Register for the Leading Equity Virtual Summit 2021

Sheldon Eakins:

Welcome advocates to another episode of the Leading Equity Podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their schools. Today's special guest is Dr. Gabriel Rodriguez. He's the author of Suburban Schools as Sites of Inspection: Understanding Latinx Youth's Sense Of Belonging in a Suburban High School. So, without further ado, Gabriel, thank you so much for joining us.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Thanks for having me, Sheldon. I'm excited and happy to be here.

Sheldon Eakins:

Pleasure is always mine. I'm excited to get into discussing Latinx youth and their sense of belonging in suburban schools. But before we get into that, could you share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yes, definitely. Well, first, thanks for having me again. Who am I? I am originally from the Chicago suburbs. So, very prideful of being raised in that area. Much of my experiences growing up in suburbia have led me to where I am today. A lot of the questions that I asked related to Latinx youth, youth of color are very much grounded from my experience as being a Brown kid in White suburbia.

               A lot of wonderful memories, but also a lot of painful memories that have very much shaped the beginning of my research agenda. Yeah, I don't know. I think there's a lot of power in what young people have to say. I think, for me, that was the impetus for the work that I do. When I'm not looking at issues of identity or belonging, I'm interested in issues of youth activism and the ways in which young people hold adults accountable in and out of schools, so.

Sheldon Eakins:

Nice. You're also a professor. Is that correct?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yes, that is what I do by my trade. I'm an assistant professor. I'm a year and a half in at Iowa State University in the School of Education. Part of my responsibilities are to train and prepare the next generation of PhD scholars, practitioners, and then working with undergraduates. I've worked primarily with pre-service secondary folks, working on issues of social justice with them and helping them think critically, hopefully, deepening their understanding of these issues. But oftentimes, doing the beginning work for them, setting that foundation that allows them to begin to understand that there are people who are different than them and that they should be prepared to work with folks in changing schools.

Sheldon Eakins:

That's some good work. So, I got to ask, you're from Chicago from the burbs, and now you're in Iowa. So, what brought you there? Is that where you primarily focus your research or you do research in other areas?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yeah. So, at the moment, I'm currently still working on my research that has come from the Chicago area. I'm beginning to lay the groundwork for work that is very much Iowa-based. I think for me, it's important that wherever I am, that I get to know the community, get to know educators, get to know young people, because what may or may not work in Chicago or New York may not work in Iowa, right? I think one of the things that I think is missing in an educational conversation sometimes is that we seek to copy and paste thinking that what may work in Seattle works in Des Moines, Iowa. That's not the case of this [inaudible 00:03:23]. So, for me, it's very much invested in community, getting to know community, trying to build some level of trust.

               So, for me, I think I'm laying the groundwork for my next work, working with young people, working with educators. I'm trying to answer the questions, but also asking them questions. So, yeah, that's where I'm heading. That's exciting. I think the transition to Iowa has been an interesting one, to say the least. Certainly, moving out in the midst of an election now that we just passed it, with a pandemic. I think growing up in a White community, I think, has helped me a great deal, but also, being in Iowa has made me realize that there's a different type of Whiteness that I have to adjust to and that I think I'm still adjusting to, especially when I work with pre-service White undergrads.

               I think one of the things that I've been thinking a lot about recently is these notions of niceness that people in Iowa in the Midwest. There's this thing called Midwest nice or Iowa nice. Who doesn't want to be nice? That's important. There's some growing literature. I have a colleague who I think you had on a couple years ago. Jeanne Dyches has been doing some really cool work on niceness and education. Angela Castano has a book on educated and niceness. But to me, I'm interested in, "How does niceness work in advanced notions of Whiteness and White supremacy? How does it work in tandem with good intention? How does it work in tandem with opportunity hoarding?" I think that's been the most interesting thing trying to get a grasp of in Iowa, I think, for me.

