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What can I do differently, to better help my Hispanic students?


            This is one of the fundamental questions every teacher must now ask, every year, as a new group of students walks through the classroom door.  The reason, quite simply, is that the percentage of Hispanic students in US classrooms is increasing dramatically each year.  As educators, what should we do, what should we change, what should we try – that might better help these students maximize their potential?

            In the past, education’s overall approach was to let Hispanic learners simply adapt to the typical US, Anglo-dominated classroom culture.  The expectation was they would acclimate themselves to the current norms.  In fact, it was almost as if there was an unspoken rule that it was the student’s responsibility to figure out how to fit in.  If arguably, that indeed was the situation, it is certainly no longer true.  Given the seismic shift in percentages, it’s time for schools and teachers to proactively develop learning environments that will support these students in the best possible way.

            For many teachers, this is not news.  They’ve seen the growing need for a response to the changing dynamics of classroom populations over the last few years.  In my experience, however, what has been lacking are specific strategies we can implement to properly address the situation.  While identifying the issue and seeing the need for change are both important, the next step is knowing what to do – and doing it.

            In Engaging The Hispanic Learner, Michele Wages helps education take an enormous step forward in addressing this increasingly complex issue.  The research she cites is almost shockingly compelling. After reading this book there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the issue is real, the issue is important, and that successfully dealing with it – soon – is critical.

Perhaps most importantly, she offers us specific things we can do to better meet this challenge.  The ten strategies she offers are practical, applicable, and achievable.  When successfully applied they will work together to produce a better result than anyone alone might create.

            However, with that being said, for those short on time, the good news is that you don’t have to read it all.  One of the wonderful things about Engaging Hispanic Learners is that you don’t have to read far before the vital, practical pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.  Just by dipping anywhere into the book, teachers will be able to begin implementing Michele Wage’s ideas immediately.  This makes the book a highly valuable resource for busy teachers, who can look at almost any section and within a few minutes select an idea, a tool, or a strategy, and put it into action the next day. 

Some people will likely see the issue of addressing the needs of Hispanic learners as a lesser problem than other issues we are currently facing in education.  Yet perhaps the more useful thought would be to see it as the tremendous opportunity it truly is.  These students are going to be an important part of our country’s – and indeed the world’s – future.  The sooner we address the situation, the sooner they can and will become positive, powerful, and productive contributors to society.

            The time is certainly right for education to step up and take charge of this critical situation.  It’s time for us to reach out and lend a hand where it’s greatly needed – to help these students who so desperately need our assistance.  It’s time for us to switch from passive response mode into proactive action mode, and make some real changes for the better.

            In Engaging The Hispanic Learner, Michele Wages has given us an important, practical starting point from which we can begin this essential journey.


-Dr. Rich Allen

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