Growing in Multicultural Education with Alumni

By Abendroth, Mark | Multicultural Education, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Growing in Multicultural Education with Alumni


Abendroth, Mark, Multicultural Education


Introduction

Multicultural education does not develop along a linear path. An individual who decides to become a teacher brings countless life experiences to the prospect of gaining certification to teach in any state of the multicultural United States. This person has a history and a present situation that likely include various experiences along a spectrum from oppression to privilege. A certification program introduces concepts of multicultural education in hopes that the candidate will enter student teaching with a firm foundation of knowledge and respect regarding cultural diversity.

The program, hopefully, uses readings, discussions, and activities that challenge and support the candidate toward growth in becoming a multicultural educator who understands and embodies a practice of cultural competence and equity. If this individual does go on to become a teacher with an effective practice of multicultural education, then the teacher educators of the certification program would do well to maintain a working relationship with this teacher and other alumni who have similar success.

The purpose of the case study reported here was two-fold. One purpose was to begin the work of exploring how able and willing alumni can contribute to a secondary certification program's ongoing goal of preparing pre-service and new teachers to become effective multicultural educators. The other purpose was to evaluate how the alumni had developed perspectives on multicultural education along a path from pre-service teaching to experienced teaching.

I interviewed three alumni who became teachers under a state provision of a fast track that allows one to teach after one year of courses and 50 hours of classroom observations. The three became teachers at the same time and then within two years graduated with the same master's degree again at the same time. I was their instructor for the capstone portfolio course when I was a new faculty member. The three have been teaching in public schools of a large city on the U.S. eastern seaboard, and they are in their seventh year of teaching as of this writing. One of them recently completed credentials for becoming a principal, and the other two are in the late stages of completion of an administartive credential.

For a small group of three, the alumni are culturally diverse-an African American female, a White male, and an Asian American male. I find it is important to disclose that I am a White, generally abled, heterosexual male with a middle-class, Protestant upbringing. All of this places me with unearned privileges regarding race, abilities, sexual orientation, gender, class, and religion. Although I did not choose to grow up with these privileges, I face choices daily as an adult whether to work toward growth in my journey of becoming a better ally in struggles to end oppression and unearned privileges.

My current work as a teacher educator, like my former work as a secondary ESL and social studies teacher, gives me a grand honor and a grand responsibility to participate in the hard work of joining with others to advance democracy, equity, and social justice in our communities and our world. This is a labor of love and joy, and reconnecting with three esteemed alumni reminded me of how exciting and rewarding it all can be.

Importance of Alumni Relations

Teacher educators mostly are former K-12 teachers who have been away from their elementary or secondary classrooms for years. Although we have gained some level of wisdom from teaching experience and from completing doctoral degrees, the memories of day-to-day classroom teaching cannot remain as strong after each passing year. Teaching alumni have the current practice that can add a great deal of legitimacy in efforts to mentor pre-service and beginning teachers (Wepner, Krute, & Jacobs, 2009). Any certification program will have much to gain by encouraging alumni to support each other through the challenging first years of teaching. …

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