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Making Room for One Another

Dynamic and Designed Dialogicality in a Kindergarten Classroom

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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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5. Dynamic Dialogicality

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← 82 | 83 → Chapter Five

Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without the pictures or conversations?”

Alice, before she spots the White Rabbit

Cody came into the ZK with keen perceptions of personal social risk. Although he readily, even eagerly, identified with his Cambodian heritage, Cody worried about his color, his adoption, and his family structure. The events in this chapter describe an environment in which Cody could, and did, reach beyond concern for his personal social safety: He exercised vigilance on behalf of his classmates. Cody’s interventions detailed in Chapter 4 could be seen as approximations of Zeke’s dynamic dialogicality, his investment in Zeke’s intended outcome: a democratic learning community. I do not argue that his observations and applications of Zeke’s dialogicality moved Cody along some linear moral track. My point is different. I interpret Cody’s objections to laughter at the expense of a classmate as expressions of his frustration that his peers were violating the dialogicality that Zeke insinuated into his mediations and interventions.

The first section below describes Zeke’s responses to four situations, each of which involved real, perceived, or potential face threats. Cody was at the center of the first of these face-threatening situations. The second section explores an additional four situations in which Zeke’s ← 83 | 84 → pursuit of a democratic learning community...

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