My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Several essays discuss the state of education in America, especially the phenomenon of white teachers teaching minority students, and the impact that can have on schools, as well as the teachers and students themselves.
First thoughts: As a white teacher teaching minority students, this was a convicting read and made so much sense. I found myself rereading sections, reading them aloud to anyone in the room with me, and making notes on Delpit's different points.
"A white applicant who exhibits problems is an individual with problems. A person of color who exhibits problems immediately becomes a representative of her cultural group." -p38, on teachers applying to a certain program
"...pretending that gate-keeping points don't exist is to ensure that many students will not pass through them." -p39
Culture of Power: It exists, easily recognizable in those gate-keeping points mentioned above. I would do my students a huge disservice by acting as though everything is peachy keen in the world, and pretending that what they experience in the classroom (diversity, equal opportunity, being valued for their individual contributions) will continue to happen once they leave it. Instead, they have to learn the codes to play the game, and ideally, eventually, make it far enough to change the game.
Code-switching: We talk about this a lot in our classrooms. The way Delpit describes it, non-white students have a "Heritage Language" (this can literally be another language, or just phrases and dialect used in their homes and by their families) and they must learn "Formal English" for homework, entrance exams, and admissions interviews. This isn't a new concept, but I loved how she talked about the importance of keeping a strong Heritage Language and including it in the classroom, so that kids can better understand when to use each one AND so that they don't lose their Heritage Languages.
Process v. Skills: Students need to know both, but many times "process" suffers if there is no "skill" foundation. Again, Formal English is a thing many non-white students learn in class, not at home. It can literally be a new language for some - and because of that, they need to know the grammar rules that are many times left out in favor of higher-order activities like essay writing. Teachers must also recognize the difference between comprehension and pronunciation: a student who substitutes words while reading is not only comprehending what they read, they are in fact translating the reading into something more familiar.
Recommended for: white teachers and non-white teachers, parents, and anyone interested in education for all.
Final thoughts: Clearly, I had a lot of thoughts while reading. I recognized mistakes I've made, but also techniques I've seen work in classrooms to engage all students and allow them to feel empowered in their learning. This was the perfect book to read at the beginning of a new school year.
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