Student Blog

Applying My Vision to the Classroom: A Reflection

I was once told that teaching comes from the heart. These words stuck with me in my

darkest and most transformational moments in the classroom. In fact, they gave me strength

and shaped my vision as an educator. Even now, as an Academic Coordinator at Access Youth

Academy, I continue to manifest these words with my students.

 

I am now finishing up my first year at Access and I’m reflecting on my experience,

struggles, and successes. I entered Access with an immense passion for addressing the

educational inequities in poor communities of color. I was given the freedom to envision a

classroom and transform a space into a conducive place for learning. I envisioned a safe space

where my students would be able to express themselves and develop holistically. Despite our

limited time with the students, I weaved in social emotional wellness through classroom

meetings. The meetings were at the beginning of each programming day and they set the tone

for their study time. The questions ranged from personal interests to deeper questions like “what

do you want to be known for?” Students practiced listening to each other and getting to know

their peers on a deeper level. The youth realized that each of them faced similar struggles and

many carried the hopes and dreams of their families. Acknowledging the different facets of their

identities created a space of acceptance. In class, we discussed how a high GPA was

important; however, it was not worth much if we lacked the personal conviction to improve our

communities and the world. There are still some students who are not prepared to share a part

of themselves, but once they do, I hope they begin to heal and flourish in all aspects of their

lives. It brings me comfort that our team will be there to support them. The student’s holistic

development is essential to a student’s academic success.

 

In addition to classroom meetings, I wanted the students to find their purpose in school.

From the start, I shared the educational pipeline and gaps in our flawed system for students of

color. The students were shocked at the numbers, 8 out of 100 Latina/o students graduate for a

4-year university.The grim statistics served as humbling motivators to widen the pipeline and

increase the number of low-income students of color in higher education. Throughout the year,

we discussed our purpose in school and the sacrifices that our parents made to have us there.

My students were aware that their parents worked long hours, low-paying jobs, with no job

security or health benefits. Hearing each other’s stories connected our group in a meaningful

way. The students and their struggles were validated in an educational context. Experiences

were connected to a broader context of immigration, the school-to- prison pipeline, and

educational policy. This to me was transformational because it strayed away from the traditional

sense of “teaching.” The youth’s stories mattered and served as a springboard to discuss

macro-level issues. In other words, the classroom became a place where the heart mattered.

Teaching middle and high school students was a daunting task. I was unsure how they

would respond to my teaching style; however, I was sure of one thing: sooner or later they

would see that I cared about them. As an educator, a shift in mindset was critical. During difficult

times this year, I reminded myself to stop relying on deficit models and refrain from placing

blame on students, parents, or the community. Instead, I had to take responsibility for my

actions and assess how to improve my practice. As educators, we must take accountability,

reflect and adjust our practices. Only by being honest with ourselves and being willing to say

“sorry” to students when we make mistakes, we can be transformational with our students.

Essentially, practicing love as the foundation of teaching and fostering the social-emotional

wellness of our youth will lead to positive change. I look forward to another year of growth and

challenged with the students. Lastly, the practice of teaching from the heart will continue to

guide my interactions with the future leaders at Access Youth Academy.

 

By: Soraya Ramos; The Academic Coordinator of Access Youth Academy

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