Sheldon Eakins:

Okay. So, I want to jump on this niceness a little bit, just a little bit more, because I live in Idaho, right? If you're like me, you tell them, "I'm from Iowa," and folks are like, "Oh, yeah, love potatoes and stuff like that." It's like, no, that's the other one. That's the other state. I get that a lot. I'm assuming that you probably have gotten that a couple of times as well, but I grew up in Texas. So, I'm from the South. The South culture was a lot different from when I moved over here to the Northwest. So, I'm curious, even though you were still in the Midwest in Chicago, but you moved to Iowa and you said it's a different kind of niceness. I mean, could you tell me a little bit more? Maybe some of your experiences that you're just like, "Whoa, it's just different"?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yeah, I'll answer that question based on my work with undergrads. I think for many of my students in the class that I teach on social justice education, these are juniors and seniors that I work with. Unfortunately, for a lot of them, these conversations of equity and justice, of privilege, of identity are the first time they're having these conversations. For many of my students, they've grown up in majority White, rural communities.

               A good number of them are middle class folks who grew up in suburbs of Iowa or in rural communities in Iowa. It makes sense that for them, the world around them works for them. That they've been raised to be good people, to be kind, to perhaps pull over the side of the road if you see someone who needs help with a flat tire rather, but they're so unwilling to engage in a confrontation. They're so unwilling to call an equity when perhaps the thing that it's happening, because it's not the polite thing to do... There's a different way to go about enacting change. That perhaps leads us to the never ending conversation about, "How to enact change more broadly about working within the system or outside the system?"

               But for my students, they get so caught up of, "Well, what do you mean? Do I have to be mean to be a teacher? Do I have to be mean to be a social justice educator?" I'm like, "Well, no." They're like, "To what extent is nice is being used as an excuse to not even have the conversation in the first place? To what extent is niceness in my view being used to gay young people with minority identities who have legitimate grievances about how their school is not working for them?"

               So, how are educators using nice and say, "Well, you should be grateful for what you have here or stop complaining. Pull those boots up and do like everybody else"? So, I think for me, that's how I'm understanding niceness. I think sometimes a source of frustration for me of trying to think of different ways to get students to see the world from a different perspective.

Sheldon Eakins:

So, what I'm hearing is in your experience, as an educator or professor, you're engaging in these conversations and your students who are going to be future teachers. They understand that there are injustices out there. However, the disrupting part seems a little difficult because of maybe the culture of, "Maybe I shouldn't speak up against somebody," or "That's not being nice," That's the vibe that I'm getting from your experiences. Is that correct?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yeah, I think so. I think that's spot on. Again, I think for those of us that teach classes or foundation classes of equity and justice with pre-service folks, I think that's something that students really grapple with and struggle with. What is the purpose of schooling? Because for them schooling works or has worked for them, right? So, for them to hear that there's an alternative narrative, that oh, school isn't necessarily fair or equal, oh, man, well, how would I go about changing that, right? Their imagination isn't allowing them to be dexterous, because it's worked for them. So, then to have a conversation about change it or reimagine it is difficult for them, because to go about change means to maybe asking critical questions or to be agitated. I don't know if my students want to agitate.

Sheldon Eakins:

Okay. Well, I mean, like you said, you are probably introducing them to a world again, that they never experienced. They've grown up a certain way. They've just didn't recognize that there's another world that's totally different than theirs. So, I'm glad that we're talking about that, because that leads into okay, some of your teachers are going to end up going into some of the schools. There are going to be Latinx kids in there. Some of the schools might be suburban schools. So, based off maybe your experience, maybe your lived experiences, what have you learned about Latinx youth and those who attend those suburban schools?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yeah, a lot. Part based on my own experiences, but also the empirical work, the scholarship that I've done is that I get the sense that as a country, we still perpetuate very flawed, antiquated understandings of suburbs, that we still continue to imagine them as White, as middle class, full of resources, the "ideal place" to raise a family, right? That it's safe. Those stereotypical communities do exist. I don't want to deny that reality, right? But there's also a lot of suburbs that are composed by mainly folks of color. There are a lot of suburbs including those with White people that are lower middle class White communities, right? But yet, we don't have that image when we think of suburbs, right?

               We also don't realize that suburbs are demographically changing. Most people of color live in suburbs. The country is a suburban nation, right? Yet, when we talk about young people of color, a lot of the research is based on their experiences in large urban school districts. We need to do a lot more work in these communities, but I think we need to amplify and shift our focus to also include suburban communities. For me, I really like to focus on suburban communities in schools that are labeled as good, because I argue that inequities still exist in those places of opportunity and resources. That just because a Latinx student goes to a well-ranked high school that has plentiful AP honors coursework, that has a plethora of college prep programs, right? Do they benefit from those?

