Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 11) in Children and Migration: At the Crossroads of Resiliency and Vulnerability, edited by Marisa O. Ensor & Elżbieta M. Goździak (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 230-252. Copyright © 2010 Edmund T. Hamann, Víctor Zúñiga, and Juan Sánchez García. Used by permission.


Students in Mexican schools with previous experience in US schools are transnational students. To the extent their Mexican schooling does not recognize or build on their US life and school experience and their American school experience did not anticipate their later relocation to Mexico, these students are incompletely attended to by school. Yet these students, like all students, are agentive and have some control over how they make sense of their schooling.

As schooling becomes an increasingly common institutional presence across the world and as decided majorities of children now attend at least some version of primary school, it is hardly surprising that childhood gets increasingly constructed as a time of dependence, need, and preparation. As this volume’s introduction notes, vulnerability is a common fourth thread of this predominant conceptualization of children. Yet, as the introduction also hints, these conceptualizations suffer in at least two ways: whether optimistic or pessimistic, they tend to homogenize a broad and heterogeneous portion of the lifespan and they direct us away from attention to children’s agency. Instead, adult attention focuses on what children need, what should be done to them or for them, but much less common is the consideration of children’s views of the world they are traversing and their actions and intentions in that traversing.

Here we question the homogenizing lens through which children, notably internationally mobile children, tend to be conceptualized. And we offer additions to the larger project of including migrant children’s perspectives on the social and institutional realities that they negotiate. We do so by considering the specific topic of encounters with schooling and the specific cases of 632 largely invisible children whom we found through visiting 1673 classrooms in primarias (grade 1-6 schools) and secundarias (grade 7-9 schools) in the Mexican states of Nuevo León and Zacatecas. Five hundred and twelve of these students had attended school in both the United States and Mexico, while another 120 were US-born, although they had never attended school in the United States.