EUD 718 Critical Literacy Praxis
Professor Susanne Murphy
September 23, 2013
In reflecting on my own responses to the aspects of appearance I think about a gradual change which has occurred in me over the past 30 years. As a new, young teacher I was very concerned with “looking the role”. For ten or so years I wore high heel shoes, which were extremely uncomfortable. I shopped at high end clothing stores and paid high prices for designer brand clothing. I had the hairstyles and accessory styles which many other teachers had. I worked very hard at looking like to typical school teacher of the day.
Over time I became more comfortable with who I am as an individual and as a teacher. I suppose one could say that I have discovered the me-ness of my appearance and embrace it comfortably. As a person who has had several opportunities to live and travel abroad I have learned to love appearance differences. I would even say that I thrive on cultural differences and am attracted to appearances which are distinctly different from the norm. When someone looks different I am intrigued and want to learn more about them.
As I viewed the two videos of the gentlemen teaching I definitely noticed the difference in their appearances. I watched Rick first and primarily noticed the gentleness of his interactions with the students. I felt a genuine concern from him as he guided students through reading workshop. The impression I had was that he was a knowledgeable, supportive teacher. I immediately thought about sharing the video clip with our Literacy Coach to utilize for professional development. I wondered, though, if staff members would miss the brilliance of his teaching because they might be distracted by his appearance. It is unfortunate but true that most of us do “judge a book by it’s cover”.
The reality is that visual profiling is a reality in all settings in life. Measures to change the negative aspects of visual profiling can come from my own modeling and discussing it with others as it happens. I can continuously check in with myself and make sure I am not judging the lesson before I hear it simply by appearances. We all have some “baggage” or experiences which make us favor one appearance over another. It is a wise person who looks into their own baggage before judging and thus missing an important message.
Chapters 7 and 8 in the Gee book analyzed many fascinating stories to help us gain insight into Discourse, language, context, meaning, and political perceptions and power. Each example that he presented helped me to see the connection between personal language and political meaning and positioning. The Ted talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was very powerful. It made me reflect on some of the perceptions that people had about me when I lived in Kenya for 9 months. People assumed that I was a doctor when visiting a local hospital based on the fact that I was “muzungu” or a white person. I was afforded all types of privileges during that time, all based on my appearance.
Many people say that one important purpose of public schooling in this country is to enculturate children into what it means to be an American. What does it mean to be American? I have a some difficulty answering this question because I also think it is the job of an educator to educate our children to be world citizens. That being said, I am proud to live in a place where we have so many rights and that we can explore different identities, histories, perspectives, religions, and opportunities to learn. To be an American is to understand that we have so very many rights and responsibilities which are protected under the law. To be an American is quite a privilege based on the hard work and struggles of those who came before us. To be an American is a gift that I am blessed to have!
Gee, James Paul. Social Linguistics and Literacies. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Kleine, Rick . "Rick's Reading Workshop: Complete Lesson." Teaching Channel. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
"Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story." YouTube.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg.