What is the importance of youth stories in promoting social justice and equity in education?

  

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International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education

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Storying youth lives: centering equity in teaching
and teacher education

Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard & DaVonna Graham

To cite this article: Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard & DaVonna Graham (2020) Storying youth
lives: centering equity in teaching and teacher education, International Journal of Qualitative
Studies in Education, 33:1, 66-79, DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2019.1678779

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2019.1678779

Published online: 17 Oct 2019.

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Storying youth lives: centering equity in teaching and
teacher education

Valerie Kinloch , Tanja Burkhard and DaVonna Graham

School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

ABSTRACT
We argue that youth stories are fundamental to social justice, social
change, and equity in education. In our focus on stories, we ask: In
what ways do youth stories encourage us to better attend, or be
answerable, to the important work of equity in teaching and teacher
education, and what does this look like? To address this question, we
provide an overview of research on equity in education and storying as
method and practice that connect to Indigenous and humanizing
research methodologies. Then, we share stories about equity from
Damya and her peersStudents of Color in New York Citys Harlem com-
munity. These stories speak to their resilience, which are connected to
Black peoples history of perseverance in the face of institutionalized
oppression, inequalities, and inequities in this country. Together, we
foreground how Damya and her peers use creative practices to engage
in alternative possibilities for equitable teaching and learning.

ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 2 January 2019
Accepted 5 July 2019

KEYWORDS
youth stories; youth
storying; teaching and
teacher education; equity
and justice; stories as art

Schools do little to nurture the souls and support the creativity of us students
(18-year-old Damya; see Kinloch, 2010, p. 54).

In this article, we examine the valuable role of youth stories and storying and their interconnected-
ness with equity and creativity in teaching and teacher education. To do so, we place primary
focus on Damya, a brilliant, beautiful Black adolescent girl1 who was in Valeries English language
arts class at Perennial High School in New York City. She was also a participant and co-investigator
in one of Valeries teacher education research initiatives and, since that time, they have remained
in touch with each other. After graduating from Perennial High, Damya matriculated to a predom-
inately white institution (PWI) in the U.S. Northeast, where she majored in International Affairs.
Damyas academic trajectory and the educational choices she boldly made represent an explicit
rejection of deficit narratives that were enacted onto her by some of her K-12 teachers, administra-
tors, and peers. Such narratives, according to Damya, tried to define my success in ways that
didnt uplift my humanity. She is but one of many other Black adolescents in this country whose
stories of academic struggle, perseverance, acuity, and resilience represent conscious, critical
rejections of deficit narratives that seek to undermine and minimize Black peoples cultural, intel-
lectual, linguistic, and social histories. Through Damyas stories and those of some of her peers, we
(two U.S.-born Black women and a Black German woman) are able to better recognize and learn
about the multiple ways they created artful opportunities to center equity in their school
engagements.

CONTACT Valerie Kinloch [emailprotected] School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, 5609 Wesley W. Posvar
Hall, 230 South Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION
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Specifically, Damyas stories reaffirm for us the importance of storying as a method and a
practice that encourages people to make sense of their realities, narrate their specific ways of
knowing and being, and name their past and present while (re)imagining their future selves. In
this reaffirmation, we build on San Pedro and Kinlochs (2017) argument that educational
researchers should willingly center the realities, desires, and stories of the people with whom
we work as we also situate their stories in relation to our stories, lives, and research projects in
humanizing ways (p. 374S). In so doing, we come to understand the valuable role stories play,
particularly in the lives of People of Color, and the significance of storying as a way to capture
and share the intricacies of who we are in relation to who others are in the world.

Indeed, stories are central to human life and human experiences. Stories carry and embody
our pains, joys, struggles, and triumphs. They capture and encapsulate creative practices and
bring into life what poet, feminist, womanist, and civil rights activist Lorde (1985) refers to as
possibilities. In her discussion of poetry and possibilities, Lorde insists, poetry is not a luxury. It
is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate
our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea,
then into more tangible action (p. 36). The possibilities that emerge from poetry, specifically,
and from stories and storying, generally, signify our human capacity to give name to the name-
less so it can be thought (p. 36).

Naming the nameless

In this article, we give name to the nameless (Lorde, 1985, p. 36) by taking a two-fold approach
to understanding the valuable role of youth stories and storying. First, we argue for the import-
ance of stories and storying in equity work that is grounded in care, critical listening, and inten-
tional collaborations with young people. Second, we insist that storying be understood as a
mode of inquiry that is creative, engaging, and humanizing. In our argument, we take inspiration
from Lorde (1985), who asks us to deeply consider the necessity of our existence as we engage
in survival and change and give name to (p. 36). In these ways, youth stories, as with poetry
and other creative, aesthetic experiences, are fundamental to the work of social justice and social
change in the world, and of the role of equity in education. Our examination of youth stories
and storying (e.g. storytelling, story gathering, story exchanging, story exchanges, relationships
with stories) speaks to our commitment to young people and to our investment in centering
equity in teaching and teacher education.

Thus, in this article, we take up the following question: In what ways do youth stories, and par-
ticularly those of Damya, encourage us to better attend, or be answerable (see Patel, 2016), to the
important work of equity in teaching and teacher education, and what does this look like? With this
inquiry, it is important to note that we agree with Patels notion of answerability as a decolonial
praxis in education that requires a shift from focusing on acquiring property to being
answerable for learning, knowledge, and context (p. 78). To be answerable means that educa-
tional research and researchers must be responsive to and responsible for the work we do with
(and not to, on, or in ways that harm) Black and Indigenous people. This responsiveness and
responsibility must also extend into how we lovingly work with Students of Color in classrooms
and how we prepare teacher education candidates to enter into schools.

