A friend and colleague, Espie dela Vega, mentioned a dicho that guided her and her family as she was growing up: En cada cabeza, el mundo. When someone acted differently, or in a way that the family didn’t understand, her mother would recite this proverb, In every mind, the world. Espie explained to me it was a reminder to respect people’s differences, that we all create a world in our own mind.
As resident researcher in Andie Cunningham’s multilingual classroom, I see every day those different world views. I shared this dicho with Andie and we talked about the ways that we are all steeped in family sayings that represent the home cultures that are a part of us. I grew up hearing my grandparents welcome me with hoda. Hoda is an Arabic word which means morning light. When said in a greeting, it means, May you be guided by the light of wisdom.
At my daughter Meghan’s wedding, I spoke a Jewish blessing, which translates: May you act with compassion to those less fortunate and with responsibility to the communities of which you are a part. I said it in English, but my son-in-law said it for me in Hebrew.
Soliciting Family Dichos
Andie and I started to wonder how we could use dichos in an attempt to create bridges with families. In order to bring the words of the children’s families into the class, Andie wrote a letter to parents asking them to send in the sayings or proverbs — what the Mexican families call dichos — to hang in the room. She specifically requested “sayings of respect” to post in our classroom community.
Here are some of the sayings that now grace the walls:
Haz el bien sin mirar quien. [Do well and don’t look to whom.]
Be nice and share.
Hay mas tiempo que vida. [There is more time than life.]
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Xie Xie [Thank you in Mandarin.]
Mas vale tarde que nunca. [It’s better late than never.]
May I be excused?
Tu eres lo que eres por lo que pones en tu mente. [You are what you are by what you put in your mind.]
Hoda [This is an Arabic word which means morning light. When said in a greeting, it is a blessing meaning, May you be guided by the light of wisdom.]
En cada cabeza, el mundo. [In every mind, the world.]
Lo que se comienza bien, termina bien. [A good beginning means a good ending].
An excellent Spanish/English picture book on dichos is Mi primer libro de dichos/My First Book of Proverbs by Ralfka Gonzalez and Ana Ruiz.
Besides learning proverbs and sayings of a range of cultures, we had a glimpse of home language patterns. For example, Sidney’s family sent in the song they sing when they are cleaning up. Her mother wrote: “We sing this song together when picking up toys. We sing it together and it makes the chore fun.”
Having the language of the home on the walls of the school served more than one function. Of course, it was an important way to extend the words of respect in the home to the new world of school. Familiar phrases show that some of the same ground rules are important even in a strange new environment. But perhaps even more important was the message to parents. It was an early invitation to a partnership of learning everyone’s ways of working together.