“We must dare, in the full sense of the word, to speak of love without the fear of being called ridiculous, mawkish, or unscientific if not antiscientific. We must dare in order to say scientifically, and not as mere blah-blah-blah, that we study, we learn, we teach, we know with our entire body. We do all of these things with feeling, with emotion, with wishes, with fear, with doubts, with passion, and also with critical reasoning. However, we never study, learn, teach, or know with the last only. We must dare as to never dichotomize cognition and emotion.”
My core beliefs about education are informed by my own learning experiences, by my time teaching emergent bilingual students, and by my journey as a doctoral candidate. These experiences have reinforced my view that:
- Education is essential for self-knowledge and realization; it provides individuals with tools to actualize their dreams, whatever dreams those might be.
- Education is instrumental for the transformation of society; it allows individuals to improve the quality of life of all people and gives them tools to address different forms of inequality and oppression.
These beliefs permeate the aspirations that I have for my students and guide the methods, teaching practices, and assessment that I use in my classroom. They also drive my eagerness to continue reflecting on, nurturing, and improving upon my teaching.
I started my teaching career in Costa Rica, where I grew up and went to school. In Costa Rica, I had several professors and colleagues in the Applied Linguistics and Teaching English as a Foreign Language majors who inspired me with their profound passion for language education and strong confidence in all of their students’ potential. They were rigorous yet caring teachers, and their classrooms always emphasized meaningful, communicative, collaborative, and constructivist approaches to learning. They taught me the importance of the affective dimension of learning and teaching. Over the years, I have tried to emulate their style and to teach my classes using the qualities that I perceived in them.
As an ESOL teacher in the United States, I taught newcomer emergent bilingual children from around the world. During that time, I witnessed numerous occasions in which my students and their parents were defined in terms of their perceived “deficit” rather than by their incredible linguistic, cultural, and academic repertoire. In my lessons, I transgressed pervasive and silencing English-only practices on an everyday basis. Using multimodal texts, motivating students to use their various language systems, making available bilingual and multicultural literature, and inviting bilingual community members into our classroom, I encouraged my students to develop healthy linguistic identities.Because of my experience during that time, I grew increasingly motivated to work to provide all children and youth with culturally and linguistically relevant learning experiences conducive to greater social justice.
During my years as a master’s student, I refined my knowledge of language acquisition processes, multiple intelligences, learning strategies, sheltered-content instruction, and multicultural approaches to language teaching, and was even more inspired to utilize student-centered pedagogies and “learning to learn” approaches. When I became a doctoral student, I encountered Freire’s ideas about liberatory education, Dewey’s ideas about democratic education and inquiry-based learning, Bank’s principles of multicultural education, and Garcia’s concepts of dynamic bilingualism and translingualism. Their thoughts strengthened my beliefs that students are active agents in their learning process and that education has the power to transform reality. My years as a master’s and doctoral student solidified my commitment to education.
As an elementary school teacher, my main goal was to affirm my students’ identities, to capitalize in their cultural capital and funds of knowledge, and to build their confidence in their ability to succeed in school. Now, as a college instructor and teacher educator, my goals for student learning also include increasing students’ knowledge and skills to build inclusive learning environments.
I design my courses so that students develop the abilities to:
- interrogate the world around them and inside of them; abilities such as curiosity, critical thinking, self-reflection
- collaborate with people from all backgrounds; building skills like empathy, tolerance, respect, and cross-cultural awareness
- contribute to the betterment of society using their creativity, innovation, civic, and problem-solving skills
In my classes, I design cooperative learning activities, such as the jig-saw classroom and simulations in which students are assigned roles as education stake-holders and make decisions on important education issues. These activities are supplemented with opportunities for students to draft educational autobiographies where they can interrogate their own education experiences, knowledge-construction process, and biases. Along the semester, students immerse themselves in the realities of culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms in city schools on a weekly basis, putting into practice the material we discuss in class. To unpack students’ tutoring experiences, they compose reflective blog posts integrating their tutoring with the interdisciplinary course readings and class conversations. My grading beliefs align with my teaching philosophy. I constructed assessment tools that are meaningful, that integrate students’ voices, and that provide multiple opportunities for students to incorporate teacher and peer feedback. One of the ways in which I assess student learning is through the design of a semester-long digital storytelling project in collaboration with Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT).
I consider that part of my job as an educator is to continuously assess and reflect on my teaching practice. At the end of every semester, I analyze my strengths and weaknesses based on student evaluations, on observations from peers, and on my own impressions. Grounded on that information, I make decisions on what to improve, include, or eliminate in future courses. Learning new skills is part of the process of evaluating my teaching performance. As a long-life learner, I constantly seek opportunities for professional growth.
My journey as an educator has been guided by inspiring professors, students, and scholars. The valuable lessons that I have learned from them continue to inform my teaching philosophy that students benefit from student-centered, culturally relevant, experiential, inquiry-based, collaborative, and critical approaches to education. With every teaching experience that I have had, I have renewed my belief that education plays an essential role in the construction of a just society.