Being an “Other”: The significance of teachers' lived experiences in working with culturally and linguistically diverse students
The study's goal was to understand what contributes to the formation of teachers' perspectives regarding the education of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Its focus was to portray through teachers' stories the experiences in their lives that may have contributed to constructing who they are as people and as educators.
Four teachers from one rural district participated. Using qualitative methods, the study explores and describes incidents in teachers' lives, looking at the way their life experiences are reflected in their relationships with students. In considering ways in which those experiences may have helped shape teaching philosophies and practices, the study also considers the teachers' reported statements about their classroom teaching methods to see how what they may have learned from early life experiences are incorporated.
Despite each teacher's individual uniqueness, similarities emerged during data analysis. Examining these similarities contributed to an understanding of these teachers and what processes and attitudes made them good teachers of ELLs.
The study reports three broad findings: (a) that the teachers possess a risk- and challenge-taking nature; (b) they are life-long learners; and (c) that the teachers had two different kinds of cultural experience during their lives, one that the researcher labeled “Regular” cultural experiences and a second kind which she labeled “Otherness” cultural experiences.
The teachers were judged to share a willingness to make choices involving challenges, many of which proved to be learning opportunities, and they tried to instill in their students the same resiliency and willingness to take risks.
All the teachers personally had both “regular” and “otherness” cultural experiences. “Regular” cultural experiences helped them understand new or unknown cultural values and practices by observation and participation. Through “Otherness” cultural experiences, each experienced the emotion of “being different” and “being marginalized” via the personal, lived experience of being an “Other.” This was judged to have contributed to shaping each teacher's ability to better understand the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse students, enabling greater compassion for them and teaching them more effectively.
English as a Second Language;
Multiculturalism & pluralism
0441: English as a Second Language
0530: Teacher education