chapter  32
11 Pages

Real Talk: Transformative English Teaching and Urban Youth


Before I began teaching high school English in South Los Angeles, I did not know the extent to which youth of color in urban communities were underserved and disenfranchised. After seven years, I have witnessed a crisis in urban youth culture. Too many young people continue to use violence as a means for solving their problems, internalize their resentment of familial and social conditions that are unjust, and uncritically consume and reproduce dispositions that value what they have and how they look (external), over what they think and how they feel (internal). The realities of these struggles for my students made sitting in professional development sessions diffi cult because there we were trained to emphasize “state-approved” standardized curriculums which foreground academic content and assessment tools that overlooked the material conditions and needs of our students. In an effort to transform my English teaching I sought to develop pedagogy that would be responsive to the confusion and anger I saw in my students. I did this by drawing from the very text that was most relevant to them, their lived experiences. Transformative education, in this case, meant increasing students’ level of academic engagement and achievement, and critically shifting students’ perceptions about themselves and the world around them.