Grieving with Theory

Last month I grieved the departure of a special one. Chloe.

The profound lessons she left us allowed me to think with theory. This is my way of escaping the realities and constrains that i negotiate in daily basis with our world.

Chloe came to us as a surprise, very much like theory. I have heard about the importance of theory as i also have heard the tremendous love that someone could bring to the world. I tried to run away from the commitments but in fact what i discover was among chaos, confusion and lack of making senses that things start to make even more sense. It was in an apocalyptic way, uncovering the veil and breaking up the chains that have control my life, thoughts and my reality for a long time.

i knew that taking care of someone else is a big responsibility, just as theory and post-qualitative paradigms provide us the responsibility to see things differently. For so long, breaking up the chains, structures, systems and oppressive conditions that we have been conditioned to accept as reality, where not longer constrains but instead liberating.

Barrad reminded me that i was not longer dog-owner/dog-dad but i was entangled with a human/animal/dog/daughter/chloe that demanded my love, attention and commitment. All the boxes, stereotypes, were eliminating and all the boxes that could include chloe were not longer important. She was Chloe and she was as entangled in my life as i was with her. My subjectivity, multiple-roles would shift often between the care giver,love taker / love receiver and a father. Perhaps my idea of family might be very different from yours but in the assemblage we needed each other to make it work. It could not be separated, it was mutual.

Somekh and Lewin(2011),we can only begin to understand how people behave as they do, and the stories they tell, if we see these actions and words as entangled with many other “worlds” and words that we likely cannot see or hear, but we need to gain inside into (p.34).

Chloe became an essential part of my life. She showed unconditional love and kindness for strangers. She displayed qualities of happiness and sorrow. She suffered in her own ways never complaining. She was silenced. Just as many people that we know. Nevertheless, she loved every single person that came through my door. For her, they were not strangers, they were family.

On April 29th at 4:17pm i saw her depart in my arms. She slowly left earth leaving a great hole in my heart. However, I knew that she left us with great lessons, including care, compassion and love for others. Her departure has not being easy but I accepted her new entanglement with earth. Chloe Sofia Ramirez is among the living, the dead, among the dirt, and air. Her spirit is not bounded or constrains by a home, laws and rules. Her soul and spirit are not longer constrained. She is free.


Descanza en paz!


Being Thankful

As i wrap up a leadership audit for one of my leadership (big monster paper, over 60 pages on organizations and culture) i had the opportunity to stop everything that i was doing, read the project, criticize it and celebrate my progress.

Oh boy! Oh Boy! I wondered…. Who wrote this? This is good!!! I know that there are tons of little adjustments to make, but i am feeling pretty accomplished for my work thus far. I never imagined that i would feel good about my academic writing. Think about it, a shy writer, non-native English Speaker in a doctoral program sustaining and maintaining with Directors, Deans, School Principals, etc. Pretty intimidating group for sure!

As i celebrate my progress (Good Practice, try it!) i am extremely thankful for the people that have guided me, watched me cried, supported me through good and bad times, to those that would call and ask how i am doing, to those that would lift my spirit up regardless of how bad i felt.

My family, the hubs for taking care of the furry babies, my mom that would call and text almost daily for no reason other than to tell me that she love me. To God for his kindness love even if undeserved. To my friend and gym buddy for encouraging to take care of my self, to eat well, and stay healthy. To the strangers that pray for me. To my teachers and mentors for pushing me beyond my limits.

I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU! Thanks for being part of my journey.

“No Nos Quieren Aqui”

Recently i had the opportunity as many of my fellow North Americans to listen to the President of the United States addressing the nation on immigration orders. As i read the twitter and Facebook feeds from the White House i was physically sick to see the posts and lack of respect towards our president. I wandered if we had a different president, if we would be the same responses? Perhaps the answer would be yes! But the most interesting thing of this day, was to note the intense and ingrained discomfort and racism by many fellow citizens. This trend is not new, in fact, it has happened to many before it became normalized and accepted. Don’t believe me ask my Native American friends, European Friends that left their homelands because of religion persecution, or how about my Black and African American or Japanese Friends. It all sounds too familiar! Does it?

