An Evolutionary, Democratic Learning Community

Isn’t that a lovely title?  Inspiring?  I can’t take credit for it, it’s the title of chapter seven in Peter H. Johnston’s book Choice Words.  I LOVED this chapter!  It’s a little hard to think about school since in the past ten school days, we have only had two school days.  So this post will be more theoretical, more pedagogy than practice.

It is brought up in the chapter that American and British students “even when they work in groups, they rarely work as a group, sharing ideas and working toward a common goal ( Tsuchida and Lewis 1996, cintied in Rogoff and Toma 1997).”

kids arguing

Any American college student who has had a group project is saying “duh” right now.  We are taught to complete assignments, be responsible, be hard working, and don’t be the one group member that the rest of the group is having to carry through the course.  Sharing ideas takes too much time and time is something we don’t have enough of.  As a teacher of seven year olds, I am currently questioning what I know/do not know when it comes to teaching kids to work together.  How am I to cultivate that environment?  It’s what is expected of professionals in the workplace, where do we learn that?  Shouldn’t it be easier for seven year olds to work together since they haven’t had too much life experience that has made them think they know all the answers or jaded them towards sharing knowledge with others?  Somehow…it’s not.

Johnston begins to answer my big questions by saying it’s all in what we say to kids and how we say it.  It all comes down to calling on looking at something from someone else’s perspective.  Kids can be quick to interrupt, not listen, or not think it’s important to listen to their peers.  (As can some adults we know…)  It’s our role, as teachers, to use words like “we” and “how do you think he/she feels about that?”  If we are all working toward a common goal we should be respectful of each other, and really pay attention to what someone is saying, and take their feelings into account.  Johnston goes further to point out that if we can’t imagine someone else’s perspective (or that there even is another perspective) then you can’t imagine how something might have been written differently or the other side of an argument or that someone’s voice is being left out!  Critical literacy!  We all want critical citizens right?  We don’t want everyone with one viewpoint and one belief, that’s not democracy.

Phew, heavy…

How do you see this playing out in your classrooms?  Is this relevant?  Do we care?  Is curriculum more important?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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One Response to An Evolutionary, Democratic Learning Community

  1. tmckee219 says:

    I also chose to focus on Chapter 7 for this week’s reading – I really enjoyed what Johnston had to say about the concept of community and working together. I share your sentiments about wondering how to “cultivate the environment” for my students.

    I agree, building ‘critical citizens’ is so important – Johnston makes it look so effortless, doesn’t he? I think the classroom community and the curriculum both have their places of importance, certainly – I think it’s like comparing apples to oranges, honestly 🙂 Both are important in their own rite, and both should be considered in the creation of a strong and effective classroom. Great post, Lauren!

    Like

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