Let's imagine for a moment that a family from another country has just immigrated to the U.S., and is now enrolling their child into your center. How would you prepare to be culturally responsive to them?
We had to choose a country that we know nothing about so I googled what the most obscure countries are and selected country #5: Suriname. It was the only one on the list that I had actually remembered hearing about once, the others I truly had no idea existed. Suriname is located in South America.
5 ways I would prepare to be culturally responsive:
1. Find out what language they primarily speak. The national language of Suriname is Dutch, however 20 languages are spoken in their country, including Creole. For this case, let's assume they speak the national language of Dutch-in which case I would purchase a few popular children's books that are written in Dutch.
2. I would learn a few phrases in Dutch, primarily ones that would help the child be comfortable in the classroom-key components of our schedule (circle time, recess, art, lunch, etc.), how to ask if they need to use the bathroom, stop, yes, no, hi, and goodbye.
3. I would find an interpreter to be available for key parent meetings between our teachers and the parents. I would try to translate our important forms and parent handbook into Dutch, so they understand what our center is about and the primary rules.
4. In Suriname their primary meal is chicken and rice, but they usually eat at 3pm. I would talk to the parents about their family's eating schedule in comparison with when our children eat lunch and snacks at the center to make sure they are not expecting us to feed their child dinner at 3pm, when we would normally only feed them an afternoon snack.
5. Because the current center I am at is a Christian center, I would want to know more about their religion. 80% of Surinamese are Hindi. I would want to find out if they were, and to explore that with the family.
6. I would post a few pictures of Surinamese people around the room and try to find out what types of toys we could include in the classroom that may be more familiar to them.
I would hope that the above (and probably a lot more I'm not thinking of) would help the family, especially the child, to be more comfortable in not only just a new school setting (education is very important in Suriname) but also in a brand new country. Going through these preparations would help to remind me that even though this is a new family, like other new families, we need to remember that there will be more differences because of traditions, customs, and language barriers.