Carmen Cambeiro, TESOL Masters Degree Candidate at Touro College on the importance of People Mapping

touro-collegeMs. Cambeiro holds a Bachelors degree in Adolescent education with a concentration in Spanish. She teaches foreign language at John Adams High School in Queens and loves her career and students. She finds my job to be very rewarding and loves the diversity within the school. In order to be the best teacher she can be, she is currently working on her Masters degree in TESOL at Touro College. This is her first semester in the program and is looking forward to the rest of the program.

As part of our online discussion forums, my cohort deep-dives into specific concepts and strategies. Ms. Cambeiro’s deeply reflective contribution on the importance of people mapping shows her thoughtfulness as a teacher preparing for a diverse classroom and keeping students well-being in mind.

The discussion question was:

  1. How do you prepare for People mapping at the beginning of the school year?  List 3 specific examples.

Ms. Cambeiro: Before I began teaching, I investigated the demographics and community I would be working in. I looked at what country most of my students would be from and researched as much as I could about their culture. I created a chart for myself to remember some of the cultural difference. The first few days of school, I make sure to observe my students in the classroom and hallways to see what would make them comfortable or uncomfortable. Most of the time, with teenagers, it is very easy to see what makes them uncomfortable and not. Some of the differences I researched I knew would be difficult since I come from a culture where physical touch is completely normal. I knew when parent-teacher conferences came around, I would have to remember these small changes to not offend parents and guardians unintentionally. I found it difficult to figure out which parent did not want to shake my hand, but over time it became much easier. I noticed that many times the students were acculturated in the society, but parents were not, and I had to know the difference once the time to meet them coming. I could imagine this is very different for ELL students and SIFE students. As well, when it comes to culture, I always try to understand the students’ religious holidays, especially when it comes to fasting. Many times, teachers do not take into consideration the holidays in which the students are in the building but may still be fasting. This can easily affect their performance and we must take this into consideration when teaching. Last year, I did not just research the holidays that many of my students were celebrating, but I allowed them to explain it to the class so that they understood the religious holiday as well. Of course, I made sure the students were comfortable with sharing this information with the class and lucky for me, most of them were! Aside from demographics and culture, I teach in an inner-city school where many of the students are going through a lot of personal and family issues at home. The first days of school I try to get a feel for what is going on in their homes. Some of the students may be in government housing or have immigration problems in which they live with family members instead of their parents. It is a difficult task to find this information out since the student may be uncomfortable sharing their personal information with someone they haven’t had a chance to trust yet. I always tried to find interesting ways to do this.  This year I decided to simply ask if there was anything in their life that could affect their behavior or performance in my class in a survey given on the second day. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of students who shared personal information with me. It really helped me find out what the student was like and how they would react to specific tasks or activities in class. For example, one student told me his father had recently passed away and he has been trying to stay strong for his mother. Another student told me about her social anxiety and her need to be in smaller groups instead of presenting in large groups. Just this small information can tell you a lot about your students and what you can do to ensure that they are comfortable and in a positive environment to learn L2. Last year, my student lost both of her parents to gang violence and her grandmother to old age in the same year and as you could imagine she was having a rough time. When reviewing family vocabulary words in class, I realized how upset she was getting and how much this was affecting her. I tried my best to do everything I could to comfort her and make the topic as easy and light-hearted as possible. I found that to be a difficult task, but if it wasn’t for me preparing and people mapping, I may have not noticed how uncomfortable she was in the class. People mapping is one of the most important things we can do as educators in the beginning and throughout the year.


Ortega, L (2009). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Chapter 3: Crosslinguistic Influences, London and New York, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.