To address the aforementioned question, we provide a brief overview of research on equity
in education (Banks, 2004; Banks & Banks, 1995; Nieto, 2000, 2013). This overview allows us to
discuss storying as method and practice in ways that connect to critical Indigenous (Brayboy,
Gough, Leonard, Roehl, & Solyom, 2012; Kovach, 2009) and humanizing research methodologies
(Irizarry & Brown, 2014; Paris & Winn, 2014). Then, we turn to some of the stories about equity
from Damya and her peers as we contemplate implications for teaching and teacher education
that attend to young peoples creative practices and enactments of justice. At the center of this

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 67

discussion is our investment in, and care for, Damya, her peers, and the stories they share. These
stories speak to their determination and resilience, which are intricately connected to, and inter-
woven within, Black peoples history of perseverance in the face of institutionalized oppression,
social inequalities, and educational inequities in this country. Taken together, we foreground
how Damya and other Students of Color at Perennial High rely on artful, creative, and sophisti-
cated practices to radically engage in alternative possibilities for teaching and learning that cen-
ter equity in education.

Equity in education: a brief overview

Across the world, countless teachers, teacher educators, students, community leaders, and other
education stakeholders have been engaging in research, dialogue, and action in order to pursue
an equity agenda that counters neoliberalism and its impact on education. In the United States
of 2019, the pursuit of equity and justice in education remains a site of struggle and contest-
ation. This is particularly the case when we consider the widespread effects of domestic terrorism
(e.g. at the Tree of Life Synagogue and Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church),
the tensions between Communities of Color and those who police them (e.g. excessive presence
of ICE in immigrant communities and the killing of unarmed Black people), and the repeal of the
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Considering that classrooms across the
country are already (and will continue to become more) increasingly culturally and linguistically
diverse, teacher education must critically engage these devastating realities, among so many
others (e.g. the government-sanctioned separation of children and families and their incarcer-
ation under perilous conditions, immigration bans based on religion and xenophobia, etc.). This
is necessary if we are committed to educating a teaching force that does not contribute to the
disenfranchisement, oppression, and systemic persecution of students, families, and Communities
of Color.

In order to critically attend to global and structural dimensions of inequities (Levin, 2012), we
have to carefully listen to, recognize, and center the stories of Students of Color, students who
identify as members of LGBTQIA communities, poor students, students with disabilities, and
those who are at the intersections of multiple forms of structural oppression. In so doing, we
must rely on equitable pedagogies, practices, and policies that support and uplift students and
their teachers. One way to do this is by situating our work as Projects in Humanization (Kinloch &
San Pedro 2014), which is an approach to educational research that emphasizes listening and
storying in our relationships with people and that centers justice and equity in education.
Somerville and Gannon (2014) contend that the foundation of equity in education equal access
to quality schools, curricula, resources, and educators is currently under attack across the world
in ways that manifest themselves locally. They note, the economisation that is associated with
neoliberal incursions on all aspects of life has impacted directly on the school sector and mani-
fests as increased privatisation and discourses of choice that privilege those who have the social,
cultural, and economic capital to choose (p. x). The impact of this push toward neoliberal practi-
ces, such as the aforementioned discourses of choice, movements toward free-market capitalism,
and efforts to privatize education (Jaramillo, 2017), has contributed to further inequities within
schools and inequalities in communities that have been and continue to be purposefully posi-
tioned as disenfranchised and under-resourced.

Equity and justice in teacher education

Teacher education programs, according to Nieto (2000, 2013), need to play a pivotal role in pur-
suing a strong equity and social justice agenda, particularly as they are responsible for training a
teaching force that serves culturally and linguistically diverse students. To learn about students

68 V. KINLOCH ET AL.

lives and realities, Nieto (2000) believes those who work in colleges and schools of education
those who are preparing future teachers and teacher educators should do the following: Take
a stand on social justice and diversity; make social justice ubiquitous in teacher education; [and]
promote teaching as a life-long journey of transformation (pp. 45; see also Nieto, 2013). To pro-
mote equitable educational praxis in teaching and teacher education, an intentional shift away
from, and an explicit rejection of, deficit beliefs about Students of Color to an agenda grounded
in culturally relevant, sustainable, justice- and equity-oriented practices is needed. This approach
should also include an explicit attention to teaching and learning that is creative, humanizing,
loving, and joyful with and for young people.

Equity pedagogy

A shift to an equity orientation directly connects to Banks (2004) discussion of equity pedagogy.
He contends that equity pedagogy exists when teachers use techniques and methods that facili-
tate the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social-class groups
(p. 5). A pedagogical approach grounded in equity takes into account the historical, sociopoliti-
cal, and racial dimensions that shape the context of classrooms and the encounters teachers
have with students, their families, and communities. Furthermore, as Banks and Banks (1995)
assert, an equity pedagogical approach requires teachers to co-create learning spaces with stu-
dents in which they can be reflexive and critical of oppressive structures that impact their lives
(e.g. racism, sexism, xenophobia, state-sanctioned killings of Black and Brown people). This is but
one way to enact an equity and justice agenda. Education that is grounded in equity encourages
students to see themselves as (and to really know that they are) agents of change in schools
and society. Banks (2004), and Banks and Banks (1995, 2015) longstanding argument for equity
pedagogies is important for understanding the valuable role of youth stories and storying in
classrooms. It is significant for understanding the educative promise of centering equity along-
side centering youth stories in teaching, teacher education, and beyond.

