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The Best We Can With What We Got: Mediating Social and Cultural Capital in a Title I School by Jarin Rachel Eisenberg A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Sociology College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Tomas Rodriguez, Ph.D. Elizabeth Vaquera, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 6th, 2009 Keywords: No Child Left Behind, Minority Students, Low-Income, Resources, Teacherstudent Relationships Copyright 2009, Jarin Rachel Eisenberg
Dedication This thesis is dedicated to my mom and dad, who bel ieved in me even when I did not believe in myself. They have sacrificed to give me this opportunity and have always appreciated the person that I am. Thank you for sup porting me, loving me, and always telling me things would be ok. I feel honored to be able to share this accomplishment with you and look forward to the many we will share in the future.
Acknowledgements I would first and foremost like to acknowledge my c ommittee members for their ongoing dedication and support throughout this project. Dr. Maralee Mayberry, you were one of the main reasons I wanted to study education. Thank you for your time and patience. I would not be writing this without your support thro ughout the past four years. I learned from you how to handle situations and how to carry myself skills that will last me a lifetime. One of the best experiences I have had th roughout this process was being able to discuss ideas with you, thank you. Dr. Tomas Rodrig uez, thank you for taking a chance on a random student who showed up at your office ta lking about Title I. I feel honored to have been mentored by you. Your constant words of e ncouragement fueled me throughout this process. Every time I left a meetin g with you I felt like I could conquer the world, thank you. Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera, thank you for your time and your open door policy and most of all thank you for reading all my first drafts. I would also like to thank my two dearest friends Branimir Cvetokvic and Amy E lizabeth Daniels. Branimir, thank you for always looking over my drafts and allowing me to bounce ideas off of you. If we can make it through this process, we can make it th rough anything. The best for us is yet to come. Amy, thank you for your support. A girl co uld not ask for a better friend. I look up to you and cherish the friendship we have built, thank you. Last, I would like to thank the teachers and students who welcomed me into thei r school and allowed me to tell their story.
i Table of Contents Abstract iv Chapter One: Introduction 1 Research Focus 2 Theoretical Framework 4 Social Capital and Education 4 Cultural Capital and Education 7 Chapter Two: Methodology 11 Setting 12 Participant Observation 13 Interviews 15 Position of Researcher 17 Chapter Three: Resources in a Title I School 19 Cultural Capital and Education 19 Lack of Learning Materials 20 Lack of Technological Resources 24 Exposing Students to Cultural Resources 26 Conclusion 28 Chapter Four: Language Negotiation in a Title I Sch ool 30 Language Usage 30 Standard English and At Home Language 31 Speaking Out: Teachers Expectations of Language U sage 33 Teachers Who Do Not Expect Teachers to Speak Stand ard English 34 Standard English Only 35 Acknowledging the Importance of At Home Language 35 Expectations for Spanish Speaking Students 40 Teaching Cultural Codes 42 Chapter Five: Teachers Expectations of Students H ome Environment 46 Perceptions of Students Home Environment 47 Obstacles and Strategies to Building Positive Teac her-Student Relationships 49 Character Building: Meeting Students Emotional a nd Behavioral Needs 53 Conclusion 59
ii Chapter Six: Conclusion 60 References 66
iii List of Tables Table 1: Study Participants 17 Table 2: Characteristics Associated with Standard E nglish Language 33
iv The Best We Can With What We Got: Mediating Social and Cultural Capital in a Title I School Jarin Rachel Eisenberg ABSTRACT This study examined teachers perceptions and attit udes of Title I students at an urban elementary school in which over 90% of the st udent population receives free or reduced-priced lunch. Using participant observation and in-depth interviews, this research analyzed three avenues for Title I student s to acquire cultural and social capital at school: material and non-material resources, lan guage acquisition, and the building of positive teacher-student relationships. In order to analyze these avenues, this study explored the following questions: How do teachers t alk about and perceive Title I students? Do their attitudes and the images constru cted from these perceptions impact students ability to build positive teacher-student relationships? Do these perceptions and attitudes impact students opportunities to build s ocial and cultural capital? Do the resources afforded to students aide the acquisition of cultural capital? What expectations do teachers have for students language usage and d o these expectations hinder the acquisition of cultural capital? These questions gu ided my data collection process and analysis on how social and cultural capital operate s within a Title I school. This study found that students attending Sherwood d id not have access to quality material resources such as books and computers. How ever, they did have exposure to non-material resources such as nutritional programs that provided students avenues to
v acquire cultural capital through dominant cultural experiences. Students acquisition of Standard English was another avenue for students to acquire cultural capital. Teachers at Sherwood held different expectations for African Am erican students and Spanish speaking students. African American students were c onstantly corrected when they did not speak Standard English by white teachers. In co ntrast, Spanish-speaking students were not corrected because teachers did not view th eir language as a disruption to the class. My findings suggest that African American st udents did not know why Standard English was important. Thus, it is likely that they did not learn how to activate this form of capital to their social benefit. In contrast, th e cultural codes Spanish-speaking students were perceived as of higher value and incorporated in the school. Last, this study found teachers perceptions of Title I students did not a lways hinder their ability to form positive teacher-student relationships, but may hav e helped these relationships to form because of teachers perceptions of students home life. Throughout this study, I explored the strategies and obstacles faced by Title I teach ers and students as well as how these affect the acquisition of cultural and social capit al.
