Academic journal article School Community Journal

Contribution of Hispanic Parents' Perspectives to Teacher Preparation

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Contribution of Hispanic Parents' Perspectives to Teacher Preparation

Article excerpt

Abstract

The premise of this paper is that minority parents are untapped sources of knowledge and guidance about how to teach minority children more effectively. Minority parents are uniquely qualified experts on their own children and their own sociocultural context. Nonetheless, teacher preparation programs rarely consider their perspectives in the development of curriculum and experiences for preservice teachers, even though the majority of new teachers report feeling unprepared to teach minority students. Through focus groups with thirty-four parent leaders in a predominantly Mexican American school district, this study elicited information about what Hispanic parents thought new teachers need to know about their children to be more effective teachers. Findings fell into three main themes. First, parents believed that preservice teachers need to know about the local context, not about Latino populations in general. Second, they wanted teachers to understand and value their children as individuals with their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses as learners. The third theme was parents' perception of teachers' low expectations for minority children. Findings and their implications for curriculum content, field experiences, and structure of teacher preparation programs are discussed.

Key Words: Hispanic education, parent involvement, teacher education, minority parents

Introduction

There is a growing awareness of the importance of having teachers understand the sociocultural context of schooling, including the cultural, racial/ ethnic, linguistic, and economic diversity in student populations. Demographic projections for student populations and for teachers in the United States indicate that students' sociocultural backgrounds will be increasingly different from those of their teachers. According to Gay (2000), 86% of all elementary and secondary teachers in the United States are European American, while student enrollments are growing in the opposite direction in terms of race, ethnicity, and culture. The number of minority teachers declined from 12% in 1970 to 7% in 1998, while minority student enrollments increased. These patterns are projected to continue. African American students will increase by 8%, Native Americans by 6%, and the greatest increases will be in Asian Americans (by 32%) and Hispanics (by 21%).

Preservice teachers currently enrolled in teacher preparation programs mirror the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds of the current teaching force. This means that the task of teacher preparation is one of educating "typical" preservice teachers-White, monolingual, middle class-to teach an increasingly diverse student body composed of many students of color (Melnick & Zeichner, 1998, p. 89). Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Klein (1997) state:

If all children are to be effectively taught, teachers must be prepared to address the substantial diversity in experiences children bring with them to school-the wide range of languages, cultures, exceptionalities, learning styles, talents, and intelligences that in turn requires an equally rich and varied repertoire of teaching strategies. In addition, teaching for universal learning demands a highly developed ability to discover what children know and can do, as well as how they think and how they learn, and to match learning and performance opportunities to the needs of individual children. (p. 2)

Many teacher preparation programs have begun to require at least one multicultural course or to incorporate information about cultural differences into methods and field experiences (Sleeter, 2001). Popular texts for educational foundations courses now include information about the nation's largest "minority" populations, especially African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American groups. In spite of the increased attention, however, most teachers still do not feel prepared to deal with cultural differences and implications for teaching children from different cultural backgrounds. …

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