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The Impact of Teachers' Perceptions and Pedagogical Practices on the Educational Experiences of Immigrant Students from the Commonwealth Caribbean

Mellen Studies in Education S. v. 101

By (author) Wendy P Hope
Format: Hardback
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd, New York, United States
Imprint: Edwin Mellen Press Ltd
Published: 31st May 2005
Dimensions: h 235mm
ISBN-10: 0773462503
ISBN-13: 9780773462502
Barcode No: 9780773462502
This book offers educators who are increasingly faced with diverse, multi-cultural inclusive opportunity to find a place to start the process of revisionary pedagogical practices that validate and affirm the experiences of their students. During the 1960's the United States immigration laws were changed from one based on a quota system to a method that allowed for persons from virtually every country in the world to enter the United States as immigrants. One of the by-products of such a change in the laws was the increased numbers of persons entering the United States from the Caribbean. Within this category a significant number of persons originated from the British Commonwealth Islands of Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, among others. Upon entrance into American schools, these newly arrived immigrants have been often treated in the same manner as African American students. There have been few accommodations made for culture or language differences despite the linguistic distance existing between the language they speak and that used in American schools, as well as the cultural differences between the culture of home and school. In essence, they have been lumped under the category of "African American".This mishandling and incorrect assessment of immigrants from the British Commonwealth Islands is most likely due to false assumptions made about the language they speak. Since English is the official language of these islands, the population of persons originating from them is assumed to consist of English speakers. Such assumptions do not reflect an understanding regarding the linguistic situation of the British West Indies. In these nations English is most likely reserved for official domains in government and education while a patois is most likely the language of home, church and friends. The linguistic situation is further complicated by the many varieties of dialect that exist. These language varieties range from those that are not mutually intelligible by English speakers to other varieties with a linguistic distance closer to the English spoken in countries where English is the native language for a significant segment of the population. The quality and extent of English competency of many of the newly arrived students is a by-product of the degree and quality of the education thatthey have received in their homeland. However, many have not attended school on a regular basis or have attended schools that are not well equipped or staffed, resulting in their not acquiring the necessary skills to do academic work in English as required in American schools. It is this population of students in a school located in Brooklyn New York that the study of teachers' beliefs, perceptions and pedagogical practices and their impact on the educational experiences of newly arrived immigrant students from the Commonwealth Caribbean focuses upon. This is an insightful and thought provoking examination of middle school students in the Buxton Intermediate School. The purpose of this study as stated by the author is "to examine teachers' practices in working with immigrant students from the Commonwealth Caribbean in New York City public schools". Nonetheless, the study goes beyond its goal. It provides the reader with a wealth of information that is not only informative, but also necessary for every educator who is teaching in a community with a significant population of immigrants from the British West Indies, or is teaching in a linguistically diverse environment. To reach its goal, Dr. Wendy Hope studied a class of newly arrived students from Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados as well as other Caribbean islands. It was part of a transitional program. This was a self-contained class taught for most of the day by one teacher who was also a Caribbean native, Ms. Jackson. Nonetheless, students also went to other classes such as mathematics, gym, music, and careers taught by other teachers. By examining the teaching practices of these educators who work with Caribbean students within this "transitional program" issues of race, power, pedagogy, hegemony, cultural conflict, language and more emerged to reveal that oftentimes well intended and hard working teachers employ approaches that are counterproductive to their goals, namely, the education of their students. In order to examine teachers' approaches in working with immigrant students two frameworks, one drawn from Henry Giroux's (1993) theory ofBorder Crossings and a second, Jim Cummins' (1993) theoretical framework for intervention: Empowering Minority Students, were employed. Both paradigms, although distinctively different, consider issues of power between students and teachers, schools and the minority community and institutional structures impacting negatively on students. Furthermore, pedagogical issues stemming from a dominant/subordinate relationship that include use of the minority students' language(s) and culture are addressed. Although the multitude of inquiries that emerged during the course of this study is beyond the purview of this introduction, a few of the questions addressed include what is the role of the students' language and culture in the classroom; is the culture and language of the students used as a vehicle to teach or is it viewed as an obstacle in the learning process; to what extent is the culture of these students included in the curriculum; how much do teachers know about the culture of these students; are parents of these students encouraged by teachers to be active participants in their children's education; how do teachers see their role in relation to the "transitional program" where these students are housed for a significant portion of their daily schedules; do teachers feel that different approaches should be used to teach these students. Of the many results yielded after many hours of in depth interviewing and observing of teachers, it was concluded that little deviation from conventional teaching approaches was employed to teach these students despite teachers' acknowledgement that these students were part of a "transitional program" and their level of English competency was substandard. Furthermore, it was found that parental involvement was something that teachers considered to fall under the responsibility of school officials rather than their responsibility. In addition, most teachers had little knowledge regarding how students were assessed and placed in the transitional program. Furthermore, most teachers admitted to working alone without much collaboration with any other of the teachers including the main teacher Ms. Jackson, the teacher in the self contained class who had these students for a significant segment of the day. These findings, a few of the many resultsyielded by this study, stemmed from teachers who felt that they were good teachers with the best interest of their students in mind. While examining the results yielded by this study, a major concern regarding multicultural education emerged. During the past several decades, a multicultural approach emphasizing the need to respond to racial, linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity has been the advocacy of most schools of education. In addition, in reviewing the mission statements of five schools of education within the City University of New York, issues of social justice, acknowledgment and respect for what students bring with them to the classroom, the need for collaboration among teachers and respect for the language and culture of students are a few of the many goals professed by these documents. Nonetheless, there exists a disparity between what schools of education are advocating and what is occurring in the classroom. Thus, other questions emerge regarding why such a divide exists between what is being taught and the actual practice of teaching. Could it be that the efforts to address the needs of a diverse population is one that is not really dealt by all but just a few teacher trainers who truly believe in such an approach? While these issues are beyond the purview of this study, the fact that they have surfaced lends testimony to the fact that we as educators must look at what we are doing. We cannot continue to teach with blinders thinking that all children learn in the same way. Without such an effort, there is little hope in a school system that has become more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before.

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