Teaching Across the Demographic Divide With Latinx Texts on Immigration

Teaching Across the Demographic Divide With Latinx Texts on Immigration

Darci L. Gueta (Texas A&M University-Commerce, USA) and Alexandra Babino (Texas A&M University-Commerce, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8725-6.ch006
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This chapter presents a preliminary introduction into the topic of Latinx immigration in texts. To begin, the authors discuss the demographic divide between majoritarian teachers and multiply minoritized students in the U.S. literacy classroom. Then, the authors briefly share their experiences regarding their work in light of major trends relating to literacy teaching before outlining the key tenets of culturally relevant and culturally sustaining pedagogies. The majority of the chapter will focus on detailing how teachers can support Latinx students around the topic of immigration by providing examples of culturally relevant and sustaining practices with an abbreviated lesson plan of how to facilitate discourse addressing the topic of immigration using a text featuring Latinx characters.
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The population of Latinx1 students in U.S. public schools is exponentially growing. According to the National Council for Educational Statistics (2020) in 2017, 27% of all k-12 public school students were Hispanic. In comparison, 79% of public-school teachers were white and non-Hispanic with only 9% of teachers identifying as Hispanic (Spiegelman, 2020; The Condition of Education, 2020). Thus, the majority of teachers tasked with teaching Latinx students, many of whom are Students of Color, come from different cultural backgrounds from their students. This is the “demographic divide” often described by critical education researchers that has direct implications for teacher preparation programs (Aaronson & Meyers, 2020, p.2). This divide is consequential because it is often a challenge to think outside of one’s own bias in order to facilitate content and discourse around topics that aren’t a part of one’s life. Teacher identity, including one’s cultural identity, affects an educator’s worldview, purposes for teaching, and instructional decisions (Cochran-Smith, 2010; Pugach et al., 2019)

For example, if a white teacher grew up as a citizen of the United States and did not have to worry about being suddenly removed from their surroundings after struggling to emigrate, they would not have the same level of understanding as a Latinx immigrant from another country. However, it should also be said that just because a teacher shares the same cultural heritage as their students doesn’t mean that they are effective in working with them (Villegas & Irvine, 2010). A Latinx teacher born in the United States, but has never experienced what it was like to emigrate from another country, also doesn't experientially know the weight of making a better life for their family amidst myriad hurdles unique to a first-generation immigrant. True, the teacher may have family members that have experienced this, but their experience may be markedly different due to varying U.S. immigration policies over history in addition to not having direct experience of their own. Both of these examples (and more) may reveal a combination of disconnect, obtuseness, and/or angst as literacy teachers attempt to approach the topic and themes of immigration. While positive intent should be assumed, often even the most well-meaning teachers (both white and Teachers of Color) are not prepared to plan and facilitate standards-based lessons using culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogy around these topics (Ladson-Billings, 2014). Pre-service teachers not only have to learn how to teach but become familiar with content and effective supports for diverse student populations (Mkandawire et al., 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Latinx: Gender neutral term used to refer to a person from Latin American descent.

Implicit Bias: Attitudes or stereotypes about a specific culture without even knowing it.

Culturally Responsive: A person should be culturally competent, having an awareness of their own culture, identity, and views with the ability to understand and appreciate the differences between their own culture and that of their students.

Multicultural Texts: Literature about cultures outside of the mainstream.

Immigrant: A person moving permanently to another country.

Multicultural: Cultural or ethnic groups in a society.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: Theory of using one’s Native culture and language to positively impact their own educational achievement.

Immigration: The act of moving permanently from one country to another.

Culturally Sustaining Practices: Practices that are supportive and encouraging of students using their cultural practices from home, including funds of knowledge, talents, interests, and values in school and sustaining them.

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Theory that supports students in understanding and celebrating their culture and seeking to use practices that challenge injustices.

Social Justice: Justice regarding opportunity, wealth, and privilege.

Bias: Prejudiced against someone or something for a particular reason.

Cultural Competence: Having the ability to understand, interact with, and appreciate others from different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.

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