Making Room for One Another

Dynamic and Designed Dialogicality in a Kindergarten Classroom

by Gerri August (Author)
©2014 Textbook X, 141 Pages
Series: Rethinking Childhood, Volume 49


Quoting an abolitionist preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, «The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice». This is true, but the moral arc doesn’t bend on its own. We must lean into the task. Making Room for One Another is the story of how one kindergarten teacher did just that. This critical ethnography lies at the intersection of democratic, transformative pedagogy and differences that impact an urban kindergarten. Drawing largely on discourse analysis, the book explores the interplay between Zeke, the classroom teacher, and his students. The participation, resistance, and discourse patterns of one particular student exemplify the complex nature of social systems in general and emancipatory pedagogy in particular. All educators recognize their responsibility to hone students’ cognitive abilities, to teach students to read and to write and to reason. Making Room for One Another is written for educators who dare ask themselves the question, «Read and write and reason about what? To what end must students read and write and reason?»

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Table of Transcription Conventions
  • Introduction
  • 1. Equal Opportunity Adventure?
  • Questioning the Question
  • Orientation to the Project
  • Strong Objectivity
  • Personal History
  • Theoretical Underpinnings
  • Rationale
  • Roads Not Taken
  • 2. Stepping into the Stream
  • Transformative Pedagogy and a Democratic Learning Community
  • Language, Power, and the Power of Language
  • Emancipatory Mediation
  • The Dominant Discourse
  • Making History
  • Who Cares?
  • Student Ideologies That Trigger and Sustain Otherization
  • Moral ZPD
  • Swimming Upstream
  • Heterocentric Constructions of Family
  • Studying the Children: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
  • Studying the Parents
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
  • 3. Methods and Procedures
  • The “What” Influences the “How.” Or Is It the Other Way Around?
  • Methods
  • Participant Observation
  • Interviews
  • Artifact Analysis
  • Mapping the Journey
  • Terrain and Traveling Companions
  • Fieldwork Procedures: Embedded in the ZK
  • Analytic Procedures: A Rhombus, not a Funnel
  • Perseveration and Other Procedural Nightmares
  • 4. Zeke’s Dialogic World: The ZK Community
  • The ZK Activity System
  • Subject
  • Object and Outcome
  • Tools
  • Dynamic Dialogicality
  • Designed Dialogicality
  • We Need Both
  • Community
  • Horton School
  • Student Members
  • Nate
  • Mya
  • Jackson
  • Kalliyan
  • Rules
  • Circle
  • Turns
  • For real
  • Roles
  • Zeke
  • Meg
  • Students
  • 5. Dynamic Dialogicality
  • Face Threats
  • Yes Is Winning
  • Upside Down
  • Monkey Mask
  • My Spot
  • Bend and Stretch; Reach for the Stars
  • Pajamas
  • Hello, Indian
  • Like a Dancer
  • Do You Speak Chinese?
  • 6. Designed Dialogicality
  • Family Unit
  • Cody and His Family
  • Cody’s News
  • The Family Book
  • Who’s in a Family?
  • Who’s in a Family? Analysis
  • Two Moms
  • Two Dads
  • Stretched Fabric
  • Cody’s Response
  • The Family Story
  • Cody’s Story
  • Tango Makes Three
  • 7. Conclusion
  • The Converging and Diverging Adventures
  • Looking Back
  • Looking Ahead
  • Bibliography

← viii | ix → Table of Transcription



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Unintelligible ← ix | x →


Projects that chronicle and interpret the manifestations of dominance and privilege, although essential and instructive, can be disheartening. As they describe the conveyance of privilege and discriminatory classroom practices, they leave us wondering how we can do better, how we can make a difference in the ways that teachers and students see differences.

It was my initial intent to conduct such a study. I wanted to train a spotlight on how children with lesbian moms fared in our classrooms. I envisioned something of an exposé, a description of how heterocentric ideologies work their way into curriculum and pedagogy. My goal was to convince teachers that heterocentrism erodes the minds and hearts of all our children, not only the children of lesbians. When I described my idea to Carolyn Panofsky, a Vygotskian scholar and my major professor, she made a comment that fundamentally changed the direction of my project. She remarked, “Well, yes, we’ve all heard the horror stories. The literature is loaded with disturbing studies. What we really need are stories of how to get it right.” Right. And so it was that I re-imagined my project. I would embed myself in a diverse classroom ← 1 | 2 → led by an educator committed to transformative pedagogy. I would describe interactions, record classroom discourse, and interpret emergent themes. Gone was the intention to simply expose the academic underbelly of heterocentrism. In its stead was a study of how we can make room for one another: an ethnography of hope.

Hope is generative—it works its way into our thinking and into our pedagogy. Two organizing principles that shape my teaching of teacher candidates can be traced, at least in part, to lessons learned while conducting this study. The first principle comes in the form of a recurring question: What kind of teacher do you want to be? As we explore the historical and theoretical foundations of education policy and practice, I ask teacher candidates to consider the implications for their own “teacher talk and teacher walk.” When posing this question, I sometimes stress the word teacher; other times, I stress the word you. In either case, I insist that teacher candidates consider themselves political agents, shapers of democratic life. Sure, they will teach students to read and write and think. But read and write and think about what? How will their reading, writing, and thinking shape their community? The stories and descriptions herein can be read as responses to these central questions.

Making Room provides a window into the practice of Zeke Lerner, the kindergarten teacher in this study. (Note: Pseudonyms for people and places are used throughout.) About what does he ask his students to read and write and think? Consider Monks in My Blue Car; Hello, Indian; and Do You Know Chinese? (to name only a few instructive slices of discourse). Consider also Zeke’s rendering of the family unit, a staple of most kindergarten curricula. Readers are invited to contemplate his inclusion of families with lesbian moms and gay dads. A question is woven between the lines on nearly every page of Making Room: What kind of teacher do you want to be?

Teacher candidates develop the answer to this question over the course of their teacher preparation—indeed, over the course of their careers. Without guidance, the answer can devolve into a hodgepodge, ill suited as a pedagogical infrastructure. This brings me to the second contribution of this study to my pedagogy, the second organizing principle of my teaching. Teacher candidates will find ← 2 | 3 → their pedagogical lodestars as they critically consider the merits and demerits of competing theoretical arguments. This is no mean task, and without a heuristic, a tool, students get lost in the weeds. The tool I provide is simple. I ask them to consider the following three questions when reading their texts:

What? (What problem does the theorist identify?)
So What? (Why should we care?)
Now What? (How shall we then teach?)

Teacher candidates handily identify the What and the So What of their assigned texts. They can describe problems in stark detail and provide convincing evidence that the problem under consideration is significant. They write and speak of newly acquired awareness and of deep concern for the continuing marginalization of students from non-dominant social groups. But, the Now What gives them pause. They feel as if they are all dressed up with nowhere to go. What does a classroom led by a teacher committed to transformative pedagogy look like? Well, it might look like Zeke Lerner’s kindergarten classroom. It’s a place to start.


X, 141
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (March)
Kindergarten teacher emancipatory pedagogy education
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 141 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Gerri August (Author)

Gerri August (PhD in education, University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College) is Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and the Director of the M.Ed. program at Rhode Island College. She is the co-author of Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth.


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154 pages