Monday, March 31, 2014


            Not every learning experience happens inside a classroom. Our group has now been in Mexico for over two months, and we have enjoyed countless opportunities to learn from not just our classes, but from a wide range of speakers and visits. We have spoken with social workers in several settings, several representatives of government social welfare programs, and community leaders and organizers from Cuernavaca, Amatlan, and Tlamacazapa. All of these speakers have been our teachers; their unique experiences and insights from the work they have done in their communities helps us, as social work students, to reflect on the many different ways to work toward positive change.

It was refreshing to have class in the busy Zócalo.

With all of these rich experiences, it has also been very important that we take the time to reflect on what we have been learning. On Wednesday, the social work students, as well as our professor, Hillary, and our TA, Stephanie, went to the Zócalo together. We first split up, finding our own spots around the Zócalo to observe our surroundings and reflect on our experiences by ourselves. Then, we met together to debrief at a café and talk about the various “lenses” through which we see the world, including the lenses of race, class, and gender. We also talked about what lenses we must put on when working with clients – for example, the strength-based perspective, cultural responsiveness, and understanding of how oppression impacts the delivery of services.

A quiet street with a sweet little cafe.

Brazilian educator Paulo Freire wrote in Pedogogy of the Oppressed that education has the potential to become “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.” This sort of education is necessary for us as future social work professionals so that we are prepared to partner with clients and communities in order to work together toward meaningful and lasting change. I think that an important part of this education is to recognize how our “lenses” impact us. When working with clients, through what other lenses must we look? What lenses do we not even realize we are wearing, and how does this affect how we work with clients?

-Katie (student)


  1. Thanks for inviting us along and for posting these photos of Cuernavaca -- a vicarious traveler like me really appreciates the opportunity! And the metaphor of "lenses" reminded me of this article that my mentor, teacher, and friend Ron Rooney and I wrote:

    Rooney, R. H., & Bibus, A. A. (1996). Multiple lenses: Ethnically sensitive practice with involuntary clients who are having difficulties with drugs or alcohol. Journal of Multicultural Social Work, 4 (2), 59-73.

    Tony Bibus, Augsburg College

  2. Katie, it seems like you are having a great time in Mexico learning about the impact on the way we perceive the world. The way in which we perceive the world influences the effectiveness of our work as social workers. I completely agree with you that we must always be aware that everyone has differentiating perspectives on the world. And also, that the best way for social workers to learn is by being exposed to other cultures and perspectives.
    -Nancy Ortega from Augsburg College

  3. Katie, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I really enjoyed your discussion. As social workers the lenses that we see through will always be how we perceive things. The thing is though, what exactly are those lenses? I think its great that you are in Mexico experiencing this different lenses and sharing. What a great experience!
    -Cayla Tilbury BSW Augsburg College

  4. I think it is great that you have taken the time to go out of the classroom because as you said- not every learning experience happens in a classroom! As social work students it is important for us to go out where the people are to see and hear about their everyday life!
    I hope the stay in Mexico will give you a lot of memories and new experiences!

    Henriette Ree- Augsburg College

  5. Katie, it seems like your stay in Mexico has been very educational. I completely agree with you that we need to recognize which lens we are looking through and how it impact our work. I think it is amazing that you can take time to reflect through your experiences/learnings. With reflection we can develop a deeper understanding of what we have experienced, and therefore improve our work.

    Augsburg College

  6. Katie,
    It sounds like you are having fun in Mexico and learning a lot. I think it is great that you are taking things away that are happening outside of the classroom. I also found it interesting that you are also talking about seeing things through a different lenses in Mexico. That is something that I have been working on all semester and trying to learn how to do it. I think it is great that you are able to do it first hand with the experiences you are having. Here its harder to change your view if you are just reading about problems!
    I hope you continue to have fun and learn a lot more from the people and experiences around you!!

    Bridget Kopp
    Augsburg College

  7. Looks fun! I am a firm believer that not all learning should be done in the classroom, so it was interesting to read about some of the learning methods they have over there. Hope it's as fun as it looks!

    Rhys Dilenschneider
    Augsburg College

  8. I thought that you did a really nice job explaining your experiences in Mexico in this post. I agree that not all learning should be done in the classroom. I think that sometimes you learn more by actually experiencing different things. It seems that you have had a really good experience in Mexico and was able to learn a lot about their culture. I also think its important to be able to acknowledge and try and understand the different perspective on things in the world. I really enjoyed reading your post about the experiences that you were able to have.

    Kristine Fonti- Augsburg College

  9. Well written Katie! It was definitely great to get out of the classroom that day and have time in a different environment to explore and reflect on what we had been learning. Then talking in a cafe as a group afterwards was really insightful. It is good as a social worker to spend time thinking about the lenses that we wear and what lenses that we don't even realize we are wearing. It was very helpful for me to go to the zocolo and watch the interactions that went on using my lenses of race, class, and gender. I enjoyed hearing what my classmates experienced as well!

    Kayla Wolff
    CGE Social Work Student
    Winona State University

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