1 Chapter One Introduction Title I schools are in high-poverty areas and thes e have a tendency to be associated with what people believe are low-performing students wit h discipline problems. What people do not know is that these children can learn and they do learn! Ms. Fern, Title I Facilitator Educational interventions in the United States hav e gone through various transitions in response to public policy. The imple mentation of the 2000 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) by the Bush Administration encompasses a va riety of educational policies including a reform of Title I. Title I pol icy was originally constructed in 1965 in an attempt to equalize educational opportunities. T he historical narrative of Title I targets at risk students of which a large percentage are African American. Recipients of Title I services are typically characterized as being poor and disadvantaged socially, culturally, and physically (Stein 2001). Title I was originally intended to provide additional educational support to schools through federal fund ing to better assist students in reading, math, and language. The policy acknowledges that st udents who come from low socioeconomic family backgrounds have more difficul ties achieving in school compared to white-middle-class students. Though the intentio n behind Title I policy is to assist lowincome students achieve greater success in school, some studies have found that there are negative consequences (Stein 2001; Meier and Wood 2 004). Studies show that the language used by policymakers in defining a Title I student has a negative impact on teacher expectations and, as a consequence, has perpetuated a
2 system where Title I students are consistently bein g placed in lower-tracks within the educational system (Oakes 1985; Stein 2001; Meier a nd Wood 2004). Students in lowertrack levels may not be able to build positive teac her-student relationships or may not have access to quality resources, which interferes with their opportunities to acquire social and cultural capital at school (Oakes 1985; Vanfossen, Jones, and Spade 1987; Meier and Wood 2004; Kozol 2005). Data from this study comes from a Title I school lo cated in an urban inner-city area. This study focuses on the perceptions and att itudes that teachers have of Title I students and how these perceptions and attitudes in fluence students ability to acquire social and cultural capital. Through participant ob servations and in-depth interviews, I examine the following questions through the social and cultural capital framework: How do teachers talk about and perceive Title I student s? Do their attitudes and the images constructed from these perceptions impact students ability to build positive teacherstudent relationships? Do these perceptions and at titudes impact students opportunities to build social and cultural capital? Do the resou rces afforded to students aide in the acquisition of cultural capital? What expectations do teachers have for students language usage and do these expectations impact the acquisit ion of cultural capital? These questions provide information on the ways in which social and cultural capital are mediated in a Title I program. Research Focus In Chapter 1, I examine the type and quality of res ources students at Sherwood Elementary have access to. This is important to my study because providing students access to key educational resources such as compute rs and books is one way students can
3 acquire cultural capital at school (Lareau 1989). I found that learning materials such as computers, books, and even pencils were of poor qua lity at Sherwood. However, students did have opportunities to acquire cultural capital through exposure to various dominantcultural experiences such as a healthy eating progr am and the Westbridge Middle School band. Availability of learning materials and exposu re to select dominant-cultural experiences are different forms of access to cultur al capital. The lack of quality learning materials appeared to hinder students academic ach ievement and acquisition of cultural capital. On the other hand, the exposure to non-mat erial resources such as dominantcultural experiences, provided students opportuniti es to build cultural capital at school. In Chapter 2, I explore the expectations teachers h ave for students language usage and how these expectations influence students acquisition of cultural capital. The majority of the students at Sherwood speak a non-st andard form of English; which I call at home language. Some teachers were consistently correcting African American students when they did not speak Standard English, while other teachers did not. Both the racial and educational background of the teachers a ppeared to be relevant when examining differences in the language expectations they had on the students. There are two main findings in this chapter. First, I argue t hat white and African American teachers often held contrasting views concerning language us age for African American students. Second, all teachers, regardless on their race or e ducational level, in general held different expectations and different attitudes towa rd Spanish speaking students in comparison to African American students. In Chapter 3, I focus on the perceptions and attitu des teachers have of Title I students. I was interested in the perceptions and a ttitudes teachers have impact teacher-
4 student relationships. I discuss the various obstac les teachers and students encountered in building positive teacher-student relationships and the strategies they employed to fulfill students perceived needs. I also investigate how th e perceptions teachers have of their students and their families are impediments to buil ding teacher-student relationships and to students acquisition of social capital. Theoretical Framework Social Capital and Education According to Portes and Sensenbrenner (1993) social capital is the expectations for action within a collectivity that affect the ec onomic goals and goal-seeking behavior of its members, even if these expectations are not oriented toward the economic sphere (p. 1323). In this study, I consider different form s of social capital available to Title I students in relation to the educational system. I also explore how the educational system has the potential for promoting or impeding the acq uisition of social capital. In particular, I examine social capital as it pertains to opportun ities students may or may not have to build positive teacher-student relationships. Havin g defined social capital, I will now illustrate the impact it can have on student achiev ement in school. Social capital is about having access to resources the quality of those resources, and the ability to stay connected to those resource s (Portes 1995). For example, a student who attends a school in an inner-city area may not only have access to fewer resources such as computers and teachers who are experienced and knowledgeable, but he or she may also have fewer ties to middle-class norms and individuals who have connections to social resources (e.g., networks through which norm s are created that advance economic prosperity) that would be beneficial in the job mar ket or to obtaining higher education
5 (Putnam 1995). The social networks inner-city stude nts have access to often have less value in mainstream society and, more importantly, in the labor market and the academic world. Acquiring social capital is related to the q uality of the social networks that an individual is a part of or has access to and is, th erefore, key for academic and career advancements. Social networks are assortments of individuals who maintain recurrent contact with one another through occupational, familial, cu ltural, or affective ties. In addition, [social networks] are intricate formations that cha nnel, filter, and interpret information, articulate meanings, allocate resources and control behavior (Portes 1995: 219). In other words, social networks are ways people transfer inf ormation, resources, and social norms. The more diverse a network is, or the degree of mul tiplexity of the network, the more likely it becomes that members of that social netwo rk will benefit from job resource information and business know-how. Multiplexity, in regards to social networks, is the degree to which it may be composed of persons with differing social status, linked in a variety of ways, who play multiple roles in several fields of activity (Portes 1995: 222). The diversity of a social network also allows for i nstitutional overlap providing members of the network many avenues of resources from which to draw upon. Take the same example of the student attending an inner-city scho ol. This students social network is most likely going to be comprised of individuals wh o are of the same socio-economic status and who perhaps come from families living in the same area for generations. This area, because of poverty and other social factors, is likely to have been isolated socially and economically from areas that are more affluent. Community isolation is typically related to the quality of the social network that t his student belongs or has access to
6 because the network lacks multiplexity; the possibi lity of gaining access to social capital through other networks also is decreased due to iso lation. Social networks are therefore an important component to access valued social capi tal. Schools have the potential to provide resources fo r students to acquire social capital. However, poor and minority students not on ly enter the educational system with less social capital than middle-class white student s, but also have fewer opportunities to build social capital once they are in the system. T racking is one mechanism schools employ that may impede a students ability to acqui re social capital. Poor and minority students are overrepresented in low-tracked classe s (Finley 1984; Oakes 1985). More importantly, students labeled as low-track typicall y stay in that same track year after year. Therefore, low-track students are not able to, or p rovided the resources to, expand their social network. The integration of low-track studen ts with high-track students would increase the potential for gaining social capital o f the former as these would experience, first-hand, the norms and expectations that reflect middle-class norms, which are important for social mobility. In addition to norms and expectations, the label less than and not capable of placed on poor and minority st udents in low-tracks lowers teachers expectations and may influence the teacher-student relationship (Finley 1984; Oakes 1985). Because of this, teachers might not provide the social resources at their disposal to low-track students, which in turn may impede the po tential for poor and minority students to acquire social capital (Oakes 1985; Monkman, Ron ald, and Theramene 2005). Providing opportunities for students to build socia l capital is important because increased social capital can ameliorate the effect of lower incomes and reduce the likelihood of dropping out of school (Monkman et a l. 2005: 10). This is crucial because
