Storying Youth Lives: Some Closing Thoughts

Even before Damya made the observation that “schools do little to nurture the souls and support the creativity of us students," countless teachers, activists, and scholars have been working to support, nurture, and uplift the humanity and creativity of Students of Color. For instance, Bettina Love (2019) advocates for “teaching strategies and education reform models [that] must offer more than educational survival tactics to dark children—test-taking skills, acronyms, character education, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, charter schools, school choice” (p. 13). Instead, she advocates for “an abolitionist praxis that, with urgency, embraces what seems impossible: education for collective dignity and human power for justice” (p. 13). As we commit to enact Love’s educational approach, especially for Students of Color, we are highly aware that many of our public schools remain segregated and inequitably funded (Meatto, 2019).

In light of the global pandemic caused by Coronavirus (COV1D-19) and the damaging economic uncertainty that follows, educational researchers, literacy teachers, community leaders, youth and family workers, and policymakers will be tasked with responding to multiple crises in real time. They will also be tasked with reconsidering what schooling and education will look like now and into the future, and what policies will need to govern this “new” approach. As schools and universities temporarily closed their physical doors, inequities were further magnified. For example, the families of the most vulnerable students (e.g. houseless students, students who primarily relied on free and reduced lunch, etc.) were left without the governmental support they so rightfully deserved. Gaps were more widely exposed with regards to public schools that lacked technology, online learning tools, and other vital resources to mitigate students’ home-based educational experiences. In these times of hyper-visible social inequalities and educational inequities that impact many of our students and their families, it is essential that we “consider their needs,” to borrow Damya’s sentiments, by better attending to students’ community, educational, socioemotional, and housing needs and well-being.

To do this work, we emphasize storying as a methodological approach and research practice that supports investigations into (and responses to) various forms of oppression, particularly within schooling contexts. Storying also offers students and educators a creative, artful way to challenge educational inequities by co-creating thoughtful, engaging learning experiences within loving environments that are responsive to their lives. If we connect the valuable role of stories and storying inside of classrooms to the necessary work that needs to happen within teacher education programs, then maybe we will move closer to taking up Love’s (2019) “abolitionist praxis” (p. 13).

One way to move closer is by repositioning teacher education programs to intentionally recruit prospective educators who have a social justice orientation and who are committed to learning how to engage in anti-racist pedagogies. Teacher education programs should prepare pre-service teachers to use storying as a way to engage in co-constructing knowledge and co-designing curricula. Thus, pre-service and in-service teachers can move closer to taking up an emancipatory pedagogy (Greene, 1991) by working with students to explore the important role of art and creative expressions inside classrooms and, ultimately, in the world.

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