While many scholars have identified the need for educators to descriptively represent the communities they teach in, few pose solutions to the hurdles teachers of color (TOCs) must jump to be successful. The works of Farima Pour-Khorsid and Carol Gist explore the significance of “testimonios” (Pour-Khorsid, 2016, p. 1), or the sharing of personal experiences among educators of color, in building resilient communities of TOCs.
Testimonios: Both research studies focused on the “testimonios” of teachers and aspiring teachers. These written and oral testimonies, borrowing from Critical Race Theory’s counterstory narratives, allow teachers to communicate their experiences in order to learn from each other & to disprove white supremacist narratives of urban education (Pour-Khorsid, 2016, p. 5).
A key difference between the two studies is what value they place on the testimonio. While Gist focuses more on educators’ testimonios as a way to identify and draw attention to problems teachers of color face that might otherwise go unnoticed/unexamined by others, Pour-Khorsid views the testimonio as a solution to problems in and of itself.
Pour-Khorsid explores how testimonios can be used to fight these problems directly, through building communal resilience and maintaining teachers’ desire to fight against a system that constantly wears them down. Sharing defeats apathy by creating a community to remind TOCs why they teach in the first place.
On the other hand, Gist explores how “teacher community groups” (Gist, 2018, p. 17) not only help build resilience through solidarity; testimonios also help identify the specific needs of TOCs & boundaries they face that might otherwise go overlooked by a white supremacist system. Bringing together a
Why do TOCs represent 18% of the public school workforce when students of color make up about half of all American public schools (Gist, 2018, p. 1)? To better understand the systematic barriers facing people of color who want to become educators for the good of their own communities, both articles draw from testimonios of teachers and aspiring teachers of color.
Using the language of Critical Race Theory, they identify the intangible “cultural capital” that allows people to operate in our social system (Gist, 2018, p. 7). Using examples from teacher’s testimonios, this chart explains types of capital:
|Types of Capital||Deficit||Strength|
|Linguistic||-internalizing as a child being told by a white Spanish teacher that your colloquial Spanish isn’t valid
-internalizing being told by a white teacher that your AAVE isn’t real English
|-Being a polylingual cultural broker
-Being a successful (ESL) teacher for other children w/multilingual backgrounds
|Resistant||children who become teachers are usually successful in school, which means they learned how to “uncritically consume whatever is taught in school to avoid punishment” (Pour-Khorsid, 2016, p. 9)||Looking toward family/community members in who resisted the system, rather than those who “made it” & assimilated (Gist, 2018, p. 22)|
|Aspirational||-desires to assimilate: internalize narrative of American Dream
-need to make $ to escape poverty; cannot prioritize social change
|Familial||Social networks can inspire individuals out of apathy, & create strong organizations to incite change (Pour-Khorsid, 2016)|
Sharing testimonios helps TOCs recognize how cultural capital affects their experiences, & how, when possible, one can turn apparent deficits in capital into strengths. Communities of teachers can work together to identify shared problems in order to bring systematic racism out of the shadows.
More on testimonios
The following is a video of a counterstory (not from a teacher of color): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQlyqsIJxSs
Gist, Carol. (2018). Moving Teachers of Color from the Margin to the Center: Analyzing Teacher
Testimonies of Educational Aspiration. Urban Review, 50(1). Retrieved from
Pour-Khorsid, Farima. 2016. H.E.L.L.A.: Collective “testimonio” that speak to the healing,
empowerment, love, liberation, and action embodied by social justice educators of color. Association of Mexican American Educators Journal 10, no. 2: 16-32, https://login.ezproxy.bowdoin.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1871577370?accountid=9681.