7 students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are mor e likely to drop out of school than those of middle-class backgrounds (Meier and Wood 2 004; Monkman et al. 2005). An argument can be made that, in practice, NCLB has a negative effect on building social capital for poor and minority students. NCLBs emphasis on standardized testing has amplifi ed the practice of sorting students into different tracks. Poor and minority c hildren are disproportionately placed into low-level curriculum tracks such as remedial o r vocational classes, which influence the expectations and norms inside the classroom (Oa kes 1985). For instance, teachers are more likely to hold the expectation that low-track students are going to behave poorly (Stein 2001). This expectation of poor behavior b ecomes the norm in low-track classes. In opposition to this, high-track classes such as A dvanced Placement and Honors classes or college preparation courses, are comprised of st udents who are not only expected to behave in a proper manner, but behavioral expectati ons are secondary to academic expectations. If a student in a high-track class we re to act out with disruptive behavior, the teacher and peers would likely correct the stud ents behavior because it would not be conducive to a positive learning environment. In t his case, having access to teachers with high expectations and belonging to a diverse social network reconditions the student to the tastes and norms of the middle-class. This is o ne of many benefits of a high-track course and is a way for building social capital (Go ddard 2003). Cultural Capital and Education According to Madigan (2002) cultural capital can al so relate to the cultural practices or dispositions a person acquires often t hrough disguised or hidden ways that realize profits in the economic field primarily thr ough ensuring academic success
8 (p.121). This is an important concept in helping to understand why children from different social classes have different levels of a chievement in school (Monkman et al. 2005). The more familiar a person or family is wit h middle-class norms, tastes, and values, the more cultural capital one possesses. Th ough cultural capital passes down through the family, the educational system can also expose students to it. Cultural capital is different from social capital in that social cap ital refers to a persons social network whereas cultural capital is a persons knowledge of and acquisition of dominant cultural codes, behaviors, and dispositions (Bourdieu 1973). Because the educational system centers upon the culture of the dominant status gro up, it continues to perpetuate and reproduce existing disparities between those with c ultural capital and those without. Though educational attainment typically increases e conomic opportunities, for many, the educational system also hinders opportunities. Spec ifically for the poor and minorities, the lack of valued social capital in the schools ma y trap students in their existing sphere with limited opportunities. Similarly, students who do not possess the dominant cultures knowledge and norms have a more difficult time in s chool grasping information (Driessen 2001). Educational research shows a positive relationship between parental involvement in the childs education (both at home and in the s chool) and the childs academic success (Lareau 1989; Lee and Bowen 2006). According to Lee and Bowen (2006), one of the reasons children from low economic backgrounds have less cultural capital than children from a middle-class background is differences in pa rental relationships with the educational system. Working-class parents may be le ss involved in their childs education due to economic circumstances (i.e. multiple jobs, non-flexible jobs, etc.), not having the
9 education necessary to help their child complete ho mework assignments, and previous negative educational experiences that leaves them f eeling uncomfortable with the educational process (Lareau 1989). Lee and Bowen (2 006) state that due to the circumstances working-class parents face, they are less likely to gain the social, informational, and material rewards gained by paren ts who enact the school involvement roles valued and delineated by school staff (p. 19 8). This not only results in workingclass parents not acquiring cultural capital from t he school to pass along to their children, but also less involvement; which in turn makes them more likely to be viewed by teachers as not caring about their childrens educa tion. All this may negatively affect the performance of these children in the classroom (Lar eau 1989; Lee and Bowen 2006). Obstacles and constraints that working-class famili es face combined with the set standards of the educational system often result in unequal educational opportunities for these families. Cultural capital is important to th is study because it means acquiring the dominant cultural codes and dispositions needed to succeed in the educational system might not be available to students from low-income backgrounds from their family or their community. This leaves the school as the prim ary source for students to acquire cultural capital. In conclusion, it is important to study how social and cultural capital operate within a Title I school because it allows researche rs to better understand how the educational system provides or impedes on students acquisition of these forms of capital. Previous literature provides knowledge of how the e ducational system does not always produce an environment where low-income minority st udents have access to social and cultural capital. However, this study explores the ways in which students may have
10 greater access to dominant cultural codes and socia l networks by examining students access to or lack of access to, material and non-ma terial resources, language acquisition, and teacher-student relationships.
11 Chapter Two Methodology I collected the data in this study through particip ant observations and in-depth interviews at a large urban inner-city elementary s chool located in the Southwestern part of Florida. Sherwood Elementary (names of places an d individuals in this study have been changed) is classified as a Renaissance scho ol by NCLB standards. Renaissance is the label placed on schools when over 90% of the student body receives free or reduced-priced lunch. The majority of Sherwoods st udent population during the summer was comprised of African Americans and Hispanics. D uring the time I spent at Sherwood, I only saw five white students. The racia l and ethnic composition of the student population during the summer program was si milar to the student population during the regular school year. According to the in formation provided on the school districts website, African Americans make up 58.96 % of Sherwoods population, Hispanics are the second largest group making up 28 .31%, whites make up 7.71%, and multi-racial and Asian students account for 5% of t he student population (Hillsborough County Public Schools). The observations and interviews for this study took place over the summer-school session held at Sherwood in 2008. Sherwoods summer program is for students held back a grade level or recognized by a teacher as in need of extra assistance in reading or math. The goal of the summer program was to help students obtain the educational skills
12 needed to succeed in the upcoming school year. Ther e were approximately 200 students in attendance over the summer, approximately 25 tea chers, and 1 administrator working for the program. The majority of the teachers were white and female whereas the majority of the teachers assistants were male and African American. I do not know if the racial/ethnic composition of the teachers at Sherwo od during the summer was representative of the teachers during the regular s chool year. In addition, the teachers and administrators I observed formed a self-selective g roup of teachers (not every regular schoolteacher chooses to work in the school during the summer); unfortunately, I do not have information on the reasons why they were worki ng during the summer, which may affect the data I collected for this study. In addi tion, teachers over the summer did not have the pressure of getting students prepared to t ake a standardized test; this may have influenced the type of atmosphere I observed. In ot her words, I may have witnessed a more relaxed atmosphere where teachers were able to give students one-on-one attention because they did not have the constraints of teachi ng to a standardized test. Setting Going to Sherwood I drove over the train tracks tha t borders the school and passed by a convenience store where I frequently sa w men and women who appeared to be homeless sitting outside and asking for change. Across the street from the school, there is a large apartment complex with many tatter ed blinds and broken windows. The complex advertises the ability to rent an apartment by the month; this is representative of the transiency of the neighborhood. Before I started my observations for the day, I sig ned-in at the front office. Sherwoods front office was decorated with mural of a bear (the schools mascot) painted
13 on the office wall. The desk and tables in the lobb y matched the mural with figurines of bears lined on them. When you walk in, a sign proud ly states that Sherwoods goal was to become one of the best schools in the nation. Leavi ng the front office and walking towards the cafeteria, one can appreciate math equa tions and vocabulary words posted on columns and doors. Inside the cafeteria, a bulletin board displayed artwork and essays written by students about African American history. Walking out of the cafeteria to the play area you will see a blacktop with two basketba ll hoops without nets. Beyond the blacktop there is a large open field that is mostly dirt and sand with a few patches of grass spread out. There was a limited number of classrooms available for usage over the summer due to some of the rooms not having any air-conditi oning. The majority of the classrooms I observed shared similar conditions. The doors wer e usually tattered with exposed pieces of wood where paint used to be and piles of dust an d candy wrappers lay in the corners of the rooms as if someone did not finish cleaning. I cannot be certain whether the classrooms appeared this way because Sherwood was i n transition from one school year to the next, or if this was the normal order of thi ngs. Participant Observation As a participant observer, I wanted to understand t he meanings associated with being a Title I student from the perspectives of te achers, administrators, and the students themselves. I paid particular attention to the int eractions that took place among students, students and teachers, and teachers amongst each ot her. I set out to examine the forms of social capital that were being mediated through thi s summer tutoring program at Sherwood Elementary by paying particular attention to teacher-student relationships.
