I am ecstatic to announce that I am officially a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Grant recipient for 2014!! This blog will chronicle my journey leading up to, during, and after my adventures in California this summer. I am including an abridged version of my grant proposal here as an introduction to the journey.
As a high school student, I never could fully understand the relevance of the lessons I learned in history and my other social studies classes. I could barely imagine that people in my very community were living lives much different than me let alone try to identify with people whose lives were different decades and centuries prior to mine. Once I attended college and graduate school, I began to understand my own privilege as a middle class white woman and how truly different people’s lived experiences could be. Doing the work to understand my privilege has made me a better educator and better human. My ability to empathize with and advocate for others—most importantly my students—is a direct result of this work. The root of this growth, however, is compassion for other human beings and believing that each person deserves respect and dignity because they are living, significant beings; no other reason is necessary. It is with this in mind that I ask you to consider my application for the Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship.
In my quest to continue understanding the lives of others to the best of my ability, spending time with people who are different than me is necessary. I do not want to study people as though I were a sociologist or a patron of a zoo but to really get to know people and hear their stories. These are the stories that give credibility to my social studies lessons in the classroom that can often seem so far removed from my students much like they did for me when I was in their place. Social studies classes can become cliché by teaching the same stories over and over again. My lived experiences and the stories I learn from the people I interact with can provide deeper meaning as well as an expansion of ideas and experiences to share with my students. Additionally, these experiences open my students’ minds to worlds, people, and perspectives beyond their own community.
In the summer of 2014, I hope to add to my repertoire of stories. I hope to draw on real world examples related to the content we study in Government and Economics by living among migrant farm workers in California, many of whom are undocumented. Many people are very quick to marginalize these individuals based on assumptions about their legal/citizenship status and reasons why they came to the United States to begin with. I am passionate about dispelling some of these stereotypes from my own students and sharing another side of the story with them.
The goals for my project are two-fold. The first goal is to get to know migrant workers and their families so that I can be a better advocate for this group of marginalized people in the future. I feel it is part of my civic duty to recognize my own privilege and then use it to lessen suffering in the world. I feel compelled to get to know migrant farm workers so that I can be a voice for them when their voice is silenced.
The second goal is to volunteer at Puente de la Costa Sur, a community resource center that serves South Coast residents in several communities, by serving the people who live there. My time volunteering at Puente de la Costa Sur would support their work as “a catalyst for inclusive new solutions and opportunities in our own rural community and beyond” (puentedelacostasur.org). In my communication with the staff at Puente, they have requested help in regards to research, grant writing, and acquiring resources for the people of Pescadero and surrounding towns.
It is important to me that my work lasts beyond my time in Pescadero. Not only do I hope to create sustainable programs and resources for that community, I also hope to continue my work through publications, presentations, and curriculum development in the two weeks prior to my stay and in the years that follow. I am committed to doing this by incorporating my lived experiences into my classroom practice through activities such as oral history interviews, Skype conversations with people in the Pescadero community, and hands-on work promoting sustainability and collaboration within our community using the work at Puente as a model.
I teach my students that we have a responsibility to the world to minimize suffering and make excellence evident in all things. This is more than a slogan for me. This is my passion. This is the way I desire to live everyday. In doing so, I hope to be a model for my students mirroring what living those words looks like. Thank you for considering my application as I take one step toward minimizing world suffering.