Junior high school teachers and the meaning perspectives they hold regarding their Mexican American students: An ethnographic case study
Herrera, Socorro Guadalupe
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The major findings of this case study emerged from the qualitative research question: What meaning perspectives are indicated by teachers' discourse regarding their day-to-day interactions with their Mexican American junior high school students? These findings surround five meaning perspectives teachers hold in these daily interactions with these students. Two of these meaning perspectives are epistemic, one is psychological, and two are sociocultural. According to transformation theory, which served as the substantive theoretical framework for the study, a meaning perspective functions as a structure of assumptions and a belief system through which we interpret and evaluate experience. The two epistemic meaning perspectives identified in this study involve the ways in which teachers come to know what they know and the uses they make of that knowledge. These two epistemic meaning perspectives, reification and reductionistic prescriptivism were identified according to five different meaning schemes indicated in teachers discourse. A psychological meaning perspective of colorblind nonaccommodative denial was also indicated by teachers discourse in this case study. Psychological meaning perspectives involve the influences of such phenomena as self-concept, locus of control, and defense mechanisms. Additionally, two sociocultural meaning perspectives were identified. These sociocultural meaning perspectives are best described as ideologies; specifically the ideology of the benevolent autocrat and the ideology of the manana conflict. According to the transformation theoretical conceptualization of the term, distorted (that is based on or in limited, contradictory, and/or impermeable premises), four of the five (two epistemic and two sociocultural) meaning perspectives identified in this study are distorted. Therefore, these findings indicate that teachers' relationships with their Mexican American students are subject to interpretations which may be personally constraining and interactively self-defeating. That their students suffered the culture clash of the consequent interpretations is evident in teachers' own discourse. That teachers suffered as well is evident in the frustration and perpetual negativity notable in the same discourse. These findings point to the need for preservice education and inservice teacher education, grounded in critical reflection on premises and assumptions in prior learning and socialization, especially for those mostly White, monocultural educators who teach in cross-cultural learning environments.