Author Archives: Mariatere Tapias

Mariatere’s Arts-Based Inquiry (UnEssay)

Radical Mapping to Locate Critical Hope, Love, and Care

map-poem #10: Mapping to Disrupt Racist Policies and Practices Inside and Outside of Schools (Burlington, VT , 7/26/19)

Keywords and colors: travel from JFK to Burlington International Airport (black), purple bus line (purple), Church Street Marketplace (mustard), street, coffee shop, and bench (gray), disrupting injustice (yellow)

Self-Reflection: How can we use art to increase critical consciousness, hope, and collaborative action in our schools and communities?                      

Collective Action: Later this month, I will co-facilitate a map making workshop with a group of teachers, staff, and administrators who form part of anti-racist professional learning communities (PLCs) in one school district in Vermont. Aimee, the facilitator of these groups, explained that participants gather to examine their own identities, positionality, and teaching practices as they strengthen their own skills and understanding as anti-racist educators. The educators in this group self-identify as white, which is in line with the general population of this area whose racial composition is 96% white. During this workshop, I will share map-poem #10 to talk about calling out and disrupting racial injustice.

As an arts-based inquiry, participants will have the opportunity to engage in critical map making of their own to locate “brave or safe-enough” spaces in their communities. In this context, brave spaces, understood as spaces where one feels “safe enough” to intervene and take action to disrupt racist policies, practices, and actions inside and outside of schools. Then, to use these maps to share their stories and plans for next steps. This engagement with art and mapmaking as tools for doing anti-racist work will lead into a broader discussion of all of the factors, resources, and conditions that make this work possible beyond these PLCs. Our hope is that we will walk away from this session with a new understanding of how art and critical map making can serve as tools for increasing hope, love, and care by helping us surface and share our transformative stories and plans for action.

Asking Parents of Color What They Need & Continuing to Ignore Them!

I want to start off with this quote, “To truly transform education, we must first deepen our understanding of the great battle that we are in. This begins with actually asking people of color what they want and need and then listening to what they say” (Horsford, 2021). My question now is, how do we do this? How do we make this happen? This article made me think about the recent Diversity Plan to desegregate schools in District 15. This heated debate, that was based on the premise that “all” (code for Black and Latino) families should have access to the “best/top performing” schools in the district, raises so many other questions! Why does increasing access to quality education need to come at the cost of leaving your own neighborhood? And, armed with the knowledge we have, that wealthy parents essentially run and subsidize their own local public schools, why don’t we start our analysis here?

As a former District 2 parent, I am intimately aware of this problem. Within this system, wealthy parents can weigh their options between private and public because they know that their local public school is not “like the rest” in the city. This gives these PTA parents a lot of power and control over what happens in these schools. Including what antiracist books are being purchased and discussions are being developed. I bring this up because this was part of the reasoning behind the District 15 Diversity Plan. A plan based on wealthy Park Slope parents spreading their “cash and cultural capital” throughout neighborhoods like Sunset Park and Red Hook. There is so much implied and problematic here, the idea that primarily Black and Latino schools must wait until wealthy white families arrive to be “invested in.” Then, once these school begin to change and improve, improve for whom? I’ll end with Horsford’s reminder that, “What is good for the oppressor is typically not good for the oppressed” (2021).

Mariatere, Week 8

I am so happy to jump into this conversation. Something that stood out for me was Rivera-McCutchin’s (2020) choice to place her positionality, under its own subheading, at the end of her methods section. I found this inspiring because it reminds the reader that there is no objective view of the research, ever. And hopefully, it reminds the reader to question the absence of this in so much research. In addition, it was interesting to see the choices that the author made in this section. I hope to learn more about this in class. How the author understands the value or power, in focusing on her stance (lens) in relation to the study, pointing to her world views, ways of being and knowing, the values and ethics that guide this work, and not the more typical detailing of identity that often dominates this section. This felt beautifully placed.

I appreciated Jane’s reflection on reciprocity. As this is something I’m highly interested in, something that was not explicitly discussed in the reading, and is often missing in research. It begs us to consider how questions of beneficence (Mangual Figueroa, 2014) that live within discussions of ethics may also be explored as an aspect of researcher care.

I was also drawn to concerns about the hierarchical structures that predominate in most schools. And it is unfortunate that due to IRB regulations, we don’t know how teachers, staff, families, and students perceived the situation. While Principal Johnson saw it as his responsibility to lead, inspire, and demand growth and excellence, I wonder who else in that school might have been interested to assume their own leadership roles. Who might have felt ready to take on curriculum work for example, and how this could have served as a source of support, strengthening the vision and mission for the school. Perhaps not achieving the consensus-based system that August described but increasing voice, power, and leadership amongst stakeholders.

