL community within our schools. I became aware of this factor while conducting my clinical field experience hours, in which the class that I was placed had a total of three ESOL students, all of whom were of Hispanic descent. I was even told by my participating teacher that in this area there are many Hispanic children, therefore, it is imperative that Florida teachers make themselves aware of this culture’s behaviors and customs. Teachers that are not aware of these aspects of this cultures should make an effort to become familiar with the different types of communication styles of this community in order to better understand their Hispanic students, and to make it easier for their ESOL students to understand what the teacher is saying. Teachers should make themselves aware of the family life, which includes the relationship between parents and their children in order to find out how the child’s family influences his or her decisions. Educators should become knowledgeable of some of the Hispanic etiquette rules so that they can properly greet and converse with the parents of Hispanic children in their classrooms. It is also important for educators to be familiar with some of the rituals, religions, celebrations and holidays of the children in their class, so as not to offend anyone. All cultures have their own ways of communicating with one another. One culture may have one way of greeting people and another culture may have a quite different approach to greeting someone. Teachers, with Hispanic ESOL students, should become educated in some of the rules of etiquette within this culture. If the teacher is greeting a parent then a firm handshake is a proper practice when greeting and when saying goodbye. While talking to parents or children, teachers should keep in mind that Hispanics have a tendency to provide answers that they perceive as “correct” regardless of their actual experience or behavior, so the teacher should not be offended if this occurs. Teachers should also be aware that in group discussions, a student may provide a socially desirable response or they might tend to agree with statements presented to them or answer “yes” to questions regardless of their content, so they should make sure that the child or in some cases the parents understand the statement or question. Another good thing to know about holding a conversation with Hispanics is that physical distance is much closer than in other cultures. Also, teachers should allow their Hispanic students to trust them, which would fully engage the children in the learning process. Teachers should give the children just as much respect that they expect from their students, which will allow the students to put more trust in their teacher. Teachers should pay attention to their learners by greeting each student when they come in, or they should at least try to, although they may be busy. When handing out papers, they should give one to each individual child rather than passing them down the row, as a show of respect and importance. Through attempting these actions, Hispanic ESOL students would be able to feel as though they each have importance, which would lead to attempting to reach their highest academic point. Educators should become familiar with the family life of their Hispanic students in order to understand the relationship between the children and their parents. Hispanic families tend to be very close and their most important social unit. The Hispanic family unit consists of immediate family, as well as extended family. In most Hispanic families, the father is the head of the household and the mother is responsible for the home. Parents will usually instill in their children the importance of honor, good manners, and respect for authority and the elderly. Among Hispanics, information is passed down mostly by word of mouth and the Spanish language is also usually preserved within their families, which is why there are quite a few Hispanic ESOL students within our school system. In most school systems, the parents and the teachers only meet twice a year at parent/teacher meetings. At these meetings teachers inform the parents of their child’s progress and some of the things that they have worked on or learned. Since various types of technology are available within the classrooms, parents can reach the teachers through emails or on the phone if the have any questions or concerns. Each child is given an agenda book, where the teachers usually write notes for the parents if there is the need for a conference. Newsletters are also sent out to parents so that they can stay up to date with events that are going to happen or have happened at school. But if there is the need for a meeting with the parents of one of the Hispanic ESOL students, teacher should keep in mind the etiquette rules of the culture. There are other important elements of this culture that the teachers should be aware of, such as, the religion of this community. More than 90 percent of the Spanish-speaking world is Roman Catholic, although there are exceptions to this rule as there are other denominations within the Hispanic community. The church usually has a great influence of the family life and community affairs. Each local community celebrates its patron saint’s day with greater importance and ceremony than individuals do for birthdays. The church also influences their holidays and celebrations, as most of them are centered on or have their origins in religion. Teachers should become aware of this so that they could inform the class of some of these celebrations as well as the celebrations of other represented cultures in the classroom. The growing diversity within our school communities has allowed for many cultures to be in contact with one another. It is important for teachers to expose themselves to these other cultures in their classes so that they can assist their students to reach their greatest potential. The Hispanic community makes up a large part of our South Florida community, so it is important to get some exposure on many aspects of this culture.