My life experiences imbue me with a deep commitment to teaching for equity as a journey that inspires critical reflection and action. bell hooks (1994) affirms that teaching involves a commitment of self-actualization that promotes a general sense of well-being. This commitment to critical self-reflection directly influences my approach as an educator in formal and informal spaces of learning. I began recording my thoughts and feelings at an early age. My first diaries document powerlessness, anger, and pain about the sexual violence that permeated my clan, the wounds of separation brought on by demands for a labor force across political borders, and pervasive inequities. My experiences as a Xicana of Mexican-descent and the first in my family to earn an advanced degree foster a diversity of human experience in the university classroom. My educational journey inspired me with the tenacity to transform the vulnerability of my young self into critical consciousness and social action. Cultivating the opportunity for a collective transformation for justice underlies my pedagogical approaches.
The classroom space is a powerful vortex of personal and collective possibilities of freedom (hooks, 1994). Drawing from critical pedagogy and Xicana feminist epistemologies, my courses couple the privilege of learning with a responsibility of reciprocity to the world around us. My leadership in the classroom fosters critical reflection of our personal historical positionalities relative to the collective. This process cultivates a possibility of inspiring civic engagement and reflexive research.
For example, from 2002-2007 I taught South El Monte’s middle school students in Language Arts as a tool for analytical praxis. Through reading and writing, my students and I engaged in critical thinking and agency. During the 2006 national student walkouts denouncing the HR4437 Bill that criminalized undocumented groups, our class held an immigration debate and invited parents and political officials to engage in dialogue and strategic action. We learned about immigration policy through a socio-historical perspective and analyzed the current legislative proposal. Teaching and learning embodied a focused practice that nurtured reading and writing towards liberation.
My experiences teaching doctoral students in Decolonizing Research Methods and Introduction to Doctoral Studies for Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University fostered continued critical self reflection and action. The central questions that guided each course were: How might a scholar activist engage in decolonizing research methods? For what purpose? and How might educational action research reflect issues of access, excellence and impact in your area of inquiry? For what purpose?, respectively. Both courses included an indigenous epistemological approach to exploring the nuances of scientific research, and provided students with tools to conducting research in social science. These tools included a thorough reflection about researcher positionality, humanizing research, and decolonial scholarship. For copies of my teaching evaluation reports, request them here.
In sum, my pedagogical strategies are devoted to explore the principles of humanistic research in dynamic, hands-on ways that will remain with the student long after he or she leaves my classroom.
hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.