This blog is for teachers or anybody interested in strategies for students living in the 21st century . Here I will post updates on the Maine Literacy and Technology Grant. Information on technology use in classrooms will also be posted on a regular basis. Please feel free to comment. Welcome! The adventure begins.
In her beautiful TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story,
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes her childhood perception of the
houseboy who worked for her middle class family in Nigeria. Her mother
told her that the house boy was poor, and chided Chimamanda when she
didn’t eat all her food, describing how hungry the houseboy’s family was
and how they would love a plate of food like hers. One day Chimamanda’s
family visited the houseboy’s village where she saw a beautiful,
handwoven basket made by the houseboy’s brother. Chimamanda was startled
that his family had such talent and skill, and that they were obviously
so hard working. Her single story of the houseboy was that he was poor.
For the last 12 years, I have worked in high-poverty schools in
Georgia in various capacities. Inevitably, poverty forms a strong story
line for those of us who spend a lot of time in schools where economic
need is obvious. We say things like, "Ninety-eight percent of the
students are on free or reduced lunch," or "Her mother has two jobs and
doesn’t have time to make sure she gets her homework done." But this
poverty story line is already well known, and its familiarity interferes
with authentic connections with students, which are essential for
teaching and learning.
The problem with single stories, Chimamanda explains, is that
they impede relationships. It is very difficult to connect with someone
when we see only one dimension of them, when we let our stories
“flatten” them. Chimamanda suggests that rather than telling and
retelling single story lines about people, we can go straight to a
second story, a story that elevates them to the place of shared
humanity. By attending to children’s second stories--starting with
“secondly”--we can create a more balanced narrative about them, which
affects them, us, and our interactions.
The children with whom we work are much more than the income or
formal education levels of their families, and we cannot reach or teach
them well until we see their second stories first, learning to
appreciate the ways they are more like us than different.
What are your students' second stories? What can you do to make
your students’ second stories your first memory of your experience of
them this year? How will you lead with these second stories as you
communicate with the teachers who will work with them next year?
This week we look at student research. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
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