“Why aren’t there enough of our stories to read?”: Teaching autoethnographies for radical healing

Enid Marie Rosario-Ramos (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Publication date: 13 August 2018



This paper aims to draw on the analysis of instruction and student work in an English Language Arts classroom to discuss how teachers may support dispossessed students’ journeys toward radical healing (Ginwright, 2010) by using critically caring pedagogies – pedagogies grounded in teachers’ deep understanding of the systemic inequalities faced by their students and a strong commitment to contributing to social justice. Radical healing involves naming and redefining individual experiences of oppression as collective struggle to express desire and hope (Winn, 2012; 2013; Tuck, 2009).


The data used for this paper included video data from a two-week writing unit and fieldnotes from preceding lessons, classroom documents and handouts and final work from students. Data were analyzed through a process of open and focused coding (Coffey and Atkinson 1996; Miles and Huberman, 1994).


Three major practices emerged from the analysis of instruction: affirming student experience, connecting individual and community struggles and using writing as a space for expressing desire and hope. Student work showed how students used their writing to engage in the kind of analysis that autoethnographies encourage – reflection on individual lives as collective experiences and the expression of hope – which the author aligns with the goals of radical healing. Students wrote about enduring difficult life circumstances. They also found connections between their experiences and the lives of their peers and communities. Finally, they used their writing to express desire and hope.


The teacher’s pedagogy provides an illustration of teaching critically caring literacies (Camangian, 2010) that may lead to radical healing (Ginwright, 2010) – a pedagogy that seeks justice and encourages resilience, particularly for youth who have experienced great injustices. This kind of pedagogy requires not only the willingness to feel critical hope (Duncan-Andrade, 2009) with students but also a commitment to challenging disciplinary canons by allowing students’ lives to enter the classroom. In her classroom, the teacher created a space for her students to reflect on their lives and experience radical healing by encouraging them to contextualize their experiences within socio-historical processes and social, economic and political structures that were designed to create and sustain inequity. The autoethnography unit provided an opportunity for students to evaluate their own histories, come to terms with the past and begin to express desire and imagine hopeful futures (Tuck, 2009; Winn, 2012; 2013).



Rosario-Ramos, E.M. (2018), "“Why aren’t there enough of our stories to read?”: Teaching autoethnographies for radical healing", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 213-227. https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC-04-2017-0048

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