Author Archives: diana ballesteros

some end of semester thoughts…this isn’t goodbye!

by: d

hello darlings! i am so bummed i was unable to rejoin class last night. the parent meeting i had went longer than i anticipated. i’ll share here briefly that a big chunk of my day was dedicated to independently one of my (10 year old) student’s work for evidence of plagiary. in the age of google classroom and docs, it is all too easy to surveil, and ultimately punish, our students. i’m contending with what it means to exist in a role (for the time being) that requires this kind of work. i’m thinking of two cards from the tea, tech, and tarot deck we were looking at last night: the doula & the scales of justice. as an educator, i like to think of myself as providing my students with the tools they need in order for them to cultivate the learning journeys that most benefit their growth. but in my current role, i often myself tending more to the technology than to my students’ learning.

tarot card: "the doula;" person with pink, cropped hair covered in leaves holds a robot baby. there is a person laying in a hospital bed behind them.
tarot card: "the scales of justice." a cloaked figure stands in the background. only their white eyes are visible. a scale is in front of the figure. on the left side is a human heart covered in leaves and vines, on the right scale is a tablet with green text on it, connected to an unknown power source. the scale is tipped towards the tablet.

in my conversation with the family last night, i shared with the students’ father that our hope was that the student would be able to develop their own original, authentic voice. i discovered during my review of the student’s work that dad had been heavily editing her academic papers. as a dean, i recognize that this level of involvement is considered plagiarism in our academic program, and must uphold those institutional policies. as a person existing within the interlocking systems of neoliberalism, imperialism, colonialism, and patriarchy, i recognize that this was a case of a parent trying to help his child thrive in a world that is hell-bent on witnessing her failure. ultimately, the student was placed on academic probation, with threat of dismissal from our program (does the punishment fit the crime? within the context of predominantly white, white supremacist institutions, yes. our policies are a reflection of the realities our students will face in high school and college. at the same time, i wonder how closely we should expect 10 year olds to adhere to the ever changing guidelines of the American Psychological Association). my institutional responsibilities are in constant conflict with my intuition as an educator.

this semester i have been attempting to embrace decoloniality, epistemic disobedience, and knowledge creation in ways that feel more attuned to my intuitive learning process. as you all know, my goal for the semester was to create an abolitionist praxis repository/site that allowed me (and other social work educators/students) to more intimately explore abolitionist praxis. the site is still under construction, and you have all seen an iteration of it. i decided to take a step back from the site and to create a tangible representation of my own journey to abolition in the form of a zine. the zine format feels appropriate at this time, as this has historically been a format and strategy for making information accessible in grassroots communities. when i started my PhD, i promised myself that my work would be accessible to my parents. to my friends. and to my community members. eventually, i plan on incorporating short-form media like this in my abolitionist praxis repository. this is still a draft of the work that i am unpacking, but i wanted to share this iteration of my final project here: mapping transformation zine

thank you all for contributing to such a caring and engaging ecosystem. wishing you all luck as you wrap up the semester!

is institutionalized carework a trap?

by d

some thoughts i’m still developing…

this line from Risam’s work is sticking with me: “participating in diversity work is a trap into which those whose work is guided by an ethical commitment to communities underrepresented in academia and those who belong to these communities risk falling.” reading this essay reminded me of the many instances where i’ve been asked to take on additional labor (emotional labor/knowledge production/interpretation for my Spanish speakers) without any compensation, and how i was convinced that this was “for the community.” but that labor was swallowed up by the institution, and in so many ways, de-prioritized. for example, i think of being promoted in a previous workplace, and no longer having capacity to interpret during family-teacher conferences (a service i provided to mainly Latine immigrant mothers)…all of a sudden there was room in the budget to hire interpreters (i no longer offer translation/interpretation services for free). i’m thinking about the trickle effect. how the devaluation of my labor in so many ways was a deprioritization/dehumanization of specific groups of people.

i’m thinking also about performative diversity — how often i’ve witnessed incredible adjuncts who are hired … i’m guessing because it’s good marketing, and not necessarily because their work is valued within an institution. it’s too many times that these individuals’ labor has been treated as disposable. i’m thinking about labor and time extraction within the academy, and how it directly influences the lives of BIPOC who enter the academy with the hopes of making a difference. i’m thinking about how carework is invisibilized through algorithms in digital spaces.

tbh — this week’s readings felt…exhausting. because i feel caught in this trap. and i’m not sure exactly what the way out is…

what they tried to take from us…

by: d

some thoughts i’m still forming on radical self-care and self-actualization in a capitalist context:

i think about how my grandmother and other ancestors might conceptualize freedom and “radical self-care.” i imagine radical self-care being tied to all of our daily practices in sustaining our self-actualization. the Haudenosaunee believe that we arrive to this existence already self-actualized. In other words, our innate purposes and gifts are with us from the moment we are born. Imagine being affirmed in our unique inherent power as children! What kinds of goals would we set for ourselves? what kinds of self-care would we require?

