En La Lucha: The Struggles and Triumphs of Latino/a Preservice Teachers
by Jason G. Irizarry - 2011
Background/Context: Several studies have argued that the academic struggles of Latino/a students are connected, at least in part, to the dearth of Latino/a teachers and other school personnel who may be better equipped to meet the needs of this group. Others have suggested that there are significant academic benefits to having a more diverse teaching force. Despite significant population growth among Latinos/as in the United States, the teaching force remains overwhelmingly White, as Latino/a students continue to be underrepresented in institutions of higher education and, more specifically, within teacher education programs.
Purpose/Objective/Focus of the Study: Given the failure of teacher preparation programs to attract and retain more Latino/a students, and the implications that the shortage of qualified teachers has on Latino/a and other K–12 students, it is vital to learn from the challenges and successes of Latino/a preservice teachers to improve the ways in which teachers of diverse backgrounds are attracted into the field and prepared for this work. This article reports the findings of an ethnographic study in which a cohort of Latino/a preservice teachers was followed from the teachers’ recruitment into college, through their undergraduate years and, for most, their eventual transition into the teaching profession.
Setting: All the participants were undergraduate students enrolled in the teacher education program at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) of higher education in the northeastern United States.
Participants: A cohort of 5 Latino/a preservice teachers recruited to the institution as part of a minority teacher recruitment program participated in the study.
Research Design: This article draws from data collected ethnographically, using phenomenological interviews, observations, field notes, and student work products to document barriers that students encountered while navigating their preservice teacher education program. The author critically examines how this cohort of Latino/a undergraduates experienced systematic silencing, the result of the acts of individual agents and institutional practices and policies that manifested in overt and subtle forms of subordination.
Findings: The study reveals how subordination serves to marginalize students of color by hindering their full, active participation in teacher preparation programs through the silencing of their voices. Using critical race theory (CRT) and Latino/a critical race theory (LatCrit) as analytic lenses, the author describes multiple sites within the institution of higher education where students experienced silencing.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The article concludes with a discussion of implications, framed around the central tenets of CRT and LatCrit, for improving the recruitment and retention of Latino/a college students in teacher education, particularly as an important means for enhancing the educational experiences and outcomes for Latinos/as in K–12 schools.
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