               If so, for me, I'm interested in, "What are the trade-offs for young people of color from an economic and social perspective?" I think for me, that's what I really want to focus on and do focus on, because to some extent, they are benefiting from those opportunities, but it comes at a great tool of cost, I would argue. That it puts students to realize that they need to be compliant bodies. To be compliant allows them to be tracked into opportunity.

Sheldon Eakins:

One of the things that I see here in Idaho is a lot of students who are... We have a lot of migrant workers that come here. A lot of the students, because of the agriculture and all that stuff here in Idaho, it's very ruled as well. I've had a lot of kids tell me, "They don't want us to speak Spanish." They're constantly being told, "Speak English, speak English," or their names are Americanized. That's another big one that kids a lot will divulge to me. Now, when we're thinking about, "Okay, what sense of belonging do these students have? Those just little things that's part of them, part of their culture and their identity as being raised?", is that similar in your area as well that you're seeing in those suburban schools?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yes, to varying degrees. I think the high school [inaudible 00:13:53] research, that was also a school that prided itself in having different types of equity, commitments, and initiatives. So, I think, in many respects, the school is ahead of other schools. With that said, students really talked about how they felt really isolated sometimes from their school. In the article, I talked about how students were very savvy in recognizing which spaces were for White students, right? That the spaces that they had cultivated for themselves or spaces that the school had cultivated for them were very important for them, because they felt like they could be more of themselves. They didn't have to worry about being linguistically policed, right?

               You talked about how don't speak Spanish, right? They didn't feel like they had to play this game, where they had to always be thankful. I think that those spaces, that young people of color and my purpose for my research for Latinx youth, that those spaces, I think, offer a lot of insights for educators of how to reimagine schooling, because what you're saying, Sheldon, it makes me think of just the continued perpetuation of assimilatory practices that schools engage in, right?" That to be a good student means to speak, "proper English," right? That to be a good student, you always need to be on time, but forget about whatever structures are happening outside of school that you just need to suck it up and show up, right? But life is more complex than that, right? Why do we have certain rules and policies in school?

               Sometimes those get in the way of having more productive relationships with students. Yeah, it's so frustrating that I think when schools are wanting to have these conversations, they understandably focus on young people of color or whomever they deem the other end of these schools. But then, the research shows that and in my experiences at the school that I was at is that we continue to recycle the same conversation about, "Okay, well, how do we support Black students? Or how do we support Asian students? Or how do we support Latinx students?"

               I get the question, I get the focus. But in contexts that are predominantly White, why are we not really shifting the focus away from youth of color and putting the spotlight on Whiteness, putting the spotlight on practices that continue to oppress and really ostracize Latinx youth, youth of color in their schools.

Sheldon Eakins:

I had a really good conversation with someone on something similar on that where they were talking about traditions. This is what the school does every year. This is a celebration that they do or kids look forward to this festival or whatever event or whatever it is, rituals that the school does. One of the things that they wanted me to do at the school and wanted me to do with them was to really look at that and take a deep dive into, "What are the current practices that we have? Do those current practices oppress or continue to oppress certain groups?"

               I think that's what I'm hearing from you, Gabriel, is rather than saying, "Well, how do we help our Black kids or Brown kids?" But as a school culture, as a climate, what are some things that we need to do as a whole to make sure that everyone feels welcome? Is that where the direction that you're going with that?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Absolutely. To really ask ourselves, "What does belonging mean at this school? What are some of the traditions that maybe we want to continue? But are all traditions worthwhile? Are all these practices worth keeping?" Because we're changing as a school and we want practices that reflect who we have in this building. Maybe it's time that we let go of some traditions, because maybe some of those traditions were hella racist or hella sexist, right?

               So, the question is, "To what extent are adults willing to be introspective of their practices and willing to be vulnerable with their identities?" Because I think that's an area of growth that I think for those of us that work in higher ed, that work with educators, I think we need to build stronger relationships and creating meaningful opportunities for educators who I think are understandably and legitimately hungry for answers. I think we need to create space for them to have good PD opportunities, because they live busy lives, right? Teaching is hard, but I also think that we can't let them off the hook in that respect as well.