on the other hand, Maslow estimated that less than 1% of people experience self-actualization. This kind of ideology strips us of our time, power, and our capacity to tend to our inherent gifts. and isn’t this precisely what happens in a capitalist, imperialist, neoliberal society? i think of my grandmother, who came to the united states when she was just 39 (three years older than me). I think of her crossing a border illegally with her 18 year old daughter, my mother. what does self-care look like when violence and poverty devour your home? when after so much running, your feet turn into sores? when your vision is clouded by hope? are hope and radical self-care the same thing? Mariame Kaba teaches us that hope is a discipline. i think of my grandmother, decades after arriving, gripping to a rosary, practicing hope, as her youngest son follows in her footsteps, across a river, across borders, alone.

i think back to the two of them, my mother and grandmother, being detained at the border. What does radical self-care or self-actualization look like when you’re inside a cage? I think of my mother working as a live-in servant, making $50 a week (40 of which paid her rent and debts). what does self-care look like when you have $10 left over to eat and sleep and live? there were no bath-bombs, or spa days. there was just each other. living disobedient, bold, hopeful, scared, hungry lives. there were networks of care — my tias, our neighbors, eventually my father. all moving together, intertwining, like plants stretching out towards the sun. Loveless and Smith (2022) talk about collaboration and interdependence as sites of resistance, of unpredictable, emergent growth. i wonder what else might’ve emerged in the absence of hunger and fear.

what did care look like for my grandmother? a lot of it was tied to making sure we were fed. when my uncle moved in with us, i remember my grandmother always saving half of her meals for him. always serving us a little more. un poquito más. how does oppression warp the way we love and care for one another? what strategies of care are unconditional, and resistant to oppression? are we the broken machines of the patriarchy — our directive to collapse under the weight of capitalism disrupted by some faulty code in our DNA. the code: here we are. still fighting. to survive. and thrive.

what does my radical self-care include at this moment? a kind of attunement, and also return to my ancestors. i wonder if when she prayed, my grandmother limited her prayers to yt Jesus, or did she pray to her grandmother, the way i pray to her?

image of a brown-skinned woman with long, curly hair, sitting cross-legged with her hands open, palm up in her lap. she is wearing grey leggings, and a bright blue shirt with a purple eye in the middle. she is surrounded by golden lines in the form of a halo. on the left is an incense burner, with smoke coming off of the tip of the incense. on the right is a cylinder, possibly a mug or candle, with steam or smoke rising from it.

on empathy as ideology


i felt a great deal of tension reading Jade E Davis’ zine this week. i’ve been trying to process, like others, how empathy, which seems so innocuous, even virtuous, can be weaponized. and honestly, feelings of anger and even guilt came up for me as i sat with this question. i remember the first time that empathy was introduced to me in a professional setting. it was during a DEI workshop/training via a Brené Brown animated video ( it’s not lost on me that this video seems to have been produced by an organization called “RSA” (the royal society for arts). in the video, you can hear Brown’s voiceover, where she says that empathy is a vulnerable choice, a connecting with something within ourselves. here we were, a relatively diverse group of educators, being taught how to more deeply connect with our students and their families via empathy. i’m still unpacking what that means.

here is where i am today: it is ok to admit that we can never understand people’s distinct experiences. in fact, honoring our individual standpoints are what might lead us to something greater than we can imagine. Reading through the introduction of Costanza-Chock’s got me thinking about the role of multiplicity in design justice. being able to thoughtfully consider the experiences and needs of others as we design whatever we are trying to design feels paramount to me. is that what care is? thoughtful consideration? thoughtful listening? allowing ourselves to be moved by what we might not fully understand? the need to know *everything* feels like an impulse of domination. what if we allow ourselves to say…i don’t know/ i can’t imagine. but i am still moved. i still care. what possibilities come from this kind of vulnerability? of not knowing and still listening?

Pacing & Slow DH


I was really struck by Bailey’s reading on the Ethics of Pace. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to move, at times, against the expectations of productivity and efficiency, and to move more in sync with something…more intrinsic? more in tune with our learning, growth, and connections? i appreciate that Bailey called in the work of adrienne maree brown, which got me thinking of her work around Pleasure Activism. what if our labor was tied to our deepest yes within ourselves, rather than away from it, as Audre Lorde teaches us in the uses of the erotic? this feels so much more humanizing to me, and suddenly, the care piece of our class feels that much more crucial. how do we resist the precarity? the abuses of power? through these deep radical connections with one another, and…with ourselves.

