Learning About Language and Culture

How You Can Help Make Your Somali Students Comfortable In The Classroom

When you are a teacher, you will have a wide variety of students over the years all of whom have different personal and cultural backgrounds. Of course, every time you have a student from a culture or background that is new to you, you want to find out all you can about their culture and how to make your classroom more inclusive to them. As such, when you find that you have Somali students in your classroom, you may be looking for ways that you can make your Somali students feel comfortable in your classroom.Get to know some of the ways to do just that so you can start helping your students as soon as possible.

Avoid Passing Out Class Materials or Objects with Your Left Hand

Every culture has unique customs and traditions. In Somali culture, it is considered impolite and extremely disrespectful to hand someone objects with their left hand. It is also against custom to shake hands with the left hand.

If you want to ensure that your students feel respected and welcome in your classroom, it is vital that you make a concentrated effort to always use your right hand when offering documents, passing out tests and papers, and shaking hands (particularly if your Somali students have family members that come to parent-teacher conferences). When in doubt about a particular custom or interaction, allow your Somali student or their family initiate handshakes and other interactions. 

Have a No Tolerance Policy for Anti-Muslim and Other Hate Speech in Your Classroom

The majority of people from Somalia identify as Muslim and follow the practices of that religion. And even if they are not Muslim themselves, your students may be assumed to be Muslim by classmates when they find out their background.

Anti-Muslim attitudes and speech have become commonplace in American society today and these issues can often spill over to the classroom. Be sure that you set forth a strict policy regarding anti-Muslim attitudes and speech as well as against other hate speech. The other common stereotype about people from Somalia has to do with pirates and as such you will need to watch out for comments regarding pirates or any class content that might address related issues.

Be Sure to Have a Somali Interpreter Available for Conferences or Other Interactions with Family

While your students may be completely fluent in English, their parents and other family members may not be. In order to be sure there are no miscommunications and that your students and their family members feel comfortable interacting with you, it is a good idea to at least have access to a Somali interpreter when you need to speak with your students' parents or family members.

You might not need to use the interpreter, but having one on-hand will help you to avoid any issues or misunderstandings. And if you actually do need the help of the Somali interpreter, your students will feel respected and happy that you were thoughtful enough to already have an interpreter available.

Now that you know a few of the ways that you can make your Somali students as comfortable as possible in your classroom, you can get started implementing these policies as soon as possible.