Filling in the gaps

In class, and at home, I read about the three gaps in Enid Lee’s piece, “Anti-Racist, Pulling Together to Close the Gaps.” The gaps are academic, individual, and community. These gaps can expand throughout the course of a child’s education, but they can also be closed. I was struck by the individual gap: students from different cultural backgrounds come to school with different skills, but the teacher/ school  often only welcomes a predetermined set of skills that do not always reflect the talent and intelligence of the students. Teachers then lower their expectations for students of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds; this can be a reflection of stereotypes based on general academic gaps among different cultures. The result is not that students excel in slower classes with lower expectations. Instead, students leave school feeling less confident and motivated, because they have been treated as a lesser student.

This did strike me as interesting; I have heard of the academic gap, but I had never considered an individual gap caused by placing students in remedial, lower level classes.  This reminded me of other conversations about culturally relevant and inclusive classrooms that we have had: a school’s AP placement and the intentional, proactive work needed to let parents know their students were invited to be in AP.  a teacher intentionally praising students infant of guests to build confidence.

I can see through the BH&H readings how a very subtle system can repress students of certain cultural backgrounds.

2 thoughts on “Filling in the gaps”

  1. The idea proposed about the individual gap was also new to me. Often times, studies have large sample sizes (which is necessary for statistics), but they tend to forget that we are individuals. It is important to remember that we, and our students, are n=1.

  2. Yeah, these “predetermined sets of skills” could be seen in almost every school I subbed in last year. There were kids in remedial programs who were clearly smart and were totally unchallenged by the work they were being given, but because they had trouble reading their teachers refused to give them the same work as their classmates. Rather than working with the kids to help them establish new skills and keep up with the main class, they were just given basic worksheets and grade-school level readings. Some of the students were understandably restless, as their work was frankly mind-numbing. When they acted out, they were only further villainized by their teachers. At Clark, a middle school in East Anchorage, all of the teachers in my corner of the school warned me about a “monster” named Thomas. He was 12 years old. I don’t see how we can expect students to feel safe, appreciated, smart, or confident when the adults responsible for them talk about them behind their backs like that.

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