Edited Inksheds on Session 2: Exploring values across generations (Ana-Maria, Pat, Anne & Pam)

Professional discourses are constricting more and more of who we are, yes, as in Pam's and Anne's presentation. One of them pointed out how school literacies have "colonized" us all--the phonics/whole language debate erupting in the parents' group. How often I hear that construction by the way: "a group of angry parents."

Teachers of literacy must acknowledge the other skills their students have and celebrate and learn from their students---these teachers must also find "real" assignments for their adult learners--there must be engaged dialogue--it can't simply be the teacher as knower standing in front of the classroom "colonizing"--instilling our literate culture onto those who do not yet read--what makes us so sure we are right? What makes us so sure that the written word must be known--at all costs--often at the cost of an oral culture? -- Donna Lee. (marginal note from another person: Colonizing is a horrible word.)

A sensitive and aware teacher who is academically and emotionally alert to language as an active tool makes all the difference in a classroom. Also, kids are much more aware of the complexity of the dynamics in the classroom than we think they are. Your references to Wittgenstein are so appropriate.

Perhaps children speaking are not only constructing meaning, but, more importantly interacting, asserting selves, "negotiating" relationships, seeking respect, etc. Perhaps the speaking is motivated more by what they are trying to do, what response they intend to motivate, than by what they are trying to state. (cf Anne's list)

Whose agenda is it? This is the phrase that seems to me to be the "controlling question" or operative principle behind the three sessions we just attended. It's a question I've asked myself many ways, many times as both a student and an educator. I think we all know that in most learning contexts it's the agenda of the teacher and/or institution that dominates.

We do need to allow the marginalized and the voiceless into public conversations, but we also have to privilege some voices over others.

Anne's and Pam's discussion concerning the need for us to realize just how scholled we are resonates with Pat's talk about how supposedly "open-ended" questions are in fact part of the teacher's agenda.

I thought I was being open and democratic, Patrick's presentation made me realize how much I wanted to be in control of the discussion. Yes, I'd like to think that I value original students' responses most of all; however, I do expect the classroom discussion to proceed in a specific direction that would allow me to summarize it at the end of the period and build a transition to next class.

All of the points about language initiation as ideally originating from someone other than the teacher/instructor are certainly well taken. But are the kinds of "conversational spaces" that it is being suggested we approximate as closely as possible any more authentic to the kinds of verbal expression students (and adults) actually do negotiate outside of the classroom?

Pam's comment about "how schooled we really are" -- she reports her "feelings of inadequacy" even though the discussion among parents was obviously a raging success. Our criteria for success are "school based" despite the clear inappropriateness of these criteria in the face of the parents' returning, not wanting to end the discussion, etc. etc. -- Kenna

In any context the overt delineating of principles requires a lot of time. These too become rules for a new (politically correct???) language game. It's high time for this newness but its high time requirement (and expense, as measured perhaps by grant money requests) makes it inefficient. Our traditional school systems put a high premium on efficiency so as to make the task feel impossible before we start. -- Pat Sadowy

The issues here are really about where the power lies in dialogic situations around language, isn't it? Patrick talked about knowing how to play the language game that school imposes and Pam recounted the case where the parents didn't know, or rejected, the game, and Anne talked about those preschoolers not knowing that "what do you think" really meant "what do you think I want you to think?"-- but in every case the language is shaped by the participants' understanding of the social power relationships which overcode meaning. -- Russ

I am intrigued by how much effort we put into resisting the roles of teacher evoked by school culture. It isn't enough to simply disavow the teacher-learner position; if you really want to change the culture of the classroom, you have to resist constantly, to reflect constantly, to reinvent yourself constantly. How bloody exhausting! -- Anthony

What does Pat do with silences? Are students silent when they don't know the expectations of the teacher and culture, or are they silent even when they do? --T. Smith

Can we turn out students who have response scripts without turning out mindless robots? Gramsci thinks of school as education for the regimented existence of the factory. Are these language games education for the regimented existence of the professional workplace? If so, is this bad? --Doug

It seems to me that there are hierarchical negotiations (collaborations) in which the teacher is in control and decides on the content and nature of the meaning-making. There are also dialogic negotiations (collaborations). The role of trust is really important.

But, Patrick, "speaking your mind" is not always good. It seem naïve to me to assume that teachers do not need to scaffold language acts in classroom settings. What happens when students, when engaged in inquiry, do not respond appropriately (as in in the stories last night.)

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