Sheldon Eakins:

Okay. So, I'm loving what I'm hearing. I want folks who are listening to be able to have some practical strategies, especially those educators that are working in suburban schools. I love what you're saying as far as let's shift our focus and let's discuss what Whiteness looks like at our schools. Again, rather than focusing on the handful of kids that we might have of color and they're being othered already in maybe our current assimilative practices. What are some examples, Gabriel, that you could say? If I was a school principal and I was running a school like this, what are some of the things that you would start with in order to try to shift that mindset?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

That's a great question. I have some thoughts. I think this first one may seem obvious or cheesy depending on how you feel, but what relationships exist between the adults in the building and the students in the school? I think that's incredibly important. I think whether they know it or not, I think educators are really savvy observers and researchers or have the capability of doing so.

               What I mean by that speaks to the relationships, but also to the awareness of you as an educator, do you know the different social dynamics of your building with student communities? Do you know which type of students hang out in a particular part of the hallway? Do you know the dynamics between race in your school, between gender? Because having that is super important context that I think could inform in part your units and certainly the relationships and culture you're trying to cultivate within your own individual classroom. I think that for me, those are two things that I often try to engage educators in conversation.

Sheldon Eakins:

Okay, so we start with relationships. If we're looking on a national scale, I think it's 80 something percent White as far as educators, but 50 something percent students of color. So, we do have a mismatch. So, I'm thinking when you're saying, "Let's look at the relationships," I think, also that we have to recognize that a lot of our teachers don't look like our students. So, is that a matter of how do we connect with students that are different than us or are we just looking at the current relationships? How do we make it better? So, relationships, but what part of relationships do we really need to focus on?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Sheldon, that's one heck of a question, because that's the reality, like you said, right? White educators are not going to go away, right? I also am a firm believer that White educators can do great work with young people of people. To me, that's a given. I think to answer your question or at least to answer part of it, to me, it goes back to, "What is your orientation towards people who are different than who you are? Is your orientation to save or to serve? Is your orientation to fix or to empower?" You may not be Black or you may not be Latinx or you may not speak the language of the students that are in your school. That's totally okay.

               That's totally okay, but do you at least know what is going on in their lives? Do you know the history of this community? Are you showing an interest in their consumption of music? Are you paying an interest in what they like to watch outside of school? All those things just are so helpful for educators if they would pay attention to those things. I think also, young people have a lot of solutions, but yet we focus on students who are the "highfliers," but what about the students who are on the margins?

               I would argue that more often than not, regardless of the identity that they possess, that those in the margins often have the most innovative and also the clearest critiques of how their schools function and don't function. But yet we dismiss them, because well, it's their fault that they're failing, right? Well, Mom and Dad aren't involved. So, what can I do? But all those are deeply rooted in deficit orientations that ultimately say, "Me, as a teacher, I did what I could. Now, it's on them." Well, it's murkier than that. I don't know. I think even right now, this idea of grit is very popular in educational circles. I don't know. I think to me, I already think people are gritty. I don't think we need to make them grittier.

               I think for me, it speaks to how are educators aware of the inequities that exist in society? Tyrone Howard out of UCLA and others have said, "What good is pushing grit on students if we're not changing the structures around them? What good is it if we're not reconsidering our discipline policy in school? I'm not the biggest big data person, but I do think it's important for educators and administrators to look at the data that they're recording and saying, "Okay, what inequities do we have? How are these inequities manifesting along racial, gender and class lines? Let's look at why that's the case." To me, those are obvious starting points.

Sheldon Eakins:

I agree. I think they're obvious starting points. I was doing a panel last week. I was moderating a panel. One of the audience members raised this question and I want to get your take on this too, because it's touching on what we're talking about. She said, "I'm a future White teacher. I'm currently in school, but I plan to go out and teach. What do you suggest I do? Should I go into an urban school, or should I go into a predominantly students of color type of school, or should I teach about multicultural education or social justice to White students? So, it's a predominantly White school? What do you think I should do?"

               I thought the panelists all has some really good answers to that question. I'd love to get your take on that. I mean, as a professor, as an assistant professor, what do you think? I mean, what do you encourage your teachers to do, stay in Iowa or maybe look at some other opportunities to do work, where there are schools that are predominantly of color?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

I've been thinking about that question a lot since I came to Iowa. There's clearly a need for educators in many rural communities in this country. There's no question about that. A good number of my students do want to go back to home and teach in their communities nearby, which I think is praiseworthy. Sometimes that question the motives behind that, because to what extent are they wanting to evade folks who are different than them? Having said that though, I'm not going to tell somebody not to teach at a certain community. It's ultimately their choice. But I do think a lot about the work that needs to happen in really White communities in schools and the possibilities of White educators can do in these predominantly White contexts.

