I’m working as a teaching assistant this quarter for a class in UCSC’s Latino and Latin American Studies department. Right now we’re covering Latinos in education: graduation rates from high school and college, cultural differences with their teachers, etc. Yesterday Prof. Jonathan Fox showed us a print-out of some of our school’s demographic data for this year’s freshman class. Hidden amongst the wall of numbers on the spreadsheet were these little nuggets:
Among this year’s freshman class:
- 25.3% are Latino
- 43.2% come from homes that speak a language other than English, or that speak both English and another language
- 43.7% are part of the first generation of people in their family to go to college.
I was surprised by the numbers, and the students even more so. One student raised her hand and asked if the rest of the faculty knew about these numbers, because if they did, maybe they would treat the students differently. I tend to agree. It doesn’t happen often, but there have certainly been times when I’ve seen faculty try to personalize their lectures with vignettes which could be taken right out of Leave it To Beaver. It’s hard to imagine many of the students being able to relate. For my own part, knowing how few of our students grew up with parents who went to college makes me want to pay more attention to what kind of things I mistakenly assume my students already know. Finding out what they do and don’t know before they step into the classroom seems like half the battle of good teaching, and something I’d love to learn to do better.