When taking a course on education law a few years ago, I learned a Latin phrase that has forever reified my approach to teaching: in loco parentis. This is where having studied both Latin and Spanish makes for interesting wordplay. Yes, I suppose that I am a bit crazy. Yes, I can behave as though I am everyone's mother, but this is not quite the meaning of the phrase.
Legally, teachers have a responsibility of care that extends from our functioning “in the place of parents” in our students' lives. While caregivers are busy at work or somewhere else tending to life's responsibilities, teachers are showing up, being present, and making space for their children. We are there, because you can not be. For those of us who are caregivers, we are also here and there, teaching our own children and parenting someone else's child.
Teaching and parenting are inextricably connected for me. Like many of us, my parents were my first teachers, and I have written about the importance of caring to my pedagogy. "Of all the teaching strategies that I have acquired, by far, the most impactful ones have been showing care and being aware." As a teacher who is also a parent, I often reflect on my praxis and how lessons learned in one realm inform the other.
The Chicana activist-scholar Dolores Delgado Bernal writes about the integration of critical scholarship, pedagogy, and parenting styles. In"A Testimonio of Critical Race Feminista Parenting: Snapshots from My Childhood and My Parenting," she adds the context of parenting to testimonios. Testimonios are generally defined as first-person narrations of socially significant experiences.
She states, "Testimonio, as a pedagogical tool, lends itself to a form of teaching and learning that brings the mind, body, spirit, and political urgency to the fore. And through testimonio pedagogy we can teach each other and learn from each other the conocimientos of life, and in this case of critical race feminista parenting" (Delgado Bernal, 2017, p. 28). Hearing each other's lived experiences allows us to witness and experience integrated selves in various political contexts. Qualitative researchers assert that there is no view from nowhere, and they challenge us to examine our positionalities and how they influence our perspectives, assumptions, biases, and values.
Testimonios provide a model of honest scholarship--of honest living--that can be instructive and transformative. As a Black female scholar, I have reflected on my angst with engaging in Black Lives Matter scholarship. It is triggering for me. That is my truth. For some of my colleagues, they benefited from having the space to emote, to critique, to express themselves and talk back to popular narratives. I didn't want any part of it, but I did attend a special issue launch party and enjoyed being in community with the contributors and editors. That felt right. To me.
My experience of writer's block and avoidance tactics reflect the deep rage and resentment that I feel about the systematic abuse and murder of Black people in the United States. My degrees have never saved me from knowing and feeling this trauma.
Of her own testimonio described in the article, Delgado Bernal writes, "My testimonio is a narrative that explores the politics of skin color, social space, and my attempts to nurture the transformative ruptures that can come from critical race feminista parenting” (2017, p. 28). In her anecdote, she explains how in-the-moment critical reflection allowed her to create a lesson on colorism and socio-economic privilege for her teenage sons. What ensued for her sons was a "transformative rupture" in the dominant discourse, permitting them to perceive an otherwise mundane experience in a more critical light. This pedagogy was only possible because of Delgado Bernal's integrated consciousness as a mother and critical race feminista.
Testimonios are a research and parenting methodology that I recognize in my own life, and I am grateful to the Latin American activists and scholars who developed this tradition of centering marginalized voices in the academy. I am also grateful for the insights that Delgado Bernal has provided on teaching and mothering. I am proud to be loco, and this is my testimonio.
Dolores Delgado Bernal (2017) A testimonio of critical race feminista parenting: snapshots from my childhood and my parenting, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31:1, 25-35, DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2017.1379623
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