Doing Good and Doing Damage: Educators’ Impact on Undocumented Latinx Students’ Lives



In this chapter, I explore educators’ particularly poignant role in impacting undocumented students’ lives. I draw from the perspectives of undocumented students to examine how educators impact undocumented Latinx lives for better or for worse. I focus on undocumented Latinx students’ perceptions of educators’ everyday interactions with them and use Valenzuela’s (Subtractive schooling: U.S.-Mexican youth and the politics of caring. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999) notions of educación and authentic caring to analyze how students make meaning of them. I stress the significance of interactions that do good and others that do damage and suggest that educators can powerfully influence the lives of undocumented youth through small, even momentary interactions.

 Studying the impact of educators’ actions and omissions from the vantage point of undocumented students is critical to informing current practices, behaviors, and interventions. This chapter attempts to begin a conversation around the role of educators in undocumented students’ lives by asking: How do undocumented students perceive their everyday interactions with educators? Of these interactions, which ones do students identify as “doing good” and “doing damage”? In this chapter, I argue that individual educators have the power to “do good” or “do damage” in the lives of undocumented youth. I analyze, discuss, and present implications about the impact of educators on undocumented students, noting that the actions and omissions of individual educators can have lasting effects on their lives.

 This chapter reveals “children who have been raised to dream, yet are cut off from the very mechanisms that allow them to achieve their dreams” (Gonzales, The College Board, 1–27, 2009, 6); their dreams are tempered and even squashed by limited educational opportunities, low academic expectations, fear of deportation, inability to acquire employment, and mental health challenges associated with the stress of being undocumented. In the midst of such adversity, undocumented students pointed to human mechanisms that can serve as gateways or gatekeepers for the futures of undocumented students; those human mechanisms are educators.


Undocumented Students Limited Educational Opportunities Everyday Interactions Undocumented Youth Present Implications 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Our deep appreciation to Ann Marie Ryan, Caleb Steindam, and Michael Dantley for their support and feedback in writing this manuscript.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationLoyola University School of EducationChicagoUSA

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