Welcoming Families From Around the World

In preparation to welcome a new child in my classroom who happens to be emigrating from Madagascar, Africa, I decided that the following five essential components must be implemented in my class in order to help the child transition to our new classroom environment. I will research, I will learn more about the country in which my new student has come from to gain insight into their culture. I will read about cultural religions, family structures, beliefs and values of the Malagasy people.

  1. I will learn some of the survival words and phrases needed to communicate with the new family and student. The official languages of Madagascar are Malagasy and French. In lieu of having a meeting, I will reach out to the family to find out what language is the home language and before the initial meeting ensure that if an interpreter is needed, there is one available.
  2. I will ask to meet with the family in their preferred place, whether they feel comfortable about having a home visit or meeting at the school. During the interview, have the family complete an interview describing the families values and belief systems regarding child rearing, family structure, education, child’s interests, and their child’s development. The interview will be an informal one it that I will have questions prepared but I will take the lead of the parents in the conversation and deviate from the prepared questions if need be. It would also be good to ask questions about what they expect out of the teachers and school.
  3. Establish a preferred channel of formal and informal communication and interaction. Ask the family about child’s interests. I will take responsibility for building and maintaining open and sensitive dialogue by ensuring that during drop off and pick up times, I am holding short chats sharing details about something the child did at school so that we may begin building a positive report and sharing information about the child’s interests between home and school. This is the time to learn about sleeping patterns, feeding, beliefs about behavior, how to best approach the child while in distress as well. In addition, trying to get to know the children, families and their cultures by inviting families to bring culturally appropriate resources into the classroom so that they can teach their funds of knowledge to the classroom community.
  4.  I will also research stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination faced by this particular cultural group to avoid bias or microaggressions by me, the staff, or children within the class. If the bias identified is at the class level where children are demonstrating it through their interactions with others then I will address them, find educational materials (puppets, books, learning activities) that will promote and address the bias identified.
  5. I will integrate cultural awareness into the curriculum by presenting different cultures of the students in my class and having a cultural exchange with the families. Asking all families to come in an tell oral stories, play cultural instruments, talk about their homeland would be one way for children to learn about the different cultures in the classroom. In addition, I will invite classroom families, to share their family traditions during our school’s “Family Cultural and Diversity Night”. Families will get to share anything they want with each other including cultural food, music, art, stories etc.

By making these preparations, I can help the student and new immigrant family feels welcomed within our classroom. In addition, I hope that learning about the cultures in the classroom and around the world can serve as a way to incorporate cultural diversity into the curriculum, show respect and offer affirmation for each child’s cultural and linguistic background, and help children to understand experiences and multiple perspectives other than their own.

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