This book has all the information I ever wanted about the kids I don't understand. The author talks about 18 of the largest immigrant populations in the US and explains the cultural context they are coming from.
She first gives the usual basics about the country - capital, populaton, location, climate, etc - and then explains the historical perspective of the immigration movement to the US, as well as telling the story of a person either from that country or someone who has worked for an extended period of time in that country. In short, the story of someone who has an intimate knowledge of the particular culture. She presents deep culture beliefs, including explaining the major "tribal" divisions within the country, lists some famous proverbs (the equivalent to the American sayings like "a penny saved is a penny earned" or "the early bird gets the worm") and tells a folk tale specific to that culture.
And then...she gets to the good stuff. She explains the official educational policy of the country and explains the problems that plague that particular system. For the first time, I can see the most likely background for about half the kids in my classroom. She also explains what a school in that country would actually look like, how the teachers would dress and be perceived, and what the relationships between students and students, teachers and students, teachers and parents, and teachers and the community is. She explains what classroom discipline is like and what the kids are expected to contribute. She explains how the students are expected to learn, how they are expected to dress, and has multiple pages PER GROUP on nonverbal communication and cues. She talks about how adults are addressed and what are appropriate and inappropriate topics.
AND THERE'S MORE. She has a few pages per group on the adjustment challenges students may run into in an American school system and the solution you might try to help them adjust and a table that shows basic educational information at a glance - ages of schooling, whether attendance is mandatory, the cost of an education at a particular age, what the grading system is, what kind of exams or national tests there are, the language they use at school, and the curriculum they use.
This is the information I have been desperately seeking and not finding for the eight years I have been a teacher. This is like the magical unicorn at the end of a double rainbow with twin leprechauns.
I will be making good use of this book.