As a college professor who happens to be a Latina immigrant, I am particularly pleased to read a book that provides so much detail on the lives of Latino students at schools and that recognizes the incredible relevance teachers might have on the academic trajectories of Latino students. My excitement emerges from the recognition of a history of a dichromatic (Black and White) dialogue regarding the lived experiences of students at schools and their interaction with teachers that for many reasons has caused and continues to cause detriment to the academic trajectories of many Latino students. The lack of knowledge of many educators, parents, and policymakers on the realities lived by Latino children and how they navigate a bilingual reality results in teachers having lower expectations for many Latino children, who they mistakenly assume are less smart, less committed, and less capable to understand, given their different cultural background. In Latina Teachers: Creating Careers and Guarding Culture, Glenda M. Flores provides a well-documented, nuanced picture of the significant roles Latina teachers have on Latino students’ academic future. The book is based on interviews and an ethnographic study of Latina teachers teaching at two different schools in California, one predominantly Latino/Black and the other predominantly Latino/Asian. The author’s main question is to recognize whether the experiences of Latina teachers vary according to the racial/ethnic composition of teachers and students at the worksite (p. 7). Flores aims to present in detail how Latina teachers serve as cultural guardians for many Latino students, because they protect their students’ cultural identities and foster their students’ learning via their ethnic cultural capital, challenging the traditional Americanization approach that institutions and schools still favor (p. 9). In her study, Flores finds support for the crucial role Latina teachers have for Latino students’ academic success. Abundant research has reported on the especially significant role that teachers have in the educational trajectories of Latino students. Teachers are particularly influential to Latino students’ academic trajectories because many of these children lack the social and cultural capital to navigate the complicated pathway of educational success. In many instances, these Latino children lack well-informed parents, with time and knowledge, who can guide them and help them in their academic endeavors. Flores presents in her book how it is that teachers, particularly Latina teachers, can help these students succeed. Specifically, she highlights the important link that exists between student and teacher and explains that this link is in many cases strengthened when student and teacher share the same ethnicity. In addition, the author highlights the crucial nexus that exists between parent and teacher, and recognizes that when parents and their culture are respected and valued by their teachers, it is easier for students to succeed academically. After all, parents are the most important factor in children’s development, and a good teacher-parent relationship fosters greater parent participation. In general, Latina Teachers: Creating Careers and Guarding Culture recognizes the important negative implications that cultural mismatch can have for students and the many unintended advantages that sharing and understanding others’ culture might have for the academic advancement of an entire country. In this review, I am not advocating for a perfect ethnic match between students, teachers, and parents to gain cultural consonance in all scenarios. Contrarily, I am a strong believer in the many benefits diversity brings to a society. However, I do believe that having culturally conscious teachers—irrespective of their ethnicity—who are not guided by preconceived ethnic stereotypes is a step forward in the advancement of the academic success of all children. The main critique I have for this book is that although the analysis is based mainly on the cases of Latino students and Latina teachers with Mexican origins in California, its title and implications are presented as an issue for the entirety of Latinos in the United States. The reality of Latinos with different countries of origin diverges substantially from that of most Latino individuals with Mexican origins. There are important differences in the quantity and quality of social, economic, and cultural capital that these different groups of Latinos hold that can and will affect the student-teacher and teacher-parent relationships. For a better understanding of who Latino teachers and Latino students are, this information should have been discussed. Unfortunately, the underlying complexities of the diversity within Latinos are not addressed at any point in the book. Nevertheless, this book is a great resource for individuals who are interested in learning and understanding the dynamics that Latina teachers teaching Latino students live daily. This book is also a useful tool to inform teachers who teach Latino students and who interact with Latino parents on how differences in cultural norms, languages, and ways of learning do not necessarily need to translate into students who are less capable to learn and into parents who are less able to help. In sum, Latina Teachers is a fun and easy book to read, one that captures your attention and forces you to finish reading it as soon as possible. And although many of the issues discussed here might seem simple, they highlight a reality that is unknown to many educators, policymakers, and parents, therefore providing important information to individuals interested in understanding the student-teacher dynamic at diverse schools in the United States. The policy recommendation that emerges from this book is extremely relevant: the necessity to train teachers to deal with diverse student populations with the hope that these teachers are then able to embrace and build on students’ home cultures and languages rather than denigrating these. Given that the student population in schools across the United States is changing more and more, it is necessary to not only diversify the teaching personnel but also train those existing teachers on how to successfully interact with students and parents that do not share their same cultural background. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Forces – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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