               I think as we've been talking about a lot of the focus is, "Well, let's work with kids of color. Let's do something. We need to change this now." I get it like, I'm with you. Absolutely. But we need to look at where power lies. We need to look at the work that needs to be done with White families, looking at the ways in which schools continue to propagate White middle class values. Maggie Hagerman came out with a really cool book a couple years ago called White Kids, where she looked at the ways in which White kids and their families talk about race, whether they know it or not. I think we need more White educators who are cognizant of their racial identities and their other privileged identities and have these meaningful conversations with White students.

Sheldon Eakins:

I'm a big proponent of multicultural education to predominantly White schools. One of the things that I've said is we have to keep in mind who's in the classroom. We might have future police officers, future legislators, future public service folks. If they never gotten or had these conversations or have been exposed to worlds that are different than theirs and they've ever been educated on these things and really dove in beyond the basic surface level conversations when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, if they've never had those experiences and then they go out and do public service work without any foundation, how that can impact generations and generations and generations.

               So, my thing is and one of the panelists mentioned is first of all, that really depends on your intentions. You've mentioned the savior complex. So, what are you coming here for? Are you swooping in or thinking that you're Superman or doing some charity work, or you have an understanding of the needs and how you can support your community and be involved in the community that you're serving? Or do you think it's better for you to go to a place where there is predominantly White? However, you're going to actively work to be anti-racist and anti-bias and teach students about that. So, that they're again, getting that foundation. So, that when they go out and whatever future positions they have, they'll have that foundational thought and mindset understanding.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Absolutely. I think, for me, this goes to a broader conversation and some of the work that I want to do in the future and that others have done when it comes to civic engagement, youth activism that we talk about young people as our future. We talk about how children are innocent. Although which children are afforded the level of innocence right? Then all of a sudden, we want young people to solve all the world's problems when they turn 18. But yet, how do we expect young people to grapple with these complex issues?

               Although many already are and are doing amazing things, but how do we expect young people to grapple with these complex issues and work towards solving them, if we as adults, have never meaningfully created space to engage them in meaningful conversations, the political nature of our country or how to work toward social justice issues more broadly? So, we should not be surprised that we're producing students who are unable or unwilling or do not understand the importance of anti-racism, right?

               I think White educators working in predominately White schools are in prime positions to do some of that work. To me, that's a huge opportunity to do that. I think we're failing White students in that regard. We shouldn't be surprised that we have young people who are racially illiterate when it comes to race, right? You continue to see moments in class, where the White student says race but they say it in the hushed voice, or they want to say Black but they're like, "Oh, Black." Those are byproducts of us as adults not engaging young people meaningfully or engaging young people who are politically active and conscious to engage them even more and empowering more, because I don't know, it's frustrating that we continue to make the same mistakes, but it's also not surprising.

Sheldon Eakins:

I've seen a mixture of White educators that are either scared or they say that they've tried. So, they're in a predominantly White school. I had a teacher emailed me the other day. I actually spoke to her on the phone, because her situation was she just did an implicit bias just like a little introduction, little tests for the kids. Right after it was over within an hour or so, the principal or somebody was contacting her, because one of the students went to their parent and complained. There's this, "Why are you bringing this politics and political stuff into the classroom. We're here for English. We're not here to talk about race. We're not here to talk about bias. What does that have to do with English and literature and all those? That's not what my child is at school for."

               So, I got a lot of teachers and that's not the first time I had a teacher reach out to me about something like that, where I'm trying to do this work. My classroom is predominantly White. Soon as I say anything that's off topic that doesn't center them, then it's an issue. I told her, I said, "Listen, first of all, what did your principal say?" She said, "Well, my principal was on board and the principal had my back."

               I said, "Well, you're good, you're good. You're doing what you're supposed to do. You're being an advocate in your classroom. You're doing the work. You're on the ground level. Yeah, you're going to get pushback from time to time, but you stand your ground and you keep doing this work. If your principal supports you, your superintendent supports you, then you're in the right place. But if you're in a school where you feel like, 'Man, I can't do anything, because I probably won't get the support that I need from up top,' then I say maybe you need to reevaluate where you're at, where you're teaching at, because maybe that's not the best place where you can do the most work."