Examples of this intentional centering of young people and their stories can be found in a
plethora of contemporary and critical educational research by Scholars of Color (Haddix, 2016;
Kinloch, Burkhard, & Penn, 2017; Paris & Alim, 2014; San Pedro, 2017; Sealey-Ruiz, 2016). Irizarry
(2017), for instance, questions some of the ways teaching practices can and should be informed
by the perspectives of young people. In his discussion of equity and culturally sustaining peda-
gogy by Latinx youth, he insists: When given an opportunity to teach, Latinx students approach
to educating themselves and their peers offers a framework with the potential to inform cultur-
ally sustaining teaching across contexts (p. 96). Such an approach, for Irizarry and others (Paris,
2012; Penn, Kinloch, & Burkhard, 2016) is guided by youth stories and storying that include their
lived experiences, their systems of meaning-making, and the ways they advocate for them-
selves indeed, to sustain themselves and their communities (Irizarry, 2017, p. 97). Thus, the sig-
nificance of emphasizing the stories and storying experiences of young people within teaching
and teacher education that is guided by, grounded in, and committed to equity pedagogies.

Storying as method and practice

The guiding question of this article In what ways do youth stories, and particularly those of
Damya, encourage us to better attend, or be answerable (see Patel, 2016), to the important work
of equity in teaching and teacher education, and what does this look like? allows us to also con-
template the question, How do we work against inequities and inequalities in spaces occupied by
People of Color? As we considered both questions, we utilized a particular type of literacy-rich
practice of listening that represent, for Kinloch and San Pedro (2014), Projects in Humanization
(PiH). Theoretically and methodologically, PiH represent a caring and loving philosophical

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 69

approach to educational research that is guided by desires for social, political and educational
change that can only happen if relationships are forged in light of, and because of, human differ-
ences (Kinloch & San Pedro, 2014, p. 28). Thus, the importance of centering Damya and Valeries
relationship as we analyze how Damya and her peers stories contribute to advancing an equity
agenda in and for teaching and teacher education. Frankly, this equity agenda is also necessary
for how we all come to see, interact with, and care about Black students and other Students of
Color across the world.

Projects in humanization and storying

Drawing on critical Indigenous (Brayboy, Gough, Leonard, Roehl, & Solyom, 2012; Kovach, 2009)
and humanizing research methodologies (Irizarry & Brown, 2014; Paris & Winn, 2014), PiH, as a
philosophical approach to educational research, places the realities and experiences we have
with others as the central focus of human interaction and of education research and practice.
This is the case because PiH offers a deliberate approach to sharing and exchanging stories in
ways that allow for nonlinearity, multiplicity, and difference (e.g. various streams of conscious-
ness, perspectives, voices, stories, vulnerabilities). It also lends itself to the significance of the
shifting roles between researcher and participant, and the (re)positioning of researcher as lis-
tener, learner, and advocate. These shifting roles are important to note because, as Freire con-
tends, human beings exist in and with an ever-changing world and are always becoming more
fully human (Freire, qtd. in Roberts, 2000, p. 41); thus, the process of humanization.

Performed through the dialogic process of listening and storying (the telling and receiving of
stories), PiH does not contend with researcher neutrality. Instead, it values relationship-building
between researcher and participant, between teachers and students, just as much as it values
the sharing of stories and the role of critical listening. For example, as we listen to what Damya
says (e.g. her stories; her ways of storying), we are able to do what Ball (2006) suggests, gain
insights that can be used to begin crafting a nuanced understanding (p. 129) of who Damya is
and of her experiences in schools. In this crafting, Damyas stories are always important. Her sto-
ries always matter. They always take centerstage.

Thus, our decision to employ storying, which is an important component of PiH, as our pri-
mary unit of analysis. 2 For Kinloch and San Pedro (2014), storying is a means of engaging in
humanizing research in ways that privilege the co-construction of knowledge, human agency
and voice, diverse perspectives, moments of vulnerability, and acts of listening (p. 23). As we dis-
cuss in this article, Damya relies on storying, as a humanizing method and practice, to share her
understandings of who she is/who she is becoming. She questions educational inequity within
the context of her high school English language arts class by engaging in sense-making in rela-
tion to broader inequalities (e.g. sociopolitical, sociohistorical, cultural, racial) that circulate in
society. This is important, especially in work that focuses on the stories of Students of Color and,
in this case, Black students in particular, and that argue for the centrality of equity in teaching
and teacher education. For these reasons, storying becomes a reciprocal, dialogic process of lis-
tening and being listened to, of teaching and learning that allows us to analyze the stories of
Damya and her peers relative to a focus on equity and humanization.

Ethnographic data collection and analysis

In our examination, we provide ethnographic data collected from Damyas participation in a
required senior-level English class, taught by Valerie 1, at Perennial High School during the
20062007 academic year. At the time of this study, Perennial High, a public school that
employed 24 teachers and served 330 students across grades 912, was a Title I and an
Empowerment School founded in the early 1990s by a university professor. Such descriptors (e.g.

70 V. KINLOCH ET AL.

Title I; Empowerment) of U.S. public schools and their intended meanings often mask the import-
ant, necessary, and brave intellectual conversations students are having inside classrooms. This
was the case for Damya, whose writings, interview stories, and class presentations, paired with
her peers narratives and Valeries observational field notes, revealed Damyas rejection of deficit
narratives that sought to undermine her academic ability. Such narratives also attempted to jus-
tify the reasons why inequities were so pervasive in some educational spaces and not in others.
Damya outright rejected these narratives. To do so, she willingly collaborated with her peers and
Valerie to co-create a humanizing educational space and curricula that centralized students
experiences, honored youth stories and storying processes, and interrogated youth resistances
to school.

