Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Imagining the Knowledge, Strengths, and Skills of a Latina Prospective Teacher

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Imagining the Knowledge, Strengths, and Skills of a Latina Prospective Teacher

Article excerpt

Introduction

Today in the United States, there is a shortage of teachers who culturally and linguistically match the increasing United States school-age population of Latinos/ as. Most prospective teachers in the United States are White and monolingual in English (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 2001). In the most recent U.S. census (U.S. Census, 2000), 35.3 million people identified as Latino/a, an increase of 58 % over the prior administration of this poll. Thirty-five percent of this population are school-age children, yet only between 5-10% of practicing teachers are Latino/a (AACTE, 1999; Farber, 1991; Yates, 1999).

At the same time, Latino/a youth are not faring well academically in U.S. schools (Fry, 2009; Gandara & Contreras, 2009). One widely discussed remedy for the low achievement and high dropout rate of Latino/a students is developing a larger pool of Latino/a teachers with whom students can affiliate (Gay, Dingus, & Jackson, 2003). In addition to increasing the number of Latino/a prospective teachers, we advocate for institutions that prepare teachers to focus on the strengths, knowledge, and skills that Latino/a teacher candidates bring to teacher education and work to improve their experiences on campus and in their course work. To these ends, we have been studying the life history narratives of prospective elementary teachers who are Latino/a and were enrolled in the teacher education program of a large Midwestern university called State University (all names of people, places, and institutions are pseudonyms). The case study presented here is embedded within a larger study that aims to understand how Latino/a prospective teachers experience success in their teacher education program, and how they draw upon linguistic and cultural resources in the crafting of professional identities and practices.

Here, we present a snapshot of how one Latina understands her own knowledge, strengths, and skills as a teacher, and contrast that with how several White teacher educators understood these dimensions of her identity. In doing so, we hope to uncover some encouragements and barriers to educating more Latino/a teachers in predominantly white teacher education programs. We ask:

* How does one Latina prospective teacher, Patricia Maria Morales, view her identity as a teacher--what does she see as her knowledge, strengths, and skills?

* How do university-based and school-based teachers view her knowledge, strengths, and skills as a teacher?

* What implications might these differing views have for the education of Latino/a prospective teachers, and prospective teachers of color in general?

Literature Review

This review of literature is divided into three thematic parts: making family-school connections, orientations towards political consciousness, and developing personal relationships. These are prominent themes we see as grounding the literature on Latino/a practicing and prospective teachers and paraprofessionals.

Making Family-School Connections

Studies of Latino/a prospective and practicing teachers and instructional aides reveal a view of families as respected allies with whom they can and should have close, warm relationships (Valdes, 1996). These educators extend themselves to help Latino/s children feel pride and motivation to do well in school through informal contacts in the school setting--offering encouragement and support to students on the playground, before and after class, and in their homes (often in the Spanish language). Building on prior personal experiences of dissonance between their own home and school lives, Latino/a educators also make children's and youth's activities outside school a topic of conversation inside school. For example, in a series of studies conducted in the Southwestern United States, researchers (Galindo, 2007; Galindo, 1996; Galindo, Aragon, & Underhill, 1996; Galindo & Olgun, 1996; Galindo & Escamilla, 1995) found that Latino/a teachers were likely to privilege personal background as a source of information on which to base their relationships with students and families, and link students' outside of school lives with their lives inside of schools. …

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