Teaching Our Own Babies: Teachers' Life Journeys into Community-Based Initial Education in Indigenous Oaxaca, Mexico


  • Lois M. Meyer University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM


community education, indigenous education, alternative education, alternative teacher preparation, initial education, Oaxaca, comunalidad, teacher


In an era when U.S. and Mexican teachers are valued more for their academic achievements than their community-based knowledge and local/ethnic identity (e.g. Teach for America, or its off-shoot, Teach for Mexico), this study provides initial results of a one-year (2011-2012) intensive professional development experience (called a diplomado) for 35 indigenous teachers of Initial Education who are “teaching their own babies” in marginalized communities of Oaxaca, Mexico, as documented in portfolios of written and photographic evidence produced by the teachers as their final diplomado product. The goal was to enrich these local teachers' background knowledge and equip them with research skills to investigate and honor the communal practices, governance, and perspectives (known as comunalidad) of the rural indigenous communities where they teach, in order to generate an authentic, community-based approach to Initial Education for pregnant mothers, babies and toddlers up to 3 years old – a ground-breaking alternative to the Mexican government’s homogeneous Initial Education approach.  Early findings indicate that these Oaxacan indigenous teachers faced a complex of internal and external challenges in this radical, regenerative work: they are young, female, mostly novice teachers, they lack professional preparation, and they have confronted racism throughout their own lives, especially and intensely in Mexican public schools.  In the process of documenting communal life and early childhood socialization practices in rural communities where they teach, they confronted their own (often uneasy) biculturalism and bilingualism.  “Communalizing” early education in indigenous Oaxaca involves reconstructing and revitalizing the indigenous identities and language use of children and teachers alike.  Preparing these local indigenous teachers to “teach their own babies” is a challenging but invaluable and achievable task.

Author Biography

Lois M. Meyer, University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM


Dept. of Language, Literacy & Sociocultural Studies