In a recent research study at Rice University and collaboration with other universities, over 1000 schools were involved noted that immigrant populations on the elementary and high school levels have increased their parental involvement. One of the key factors in the increase is the presence of administrators that are minority. The study expresses that immigrant families have a connection to the culture or language of the minority administrator.
Most recently, we have had an increase in our school’s immigrant population including Zimbabwe, Uganda, Honduras, Pakistan, and most commonly Mexico. I have found that having people in the building who speak Spanish or understand the cultures that are prominent on the continent of Africa, make the transition for the families easier. On the staff are Spanish speakers who work well with the students and families on a daily basis, people who have grown up in African households, and some staff members who understand the Muslim culture well enough to respectfully converse with our children and families about celebrations, interests, and expectations.
As the leader, I was inhibited about learning other languages because my expectation was that the families would learn English through the local courses given for free at churches and the community centers. What I discovered was the need to learn enough about them culturally so that they feel comfortable whenever they have dealings with the school. In a recent incident, a student had arrived from the Dominican Republic and I thought he was purposely being disrespectful to his teachers and to me because he would not speak. We discovered through a conversation with another administrator that he truly spoke very little English and that another Spanish speaking student was making fun of him in class because he did not speak English well. I became aware of what it must be like for that particular child’s struggles in my school and how his life would be effected because he did not feel comfortable. It is important that school leaders seek to find ways to form bonds with our community, be the administrator a minority or not.
*Social Science Quarterly – March 2012 – Study Authors: Shah, P., Donato, K., and Marschall, M.