My Fulbright to México: Creating Safe Schools for All

My Fulbright presentation at UNAM on LGBT youth in schools in Mexico City.

Every now and then, teachers get the opportunity of a lifetime.

I know I did when I was selected to be a member of the second cohort of Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching (DAT) recipients. Still a fairly new addition to the family of Fulbright awards, the DAT Fulbright provides experienced teachers the chance to conduct research in a host country in an area of education about which they feel passionate.

I’ve just recently returned from Mexico City after having spent six months as a guest researcher in the gender studies program, Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género (PUEG) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). My research focused on interviewing high school-aged LGBT youth on themes relating to gender and sexuality; coming out/not coming out; safety and discrimination; and their vision for making their school’s curriculum inclusive of LGBT themes and issues.

I could not have had a more life-transforming experience.

While I was interviewing 32 students, six teachers, and two administrators, I kept marveling at the fact that this was the most extraordinary opportunity to create change in schools on a global level. Here was a young man sharing how his mom didn’t hug him when he came out; and here was a young woman telling me how she was harassed at school for being transgender and how she had the guts to come to school wearing a dress when everybody else knew her previously as a boy; and here was a young woman telling me her dreams for making her school more respectful of all her friends.

And here was Fulbright giving me the chance to be a researcher, not as a PhD student, not as a professor, but as a teacher. Continue reading

Guest Post: On International Anti-Street Harassment Day, AtreveteDF Urges Youth Education

AtreveteDF, a new chapter of Hollaback!, fights against street harassment throughout Mexico City.

Earlier this fall, Feminist Teacher readers learned about the work that my high school students did with Emily May’s Hollaback! anti-street harassment movement. In particular, my student Grace Tobin testified at a New York City Council hearing on street harassment and the peers in her class sent in their powerful testimonies to the Hollaback blog. The importance of addressing street harassment in schools was never made more apparent to me than when my students shared their stories about being harassed on the subways and streets of New York, especially going to and from school.

Now that I’m in Mexico on a Fulbright, I have had the honor to meet with the founder of the Hollaback! chapter here in Mexico City, called AtreveteDF. A fairly new addition to the national and now global work that Hollaback! started in 2005, AtreveteDF is a growing force in the anti-street harassment movement. To mark International Anti-Street Harassment Day today, I invited AtreveteDF to write a guest post sharing its work and vision, especially in relation to the need to address this issue with young people. Below, readers will find both English and Spanish versions of AtreveteDF’s guest post. Please note that due to safety concerns, AtreveteDF contributed their post anonymously.

Education Against Street Harassment

One memory remains from a recent visit to a soccer stadium here in Mexico. Two kids, who were about 6 or 7, were shouting–in an almost eloquent manner–quite derogatory and objectifying comments to the cheerleaders and other women in the stadium. They also made comments directed at the players of the opposing team regarding homosexuality and their supposed “lack of manliness” as well as to members from their own team when players failed to score. People passed by and laughed; most men and women seemed to applaud this behavior, and nobody, including myself, asked them to be respectful or otherwise.

Today is International Anti- Street Harassment Day. When we speak of the daily realities many women and LGBTQ folks face when they walk down the street, let’s not forget to mention the children and youth who learn how to repeat these behaviors from the widespread sexual violence in our communities, the media, their homes, streets and schools. Continue reading

On Recovering My Mother Tongue: Speaking Spanish from the Bronx to México

During the first five years of my life, I grew up speaking both English and Spanish with my Puerto Rican family in the Bronx. Both languages reflected the kaleidoscope of my life at the time: I could switch easily from speaking English while romping around Randalls Island and the Williamsbridge playground to speaking Spanish while dancing salsa and merengue at my grandmother’s house in Parkchester.

Once we moved from the Bronx to Long Island in the early eighties, however, a critical shift happened. I was no longer in a community where Spanish was commonly spoken and on top of that, racist school counselors “advised” my mother not to speak Spanish to my brothers and me, in case it might “confuse” us. Respectful of school authorities, my mother obliged this narrow and misinformed demand.

This shift marked the beginning of being robbed of my mother tongue. I have been on a search to recapture it ever since. Continue reading

Distinguished Fulbright in Teaching Award to México

The 2010 Distinguished Fulbright in Teaching Award grantee cohort in Washington, D.C. (photo courtesy, AED)

Last spring, I wrote a series of posts on sabbaticals. After 14 years of teaching, I began thinking about the lack of resources that teachers have to engage in serious and innovative research. That’s when I decided to apply for the Distinguished Fulbright in Teaching Award. Much to my thrilled surprise, this past spring I received the award to go to México from January to July of 2011. Different from the longstanding Fulbright Teacher Exchange, which sends teachers to various countries throughout the world to teach their content area, the Distinguished Fulbright acknowledges that teachers are scholars.

The Distinguished Fulbright has three components. Once in their host country, educators are expected to 1) attend graduate level courses at a local university; 2) lead professional development workshops and conduct research at local schools; 3) complete a capstone project that merges their coursework and teacher research. Continue reading