the Association of Raza Educators Quarterly Summer 2009 • Volume 1, Number 1
Educación Popular,
Politica y Cultura
Introduction to the first Issue
Statement by the A.R.E. State Concilio
Campaigns and Updates
Open Letter to Teachers, by Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade
Teachers Talk Back
International Report, North-South Struggles
Cultura: Pinturas by Jose Olague
the Association of Raza Educators Quarterly
Page 8 Educación Popular •Politica • Cultura
An Dpen Letter 7o 7eachers Seeking ßaIance
Dr. 1eff Duncan-Andrade
San Prancisco State University
when | talk with educators about the intense effort that will be
required from them to be successful in our communities, it is nearly always
the case that some of them will ask me: How can | do all of this and still have
balance in my lifeI Cornel west says this line of questioning results from a
Peter Pan mentality and a Disneyland sensibility: a quintessentially "Ameri-
canª perspective that never wants to grow up and share in the suffering of
others, ìust have fun. we must be willing to stand boldly in solidarity with
our communities, sharing the burden of underserved suffering. we cannot
treat our students as "other people's childrenª÷their pain is our pain. Those
looking to avoid this challenge will have us believe in individualized notions
of success and suffering. we must reìect this framework, replacing it with
collective struggling alongside of one another, sharing in the victories and
the pain. This solidarity is the essential ingredient for radical healing and
healing is an often over-looked factor for balance in our lives and for improv-
ing achievement in our schools.
Great Challenges Pequire Great Lffort
|s it unfair to ask teachers to make such intense personal and emo-
tional investments in the young people that they teachI An educator's
answer to this question really depends on how they see their purpose as a
teacher. |f teacher is your "ì-o-bª then it makes sense that you would see
such an expectation as unfair, or perhaps as something you should only have
to do some of the time. However, if teaching is your life's purpose such that it
is an extension of your family (not a burden upon it) then words like "bal-
anceª and "fairª take on different meanings. what does it mean to seek
balance in a time when your family is sufferingI what is a "fairª workload
under these conditionsI
|n my experience, people that wonder on finding balance for
themselves amidst struggle are people that see that struggle as a choice:
while people that see their well-being as tied to those that have the least,
do not see struggle as a choice at all. As a child, | once wondered aloud
about my parents struggling so hard to support their seven children. My
mother responded, "sometimes, | do what | want. The rest of the time, | do
what | have to.ª My parents knew that raising us would be a great chal-
lenge that had to be met with great effort. They embraced this with vigor
because that's what they signed up for when they chose to have a family.
They didn't resent the bumps in the road, it was part of the deal. They
didn't resent the sacrifices, they signed up for them.
|t seems to me that we aren't all that different from my parents in
our choice to become teachers in the community. |t's what we signed up
for, and ìust as there were certainly times with each one of their children
when my parents thought to themselves, "damn, this is not what | signed
up for!ª, they also knew that they had no choice but to love us uncondition-
ally, to stay committed to the process, because that is what they signed up
for. when teaching in the 'hood isn't measuring up to romantic "Danger-
ous Minds Preedom writersª visions, we don't get to bail out or say we are
going to give a little less of ourselves because we "need some balanceª.
This is my hardest line with myself and with teachers that work in our
communities. |t's also the expectation | have of the students and families
in the community. 8ut, we cannot ask our community to do anything that
we won't do ourselves.
There is a softer side to my perspective on this question. | recog-
nize that there are times when | need to grab a moment to myself to sort
some things out, ìust as there were times when my mother or father would
have to say, "|'m sick and | need to lay down.ª |n those instances the
children in our house had to step up. Those moments were rare and |
know they crushed my parents because they felt like they were letting us
down. 8ut, that's precisely why we love them so much. Our communities
could do with a lot more of that kind of "overª commitment: the kind of
commitment that stems from loving so much that we don't worry about
whether we'll be loved back. when we form those types of relationships,
the Association of Raza Educators Quarterly
Page 9 Educación Popular •Politica • Cultura
An Open Letter to Teachers (continued)
the community loves as much as we have always loved them (particularly
when we need it the most). |n my mind, that is balance. 8alance is not
something we can grant to ourselves, rather it is a gift bestowed upon us by
those that we spend our lives loving.
An |nconvenient Truth: Teaching Ain't Por Lveryone
Let me be clear, | do not believe that the work of being a teacher in
communities that suffer under the weight of a litany of oppressive forces
(racism, poverty, xenophobia, etc.) is for
everyone. | do not say this because | think
some people are more genetically predis-
posed to do it. Pather, | don't think every-
one is willing to accept the cost of meet-
ing the great challenge of being an
effective teacher. we know what it takes,
we simply lack the collective courage to
meet the challenge because it's terribly
inconvenient: and so, we act as though we
don't know how or as if we are still look-
RIF'd 7eacher RefIects on £ducation as a Vocation
Carolina valdez, Teacher
Co-Chair, A.P.L. Los Angeles Chapter
| am a P|P'd (reduction in force) teacher in LAUSD. My story is a bit
cliche÷ | knew | wanted to teach since | was 5 years old. My mother was
a teacher and | frequently visited her classroom to set-up, run small
groups, or grade papers. | also attended evening literacy classes she
organized for parents in the community. Moreover, | witnessed her
relocation to a new site each year after she organized parents around
language waivers after proposition 227 passed. | witnessed all the extra
time a teacher puts in, and the bureaucracy of school districts, but | also
saw the rewards in the students' eyes. | still wanted to teach.
| received my 8achelor's in Child Development, my Master's in
Urban Lducation, and | am currently working on my Gifted Certification.
| shocked people when | told them | wanted to teach in LAUSD! Los
Angeles is where | was needed most. And now here | am, being told that
| will not have a position come 1uly. |t's frustrating when | speak to
teachers that view what they do as a ìob÷that they "fellª into teaching
years ago when the district was "hiring anyone with a pulse.ª Those
"We act as though the
Iegacy of 500 years of
sIavery, coIoniaIism,
vioIent conquest, and
institutionaI negIect
wiII be resoIved with
mediocre (or even
good) effort."
ing for more efficient ways (read shortcuts). we act as though the legacy of
500 years of slavery, colonialism, violent conquest, and institutional neglect
will be resolved with mediocre (or even good) effort. |t won't. |t took great
effort from this nation to destroy our communities. The "inconvenientª
truth of this historical fact is that a similarly great commitment of time and
effort is required to heal our communities.
|n l976, there was an assassination attempt on the life of 1amaican
artist 8ob Marley, before he was to perform at a unity concert in his home
country. Despite having been shot twice, Marley still performed at the
concert two days later. when asked why he went ahead with the show, it
has been said that Marley responded by saying, "the people that are trying
to make this world worse are not taking any days off, so how can |I Light up
the darkness.ª we can debate whether it is fair to ask people to do this, or
we can ìust get to doing it because it's right, and moral, and ìust.
The U.S. myth of meritocracy would have us believe that the
change we hope to see in our communities will not cost us anything. This
kind of false hope is mendacious: it never acknowledges pain. what we
need is the kind of critical hope that stares down the painful path, and
despite the overwhelming odds against us making it down that path to
change, we make the ìourney, again and again. There is no other choice.
Acceptance of this fact allows us to find the courage and the commitment
to caìole our students to ìoin us on that ìourney. This makes us better
people as it makes us better teachers, and it models for our students that
the painful path is the hopeful path.

Regeneración the Association of Raza Educators Quarterly Educación Popular •Politica • Cultura Page 8 .

Regeneración the Association of Raza Educators Quarterly Educación Popular •Politica • Cultura Page 9 .

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