Academic journal article Family Relations

"It's a Balancing Act!": Exploring School/Work/Family Interface Issues among Bilingual, Rural Nebraska, Paraprofessional Educators

Academic journal article Family Relations

"It's a Balancing Act!": Exploring School/Work/Family Interface Issues among Bilingual, Rural Nebraska, Paraprofessional Educators

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Nebraska's rural school districts have a rapidly growing Spanish-speaking student body and few qualified instructors to meet their educational needs. This investigation examined factors that promote and challenge the ability of rural Nebraska paraprofessional educators to complete an online B.S. program in elementary education, with a K-12 English as a second language endorsement. Interviews focused on the interface between school, work, and family, with special attention on family system change and adaptation. Twenty-six bilingual paraprofessional educators enrolled (or formerly enrolled) in the education program were interviewed. Twenty were first- (n = 15) or second-generation (n = 5) immigrant Latino/as. Influences of program involvement on the marital and parent-child relationships are discussed, as are implications for future work with unique populations.

Key Words: distance education, gender, Hispanic, immigrant, rural.

Between 1990 and 2000, Nebraska's Latino/ a growth rate eclipsed national averages (108.8 vs. 38.8%; WebArchives, 2000). The rural Nebraska Latino/a growth rate has been particularly substantial because of urban labor market saturation, dissatisfaction with urban crime and schools, and new industry growth in rural areas, especially the meatpacking industry (Broadway, 2000). An influx of immigrant laborers provides a lifeline for economically depleted rural communities (Dalla, Villarruel, Cramer, & Gonzalez-Kruger, 2004), but rapid population growth often overwhelms a community's ability to provide resources, including health care, housing, and, in particular, education (Broadway). Over the past decade, the number of limited English proficiency and English language learner youth in Nebraska has increased by 1,000% (Nebraska State Education Association [NSEA], 2004). Yet, of 22,000 Nebraska teachers, less than 200 hold a English as a second language (ESL) endorsement. The problem is especially acute in rural areas that often "... bear the brunt of large-scale immigrant settlement with the fewest financial resources," (Federation for American Immigration Reform, 2004, p. 7).

Career Ladder Program

To address growing educational concerns, a multiyear career ladder (CL) grant was funded in Nebraska to support rural, bilingual paraeducators as they earn a B.S. degree in elementary education with a K-12 ESL teaching endorsement. CL participants must work full-time as paraeducators (i.e., school employees who work under the supervision of teachers) and maintain full-time student status to complete their degrees by 2007, the final year of funding. Most courses are offered via the Internet; for those that are not, students may travel up to 90 min to reach their classrooms. The grant covers tuition and book expenses, and students receive laptop computers, technical support, and a small annual stipend ($1,100). The CL grant will aid rural Nebraska schools in meeting the educational needs of their diverse student body, but participants must complete the program for its goals to be achieved. Nine of the original 30 students have dropped out. This research sought to identify sources of stress connected with CL program involvement for a predominantly female group of students. Emphasis focused on the exploration of the interface between school, work, and family, with special attention on changes within the marital and parent-child relationships. The ultimate goal was better understanding of work/family processes in order to inform direct service, programmatic intervention, and research involving unique populations.

Background and Significance

Expansionist theory (ET) provided the theoretical lens for focusing the phenomena of interest. ET evolved in reaction to classical gender, work, and family theories (Barnett & Hyde, 2001) and comprises four interrelated principles. First, ET is based on the notion that multiple roles (e.g., worker, parent, spouse) are beneficial for both women and men and strong commitment to one role does not diminish strong commitment to another. …

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