Mothers of Mexican origin within day-to-day parent involvement: agency & Spanish language maintenance
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This study’s purpose was to explore the impact of the daily school interactions of mothers of Mexican origin on the Spanish language maintenance of their young children. Using a social practice theory of agency (Holland, et al., 1998), research data was generated from interviews with teachers, administrators, and Latina mothers; supplemented by mothers’ journals, anecdotal records of home/school observations, district policies and school’s correspondence to participating mothers, local historical records, and the researcher’s log. The two research questions guiding the study were: 1) How do these mothers of Mexican origin enact agency within parent involvement situated in Sonoma’s historical race and language context?; and 2) How do their language ideologies and views toward Spanish language maintenance express themselves for these mothers as they interact within parent involvement? This was a two-year qualitative study using ethnographic methods conducted in a community in South Central Texas. The three case study mothers, all of Mexican origin, participated over a five month period in a series of six to ten-weekly interviews about their daily experiences with parent involvement in the schools. In addition, data collected on the school district’s general parent involvement policies and practices provided the backdrop from which to understand the ‘parent involvement discourse’ of this district and the community/district historical records depicted the school’s/community’s race and language history as the context for Latina’s current involvement in schools. During these mothers’ interactions, they encountered a school ‘discourse’ founded on a white, middle class perspective of parent involvement that promoted deficit views of immigrant Latinas/os. Both U.S. born and immigrant mothers’ utilized their social and cultural resources to exert agency in their parent involvement efforts to maintain their children on the path they determined necessary for their success and at times to mediate the dominant discourse faced in schools. These efforts included the use of consejos, experiencias de la vida, and el buen ejemplo. The level of active support for bilingualism shown by the leadership on a school campus impacted Latina mothers’ views toward the maintenance of Spanish for their children. Implications of these findings for policymakers and educators are offered.