Sunday, June 19, 2011

Talking Points #6: Questions; August- Making Room for One Another

Over the 2005-2006 school year, Gerri August, observed, participated and reflected on her findings of a kindergarten class in a public charter school- specifically regarding the discourse/interaction of both teacher and students around the theme of difference and otherization. Her interest in this area of research stems from the fact that she was a former principal in a religious school and mother to two daughters; only later in life and after 22 years in marriage, she realized that she was gay.  Her partner and herself had a difficult time raising their children together because they were lesbians.  Our dominant ideology, SCWAAMP, holds power and sets norms and boundaries that reflect this power they hold.  August is interested in how the dominant ideology or "codes of power" (Delpit) in the classroom play out and what interventions, if any, the teacher has in teaching these students to become "active agents in the transformation of society." (2)  Her personal experiences along with the author, Noddings, have helped to shape her "idea of a democratic, transformative educator as one who models, facilitates, and confirms social acts of motivational displacement." (5)  After reading her article from her book, it is clear that her intentions are for all students to gain a better understanding and appreciate diversity.  It is the "educators that guide this adventure" (1) even though "adventure implies risk." (2)

As a teacher, we all teach with momentum.  Our students environments are altered when they perceive/experience differences/challenges.  As teachers we have a big job to do- follow a curriculum, manage behavior, maintain a positive culture, and in doing so teach the appreciation of diversity without "outing" anyone.  I look at the teacher, Zeke, and his ability to control and navigate these young and opinionated children to respect differences.  He did everything on a whim and in the moment.  Catching these moments and using them as teachable moments I think was always his goal.   [At least he recognized them. (Meyer)]  Whether he was completely successful is another point.   Its a huge challenge that takes experience and tools from the toolbox to navigate these teachable moments.  Its always in retrospect that we see better what could have been.  I have come up with a few questions from the text:

1. "How might a democratic, transformative educator respond to sociocultural differences that emerge in the classroom discourse?" (3) Explicitly, how do we as teachers create meaningful opportunities (implement in our curriculum) for the different/others to be recognized without making them feel outed- aside from them just coming up in classroom discourse?  I know Dr. Bogad said that the students will just appreciate the effort made by us (the ahhh, thank you), but how do we do it in a way that doesn't single them out?  Say there is 1 black student or 1 gay student in an all white class- how can I make diversity the center of discussion w/o being overly obvious.  August makes the point that if a student is part of the dominant social structure than they tend to be more accepted.  How can this "risk" of being different be less risky for a teacher to bring into light?  Sorry for the wordiness...just wondering though.  Turning to page 135, I admit, but I do do aggressive facework, with the best of intentions.  I don't' mean to "draw attention to another's vulnerabilities so as to 'make points', I just see them as opportunities to talk about it.

2. August says in regard to the episode on the lesbian episode on PBS getting cut, '(E)ducators who are alarmed by this censorship need to find effective ways to develop empathetic learners who are 'ready to learn' the value of difference." (9)  My question is that what if you work in a school that frowns upon non heterosexual relationships, say a religious school, how do you do your part to teach what needs to be taught without jeopardizing your job?

3. Why did August feel "convinced that (her) sexual orientation render(ed) her unfit for the classroom"? (4)  Aren't there non-discriminatory laws in place that hires regardless of gender,  race, sexuality, religion...?

4. Why is it that "different/other" parents don't speak up about the importance and need for their child and the other children in the class to have opportunities to learn about differences?  I think parents need to do a better job at advocating for their children.  "Cody did not offer up such narratives.  The absence of such data was meaningful." (4)  Fostering a sense of acceptance and open-mindedness will help to encourage the growth of ALL these children.

5. In regards to "Do you speak Chinese?", Zeke charged the two students who laughed at Shiloh as "participating in the same discriminatory behavior." (145)  My question is that if majority rules, how does a teacher readily turn the situation from a 'laughing matter' into more serious one?

Hatch would agree with me that it is human nature for kids ages 5-6 years old to "point out the mistakes, weaknesses, and inadequacies of others." (135)  I know from experience with a 4 year old, that young children like order and to follow the rules.  I also know that high school students are always in each others business regarding grades or what answers they got right or wrong on tests to being harsh about the artwork that another person may have made.  How do we turn these vulnerable moments for some into positive teaching moments?

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