Lessons From Home and Abroad

            In chapter four, “The Vilis Tokples Schools of Papua New Guinea”, Delpit begins by describing the conflict that arose in Papua New Guinea between the imperialistic culture and the native culture, pinnacling in the battle over language used in schools. A solution to this problem was proposed in Vilis Tokples Pri-Skul which worked to balance native culture and language with English teachings and culture.  As with the North Solomons Province, people wanted a mix of their traditions with the new Australian English culture so that their children would succeed wherever they decided to go.

            In her fifth chapter, “Hello Grandfather”, Delpit describes how her educational experiences in Alaska led her to be a part of this world and not just seek to dominate. In Alaska, there is a very social atmosphere and Alaskan communities are very connected with children turning to family members and community members for help, and news spreading through word of mouth. This affects the need for literacy as learning new skills and news do not necessarily rely on the printed word for news and communication. Alaskan students’ best learn with working their peers rather than independently and through hands on experiences.

            In Chapter 6,”Teachers’ Voices”, Delpit describes experiences of non-white teachers and students in education programs. There were three discoveries made in surveying these students, namely they believed their life experiences were not viewed as being valid contributions to the field of education, they felt stereotypical attitudes towards their culture and towards children of their culture, and they felt their classroom pedagogy differed from white counterparts, as they drew more deeply on their own experiences and not just pedagogy taught in college classrooms. Non-whites felt whites emphasized texts and teaching curriculum while African-Americans and Native Alaskans desired in-depth study to ensure content was mastered and students’ personal needs were met.

            In the article, “Increasing Teacher Diversity: Strategies to Improve the Teacher Workforce”, Chait and Bireda discuss the need for an increasingly diverse teaching population, as although 40.6 percent of students in the United States are minorities, only 14.6 percent of teachers are minorities.  Several recruitment strategies were outlined, including “Strengthening federal financial aid programs for low-income students entering the teaching field” and “reducing the cost of becoming a teacher” (Bireda & Chait, 2011, pg. 3-4). A successful alternate route to teaching which recruits and maintains high levels of minorities is Teach for America.         In Kristy Henry Park’s doctoral study, she in part looked at what were seen as the reasons for disproportionate rates of minorities in special education. Interestingly the aspects which dealt with culture were rated as being statements that the teachers strongly disagreed or disagreed (SD/D) with the most. For example, 54.5 percent SD/D that “Perception that minority students are typically under-achievers”, 74.5 percent SD/D that “students use of culturally different speech patterns or slang”, and 63.6% SD/D that “Cultural differences between teachers and students (i.e. heritage, religion, beliefs, traditions, etc.)” affected teachers selection of students for special education (Park, 2010, pg. 83). Later, Park states “awareness of such a cultural way of life can enlighten teachers of behaviors that misconstrued as lack of motivation or ability instead of a behavior that is acceptable in the home” (2010, pg. 87).

            In chapter four of Delpits text, she mentioned how students learn to read only once and if it is in their native oral language they learn much quicker. This has great implications here in the United States where we are teaching young ELL students to read. It would seem to be more efficient to teach them to read in their native language first, as they did with the Vilis Tokples program, and then teach them to read in English. It was also interesting how retaining their culture as a center of the education made the education much more successful and accepted within the community. The attributes mentioned in chapter six fit many educators, no matter their ethnicity.  All good teachers want to know their students, want to make sure the students have a deep understanding of the content, and that they have a personal here-and-now connection with the content. These attributes are true of all teachers, no matter their ethnicity or color of their skin.

 

References:

Delpit, L. (2006). Other people’s children: cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: The New Press.

Park, K.H. (2010). Teacher perceptions of disproportionality of minorities in special education. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA.

Bireda, S. & Chait, R. (2011). Increasing Teacher Diversity: Strategies to Improve the Teacher Workforce. Center for American Progress, Washington, D.C.

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