Communicating care across culture and language: The student-teacher relationship as a site for socialization in public schools

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Humanity and Society






SAGE Publications

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Formal schooling is a site of cultural socialization where children are taught how to see their world and themselves. As teachers are a primary medium through which this socialization occurs, the present study explores students’ perceptions of teachers’ care in two schools where a majority of students and teachers differ in cultural heritage. Like many public schools in the nation, students at these schools were predominantly Latin@, while the teachers were mostly white. Students at an elementary school and a high school were interviewed about how teachers communicate care for students. While a majority of elementary students reported that teachers showed care for them by speaking in Spanish, few high school students mentioned this as a way teachers showed care. Older students perceived teachers’ care through committed academic support and creation of personal relationships. High school students reported that teachers respected their culture by omitting it from classroom discussion and not using it to discriminate against them. We argue that this conception of teacher’s care including restrictive language norms and without mentioning culture suggests that these students have been socialized to perceive learning in schools as a-cultural. The implications of this perspective for students’ learning, academic success, and developing identities are discussed.

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