Mariatere’s Response, Week 7

Building off what others have shared here; I now understand that not only do we have different ways of caring but that deep misunderstandings and contradictions exist as to what caring entails. I found Valenzuela’s (1999) observations of competing forms of caring in Antrop-Gonzaléz & De Jesús’ (2006) particularly helpful. This idea of clashing expectations or understandings surfaced in various readings. In Rolón-Dow’s (2005) work, the authors CRT framework helped us see how this plays out beyond competing understandings of authenticity to how racism impacts how teachers and schools see students and families. When I hear stories about teachers like Mr. Rosenfield, who have come to understand why it would be best to teach in an orphanage, to see school as a good home away from a “bad home,” and have the audacity to ask another human being if they grew up in a barn, I wonder if CRT is enough to bring change to schools. Can this analysis, can our counterstories as people of color change deeply entrenched colonizjng and racist attitudes?

Antrop-Gonzaléz & De Jesús’ (2006) article raised other questions. Why do we always come back to soft and hard when talking about meeting the needs of students and communities of color? Why is lack of care or wisdom, what the authors describe as the problematic “Ay bendito syndrome,” characterized by a teacher’s feelings of pity that result in the lowering of expectations for students of color, described as soft? Simultaneously, I don’t agree that the other extreme, in which teachers come to form authentic relationships and hold high expectations can best be described as hard. I think we need to examine what underlying assumptions these words hold. I think we need to question the belief that students of color need “hard” structures and systems to excel. And to reimagine soft caring, as one that implies being in a mutually educational, dialogic, flexible, highly nuanced, open to change, and emotional relationship with another. It was important to see this issue of soft caring, one that absolves teachers from holding high expectations for students of color, in Rivera-McCutchen’s (2012) work. We see a new possibility, between hard and soft, in the author’s calling for a bridging between the affective and academic needs of students. The authors this week all argue for the type of space, home, or community that students describe at El Puente Academy (2006).

Week 6, Mariatere

This week’s readings reminded me of my long and patient relationship with Freire’s work. I was in my late teens when I first tried reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I remember feeling drawn to these concepts but overwhelmed. Although I’ve taken long breaks in between, I have never stopped coming back to his work, looking for new messages, strategies, strength, and hope. Along the way, I committed some of the mistakes that this week’s authors brought up, thinking that somehow, we should apply his methodologies to our current context. As Miller et al. notes, Freire has created a language, a set of categories and practices that we should not attempt to replicate but take what is useful to guide our own analysis and to use within our own educational contexts (p. 1087).

The authors this week helped me hear new ideas in his work. Miller et al.’s challenge that this work requires that we explore alternative actors and venues has stayed with me. That teachers and school leaders alone cannot do this work. That we need to see how our ties to schools constrict us. To examine how they limit how far we can go in our critique of the system, because of our fear of the repercussions. While community activists operating within their own communities benefit from their independence. As the authors explain, “Here institutional detachment (primarily from schools) emboldens liberal critiques of oppressive regimes” (p. 1088). This article made me think about the role community centers have played in strengthening Black communities. The type of centers and programs that Dr. Bettina Love (2019) credits with helping her to become more critical and thrive growing up. Spaces that were run by people from within the community, who were deeply embedded, knew the families, and cared for the youth. This feels so different from some of the community centers near me that feel more “outside businesses” than transformative. I keep thinking about the idea of community centers as likely sites for radical social change.

I’ll return to the topic of fear because it seems so vital. While this is something Freire directly addresses in his (2005) Letters to those who dare teach, reminding us that our courage cannot exist without it, Darder (2002) does a beautiful job exploring this relationship between our revolutionary dreams, fear, and courage. Fear as a signal that we are doing the work of disrupting the status quo. As a necessary and inevitable of this work, “The more you recognize your fear as a consequence of your attempt to practice your dream, the more you learn how to put into practice your dream” (p. 499). This brings me to the deep care and advocacy work taken principals in Rivera-McCutchen’s (2019) article on armed-love. While we see the courage required for them to challenge racial inequality they were witnessing in their schools, I now want to hear more. To become better armed in love by understanding how they worked with the fears that must have accompanied their courage in their fight for justice.

Mariatere, Week 5

This week’s readings are a reminder that transforming our current system, building a more culturally responsive one, cannot be accomplished by K-12 teachers alone. Khalifa’s article reminds us that this requires support in policies, funding, and administrators. A new teacher at BC, I’m now wondering, where is this self-examination of key characteristics, behaviors, and effectiveness is going on in our school schools of education? What do our offices, libraries, and classrooms feel like? How are we modeling this for pre-service teachers? Also, because this work requires dismantling and support from all angles, I appreciated the authors breaking down key terms in this work. Their understanding that depending on where we’re entering the conversation, we are using these terms differently. It was important to see how they conceived of culturally responsive leadership as distinct from pedagogy.

