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What is my Child Learning at Elementary School? Culturally Contested Issues Between Teachers and Latin American Families

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 17:20 by Judith K. Bernhard, Marlinda Freire
This study is part of an extensive research project on children of Latin American immigrants, their teachers and families. Through participant observation in one designated Canadian school, we captured the perspectives of ten students, their parents and teachers. An additional thirty-five families from other elementary schools in Toronto were interviewed to test the trustworthiness of the initial analysis. From the stories of these families and our knowledge of their children's schools, we describe how the parents' practices interact with mainstream practices and how the former are constructed within the present school system. Findings reported include: 1) Issues in communication involved teachers' use of educational terms that the parents did not understand. Teachers' positively slanted reports of the children's progress were not understood as indicating the genuine weakness of the child's performance. 2) In most cases, the family's support was not effective in helping children improve their grades at school, and this resulted in family conflicts and parents becoming disengaged from their children's academic tasks. 3) Children and parents expected a more personal approach than the teachers provided. It is concluded that a critical interrogation of the structures of educational delivery is needed as well as attention to the perceptions, beliefs, goals and knowledge of minority parents.

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