The new kids in the block are now here and are here to stay. The kids came to get what was taken away over 180 years ago. Their lands, dreams, and a eloquent and vibrant cultural legacy that we can certainly learn a lot of from. I leave you in the wise words of a popular Mexican Proverb, “ They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds”(Author Unknown).

The Journey of LOVE

As an ordinary day, I started the process of getting ready to go to work, as it was my daily routine. Pants, an ironed shirt with a nice tie was all I usually needed it to be ready for a normal Friday at the office. While we had the opportunity to dress casual, I made the attempt to look even nicer since that was one of the busiest days in the retail banking office.

I went to the break room and ate my lunch and after clocking in I was ready to continue my day. Around 3:00 O`clock things seem to be busier. I started to think about my plans for the weekend. Maybe the club or hanging out with my friends. It was always a dilemma to figure out what to do next.

I quietly visualized what I was going to wear. Perhaps blue jeans and a nice shirt. The classics look that characterized my weekends.

It was 5:45 excitement gets in my head. It’s almost time to go home!

A customer patiently waits in line. I have never seen him before. He looks like he needs my services. How may I help you, sir?

He kindly responded. You speak Spanish Right! I responded nicely and preceded a conversation in Spanish.

I made his deposit and provided him with a receipt and account balance. Wow, I thought this is a hard-working guy saving his entire check.

We both noticed we had the same last name, perhaps a common one. He asked me where I was from and I responded appropriately. He also asked me about my ear piercing in the middle of my ear. Insinuating, that it was not a very common place for them. I laughed and he also did pointing at his ear.

Oh, you have one too, in the same place what a coincidence! The nice men politely said he was on his way to his job and offered to buy me a coffee if I ever visited the restaurant. I gratefully responded Gracias! And continued finalizing my closing procedures to enjoy the weekend.

There was something about that man that it was interesting to me. Perhaps a connection, and why not attraction right away.

I left the office and I was driving, I was thinking of him. A secret crush you may say.

The weekend passed by as usual. The club, hanging out and fun times we had.

On Monday I bravely decided to go and visit the restaurant this man invited for a free coffee. I could not pass this nice guy invitation. I arrived at the restaurant and had a nice lunch. My eyes are distracted looking in all direction but I could not find the nice men to pay for my cafecito. I was disappointed but knew that things like this happen all the time.

I never saw the nice men again. One day around three months later, i received a weird text.

” I would like to invite you for coffee after work”. My first reaction was to react with my clever saying, ” Did your mom did not teach you to talk to stranger”. The mystery person, sent apologies for bothering me.

A little bother and intrigued, I asked for the mystery person to identify, “Who are you and who gave you my number”?

The mystery person responded, a friend. Please don’t be mad.

I am already upset, so really who gave you my number, I responded.

A friend! He mentioned the friend name and I recognized the name.

I called the friend and sarcastically said, please don’t be giving my number away. He responded, there is a guy that works with me and he saw you at the bank. He would like to extend the invitation to drink a cafecito. “He is a really nice guy”, the friend responded.

I waited to respond since this might be a setup. I carefully said, why not but I pick the location.

Barnes and Nobles coffee sounds good to me, I’ll meet you there.

As I approach the entrance, an uncomfortable tingling starts to go through my body. Perhaps this is a sign of not to go in.

I carefully entered the door and as I was making my way to the coffee shop, guess who I found? The Coffee guy! The one with the same last name and with an earring in the middle of his ear. What a coincide or is it?

We had coffee, spoke for a while and had a great time. Wow! What a night!

After the coffee shop, we went dancing and had an incredible night!

We exchange numbers and agreed to call each other again.

This was such an amazing and weird feeling. We spoke and texted several times until we had to see each other again.

Minutes became hours, hours became days, days became years….

Moving forward in time, to after 12 years later. The coffee guy and I still together. We never left each other after the first date!

