Lecture highlights importance of treating students with care

Esmeralda Rodriguez, assistant professor of educational counseling, lectures about her recent research in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room on Tuesday. Her research addresses ways school counseling can better help students of color. / photo by Nareg Agopian
Esmeralda Rodriguez, assistant professor of educational counseling, lectures about her recent research in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room on Tuesday. Her research addresses ways school counseling can better help students of color. / photo by Nareg Agopian

Sydney Ferris
Staff Writer

Esmeralda Rodriguez, assistant professor of educational counseling, presented her lecture “Troubling the Residual Impact of Child Saving and Mental Hygiene in Behavior Education: The Need for Culturally Sustaining Practices” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom.

Rodriguez’s inspiration for her lecture came from her years of working with students as a school counselor in Wisconsin. She focused on supporting students not only academically but emotionally as well. 

Her work looks at intersectionality and critical education studies in schools. The lecture also stemmed from her dissertation, her work with Latinx students and an interest in larger societal organizations. She now trains future school counselors.

The lecture began with Rodriguez detailing theoretical frameworks that factored into her main points. Rodriguez put emphasis on how much childhood studies matter, and that involving children in decision-making processes and letting them know their opinions matter is important to their mental growth.

She said there is an over-representation of students of color in school discipline practices. Rodriguez then explained the school-to-prison nexus, which analyzes the combination of historical and social forces working together to connect education and incarceration. She carried on, saying that suspensions in school take away children’s chances to learn more than anything and do much more harm than good.

“Suspensions should not be as hard on students because they take away their education rather than disciplining them,” Caroline Guzman, freshman child development major, said.

Rodriguez continued discussing how she wants to work toward embracing cultural pedagogies such as embracing cultural pluralism and equality and how the critique of pieces and practices that explicitly work to create a monocultural culture is essential. 

Child behavior and racism was also a big talking point in the lecture. Rodriguez spoke about how children’s behavior has been treated historically in relation to their race and tiered intervention systems, which are based on the association between discipline and violence.

“My mom is a teacher at a low-income elementary school that is in a predominantly Hispanic area,” Katelyn Graham, sophomore psychology major, said. “I can see those same things that Rodriguez talked about happening in her studies at my mom’s school.” 

To end her lecture, Rodriguez accented some of the main points from her lecture, such as how important it is to emphasize racially conscious teaching in a pluralistic society and how to value different and diverse cultures that create relationships with others. 

An implication for students that Rodriguez highlighted as important is recognizing students as more than just students. They are also human beings who need direct connections with their peers and teachers. It is the teacher’s job to make the curriculum relevant and teach their students how to think critically about the world around them.

“This piece was cohesive and comprehensive,” Sean Bernard, professor of creative writing, said. “There are huge systemic problems in K-12 education and ways we can better address them.”

In the future, Rodriguez will be focusing on doing critical ethnographic research on schooling and localized practice. She wants to look into how schools implement the frameworks into practice and how they engage with their students. 

“I prepare future counselors to be able to work in schools,” said Rodriguez. “We need to understand the historical lineage to do this. It is important to think about the ways in which our behavior stems from social and historical understandings of children and behavior that continues to perpetuate those racial inequities.”

Sydney Ferris can be reached at sydney.ferris@laverne.edu

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