               Because if you're fearful of your job just as you mentioned the word 'race' or just to engage in a conversation... Again, just because it's happening in the world doesn't mean your kids are talking about it, their family, they're at home having these conversations. But when they enter your classroom, you're like, "Oh, I can only teach about the content that was written by more than likely White people. That's pretty much all I got going on."

Gabriel Rodriguez:

To me, that's how Whiteness operates as you know, right? It's the making of excuses, evading the conversation. But as you know and I'm sure your audience knows, education is a political enterprise. That schools of education, educator preparation programs need to do a much more clear, much more coherent job of telling future educators that education is a political act and that your silence is also a political stance.

               Whether you know it or not, you're taking a stance and your students are recognizing that. They're taking notes of who they can trust and who they can't trust in the building. I think to your point, Sheldon, yeah, easy for me to say, but do you want to work at a school that is actively working against your social justice, anti-racist principles? Why would you do that to yourself professionally and from a self-care perspective? Please go ahead.

Sheldon Eakins:

No, I was just going to add and the thing about it is I hear folks saying, "Now more than ever, we should be talking about these conversations because of police brutality and issues that have happened with various communities of color. Oh, yeah, we need to talk about it now." It's not like we didn't need to talk about it before COVID, before George Floyd, before Breonna Taylor, all these things. No, we should've been talking about it way before that. But even now, this is November when we're recording this and if you're still not on board, I don't know why you're an educator, to be honest, especially if you have Black and Brown kids in your classroom.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yeah, I chuckled, because part of it is frustration, right? Why do you want to be an educator in the first place? I remember I was at a talk, there's a really good guy, really great professor at University of Illinois, Chicago, Dave Stovall, who does some really great work. He asked his question of and I'm paraphrasing, "Should schools of education allow certain students to graduate and become teachers? What are the metrics by which we are allowing students to enter the teaching profession? Are we asking students to demonstrate competency in creating joy in the lives of students?"

               This also gets at some of the really great work that the team I love is doing right now, of centering students survivorship and working towards laboratory outcomes of abolition, right? But yet we're more focused on preparing students to be good content people, but it's all about the methods of teaching. Yeah, it's no surprise that when they take classes that engage them on these issues, that their brains are having a hard time adjusting of, "Well, how does this fit in with my content plan or how does this relate to math?" I'm like, "Well, it has everything to do with math," right? But folks continue to see these issues as add-ons that if I do this quick little addition, I'm good to go. I'm woke. No, it isn't that easy. It isn't that easy.

               I think, yeah, it's understandable that people are afraid or people want a quick fix. I think, folks need to recognize that mistakes are going to be made. The work towards racial justice is not linear. It is not easy. For White educators, because that's been the focus of our conversation right now, they need to realize that they need to be vulnerable with themselves, but they also need to realize that students want them to be present in their lives. It's a very low bar, but students really appreciate you being there for them and being present. That they're okay with you telling them, "Hey, I don't know the answer to your question, but you know what? Let's work together," or "You know what? Let me talk to people in the building to see if we can find a solution," right?

               Because, right now, there's this big movement to create student-driven initiatives that we need to be student-centered and we need to engage in transformational leadership in schools. Okay, great, all nice little jargon. But if that's the case, then why do schools continue then to negate the voices of young people who are on the margins, who are saying, "This isn't working for me?" To me, that seems like we're not adhering to the principles of student-centered leadership.

Sheldon Eakins:

Now, like you said, it's buzzwords often. Often these things are just the latest, sexiest thing out there and a new term. Someone just did some research. They publish it. It got popular, but the action is not there. It's talk. They'll say, "Yeah, yeah, we're all about this life. We're going to do these things." And then when it comes time, are they allocating resources? Are they making sure there's funding? Are they investing in this work?" As opposed to just saying, "Yeah, I'm just going to do this, because it's free. I should be able to just develop these relationships, do these things for my students."

