High School History Teacher-in-Training
First in Family to Attend College
Q: What do you have in common with your teachers?
A: Growing up in the southmost part of the country, I believe that I have had a unique experience. The majority of my teachers have been Mexican Americans. I sometimes see myself reflected in their stories about their childhood. We share the same culture and traditions. In Christmas time we all look forward to eating tamales and sharing time with our large, extended families.
Although most of my grade school teachers looked similar to me, in college at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley things changed. Suddenly I was surrounded with Anglo and Asian professors. Sometimes it was difficult to communicate and relate with them. They would tend not to understand the culture of the students. However, I always felt I had home field advantage because they were the outsiders.
Recently the University has doubled their efforts to hire Latino professors. Although we do share a common language and Hispanic heritage we are very different. Currently I have a Cuban, a Cuban American, and a Puerto Rican professor. Our customs are very different but it is always interesting to learn about their traditions.
I usually find myself making connections between their traditions and mine.
I’ve also had Mexican and Mexican-American professors. I can relate more with these professors but even then, they are usually not native to the valley. They come from California, Chicago, and different parts of Mexico. Ultimately, I have always looked up to the few professors who are from the area and are teaching in the area. They usually share the same stories and “have been there done that”.
Disclaimer: This is not to say that teachers from other backgrounds and cultures are bad teachers. At the end of the day they have all been great teachers. A teacher’s role is to teach, and I have learned… A LOT!
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: I think it is very important to have that connection between student and teacher.
As a future teacher, I want to build that rapport with my students. I know that in the question above I focused on ethnicity a lot because that is what came to mind at first. But thinking about it we do not have to be from the same ethnic background, race, religion, sex or socioeconomic status to have things in common. The key is to respect and celebrate each other’s differences rather than point them out or try to hide them. My whole teaching philosophy is centered around the ability to celebrate diversity and be proud of the differences in the classroom and in our community. We live in a great country that even with all its flaws, it still remains the land of opportunity for all, although some have more opportunities than others. But that is what education is for and that is why I want to be an educator. I want to give all students the tools necessary to have an opportunity to succeed and close the achievement gap. Once again this is where having something in common comes to play.
I am part of that achievement gap and have lacked opportunity so I can relate. I believe that the only thing that a student and teacher should have in common is acceptance. If the teacher and the student have acceptance of each other’s differences then they will forget about pint pointing differences and focus more on finding things in common. Similarities are not always dependent on racial factors.
Wilbert is currently a university student preparing to become high school history teacher. He is a DREAMer--born in Mexico and raised in the Rio Grande Valley since he was 3 years old. He plans to stay in The Valley to teach with the hopes of giving back to the community that supported him.
Photo (c) 2017 Kristin Leong
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.