Thursday, May 29, 2008

This week’s readings were very thought-provoking for me. The case-study in Larson and Marsh made me so excited to start teaching! I think people do not give children enough credit, because their ability for compassion and concern for other people never ceases to amaze me. When I first started reading about critical literacy, I didn’t know how it would really apply to early childhood, but what Vasquez was able to do with a pre-school class was amazing. It just goes to show you how much kids can learn and how willing they are to get involved if given a chance to work on something they care about, and how often that can manifest in them caring about their friends and others around them. I worked in a universal pre-k class two years ago for Jumpstart. There was a boy named Andrew in the class who was non-verbal. He obviously got very frustrated when he could not communicate with people, and sometimes would hit to get people’s attention. The other kids in the class were all patient with him, and when I first started in the classroom some of the other students would come over to help me understand what Andrew was trying to tell me. In a situation where the children could very easily have just gotten mad or ignored him for hitting them or not being able to talk, they all tried to include him and help him if he needed it. He was one of their friends like any other child in the class, and it was great to see how much the kids all cared about each other. I think it is important for young children to feel like they are useful and have the ability to make things change when so often they are told that they are too young to do things or that they will understand when they are older. It also made me wonder why children aren’t given the chance more often to be involved in social justice discussions. I know that in high school it social issues very rarely came up, and discussion was limited when it did. It was only at college that is became acceptable to be involved and have opinions on social justice issues, but even then it was often outside of the classroom. When schools claim to want to give their students critical thinking skills and make them informed members of society, why don’t they let students exercise those skills in school? Why is critical thinking limited to classis literature or physics problems? I’m sure it would be uncomfortable for administrators having a school full of people questioning their authority and actively engaging in social justice projects, but isn’t that the point? There are plenty of things that students could be encouraged to get involved in that would not put the school in a bad situation.

Another thing I found really interesting was Shannon’s discussion of Dewey’s philosophy of literacy. He was concerned that parents and teachers were forcing literacy on children before they were interested in it and truly understood its usefulness and role in their life. A lot of times educators get frustrated at children’s reluctance to study certain things, because we know that it is important that they learn it. We need to show them that it is important and relevant to their lives, or else why should they want to learn it? Children get frustrated trying to learn to read because a lot of times the only thing they are expected to do with it is read children’s books. Showing them that reading and writing is an important part of everyday life and is an effective way to communicate and actually do things is crucial in motivating them to want to learn. I think that is why some of the case studies in Larson and Marsh are so helpful, because they show teachers that actually use literacy in the classroom to not only help students gain literacy skills but to show them why having those skills is important.

1 comment:

Tamara Niquette said...

I completely agree with you that children are not given enough credit. I think that children are naive in a way that allows them to accept others. In many case studies that I have read in my Disability and Schools class when a student with disabilities describes their schooling (or when parents do) they always discuss how when they were young they were accepted by peers but as they grew they were not any longer. Children fight for each other and, like with Andrew, help each other out.

There naivety, though, allows me to understand why children are not brought into many social justice practices. They do not know much about the world, and even if we try to teach them that, there are just some things that cannot be taught.

I think, though, in like classes like Vasquez's class (in both the book and in-class audio) students are gradually brought into the processes of social justice and reform. In that way, teachers can allow their students experiences in social justice.

I guess I can see both sides of the argument.