Why Teach? Ethnic Minority College Students' Views on Teaching

By "Fred" Ramirez, A. Y. | Multicultural Education, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Why Teach? Ethnic Minority College Students' Views on Teaching


"Fred" Ramirez, A. Y., Multicultural Education


I desired to become a teacher and receive a credential in special education. When I started to examine the number of years it would take to clear my credential, how the nation was demanding standardized testing for students who did not test well, and the low pay, I realized by the time I graduated with my Bachelors in biology then a Masters, I still would not be done with a cleared teaching credential.

This was a comment from a Latina female college student at a major university in Southern California when asked why she decided not to become a teacher. Her description and frustration concerning the teaching profession were consistent themes throughout the context of the investigation reported here.

In a previous study published in Multicultural Education (Ramirez, Summer 2009), ethnic minority high school students were asked their attitudes toward entering the teaching profession. In that study, students expressed disillusionment with teaching due to the lack of positive information given from teachers and counselors. Many from that high school study were unaware of other career opportunities within education (e.g., administration, university teaching). Most believed the only teaching positions one could hold in education were as kindergarten through high school teachers.

In contrast to those high school students, the college participants in this study were very knowledgeable as to what a career in teaching entailed, what they needed to do to become a teacher, resources available to them after becoming a teacher, and, in their mind, the obstacles and hurdles involved in becoming a teacher.

Introduction

An investigation of the number of ethnic minority teachers was undertaken due to the increased awareness at one Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in Southern California where there were low numbers of minorities entering the teacher credential programs. When approached about the low numbers of ethnic minority students in the teacher preparation program, university administrators agreed with and voiced the need to increase the numbers of ethnic minorities, yet no programs were in place to do so, and there was no mention of future university programs being considered.

Therefore, two studies were conducted to measure high school and college students' attitudes toward the teaching profession. This second study records the findings of college students' attitudes toward teaching. As mentioned previously, the study done to determine high school students' lack of interest in teaching found that it was due primarily to negative information generated from teachers and counselors about a career in teaching. In contrast, the responses from the college students recorded in this study were more analytical and based on each individuals' research into the field.

Recruitment of Ethnic Minority College Students

The recruitment of ethnic minority individuals is not limited to the state level or the national level (Summerhill, et.al., 1998), for there is an international concern as well (Carrington & Tomlin, 2000). What Carrington and Tomlin found in their study of ethnic minorities was the relatively low status of teachers, poor level of pay, and stressful working conditions have contributed to the low number of ethnic minorities entering teaching. The study reported here parallels these findings.

In their study, Carrington and Tomlin convey that students returning to school after other initial work experience wished to conduct their student teaching in their home communities, while traditional students, those with no previous work experience, were more concerned with ethnic stereotyping by the schools and community they may be placed in for their student teaching. Those traditional students in the Carrington and Tomlin study did not wish to be placed in unfamiliar communities that did not reflect their own cultural or ethnic identities for fear that these unfamiliar placements would contribute to issues of stereotyping and racism.

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