CLASSROOM BELONGING / CHAPTER 2: LEARN ABOUT AND AFFIRM STUDENTS AS INDIVIDUALS
Learn about Students’ Lives Outside of School
Teachers can take concrete steps to learn about their students' rich lives outside of school.

Description

This means learning about students' family lives — "family makeup, immigration history, language use, mobility, educational history, child-rearing philosophy and practices, major activities, labor history, [and] skills and knowledge used regularly" (p.81) — and students' social lives — "use of leisure time, favorite activities, language use, what students excel at, interests, hobbies, [and] concerns" (Villegas & Lucas, 2002, p. 81).  Below, you'll find a sample list of questions to guide your efforts to learn about students' family lives and social lives.

Learning about Students' Family Lives - Sample Questions

  • Who constitutes the student's family?
  • Has the family immigrated to this country? If so, from where and how long ago?
  • What language(s) is/are spoken in the home? How proficient are adults in English?
  • Has the student's family moved frequently in the past few years?
  • What is the educational history of family members?
  • What is the child-rearing philosophy that prevails in the household? Who in the family has major responsibility for child-rearing? To what extent are older children involved in the upbringing of younger siblings? How much autonomy and self-determiniation do children have in their own upbringing?
  • What are the student's responsibilities in the family?
  • What are the major family activities?
  • What are the aspirations for children in the family?
  • What is the labor history of family members?
  • What skills, abilities, and types of knowledge are regularlly used in the family?

Learning about Students' Social Lives - Sample Questions

  • How do students spend their leisure time?
  • What are students' favorite activities?
  • Are these activities organized along competitive or cooperative lines?
  • What language(s) do students use with friends?
  • What do students excel at?
  • Do students belong to community groups such as basketball teams or church choirs?
  • What are students' interests and hobbies?
  • What are the main concerns in students' lives?
  • Who do students look up to in the community?

 

Time Required

1 hour, or more

Preconditions for Success

Teachers can ask these questions in a variety of ways.  A survey at the beginning of the year, a cultural building circle or community builder, or through one on one conversations.  

As can be seen, some of the questions are personal and require a trusting relationship with students.  For these questions we recommend private conversations after rapport has been established.

Preferred Citation

Villegas, A., & Lucas, T. (2002). Educating Culturally Responsive Teachers: A Coherent Approach. Albany: SUNY Press.