I just came from a Neighborhood Learning Conversation with the Nepali community in Winooski. The community members were having a lively conversation about graduate expectations. They were discussing whether one of the expectations should be focused on cultural understanding – specifically learning about the culture of Bhutan/Nepal. All people seemed to think it was very important for teenagers to respect and understand their heritage; however, the question was whether it was something that should be taught at school.
Then a community member shared an innovative, creative idea: a class at WHS about the culture and history of Nepal. It really got me thinking: many students learning English don’t take a foreign language because they are focused on learning academic English while practicing skills and understanding concepts. Plus, they are already fluent in at least one other language. So in place of a foreign language, they could take an international cultural understanding class about their first culture. The class could be co-taught by a members of the Nepali community and a WHS teacher. And if students born in the U.S. want to take the class, they could too. The international cultural understanding class would honor the history and expertise of the Nepali community while helping to bridge the gap between New Americans and the other students. It would also give WHS teachers an inside perspective on the norms of education in Nepal.
Why didn’t we educators think of this?