To co-create a humanizing learning space and curriculum in which students could openly
examine their discontent with school, Damya, her peers, and Valerie co-designed the courses
learning goals in ways that aligned with the state standards for 12th grade English. This involved
agreeing to include a variety of texts in the course, such as artwork, biographies, essays, mem-
oirs, music, poetry, political and educational commentaries, and short stories. Students made
decisions about the overall nature of group projects and presentations and selected topics for
class debates, journal entries, and essays (for more information, see Kinloch, 2012).

Years after this co-designed classroom experience, Valerie and Damya reconnected and revis-
ited some of the many lessons, stories, and themes that had emerged from their time together
at Perennial High School. Tanja, a postdoctoral fellow, and DaVonna, a graduate student
researcher, engaged in theoretical, methodological, and data-driven examinations of youth sto-
ries and storying; they also considered ways to situate stories of youth discontent within larger
conversations about (in)equity in teaching and teacher education. Collectively, we contemplated
larger implications of focusing on youth stories and storying for not only teaching and teacher
education (what we teach, how we teach, and for what purposes), but also for thinking and talk-
ing differently about equity in education, to include addressing opportunity gaps, understanding
how necessary disruptions (see Kinloch, 2018) are needed in schooling, and fighting against
racism in schools and throughout society.

To engage in this work, we used ethnographic and narrative analytic phases. An ethno-
graphic phase allowed us to code observations from field notes, transcripts from interviews,
teaching materials, and archival data on the school and local community. A narrative analytic
phase allowed us to evaluate student writings and stories, and to highlight processes that
were used in producing written and oral texts. Taken together, these two phases involved a
qualitative research approach framed by critical literacy and teacher research, which allowed
us to categorize specific recurring themes such as: (1) youth stories of discontent and resist-
ance; (2) youth stories of collaboration; (3) youth stories as relational; and (4) youth storying as
an artful methodology and practice in equity. This framing allowed us to better understand
students desires to actively take back their learning, as Damya described. It also revealed add-
itional themes that became central to our focus on youth stories and storying in teaching and
teacher education. These additional themes, which we reference throughout this art-
icle, include:

Creating humanizing, caring, and critical classrooms grounded in educational equity.
Listening to and thinking through youth stories of educational success and educational harm

in ways that impact pedagogical practices and experiences with learning.
Attending to youth stories of resistance to being named readers and writers within unjust,

uncaring educational spaces (in juxtaposition with willingly being named readers and writers
in welcoming community spaces).

Paying attention to how youth creatively and artfully collaborate and engage with each
other beyond school sanctioned spaces.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 71

Recognizing how young people already actively participate in their learning through proc-
esses involving critical reading, writing, questioning, creating, and collaborating, and the
implications of these things for collaborative arts, teaching, and teacher education.

Honoring the creative practices young people employ to tell their stories as they work in
rejection of systems of oppression.

In what follows, we share some of Damya and her peers stories to centralize the importance
of equity in teaching and teacher education. From there, we highlight implications for storying
as a creative, artful method and practice in the lives of Black youth and other Youth of Color.
These stories and the implications that emerge, we believe, represent one possible way to work
against inequities and inequalities that oftentimes permeate spaces occupied by People of Color.

Youth stories and storying equity

During one of our English language arts class sessions, Valerie asked, Can stories influence liter-
acy, not just how we teach and learn or what we read and write, but, like, who we are? Like,
how we identify in the world? This question came on the heels of class readings and discussion
of texts by W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Jonathan Kozol, June Jordan, bell hooks, and others
who question inequalities and inequities, and who insist on human rights. Damya responded,
You asking about our stories? and Juan, a seventeen-year-old Latinx student, added, Are you?
The point, Valerie thought, was simple: How do we think about literacy, specifically, and teaching
and teacher education, generally, by thinking about stories and aesthetic experiences? By think-
ing about our and other peoples stories? However, over the next few class sessions, the point
proved not to be so simple.

Day three of discussing stories and their interconnections to literacy and aesthetic experiences
found us sharing personal writings about voice, human experiences, and safe and dangerous pla-
ces for Black and Latinx people in the world. Damya, whose writings always represented creative
and artful depictions of human life, opened the discussion by reading one of her poems
titled, Beautiful:

My Beautiful, beautiful America
When did you become so corrupt?
Why did you turn out this way?
Is it because of mans ideal society?
Is it because the words American citizen
Have no meaning any longer?
Why do you have to close your eyes and ears
To those who are really in need?

I was born here, but why do I ache?
Questioning everyday.
Or, saying, just another day of living in America.
My children have no better future than I do.
My God, my God, why?

Why must we live in a world in which cards or
Little pieces of paper define us?

Why do I wake up every morning in constant fear of not seeing
Every single member of my family?

Was my birth a dream?
Was my birth not fit for a world such as this?

Throughout the remainder of the academic year, Damyas poem and her reading of it led to
some pointed discussion on various topics: fear of deportation, identity papers, oppression,
racism, disenfranchisement, patriarchy, the falsity of the American Dream, and the

72 V. KINLOCH ET AL.

responsibilities of teachers to talk, think, and collaborate with students on topics of social
inequalities and educational inequities.

For Juan, Beautiful forced him to grapple with meanings of citizenship. He read aloud the
lines, Was my birth a dream?/Was my birth not fit for a world such as this? To this, Damya
responded, I wrote [Beautiful] because we all searching for a better world. Our sisters, brothers,
mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, all of us. She continued: We want to belong, but others dont
think we do. For us (Valerie, Tanja, and DaVonna), we connect Damyas search for a better
world to Lordes (1980) insistence that we transform silence into language and action, even with
the reality, as expressed by Langston Hughes, that America never was America to me (see
Rampersad, 1995, p. 189). How, then, do we come to terms with the painful reality of Damya
poem in relation to Valeries initial question, Can stories influence literacy, not just how we teach
and learn or what we read and write, but, like, who we are? Like, how we identify in the world?

