teacher education students explain poor kids ’ “ disruptive ” classroom behavior H u m a n i t i e s

teacher education students explain poor kids ’ “ disruptive ” classroom behavior H u m a n i t i e s

The investigative assignments are informal action projects in which you will briefly talk to people about topics from the course. You will only use these informal interviews for the purposes of this course. Follow the general gist of the script below to help you explain to people why you want to interview them. Use email, phone, etc. to conduct your interviews. They do not have to be in person.

General script to use to explain the assignment to people:

Hi, my name is ________. I’m taking a class where we’re learning about the role of language, culture and diversity in education. One of my assignments is to talk to people about some of the course topics. The goal is for me to hear examples of the various ways that people think and talk about language, culture, and diversity. Anyone I talk to will remain completely anonymous. I won’t ask your name or reveal your identity. This is only for an assignment. This will be quick! Can I please talk to you for 15 minutes?

Investigative Assignment – Learn about culture and educational success

Part A – Talk with three people (anyone you have access to in your home and through phone, email, etc.) about their perspective on educational success and culture.

The goal is to learn about people’s viewpoints on whether or not there is a connection between one’s cultural background and educational success. Even those who say they do not “have culture” often draw on cultural aspects of their lives to navigate education. Ask them the following questions. Feel free to ask others.

1) When you hear the word culture, what does that word mean for you? Would you say you have a culture? Please explain. 2) Do you think there’s a connection between someone’s culture and educational success (e.g., good grades in school, going to college, etc.)? Why or why not? What about any connection between culture and economic success (e.g., good career/job, high salary, owning a home, etc.)?

3) Think about your own educational experiences, do you think there’s a culture in schools? Why or why not?

4) If they say yes to #3 ask: Can you tell me a little about the school culture in some of the schools you’ve attended (think of a school that stands out for you)? Do you think school culture can influence whether or not students are successful in school? Why or why not?

Part B : In approximately 4-5 double-spaced pages with 1-inch margins, answer the following. You must use the following format.

Section #1 – In approximately 1 ½ -2 pages, describe who you talked to (no names, use friend, co-worker, mother, cousin, husband, partner, etc.) and a little about their background (if you know anything), then summarize your conversation with each person. You do not need to transcribe the interviews word-for-word.

Section #2 – In approximately 1 ½ -2 pages, use your interviews and material from week 2 (readings and/or lecture), and one reading from either week 3 or week 4 to discuss what you learned about perceptions of culture and educational success. You must refer to specific points in Sections #1. You must refer to specific points from the material in week 2. You must refer to specific points regarding the main research results discussed in the week 3 or week 4 reading. Think about any connections between the material and the interviews. Think about whether or not the interviews seem similar or contradictory to the class material.

Sample for Section 2

Thinking about my interviews and the Ladson-Billings reading, “It’s Not the Culture of Poverty, It’s the Poverty of Culture: The Problem with Teacher Education,” I have learned that culture is much more complicated than most people understand. Some of the interviews resembled common understandings of culture such as it never changes or it looks exactly the same for all members of a group. Culture is multidimensional and it can influence individuals in the same group in different ways. Culture also changes as people’s environments, lives, experiences in the world change over time.

Ladson-Billings discusses the ways in which students in teacher credential programs explain poor kids’ lack of success as a reflection of their cultural background. Ladson-Billings is trying to show how common cultural deficit beliefs are among teachers. For example, she describes how teacher education students explain poor kids’ “disruptive” classroom behavior as the fault of their cultural backgrounds. Teachers explained that “difficult” kids have low self-esteem and act out because of their cultures.My interview with my friend was similar to the teachers’ comments in the article. One of my friends said she believed that students get low grades because they choose to invest little to no effort in school. She explained that students’ choices reflect a lack of exposure in their homes to values around the importance of education.

Ladson-Billings also discusses the way teacher education students tend to confuse race and culture. She says that, “Culture is regularly used as a code word for difference and perhaps deviance in the world of teacher education” (Ladson-Billings, 2006, pg. 107). She is suggesting that teacher education students use culture to explain aspects of their students of color that are different from them or that they do not understand, such as the way their students speak or behave. My interview with my roommate reflects Ladson-Billings’ point. For example, she believes that most black males are athletes or rappers because their culture prioritizes sports and music. She didn’t consider that perhaps discrimination blocks their access to other careers. However, one of my interviewees made a comment about culture and race that somewhat challenges Ladson-Billings. My cousin said that he tries to be conscious and respectful of people’s cultural differences. He knows that many races are associated with stereotypes that come from society. To avoid giving people the impression that he sees them in stereotypical ways, he is more likely to refer to people’s culture. For him, culture is broader than race. He used the example of a child being adopted by parents of a different race. That child will group up learning the parents’ culture. My cousin’s example shows that one cannot automatically assume that someone is using culture as a substitute for race.

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