Scholar Stories: Charlene Mendoza

How do you use writing or art in your life?

Words matter! Writing (and reading) saved my life and opened my worlds. When my world felt small, writing gave me space to share my thoughts and feelings, to create worlds that I wish existed and to explore those I had not ever seen.  As an adult, I use writing the same way.  I write to create the world I want.  I write to express my thoughts and feelings.  I write to connect with people I love and those I don’t know yet.  I write to heal myself and the world. 

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?

From my community and family, I’ve learned that you always say thank you for what people contribute and do.  There are no apologies for not doing more or being more.  I learned you always give the best of what you have whether it is food, a gift, time, or attention.  I learned that there is a deep abiding worth in every single human being because we are all connected- En Lak Ech and L’Dor V’Dor.

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to be more gentle with myself and all those around me.  I’d tell her that almost everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment.  I’d tell her it is all about people and relationships.  I’d tell her to trust her intuition, heart and mind and that it is okay to be uncomfortable.  We grow from engaging the tension.

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers?

I realize I’d share with new scholars and teachers very similar advice.  In the classroom, it is all about people and relationships. There is nothing more important that students, families and colleagues knowing that you care.  After teaching for a while I learned that when I feel like a class is flowing, it is often true only for those who think and learn like me.  I’d tell her to be a learning leader and to not give into to pressure around scopes and sequences or standardized tests.  Finally, I’d for scholars, in particular, I’d say to write your own truth. Bring the deep knowledge you have and know you carry the wisdom of your ancestors, your familia and your experiences. Your scholarship and teaching will be richer for it.  Stories matter!

Anything else you would like to share?

There are many ways to nurture – taking care of yourself and each other. Try new creative endeavors: cooking, gardening, painting, hiking, everything.  Each experience is a way to grow into your more perfect self.

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