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Home to School Adjustment
Children from middle class backgrounds have learned many of the values which coincide with school expectations for social and language behavior. These values are either already a part of the parents' experience or adopted by parents and taught to children in an effort to achieve higher status within the community.
Middle class children begin kindergarten familiar with school expectations for schedules and routines, predetermined space designation for play and learning activities, and emphasis on neatness and correctness. In terms of language, these children understand concepts and purposes associated with print and that foreign languages are generally used for reading material and writing. They are also familiar with school expectations for adult question child response interaction and story telling in the form of description-giving. In addition, even more so than children from elite communities, middle class students have come to expect parental involvement in their learning activities. In these ways, children are able to make a relatively easy transition from home to school. However, middle class children usually have not acquired language skills in similar ways or to the same extent as those from upper class homes. For this reason, these children commonly go through a period of adjustment in learning to speak foreign languages, comprehend teacher use of code-switching, and change languages according to subject matter and purpose.
Children make the adjustment from home experience to school expecta~ tions through continued and increased parental involvement in their learning. As with the upper class, parents realize that school expectations, especially in the area of language learnmg, are ngorous. Therefore, parents expect to spenclk time with their children going over and correcting homework as well asi': helping them prepare for tests. Those parents most concerned with "fitting in: and "getting ahead" are usually also highly demanding of their children, terms of homework preparation and expectations for school success. The Schreiber family portrays the social and behavioral expectations of middle class parents who aspire to their children's successful performance in school. Although eight year old Paul has already exhibited self-discipline and an ability to do weIl, Daniele continues to work with him for approximately three hours every afternoon or evening. losy corrects Paul's homework and tests him in preparation for school exams. Homework comes before playing, watching television, and possibly even extracurricular activities such as joining the local soccer team. Both parents want their son to succeed at school, not only for themselves, but also for Paul, in view of their own experiences of struggling to reach material and social stability and regretting not having studied abroad. However, they also worry that Paul does not have enough time for play, and losy is especially concerned about putting too much pressure on him. In one conversation I had with the Schreibers, losy made the following statement to Daniele: "(L) Du bas ze streng. Den Paul muss nach e Kand sin. 10, hie muss leieren, mais ze vill Drock as net gutt fir den Paul" ([L] You are too strict. Paul needs to be a child. Yes, he needs to learn but too much pressure is not good for Paul). Aside from these concerns, middle class parents are likely to focus on "learning with the children" and, thus, ensure that whatever a child may have missed in experience (i.e. with foreign languages) will be compensated for through parental involvement in learning activities.
Middle class children are taught by parents and learn through community experiences many of the social and behavioral skills also valued in school. Although these children lack some of the language abilities which would assist their transition from home to school, middle class values for parental involvement in learning, hard work (getting ahead), and conformity (fitting in) ease children's adjustment to school and foster continuing academic success.
Language Planning in Multilingual Contexts,
Kathryn Anne Davies, University of Hawaii
John Benjains Publishing Co, Philadelphia (1994)