How do you embrace, support, and retain Hispanic educators?
For one thing, says Latinx Education Collaborative founder Edgar José Palacios, we must embrace the multifaceted layers of identity of those who have been grouped together by others into terms like Hispanic, Latinx, and more. White people created those terms and don’t get to dictate what actually “counts” to be part of these communities.
Palacios expanded on these ideas on the latest episode of Citizen Ed’s Building the Black Educator Pipeline to deepen the meaning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins September 15 every year.
“You have to understand that we’re not all one type of way,” Palacios told host Shayna Terrell. “Let’s be clear about what [white educators, administrators, and district leaders] mean about ‘Latino.’ We have to start talking about clarity” in hiring and supporting teachers with these identities.
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You Can’t Be Who You Can’t See 2.0
As with Black educators, American schools are severely lacking in teachers from Latinidad, a Spanish term Palacios said he occasionally prefers to use for Latin American peoples from various countries of origin.
“The reality is a lot of our students aren’t seeing themselves represented in the classroom,”
“The reality is a lot of our students aren’t seeing themselves represented in the classroom,” Palacios said. “Especially in terms of teachers. This is a critical issue in our community.”
But it’s not like administrators and districts can simply plop a bunch of newly minted Spanish-speaking teachers into classrooms and expect the neighborhood’s problems to solve themselves. Just like any other teacher, these educators will need professional development, teacher leaders, and other key mentors in the work to make a bigger difference for kids.
“It feels like a disservice to our community for us to say, ‘Hey, we’re ready for you.’ There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.
The situation on the ground is eye-opening, Palacios said. Thanks to lack of support, so many Latinx educators go in the door one year and out the next. Kids aren’t blind. They see this, same as he does.
“If I’m seeing turnover and frustration with Hispanic teachers, then students are seeing that,” he said.
While Palacios himself prefers to use the term Latino to describe his own identity, he said the varied identities of teachers from the Spanish-speaking world mean vulnerable and honest conversations about diverse identities within these larger groups need to happen in education.
To help get districts and leadership to improve their Latinx students’ education, Palacios said solutions already exist. They merely need to be scaled up.
“Affinity spaces are so important in education … sometimes you just need that space to be in community with your people,”
“Affinity spaces are so important in education … sometimes you just need that space to be in community with your people,” he said. That’s where deeper conversations about differences and solidarity within the Latinx community can be better understood, not ignored.
Shayna agreed. “When we work together we also have to work to ensure we aren’t erasing each other’s identities,” she said.