Seven Key Lessons Learned from Merced Hmong School Staff
- For Hmong students to be more successful, all school teachers need to understand Hmong culture, lifestyle, and upbringing of Hmong children and how to use this information to improve their education. For example, many Hmong children may be raised to be more quiet and respectful of authority figures (such as teachers) which may lead them to be passive, quiet, and shy in the classroom.
- We can improve the education of Hmong students if we can find and address the challenges that prevent parents from participating in their children’s education. For example, Hmong parents and caregivers may be busy with work or they may lack knowledge about how to work with teachers and schools. Incentives and support like tutoring Hmong students and coaching Hmong parents may help. If we want parents to participate in school events, we may need to provide childcare and family meals to give parents time to participate. We need to think of more ways to make it easy and worthwhile for parents to participate in their child’s education.
- Hmong students may do better in school if there is more open and easy communication between teachers and parents about their child’s progress. Better communication between teachers and Hmong students is important too. Teachers must try to understand and address challenges that may prevent Hmong parents from communicating with them. Hmong parents may need help to understand and communicate with their child’s teacher (sometimes with the help of a Hmong language interpreter).
- Hmong parents need training and support to learn how to better communicate with and support their children’s education. Parents may have misperceptions and misunderstandings about how school education works and unrealistic expectations about their children in schools. Schools can help Hmong parents to learn how to be more supportive of their children in school.
- Throughout Merced County, we do not have enough Hmong working in education across grades. As a community, we need to work with schools and training programs to increase the number of Hmong to pursue careers in education in Merced. This will require all of us to work with schools and the broader community to appreciate Hmong culture in public schools and to inspire diversity in our school system, as well as the broader community of Merced.
- The success of our Hmong students in our schools is impacted by how much Hmong students feel appreciated and valued in their schools. Hmong students (and their families) who do not see their school valuing Hmong language and culture may feel less appreciation for their own culture and language. They may feel under-valued. Our schools — and our broader community — must be assisted to remember and to understand why Hmong culture matters in Merced. We must help our schools and community understand and respect the unique role and importance of Hmong in Merced as one of the founding communities for Hmong in the United States. Some examples of how this may be done include teaching Hmong history, culture and language in all Merced schools. This is important both for the success of our Hmong students in school and for the preservation and prosperity of Hmong culture and language.
- Hmong staff who work at schools, Hmong parents and caregivers, and Hmong students need help to learn how to advocate and speak up, as well as how organize a collective group voice, on behalf of stronger educational support for Hmong students in all of our schools, across all grade levels (from preschool onward). Our schools’ promotion of Hmong culture (e.g., history, traditions, arts, language) must be proportional to the importance of Hmong in Merced as one of the most important communities in the evolution of Hmong culture in the United States. Since Hmong arrived in Merced, our schools, cities, and counties have been receiving public funds to serve the Hmong community. We must advocate for this change and help our public agencies understand and follow their responsibility to use such funds to better serve and benefit our Hmong community.
Our Three Focused Priorities
We, as Hmong educators and community leaders, would appreciate an ongoing dialogue so we can get to know each other and to create a more comprehensive list of priorities to improve education for Hmong students, across all grades, for years to come. Three priorities recommended by HHC using the lessons learned provide a start:
- We must work with schools to make student academic data available by Hmong ethnicity, not just a broad Asian category. We want to know what gets measured, gets changed — this includes our Hmong student academic achievement.
- We must work with and hold our schools accountable to better support Hmong staff, Hmong parents, and Hmong students as “education champions” that help schools learn about and celebrate Hmong culture. One example of this is to help schools create Hmong Parent Clubs.
- We must work to organize and support a Merced Hmong Education Team that includes Hmong staff working at our schools who will use their knowledge of school and education systems to help advocate for better education and academic achievement of all Hmong children, from birth onwards.