Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education



Edmund T. Hamann

Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 8) in Regarding Educación: Mexican-American Schooling, Immigration, and Bi-national Improvement, edited by Bryant Jensen & Adam Sawyer. (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013), pp 172–188.


Copyright © 2013 by Teachers College, Columbia University.


In 1997, when we first met while independently conducting field work in Whitfield County, Georgia, and its county seat, Dalton, we heard from local principals and teachers that Latino students sometimes "disappeared" from the schools. Most of these who disappeared were immigrant students from Mexico and other Central American countries, students who had arrived suddenly in local schools while accompanying their parents who found jobs in the carpet and poultry mills of the area (Hamann, 2003; Hernández-León & Zúñiga, 2000; Zúñiga & Hernández-León, 2009). The "disappearances" led one of us (Hamann, 2001) to develop a concept—the sojourner student—and draw from it various pedagogical/political conclusions. Using a few empirical facts—like the reported "disappearances" and survey results showing that about a quarter of Mexican newcomer parents were not confident that they would still be living in northwestern Georgia 3 years hence—but mainly conjecturing from a range of literature on transnational migration, Hamann hypothesized that, akin to the presence of students in the United States with prior Mexican school experience, there might be students in Mexican schools with prior U.S. school experience. Very few scholars in the United States and none in Mexico previously reported that issue. One exception was Trueba (1999), who pointed out that some Mexican parents living in the United States decided to send their adolescent sons and daughters to Mexico to avoid some real or hypothetical risks associated with high school dynamics in the United States. Also, Mahler (1998) asked about the transnational experiences of international migrants' children. Thus, the fact and recognition that American schools host sojourner students still ongoing research project in Mexican schools a few years after our Georgian experience.

Fourteen years have passed since our first peripheral encounters with the students who were moving transnationally from one school system to another. Now we believe we have a better and more complicated idea of student movement between the United States and Mexico than we could articulate in that first sojourner student article (Hamann, 2001). The purposes of this chapter are, first, to sketch this more detailed picture of "American Mexican" students encountered in Mexican schools, and second, to summarize some of our main findings on that emergent schooling process. Finally, we will identify the most important, but not necessarily obvious, educational challenges that teachers, school officials, and educational policymakers have to face in the present and the near future in both the American and Mexican schools if they are to be responsive to these transnationally mobile students.