Changing the Narrative about Immigrant Families

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Let me present my mother to you. As I describe her, I desire you to believe about how she can add to my education:

School in 4th grade to make cash for the family by being a domestic servant for a wealthy family
single mother of 4 children
owned a used clothes booth in a market in Vietnam
a refugee who got away on a boat to discover much better life opportunities
speaks Vietnamese with complete confidence and likes to inform stories about her past
speaks English socially however is illiterate in English composing
does not attend school events without an interpreter
lives in a subsided housing project
extremely active in the Vietnamese Buddhist community
fiercely demanded Vietnamese be utilized in the house
kept Vietnamese cultural practices
works two base pay jobs
held high expectations of her children at school, and college was a non-negotiable.

The “broken” narrative

Families form the foundation of knowing, well-being, and security for children. Yet we sometimes hear a restricted, narrow story around immigrant families.

How would some schools perceive my mommy? Most would fixate on her conditions as deficits and label her as an uninvolved mom who has actually restricted abilities to add to my education. Immigrants like my mother are extremely involved and invested in their kidss lives in the methods that are readily available to them.

You may have heard such detrimental declarations to explain immigrant families as:

After my podcast discussion with Dr. María Cioè-Peña based upon her brand-new book (M) othering Labeled Children: Bilingualism and Disability in the Lives of Latinx Mothers (2021 ), I wished to share methods we can alter the broken story around multilingual moms from marginalized cultures.

These limiting declarations are not only incorrect, they avoid instructors and schools from seeing the possessions immigrant households use to improve their childrens education. With this deficit narrative, not surprising that the house vs. school clash exists. Schools perceive immigrant families as reluctant or unable to engage while families feel undervalued, the source of the “problem,” and unwanted at schools.

they do not value education
the parents arent included
they arent able to assist their children with schoolwork
they do not speak English in your home
they dont desire to take in into American culture
they dont participate in school functions
they do not react to school interactions

An assets-affirming story

The main method to see the assets that immigrant households contribute is by expanding our meaning of involvement. We need to comprehend that immigrant households actively take part in their kidss lives, and participation may look various from how educators engage with their kids.

A lot of us view multilinguals as whole, capable, and loaded with rich experiences. We teach from this vantage point, and it is a positive experience for all. We require to see immigrant households with the same affirming lens through which we see our multilingual students.

There are numerous methods that parents can contribute to their childrens discovering experiences. Ill share some examples of manner ins which my mother did so with me:


A lot of us are working hard to get our schools to desert the deficit story around multilinguals. This also means releasing the restricted perspective of their families as well. We require to see with more inclusive eyes and celebrate the methods families are already contributing from what theyve experienced in the methods they know how.

Arrange occasions where families can take part and engage with their children at schools so that households feel less threatened by the formality of American schools. Some examples can be cultural cooking lessons, cultural video games, cultural movie night, and so on.

From this point of view, my mom did richly contribute to my learning from her context and life experiences. My mom still contributed in the methods readily available to her and from her lived experiences, which could not have been more different than those of my principals and instructors.

These restricting declarations are not only false, they avoid teachers and schools from seeing the possessions immigrant households offer to enhance their childrens education. Schools view immigrant households as not able or reluctant to engage while households feel undervalued, the source of the “issue,” and undesirable at schools.

Find methods to satisfy families where they are (e.g., neighborhood centers, cultural organizations like churches, temples or mosques) or offer telephone call with interpreters

Literacy (writing): co-wrote letters to loved ones (showing authors function, punctuation, grammar, company).

Literacy (reading): read Vietnamese letters from family members and poems connected with the Lunar New Year (showing endurance, predicting, fluency, inferencing, plot, checking out category).

Permit the house to be an extension of school. We can do this by sharing the material that trainees are discovering. If households occur to have a connection to that topic, they can:.

The goal is to motivate discussion between kids and their families about school subjects. When I was discovering about the American Civil War in tenth grade, my instructor could have let households know that we were discovering about the principle of civil war. If households happened to have relevant life experiences or knowledge about civil wars in general, they might have shared these experiences so their kids would have another context to understand civil wars.

Various does not indicate less important.

Immigrant families life experiences might be different than those of native students and their instructors, but that does not suggest theyre less important. In truth, the distinctions are where the gems are buried.

When households can not go to school conferences, be patient and not dismissive. It may require taking overdue leave from work, spending for kid care, asking neighborhood members to drive them to school, etc.

Social research studies (location): discussed the geography of the Mekong Delta.

The objective is for immigrant families to contribute from what they understand and to participate in schools in a non-threatening way. This will perhaps lead to more household and school collaborations. This more inclusive technique is noticeably various from the medical design of family-school conferences based upon diagnostics, spreadsheets, graphs, and recommendations for interventions.

Service: talked about her business techniques and negotiation methods when selling clothes.

My mother knows absolutely nothing about the U.S. Civil War, but she holds primary source knowledge about the Vietnamese Civil War. It would have been great to discover a civil war in another context to broaden my understanding. Finding out about my country would be an included perk. In this method, my mama could add to my learning from her fount of understanding.

History: spoke about life in the refugee camp.

Last but not least, deal engagement through asynchronous mobile texting that equates messages into different languages or voice messages. This helps address language needs and is more flexible than appointment-based conferences.

Have a look at more examples of methods trainees can include interviews with their relatives by going over gender studies, mathematics, and even the recent pandemic on these Teachers Pay Teachers examples.

tell stories from associated life experiences, if they have any.
explain how that subject is revealed in their culture.

Science (biology): discussed the different plants and animals discovered in Vietnam.

Cioè-Peña, M. (2021 ). (M) othering Labeled Children: Bilingualism and Disability in the Lives of Latinx Mothers. Multilingual Matters.


The goal is for immigrant families to contribute from what they know and to get involved in schools in a non-threatening way. The goal is to motivate discussion between children and their households about school subjects. If households happened to have relevant life experiences or understanding about civil wars in general, they might have shared these experiences so their children would have another context to understand civil wars.

Create family-centered events.

Motivate material discussions in the house.

Give grace.

In changing the limiting story around immigrant families, we should embrace a more inclusive, affirming method to commemorating the household engagement that already exists.



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