Cleveland Hayes, associate professor of education, discussed his research on successful Latino teachers Monday afternoon in the President’s Dining Room.
For about five years, Hayes followed 10 Latino teachers and documented their stories about teaching in urban, underprivileged schools.
Each subject had his or her own reason for becoming a teacher, but all had a similar purpose: none wanted future generations of Latino students to suffer through mediocre schooling like they had.
“That is a lot of the reason why they became teachers: because they wanted to erase some of those experiences that the kids were having because of language – because they were seen as not (college bound),” Hayes said.
He described one subject who immigrated to the United States at a young age and did not speak English.
Because of this, the school placed him in a special education class.
“One of the reasons why he decided to become a special ed teacher was because of that experience he had … because he was an English language learner,” Hayes said.
Andrea Madrigal, a sophomore sociology major who attended the lecture could relate.
“My parents came from the same situation, like coming over here at 9 years old and only speaking Spanish and being put into these classes that weren’t necessarily the right classes for them,” Madrigal said.
“So I really took this all to heart, and I really like the effort that he is trying to do so future generations do not have to go through the same thing,” she said.
During his lecture, Hayes highlighted the ways in which these Latino educators were taking traditional subjects and teaching them in a way that relates to students.
Another participant teaches art as critical resistance at a charter school in Los Angeles. Instead of old-fashioned methods, he drew upon his students lived experiences to create his art activism curriculum.
“His students have these murals between these spaces to cut back on the graffiti because people are less likely to graffiti the walls if kids in the neighborhood have put the murals up,” Hayes said.
From analysis of each story, Hayes discovered themes of wanting to prove doubters wrong and refusing to be a victim.
“When I would interview them, I would interview on three cases: their personal experiences, their experiences as K-12 students and now as K-12 teachers,” Hayes said.
“Like he was saying, the experience of these teachers is now affecting them as teachers and their students,” Megan Soucy, sophomore psychology major, said.
Hayes also said that his research is not a checklist on how to successfully teach at urban schools, or a “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” story.
Each teacher has a unique story that may not work for others, he said.
Hayes said he wants teachers to teach traditionally, but in a way that relates to students’ experiences.
“This research provides this counter narrative that the only people who can be successful teachers in urban schools are white females,” Hayes said. “That is the Hollywood narrative.”
Hayes shines light on his Latino participants because they successfully relate to their students lived experiences and therefore make learning more comprehensive.
Over the five years of his study, he developed friendships with his subjects, which caused his research to become personal rather than systematic.
“I really liked how he was so personal about it,” Danielle Vukovich, junior psychology major, said. “It wasn’t just a study, but he really got involved in it. Like he said, the people that he did interview, they weren’t just a number to him. He actually knows their lives and actually cares, and it seems that he really wants to make a difference.”
Hayley Hulin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.