Teachers’ perceptions of Mexican American students: An autoethnographic journey with five secondary school teachers
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Over fifty percent of students enrolled in K-12 are Hispanic in Texas (Texas Education Agency, 2011). However, while the Hispanic population continues to grow, Mexican American students still fall behind their Anglo counterparts in academics. As the federal and state governments consider funding for public education to support better academic achievement, legislators and others have missed another important challenge; teachers’ perceptions and how they impact the academic success of their Mexican American students. It is imperative that district and campus staff development teacher trainings provide awareness of the significance teachers’ cultural perspectives have on student academic achievement. In addition, teacher educators need to acknowledge pre-service teachers’ cultural backgrounds as they plan teacher education programs to better prepare first year teachers for the diverse classrooms of today. This qualitative autoethnographic study examined the ways in which teachers’ stated perceptions and practices hinder or ameliorate the academic success of adolescent Mexican American students. Additionally, this project examined the ways my own story as a Mexican American student, teacher and administrator revealed the impact that teachers’ perceptions have in constructing classroom environments that are conducive to meeting the academic needs of Mexican American students. Conducting informal interviews and acting as a participant observer within five secondary level teachers’ classrooms, allowed me to adopt the role of an abstract co-participant and the opportunity to answer the following questions: 1. What are five secondary level teachers’ perceptions of what it means to educate Mexican American students? What factors inform their perceptions? 2. In what ways do the participants’ responses act as a springboard for exploring and constructing my own story as a Mexican American student, teacher and principal? 3. In what ways do the five secondary level teachers’ stated perceptions influence, or not, how and what they teach? 4. Finally, what do the perceptions of my own experiences, in relation to my participants, say about what MA students need for success in school? This autoethnographic research study’s analysis involved data interpretation that used the voice of a Mexican American female student, teacher, and principal, to convey the story of how each would experience the school in which the study was performed. Through the eyes and experiences of the researcher, each character tells her own story, using narrative story-telling, performance drama, and journal entry formats.