Friday, May 23, 2008

The Pedagogy of Poverty

What is life even, without some spontaneity? Experiencing the same routine day in day out, endlessly, like a machine's moving parts turning the same way each time, I think would be more than many of us could bear. Not that there is nothing to be said for a scoopp of familiarity and dollop of comfort in a particular routine. However, it seems that when we come to expect a pattern and see nothing else, we are on the road to apathy. Or maybe we're already there!

Chaos to calm
As we've touched on in discussion, some children in the inner city may be dealing with more than we could know in terms of their lives outside of the school walls. Home may be a topsy-turvy place without many constants or certainties, an unstable situation painful to sort through or deal with. The pattented routine of a designated start and stop time for the beginning and end of the day, a set place and time to go for each of the pre-decided subject areas, and of course a consistent WAY that it is all done - well, this all provides a ritualistic routine that can be a huge comfort when you want SOMETHING in your life to be set and expected.

What does the pedagogy of poverty have to do with this?

"The pedagogy of poverty is not a professional methodology at all. It is actually certain ritualistic acts that, much like the ceremonies performed by religious functionaries, have come to be conducted for their ritualistic value rather than to foster learning," (Haberman, pg 3).

It is this act, the routine of school, may be a very calming thing for some students in the thick of violent, dysfunctional or unstable lives. And when that known routine is taken away, what are they to do? It's like having the carpet pulled out from under your feet.

Thwap! BAM, smack down you fall to the ground. OWCH!

Ok so the start and end time, the timing of the school periods, and other logistical aspects of school will likely stay the same. But what can change to disturb this pattern? The way that content is taught in the classroom.

The pedagogy of poverty asks that we maintain set roles, where the teacher is in charge and responsible, gives directions and teaches, and the student follows these directions, engages in appropriate behavior, and learns. What if we want to try some Socratic questioning? Student-directed groupwork? Put them in charge of their learning?

Can we do a whole lot about what goes on in the personal lives of these students? Probably not. Does this mean that we give up the new and innovative or interesting methods that we may want to try in class? No. But if we can at least realize where these students may be coming from, and allow it to help open our eyes and shape our perspectives, we've already made leaps and bounds.

Then we can understand that they are not necessarily rejecting US or the information or method itself, but it may be the impact this NEW method has on their stability.

And to foster learning... is this not our ULTIMATE GOAL as educators? The rituals may prevent this learning from achieving the level that it could, given all the different methods and resources available to us.

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