14 The following questions guided my observations: How do teachers talk about and perceive Title I students? That is, what images of Title I students do they construct? What connections do teachers have to students? Do teache rs have set expectations and goals for these students? If so, what are they? How do teache rs talk about the students amongst themselves; is there a particular image of a Title I student that appears in conversations? I also focused on the ways teachers were instructed t o work with students and how those instructions were carried out. All this was useful to understand whether, and if so, how, the structure of the program constructs an image of a Title I student. For example, what types of administrative constraints were teachers u nder? Participant observation is the appropriate techniqu e to gather this data because it let me see the student-teacher environment. I obser ved a small group of teachers and administrators and their interactions with the stud ents in a well-defined social setting, the tutoring program. This type of social setting was i mportant to my study because it allowed me to form relationships with teachers and staff working at Sherwood during the summer program. I attended Sherwood three days a we ek for eight weeks. I spent the majority of my time with 11 teachers. Typically, th ere were three to four teachers assigned to a group of students. Sometimes these te achers worked in shifts and sometimes they were all present for the whole day. In accordance with their representation in the school, the majority of the t eachers I worked with were white and female and most of the teachers assistants male an d African American. The number of students per group was between 10 and 27, with the average group about 15 students. Students were grouped by the grade they were in the previous school year. The assistant
15 principal was present throughout the summer program and routinely stopped into classrooms to check on progress. All of the teachers and administrators were informe d that I was there to conduct research on Title I. My role in the tutoring progra m varied. Some days I was assigned to a classroom that needed extra help; sometimes I chose a group to observe and spend the entire day with them. Other days I would spend the mornings with one group and the afternoons with another. The students and teachers quickly knew me as Ms. J. Inside the classroom I took on any role the teacher asked me t o, from reading to students, conducting a lesson, passing out papers, to organiz ing classroom materials. This organizational setting allowed me to first est ablish and then maintain close relationships with teachers and students. By establ ishing a relationship and spending a significant amount of time at the site, I was able to build trust with the participants in the program. The trust that I built over time with teac hers increased the chances of them talking openly with me about sensitive issues conce rning Title I students ( Gray, Williamson, Karp and Dalphin 2007). The themes and topics that emerged from my observational data guided the construction of in-de pth interviews with teachers and administrators. InterviewsI conducted in-depth or conversational interviews w ith teachers and administrators who took part in this program. During the eight weeks I was at Sherwood, I conducted 11 formal interviews (see Table 1). Table 1 lists the interviewees and their roles at Sherwood Elementary. I conducted each of the interviews indi vidually during school hours. The fieldnotes I gathered during my observations at She rwood guided the interview questions.
16 Although each interview was slightly different from one another due to their conversational form, the following questions were c ommon to all: Do you think there is a meaning associated with being a Title I student? Wh at is your stance on students speaking Standard English? Do you have any stories or experiences you can share with me about your Title I students? Can you tell me abo ut your interactions with your students parents? Is there anything about Title I you think I should know or would want people to know? Though these were broad questions, they allowed teachers and administrators to tell me, in their own words, thei r stories and experiences working with Title I students. In addition, the questions gave r espondents the freedom to construct the identities of their students according to their int erpretation.
17 Table 1 Study Participants Participants Name Title Race/Ethnicity Highest Degree Mr. Donald Teachers Assistant African American Teaching Certificate Mr. Nome Teachers Assistant African American Teach ing Certificate Mr. Issac Teacher African American Bachelors Degree Ms. Jones Assistant Principal African American Ph.D Ms. Rodriguez Teachers Assistant Hispanic Teaching Certificate Ms. Leslie Teaches Gifted White Bachelors Degree Mr. Kast Physical Education White Bachelors Degree Ms. Vane Teacher White Bachelors Degree Ms. Fern No Child Left Behind Coordinator White Bachelors Degree Ms. Bates Teacher White Bachelors Degree Ms. Evan Teacher White Masters Degree Position of the Researcher The interpretations of observations presented in th is study reflect my understanding of the participants and the events I observed. Though I employed systematic inquiry to carry out my study, I must ac knowledge my racial and ethnic position as a researcher and the influence it may h ave had on the interpretations and interviews conducted. As a white female conducting research in a school that is lowincome, African American majority, I may have had h eightened awareness or promoted
18 stronger reactions to some events over others. For example, the majority of the students did not come to school with backpacks or pencils. S tudents not having this resource stood out to me because growing up I always got a new bac kpack and supplies for each school year as did other children in my school and communi ty. In addition, I sometimes walked away from interviews with the impression that white teachers felt more comfortable discussing Title I issues involving race and social class than did the African American teachers. Although I cannot be certain, it may be t hat some teachers felt they were protecting students from the researcher, in this ca se, a white privileged female. They may have believed that I did not have the knowledge of their life experiences outside of school, including their economic, social, and polit ical circumstances. In order to minimize effects of my presence, I made sure that my appearance, including my attire, was appropriate to the setting Towards this goal, I did not wear any jewelry, I wore only muted make-up, and my clothes were not recognizable name brands. Additionally, I attempted to gain the trust of the teachers by participating in some of tasks that may typically fall onto them. Specifically, on many occasions, I cleaned the cafeteria, organized bookshelves, and made myself a vailable to many other tasks that helped to ease the teachers workloads such as pass ing out papers and taking over lessons when the teacher needed to step out of the room. De spite that I consciously made efforts to become a part of their school, I recognize that I am still an outsider and that this may have influenced the data illustrated in this study.
19 Chapter Three Why Doesnt Anything Work? Resources in a Title I School I walked into Ms. Vanes 1st and 2nd grade classroom at 8:30am and scanned the room until I found her sitting in front of a comput er in the back. She looked very flustered and this was very unusual for her. Usually by the t ime I arrive the students are working on their morning math assignment. This morning some students were coloring, some reading, but not organized as usual. I asked Ms. Va ne what was going on and she replied, Nothing works! Why doesnt anything work? I asked her if I could help her in anyway and she replied, I stayed up late last nigh t putting together an assignment for today and I emailed it to myself so that I could pr int it out for the students. As usual nothing works. The copy machine is still broken so I cant print anything for the students. So now I have to copy it from my email and change t he assignment so that we can all do it without a copy for everyone. I even brought my o wn copy paper because I knew we wouldnt have enough (Fieldnotes: June 18th, 2008) The lack of resources at Sherwood Elementary was a reoccurring theme. Most of the data for this chapter comes from field observat ions and informal discussions over an eight-week period. Whereas the primary source of in formation for this thesis comes from personal interviews with teachers and administrator s in the school, the current chapter uses fieldnotes and sociological interpretations of what I witnessed. Below I analyze my observations of the Sherwood tutoring program and c onversations with school personnel. I examine these narratives for their potential cont ributions to cultural capital acquisition of Title I students. Cultural Capital and Educational Resources As stated by Madigan (2002), cultural capital is th e cultural practices or dispositions a person acquires often through disgui sed or hidden ways that realize profits