Stories of inequity

Damyas poem set the stage for powerful discussions on (in)equity in education. Her Beautiful
was layered as a second text within an essay that she wrote on Langston Hughes poem, The
Weary Blues. For Damya, when Hughes writes, put ma trouble on the shelf, it appears as if
Langston Hughes, or the person he is writing about:

doesnt want to feel this lonely way anymore, so he is relieving himself from those feelings by singing it out
to others. This language gives off a feeling of deep blues, as though his blues are not just a tune in some
way this poem reflects what happens when dreams are no longer dreams and visions of rapture are no
longer visions of rapture Black people used blues as a means of expressing their feelings, fears, and
beliefs about the world. (Damyas essay and class presentation)

She continues by writing of her personal connections to the poems themes of identity, struggle,
and perseverance before ending with questions about why more people do not talk against pain
and injustices that get inflicted onto them and onto others. It was at this point where a focus on
educational (in)equities surfaced and rightfully dominated class discussion.

What does this have to do with us, Juan asked, to which Rosa, a Latinx student in the class,
added, Girrrrrlll, that was goooooooodddhow you focus on struggle. Damya used her poem
and essay to artfully raise important topics (about identity, struggle, and perseverance) that con-
nected to stories of inequities and the realities of oppression. During discussion, she shared:

We tell our stories and imagine what could be different. In here, we talk about whats wrong and needs to
be changed. But year after year, nothing changes. Its engrained into this place. We need to write, to share
our stories about what school is and what it should be for us. If schools wont change and give us what we
need, we gotta change it. From how we taught, what were taught, and what we allowed to write and
share. If we do that, it forces the teaching and curriculum to change to meet our needs. (Damyas
class discussion)

Juan was intrigued with Damyas sentiments, and he wanted some deeper connections: How
does what you said connect to your essay on Mr. Hughes? Help me out. Damya responded:
Langston Hughes wrote about the world. School is part of the world. I take what he said about
being weary and connect it to how we weary in school, but do we know it? Are we getting
what we really need to be successful? She continued: Does it compare to what students at
other schools get? Is it fair we dont talk about these realities? Its unjust, and we need to
address these things in school. Question why schools for us are like this. Thats what Im saying.

When Valerie added into this conversation, We should be talking about inequities and
inequalities in schools. Thats what you saying? Damya agreed and said, Yes, thats what Im say-
ing. And if we use Langston Hughes writing, then thats where we start. Damya was sharing sto-
ries of change she wanted to have time and space inside school and in her schooling
experiences to interrogate educational inequities and social inequalities that confront many

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 73

People of Color. This was revealed when she questioned: Are we getting what we really need to
be successful? Does it compare to what students at other schools get? Additionally, Damya
storied some of the reasons why schools, generally, and teaching, particularly, need to be trans-
formed in ways that focus on equity as connected to youth stories and storying. This was evi-
denced by her statements, If schools wont change and give us what we need, we gotta change
it. From how we taught, what were taught, and what we allowed to write and share. Here,
Damya was not only seeking change from others, but asserting her right and responsibility to be
an agent of change.

Stories of changing it

During another class session, Rosa asked her how to change it, and Damya responded with
another story:

Changing it by being proactive in class. Dont wait for things to get done or changed. We insist teachers
respond to our needs. Being motivated for one, being proactive for two, and having consciousness for
three. Raising consciousness to higher levels and saying, we have the power to do something different. In
this class, were doing that. Sharing stories about our failures in school resulting from how some of us been
pushed out of classes, even when we know were smart. The story Christina [an Afro-Jamaican student] told
us about being teased by peers and not taken seriously or even cared for by teachers. That feeling of
[Christina interjected, not being wanted and feeling alone, and teachers allowing it to happen]. Thats
right, and thats hard to not have teachers protect and care for us in school when no one else does. Thats
an example of injustice in school. (Damyas class discussion)

By sharing her stories and through the process of storying, Damya encouraged her peers to not
wait for things to get done, but to be motivated, proactive, and to have consciousness.
Equally important is how she shared stories about educational inequity. Just as much as she con-
nected inequity to what some students are not learning and not being afforded in comparison
to students at other schools (the discussion involving Langston Hughes), she also connected
inequity to patterns of behavior that negatively infringe on others (Christina being teased by
peers and not cared for by teachers). If, as Banks (2004) contends, equity pedagogy exists when
teachers use techniques and methods that facilitate the academic achievement of students from
diverse racial, ethnic, and social-class groups (p. 5), then youth stories and storying are signifi-
cant to this work. Undoubtedly, it is important that we listen to the stories (of inequities and
inequalities, of hope and resilience) of young people and centralize them in teaching and
teacher education. This is but one way, to use Damyas words, of changing it.

Storying as entering into creativity

A few years had passed since the Perennial High School experience, and Damya had just grad-
uated from college. Valerie and Damya decided to spend some time reflecting on their under-
standings of the power of stories and storying. To begin, Valerie shared with Damya one of her
favorite passages written by poet, educator, and activist June Jordan (2002): I am always hoping
to do better than to collaborate with whatever or whomever it is that means me no good (p. 3).
To this passage, Damya replied, OK. Thats a place to start! What does that have to do with sto-
ries? They laughed before Damya said, I agree. Dont collaborate with people not wanting
whats best for you, to which Valerie said, It reminds me of you. How youd always story possi-
bilities for a better world. Damya added, A better world, a better school. I thought about those
things. Not the actual school, itself, but the experience with how we were learning. What I
mean, why not examine the reality we know exists? When Valerie asked her to name some of
those realities, Damya responded: In our class, I remember writing stories about racism, unjust, a
lot about our realities Those stories were important to write and share. They helped me, at

74 V. KINLOCH ET AL.

least, make sense of my feelings and who I was at that time. They helped me take a side against
the unjust we wrote about.

