Critical Mentoring in HIPs: A Reparative Framework
by Buffie Longmire-Avital
After a week of rain, my two sons and I pulled out the picnic blanket, rounded up board games, and headed outside for much needed sun and play. The days of pandemic virtual learning are long; we all needed a break. My most competitive child is the youngest (1st grade). Despite his love of board games (really any game), it usually dissolves into a fit of tears and rage at the audacity of his loss. My youngest plays every game to win. My other son, the oldest, is the rule expert for every game. He is the first to grab the instructions and will commit the rules and his developing strategy to memory before I have even shuffled the deck or setup the board. His command of rules puts him in control, and just when you think you have figured out the game, he is famous for dropping that rarely implemented clause that shifts the win out of his baby bother’s grasp. I am not quite sure why I continue to offer to play games with them, but I do, and I am glad, because had I stopped, I never would have witnessed the best game of Monopoly Jr ever played.
The game is simple; you pick your character, everyone is given 18 dollars (no $5s, $10s, or $100s to worry about), and you roll the dice with the option to buy anything you land on. The game is played until all but one player is bankrupt. My oldest and I are aggressive players. The first time around the board we buy everything we land on, both of us realizing that it is better to own the property than to be a perpetual renter. My youngest hoards his money. He is so happy to have the $18, he believes that this is how he will win, to just traverse the board, collecting his $2 each time he passes go. He doesn’t consider going to jail, chance cards, or the simple fact that if his brother and I own the board, he will face inevitable bankruptcy sooner than later. This is where the best played game of Monopoly began. This is not a Cinderella story. My youngest did not somehow win the game with less than $10 in his hand; he was too far behind. This is a story of how he stayed in the game. More importantly, this is story of how my oldest kept him in the game.
Just before the tears and anguished protests began as my youngest started to realize that he had engaged the wrong strategy – he had no property and was losing money to rent rapidly – my oldest told his younger brother to hold his money. My oldest had no need for it; he was going to win. The youngest landed on Boardwalk, and my oldest shook his head and said, “Don’t worry this time, you are good.” When my youngest then began to complain that his brother was not following the rules, the oldest changed them. He declared, “If you have $8 or less than you only need to pay half of the rent due.” My youngest agreed, he could work with that. It was in this moment that I watched my oldest son create a path that was humane, dignified, and most importantly, equitable to sustain the game and his brother’s position in it. My oldest likes to win, but he values (at least in this moment) playing the game with his brother more. I believe he understood that the game is better when his brother is in it contributing, enjoying, and most importantly, not distressed by the outcome.
For two years I have explored and investigated best practices to working with and supporting historically underrepresented minority students (HURMS) engaging in high impact practices. I knew very early into this journey that this was a process of documenting and defining what sustainable, critically-conscious equity and access looks like. However it was watching a game of Monopoly Jr unfold that solidified the primary purpose and motivation to developing pathways for HURMS in HIPs. You have to want them in the game more than you want to win. You have to value and understand that the game, the experience, the disciplinary discourse is better when they participate in it. You have to create pathways that work with what they bring and what they have, and you have to respect the effort — the drive they express despite the obstacles. Finally, you must create structures and systems that prioritize the stress- or distress-reduction for both them and you.
My work has culminated into a synergistic and reparative framework for critically mentoring HURMS that integrates the works of Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995), Hurtado et al. (2015), Weiston-Serdan (2017), and Yosso (2005). This framework for critical mentoring includes three key components:
- Intentional representation and recruitment,
- Inclusive critical consciousness, and
- Student generated signature work that is both transportable and capital building for future success within the institution and beyond.
The four best practices within this framing include:
- the mentor’s continued reflection on the dynamic positionality that occurs within recruitment and mentoring;
- integrating a community cultural wealth model to evaluate, contextually, HURM student ability, readiness for, and potential contributions to the HIP experience;
- viewing student-generated signature work from HURMS as a reparative practice in acknowledgment of historical inequity in higher educational spaces; and
- nurturing a state a mutual vulnerability that prioritizes the need for self-care for both the student and the mentor.
There were moments of frustration during our Monopoly game, but they quickly passed when my oldest started to weave together a path for inclusion for my other son. Throughout those fleeting – yet intense – moments of emotionally turmoil, my oldest remained calm and nurturing. He continued to encourage his brother to try again or consider new strategy. His response to alter the game was custom fitted to his brother’s personality. He understood and valued his sibling’s drive and competitive spirit. He understood that simply handing him a victory by deliberately throwing the game (I personally have lost track of the number of Candyland games I have lost in the last two moves over the years) would not honor and respect the integrity of his brother, or more specifically, his brother’s resilient effort. I think my oldest also wanted peace and to maintain the joy we were all having in the moment. I think he needed to play and to have fun. This was about everyone’s mood elevation. When I reflect on this moment, I realize that as a fourth grader my son has already begun to engage equity. I want to believe that his response and patience were rooted in understanding that even though we started this particular game with the same amount of money, his brother did not start with the advantages or experience epistemology for how this game needs to be played in order to win. My oldest compassionately recognized that his brother’s performance was not simply a function of bad choices but a reflection of his limited awareness of how Monopoly and systems work. My youngest did not win the game, my oldest unsurprisingly did, but both boys learned. My youngest learned strategy and will not play the game the same way again. The next time or perhaps, realistically, the time after that, he will win. My oldest learned that winning, or achieving, is not mutually exclusive to creating and offering opportunities to others along the way. It doesn’t slow you down. It may make you a better player and a better citizen overall.
Education in the United States is not an equitable system. Educational opportunities are not evenly distributed among students, and access has historically, as well as presently, favored persons with racial, gender, and economic privilege. Increasing and sustaining the engagement of HURMS in HIPs must be an intentional act towards dismantling a longstanding system that has forged its credibility and identity on being selective, elite, and elusive. For me the intentional dismantling act comes in the form of creating and giving space to persons who have historically been denied it. It is the act of keeping students in the game, a game that they may not understand how to play effectively yet, a game that was not created with them and their needs in mind, a game that has historically devalued the skills, qualities, and capital they do bring to it. For me the act of giving or generating permanent space for HURMS is a radically reparative one.
Hurtado, Sylvia, Cynthia L. Alvarez, Chelsea Guillermo-Wann, Marcela Cuellar, and Lucy Arellano. 2015. A Model for Diverse Learning Environments the Scholarship on Creating and Assessing Conditions for Student Success. In J. C. Smart, M. B. Paulsen (eds.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (27).
Ladson-Billings, Gloria, and William F. Tate. 2006. “Toward a critical race theory of education.” Critical race theory in education: All God’s children got a song. 11: 30.
Weiston-Serdan, Torie. Critical mentoring: A practical guide. Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2017.
Yosso, Tara J. 2005. “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth.” Race ethnicity and education 8, no. 1: 69-91.
Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and coordinator of African and African-American studies, was the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Longmire-Avital’s CEL Scholar project focused on diversity and inclusion in high-impact practices.
How to cite this post:
Longmire-Avital, Buffie. (2020, July 2). Critical Mentoring in HIPs: A Reparative Framework [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/Critical-Mentoring-in-HIPs-A-Reparative-Framework