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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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4. Zeke’s Dialogic World: The ZK Community


← 56 | 57 → Chapter Four

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”

The Duchess, to Alice

Here begins a story, an interpretation, of what can happen, what did happen, in an urban kindergarten led by a teacher committed to dialogic democratic practice. Other stories could have been told. Interpreters are necessarily situated; thus, their interpretations are necessarily incomplete. This chapter invites the reader to view the story through a sociocultural lens. Understanding Zeke’s work in the kindergarten as an activity system contextualizes the specific analyses that follow in Chapters 5 and 6.

My interpretation of the activity system turns on the interplay between two primary elements in the activity system. The first is Zeke, the kindergarten teacher and subject of the activity system. Zeke’s students, the nexus of the system’s community, represent the second primary element. The participation (or lack thereof) and discourse patterns of one particular student exemplify the complex nature of social systems in general and emancipatory pedagogy in particular. Cody, an adopted Cambodian child with lesbian moms, embraced certain aspects of Zeke’s emancipatory practice and resisted others. The events that underscore this tension are the subject of separate analyses in Chapter 6. ← 57 | 58 → Zeke and Cody do not operate in isolation from the other elements in the activity system, however. The meanings of their actions and interactions emerge much as a pattern emerges: i.e., only in context. The context for this story is the ZK (Zeke’s...

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