Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Mirroring Ourselves: Teacher Educators of Color Reading Multicultural Texts

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Mirroring Ourselves: Teacher Educators of Color Reading Multicultural Texts

Article excerpt

During the last few decades, U.S. classrooms have experienced dramatic demographic changes. The 2010 U.S. census report indicates that, considering recent trends in immigration and birth rates, within two decades there will no longer be any one majority racial or ethnic group that will make up more than fifty percent of the total population. Upon this demographic change, the challenges are twofold. First, despite the cultural and ethnic diversity in classrooms, the majority of the teaching force comes from White middle-class backgrounds (Darling-Hammond, 2010; Dilworth & Brown, 2008). Second, these teachers neither feel adequately prepared to work with the changing student demographic nor are disposed to do so (Amatea, Cholewa, & Mixon, 2012; Bakari, 2003; Garmon, 2004; Howard & Aleman, 2008; Kim, 2006; Watson, 2012).

To further complicate this picture, preservice teachers of color seem hardly better equipped to work with diverse student populations (Achinstein & Aguirre, 2008; Rodriguez & Sjostrom, 1998; Villegas & Davis, 2007). On the one hand, preservice teachers of color are commended for their commitment to social justice and their capability to access "the culture of power" in relating to students (Philip, 2011). However, at the same time, these teachers may be "as susceptible to the same resistance or ignorance as White preservice teachers [are]" (Castro, 2010, p. 207).

We argue that similar attention should be paid to teacher educators of colors' beliefs and practices. Though there is research on White teacher educators' beliefs and practices in multicultural education (Galman, PicaSmith, & Rosenberger, 2010), little is known about teacher educators of color and how their racial and ethnic backgrounds influence their beliefs and practices, more specifically how they read and teach multicultural texts. To what extent do their statuses as cultural insiders/outsiders of the culture portrayed in the text influence their epistemological stances and ways of reading and teaching the text? How do their different identities as readers, teacher educators, and cultural insiders/outsiders impact the ways they read and teach the multicultural text?

This article is based on the results of a larger self-study in which four teacher educators of color participated in a book club designed to discuss the pedagogical possibilities of Yoko Kawashima Watkins' So Far from the Bamboo Grove (1986) and its sequel, My Brother, My Sister, and I (1994), in their teacher education courses. Filling the gap in research, we focused on responding to the following questions:

1. What happens when teacher educators of color talk about a multicultural text?

* How do they read the multicultural text?

* How do they want to teach the text?

2. How does their membership in the culture depicted in the book impact the ways they read and teach the multicultural text?

In doing so, we add additional voices from teacher educators of color (Gay, 2010) to the growing body of literature on the professional development of teacher educators in multicultural teacher education (Cochran-Smith, 2003a; O'Hara & Pritchard, 2008). For the purpose of this study, we also define multicultural literature as "literature by and about people who are members of groups considered to be outside the socio-political mainstream of the United States" (Bishop, 1993, p. 39), more specifically books by and about people of color.

The Novels

The Library of Congress classifies So Far from the Bamboo Grove (So Far)-the story of eleven-year-old Yoko and her family's escape from Korea to Japan during the final days of WWII-as "fictionalized autobiography," while My Brother, My Sister, and I (My Brother) is categorized as a continuation of Yoko and her family's struggle to survive in post-WWII Japan. Of the two books, So Far has garnered the most attention. The novel earned criticism and praise, including a place on best book lists sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and the American Library Association. …

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