Academic journal article High School Journal

Transnational Teachers of English in Mexico

Academic journal article High School Journal

Transnational Teachers of English in Mexico

Article excerpt

Much has been written on the effects of Mexican immigration in the U.S., but little exists regarding the ways in which transnationals, who have returned to Mexico, have adapted to and/or transformed Mexican society and the education system. This article is based on a descriptive qualitative study of five transnational teachers of English in Mexico who acquired English us children of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. The transnational cultural capital they gained in the U.S. in the form of English and U.S. cultural knowledge has proven to be highly valuable in Mexico. As teachers of English, they bring their transnational experiences and knowledge into their classrooms and teach "real" English because they assume that many of their working-class students will be forced to immigrate to the U.S. in the future. At the same time, they encourage the maintenance of English among their transnational students. The U.S. has much to learn from the Mexican education example by valuing the language and cultural skills that already exist within the confines of the U.S.

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Contrary to a widespread misperception in the U.S., migration across the U.S.-Mexico border is, and has always been, bi-directional (Suarez-Orozco, 1998). As Wyman (1993) shows, immigrants have traveled back and forth between the U.S. and their homelands all throughout our national history. Recently, scholars have begun to explore this bi-directional movement across the U.S.-Mexico border with a focus on "transmigrants," those said to occupy a "transnational social space" (Pries, 2001). Because the study of transnationalism is still emerging, no universally agreed-upon descriptive vocabulary yet exists. Scholars in diverse fields often use some variant of the term "transnationalism" in reference to a broad range of phenomena (Levitt & Waters, 2002). For example, scholars doing cases studies of subjects whose contacts with their ancestral homelands have been sporadic, with limited active participation, have made reference to "broad transnational practices" (Itzigsohn, Cabral, Medina & Vazquez, 1999). Simultaneously, scholars studying subjects whose contact with ancestral homelands have been frequent, regular, and integral to their sense of identity, have used the term "core transnationalism" (Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt, 1999). Furthermore, most literature on transnationalism has emerged from the context of the U.S., centering on ways in which transnational ties are maintained from the U.S. with the country of origin by immigrant families (Earle, 1995; Levitt & Waters, 2002; Malkin, 2003; Smith, 2002; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001).

Research on immigrants and their children who return to live and/or work in Mexico is greatly lacking. Pries (2001) conducted (primarily) quantitative survey fieldwork with transnationals in Mexico and New York City. He concluded that transmigrants, who alternated years spent in the U.S. with years spent in Mexico, created transnational social spaces. Zuniga and Hamann (2006), working in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, explored perceptions of schooling among transnationals who had attended both U.S. and Mexican schools. Smith (2006), also working in Mexico, explored linguistic issues among bilingual children of returning Mexico immigrants. Trueba (1999) noted that research centers in Mexico have been collecting data on the growing number of repatriated workers in Mexico, but little has been published on the subject. Scholars in Mexico have also begun exploring transnational educational issues (Tuiran, 2001; Weller, 1999, 1995; Zuniga, 2001).

This study explores the phenomenon of transnationalism from the Mexican side of the border. The study participants have had significant life experiences both in quantity and quality (dating from birth or a very young age) in the U.S. and Mexico. They have attended schools in both nations. Their parents have worked primarily in the U.S. All participants have siblings and, in some cases, parents who work in the U. …

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