20 in the economic field primarily through ensuring ac ademic success (p.121). I examined the material resources students at Sherwood have ac cess to such as books and computers and the quality of those resources. In addition, I also illustrate some of the strategies Sherwoods administration employed to provide stude nts with non-material resources such as dominant-cultural experiences they may not experience to at home or in their community. This is important to my research because most of students who attend Sherwood enter the school system with less cultural capital than middle-class students. As I mentioned above, schools tend to organize them selves around middle-class norms and values and thus reward students who possess the cultural codes of dominant status groups (Lareau 1989; Madigan 2002). However, studen ts can acquire cultural capital from their school. For students who come from low-i ncome families and are more likely to live in areas that may make it harder to access and acquire cultural capital, their academic success may depend on the ability of scho ols to provide students with avenues to acquire valued capital (Driessen 2001). The foll owing data demonstrates the types of material and non-material resources students at She rwood have access to and how this impacts their ability to acquire cultural capital a t school. Can We Keep These Books? Lack of Learning Materia ls The lack of learning materials at Sherwood was very noticeable. I consistently witnessed the absence of the most basic needs to ru n a classroom on a day-to-day basis. Pencils were one example of this. The pencils that were supplied to the teachers, and in limited supply at that, were constantly breaking wh en pressure was applied to them. Because of this, students were always moving back a nd forth between their desks and the pencil sharpener. The constant movement caused a di straction in the classroom and
21 frustrated many of the students, especially first a nd second graders who had writing assignments twice a day. The constant usage of the pencil sharpener created noise disruptions. Teachers had different reactions to th is every day occurrence. Ms. Vane would adjust her voice to talk over the sharpener a nd would apologize to the students for the frustration. Ms. Evan would get frustrated with the constant asking to use the pencil sharpener and on some occasions would adamantly say the pencil sharpener is off limits! Her command left some students sitting at their desks, looking around appearing as if they were wondering how they were to get thei r assignment completed without an operational writing utensil. Research indicates that lack of resources in the c lassroom contributes to teacherstress and is associated with teacher burnout (ODo nnell, Lambert, and McCarthy 2008). According to ODonnell et al. (2008), low-income s chools tend to possess specific factors that lead to higher stress levels (p.153). Therefore, while the lack of quality pencils is important to both teachers and students, for teachers this is significant because they have to deal with the frustration of many stud ents. Teachers time and attention is focused on policing the sharpener or dealing with n oise distractions instead of the academic task the students are trying to complete. In situations like this one, it becomes important to examine the educational contexts withi n both students and teachers work. The question becomes, what demands and expectations are placed on teachers and what types of resources and tools do they have to meet t hose standards? The first and second grade classrooms that I observed did daily writing activities with the goal of improving the handwriting skills. Because pencils were consta ntly breaking, it appeared that the
22 focus of the lesson then became the frustrations ov er the pencils, and not improving writing skills. The students I observed at Sherwood did not come t o school with pencils, pens, or notebooks; nor did the majority come to school with backpacks. This means that the need for the school to supply these resources is intensi fied. Because the school could not meet some of those needs, teachers responded by individu ally purchasing resources for their classrooms. Two teachers told me that they spend ov er $500 per school year on supplies for their classroom, but that they can only write o ff up to $200 on their taxes. This is an example of teachers using their own resources to im prove the educational contexts in which they work. The first day of summer classes, I observed Ms. Evan telling her students about the money she personally put into he r classroom and the difference between her resources and the ones provided by the school: Look around the room. I spend my own money on all t he nice things in this room. The nice smelly soap you guys use, I bought a t Bath and Body Works; its really good soap. You only need one squ eeze to wash your hands. If I find out that people are using too much soap then I will stop buying it and I will let you use the nasty smelling soap that the school provides. Second, all of the board games in this ro om, I purchased with my own money. They are expensive, so lets keep them n ice. Same goes for the books, I bought all the books so lets make sure we keep them nice or we wont have access to them anymore. Though Ms. Evan was the only teacher that I heard explain to the students about the money that she put into her classroom, almost a ll of the teachers told me that they used a portion of their own funds to supplement cla ssroom materials. Some teachers attributed the lack of resources to the schools a lmost nonexistent Parent Teacher Association (PTA). As one teachers assistant expla ined, We dont have a lot of parents that participate in helping the kids to learn We h ave a PTA but its a low budget PTA
23 and we do what we can to fundraise and stuff in our area. Another teacher told me, We have a non-existent PTA. Well, if you count the tea chers who are a part of it, then I guess it does exist. This teacher is saying that the PTA at Sherwood only exists because of teacher participation. On a similar note, Ms. Evan describes how the lack of a PTA affects her on a day-to-day basis: Its nearly impossible in the course of a day betwe en planning and trying to make all of your copies and the stuff that we have to do at our school, they have PTA parents at the more wealthy schools in the same dis trict. It amazes me that there are kids whose parents do all their stuff for them and volunteer. We dont have that so I do everything myself in the classroom. In many ways teachers and administrators at Sherwoo d try to compensate for the resources parents cannot or do not provide to their children. The availability of these resources is critical in a Title I school like Sher wood, where the overwhelming majority of the student population comes from low socio-econ omic backgrounds. Students limited access to resources such as books and compu ters at home makes the resources at school even more imperative to students acquisitio n of cultural capital. However, students access to books beyond textbooks at Sherw ood appeared to be limited. In the classrooms I observed, other than the textbooks, th e teachers supplied from their personal funds the majority of the books. One example of thi s is Ms. Vanes classroom where she had a wide variety of books that were from her pers onal collection. Ms. Vanes class consisted of 1st and 2nd graders who were very enthusiastic about reading. Her students were allowed to read a book of their choice when th ey completed their assignments. These students were very anxious to get to the book s and Ms. Vane would have to remind the students repeatedly not to stock pile books in their desk or to read them unless they were working on a reading assignment. Students ent husiasm for reading was also
24 evident in Ms. Evans 4th and 5th grade classroom. Ms. Evan allowed students to chec k out books for one week as long as they promised to bring them back. The majority of the students took advantage of this policy. Ms. Evan to ld me that she thought it was important that the students finish reading a book t hey have started because most of the students do not have books at home. She felt it was important that her students be able to read books outside of class time. In other words, i n this setting, individual school personnel needed to intervene to enhance the lack o f resources that the school and home were not able to provide. This is an example of how teachers help students gain access to cultural capital when the students home and/or the students school cannot provide sufficient avenues for doing so. I Want My Own Computer! Lack of Technological Res ources Another area of concern at Sherwood was the access to technology. Each of the classrooms I observed had at least three computers and the school had a computer lab consisting of 27 computers. Whereas this appears as an optimistic picture of the technology both in the classroom and in the school, it was the quality of the computers, in most cases, that made them unusable to the students The only classroom that I witnessed which had functioning computers was Mr. Issacs. Hi s classroom had five functioning computers which were used as research tools for stu dents science projects. In Mr. Issacs classroom, students were required to get into group s of four, pick a planet of their choice, and use the internet to find out what that planet l ooked like and to find five facts about that planet. This scenario was not possible in the other classrooms I observed or in the computer lab. Of the 27 computers in the computer l ab, only 10 were in working condition.
