Growing a Global Mindset

Myths and Realities about Accepting Cultural Differences Summer For WinterCreative Commons License 

Myth #1

America is a melting pot.

Truth:  Once immigrants arrive, we expect them to assimilate to our language and culture like a fondue, all of us melting in a pot of a unique flavors. This may sound like a good idea but it has not worked out because the Americans never melted. We simply expected our newcomers to melt into us.

How about this analogy instead? America is a mixed salad. As immigrants arrive, we encourage them to assimilate into American culture and language while keeping their own language and culture.  When we think of it this way, we are all different but equally appealing.

Myth #2

In education, culturally diverse families do not want to be involved in their children’s education.

Truth:  Some cultures do not feel it is their role to be involved in their child’s education. Some will have a different attitude about how adults should engage with children. Maybe the family:

  • has a different belief about what constitutes knowledge
  • has different beliefs about the teaching practice
  • or different definitions or uses for literacy.

If you are a classroom teacher, here is one sure way to get an accurate point of view.  Go straight to the source, your new student and their family.  When the topic is addressed out of genuine concern for guiding insightful instruction, they will not view your inquiry as offensive or meddling, but as a genuine concern.

With parent-teacher conferences coming up, you may want to check into articles from Colorin’ Colorado to help you prepare for a more informative meeting. The site has parent resources that have been translated into Spanish.

Myth #3

Multilingual students with limited English proficiency need remediation from an English language specialist. 

Truth:  With the growing numbers in English Language Learners (ELLs)  in American schools, we all need to be language specialists. Along with the changing demographics, the roles of mainstream and English language teachers are rapidly changing providing exciting opportunities for collaboration and co-teaching.  

Myth #4

Multilingual students need remediation.

Truth:  When we think of the word remediation, we think of a deficit. Having a multi-lingual student in your classroom is actually an asset. They bring a different point of view and if provided with proper scaffolds, will enhance the classroom community.

The Center for Applied Linguistics advises teachers to:

  • Learn about, value, and build on the languages, experiences, knowledge, and interests of each student to affirm each student’s identity and to bridge to new learning.

  • Value multilingual students’ funds of knowledge and treat them as resources in the classroom.

  • Research shows that taking students’ cultural backgrounds and experiences into account in order to make instruction more appropriate and effective is a critical component of culturally responsive instruction.

  • Incorporate your English learners’ native language in lessons.

Want more resources on Culture?

Visit the sites below to analyze culture with research based methodology. 

The Lewis Model

Richard Lewis is credited with The Lewis Model, associating cultures by monochronic or polychronic.

Professor Geert Hofstede offers another approach to culture. According to Hofstede, “Culture can be only used meaningfully by comparison”.  To learn more about the distance in U.S. culture compared to these other countries check out:

A comprehensive approach to “reaching every student” can be found at Ontario Schools

ASD ESL Blog offers  resources for learning about other countries.

For a lighthearted and humorous, yet somewhat stereotypical resources read

huffington post- weird cultural differences

Or  this humorous (somewhat) true “stereotypical” video:

And you can check out  Understanding Your Student’s Prior Background on The ESOL LINK.  Here, countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Haiti and South Korea are explored from a personal narrative as well as research- based sources.


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