THEIR SCHOOLS AND OUR SCHOOLS: OBSERVATIONS FROM CENTRAL AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN TEACHERS ABOUT U.S. SCHOOLS
University of Northern Colorado (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:This four-year study presents the opinions and views expressed by approximately 100 teachers from Central America and the Caribbean about schools in the U.S. after the completion of a five-month professional development program that included course work at an institution of higher education and weekly visits to elementary schools. Specifically, teachers shared the differences and similarities they found between educational settings in their home countries and those in the United States.
Interviews and focus groups were conducted at the conclusion of the professional development program to explore how teachers perceived policies, practices, classroom management, resource allocations, academic standards, and other school practices at the schools they visited. More specifically, the study aimed at understanding how these teachers viewed the similarities and differences that existed between their schools back home and the schools that they visited in the United States.
Since many Latino students who attend schools in the United States were born in some of the countries where the teachers who participated in the study lived and taught, we viewed this study as an opportunity to expand our knowledge on the type of educational experiences that some of these students were accustomed to prior to entering the U.S. educational system. By learning more about Latino immigrant students’ educational environments and schooling experiences through the teachers’ comparisons of U.S. and their local schools in Central America and the Caribbean, we can further understand cultural and educational factors that will necessitate accommodations when Latino immigrant students enter our classrooms. Thus, the differences and similarities that teachers in the study identified between educational settings, can serve as guidelines for understanding the differences Latino students experience with entering schools in the United States.
To gather information from the participants, a focus group methodology was used as well as written questionnaires. Groups of about 4-5 participants from the same countries met together to discuss the differences and similarities that they observed during their five months stay in the U.S. visiting schools. Focus group contributions and questionnaires were analyzed for important themes under the categories of differences and similarities. Themes were identified under instruction, human and financial resources, teacher training, professional development, teachers’ qualities, specialized services, role of teachers, classroom management, employment practices, student/teachers’ school attire and appearance, and cultural practices.
Through the voice of teachers who lived and worked in schools very similar to where many immigrant Latino students come from, we can create a sense of reality for teachers who currently work with these students and possibly facilitate the adaptation process of our immigrant Latino students. By understanding the previous educational experiences of Latino immigrant student, we believe that teachers will be able to better identify and address the educational needs students bring into the classrooms. Further, by examining the differences and similarities expressed by the participating teachers we can contribute to the literature in comparative education from the perspectives of teachers.
Keywords: Comparative education, teacher exchanges, international education.