Lesson Plan – En la lucha: Learning as Struggle

Imagining learning as a struggle is a way of placing collective action at the foundation of the classroom community.

This is a multilingual lesson plan for a class towards the beginning of a new year or semester. By introducing the three Spanish terms, ‘la gente,’ ‘el pueblo,’ and ‘la lucha,’ the goal of the lesson is to involve the entire classroom community in laying a justice-oriented foundation which can serve as a framework for the class in all of its endeavors–academic, social, political and beyond. By using the ideas of ‘community’ and ‘struggle’ as anchoring points, the lesson seeks to foster a learning space which looks to multiple communities for inspiration, imagines learning as a collaborative process, and which commits all members of the classroom to collective struggle. Though it is written here as one lesson, it could be broken up into several sessions, depending on the group and the amount of time needed to delve into each point:

1. Opening: Upon entering the space, three separate sheets of large paper will be hanging at the front of the room, each labeled with one of three terms: ‘la gente,’ ‘el pueblo,’ and ‘la lucha.’ For some students these words may be instantly recognizable, whereas for others they may be totally unfamiliar. Ask students to take a few moments to examine the terms, and to add them into their notebooks if they see fit.

2. La gente – Who are our people?: Ask a student who feels comfortable to define the first word in English for those who may not understand the Spanish term. Add the English definition bellow the original term, ‘la gente’: ‘the people.’ Ask the class: “Who are the people you feel a bond with? Who are your people, la gente tuya?” For some students this may bring up ideas like ‘family’ and ‘friends,’ for others it may be ‘Black people,’ ‘Latinas,’ or ‘immigrants.’ See what ideas and associations the word brings up for students, and add their answers to the poster under ‘la gente.’ As they continue, try to encourage them to broaden their definitions, and add any of your own along with theirs.

3. Reflection: “Why should we ask the question, ‘Who are our people?’ How does this question relate to the work we will be doing together in our classroom?” Let students have a few minutes to offer their own thoughts and ideas in response to these questions. Then answer in your own words: “Understanding who our people are is a way of understanding who we are, the histories and traditions that each of us come from. While we may each define ‘our people’ differently, as long as we are a part of this community, all of the people that we have written up here are our people. The roots of our collective connect many different traditions and experiences, and as we continue to work and learn together, we will all be responsible for respecting, being knowledgeable of and maintaining each of them.”

4. El pueblo – What communities do we belong to?: Ask another student who feels comfortable to define the second term in English, and add the definition bellow the original term, ‘el pueblo’: ‘the community.’ “How do you define this term for yourself? How is this term different from ‘la gente’? What are all the communities you belong to? ¿Cuales son los pueblos tuyos?” This term may be a little harder to pin down. As a place to start, ask students to think about the ways that people gather together and the spaces they gather in. This might lead to ideas like ‘my neighborhood,’ and, ‘my church.’ Add all these to the ‘pueblo’ poster, and as you continue to push for broader definitions, make sure that ‘our school’ and ‘our classroom’ make it onto the list.

5. Reflection: “Why should we ask ourselves, ‘What communities do we belong to?’ How is this question related to the work we will be doing here together?” Again, give students ample time to discuss and debate these questions together. “We each belong to multiple communities, and this classroom is one of them. We will support each other, be held accountable to one another, and learn together as one collective, and whatever is expected of one of us will be expected of all of us. As we build our classroom community, we will need to look to the other communities we are a part of to teach us how to make this one as strong as it can be. All the communities we have written up here will serve as our inspiration, and will be connected to everything we attempt together in this space.”

6. La lucha – What are our struggles?: Ask one more student to define the third and final term in English, and add the definition bellow the original term, ‘la lucha’: ‘the struggle.’ What does it mean to struggle? What struggles are we each a part of on a daily basis? ¿De qué maneras estamos luchando en nuestras vidas cada día?” Allow the class to reflect on and answer these questions for themselves, and add their responses and your own to the third poster.

7. Reflection: “How does the term ‘lucha’ relate to what we will be doing here together? What struggles will we be involved in as a community?” Let students process and discuss these questions together. “Learning is a struggle. It is a process, with lots of ups and downs, that we will be engaged in collectively when we are here together. We will be struggling to learn how to work together, how to teach and to learn from one another, how to share this space, and how to negotiate our different opinions and ideas. All of these things are struggles, but if we are committed to them, and supportive of each other in the process, they are struggles which will make our community stronger, and which will teach us how to better go about fighting all of the fights in our lives, not just the ones we engage here in the classroom.”

8: Closing: Have different members of the class hang each of the the three different posters in three different parts of the room, where they can be easily seen by all and referenced throughout the corse of the semester or year. A simple way of returning to them, as well as to train the classroom’s lens on current events and struggles in the immediate community, is to ask collectively on a daily or weekly basis: “¿Hoy quién está junto con nosotros en la lucha? ¿Quién está luchando al lado de nuestro pueblo? Today, who is with us in the struggle? Who is struggling alongside our community?”

2 responses to “Lesson Plan – En la lucha: Learning as Struggle

    • Word, thank you so much for sharing this! I got to watch the talk, and I really love the idea of taking back the idea of “community service” as one which is about supporting, organizing and fighting for our own communities. There are so many powerful ideas here, I really appreciate your putting this out there.

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