Believe it or not, approximately 5 million Caribbean immigrants live in the United States. This is the largest number of Caribbean immigrants ever recorded in the history of the US. A substantial percentage of this population is that of university students.
In fact, according to U.S Census Bureau, the growth of Caribbean University students in the US totaled roughly 0.5 million in 2011. Interestingly, this figure represents a massive 63% growth of Caribbean students.
Despite this significant change, teaching Caribbean students has continued to become one of the biggest challenges in American universities. Most universities are ill-equipped to meet their growing needs.
The schools have not yet mastered how to best teach students with an array of linguistic and cultural challenges. The big question is – how do we manage these challenges while giving the student a conducive learning environment? More specifically, how do we make learning a rewarding experience for these students?
We compiled an article that attempts to explain the three most fundamental questions revolving around the topic of teaching Caribbean Students.
-What is the behavior of Caribbean students in American classrooms?
-What is the most practical method/strategy for teaching this particular population of students?
-How should faculty engage these students and retain their interest and attention?
A Little Introduction about Teaching Caribbean Students…
Teaching Caribbean students in the general classroom can be nothing short of challenging. Add in the many problems faced by these students, and you could be brewing a disaster. First, all Caribbean students go through many forms of discrimination.
These discriminations can be by way of misunderstandings about their religion, ignorance about their culture and the stereotypic portrayal of the minority groups. Secondly, all new Caribbean immigrants go through a major culture shock when they first experience the American culture.
Additionally, they are teased about one thing or another at one point in their lives. For many immigrants, this creates a permanent scar that remains with them forever. Usually, when faced with such types of adversity, a student has two choices- to take the teasing and transform it into self-hatred or use it as motivation to demonstrate their self-worth to others.
Unfortunately, not every Caribbean student can turn this negativity into beauty. Others begin to accept what others say about them and develop self-hatred. Self-hatred is a big challenge for anyone get out of, let alone a student in a foreign land. If a student cannot see anything worthy about themselves, they will not ever see their self-worth.
What is the behavior of a Caribbean Student in the Classroom?
Caribbean students frequently feel uncomfortable in the American classroom environment. For beginners, most new Caribbean students have grown up only interacting with their immediate family including siblings and cousins.
Since the family is the center of all social life for most Caribbean students, many of them have not had significant exposure to other students outside of their immediate families. Pre-school and after-school activities are not as common among Caribbean students as they are with other students.
As a result, when the Caribbean student enters the university classroom it may be the first time they are immersed in a setting with a different language, culture, and behavior. This can make them feel out of place, nervous and shy.
Teaching them in such an environment is, therefore, a significant challenge. Without a dedicated effort to make the student feel welcome, they could fall into a pattern of isolation and low educational achievement.
So what is the Most Effective Strategy for Teaching Caribbean Students?
It is important that a teacher be aware of the most effective strategies for teaching Caribbean students. Critical to the eventual success of any student is the level of ease and comfort in their classroom.
If the student does not feel safe, comfortable and welcome by the educator, then they are not likely to become successful members of the class. If the student perceives any interaction with their teachers as negative, then they will be scared of the aftermath.
Similarly, communication plays a vital role in the general success of a Caribbean student. If a student faces difficulties in understanding the English language, then there’s no doubt they will have problems in school.
For this reason, educators should strive to do everything in the English language. They should give instructions in English, write notes in English and use books that are printed in English. This way, they will be giving the Caribbean student a good chance to polish their English and be successful.
Another strategy for appropriately engaging the Caribbean student is to discourage the frequent stereotyping of ethnicities and culture. It is advisable that when giving information to students, educators should avoid throwing in any stereotypical views into the lesson.
Whenever teachers give stereotypical views of other cultures as facts, they are doing the students an injustice and promoting racism in schools. It is wise not to promote stereotypes as this will impact the performance of the minority students.
How to Help Your Caribbean Students Feel Comfortable In Class:
There is a broad range of activities that can help students appreciate their culture and value their time in the classroom.
For instance, tailoring classroom activities towards multicultural appreciation is critical in providing the student with a culturally responsive environment. Wall hangings can be used to display posters depicting various cultural groups in a non-stereotypical way.
Additionally, students can mark the countries from which their ancestors came from on a world map, and signs can also be hung in multiple languages. Such things will promote an atmosphere where all students feel more comfortable about themselves, and thus they will learn better.
Also, teaching Caribbean students about multicultural leaders also serves as an excellent method for demonstrating that people of all ethnicities can have a positive influence in the world.
It is important to avoid teaching the students about the same minority leaders repeatedly; after all, if they never learn about other prominent Caribbean people then it is likely they will assume that few other Caribbean people have made significant contributions to the world.
If they are taught about more great leaders in their particular ethnicity, they are more likely to respect and value their background.
Another important goal of a culturally responsive classroom is to teach students to embrace and appreciate their culture and heritage. Caribbean students can sometimes feel pressured to abandon their cultural norms and traditions.
When this happens, it can interfere with their social growth, frequently leading to poor performance in social domains. Providing opportunities for these students to investigate the unique facets of their culture is, therefore, the most efficient way to help them gain a stronger appreciation of their cultures.
The points discussed in this article can contribute to the eventual success of Caribbean University students by creating positive learning environments. A strong commitment to the education of minority students is ultimately the foundation for teaching Caribbean students successfully.