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Chapter 5: Establishing Teacher Allies Through Critical Multicultural Coursework

by Lan Kolano, Leslie Gutierrez & Anna Sanczyk - 2021

Background: Contemporary dominant discourses surrounding (un)documented migration in the United States are commonly divided into two polarized frames: those immigrants who are hard workers seeking a better life, and others who are border-crossing criminals. For teachers in the Southeast, developing an understanding of immigrants becomes critically important as new demographic trends and anti-immigration rhetoric have resulted in the implementation of restrictive laws, policies, and practices. In this article, we move beyond pedagogical strategies that address students’ linguistic needs and explore what teachers know and say about immigration, along with what they know about undocumented and DACAmented students.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the ways in which exposure to counternarratives of undocumented or DACAmented youth and families altered the frames in which teachers viewed immigration and undocumented and DACAmented immigrants.

Research Design: The researchers used qualitative methods to collect a series of narratives in the form of I-essays from 71 preservice teachers over four semesters. The narratives were then used as a tool of communication in exploring two research questions: (1) What were teachers’ perceptions of undocumented immigrants, given the racialized context in the Southeast? (2) How did counternarratives presented in multiple formats challenge the dominant essentialized view of undocumented immigrants? Narrative data from participants were analyzed using an inductive analysis approach.

Findings: The findings support how the use of critical conversations around immigration and exposure to the lives of youth and families through the use of film and narratives can support the development of teachers as undocumented allies.

Conclusions: We argue that preservice (ESL) teachers need to be knowledgeable about immigration laws, statuses, policies, and practices in order to be prepared to serve their students’ needs and to aid them in mapping out alternative routes/resources. For our participants, their views were challenged to reflect a deeper understanding of immigration, particularly around what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in an area of the United States that has experienced new immigrant growth. This study has significant implications for teacher preparation programs and further research.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 13, 2021, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23746, Date Accessed: 9/21/2021 9:52:04 AM

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About the Author
  • Lan Kolano
    University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    E-mail Author
    LAN KOLANO, Ph.D., is professor of education and chair of the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K12 Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research focuses on the academic, language, and identity development of immigrant learners, and on the fostering of critical multicultural efficacy in teacher preparation programs. Her most recent publications include “Rising Up in Solidarity: Southeast Asian Immigrant Youth Activism in North Carolina,” which was published in the Handbook of Social Justice Interventions in Education (2020). “Transforming Preservice Teacher Perceptions of Immigrant Communities Through Digital Storytelling” was recently published in the Journal of Experiential Education (2021).
  • Leslie Gutierrez
    Johnson C. Smith University
    E-mail Author
    LESLIE GUTIERREZ is an interdisciplinarian who holds a Ph.D. in English with concentrations in Africana Studies, TESOL, and Spanish. She is a proud alumna of Spelman College and has taught at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. She is currently an assistant professor of Spanish and the co-director of the Center for Languages, Rhetoric, and Cultures at Johnson C. Smith University. Her research interests are undocumented migration in the United States; second-language acquisition and teaching (Spanish and English); and Afro-Latino cultures and lived experiences. She has expertise in digital storytelling and activism, and in protest music and movements within African and Latino diasporas.
  • Anna Sanczyk
    University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    E-mail Author
    ANNA SANCZYK received a bachelor’s degree in English philology in Poland and a master’s degree in English linguistics in Norway. She has taught ESL in schools and universities in Poland, Norway, and the United States. She received a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2020. Her research interests include language teacher identity and agency, critical pedagogy, and culturally responsive pedagogy. She has recently co-authored “Transforming Preservice Teacher Perceptions of Immigrant Communities Through Digital Storytelling” in the Journal of Experiential Education (2021).
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