Damyas recollection of the experience with how we were learning connects well to educa-
tional philosopher Greenes (1991) belief that the idea of making spaces for ourselves, experienc-
ing ourselves in our connectedness and taking initiatives to move through those spaces, seems
to me to be of the first importance (p. 27). This is what Damya and her peers were doing when
we were in community at Perennial High they were questioning the purposes of schooling
while simultaneously making spaces (p. 27) inside school for their stories to take centerstage.
They were storying their realities and creatively imagining possibilities for what it means to take
a side against the unjust.

Quickly, Damya and Valerie continued to fall into the past, and they returned to moments
from their English language arts class at Perennial High. We read a lot. We wrote a lot. A lot. I
still got some of my journals from then, said Damya, to which Valerie replied, Would you
believe I still got one of your journals? You want it? Damya laughed before turning
more serious:

Damya: You know, I wrote a lot! Writing was a way of expressing my ideas and questioning the wrongs
of the world. Writing was my art.

Valerie: Your art? Like your art told through stories?

Damya: Right. Looking back, I wrote or created art or told stories, which are the same thing when you
think about it. I did that to remind myself I was capable. I knew there was more to being in
school besides sitting in a classroom writing one essay after another after another. And for
what? Nothing. Writing, that was a way in and a way out. In, in terms of entering into
creativity to imagine something more and sharing it with others. Out, in terms of writing
myself out of narratives that didnt represent my brilliance. I had to write myself out of that
oppression. My stories did that for me.

Valerie: Your stories?! [intentional emphasis]

Damya: My stories, thats right. With my stories, it became my responsibility to search for my depth, be
creative andWasnt one of your favorite words critical? [Author 1 and Damya laugh] I wanted
to be critical.

The above exchange between Damya and Valerie speaks to the power of writing. Even more,
it also speaks to the power of creating and sharing stories that respond to inequities and
inequalities by, to use Damyas words, entering into creativity to imagine something more. It is
through such imaginings that we are able to talk about injustices. Damyas reflections of, and
stories about, her time in our course return us to Jordans (2002) declaration that we must
always do better than to collaborate with whatever or whomever it is that means me no good
(p. 3). In doing this work, we also recognize that the power of youth stories and storying, in
part, is with determining who to collaborate with (Jordan, 2002, p. 3), which is connected to
choosing a way in and a way out. It is our hope that all Youth of Color will be fully supported
by a community of educators (e.g. teachers, teacher educators, administrators, researchers, com-
munity members, families, friends, etc.) to collaborate with those on the side of justice who
understand how to meaningfully, artfully story their way out of that oppression.

Storying youth lives: discussion and implications

Damyas assertion that we need to write, to share our stories about what school is and what it
should be for us highlights the importance of this work. That is, young people are already active
participants in their learning and they are already aware of the many educational harms that
proliferate within the context of schools. The role played by stories and storying is directly con-
nected to: (1) a focus on equity, (literacy) teaching, and teacher education, and (2) an increased
emphasis on the interconnectedness among creativity, equity, and teaching in relation to the

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 75

eradication of oppression in the schooling experiences of young people. Recall Damyas senti-
ments that open this article, that schools do little to nurture the souls and support the creativity
of us students. For us, her statement and above-mentioned assertion beckons us to consider
how inequities manifest themselves in schools, in teaching, and in teacher education programs.
This is especially the case when discussing with students what school is, and hearing that they
believe school is a place full of rejection, disempowerment, inequitable practices, and, for
Christina (one of Damyas peers), not being wanted and feeling alone and teachers allowing it
to happen. When we juxtapose these beliefs with stories of what school should be, then stu-
dents and teachers have opportunities to focus on stories of access, creativity, equity, and power
that should be central to the curricula and in instructional approaches. This is particularly the
case for students who have been historically marginalized and who continue to be underserved
in schools.

Addressing the question, How do we work against inequities and inequalities in spaces occu-
pied by People of Color? requires us to focus on Damyas insistence that students be encour-
aged to tell and exchange stories as a way to be heard, recognized, and as a way to learn. Her
insistence requires a community of educators to critically, lovingly, and attentively listen to and
uplift students as they share their stories and, in so doing, respond with action (e.g. through
equity pedagogies and policies, culturally relevant and sustaining practices, by centering youth
stories in practice, and by seeing stories as art/artful) that can lead to systemic change. Teachers
and teacher educators can take up this work inside schools by situating stories at the center of
our pedagogical practices, especially if we understand the power of the arts, according to
Greene (1991), as the power of being moved into spaces where we can create visions of other
ways of being and ponder what it might signify to realize them (p. 27). Then, it becomes pos-
sible for us to understand the power of emancipatory pedagogy (p. 27) that focuses on creativ-
ity, stories, and the arts. It also becomes necessary for us to openly grapple with how young
people, such as Damya and her peers, engage with each other inside learning environments in
ways that reject the very systems that seek their oppression. Doing so encourages the creation
of other ways of being (p. 27).

