The Culture of Family: What I Learned from Hmong Parents

By Colleen Ryan — As quarter two came to an end, we had parent teacher conferences.  Before my first conferences I was very nervous.  I knew I was prepared for each conference, but the unknown was keeping me up at night, as these were my first conferences.  As I went through each conference I found myself feeling more and more encouraged.  All of the parents were so kind and thankful for the hard work we put into teaching.

I also found myself learning even more about the Hmong Culture. Meeting my student’s parents opened my eyes to see the support and love they get at home.   It was interesting to see the difference between a parent who was a traditional Hmong, versus a parent who is an American Hmong.  The traditional Hmong parents were the ones that came from their home land; these are the parents I needed translators for.  The American Hmong parents were the ones who were born in America and spoke English very well.  The traditional Hmong parents spoke in such a humble and kind way.  These parents spent a good chunk of the conference thanking me for teaching their child.  They were thanking me for teaching them English, since they are not able to at home, and they were thanking me for being patient.  It was easy for me to tell what these parents want for their children, and the expectations they have for them.

One of the traditional Hmong parents told me that it is very important that her daughter learns as much as she can because she is the oldest and she will be the one expected to help the younger siblings.   The American Hmong parents were just as grateful.  These parents would ask about their child’s academics, where their child would be ranked in the class, if their child had friends, etc.  Although the differences in a way were subtle, I couldn’t help but think back on why the two were so different.  It made me think a lot about what the core values are for Americans versus Hmongs.

I feel really blessed to be working in a school such as this one, not only have I learned about my kids, but an entire new culture as well.  The Hmong culture is one of the most interesting and unique cultures I have ever had the pleasure of learning about.  It is so dense and full of love, joy, and hardship.

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