Teaching and Learning Liberation
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
I have officially been a working mom for a little over two months now. It has not been easy, friends. Learning to find new rhythms as a family, adjusting to more things on my ever-growing to-do list, struggling with our weakened immune systems because of quarantine life—it has all been a lot. Yet, what keeps me going on the hard days is the work I’m doing in the classroom.
Today, I had a talk with one of my fifth graders. While naturally a goofball, this week he had been cranky and irritable. It finally got to be too much today, and I pulled him to the side. I told him what I was seeing and asked if something was going on. Little by little, question by question, he began to share. He admitted being worried about a big football game coming up, and how he wanted to do well. We talked a little bit more and I asked him if that was all that was on his mind. He then told me about his uncle’s passing the week before, but that he didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it yet. I told him I understood: “Big feelings can be hard to share.”
This world is not easy on our brown boys. Machismo tells brown boys they can’t cry or show any emotion deemed feminine. “Sé hombrecito,” our brown boys often hear. Our brown boys need safe spaces where they can be soft and tender.
Some of my girls wear tight tops, where maybe a centimeter of skin shows if they raise their hand or sit down. While I have no issue with it, I’ve already gotten pushback from other teachers about enforcing the dress code, calling the office, and making parents bring “suitable” clothing. I don’t plan on doing that and here’s why. Is her clothing “overly revealing” or are we in the habit of using her clothing to oversexualize her? What exactly is her clothing revealing, the fact that she has skin? Why would I make her feel like she did something wrong, sending her to the office, when she has done nothing wrong? I refuse to make my girls feel guilty because someone else feels uncomfortable about their clothing choice. I, for one, think they look hella cute.
This world is not easy on our brown girls. Patriarchy tells brown girls their bodies are responsible for men’s thoughts and actions. “If only she hadn’t worn that skirt, if only she hadn’t been out that late,” our brown girls often hear. Our brown girls need safe spaces where they can be las dueñas of their own bodies.
If you’ve been following me for some time, you know how I am learning about and working toward my own liberation and freedom from oppressive structures. However, true liberation is collective liberation. That is the work laid out before me as an educator. As such, I believe teaching future generations what true freedom looks like can change the world. Because while I teach contents like math and science, I care about the whole child in every aspect, and that includes teaching them what liberation looks like.