School Integration Videoconference

Tonight I participated in a videoconference in which we discussed school integration and segregation, and how teachers can draw on the “funds of knowledge” (the skills, resources, and knowledge of students and their families) that diverse students bring to the classroom.  We talked about ways that schools could integrate that would be successful.  I mention redistricting school zones for economic diversity, but another participant suggested increasing teacher diversity.  I found this solution to be the most compelling because diverse educators could bring their own funds of knowledge to the classroom if their students were not of the same background, and if their students were of similar background to their teacher, it would be beneficial for the teacher to understand his/her students’ backgrounds and needs.  

We also discussed the conflict between teachers unions and the community control movement in Ocean-Hill Brownsville in the late 1960s.  We determined that the communities wanted more control over the curriculum, so that it would better reflect the particular culture of the community, and they also wanted teachers who came from the communities in which they taught, so that they would better understand the culture of the students and their families.  Our discussion led us to the conclusion that both sides were fighting for what they thought was best for the students, and both sides allowed politics to overshadow the good of the students.  I found it troubling in this case that ideologies took the focus away from the students’ well-being, which Dr. Dan Krutka pointed out happens too much in educational debates even today.  

Finally, we talked about teachers seeking “funds of knowledge” from their students by getting to know the students and their families.   Teacher letters eliciting information about students and home visits were two effective methods of getting to know the students and their community and families.  I appreciated the focus on how beneficial opening lines of communication with parents of English Language Learners (ELLs) and recently immigrated students can be.  These parents may feel particularly intimidated by more traditional means of communication, like parent-teacher conferences, but may be put at ease if they meet the teacher in a less formal setting, like a home visit or at a community event.  We ended by determining that diversity in schools can be beneficial for all students and that teachers could be strong advocates for more diverse schools in their communities.

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