Theses Doctoral

Thirdspace Classrooms: Mapping the Identities and Experiences of Chinese Transmigrant Early Childhood Teachers in the U.S.

Ghim, Hyeyoung

Despite calls by U.S. researchers and policymakers for more teachers of color, supported by research documenting the significant social, emotional, and academic benefits of having same-race and same-ethnicity teachers, teaching remains an overwhelmingly White profession, even in light of demographic shifts rendering children of color the numeric majority in U.S. pre/schools. Relatedly, even as over one-fourth of children in the U.S. are immigrants, immigrant and transmigrant teachers have been marginalized in teacher education. Seeking to address this problem from a political-ideological paradigmatic perspective, this study sought to learn from transmigrant teachers’ negotiations of identities and practices.

Rejecting essentialized notions of immigrant teachers/communities and focusing on Chinese transmigrant teachers teaching Chinese immigrants and children of immigrants, it sought to understand how they negotiated their teacher identities and pedagogical practices in light of occupational, geographical, and migrational intersections of identities and experiences. Further, it sought to document how these were enacted in early childhood public school classrooms.

Situated in New York City, home to the largest Chinese and Chinese-American population of any city outside Asia, this collective case study centered the voices, identities, and experiences of three Chinese transmigrant early childhood teachers via Thirdspace theory, bridging identity, and transnational funds of knowledge. Doing so accounted for their individuality and collectivity. Analytically,

• Thirdspace theory was used to map how they reconciled transnational identities, experiences, and pedagogical practices in the classroom;
• bridging identity helped deepen understandings of how they constructed a professional/occupational identity influenced by, but not limited to, past biographical experiences; and
• transnational funds of knowledge epitomized their lived experiences resulting from transnational navigations and/or belonging to transnational communities, capturing the complex flow of knowledges that characterized their experiences and pedagogies.

Findings shed light onto the power and potential of Chinese transmigrant early childhood teachers in the education of Chinese immigrant children. Implications underscore the need for teacher education to learn from the experiences of international teacher candidates, recognizing how they may serve as role models for all students while improving the outcomes and school experiences of immigrant students, leveraging the simultaneity of experiences, identities, and experiences in the construction of Thirdspace classrooms.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Souto-Manning, Mariana V.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 29, 2020