               But again, that often comes with professional development that needs to happen, because someone will just read a book about Latinx students. Oh, how to support Latinx students? And then not recognize that that book is pretty general. It doesn't necessarily pertain to your individual community that you're serving. Not all Latinx folks are the same. Not all Black folks are the same. So, just because I read a book doesn't mean that I am going to know everything about Black people, about Brown people. That's not a thing.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Hell yeah, absolutely. To me and you, that's obvious, right? But it's the constant thing that I tell my students that hey, right now, we're talking about a specific Latinx population. We are a complex community, right? You need to be able to understand that and I think also understand that not every White student is the same. There are different types of White students, right? So again, to what level of attentiveness are you bringing to the teaching profession? This isn't a copy and paste job. Teaching is not a science. To me, teaching is a craft. You evolve over time. Yeah.

Sheldon Eakins:

I don't know. I think I might agree with your colleague about, "Should we deny future teacher credentials or graduating?" I mean, I'm not a dean or anything, but I'm just saying if you see some red flags on some students, these are going to be teachers down the road. If there's some red flags, maybe we should do some remediation or something or "You know what? I don't think teaching is for you. You need to probably switch to something else, because this is not for you."

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Yeah. I think for educator preparation programs and this is something that I've been talking with my really great colleagues about, let's be really intentional about how we prepare the next generation of teachers. An example of that that my colleague Katy Swalwell had mentioned. We've been talking about, "Okay, when a student is about to go into student teaching, who are we placing that student with? Is this educator someone who we think is doing some really cool work or is trying to make sense of it?" That's what we want our future educators to be paired with.

               So, that they could see that "Hey, this work that I want to do, that I talked about in my social justice class, okay, this is how it looks like in practice. Okay, that gives me some confidence. That gives me some hope that I'm not going to be the only one, and that I know that this is not just a conversation we have in class, that this is what it looks like in practice." That speaks to intentionality in educator preparation programs of being really mindful of who we are putting students in, in terms of the classroom and the schools that we're in. To me, that seems like one obvious move in the right direction.

Sheldon Eakins:

It seems obvious. It seems obvious. Honestly, Gabriel, that could be a whole another podcast in itself.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

I'm sure, I'm sure, it could. You could prep.

Sheldon Eakins:

Who they're getting place with. Man, I have enjoyed meeting you and engaging in this conversation with you, Gabriel.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Likewise.

Sheldon Eakins:

I definitely consider you providing a voice in leading equity. What is one final word of advice that you can provide to our listeners?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Gosh, I'm going to be the broken record, but again, when people are coming to you with demands, with questions, with pain, with trauma, but also their joy, their complexity, their awesomeness, their weirdness, are we listening to that? Are we being mindful of that? Are we creating opportunities to humanize our students? We often talk about the need to be culturally relevant and culturally sustaining. We need to do more of that work.

               We need to create opportunities for our young people to find value in who they are and to embrace who they are and not feel the need to downplay aspects of their identity in suburban schools or in any school for that matter. I think that goes back to the work of really embracing anti-racist ideology and practice and doing the work of being present and vulnerable with your students. So, I think that's what I would convey to your listeners, I think.

Sheldon Eakins:

Thank you. Thank you so much. I, again, am speaking with Dr. Gabriel Rodriguez, author of Suburban Schools as Sites of Inspection: Understanding Latinx Youth's Sense Of Belonging in a Suburban High School. Gabriel, if we got some folks that want to connect with you, what's the best way to reach you online?

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Well, you can always track me down in my faculty profile page at Iowa State University. My email is [email protected] That's the best way to reach me. I'm not on Twitter. I've been told that I should get on Twitter. Maybe one day in my life, I will. But e-mail is the best way to contact me right now.

Sheldon Eakins:

We got to get you on Twitter, man. We got to work that out. So, yeah.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

All right. All right, fine.

Sheldon Eakins:

It's been a pleasure. Again, thank you so much for your time.

Gabriel Rodriguez:

Thanks, Sheldon. Thank you so much.

 

Subscribe & Review in iTunes

Are you subscribed to the podcast? If you’re not, I want to encourage you to do that today. I don’t want you to miss an episode. Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Now if you enjoy listening to the show, I would be really grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other advocates find the podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. Thank you!

Close

Looking to get started with developing an equitable learning environment at your school?

This FREE download will give you 10 strategies to help you develop an equity competent mindset (AND give you a shot of confidence that you can become an ADVOCATE for your students!).