Relatedly, we must also fulfill Nietos (2013) call for social justice to be central in teaching and
teacher education in ways that motivate all educators to view teaching as a lifelong quest for
transformation and justice. In this way, we become better skilled at listening to youth stories,
understanding youth storying experiences, facilitating learning opportunities with them about
access, inequity, and inequality, and co-creating spaces to examine justice in teaching and learn-
ing. This bears implications for how we teach, what we teach, why we teach, and also for who
gets to teach in the first place.

If we value Damyas call for teachers [to] respond to our needs, then with teaching and
within teacher education, we must ensure that who gets to teach are people who already have
a commitment to, and disposition toward, social justice. They must know how to facilitate
responses to the ingrained inequities to which Damya and her peers refer. They must also recog-
nize that listening to as well as centering, exchanging, and honoring stories by and about young
people have significant implications for the sustainability of educational equity within classrooms
and schools. One way to engage in this work is by emphasizing storying as a classroom and
community practice that supports investigations into (and responses to) oppression. For Damya
and her peers, stories and storying encouraged them to share their histories, fears, and aspira-
tions with others inside culturally relevant and sustaining learning environments. In this way,
they were supported to not wait for things to get done or changed, as Damya insists, but to
understand the power of stories, storying, and humanizing practices that can facilitate equity
and justice in teaching and teacher education, especially for People of Color.

When it comes to Damyas description of writing as creating art or telling stories, we contend
that writing is more than putting words to paper. Writing as creating art and telling stories is
also about engaging in processes of discovering, uncovering, and recovering parts of self that

76 V. KINLOCH ET AL.

may have been made invisible, silent, and neglected within oppressive institutionalized spaces,
including schools. As argued by Damya, writing represents creativity that allows one to connect
to self and to others. Thus, if we are not tapping into, cultivating, and harnessing the creativities
of young people through stories, poems, essays, music, spoken word, performances, and other
artful means, then we are not making space and embracing possibilities.

To return to Lorde (1985), possibilities allow us to give name to the nameless so it can be
thought (p. 36). Possibilities allow us to understand stories and storying as method and practice,
and as writing and art form. In this way, stories are art and storying is a form of cultural produc-
tion that represents and speaks to everyday forms of sense-making. Whether for healing our-
selves, speaking our truths, working against social inequalities, and/or eradicating educational
inequities, stories and storying are necessary creative expressions of who we are in relation to
other people. Stories as art and as artful are important to human life. They have impactful roles
to play in discussions about collaborative arts, creative research and youth engagement in social
justice practices (the theme of this journal issue). They also have significant roles to play when it
comes to teaching and teacher education that is committed to centering youth lives, youth sto-
ries, youth art, youth creativities, and youth-driven social justice movements.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Notes

1. Elsewhere, Valerie identifies Damya as a Black adolescent girl and not a Black female or Black woman, given
the problematic, racist, and criminalizing connotation the terms female and woman denote for Black girls
under the age of 21, particularly when compared to White girls (see San Pedro & Kinloch, 2017, p. 392).

2. It is important that we distinguish between stories/storying and narratives. While narratives are important in
education research and practice, and while narratives and stories/storying are deeply connected, we situate
storying as a significant component of PiH. Storying is both humanizing method and humanizing practice.
Storying is a reciprocal, dialogic process of hearing and being heard, of listening and being listened to, of
learning and teaching that results from human interactions and relationships. Storying does not only represent
the telling of stories (or the artifacts that emerge from the telling of stories), but a necessary way of listening
to, learning about, engaging in, honoring, and exchanging stories of self and of/by/from others, meaningfully
and vulnerably. In these ways, storying leads to relationships between people (e.g. researchers/participants;
students/students; students/teachers; teachers/teachers; etc.). According to San Pedro and Kinloch (2017),
storying allows us to reject the exploitation that can occur when sharing the stories of others and to
challenge the tendency of empirical research to separate rigor and inventiveness from relationships and
humanization (p. 376S).

Notes on contributors

Valerie Kinloch is the Renee and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh.
Author of various publications, her most recent edited collection is, Race, Activism and Justice in Literacy
Instruction. Currently, she is working on a book on literacy, equity, and community engagement.

Tanja Burkhard is a qualitative researcher and Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Pittsburgh. Her work
explores the racialized, gendered, and linguistic experiences of Black transnational women from a transnational
Black feminist and anticolonial perspective.

DaVonna Graham is a doctoral student in Language, Literacy and Culture, a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow, and Graduate
Research and teaching associate at University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Urban Education. She is also an experi-
enced youth advocate and scholar activist.

ORCID

Valerie Kinloch http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1623-371X

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 77

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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION 79

http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Abstract

Naming the nameless
Equity in education: a brief overview

Equity and justice in teacher education
Equity pedagogy

Storying as method and practice

Projects in humanization and storying
Ethnographic data collection and analysis

Youth stories and storying equity

Stories of inequity
Stories of changing it

Storying as entering into creativity
Storying youth lives: discussion and implications
Disclosure statement
References

Introduction:

Educational equity remains an issue that requires our attention and effort in every educational setting. Unfortunately, not all students have access to the same opportunities for educational growth and development. This may be due to various factors such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, among others. Therefore, it is important to address this problem and develop strategies that can improve the situation. In this short blog, we will explore some strategies that can be taken by individual educators or educational communities to promote educational equity.

Description:

The article “Storying youth lives: centering equity in teaching and teacher education” by Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard, and DaVonna Graham, argues that youth stories are essential to achieving social justice, social change, and equity in education. According to the authors, stories can provide insight into the experiences of marginalized students, leading to a greater understanding of the challenges they face. This understanding can then inform the development of more equitable teaching practices and policies.

