Brown bag lunches help staff understand different cultures

December 3, 2010 — by Cecilia Hollenhorst

Gaining a new appreciation for cultural diversity is even easier for staff members this year with the addition of a Brown Bag Lunch speaker series.

According to assistant principal Brian Safine, the program is “a series of conversations between staff and groups of parents in the community” which finds different parents with specific ethnic backgrounds who are willing to discuss their culture with teachers during lunch.

“The clear goal of the program is to raise the understanding of the staff as we work with families from different parts of the world,” Safine said.

So far, the new program has had groups of parent volunteers speak representing India, Taiwan and China. About 15-20 teachers attended the first few speaker sessions of the program and their response was extremely positive.

“Even though I’ve observed classes in other countries, it’s different than being a student,” said science teacher Lisa Cochrum, who has attended all of the lunches so far. “The parents brought up a lot of points I never thought of before.”

The hope of the program is for parents from every country of origin represented in the student body to be invited to share their backgrounds and concerns with teachers.

“With this program, teachers can understand how the upbringing in different countries is different or similar to ours,” said Safine.

Parents discuss a variety of issues such as the difficulties of transitioning to life in America after living in a different country, comparing the education system of America to that of their country of origin and raising children in a new place.

“New immigrants sometimes can’t articulate how I can help them,” said Cochrum, who plans to implement the speakers’ tips for helping students transition in her daily teaching.

Sessions are held as informal discussions in the teachers’ lounge, with teachers and parent speakers sitting around a table together. Safine plans to invite two to three more groups of parents to speak before the end of the school year. No date has been set for the next group of speakers, but it is expected to be held in late January.

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