With a new sense of the unique role and responsibility that school leaders hold in this work, I turned to the NYS Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework, to see what NYC DOE principals might be turning to in this moment. Curious to see how critical self-awareness might live within this document, the closest correlation I could find was in the principle called, “Welcoming and Affirming Environment.” Of concern, while students’ responsibilities include: practicing empathy, thinking about other’s feelings, respectful engagement in difficult conversations, affirming others, collaborating with adults, advocating for diversity, and addressing bias (p. 20), school leaders are not held accountable to students in this same fashion. While I do see the value in leaders’ responsibilities which include: reviewing of policies, assessment, data, and providing and many types of structural supports for staff and families, it is important to note that “ways of being with” their students are missing. The closest to this includes: creating advisory groups that include students, highlighting “high-quality” student work, and creating “peace making circles” led by facilitators. Not only is there no expectation that school leaders engage in what Khalif calls critical self-awareness, there is no expectation they engage in the vulnerable and difficult dialogue expected of students. I now wonder if this issue has been brought up by students, parents, teachers, or principals themselves.

Week 4, Mariatere

I felt reinvigorated after this week’s readings. I woke up the next day with a new sense of hope and urgency. I don’t often send people articles but I had to share Beauboeuf-Lafontant’s (2002) article with loved ones. In part as a reminder of the love, fortitude, and commitment it takes for Black teachers to keep challenging oppressive schools, systems, and practices in spite of the “recognition that social injustice is deep-seated and not easily dismantled” (p. 80). This is deep labor that goes unrecognized. And while in Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks’ writes about the strength she gained from the Black women educators at her all-Black schools when she was younger, somehow, it felt like the first time that I’d seen maternal care aligned with political clarity and an ethic of risk in an article.

I have been thinking about the importance of Casey’s (1990) findings in Beauboeuf-Lafontant’s article. The marked difference between progressive Jewish, Catholic, and African American teachers’ understanding of the “maternal image”. That unlike the other groups, the Black teachers in this study embraced a maternal image, saw “the mother-child relationships as central to their resistance to domination, both patriarchal and racial” (p. 76). And having most often been surrounded by the former, the need to deconstruct the maternal, I have felt alone in asking, why don’t you feel that same urgency for “other” people’s children? In Freire’s critique of the teacher as parent, lies the concern that the idea of school as family could impede action on the part of teachers, to protest or strike. But I have seen teachers prepare to strike out of a love and respect for themselves and their students. I wonder, did Freire and bell hooks ever talk about this? And how can this work impact the decisions being made by hiring, admissions, and curriculum committees in schools of education? Not only to increase the numbers of Black faculty and students but the number of Black pedagogical theorists in their syllabi.

The readings this week point to continuums and levels of care. In Wilson’s (2015) article, once again there is the reminder that individual acts of care are not sufficient. As I read about the work of this one phenomenal Black principal, I thought about all the other ones out there. And how often Black teachers and educational leaders are pushed out when they don’t accept the deficit-based views, color-blind tactics, and educational neglect of their communities, schools, classrooms, and students.

A radical care “school staff meeting” question that I haven’t ask before is: How is our school “providing care that is responsive to the structural inequalities students face” (p. 4)?

Command of a Narrative

Week 2: Mariatere

Dr. Ladson-Billings asks: “Well, what did you mill?” Textiles… (Video, 27:00)

To answer some of the questions posed by Lucy, Kushya, August, and Fatima, I felt heavy reading the first two articles. Yes, we know that race continues to be a significant factor in determining inequity and life outcomes. We feel the weight of it and see it at play in our schools. But as I reread, Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education (2005), I felt strengthened when I came to, “Historically, storytelling has a kind of medicine to heal the wounds of pain caused by racial oppression” (p. 57). I understood the message differently this time. As Dixson & Anderson (2018), and many of you have discussed, while narratives by themselves are not enough, they are an indispensable tool I need to learn how to use. When I listened to Dr. Ladson-Billings’ talk at Teachers College later on, I got a better sense of the kind of medicine she was pointing to. Not the ones that mask the pain and make us feel better. She was talking about the old school herbs that grow outdoors. Medicines purge and leave no room for the racist practices, policies, and curriculums that impact our schools and communities.

As I listened to Dr. Ladson-Billings’ address, I was interested in understanding how counter-narratives can serve to engage people in the issues and data, get them to care and take action. I wanted to understand: 1) how she chose to construct and weave the narrative she had crafted, including what materials she had used, 2) the actual talk, meaning the words, images, messages, and knowledges that made up her talk, and 3) what was happening at the juncture of her talk and my participating (audiencing). I couldn’t help myself. All week I’ve been thinking about researchers can use use art, including storytelling, to deepen the understandings of our audiences. As a master storyteller, counter-narrative weaver, I sat intently by her side to listen and learn. She knows the power of selection, so what had changed and what had remained consistent from her seminal (2005) work? The message I received was: Be courageous. Counter-‘narrativing’ is not reserved for getting on stage or publishing. It is daily praxis, reflection and action. This is where I found some hope.