We now are married and have a beautiful furry baby (Chiko) that we love very much!

Do you believe in love at first sight? I definitely did not, but that is exactly what happened.

Every day I am very grateful for having the opportunity to love and be loved. It is surreal at times, but love triumphs over any obstacle given by societal structures and mankind.

Love knows no gender, age, or even nationally. It does not discriminate instead is natural, organic and pure!

The journey has just begun! My Journey continues…

Journey of Possibilities

Dear Student,

            Congratulations on your decision to continue with your studies . As you start this journey let me remind you that by being here already, you have displayed great qualities and skills that have made you a great candidate for this program. In the words of Dr. Chris Osmond, “admissions did not make a mistake accepting you to this program”. Keep this is mind as you embrace this journey as a doctoral student.

As a doctoral student myself, I can share with you that you will find the journey exciting, energizing and challenging. Let me not scare you about the challenging parts, however, as leaders we must constantly embrace the paradox of the unknown. By being in this program I can tell already that you are a motivated student and that your own journey of life has brought you to this point with a purpose. You might know your purpose already, but if you don’t, don’t worry, you will.

During this program you will have the opportunity to explore critically your topic of interests as well as other topics that are essential for leaders in the realm of education. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to learn about your colleagues and faculty mentors own interest, which I hope you`ll find equally beneficial as you explore the complexities of the state of education in the United States and the world. In addition, you will find in this doctoral program a diverse group of committed individuals engaged in educational activities and research geared towards leadership, social justice and change.

            My journey in education started when I arrived to the United States as a political refugee in the year 2000. Obviously, I faced all the challenges that most newly arrived immigrants face in the United States such as cultural and language barriers. However, what was more surprising to me was the lack of resources and information available to immigrant students at that time. In a way it seem as though the lack of preparation from the school system limited the potential of many students and instead integration and acculturation became big buzzwords at that time.

I quickly managed to learn English on my own and petitioned not to be enrolled in English as Second Language courses since it was clear to me that those students were staying behind. Their expectation was to take the easier courses without taking in consideration the courses that people needed to enroll in college. The majority of students did not know any better and trusted their counselor in their course selections. I discussed my concerns with the counselors and I quickly recognized that their expectation for those students was to persist in school for the males and for the females was not to get pregnant. At graduation time the prophecy became truth. From a class of 30 students from Latino background only two of us were accepted in college.

After graduation, I figured that I needed to be competent explaining my own language and culture and I decided to enroll in a program where I could explore deeper the barriers for students of Latino backgrounds. I graduated with a double major in International Relations and Modern Languages and decided that I needed more education in order to promote change in my community.

I completed a Master degree in Strategic Leadership, which allow me to reflect on my role as a leader and i came to the conclusion that leadership is available to anyone that aspires to promote change. In my case, my qualifications came handy with the work that I conducted working for non-for profit organizations, but I realized that at the grassroots level my voice was being heard softly. As a young professional I discovered that the issue was more complex than it seemed. It was an issue of power, politics and equity.

I decided to enroll at Appalachian State University in the Educational Specialist program concentrating in Adult and Development Education with the hope to explore the role of adults in the promotion of social change. I figured that if I could assist educating parents, their children could possibly have a better future. My theory incorporated the use of the cultural traits such as family as a motivator for change. Along the way, I also explored underrepresented students, transfer students, and non-traditional students. All of the different populations I explored had similar challenges as the Latino students. However, as the number of Latino students in my community increased, there seemed to be a disconnection between access, persistence and success of Latino students in post secondary institutions. With the goal of connecting theory and practice in mind, I enrolled in the Doctoral program at Appalachian State University.

Today I write to you as a second semester graduate student and first doctor in the making from my family. To be completely honest, I have only met three or four people with doctoral degrees of Latino heritage in my community. While, I am encouraged to make a difference in my community, I must confess that this journey has not been an easy one for me. There have been many moments where I have struggle with the expectations of the program and the reasons for continuing to do this. Giving up would be so much easier, wouldn`t it? However, I constantly find those intrinsic motivators that brought me here in the first place.

