There’s more to their story : portraits about the everyday classroom lives of Mexican-origin teen mothers at an alternative school
There’s more to their story is a qualitative study that examines the pedagogical interactions of care and support that unfold between teachers and students within an alternative school located along the U.S./Mexico border. More specifically, I pay close attention to the interactions between teachers and mothering students of Mexican-origin, and how teachers and students perceive the notion of “care,” over the course of one academic year in three different classrooms. Drawing from theories of care, Chicana feminist theories, and culturally relevant pedagogy, and integrating Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s portraiture methodology in my research design, I assemble portraits that zoom in on the detailed pedagogical strategies teachers use to connect with mothering students. The main findings that emerged from the portraits are the following: (1) the academic and personal interactions of care and support that unfolded between the teachers and the mothering students contributed to the students’ sense of belonging in the school, thereby enabling them to be positioned as “model” students and “good” mothers who are “mature” and full of potential to pursue higher education (this is in contrast to their prior schooling experiences in which they were known as “bad” students or “troublemakers”); (2) the family-centric structure of the alternative school allowed for teachers to find the support they needed to provide the care necessary for mothering students to construct a pro-school ethos; (3) although interactions of care and support are exhibited, there are taken-for-granted gendered dynamics that play out in the classroom that curtail further possibility for students to redefine their identities in transformative ways; (4) in their quest to be supportive and caring to students, the teachers felt underprepared to help their students deal with complex issues like gender discrimination, sexuality, and gender violence. This study makes visible structures we take for granted by centering the educational experiences of Latina mothering teens. This is important work not just because of what we can learn about how structures shape teachers’ ability to do care work, but it also fills in the gaps of what is known about the needs of Mexican origin youth who live along the U.S./Mexico border, and for Latina mothering students more specifically.