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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gerri August...Connections

In Gerri Augusts’’ study we read titled, Making Room for One Another, she analyzes the everyday life from a “democratic” kindergarten classroom in Rhode Island.  The main reason for this study August explains was to examine the “discourse experiences of children from non-dominant family structures [in a] democratic educational environment in which broad issues of difference were recognized and honored”.

While there for almost a year, August examines one student in particular, which actually is why she chose the classroom she did. His name is Cody. Adopted, Cody is the son of two wonderful loving and supportive moms. While Cody’s mothers are aware that their son will basically be studied to see how he deals with his unique family structure compared to that of his class mates, he is not. As August believes she will probably see a lot of resistance from Cody letting his class mates see what his home life it like, she actually finds out a lot more while in the class room.  As august observed the classroom dynamics, she was able to really get into the minds of the young children that she was observing. She learned how important it was for a teacher to play a “democratic” role, and how their presence, and opinions on everything can make all the difference in the world of how their students observe certain things. For example, Zeke ( the teacher being observed), had the ability to tell his students that even if he wore pajamas to school, he hopes they would notice the difference, but he hopes they would support him and accept him for what he chose to wear that day. ..Such a simple things to say to students, but to me so powerful. It really shows an outsider not usually in a classroom setting just how impressionable Americas youth truly are, only showing the desperate need for well educated, open minded, caring teachers.

Though in a democratic classroom setting Cody, is still resistant to show his “differences” to his class room and as a surprise to Gerri August, and myself his insecurities in sharing his home life actually stemmed from being adopted not because he has two moms.  This was very surprising especially because of the fact that Zekes classroom was a democratic one.  It basically was a classroom created for a free of criticism educational environment where Zekes main objective was to recognize diversity, and teach his students how to accept and honor each others diversifies.  Broad issues of difference were recognized and honored.  It surprises me that, that environment did not make Cody feel completely comfortable to share his background, but the book  “Tango Makes Three,” did Cody finally feel he was safe to share his life outside of that class room.  This just comes to show I believe though, that books, movies, etc are so vital in improving children’s self esteem and knowledge.   
I would like to connect this study by Gerri August fist to Lisa Delpit's writings, “Other People’s Children” that we have read.  In Lisa Delpit's piece she speaks about the “power culture” which I believe is still obviously occurring in Zekes class room, though Zeke has tried to make it as accepting and democratic as he can for every student that “culture of power” still exists. IT exists in the home lives of the students, and it is nobody’s choosing in the class room what so ever at such young ages the students are. Here, while reading it seems that the students all come from a diverse ethnic background, so though the “power culture” here is not due to one ethnicity being more powerful than the other, it exists because of the dynamic of the students parent’s family structures. There is one student out of a classroom of about twenty other students who comes from a different family background, and he is aware of this. Even at a young age he is able to see that difference, and therefore he is not confident in sharing his home life with his class mates, because he does not want to be looked at as different from the rest. Delpit writes that since this power of culture is going to exist inevitably, the only way those not in that power culture can overcome it is to accept it and move forward, which Cody eventually does after being exposed to a book telling him it was ok for being different.
Another author I would like to relate this piece with is the work of Johnson. In Johnson’s writings he talks about how we must address the issues of racism and non acceptance of diversity. Again he wants us like Delpit, to be aware that the power culture is there, and we should not be afraid to address the problems because it is the only way issues will be solved.  Here, Gerri August tells us about Zeke the teacher. She tells us how he constantly encourages his students to recognize differences, yet accept and honor them.  While in the class room August wrote about how there could have been many “awkward” moments that occurred and easily blown over by Zeke in order to not cause any more awkwardness, but he didn’t. He actually addresses every single question students had on diversity, and tries to teach them the correct way to handle certain situations, and how to act in an accepting manner to all. Though many teachers might be uncomfortable with addressing the students in their classroom on diversity issues, Zeke has done exactly what Johnson says we need to do to end the problem.

Check out this cute video I found, when doing some poking around on what kind of educational videos teachers can show to their students in the class room!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting video. I think you established relevant connections to Delpit.