The authors provide examples of stories from Damya and her peers, Students of Color in New York City’s Harlem community. These stories highlight the resilience of marginalized students and how they use creative practices to engage in alternative possibilities for equitable teaching and learning. Additionally, the authors link the use of storytelling to Indigenous and humanizing research methodologies, which can help to center equity in teaching and teacher education.

Individual educators or educational communities can take several strategies to center equity in their practices. One strategy could be to incorporate diverse stories and perspectives into the curriculum, representing the experiences of all students. Another strategy could be to provide professional development for educators to learn about the challenges faced by marginalized students and how to create more equitable learning environments. Finally, educational communities can work to create policies that promote equity, such as ensuring that funding is directed toward schools that serve marginalized communities.

In conclusion, promoting educational equity is a critical task for all educators and educational communities. By using storytelling as a method and practice, educators can increase their understanding of the experiences of marginalized students, informing the development of more equitable teaching practices and policies.

Objectives:
– To understand the importance of centering equity in teaching and teacher education
– To recognize the power of youth stories in promoting social justice and change in education
– To identify strategies for promoting educational equity in a specific educational setting

Learning Outcomes:
By the end of this blog, readers will be able to:
– Explain the significance of centering equity in teaching and teacher education
– Describe the role of youth stories in promoting social justice and equity in education
– Identify at least one strategy for promoting educational equity in their specific educational setting

Blog Title: Empowering Students of Color through Storytelling: A Path to Educational Equity

Introduction: Identify a problem relating to educational equity, such as the achievement gap between white and non-white students in high schools.

Body:
– Explain the importance of centering equity in teaching and teacher education based on the article “Storying youth lives: centering equity in teaching and teacher education,” by Valerie Kinloch et al. (2020).
– Discuss the power of youth stories in promoting social justice and change in education, and their connection to Indigenous and humanizing research methodologies.
– Share stories from Damya and her peers, Students of Color in New York City’s Harlem community, about their resilience and creative practices in alternative possibilities for equitable teaching and learning.
– Identify one or more strategies that individual educators or educational communities can take to promote educational equity in their specific educational setting, such as incorporating storytelling or culturally responsive teaching.

Conclusion: Emphasize the importance of promoting educational equity and the role of storytelling in empowering students of color. Encourage educators to take action in their own educational settings to promote equity and social justice.

References:
– Kinloch, V., Burkhard, T., & Graham, D. (2020). Storying youth lives: centering equity in teaching and teacher education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(1), 66-79. DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2019.1678779
– Additional scholarly references to support the strategies for promoting educational equity

Solution 1: Implementing Cultural-Sensitive Teaching Methods

One possible solution to improving educational equity in high schools is to implement cultural-sensitive teaching methods. This strategy involves educators making conscious efforts to understand and respect the cultural backgrounds and experiences of their students. In doing so, educators can tailor their teaching approaches to the diverse needs of their students, resulting in a more inclusive and equitable learning environment. Some effective cultural-sensitive teaching methods include incorporating culturally relevant materials into lesson plans, allowing students to share their cultural experiences, and providing opportunities for students to participate in enriching cultural activities that reflect their unique identities.

Solution 2: Professional Development and Training for Educators

Another possible solution for improving educational equity in high schools is to provide professional development and training for educators. This training would focus on equipping educators with the necessary tools, knowledge, and skills to be culturally competent and conscious in their teaching practices. This includes providing educators with training on recognizing and addressing implicit biases, valuing cultural differences, and engaging in inclusive practices that promote equity. Additionally, providing ongoing opportunities for professional development and support can help promote a continuous learning environment that prioritizes equity and inclusion in educational settings.

Suggested resources/books:
1. “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond
2. “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education” by Christopher Emdin
3. “Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms” by H. Richard Milner IV

Similar questions:
1. How does the experience of marginalized youth affect their education and access to resources?
2. What are some effective strategies for promoting equity and inclusion in educational settings?
3. How can educators better incorporate diverse perspectives and experiences into their teaching practices?
4. What role do cultural competency and cultural humility play in promoting educational equity?
5. How can educational institutions address systemic issues of inequality and injustice in their policies and practices?

Blog post:

Title: Fostering Equity in High School Classrooms: The Power of Storytelling

In today’s society, educational equity is a very important issue that must be addressed. In high schools, marginalized students often face discrimination, unequal access to resources, and other barriers to success. However, one powerful strategy for promoting equity is through the art of storytelling. In their article “Storying youth lives: centering equity in teaching and teacher education,” Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard, and DaVonna Graham argue that youth stories are essential to social justice, social change, and equity in education.

To begin, it is important to understand the impacts of systemic inequality on marginalized youth. Discrimination and lack of resources can contribute to feelings of isolation and a lack of self-efficacy, which can ultimately lead to academic struggles. To combat this issue, educators must prioritize equity and inclusion in their teaching practices. One effective way to do this is through storytelling.

Storytelling is a powerful tool for building empathy and understanding. By sharing their personal experiences and perspectives, marginalized students can help to educate their peers and teachers about the issues they face. This can create a more inclusive and supportive classroom environment that promotes equity and opportunities for success.

Additionally, incorporating storytelling into classroom assignments and activities can encourage students to engage with material in a more meaningful way. For example, students could be asked to write a personal narrative or create a podcast that explores their experiences with discrimination and resilience. Not only does this promote empathy and understanding, but it also allows students to take ownership of their education and create a more inclusive learning environment.

In conclusion, promoting equity in high school classrooms requires a commitment to inclusion and understanding. By prioritizing the power of storytelling, educators can foster a more equitable and supportive learning environment. Resources such as “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain,” “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too,” and “Rac(e)ing to Class” can provide further guidance and strategies for promoting equity in educational settings.

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