Focusing on the Needs of Latino Students (Academic Environment)
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright
Focusing on the needs of Latino students is creating the
appropriate academic environment and allowing students not
only to learn from what is taught , but it is nurturing a
constructive learning scenario that will enable students to
learn, achieve and succeed at the same time. Although there
are different varieties, the essential values of the traditional
classroom are the same. Today, technology and communications
have provided a gateway and a bridge towards academic development.
Smart Boards, computers and interactive classrooms are providing
students with new waves of understanding and learning. Creating
the appropriate academic environment is focusing on the student
as a human being and accepting his/her culture as important
as the one taught through language and literature.
The teaching of English in the United States is intrinsically
tied to the teaching of the American culture. The teaching
of culture demands behavioral changes and a consciousness
and tolerance of the cultural influences affecting one’s own.
Inconspicuously, an English as a second language teacher is
fostering and affecting the concept development of culture
in the second language learner. Therefore, a suitable academic
environment is a must in the transition of the first language
to fully grasp and cross the bridge to the learning of a second
language. This is not the case in most educational settings
The Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1968 was the first signature legislation
that acknowledged the needs of Limited English Speaking Ability
(LESA) students. It brought awareness and identity to those
Latinos who made America their home. Schools celebrated holidays
like Cinco de Mayo, and other nationalities represented within
the school community were recognized. Internationally recognized
Hispanic American poets were brought to the classroom to speak
and read to students. Reading was an interactive experience
connected to the experiences of the recently arrived teen.
Today, Bilingual Programs have been shut down, and English
Only methodologies are once more being pursued by those who
are interested in closing the doors to Latinos and other immigrants
who have migrated to the United States of America.
The study of literature is the only situation to which students
have to discover issues that are relevant to their interests.
Culturally relevant literature combines the language, history
and the cultural expression of the Latino/a experience that
allows students to make sense of these issues and make language
their own by making personal connections with their lives
and background information. Focusing on the needs of Latino
students is generating the appropriate academic environment
and allowing students to improve educational outcomes, and
to provide them with a mirror of themselves, their past, present
and future. After the connection is made, students will automatically
shift gears and become lifelong readers. The reading of the
classics will become much more meaningful and significant
once they walk across the bridge that links them to themselves.