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Pedagogy of Survival

The Narratives of Millicent E. Brown and Josephine Boyd Bradley


Karen Meadows

With particular focus on the first-hand narratives of two desegregation pioneers—their stories, sufferings, and pedagogy of survival—this book gives voice to unsung heroes and the often overlooked view of the adolescent perspective to address the question of how one can endure and thrive in the midst of hardship and tragedy. While enduring her own personal trauma, the author wrestled with the question, “How will I survive?” The answer, she discovered, was in the actual act of surviving and in the navigational strategies she employed and witnessed in the lives of others. In Pedagogy of Survival, the author uses the narratives of ordinary people to highlight extraordinary lessons of perseverance. The integration of historical and present-day change agents challenges readers to examine their own lives and see that they, too, have the ability to not merely withstand trials, but to become agents of change. Everyone has a story that matters and can serve as a lesson for someone else. So what is your story? How will you use it to help others? Ultimately, what is your pedagogy of survival?
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Chapter 4. The Relevance


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In schools across the country, conversations about academic achievement, discipline, and student engagement are common. Whether students are motivated or unmotivated, affluent or in poverty, majority or minority, schools are identified by these broad characteristics and are expected to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011, para. 1). How do we create opportunities for learning that will be accessible to students of varied backgrounds or circumstances? How do we promote equity in a society or educational system permeated with a legacy of inequitable practices? Lastly, how do we inspire others and teach students to persevere, be empathetic, see their own capabilities, and move beyond individual and societal biases? I submit that narrative research—using one’s story, experience or experiences, successes, and failures as tools for teaching—is one effective way to address the aforementioned questions. For this reason, this text, Pedagogy of Survival, uses historical and contemporary narratives to reveal the perseverance and extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary people. I invite you to think about the narratives in your own life. How did you persevere or survive a difficult, challenging, or traumatic experience? What lessons did you learn and how would you define your pedagogy of survival? ← 153 | 154 →

As noted in the Introduction, I define pedagogy of survival as a way of teaching through one’s actions, a performative act—“an aspect of our work [teaching] that offers the space for change, invention, [and] spontaneous shifts,...

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