Academic journal article School Community Journal

Amistades: The Development of Relationships between Preservice Teachers and Latino Families

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Amistades: The Development of Relationships between Preservice Teachers and Latino Families

Article excerpt

Abstract

Preservice teachers from a Hispanic-serving university and Latino families reflected on their interactions during an after-school children's tutoring program conducted at an elementary school. This paper focuses on issues that both preservice teachers and families found important to communication and relationship building. These issues were valuing what families bring to the educational process, congruency in the interpretation of teacher roles, and the importance of language to communication and relationship building.

Key Words: family involvement, Latino families, teacher education, qualitative methods, language, culture, bilingual teachers, preservice teachers, field-based learning

Introduction

Ustedes, padres de familia, jugaron un papel muy importante para que esta actividad finalizar exitosamente. Reitero mis agradecimientos a todo el equipo de trabajo, que intervino en esta actividad. (All of you, heads of families, played an important role in making this activity a success. I give my thanks to everyone in the team who took part in this activity.)

-Preservice Teacher

[Note: Throughout this article, written quotes from participants in both English and Spanish have not been corrected for spelling or grammar errors to preserve authenticity.]

From the Fall of 2002, a reading tutoring program has been arranged as part of preservice teachers' coursework. Every semester for 10 weeks, between 35 and 60 preservice teachers work with prekindergarten through first grade children to provide one-on-one tutoring. As part of the program, a family involvement component requires the preservice teachers to communicate with the family before and after the tutoring session. We found that powerful relationships can be developed between preservice teachers and families if given the opportunity to engage with each other in a dialogue. At the end of a one semester tutoring program, one tutor wrote a letter (quoted in part above) to the parents of her student and volunteered to read it to all the families to thank them for the effort they had made in attending the program. She also thanked them for giving her the opportunity to work as a tutor. Her letter and many other communications show that structured engagement between preservice teachers and families leads to the development of amistades, or friendships.

Family Involvement and Preservice Teachers

The tutoring program provided preservice teachers with structured opportunities to interact and communicate with families prior to becoming certified teachers. Preservice teachers were provided with conversation starters each week to encourage interaction with the families. These prompts helped the preservice teachers elicit information from the families about home activities and interests as well as finding out what they wanted for their children from the tutoring program, for example, "Please explain to the family member what you will do/did. Please ask the family member what type of things they do at home to promote reading, writing, listening, and speaking." These conversation starters often were the beginning of longer discussions in which both preservice teachers and families shared a variety of experiences and information.

Providing such opportunities to preservice teachers is significant, because preparation for working with families is generally limited during preservice teachers' education (Graue, 2005; Hiatt-Michael, 2001; Young & Hite, 1994) as well as when they enter the workforce (Epstein et al., 2002). As a result, teachers often lack the confidence to work with families or may have negative attitudes about family involvement (Rasinski, 2001; Tichenor, 1997, 1998).

Teachers who have received training with families in their preservice teacher preparation program report feeling well-equipped to use a variety of family involvement practices (Hiatt-Michael, 2001; Katz, 1999; Morris & Taylor, 1998). …

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