The Ramirez Family

The reason I chose this family was basically because the mother was available during school hours so that I could visit during school time. When I was free, and my student teacher was available, I was able to walk over there and meet with her, so my criterion for choosing the family was more for practical reasons than anything else. Once I got there, I really enjoyed sitting and talking to her. She was very eager to talk and very open about sharing her experiences, her family history, her impressions about what she has gone through. I felt it was as therapeutic for her, as it was informative for me. I believe that these are visits more than interviews. I didn't have a clipboard writing everything down. Once the tape recorder is on, it is easy for the interview to flow.
I found out during the interview that she had undergone radical changes in her life. She had been born in Nogales, Sonora! and came here as a married woman without very many rights. Apparently her husband was quite dictatorial, and whenever there was a decision to be made, he made it, and that was it. When her husband decided to go back to Mexico, she decided to stay--I think it was because she had a need to become her own person.

Another interesting characteristic that I noticed about her was that she treated her daughters more like her peers. She values their company and their ideas. When her older daughter was about ten, and their neighbor left town on vacation, she left Mrs. Ramirez in charge of her house and gave her the keys to the car, assuming that she knew how to drive. Mrs. Ramirez took this opportunity to teach herself how to drive. She saw many elderly women driving, and she thought to herself, "If they can do it, I can do it." She put ail the girls in the car with her oldest daughter in front, and started to teach herself to drive. The daughters know how to read Eng fish, so she depended on them to help her read the signs, and to know where to go.

She also takes her daughters' ideas into consideration when they make a decision as a family, and she's very careful that they have the right kind of care. She was working for a while when her children were younger, but the woman who was caring for them was not doing an adequate job, and so Mrs. Ramirez had to quit her job. She did this even though it meant that she would have to go on food stamps and welfare. She felt that her daughters' care was more important than her having a job.

At the time of the home visits, she was looking for a job, but was not able to find one, and she thought it was because of her lack of English skills. She was looking around for some English classes to take nearby, and she would also go out every day, walking and looking for work that she could do. She had several requirements for her job: She didn't want to take care of children or to clean houses and she wanted something that was close by where she wouldn't have to drive too far. She was limiting herself to a certain extent, but she was being more exclusive in the kind of work that she could do because she felt that her job should be one where she could improve herself. She chose assembly types of work to apply for, and the last time I spoke to her, she had gotten a job at a lock assembly plant. Her youngest daughter is eight, so she feels that they are now able to be alone after school until she gets home at six.

She is on welfare at this point in her life, but definitely doesn't want to stay in that position. This is the reason why she was so discriminating about the kind of job that she wanted to do. She felt that if she did work like watching children, or cleaning houses, she would never be able to "better" herself. She feels that the job she has now is a step to something higher. I think that this is a common thing in many women's lives, where they are dependent on government aid, but they don't want it to be a permanent situation. She also commented that many women in her situation link up with a man just to have financial security, and she refused to do that, because she feels that it is not a good example to her children. Visiting her validated my respect for many Latin women. She is one of those people who knows what she wants, and is patient, trying to accomplish it. Sometimes people will say that the Latin culture dictates that you let fate, or providence dictate your actions, but I feel that she is an example of a person who takes the bull by the horns, and doesn't sit back and wait for things to happen.

The results of the home visits on my teaching practices were not immediately evident. I didn't feel I had really changed the curriculum in my classroom. It was not until I sat to reflect on what I had learned from the parents I interviewed that I realized how I had changed in the classroom as a result of my research.

It was very evident that my students had talents and aptitudes that were not readily evident to me in the everyday interaction in the classroom. Even though I use dialog journals to relate to my students on their daily activities, it was not until I went into their homes that I saw the potential and expertise that each child had to contribute to projects and studies that we did in the class.
For example, had I not visited Gilbert's home I would not have known about his ability to take things apart and repair them. In one of my visits his mom told me that he took apart one of the Nintendo remote controls that was not in working order and fixed it. I also found out that he used to sell bread after school with friends when his family owned a bakery in Mexico. I was then able to use this knowledge in our discussions with problem-solving conflicts, and when things needed repair, I knew I had a student who had knowledge of how things worked.

Through my visits with Graciela's family I learned about her talent for working with animals and how special she is with her pet parakeet. She is a very reserved child, but when she realized that I knew of her interests and talents, she became much more assertive and responded more actively with me and her peers.

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