Teaching That Breaks Your Heart: Reflections on the Soul Wounds of a First-Year Latina Teacher

Spring 2010

Source: Harvard Educational Review. Spring 2010. Vol. 80, Iss. 1; pg. 74-80.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author argues that teachers are oppressed. The best teachers are the most oppressed. After a bachelor's degree and a long and inspiring journey, witnessing the psychospiritual crucifixion of the author’s former student burns.
Critical pedagogues often enter the preK-12 classroom full of drive and with a restless air. They are oriented toward discourses of power, social justice, and the culturally situated nature of experience and knowledge.

A dialogue or reflexive examination of teacher happiness becomes an afterthought in much of the education literature and larger discourses centered on addressing inequities in schooling.

In this essay, the author, a teacher educator in Austin, Texas, reflects on an encounter with a first-year Latina teacher, Christina, who has decided to leave the profession.

Christina is a twenty-two years old Latina from a working-class background. She is the student who came to college to change the world. In classes she was introduced to extensive work in the areas of critical literacy, critical pedagogy, culturally relevant teaching. In solidarity with Darder (1991), she developed an identity whereby she saw knowledge and the pedagogic encounter as dialogic, always in progress. She embodies emancipatory principles.
Now, less than a year later, she teaches at an elementary school where most of her students are Latina/o and come from working-class backgrounds.

Despite successfully learning and applying critical pedagogy, Christina finds herself isolated and frustrated, stuck between a societal push for standardized success and her own desire to nurture transformation among her students.

In listening to Christina's experiences, the author argues the excellent work that many teachers do is often overlooked, underestimated, and invalidated.

The author claims that teachers deserve respect, dignity, and happiness. Noddings (2003) has described how happiness and education may look for students. Now we must extend the conversation to include teachers. The authors argues that education policy should rethink its assembly-line discourses and find ways to bring joy back into the classroom. Feelings of loss, fatigue, confusion, and oppression apply to just about everyone in the classroom. There is nothing wrong with finally admitting it and looking for ways to resolve this conundrum.

Darder, A. (1991). Culture and pouter in the classroom: A critical foundation for bilingual education. Westport, CT: Bergin & Harvey.

Noddings, N. (2003). Happiness and education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Updated: Jul. 13, 2010