Sunday, June 19, 2011

August: Talking Points-Extended Comments

     In Gerri August's "Making Room for One Another", she observes a kindergarten classroom at the Horton School, an urban, public charter school.  The kindergarten teacher, Zeke Lerner, practices a highly democratic pedagogy in his teaching.  August observed his teaching practices with his kindergarten class (which she refers to as the ZK), and focuses on one particular student, Cody- a Cambodian boy who was adopted by two lesbian mothers.  August's research centered around the following question, "What happens when a child with lesbian parent and children from other non-dominant family structures share their family stories (via oral narrative, artwork, or writing) in a classroom that is led by a teacher committed to democratic pedagogy?" (pg. 3).   The interesting twist was that August wasn't really able to answer this question, since Cody really didn't share much about his home life with his classmates.  However, as August points out, the lack of data was just as meaningful and relevant to the study and that is what she ended up analyzing and interpreting.  

     This article hit very close to home for me because I actually taught a student with lesbian moms last year.  Nick (name changed) was a white student and they adopted him when he was just an infant.  His moms are very involved in the school and have been visible in the school community since Nick was in kindergarten.  One of his moms was even the President of the HSA (Home School Association).  I think since they have both always been around and nobody has given the situation any extra attention; the children really don't know anything else.  For Mother's Day, Nick made two projects and cards and for Father's Day he made the gift for his Grandfather.  Nick included both his moms in everyday conversations with myself and his peers, his writing pieces, and his artwork.  After reading this article, I would be curious to speak to Nick's kindergarten teacher to see if he and his classmates were always this well-adjusted, or if it took some time to get to this place.     
      I teach at a Catholic school, so for lesbian moms to send their sons there (Nick has an older adopted brother as well),  might be seen by ultra-conservatives as something you just don't do.  However, as far as I know, no one has had any issues with it.  They are both great moms (although they have recently separated), and like any other parents, they just want what's best for their children.    This cartoon seemed very fitting...

       I decided to extend Nina's comments in my blog, specifically the quotes that she chose.  The first quote Nina chose from August said, "If educators understand that society is in the process of being both preserved and transformed by our collective activities, then we will see our classrooms as activity systems that have both roots and wings."  Nina talked about the changing world in her response to this quote, and I couldn't agree more.  If we as teachers don't adapt to the changes going on in the world today, then we are doing our students a huge disservice.  Some would say that Zeke is "pushing the envelope" in his classroom, but I would argue that he is just keeping up with today's ever-changing world.  He is exposing his students to all different things, so they'll be more equipped and prepared when they get into the real world.  When teaching a Unit on Families, Zeke does not just teach about the so-called "normal" family.  Of course, that is included in his teaching, but like Nina said, he expands on that norm and branches out to other types of families so that all the kids are included. 

     Nina's second quote that she picked from August said, "He (Zeke) wanted students to stretch their social schemas that were already constrained by dysconscious biases."  I thought Nina interpreted this quote really well when she said, "Zeke was trying to create a more democratic classroom, which means a classroom accepting of everyone in it.  It was a class where differences were embraced, validated and supported no matter what their "social schema" or view of how society is organized and works."  I thought this point was illustrated to perfection with the pajama example.  One of the students walked in with shorts that looked like pajamas, and one of the other students started laughing and pointing.  Instead of chastising the student for criticizing the other, Zeke turned it around on himself and told the students he had a pair of shorts just like them at home.  With this simple statement, it took the attention off of the child and made him feel like he had an ally in Zeke.  It probably only took less than a minute, but Zeke took a negative comment and turned it into a teachable moment.  

     Nina's third quote from the August piece was, "
Without a moral imagination that includes the expectation and valuing of diversity, without engendering a commitment to widen our circle to make room for one another, our children will be ill prepared to work toward our collective progress."   I thought it was an excellent metaphor that Nina used to compare the Circle Time in Zeke's classroom to opening up our circle in society to make room for each other's differences.  If we can't learn to not just accept, but welcome differences in one another, then our personal "Circle of Society" is going to be very small, narrow, and boring.  

This is an interesting study that claims that children of lesbian parents are very well-adjusted.

This YouTube video is from the show "What Would You Do?"  Actors play gay and lesbian parents that are taking their children out to eat.  The homophobic waiter is also an actor and refuses to serve shows peoples' reactions (and non-reactions).  Very interesting video, I was amazed at how many people said they just "didn't want to get involved."  


  1. Great post Kelly...I really enjoyed your video...It's amazing that some restaurants can legally refuse to serve people who are gay or lesbian!! ... I enjoyed August's article because it gave specific examples from a classroom and was easy to relate to as a teacher...
    Nice job :)

  2. I agree that Shor was a great reading to wrap up the summer session. People need to be educated to become opened to the difference.