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Making Room for One Another

Dynamic and Designed Dialogicality in a Kindergarten Classroom


Gerri August

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?»
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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.

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