It has been a real challenge, parental involvement in the schools.: Becoming Minnesotan

Abdisalam Adam, displaying Somali objects and books, 2004.
  • Name - Abdisalam Adam
  • Age at interview - 38
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 06.24.2004
  • Somali girls studying, Minneapolis, 2004.  Minnesota Historical Society.
    Abdisalam Adam and Somali students at Arlington High School multicultural fair.

    Culture Clash, Education, Somali

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    As more Somali children are entering the school systems in Minnesota, the teachers and school districts are trying to become more familiar with Somali culture.  The St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools each have created a job within their school district that focuses specifically on the needs of Somali students and parents.  This support person knows the Somali language, beliefs, and customs, and can provide support to classroom teachers and resources that allow the district to be better prepared to work with these young people.

    Teachers and school districts are trying to encourage the parents to be more involved in their children’s education.  However, parents often shy away from coming into the school or communicating with the teachers.  For one thing, many parents are still struggling to learn English and may feel self-conscious or afraid that they will not be understood by the teacher. 

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    AA:  It has been a real challenge, parental involvement in the schools. The assumption was the teacher is responsible for everything. So once I send my child to school, it’s the teacher’s and the school’s responsibility. This was the mindset that the parents came with, and us teachers continue to communicate with them, talk to them, and tell them about how they need to be in the building. They need to know the teacher.

    Of course, I don’t blame the parents who do not speak the language, who are not used to the educational system, who feel intimidated by this huge system. But, gradually, I think the younger parents are beginning to be more involved and more outgoing in knowing about their child’s education. This also is a huge adjustment that parents need to make.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Change, correction, modification.


    Noun:  Something that is believed to be true without any proof.


    Verb:  To express or convey ideas, either through verbal or nonverbal methods.  (communicates, communicating, communicated)


    Adjective:  Made timid or fearful.


    Adjective:  Complicated.


    Noun:  The act or engaging or including thoroughly or the state of being engaged or included.


    Noun:  The general thinking patterns and ideas of a person.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
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