Not only is my motivation to make a difference, but also feel I have the responsibility as a citizen of this land. I have been blessed to have a supportive family and organization that provide me the encouragement and support when needed, but there are so many sacrifices that have to be made such as spending time with your family and friends. I share my thoughts with you not to scare you, but to learn from my struggles and to gain the confidence that you will need to move forward.

In this program you will find a diverse group of individuals that have your best interest at heart. They will push you to the limit until you give 100 percent and more. The curriculum created for this program is as eclectic as its faculty. You will have the opportunity to learn from diverse faculty members from different departments and with research agendas. This preparation is intended to provide you a comprehensive foundation as a future scholar and steward of the discipline of leadership.

One particular class that you will find helpful and challenging is the intensive writing class. In this course, you will get preparation on your literature review session for your dissertation. In addition, you will learn about different styles and genres available as well as techniques and strategies geared towards academic writing.  

Writing is like a muscle; you must constantly practice to be better at it. With that in mind, I encourage you to practice at every opportunity that you have. I have been a shy writer until taking the writing course, not because I did not have anything to say, but because of my own insecurities. I often feel like my struggles with the English language will make it hard for the reader to understand what I am hoping to say. Well, I guess you are reading this page and hopefully you understand my message!

The writing course gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey while being in an environment where it was fine to make mistakes. It was not about the ultimate goal, but definitely the journey. I exchanged the probabilities with possibilities, which has become my motto for this program.

In the spirit of possibilities, I decided to start a personal blog to document my journey, my struggles and my life. It has become another environment where I can freely explore my thoughts while allowing people to provide feedback. If you are not in the habit of journaling, I encourage you to put your thoughts in writing it will provide you with much needed practice and you will be surprised how much you will grow. In the future, I hope to be an active member of the academic community and hopefully publish a book.

I have enjoyed our conversation. I hope you can use my journey as a way to realize that despite all the barriers along the way, this journey it is also possible for you. Always remember “admissions did not make a mistake accepting you to this program”. I hope that my own journey of probabilities provided you with the possibilities to mold, shape and create your own journey as a steward of the discipline of leadership.

I look forward to hearing about your story! JuanEs


The Role of Education

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Positively Yours


This post has been dedicated to a personal friend, colleague and someone that has been an inspiration through my journey.

Your attitude influences the personal choices that you then consider as your life. Sometimes, good and many times bad choices. However, what i learned from this particular person was not to blame yourself on the bad choices, but to LEARN from those decisions.

One of the recent decisions that i made in my life was a quest towards a healthy me! Perhaps because I was fed up with providing myself with excuses and putting everyone else needs before of my own. Perhaps it was easier not to try new things, remain complacent of life and its temptations or even because i learned to love myself and did not care. Well, there is some truth to those thoughts or emotions but my own insecurities,and lack of knowledge prevented me of moving forward.

One day, a magical drink- we`ll call it “pink drink” appeared in my life. From that moment a spark of passion,vitality,and accountability appeared in my life. I don`t think it was necessarily the magical drink that sparked those emotions in me. It was the unselfish act of kindness,  love, and servitude that changed my whole perspective of my health and therefore, my life.

The new outlook of life,created ripple effects in my day to day life decisions. It was not about being wrong or right, it was about doing the right thing at the time. In my case- walking the dogs, going to the gym,looking for alternative foods- became part of my daily life.

Little by little i found mentors and people with similar interest that could teach me different ways of approaching health. You know, it might be difficult to tell about those physical changes right away, but i can definitely say with confidence that my inner spirits are more aligned with a better version of myself.

in the end, is not about being right or wrong, it about embracing the journey of life with a positive attitude.


Positively Yours!

