With the growth of Hispanic population in America readily increasing, it is important to address the need for schools to avoid and debunk the myths surrounding the Hispanic community. School should be a safe place for students to go where self-esteem is enhanced and learning reaches its highest potential. As leaders in the educational realm, teachers must set the example in the classroom. What are the stereotypes that exist about the Hispanic community? How can teachers disprove these? Below are a select few myths with appropriate guidelines for teachers to follow.
- Most Hispanics are immigrants. Untrue. Only about one-third of Hispanic population in America are immigrants – the remainder have all been born in America.*
Teachers should be aware that family is a huge factor when considering cultural heritage – much more so than being born in the actual country itself.
- Most Hispanics do not value education. Also untrue, even though the alarmingly low rate of high school graduation in the Hispanic community shows otherwise.
Teachers should be aware that many factors affect the decision of Hispanic youth who choose to drop out of school – the needs of the family are of great importance. Hispanic students may have to make the choice to help provide financial support for their impoverished family rather than finishing school. Very often survival comes first, and education falls to those who can afford it. Often a language barrier makes education very difficult. And finally, a lack of understanding from the mainstream culture makes education simply too hard altogether. It is not that educational value is unseen, rather, that the price for it is too high.*
- Student capability is determined by whether they fit into the cultural mainstream. Wrong. Student capability is never decided by the mainstream of anything.
Teachers should be aware that finding out about student backgrounds is a valuable tool. Teaching styles greatly impact student learning. Societal norms do not predict student success, and should not be relied upon to do so.
- Family status and income are determining factors in determining student potential. Another myth. While these may affect individual student academic success to some degree, potential is determined by the student.
Teachers should be aware that every student has the potential to succeed. Expect the same amount of effort from each student, and give the same amount of genuine encouragement and praise to each student. Demand the same level of excellence from each student, challenging them to always do their best work possible.
- Academic success is measured by mastery of the English language. False. Being able to communicate in English does not signify an understanding or a lack of understanding of the academic material.
Teachers should be aware that fluency of the English language does not constitute academic success. Knowing the language does not translate into mastery of the content of the academic subject areas. Focus on the understanding of the material, not the understanding of the language when gauging academic success.
*Shear, L. (2007, 3 19). Myths and Truths Regarding Hispanics in America. Retrieved 8 1, 2011, from associatedcontent.com: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/173152/myths_and_truths_regarding_hispanics_pg2.html?cat=9