Working with a Racially Mixed Population

When working with a student population from many racial and ethnic groups, the issues of diversity take on different meaning. Teachers must learn about each student’s background, but also work to get beyond the stereotyping which affects expectations for student performance. Teacher Katie Madison works with a racially mixed class in California and says “It has made me naturally more aware of their backgrounds and differences.”

Tips for working with a racially-mixed student population:

  • Use a variety of methods to assure all students’ learning styles are being met.
  • Mix students in group work.
  • Check textbooks and materials for representation and accuracy, e.g. Do the textbooks only have pictures of blonde-haired, blue-eyed people?
  • Inform parents about what is happening in your classroom.
  • Get to know students as individuals; avoid expectations based on race/ethnic group.
  • Attend community cultural events.
  • Encourage students to share their own experiences with the class.

Contributor: Kate Madison – California

Teaching Immigrant and Migrant Students

Immigrant students in the United States come from virtually every country in the world and all levels of socio-economic status and background. While some of them do require some English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, most are normally matriculating students and take regular academic courses. The needs of migrant students are often exacerbated as their families move around the states according to the crop harvest. Many lose quite a bit of schooling over the course of a year, and benefit from the careful guidance teachers can provide.

Tips for success from experienced ESL teachers:

  • Create lessons that connect with where the students are. Teachers must invite students to talk about things they know and make connections with their prior knowledge.
  • The teacher must communicate his/her expectations to show the students that s/he believes in them. If students can be empowered to take responsibility for their own learning, they are learning how to learn.
  • Use technology to help students learn in an active way. At one Texas school, which uses Computer Assisted Instruction to drill on skills, test scores have gone up every year.
  • Teachers can use cognitive coaching to help cultivate critical thinking skills. When students have successfully answered a problem, ask them “How did you get that? Why?”
  • Use Advisor/advisee programs to allow students to have personal contact with at least one teacher. Teachers then become liaisons with the home. Use translators when necessary.
  • Educating parents about their role in their child’s education is also part of the mission. For immigrant parents, you need to go that extra mile.
  • Be attuned to the proportion of minority students. Teachers should try to create an accepting climate in the classroom. If there are only a few students, they will mostly likely feel isolated. If willing, have new students introduce themselves and share their experiences to educate the others.

Maria Ferreia tutored migrant students through the Indiana Department of Education. Sharon Boutwell, Spring Branch School District , Houston TX.

About the author

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