Looking down and “thinking like a mountain”


Looking down from the mountains to an institution, it is amazing to see how things look different. The streets look miniscule; people look like little dots in the space, and the fog that scatters through the city provide the feeling of mystery, structure, and organized chaos that prevails in education. In a way, the feeling of ascension provides the walker with a sense of power not experimented before. Perhaps validating Foucault`s point, In knowing we control and in controlling we know. However, this linkage seems disconnected to the walker`s opinion without incorporating the Greek concept of metis.

According to Scott (1998), metis represents a wide array if practical skills and acquired intelligence in responding to a constantly changing natural and human environment(p.313).  The walker`s experiences reminds him of his early lessons of life as well as the constant new lessons obtain through his journey.

One of the most noticeable observations while looking from the top down was the difficulty of truly knowing what is really happening down there. Two opposite conversations where echoing to his surroundings.

The first conversation was the need to make data-driven decisions to make sure all students where given an equal opportunity to succeed. In this conversation, education was being linked as the redeemer to solving our social and economic problems (Sunderman, 2009).  This conversation backed with federal pressures promoted accountability, standardizing and constant assessments. Furthermore, this national phenomenon was not only being used in the field of education. In fact, several disciplines were promoting that the more we know the more efficient and effective we are able to make things. For example, self-tracking devices to measure ways to track ourselves to prevent blood pressure and other sickness (Singer,2011). In the field of advertising,measurements shopping patterns to decide customer advertising and customer choices(AlixPartners,2010). Albrecht and Vanderlippe (2002) take this concept to another level by suggesting that they reward you for having the means to spent, however, the price setting is also being set accordingly.

            Additionally, this process is also being used across the globe in order to provide identifiable information to the government. Individuals are being provided unique codes according to a scanning system that tracks civilian’s fingerprints and their unique iris (Beiser,2011).

The second conversation happening in the surrounding was an opposition to what was occurring. The resistance against the structure proposed the idea that simplification did not proposed the appropriate solutions due to the complexity of its subjects. Taubman (2009), voices his concern by suggesting that teachers should not be responsible for overcoming historically rooted disadvantages- inequalities, poverty, injustice and racist-of an individualist society. Instead proposed alternative methods that are beyond short-term solutions, which worsens the problem.

According to Berry (1981), we should concentrate in good solutions that accepts its given limits, solutions that accept the limitations of the discipline, solutions that solves more than one problem and does not make new ones, and concentrating in good solutions that always answer the question. Furthermore, Taubman (2009), voices his concern by suggesting that teachers should not be responsible for overcoming historically rooted disadvantages- inequalities, poverty, injustice and racist-of an individualist society.

Freire (1993), offers perhaps a more transformative solution where the states, the solution is not to “integrate “but to transform the structure so they can become “beings for themselves”(p. 74). His transformative solution reminds us that we people are not marginal to their environments instead it is a structured system that keep others oppressed( Freire 1993l; Bird Rose,2013). Anyon(1980), articulates this concept suggesting, “knowledge and skills leading to social power and reward are made available to advantaged social groups but are withheld from the working class, to whom a more “practical” curriculum is offered”(p.67).

Zembylas(2007), offers a different alternative suggesting  “ teachers and students make available to themselves the forces of pleasure and the powerful flows of desire, thereby turning themselves into subjects who subvert normalized representations and significations and find access to a radical self”(p.332). In the words of palmer parker,

“ Institutions are neither other than us nor alien to us: institutions are us.”

As the walker continues his journey, the walker is encouraged by the imagination of possibilities proposed from many walkers in the field. Bird Rose (2013), invite us to think, to think of possibilities in which people can live together. A place where we examine our own bias and realized a future of possibilities. Frisk and Larson (2011), suggest that educational systems require structures that promote the freedom to constantly learn and adapt, the ability to go beyond a checklist to comprehensive pedagogies that are responsive to the effective teaching and learning. Hartman and Darab (2012), shares opportunities where structural powers provides opportunities and the freedom to think. Furthermore, Freire (1993) suggest not only to think freely, but also to have a critical spirit.