25 The lack of functioning computers caused a stressf ul situation one morning as I accompanied Ms. Vanes class to the lab. Her class consisted of 25 students who had not had an opportunity to use the computer lab all summ er because the school reserved it for classes focused on reading exercises. When Ms. Vane s class arrived, it quickly became obvious that there were not enough working computer s for each of her students. Placing two or three students per computer was the only opt ion. This did not go over well with some of the students because they did not want to s hare computers. As one 1st grade girl said, I never get to play on a computer. I dont h ave one. I want my own! Access to technology and basic skills pertaining to computer use such as typing, navigating the internet, and familiarity with commonly used comput er programs such as Microsoft Word, are critical to apply to college and/or for c areer opportunities. These types of skills are examples of knowledge that students will be exp ected to have in order to attain success in school and work. The lack of exposure to these resources, both in terms of quality and quantity of the computers, was an imped iment to students acquisition of cultural capital at Sherwood. It was clear from my observations that the students expressed interests in acquiring the dominant cultural codes needed for su ccess, such as reading books and using computers. However, there were important limi tations in the extent to which the school could provide the environment and resources for students in order to activate this type of capital. According to Lareau and Weininger (2003), schools c an provide students with access to cultural capital by providing a learning environment with valued educational resources. Low-income students might not be famili ar with educational resources such as
26 computers, but through the school, students can acq uire the dominant status skills needed to succeed. Fostering an environment where students can become acquainted with valued forms of capital such as literature, music, languag e, and other dominant status skills exposes students to cultural codes that they may no t get at home or in their community. Therefore, students who attend Sherwood do not ente r the educational system possessing dominant forms of cultural capital and the schools limited ability to provide the quality resources needed to help compensate for a students family background further impedes a students ability to acquire cultural capital. How ever, as I explain below, Sherwood does attempt to compensate for their lack of material re sources by exposing students to other cultural experiences. What Is This Green Thing?: Exposing Students to C ultural Resources The administration at Sherwood was aware of the la ck of resources in the school and the need to compensate with other types of reso urces and experiences. For example, the assistant principal, Ms. Jones, explained that one of Sherwoods goals is to expose students to a variety of cultural experiences: Schools in higher socioeconomic districts have dail y exposure to cultural experiences that our students do not. We have to ta ke our students outside of the school and the neighborhood to experience these thi ngs or bring people into the school to expose students. We have to put effort in to this while other schools have it on a daily basis. Sherwood used different strategies in an attempt to provide students with different avenues for dominant cultural capital acquisition. At Sherwood, I observed two explicit strategies. One of the strategies Sherwood employed was to expo se students to different types of foods. Sherwood did this by bringing in a weekly nutrition program called
27 Healthy Choice. The goal of this program was to i nform students how to make healthy choices when making decisions on what types of food to eat. The program did this by passing out food pyramids, showing movies, and havi ng stretching and exercise demonstrations that students could do at home. The class lasted 30 minutes where the last 10 were dedicated to exposing students to a new hea lthy snack they might have never seen or tried before. On one of the days, the healt hy snack of the week was ants-on-alog. Ants-on-a-log consisted of a stick of celery with cream cheese topped with raisins. The snacks were on tables for the students to try, but most of the students were reluctant to taste them. The Healthy Choice instructors ask ed Mr. Kast and I to eat one so the students could see it was edible and would not be a fraid to try it. One student said, What is this green thing? It looks gross! Another stude nt said, I dont want to try it. A fourth grade student added, Where do you buy this stuff c alled cream cheese? Many students would take a bite of the food and then spit it out and throw their snack away in the trash. A few students did enjoy the snack. For example, on e student said, When my mom and I go shoppin I am gonna ask her to buy some of this stuff. The second strategy to build cultural capital thro ugh non-material resources I witnessed at Sherwood was when the Westbridge Middl e School Band came to put on a concert for the students. The band was predominantl y African American and in the zoning area where students at Sherwood would attend middle school. The band director spoke to all Sherwood students about joining the ba nd when they entered middle school. He said, This is a great way for you guys to stay busy over the summer and do something positive. The band played the national a nthem and a few hip-hop songs that were popular at the time. The students danced and s ang along to the music and, at the end
28 of the concert, the band director asked some of the band members to stand up and talk about their instrument and to play a short solo for the students. He then invited any 5th grade students who were going to be attending Westb ridge Middle School the following year to stay after and meet some of the band member s. The students at Sherwood received the band with enthusiasm. Many of the stud ents were familiar with some of the songs the band played and seemed to enjoy the time to sing and dance as they listened to the band. Having knowledge of dominant forms of mus ic and musical instruments is one way students can acquire cultural skills that may o pen up avenues of upward social and occupational mobility (Lareau and Weininger 2003). Conclusion This chapter highlights two different forms of cul tural capital: material and nonmaterial resources. The lack of school material res ources such as pencils and computers appeared as impediments to students acquisition of dominant cultural capital. This also appeared to be a source of stress for teachers. One strategy teachers employed to improve the resources available to them and their students was to purchase their own books, games, and other supplies needed in the classroom. These resources provided avenues for students to acquire cultural capital and improve th e educational context within which they are learning. Exposing students to dominant culture experiences are also examples of how Sherwood provides students with avenues for buildin g cultural capital. Introducing students to the Westbridge band before they enter m iddle school may begin the process of heightening students interests in this extracurric ular activity, which may in turn have potential to increase their cultural capital. Furth ermore, by being a member of the band
29 and obtaining the skills needed to play an instrume nt, students can potentially turn the cultural capital they acquired through this activit y into social profit by using their skills to get into college or by obtaining some type of recog nition (Lareau 1989). In addition, by exposing students to foods they may never have seen or tried before, Sherwood is giving students dominant culture experiences that allow th em to make healthier food choices, which is also exposing them to middle-class knowled ge and norms. According to Lareau (1989), just acquiring the cult ural codes needed for educational success does not provide an individual with a social advantage. An individual does not automatically receive benefits from simple exposure to cultural capital; rather an individual must effectively activate their cultural resources. Though the school had good intentions by providing exposure to dominant-cultur e experiences, teaching students how and why to use this knowledge and to draw on their experiences to their social advantage is perhaps just as important as exposing students t o resources. In other words, the school attempted to provide students with dominant culture resources, but this may have only a limited effect if the students do not learn why act ivating this form of cultural capital is important. This research does not allow me to speak of Sherwoods success in helping students to turn these experiences into social prof it. However, the fact that the administration at Sherwood made a conscious decisio n to bring in outside resources for their students shows that they understood the impor tance of exposure to dominant cultural codes.
30 Chapter Four What Did You Say? Language Negotiation in a Title I School Ms. Evans, a 30yearold white teacher, stands i n front of her class of both fourth and fifth grade students. She asks them indi vidually to go around the room and tell everyone what the Fourth of July stands for and wha t their plans are for the upcoming holiday. Ms. Stevens a young white teacher, sits on a desk to the side of the room and chimes in with Its ok if you dont know what it m eans but try your best. Mr. Kast a 30 year old white PE instructor, sits at Ms. Evans desk with his hands behind his head. The first student to speak is Mark, a 5th grade African American who is known by the teachers to come from a good home because his mom b others to pack him lunch everyday. Mark says, Fourth of July means independ ence. Me and my family are finna go to Church, den have food. Ms. Stevens replies, What did you say? Mr. Kast then speaks, Is that even English? Mark, not seemingly unphased by the remarks, perks up in his chair, bobs his head back and forth and repl ies in a higher pitched tone than before: My family and I are going to go to Church and then to have dinner. Mr. Kast replies, Why dont you just talk like that! (Fiel dnotes: June 23rd, 2008) Language Usage In this chapter, I examine the expectations teacher s and administrators have for students language usage and the impact these expec tations on students acquisition of cultural capital. As I began my observations, I not iced that teachers stances and attitudes toward students who did not speak Standard English varied depending on the teachers race and educational background. First, I define St andard English and at home language. Next, I classify teachers and administr ators expectations for language usage using three distinct categories: those who felt Sta ndard English was not important, those who felt students should only speak Standard Englis h, and those who felt that code switching was important for students success in sc hool and in the community. Then, I