I was also reminded of this piece:

Final Project: On Abolitionist Pedagogy and Praxis or…

by db

i find myself vacillating between two possible options to explore for the final project for our course. overall, i’m really interested in helping educators cultivate inclusive, anti-racist/anti-oppressive classroom spaces. personally, i have found abolitionist praxis most useful in facilitating humanizing, student-centered learning. my ambitious project is to create a online, public-facing syllabus (one that is unrestrained by the academy) that explores abolition. i recognize that “abolition” can be a controversial/polarizing issue, and feel it is important to create space to explore these challenging topics. i was recently especially moved by the work of Kyncard, and her online syllabus on black feminist pedagogies: i want to more deeply engage with what learning looks like when there isn’t gate-keeping, when more of us have access. i’m not sure yet what platform would be most suitable for this particular project, although as a long time Roxane Gay fan (and recent Patty Krawec fan), i’m drawn to their use of substack.

the other project i am exploring for ITP would investigate resources for educators to integrate AI into their existing curriculum. my research questions: can AI help to eliminate the need to cheat? how could intentional integration of these technologies encourage development of authentic voice in middle school students? what current conditions encourage cheating/plagiary in middle school students?

that’s all i have for now…still ideating.

Experimenting with ChatGPT

by diana

I was really intrigued by the parallels that Bethany Nowviskie drew between land stewardship and digital stewardship. As I learn more from Indigenous scholars like Kimmerer about our responsibilities to one another, I find myself reckoning with the interconnectedness of everything. I took this question from Nowviskie’s piece and decided to pose it to ChatGPT.

Prompt: Please respond to this question: What kinds of indigenous knowledge do we neglect to represent—or fail to understand—in our digital libraries?


As an AI language model, I do not have personal opinions or feelings. However, I can provide information that might be helpful to answer your question.

Indigenous knowledge systems include diverse and complex ways of understanding the world and managing natural resources, passed down through generations of indigenous communities. These knowledge systems are often closely tied to cultural and spiritual practices, and they have been developed and refined over thousands of years to ensure the survival and well-being of indigenous peoples.

Digital libraries have the potential to provide access to a vast array of information, including indigenous knowledge, to a wider audience. However, there are several challenges in representing and understanding indigenous knowledge in digital libraries. Some of the neglected areas include:

  1. Oral traditions: Many indigenous cultures have rich oral traditions that convey important knowledge and history. However, these traditions may not be represented in digital libraries, as they are not written down.
  2. Cultural context: Indigenous knowledge is often embedded within cultural practices and traditions that may be difficult for outsiders to understand. Digital libraries may not provide enough context to understand the meaning and significance of this knowledge.
  3. Intellectual property rights: Indigenous knowledge is often held collectively by a community, rather than by individuals. Digital libraries may not respect indigenous peoples’ intellectual property rights, leading to exploitation and appropriation of their knowledge.
  4. Language barriers: Many indigenous languages are endangered, and there is a risk that indigenous knowledge may be lost if it is not documented in these languages. Digital libraries may not have enough resources to support the preservation and representation of indigenous languages.
  5. Western bias: Digital libraries are often developed from a Western perspective, and may not incorporate indigenous ways of organizing and representing knowledge.

Overall, to ensure that indigenous knowledge is represented and understood in digital libraries, it is crucial to involve indigenous communities in the development and curation of these resources. This can help to ensure that indigenous knowledge is represented accurately and with appropriate cultural context, and that the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples are respected.

Reflections: I was struck first by how quickly so much information was generated. I also kept expecting the response to end…but it kept going! This response feels so thoughtful, which got me thinking about the care that Nowviskie included in her original question to begin with. I see so much potential in the possibilities of learning with AI, and believe that interactions with it are a sandbox for us to learn and metabolize a great deal of abstract or concrete information quickly, and also an opportunity for the AI itself to learn about the questions that are important to us. I am curious about the ethics behind using AI tools; this information came from somewhere. Who gets credited? Are certain kinds of knowledges privileged? How are they protected? As a middle school educator, I wonder about how we might teach students to use tools like this responsibly.

What’s missing? (Week 3)

I really appreciated the facility with which we are able to find and navigate information on SeeThroughNY and the CUNY budgets. Financial transparency is a commitment to accountability to the public that is meant to be benefitting from these programs. I couldn’t help but notice the missing data, particularly on SeeThroughNY. I wonder why, for example, all charter school data is not readily available, despite the fact that charter schools are publicly funded in similar ways as public schools? It seems like charter schools in upstate New York were included, but not the major charter management organizations most present in NYC (KIPP, Uncommon, Success, Achievement First, Ascend). How do these organizations circumvent inclusion on a site like SeeThroughNY, and more importantly why? What kind of an impact does obscuring this kind of data have on the relationship between institutions and community? And finally, what do these organizations owe their communities in terms of transparency?