Entry 1: Friday, March 8, 2013
I just had class with the SSS class. It is a short period today, so we didn’t have much time. We spent the time planning the interviews we will do on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Mrs. James has not been in the class yesterday or today, so I have lead the class completely. Yesterday was really really interesting and exciting. We did up / down / sideways about the conference, and they were really excited about it. And really seemed enthusiastic about it. I talked with them about what the American Dream is, and asked them if they think it is real. They talked about how they’ve seen people achieve the American Dream, but they also haven’t seen people…people not achieve the American Dream, and when I asked them about what came in between people achieving the American Dream, they talked about people being deported or going to jail, or like failing out of school, or quitting school, or things like that. And then on the other side of the theme of the conference, – so the theme of the conference was “The American Dream – Latino Drive” – when I asked them what Latino Drive was, they said “Motivation” – that was the first thing they said. I said, “motivation from where?”, and they said, “motivation to make your family proud”. That’s what everybody said, and everybody instantly agreed on that, and I thought that was really cool, and I expressed to them, I told them how impressed I was with them that that was their motivation, to make their family proud.
After we did up / down / sideways, we talked about what we had done last semester. Last semester they had 52 kids in the class, and now they only have about 20 kids in their class. Most of the kids were here when I visited the class in October, but a few were not, but almost all of them had forgotten what we had done, so we went over what we had done, and slowly they were starting to remember, “Oh, yeah, it was about racism”, and, “Oh, yeah, we did cops in the head, and this is what we did”, and I said, “You know, that Mrs. James did tell me last semester that you guys wanted to invite teachers over and talk with them, and interview them.”
So, we made a plan to invite teachers. The students found out which teachers had free period during the SSS class period. There were 6 teachers who we decided to invite – 3 teachers to come on Monday and 3 teachers to come on Tuesday to be interviewed. And then we assigned one student for each teacher to invite them, and then we had back-ups to remind them and back-ups for the back-ups as well.
And then as homework (because Mrs. James needs something to grade them on since we are taking class time), I gave them this little questionnaire of 5 questions, and said they didn’t have to answer all of them, but they needed to show that they were thoughtful on at least one of the questions. They were about racism, what is racism, can people change, stuff like that. And so that was for homework, and I’d say about half the students did them. So, I’m looking at them now. They’re really pretty thoughtful, but I feel like a lot of them are kind of superficial. How can we get past that whole thing of like, “Yes! People can change! American Dream!” ??? I’m not sure how to do that and not just take over everything and “teach” them.
We also took a few minutes in class to write what they wanted to learn from these teachers when they come on Monday and Tuesday, and those were really really interesting, and I made a list of kind of things that came out of those, but I’ll look at them more when I get back home.
But I have a little bit of data at least. I’ve also been doing interviews that have been going well. I’ve been surprised actually at how, and maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised that I’m surprised. And a little bit frustrated with myself that I’m surprised at the depth of emotion that comes out in the interviews – both interviews that I’ve done. The girls have left crying. So, yeah, that has been interesting. There’s a lot of emotion in this population and with these kids, and that needs to be dealt with in the right way, and I’m kind of trying to work out how to deal with that. Like both of the girls talked about their immigration status, or their families’ status, and the stories that go along with that, about getting deferred action – or not – and how it feels haphazard and frightening and hopeless when they don’t get it. I feel…not prepared to talk to them about that.
But…these kids are really excited: Juan, Sussy, Laura, Wilfred, Jones, and others are really interested especially in doing these interviews, and want to to do them “right,” and want to get good information from them, so we spent almost the whole class period today talking about how the interviews should go, how we should do them. Several people said that the more people we interview, the better. The more information we have, the better. It was really cool. They are so ready to get the ball rolling and dig in to the project and get answers.
Yesterday we talked. I mentioned “empowerment.” I said I heard this word a lot at the conference yesterday: “empowerment”. And they were like, “Oh, I didn’t hear it,” and I said, “Yeah, it came up quite a bit”. So, we talked about what that meant, and they talked a lot about “self-empowerment” at first, and I kind of brought up the idea that they could empower others through SSS and through this research process as well. And so they are starting to think about what they can do as another project that comes out of this research that can help empower others, whether it’s other Latino students or other students in general, or other teachers who don’t know much about Latinos. So they’ve started to get really excited when I mentioned that we could do projects, like we could do a video and post it on You Tube or post it on the SSS website, and they were like, “Just put it everywhere, put it as many places as possible.” I know – it was kind of exciting. I told them we could do like a pamphlet to give to teachers, or we could present to the school board, and they are starting to get excited, so we are going to dedicate one day to brainstorming about what we could do. So half of Wednesday I think is going to be devoted to kind of debriefing about the interviews, and the other half will be talking about what projects we can do.
Questions for Reflection:
1 – As a white, university-based researcher involved in this process I was constantly battling with my own positionality. Who was I to even engage in this process? Who was I to “teach” about The American Dream, for example? I feel like when I was confronted with issues of positionality during this process – like when I wasn’t sure how much or even if I should speak, I erred on the side of not speaking, or not giving my opinion. What are your thoughts on how I functioned – or could have functioned – within this collective? How can we make these decisions as university-based researchers?
2 – What does “authenticity” mean to you? How can we, within research collectives, be authentic? How do we elicit authenticity while at the same time act as a true collective – so, no one saying, “Be Authentic!” How might that work? What might that look like?