It has been a little over a year since I left Los Angles Unified and joined the Salinas Union Hig School District. Jumping back into work last week as well as a package I recieved in the mail prompted a pause for reflection, something I hope to do more of this year, while simultaneously encouraging teachers of my district to do the same. Leaving Los Angeles was difficult, having had so many powerful and transformative experiences “as an educator” over the past one and a half decades. And yet, last week I was refreshed to remember how much of that work and many of those experiences have transcended their original and originating geography.
Many moments have sparked this realization. Working again with my long time friend and now director Antonio Garcia is very exciting. In working here in Salinas I know that both of us harken back to our work in South Central Los Angeles, carrying our scars (both emotional and some physical) born of both victory and loss. I know these help orient our collective efforts here. Memories of when we were young and impatient with the educational system. I remember meeting in my small apartment, organizing with other like minded social justice educators towards visions of our own school. These memories play just in the back of my mind every time I walk into our office space. It is a good feeling to know that he once again will be pushing me to be my best self as we collaborate towards improving educational and life outcomes for students in Salinas.
Another reminder of the connections across time and space came last week as I helped ground the work of our new social studies teachers in the district. Many of my workshop participants were my former CSUMB students from last fall. We picked up almost right where we left off, connecting the theoretical foundations of equitable education with their pedagogical practices. It was exciting to have this energy and momentum, built on relationships and trust. This same trust allowed for an open invitation into one of my new teacher’s classroom space where I got to observe some (very much needed for me as I adjust to my new work/learning space of the #cubiclelife) student interaction: a dialogue centered on students’ expectations of their teacher. This brought a smile to my heart as I struggled this week to find my own rhythms without the aide of the young people around me. It was an important signal to appreciate the power of moving forward.
Meeting with some of our district’s amazing educators and learning about the work they have been undertaking was inspiring. It was also a pleasant surprise to again see connections to people and places from the past, realizing that many of the people and practices that were foundations for the development of our new ethnic studies program were indeed familiar and shared. As is often the case with educators in “LA to the Bay,” we too in Salinas share a community of progressive practice.
Yet the most powerful reminder that some of my life’s previous chapters are not closed per say but instead are directly connected to the work I am still doing cane in the form of a written and published chapter. I must say that I was both excited and nervous to see my name alongside that of my brethren educators and close friends for many reasons. One being that although we did our best to capture the narrative of our collective journey and include all of the multiple voices that were part of it, there is always an apprehension that something important was missed. And for sure there most likely was. But in my heart I know we gave everything in our attempt to capture the important history of our work with Schools for Community Action and represent the collective experience.
It is this giving of everything that had me feeling a mixture of things as I opened the package, for it prompted a painful but necessary reflection on my only my professional journey but my personal life as well. For in giving your all to something, you often fail to realize that you are taking some from another. This was indeed the case for myself and my family. Despite our best attempts at Hawkins to create and institution that respected and tried to integrate family into the core of our being, the work often required that our families make great sacrifices of time and presence. It was these sacrifices that I was unable to see clearly, even in my last days in Los Angeles as we were both metaphorically and literally finalizing this chapter for publication as well as my family’s chapter in LA. It is not an exaggeration that this inability to see this reality almost cost me my marriage and family.
And it is this complex perspective that I gaze back on the last year, several years with, knowing that all powerful learning is a struggle. But the act of critical reflection is indispensable. As I look forward, I am excited by the opportunities with both former and new colleagues. I am even more excited to work towards mastering sustainability and dignity within my family and work communities of practice. In this work I take everything that I am and all that I have been in order to create and refine who I will be in this uncertain future. Year 2, here we come.