Academic journal article Childhood Education

Caribbean-Immigrant Educators: More Than an Ocean of Difference

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Caribbean-Immigrant Educators: More Than an Ocean of Difference

Article excerpt

This article will examine the plight of Caribbean-immigrant educators in light of the changing demographics of the United States. Of the immigrants who move to the United States from the Caribbean, many are educators who arrive with the desire to continue teaching. Instead of being able to continue in their chosen profession, however, these immigrants face obstacles associated with the facts that 1) they are immigrants, 2) they are of a minority racial status, 3) they are struggling with assimilation and acculturation, and, most important, 4) they are required to pursue additional education for a job they have already been performing for a number of years in their native countries. In an attempt to address this issue, the author will present a profile of Caribbean-immigrant educators and examine the need for Caribbean-immigrant educators to understand the essence of America's history of education and how this has shaped the sociopolitical framework of how each ethnic group learns. Finally, the author offers suggestions for teacher education departments to help Caribbean-immigrant preservice teachers adjust to teaching in the United States.

Profile of Caribbean-Immigrant Educators

A typical Caribbean-immigrant educator has been teaching in her homeland for several years before deciding to emigrate. These teachers were educated either in a private school or a public grammar school, which is the equivalent of a junior high school or a high school in the United States. Throughout the Caribbean, K-12 educators require a certificate in teaching acquired at a teachers college (this process takes three years) or a diploma in teacher education from a four-year university. Either of these degrees qualifies educators to teach in the public, private, and grammar schools in the Caribbean (Ministry of Education, 2003).

Caribbean-immigrant educators, in general, are predominantly female (Gamble & Wilkins, 2000) and come from multiethnic and multicultural societies. Although issues of race and class have shaped these societies (for example, slavery, colonialism, and immigration), these topics appear not to be the focal point of discussion in daily activities. In fact, most Caribbean educators have developed a global awareness in keeping with their nations' goals for survival. The nations' interdependence on foreign support from dominant countries, however, means that many of these educators lack knowledge of the complex nature of American culture from which they get their major source of support.

I, too, did not understand that the depth of teaching well in any society is linked to how well one understands the historical, sociopolitical framework, and nature of the society in which one resides. While educated pre-K-12 in Jamaica, West Indies, I, unlike many Caribbean-immigrant educators, earned my university degrees in the United States. With a B.A. and an M.A. in English education, I returned to Jamaica and taught in a teachers college for three years. I returned to the United States and received an Ed.D. in education in curriculum and teaching, majoring in the history and foundations of education in America. Currently, I teach preservice teachers, as well as master's and doctoral students, at a university in the United States.

I teach my preservice teachers to understand the sociopolitical foundations of the different ethnic groups in America, setting the lessons in a historical framework. I also teach about issues of race, class, and gender. For many of my preservice teachers, these connections are not only real, but they also begin to link their history with the students they are teaching. For my Caribbean-immigrant educators, this history is both new and unsettling. It is unsettling in the sense that they are now able to see how individuals learn. Race, class, gender, and immigrant status are all connected. More important, with this history comes the realization that the domestic minority who were perceived (when they arrived) as "less than" or as "lazy and not taking education as seriously as they (the majority) did," were in fact not lazy. …

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