By Juan Necochea & Zulmara Cline
On a clear sunny California day in August 2001, approximately 200 educators from San Diego and Tijuana gathered at the campus of California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) to engage in conversations regarding education in the border region. The Border Pedagogy Initiative had begun as a smashing success.
On Saturday, May 18, on a rather cool day in Tijuana, approximately 300 educators gathered at the campus of Universidad Iberoamericana to continue and extend the dialogue. Some of the participants were the same and many others were new. All were there to discuss education in the border region and what that means for teachers, policy makers and practitioners. Many faculty from the College of Education and approximately 140 teachers from North County attended this conference. Also in attendance was our President, Dr. Alexander Gonzalez, COE Dean and Associate Dean, Dr. Steve Lilly and Dr. Eileen Oliver.
The conference opened with an emotionally charged keynote address by María Chávez, Director of the San Diego/Orange County Migrant Education program, as she challenged educators to find the spiritual greatness in each child and to discover the secrets that each posses to help them achieve their full human potential. Tears were obvious as Maria’s words touched the hearts of participants.
It was a wonderful day of laughter, dance, music, and camaraderie as educators from both sides of the border began discussing with each other the trials and tribulations they face daily as they deal with diminishing resources, differing expectations, politicians, and an oftentimes indifferent bureaucracy. The conversations that day were extraordinary with many of the participants, expressing appreciation at the opportunity to dialogue with each other and get to know each other on many different levels.
This initiative started by two COE professors, Dr. Juan Necochea and Dr. Zulmara Cline, along with two professors from Tijuana, Margarita Luna (Universidad Iberoame-ricana) and Ignacio Anaya (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional) has been in the planning stages for many months and promises to have a positive impact on educating students on both sides of the border as teachers begin forming relationships and understandings educational issues in the borderlands. A Border Pedagogy Initiative helps educators concerned with serious and long-lasting school reform to start framing the educational issues related to the border region, gain an understanding of border pedagogy, and develop action plans that could lead to substantive change that will positively impact a diverse group of learners.
Indeed, this initiative has provided a forum for participants to have deep conversations and dialogue on border pedagogy issues, such as the role of language and culture in education, successful biliteracy programs, differences in educational systems, dispelling myths and stereotypes about each other, and many other related issues pertaining to teaching the same kids that “go back and forth” between the two borders. These discussions, in turn, will help inform policy makers and educators as guidance is offered on how best to educate a diverse student population in the borderlands. The next steps in the process are already being formed.
We are also in the process of developing a joint “Diplomado” or Certificate of Advanced Study in border Pedagogy. A program that will allow educators to share more in depth understandings with each other about the border region and conduct action research projects that will allow us to develop a research agenda for practitioners and policy makers. We would like to be in the position to affect policy, especially as pertaining to the education of our migratory students, and students who live in poverty. Policy that recognizes what is needed for success and what else can happen. In this “Diplomado,” the students will have 20 class sessions, 10 at the Universities in Mexico and 10 at Cal State San Marcos.
In the meantime, we have had requests for a newsletter, a website, an association of border educators, and participants lists. It is obvious to us that what has been started has sparked an interest, an interest that will has the potential of making a positive impact on the lives of many students.