31 examine teachers different expectations for Africa n American language usage as opposed to Spanish among students. I analyze these data within a cultural capital framework. Standard English and At-Home Language There were three main types of language usage at Sh erwood Elementary: Standard English, at-home language, and Spanish. First, Perry and Delpit (1998) define Standard English as the variety which forms the ba sis of printed English in newspapers and books, which is used in the mass media and whic h is taught in schools (p. 210). Standard English is what the majority of the teache rs (and especially white teachers and administrators), spoke at school, and subsequently would try to get their students to use. Second, teachers and administrators would often ref er to African American students language as at home language. In academic literat ure, at home language is commonly referred to as Ebonics, Black English, or African A merican Vernacular. African American students and a few African American male t eacher-assistants spoke this language. It is important to note here that African American students do not solely speak at home language. In the summer program, I observ ed five white students who spoke at home language, similarly to the African Americ an students. From what I witnessed, white students did not segregate themselves. Instea d, they were proactive about interacting with their African American and Hispani c peers. Third, there was a large population of Hispanic students at Sherwood, but fo r these students, the expectations of language use were markedly different from the expec tations for African American students. In this chapter, I examine what it means to teachers and administrators for their students to speak or not speak Standard English, as well as variations in expectations for
32 different groups of students. I demonstrate how spe aking a particular language is associated to cultural capital. First, I want to differentiate between Standard En glish and at home language. According to Rahman (2008), Standard English is mor e than just the most dominant and accepted form of speech. Standard English is speec h that does not contain stigmatized forms or features, noticeable characteristics of a region, lower social class, or ethnic group (Rahman 2008:145). Based on this perspective Standard English is perceived as accentless and historically thought of as the exclu sive domain of educated whites. Over time, members of different ethnic groups have becom e part of the middle-class and have come to use Standard English (Rahman 2008). Standar d English is the type of language white teachers and administrative staff used at She rwood Elementary. This concept is important to my study because it is the accepted fo rm of language at Sherwood even though it is not the language most commonly used by the students. For the purposes of my research, I will refer to th e language African American students spoke as at-home language. At-home lang uage is what the majority of the teachers use to explain what African American stude nts are speaking and in what contexts it should be spoken. Though I refer to the African American students language with this concept, there are several ways the liter ature names and defines at home language. According to Perry and Delpit (1998), Bl ack English is a dialect of English, spoken by descendants of enslaved Africans in the U nited States, which has its own grammar and rules of discourse (p. 228). Rahman (2 008), states that African American English (AAE) and African American Vernacular (AAV) are similar in that they are both defined as a nonstandard variety consisting of fea tures that occur in other nonstandard
33 varieties, as well as distinctive grammatical and p honological features (Rahman 2008:145). These definitions are all relevant to my research. Though I choose to not define what the African American students spoke by any one of these terms, my analysis is framed using the theoretical framework of Rahman (2008) and Perry and Delpit (1998). I will refer to what African American stude nts spoke as at home language because this best represents the perception of thei r language by the teachers at Sherwood Elementary. Speaking Out: Teachers Expectations of Language Us age In my interviews with teachers, teachers assistan ts, and an administrator, I asked them to tell me how they felt when students did not speak Standard English and what their stance was on correcting students. From this question I was able to gather a series of common terms used by teachers and an administrator that are associated with speaking or not speaking Standard English. For example: Table 2 Characteristics Associated with Standard English La nguage Usage Not Speaking Standard English is: Speaking Standard English is: Dumb Appropriate Gangs Correct Ghetto Educated Ignorant Expected Inner City Possibilities in Life McDonalds Professional Not Respected Proper Slang Respected These terms came up in interviews with five white teachers who had a Bachelors degree or a Masters degree, one African American a dministrator with a Doctoral degree, and two African American teachers assistants descr ibed above (see Table 1). Racial and educational differences were apparent when I analyz ed my observations and interviews:
34 white teachers consistently corrected students when ever they spoke a word or sentence that was not Standard English, whereas African Amer ican teachers did not. My observations also revealed that these teachers disc ussed their dislike for misspoken grammar in front of their students. I frequently he ard the white teachers respond to students at home language usage by saying, Was t hat even English? Why do you keep talking like that? Where do you learn that? or What did you say? These responses sent to students the same message the way you speak is incorrect and therefore, not acceptable. Interestingly, many of t hese students know how to speak Standard English. Students know that What did you say? is not a question because their teacher misunderstood them or did not hear them but a question that requires the student to repeat their previous statement in the standard form. Speaking Standard English in response to a teacher saying, What did you say? w as a code students could turn on. As I described earlier, Mark would sit up straight, bob his head, and have a higher pitched tone. Like Mark, most of the students turn ed on this code in response to teachers negative reactions to at-home language. This behavior raised the question: Were there variations in teachers expectations for their students language usage? Below I describe three different sets of expectations tha t I encountered at Sherwood Elementary. These differing expectations are possible reasons w hy students do not speak Standard English unless prompted to do so. I Dont Think It Matters: Teachers Who Do Not Exp ect Students to Speak Standard English Two African American male teachers assistants work ed very closely with African American male students. These teachers ass istants, very well known individuals
35 in the school and the community, spoke at-home lan guage. Mr. Donald, one of the assistants, is known as the grandfather of this s mall African American community; he not only grew up in the area, but still lives there Mr. Nome, also a teachers assistant, coaches football in the community, and he lives in the area as well. Unlike the teachers, these two men did not correct students when they di d not speak Standard English and expressed to me that they thought some teachers ov er-corrected students. Mr. Donald, explained, Some teachers correct too much, some al ways have somethin to say about somethin. The African American students, especial ly males, looked up to these two men, confided in them, and perceived them as succes sful. If these teachers can speak at home language and still be successful then maybe s tudents do not see the way they speak as incompatible with success and choose not t o speak Standard English unless it is required of them. Similarly, Mr. Nome did not hold the expectation that his students should speak Standard English. He believed it did n ot really matter: I dont think, I um, I dont have the best grammar. Being raised up talking that way it is hard to break. Saying things like um Ebonics, how would I say uh, get out of thurr or get hurr. Something different like that. I nstead of putting thangs in there, instead of saying it regular, we might say it diffe rent. I dont think it matters. Mr. Donald and Mr. Nome represent one perspective o f language usage at Sherwood. As I will discuss later, this perspective evinces an educational divide amongst teachers at Sherwood in regards to language usage. Other teachers felt that the only language that should be spoken was Standard English We Dont Want People Thinking They Are Dumb: Stan dard English Only White teachers at Sherwood held opposing views to M r. Nome and Mr. Donald. White teachers felt that Standard English is the on ly appropriate language and made sure to correct students whenever they did not speak Sta ndard English. For example, Mr. Kast,
36 a white teacher commented, They need to understand that in some settings there is a certain language that is appropriate and then there is an at home language. We dont even refer to it as an at home language, it is not appro priate here. Similarly, Ms. Evan, a white teacher, stated, I think that it is really importa nt that they speak Standard English so that people can understand them, that they annunciate th eir words correctly. If were speaking English, there is only one English language. Of cou rse there are a lot of dialects, but only one proper way to speak. To the white teachers there is only one acceptable way of speaking; which is not the language that the African American students bri ng from home. In my observations, I failed to hear any of the white teachers explain to the African American students why they were correcting their use of language. However in my interviews with teachers they explained to me the importance of Standard English for students future career opportunities. As Mr. Kast explained, When they go out in the real world and want to get a job, if they have a job interview, they are g oing to need to be able to speak Standard English. It appeared that African American student s did not know the importance of speaking Standard English or the type of impact it could have on them as far as their future academic and career opportunities are concer ned. Because the white teachers failed to communicate these ideas, the question can be ask ed: Are students learning to associate the way their white teachers want them to speak as Standard English or are they just associating it with white English? In other words do African American students realize that Standard English is necessary capital in the b usiness world, or do they think that Standard English is just the way white people spe ak?
