Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting
April 12-14, 2018
Presentation Title: "Where are the Latino Teachers?" (poster)
Author: Juan Gaytan
Despite Latinos accounting for 30% of all K-12 students by 2023 (Pew Research Center, 2015), Latino males are only 2% of all teachers (Department of Education, 2016). To date, little research has explored why Latino males do not become teachers. This is of particular concern for Latino male students who experience higher levels of perceived discrimination (Huynh & Fuligni, 2010) and lower academic achievement (Cooper & Sanchez, 2016) than their female counterparts. Research suggests that more diverse teachers could positively affect male minorities’ academic achievement by providing instructors who are culturally sensitive and can connect with them (Vilson, 2015). This study explores what motivates Latino male students to become teachers as well as what deters so many from doing so.
Twenty Latino male high school students were interviewed about their career aspirations. Half attended a program for Latinos interested in pursuing a career in teaching, while the others attended a similar, non-career specific program. High schoolers were targeted because they are considering careers to pursue and whether to attend college, and if so, which one. These semi-structured interviews, conducted by a Latino male doctoral student in Education focused on the various considerations these students make in choosing careers to pursue, such as familial influence (e.g., opinion, migration history) and their values and priorities, with a focus on students’ perceptions of the teaching profession. The interviews also explored students’ opinions about Latino teachers, and if teaching had ever been a viable consideration for them.
Using structural coding analysis, followed by pattern coding, I found that the students interested in becoming teachers viewed teaching as the best profession to provide a meaningful way to contribute to their communities. They viewed teachers as an integral part of children’s development, which meant it was an essential part of the growth of their communities. Others have found that, for adolescence, contributing to their communities in culturally valuable ways is a vital component of fostering an “idealized personhood” (Lerner et al., 2003, Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde, 1998), and these students viewed becoming teachers as one of the most viable professions for accomplishing that.
Among those students not pursuing teaching, desires to contribute to their community were also described, but focused more on providing for their immediate families. To them, teaching, a relatively low-pay and low-status profession, was not ideal for giving back to their families. Instead, these teens aimed for professions with higher salaries and societal prestige. Professions that, in their opinion, better justified the sacrifices their parents had made for them.
All teens recognized the lack of Latino teachers and understood the impact they could have in their schools. Understanding what attracts Latino males to the teaching profession is essential for identifying ways to encourage more Latinos to become teachers. This study contributes to understanding the teaching career pipeline by identifying influences on teenage Latino males’ career aspirations and is a step towards reducing ethnic and gender career disparities in Education. A disparity that likely contributes to poor academic outcomes for Latino males.