I have a career that I love dearly. I hold numerous college degrees. I am bilingüe.
These are some of my privileges that I hold.
Privilege is an inherent part of our current social order and as educators we must own that certain people are afforded certain privileges that others are not given.
My privilege also consists of a nine-digit social security number that allows me to cross both intellectual and geographic borders. This is a privilege that our society continues to arbitrarily withhold from students and families that you likely see each day, including many of my own family members.
This too is part of my journey.
This too is part of millions of K-12 students’ journeys.
As educators, it is crucial that we routinely reflect on our privilege and positionality and own the fact that who we are is just as relevant in education as who our students are.
Two years ago, I had the privilege of graduating from San José State University’s Educational Leadership program. As part of the program, I met two Latina professors that continued to mentor me and provide me with opportunities, even after I graduated from the program. Dr. López, one of my professors urged me to apply to the Heinemann Fellowship program and I was selected! Since then, I have met and connected with amazing people, such as Tricia Ebarvia and Kim Parker who have provided me with this space and to whom I am extremely thankful. Inspired by them, I hope to keep the cadenita that these two powerful educators have started, not only for me but for everyone who has been part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge. Therefore, for this blog, my students, Dafne and Angela (who also happen to be aspiring teachers of color) will contribute their perspectives on teaching and learning in today’s political climate, as they recount their testimonios of activism and of their collegebound journey as DREAMers and allies.
Dafne’s Testimonio- El Poder del Cariño
In 2009, I immigrated from México to the United States when I was only 7 years old. At that age, I didn’t really understand what the journey would be like, both literally and figuratively. However upon reflection, this journey is pivotal to understanding my educational journey and my identity.
I didn’t realize that what I had gone through was unique to me until I spoke out about it in middle school and none of my friends had been through what I had been through. From that day on, I decided to keep that part of my life to myself. Having to carry such big secret and a traumatic one at that, made me have a sort of identity crisis as the years went by. During middle school, I am sad to say that I was ashamed of where I was from and rejected my ethnic identity and legal status. However, when I started high school at Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, I began to find self-love again because I felt love, cariño, from my teachers. I was also given a space to talk about myself. Their genuine “how are you’s,” and the way they incorporated narratives and empowering history of Mexicans and immigrants into their lesson plans, counteracted the negative stereotypes about immigration that I heard about in the news. Slowly but surely I began let go of the weight that I had carried for so long. As educators, how are you showing you care and/or what platforms are you providing to let students like me, share their story and share of themselves? I am thankful that I had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with teachers that were patient with me and didn’t force me to share of myself when I was not ready. A student’s immigration story may be different than mine, we are all different. Everyone is in different places with their immigration journey, and a student decides when/if the time is right to share. However, having the space to process and to heal in a classroom can make a huge impact, at least it did for me.
There are still a lot of questions that I have in terms of my identity- I know that I will go to college next year; but I was not eligible to apply for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) because I entered the country in 2009 ( DACA had a cut off and only undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. prior to 2007 were eligible). Therefore, I missed having the chance to become eligible for a work permit, by two years…..
….I do not know what will happen after graduation. I have goals of being a teacher but do not know if I will be able to fulfill that goal, not because I do not work hard but because I do not have a social security number. One of my biggest fears is working hard and then being barred from opportunities due to my legal status- due to something that is out of my control. However, I stay hopeful because I know that there are educators that will resist and advocate for me so that one day I will be able to teach and empower youth the way in which my teachers taught me how.
Angela’s Testimonio- El Poder de la Resistencia
Due to our current political climate and the constant attack on people of color and on the undocumented community, being neutral is not an option- my teachers taught me this lesson that I carry with me now, as an ally and as a current college student who has the privilege of having a social security number. December of my senior year of high school, I was chosen to travel to Washington D.C. to protest through my participation in SIREN (Services for Immigrants and Refugees Education Network). As I observed my surroundings at the protest in Washington, I noticed that the crowd consisted mainly of educators and people working for non-profit organizations. The educators were holding signs that states “For our students and their families.” I held up a sign with butterflies- a symbol showing migration as beautiful, not as a crime. While I identify myself as an ally, I realize that what is most important is for the community to consider me as an ally. As a future educator, I constantly ask myself, what am I doing in order to advocate for my undocumented peers and my future students? What am I doing in order to make sure that the community sees me as an ally and knows that I am ready to do what I can in solidarity with and for the community?
During my senior year, my peers organized a high school walk-out in support of a clean DREAM Act, (teachers walked alongside students); however, I chose to stay behind. Not because I did not see the power in walking out, but because I knew the power of resisting and how one can resist in multiple ways. That afternoon, I was at school working on lesson plans as part of an application to be a teaching-fellow with Breakthrough Collaborative Silicon Valley educational non-profit, which I ended up receiving! Through this internship, I worked with students who come from similar socio-economic status and cultural background as I in order to do my part in disrupting systemic oppression through education. I will be teaching again this summer and I hope that all of you will join me as I think about- what are ways in which I could continue to engage in acts of resistance for undocumented students and their families?
Teaching is a political act. Dafne and Angela’s testimonios show us the many ways that schools and teaching can perpetuate systems of oppression. For instance, when teachers and administrators choose to be silent and inactive, they mold students to be silent and inactive. And when students resist that mold, they are often persecuted. As educators, we must be the first to resist institutional oppression. We must be the agents of change that affirm teachers and students’ resistance- con mucho cariño y en solidaridad con la comunidad.
This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Dr. Carla España(and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle).