Gerri August wrote a book called, Making Room for One Another. Within this book she shares with readers a qualitative research project she conducted at Horton School which is an urban, public charter school in the Northeast. Her primary focus was situated in Zeke Lerner’s Kindergarten classroom where his teaching practices aligned with principles of a democratic, transformative pedagogy. It also focused on a Cambodian boy named “Cody” who was adopted by lesbian moms. August wanted to originally see what happens when a child with lesbian parents and children from other non-dominant family structures share their stories in a classroom led by a teacher committed to democratic pedagogy. However, data did not allow for interpretation because “Cody” the boy of focus, did not offer any narratives on the topic. Cody is resistant to answer questions or share information about his “moms” or his family dynamic (constellation). August does state that the absence of that data was meaningful in itself and invited interpretation. What the data did provide was a working definition of a democratic pedagogy. August observed this classroom, took notes, audio, and also did interviews during her research. In the three chapters we were assigned to read from Gerri August’s, Making Room for One Another I gained great insight into how to go about creating a more democratic classroom myself and the commitment, effort and forethought that needs to go into it. Within these chapters August lets you in to see what types of situations arise, the responses and dialogue that occurs and “how” Zeke’s dynamic and designed dialogicality during “morning meeting” created a democratic classroom community. His techniques and interventions were definitely useful and powerful in creating a classroom in which every child was now represented, validated, and supported.
I teach Kindergarten and I loved how Gerri August opens dialogue with her readers making the analogy between “going to school” and having an “adventure”. My classroom is quite the adventure on a daily babsis for everyone who enters through my door. I connected personally with Gerri August’s book because the story of “Cody” hit home because I have an African American student in my class who was adopted by white lesbian moms as a toddler. I realized how committed and supportive I need to be in order to give my students a positive cultural learning experience in order for them to enjoy the same adventure students from the “norm” or who match the dominant culture or the school get. August asks many questions concerning discourse, societal bias, and dominant ideology. They made me really think about how “all” children and families need to be represented and have a voice within the classroom.
The following quotes from Making Room for One Another ......
"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"
This spoke to me as an educator. It is saying that teachers just like Zeke need to understand that our world right now is changing. We teach children about history and the way things use to be in order to preserve the importance of where we came from etc. but they also have to understand that our society is changing and being transformed to accomodate many ways of thinking other than what is known historically which are our "roots". We must teach our students and involve them in not only the history but through our words and, actions and interactions open them up to things other than the dominant-culture. Our society and our ways of living, thinking and feeling have expanded to allow others in. We are building more acceptance which allows children to take flight(wings) and embrace who they are...no matter who that may be. In our classrooms, our roots will always be there, planted firmly in the ground where we come from, how we were taught to think and live but teachers should create an environment open to change and acceptance that allows children to be free to do and feel what they think is right. It reminds me of when Zeke talks about families. He acknowledges the "norm" but expands on that to include other types of families as normal too. He validates and supports not just the roots which began the growth.
“He (Zeke) wanted students to stretch their social schemas that were already constrained by dysconscious biases” (August 147)
Zeke was trying to create a more democratice 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. Without knowing it these children are bias. They have an idea or preference to a certain type of way of life, or how things work. Zeke wanted to expand that way of thinking and stretch their ideas about the way society or the world works. He promoted acceptance and open mindness to wrk toward breaking bias ways of thinking. Through Zeke's interventions and lessons he did just that. He was supporting of what his students thought or knew to be true and wove in new information and facts about what they previously thought.
"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" (August, 12)
Basically what I feel this is saying in realation to the text and our world is if we DON'T expand our moral thoughts and ideas to include the diversity that exists(race, sexual orientation, language, color etc.) and make a commitment to allowing who may be different from us into our circle, our children of the future are going to be "STUCK" in the same place we are now and they won't have the tools or the knowledge to work towards a better more acceting society. They won't be able to be part of the solution. Just as Zeke and his students make room for children with many different diverse backgrounds into his "circle time" to share and explore accepting them as all equal and important to the group.....we must open our circle to make room for one another in society.
In closing I just want to say allowing the opportunity to students "to walk a path that would help lead them to a more democratic class and way of thinking as they become a bigger part of society is a great step in the right direction towards being part of the "solution".
These are some videos that I thought were interesting. It gives some good insight into the lives of non-dominant family units.