Thursday, November 1, 2012

week 11

There is very little diversity in the first grade classroom at Hatfield. There is one biracial set of twins; they are in different classes. Most students in Mrs. Shipman's room seem to be about the same economic class with one obvious exception, one girl. I'll call her "Lisa".  Lisa and I created a special bond almost immediately. My second visit to the school, Mrs. Shipman let me work with kids individually in the hall and I asked Lisa how her week had been. She told me "not very good" and looked down at the floor. "My mommy moved out" she said. "And my dad is in jail cuz he did drugs and I have had a hard time growing up because my dad. My mommy had to go steal food for me because my dad wouldn't work"
I don't know if I should have reacted the way I did but I am glad I was the teacher she chose to open up to because my childhood was similar to little Lisa's experiences at times. I told her that I was just like her. I said, "I also had a hard time growing up when I was a little girl but I did something really special." I told her that I wanted to be different from my family so I tried really hard in school so that I could go to college. I explained that no matter what other people do she always has the power to choose who she becomes.
I think Gay would call my reaction to Lisa an example of "culturally responsive caring"  which places

“teachers in an ethical, emotional, and academic partnership with ethnically diverse students, a partnership that is anchored in respect, honor, integrity, resource sharing, and a deep belief in the possibility of transcendence” (Gay, 2000, p. 52). Caring is a moral imperative, a social responsibility,
and a pedagogical necessity. It requires that teachers use “knowledge and strategic thinking to decide how to act in the best interests of others . . . [and] binds individuals to their society, to their communities, and to each other”(Webb,Wilson, Corbett,&Mordecai, 1993, pp. 33-34). "

Delpit says "appropriate education for poor children and children of color can only be devised in consultation with adults who share their culture." Here lays the importance of parent and community involvement in curricula. In my P248 class, we often talk about low Social Economic Class (SES). We discuss how it might effect the way a person learns. The problem I see with Delpit's conclusion is that it is based on generalizations, though I understand the source. Not all kids of color have authoritative parents. Not all poor kids are developmentally inferior. Lisa is a wonderful reader, for instance.

During my last visit Mrs. Shipman asked the girl to share her writing with the class and Lisa just froze. She wouldn't utter a word. Mrs. Shipman looked at me and mouthed, "something is wrong". Apparently this was odd behavior from Lisa.
A time before this, on the playground, Lisa didn't want to play with the other kids; she would rather stand right next to me. She told me, "I think you're like my mommy". Could I be affecting Lisa's emotions so heavily that it makes her uncomfortable in class?


  1. Robin,
    It sounds like you have had a very useful field experience that is providing you with a lot of insight in becoming a teacher. I too, have a little experience about you’re going through with the whole Lisa situation. Growing up, I babysat for a family for over seven years. I babysat for a family of four kids; ages 11, 9, 8, and 3. With such a big age differences between the three year old, we’ll call her Lucy, and the rest of the children, I created a very special bond with the three year old, to the point she began to consistently call me Mom “on accident”. I would take the kids the neighborhood pool and the little three year old would never want to play with other kids; she always just wanted to be around me. I started to wonder/ worry if I was the one causing Lucy to be anti-social and fell uncomfortable around other children. After reading about Gay’s take on “culturally responsive caring”, I’m a strong believer that this is just a natural process that most kids will grow out of. I don’t believe that you or I were hindering the kid’s sociable skills, I think that they just felt very comfortable around us; therefore the preferred just being around us and no one else. I think this is completely natural and kids grow out of it as they grow older.

  2. Robin,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience at Hatfield. I too completed my field experience at Hatfield but I worked in a second grade classroom. A similar situation happened with me that happened with you except in a little different context. One of the little boys in the classroom, I'll call him Joey, came up to me while the class was working on their "getting started" work at the beginning of the school day. He said he wanted to tell me something as many of them do when they wanted to tell me about their weekends or something exciting they had done since I had last been in the classroom the week before. Joey said, "my daddy's girlfriend keeps telling me that I'm not really my daddy's son". This absolutely killed me; I felt my stomach sink immediately. Unlike your situation, I had no way of relating to this situation at all and I grew up in a VERY different community than what it's like in Mitchell, IN where these kids are from. Therefore, I was in complete shock and I didn't know that situations like this even really happened in real life. Fortunately for me, Mrs. Joslin (the teacher), was standing right next to me so she was able to react appropriately. She told him that he shouldn't listen to that and that Joey's daddy loves him and he knows that's his daddy and that's all that matters. There has not been one day that has passed where I don't think of Joey and hope he is doing okay. His parents ended up pulling him out of school without any notice and I worry about him constantly. I wish there was some way that I could know he was going to be alright. I think that you helped Lucy, I don't think you harmed her at all. I am so glad that you were able to connect with her and that she was able to see that someone in her situation was able to be successful and I am sure you made an impact on her life just because of your short talk that you had.

    I have to agree with Madeline that Gay's "culturally responsive caring" is not permanent. I would never suggest that you become hesitant to connect with your students for fear that they will become too attached. Especially in situations like Lucy's where she may not have the best adult role models in her life, teachers are an integral part of development to hopefully end up in a better place than her family has ended up.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.