In our in-depth conversations with 3 West Indian born students, we learned of other differences they experienced when arriving in the U.S.
The first concerned discipline within the classroom. During an interview with two students who had recently moved to the Hartford area in 2017, one of them mentioned that in her country, her school was extremely strict, “Like I can write a book about how strict it was.” We noticed that there were concerns with the differences in discipline among their fellow students. This was mentioned in two in-depth interviews with students. One student emphasized that in her country, all students are expected to be on their best behaviour at all times and are taught to always respect their elders which included their teachers:
“The transition from a school like that to a school like this where the students are not as well behaved, they have their own ways. In my country, the students fear the teacher, here it is the other way around. Some teachers are threatened by students, that is something I am not used to and personally I feel I should not be in an environment like this.”
Most English-speaking West Indian countries follow the British Education system which is different from that of the American Education system. There isn’t a direct correlation between the curriculum of Hartford, and the Caribbean schools. For example, a survey respondent said:
“The subjects here were different, in my country, I was offered subjects like Agricultural science, Technical drawing, Home economics, etc. And here, there are subjects like U.S History and Humanities.”
In another interview, one student appreciated the passion and how motivated the teachers are in what they do. She mentioned that the teachers here try to help in all possible ways which she felt helped her improve her grades.
Another interesting finding was the provision of free lunches in the Hartford school area. This was something the West Indian students did not have back in their home country, allowing them to save money instead of buying lunch. However, according to the interviews from the two students and an administrator at one of the public schools, their concern was that the food which was being provided was not the best. In the same interview, she said:
“We keep our circles small mainly because we feel we do not fit in the crowd. What most students here are involved in and what they find interesting in their time are what in most cases our parents would tell us is bad company.”
After analyzing this response, the difference in culture and upbringing affects their social life as well. This change also impacts the students who join bad peer groups, get caught up, and carried away negatively influencing their success in learning.
West Indian parents/guardians expect their students to do very well. Culturally, in the West Indies, the teachers have a greater influence regarding the child’s progress in school and the parents/guardians do not question them. The parents do not have any influence over their child’s schooling whereas in America, parents/guardians have the agency to intervene and get involved with the school. West Indian parents/guardians might accept everything that the teacher says even if it might not be best for the student such as their class selection. Technology is primarily used to reach teachers, however, it is not always readily available or easy to use. This creates layers of digital divides between parents and teachers. Along with this, parents are unfamiliar with the school system according to a school administrator:
“It’s the whole process of the parents getting to know the system.”