Our own journey provides us abundant and significant examples of how structures, power, and knowledge can liberate or oppressed people. Our current systems dictate so much of what is being considered as knowledge and what is acceptable. However, the scholars mentioned invite us to see the world differently, to provide our own meaning, to be critical, to challenge a reactivate status quo that kept us from moving forward.


Emerging from the trenches

Education was not a new concept for him or his family. In fact, it was not really a choice but an expectation that was inculcated since early years. A paradox of doctrination filled with common assumptions and realities of what an educated being entitles. Some of the early experiences transports him back to his high school years where acculturalization and assimilation where seem are the big topics at that time. He quickly discovered that the structures created for new comers had the ultimate goal of keeping them in school,avoid teen pregnancy and graduation,but not necessarly being college ready.

He choose with resistance from the school system to rejected to participate in the  English as a Second Language program,since the students involved appeared to stay behind instead of advancing to the courses needed to enroll in college. Most students did not have the math, science and English skills needed to graduate. Interesting enough, many of them were US-born with foreign backgrounds. This phenomenon hold to be true at graduation,when out of 30 students with Latino background only two were accepted to four year universities.

Many of them had not desire to go to college,but some others that did, were not fully prepared to embrace a higher education journey. For the walker, it was not really a choice, it was his reality. In his homeland for example, education meant the conservation of an elite status while for others meant freedom. According to Freire(1993), “if the conscientização threatens to place the status quo in question, it thereby seems to constitute a threat to freedom itself”(p.36).

In other societies, this might not be important, however, as we explore the Colombian structures of power and the different views of the political, and social climate that the country holds, one might understand the role of education as a denunciation of oppressive systems that criticizes a system. Therefore, to the point of Foucault, knowledge and power cannot be separated, in fact, the relationship reinforce one another (p.224).

As the walker emerges from an environmental quandary, the walker quickly discovers that the field of education had many similar characteristics as experienced before.  A system full of opportunities and constrains that prevented him from freely walking once again. At this point, the walker`s own experiences provided a new layer of awareness not experimented before. He had an above average formal education trajectory that allowed to him critically examined what was happening in his surroundings. 

During his time at the institution, he earned the respect and recognition from colleagues and students, for being responsive to the needs of cultural diverse students, for doing things differently, and for speaking up when no one would. He quickly discovered, that regardless of the tools he had, he was not going anywhere. In fact, he was submerging back to a repressive system that had other strategies in mind.  Feelings of doubt, fear and uncertainty governed his mind. He felt silently protesting, but regardless of what he did, his voice was not strong or loud enough.  At this point, he knew that service to the institution was culminating, and following Hirschman`s advice, he voice his courage through the following words:

            “While the journey of life takes us to many good and not so good situations, I am always very appreciative of the journey to get to the final destination. This journey involves working hard; taking risk, being truthful to yourself and making your voice heard because what you have to say to the world “DOES MATTER”.

My life as an immigrant child, with limited English Language has been a true example that the journey is for everyone. Yes, there are some people that have advantage and privilege over other, but in the end your “ACTIONS speaks LOUDER than WORDS”. Through this amazing journey I have met some extraordinary people that have contributed towards my growth and development as a student/friend and scholar.  My gratitude to everyone that believes in my work and especially to those that work daily with unhidden agendas “doing the right thing even when NO ONE is watching”. This is called CARACTER; Let me remind you how important that is. To conclude, I am not saying “Good Bye”, it is a “See you Later”.(Ramirez,2013).

The experience of departing was a sweet and sour experience, in one end the imagination of possibilities is exciting, but at the same time the emotions of leaving your comfortable environment is difficult at times. It is much like the process of institutional change where you have a complexity of factors and forces involved. Einser (2002), confirms this complexity by suggesting, “experiencing the environment is a process that is shaped by culture, influenced by language, impacted by beliefs, affected by values, and moderated by the distinctive features of that part of ourselves we sometime describe as our individuality”(p.1).

In the process of experiencing his environment while being truthful to his own needs of understanding the complexity of identity and the implications that this have in education provided him with opportunities to explore those concepts in the field of public education.