Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Louis Malfaro Intrevista

Today, I met with Andrea to interview Louis Malfaro, President of Education Austin, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Education Austin is Austin's teachers' union. Mr. Malfaro also serves as one of AFT's vice presidents.

The interview was fantastic. Mr. Malfaro had a depth of experience with various points of view of education reform and education in general, considering he grew up during the free schools movement and saw its influences in his early education in Pennsylvania, studied for a time in Mexico to learn Spanish, attended several colleges around the United States, student taught and taught in East Austin public schools, and eventually joined and became involved in the union.

I was particularly interested in his having lived until the age of 30 before becoming a teacher, in the conventional sense. Instead, he had begun by studying engineering, and had dreams of, as he put it, "fighting with the Sandanistas of Nicaragua." Everything he said touched quite closely to a sentiment that I've either had in the past, I'm feeling at this moment, or I wouldn't be surprised to have overcome me in the future. He spoke of his romanticism in a jocular fashion, though simultaneously with appreciation that it was this very idealism that had led him to where he is today.

Furthermore, Mr. Malfaro attributed his contemplation of teaching to his desire to be an actor in the political and social theater. With the same aforementioned idealism, he returned to the US with a renewed purpose - to help immigrant youth struggling in various ways in the states, specifically in Austin. It was his political unrest, not his affinity for the "Darndest things kids say" that brought him to teaching. I don't think this is unusual, and it shouldn't be. In fact, if my goal in speaking with other teachers is anything outside of selfish, it is that colleagues begin to see themselves through the lense of a political actor; an activist for social justice, for peace, for equality.

I found myself pondering the points he made, leading me to develop related - and some not so related - follow-up questions. My notepad full of scratchy notes, I had to remind myself that we were there for Andrea's documentary, not Mr. Cameron's private discourse session. Mr. Malfaro's eloquence and grasp on the situation in East Austin is something to be desired. I can't help but think, when I look at my own path, that before too long, I'll be just as developed as far as ideology. Maybe not a unionist, I don't know. But knowing would kind of eliminate the purpose of doing in the first place, wouldn't it?

There is one more thing I think is worth noting. As I look over the notes I've scrawled in my pocket notebook, I recognize one clear thing- I'm no longer taking notes that I think I have to Rather, today, I was really able to follow and digest the words of Mr. Malfaro, including the historical, personal, cultural, and geographical allusions which he made throughout the interview.

This may sound trivial. The fact is, one year ago, I would have been out of my league. I wouldn't have developed in my ideology sufficiently to wrap my head around the things Mr. Malfaro said with the ease that I did today. I felt confident in having developed legitimate, tough, and important questions to pose. I noticed moments of interest which caused me to question his motive for having taken this position or having felt that way.

Again, this may all sound like meta meta meta cognition and maybe even a waste of time. Today I was faced with a man whose breadth and length of experience greatly transcended mine. He has undoubtedly been involved in countless discourses and arbitrations with leaders in Austin's educational universe, and likely on a national level as well. Today I was able to critically listen to his points, bouncing them off of my ideology and framework of beliefs, without feeling overwhelmed. On the contrary, I actually enjoyed quite thoroughly and comfortably the interview.

This is something I'm very proud of. It is something that wouldn't have been possible just one short year ago. The key, I guess, is to keep it going.

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