I Like Your Eyes: Reflections on Role Models

blueeyesBy Katie Doyle — I work in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in San Jose, so the majority of my students are Latino, with a few Vietnamese students mixed in.

Because of the racial demographics of the neighborhood, most of my students have dark eyes and dark hair.  So when someone who looks like me, with pale skin and light hair and eyes, it becomes a topic of discussion among students.

“I like your eyes” is something I hear from a student at least once a week.

Where I am from, blue eyes are the norm, and it’s not something I ever really thought about.  When I moved here, my hair and eyes were a discussion topic much more often than I am comfortable with.  Among my students, my appearance is a rarity that they feel they need to point out frequently.

When I look at the school staff, however, I see a lot of people who look like me.  Why is it that in a community of color, most of the school staff is white? What does that say about our society?

When I was a student in the College of Education, I remember learning that students needed positive role models that not only related to them but also looked like them.  I try to relate to my students as best I can, but at the end of the day, I’m a white girl from the Midwest, not someone who grew up on San Jose’s east side.

That being said, there are some fantastic teachers who grew up near this community and serve as great role models for our students.  These teachers and staff members serve as examples of the great things our students can do as long as they stay in school and work hard.  They are giving back to the community they grew up in, and it is a great example for our students to follow.

Role models don’t need to have the same background as their students to be positive influences on them, but I think it is more meaningful when they do.  There needs to be an active attempt to recruit teachers who will serve as positive role models to all sorts of students.

1 Response to “I Like Your Eyes: Reflections on Role Models”

  1. 1 pwuenstel April 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Great food for thought. I believe that students need both mirrors in whom they can see people that look like themselves and windows, in whom they can see worlds that are very different from their own. Thanks for being that to your “pupils”.


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