A Reflection by Raymond Rodríguez
On February 26 I went to Boston, Mass. to see Matt Rodriguez, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School principal, speak at Harvard University. He was one of four principals invited to speak about how the school practices social justice. I have been teaching Mathematics at PACHS for three years now. When I listened to Matt speak, I was very proud of our school. We are by no means a perfect school. We have many things to improve on, but I never realized all of the things that we are doing successfully.
I felt like I was part of a process that helps students realize that they are human beings that deserve dignity. I never realized that we practice social justice because as Matt said, “Social Justice is not a book you can open up and do word problems from.” It is the words you use, the way you stand, the tone of your voice and how you answer questions. Social Justice is the way you live. When Matt was speaking, I could see the faces of the students that have been in my classroom over the past three years. I recalled the lessons I taught and how they have evolved from, “Let’s do this problem,” to trying to figure out, “How does this problem relate to my students?”
Then, Matt recognized one of our school’s founders Ricardo Jiménez (who was also in the audience) and I was forced to think about how many lives our school has touched over the past thirty-eight years. This school has not only improved the lives of our students, but of the teachers as well. Teachers and staff struggle through what social justice is and what it is not at PACHS. We challenge each other’s definitions almost weekly. This critical thinking has helped each one of us develop our own teaching philosophies and our students have helped us refine our teaching styles by always reminding us of the reality we face.