37 This is also one example of how the types of cultu ral capital African American students bring to school is not valued, not just by the white teachers, but by the institution as a whole. I think the case can be made that Afric an American students are not being defiant when they do not speak Standard English, but they perhaps are resisting the dominant cultural codes their teachers and school a re trying to impose on them. If African American students do not know why it is imp ortant to learn Standard English, other than it being important for school assignment s, then why would they choose to speak that way over the way the way their family, p eers, and community members speak (i.e. people who are just like them)? Furthermore, by constantly correcting African American students when they speak at-home language in schools, institutions are discouraging expressions of personal and ethnic id entity (Rahman 2008:142). Therefore, African American students are not necess arily resisting educational standards of achievement, but rather enacting language codes that are valued in familiar settings outside of school. Also, just as talking black ca rries significant meaning both for group identity and an out-group perception, talking whit e also carries meaning. Ogbu (2004) states that minority students language is closely tied to cultural identity, therefore students who stray from this identity by speaking Standard English are more likely to be viewed by their peers as fake. According to Rahma n (2008) and Carter (2004), African Americans who talk white may be marginalized in the ir community, and this often takes away from a persons realness or is seen as sell ing out. Though the perspective of language usage by the white teachers seemed to be t he most outspoken, Ms. Jones, the African American assistant principal, recognized th e importance of acknowledging the benefits of at-home language and Standard English to African American students.
38 It Is Important To Code Switch: Acknowledging the Importance of At home Language In my interview with Ms. Jones, the African America n assistant principal, she expressed her views on students speaking Standard E nglish. Unlike the teachers assistants and the white teachers, Ms. Jones acknow ledged that at-home language and Standard English both hold value: I think it is important that we help kids understan d that there is a difference. Its ok we dont want to minimize the language they use at home or in the inner city because that is very important; thats part of surv iving in the community, being able to speak the language in the community but it is also part of surviving in the workplace to able to speak that language [Standard English] as well. Ms. Jones acknowledges that the at-home language some teachers show such distaste for is a very important tool for the commu nity and for group identity. At home language, in this sense becomes a form of black cultural capital. As Prudence Carter (2004) has pointed out, black cultural capital sig nifies in-group allegiance and preserves a sense of belonging (p. 47-48). Carter (2004) use s this term in reference to resources, codes, and symbols of low-income African American y outh. Students use clothes, language, and interests to identify with their raci al or ethnic group. According to Carter (2004), the style, tastes, and language of these st udents is a non-dominant form of capital in society, but in their community and social group s, it is essential. The cultural makers displayed by the African American students are not the dominant cultural makers associated with white middle-class values and are l ess valuable even though they serve a very real purpose and value to African American stu dents. As Ms. Jones had understood, African American students not only have to be able to fit in with their community but also maneuver their way through the educational sys tem that has different expectations
39 for them. What is interesting in this study is that the different expectations held by teachers served a purpose in facilitating the devel opment of students acquiring the ability to code switch. Code switching in this sense, is having the knowledge and the ability to speak at home language and Standard English an d knowing where and when it is appropriate to use each of these languages to maxim ize social profit. As I demonstrated previously, teachers had opposin g sets of expectations for African American students. Therefore, it is not sur prising that students holding two different standards of language use acquire the abi lity to code switch. Ms. Jones shares her experience with code switching: It is very difficult at times. I grew up in a very poor area and I used to speak and I still do at times, Ill speak the neighborhood ling o, but it was very difficult for me to switch over to board room type of grammar or the standard grammar when I started going into the business world. I had to mak e a conscious effort and at times I still do have to make a conscious effort because its so typical of me or so easy for me to speak slang or what it is you want to call it Even in my home life, my kids speak two languages; they speak Ebonics and they sp eak proper grammar or our standards as far as the business world is concerned For Ms. Jones, code switching is about using langu age as a tool. She does not suggest that African American students should dismi ss there at home language and solely speak Standard English. She recognizes that for African American students, there are two languages, and that each of these languages has its purpose and its value. For the African American students in this school that come from low-income background, Ms. Jones believes the ability to code switch is esse ntial to opening up career opportunities. These three perspectives on language usage highlig ht the different forms of cultural capital that take place at Sherwood Elemen tary. The more dominant cultural capital a student possessed (e.g. Standard English) the more likely a student was to get the label of a smart student (Carter 2004). In th e case of African American students and
40 teachers at Sherwood, there appeared to be disconne ction between the value teachers and students placed on different language codes. One wa y of possibly bridging the gap between white teachers and African American student s would be to open up communication concerning language between the two g roups. This way, students not only learn why Standard English is a valuable skill for them to have, but teachers may also have a better understanding of the importance of group identity for minorities and the value it holds in their community. Further, Afr ican American students role models at Sherwood (i.e. African American teachers) may need to take part in helping African American students obtain the dominant cultural code s needed to expand their opportunities and networks, especially those relate d to education and careers. If African American students had a set of consistent expectati ons that acknowledged the value of code switching, they may have a clearer idea of wha t types of languages are appropriate for school and what types of languages are appropri ate for home and in their community. Its Different for Them: Expectations for Spanish Speaking Students The expectations for Spanish speaking students to l earn Standard English were very different from those for African American stud ents. This was evident in three significant ways. First, some teachers thought that Spanish speaking students want to please their teachers more than African American st udents. Ms. Vane, a 25-year old white teacher, explained that Spanish-speaking stud ents want to learn the language and do things to please you. African Americans are more defiant in their actions. This perception was common amongst white teachers at She rwood. Second, teachers allow Spanish-speaking students to sit in small groups an d speak Spanish with one another. The teachers did not correct these students nor did the y tell them that what they were speaking
41 was at-home language. For example, in the 4th and 5th grade classroom, I observed four Spanish speaking girls sitting together and carryin g on conversations in Spanish while they did their work. Two of the girls appeared to b e very proficient in Spanish and Standard English, one of the girls could speak some English but predominantly spoke Spanish, and the fourth student spoke Spanish and E nglish very well but from time to time would ask her friend how to say a word or two in English. I never observed any of their teachers (this particular group had three tea chers, all white) tell them to stop speaking Spanish or correct them. However, I did wi tness a teacher ask one of the girls how to say The Fourth of July in Spanish. Third, teachers were overly conscious about not correcting Spanish-speaking students when they misspoke because they did not want to discourage them from speaking and learning a new language. For example, Ms. Rodriguez said, If you consistently correct them i ts going to instill the fear in them and then they will shut down and they wont want to spe ak at all. Similarly, Ms. Vane stated: If they [Spanish speaking students] think oh well Im doing it wrong, they're not going to ask to try and learn it the correct wa y they just wont speak. I feel that reiterating is the correct way, they'll hear it and then they'll try to practice it. Spanish speaking students also had an at home language an d a school language just as the African American students do. Both of these groups share commonalities such as: they both need to acquire Standard English for education al and career success purposes and they both also use language as a group identifier i n their community. So, why are the expectations so different for Spanish speaking stud ents and African American students? One difference is the concern for the student how the student would feel if he or she were corrected. This is different from the whit e teachers attitudes toward African
42 American students. Whereas it is important not to m inimize the difficulty of learning a new language and speaking it in front of peers, it is also necessary to highlight the different expectations and leniency teachers have c oncerning language use for Spanish speaking students as compared to African American s tudents. Second, two African American students speaking at-home language would be considered a disruption to the class. On the other hand, two students speaking Spa nish is seen as beneficial to the students and a way to make them feel comfortable in their environment. This is an example of the institution allowing some groups to display their cultural codes even if they are not the dominant ones, but not allowing ot hers to do so. While there is a language barrier present between speaking Spanish a nd speaking Standard English that is much different from speaking at-home language, bo th groups are learning a language and learning where it is appropriate to use. Perhap s, there is a difference in expectations because teachers do not see learning Standard Engli sh as a second language for African Americans. Another possibility is that teachers vie w Spanish as a real language in its own right whereas teachers perceive at home langua ge as slang or as the dialect of uneducated, underclass African Americans in the Uni ted States. Whatever the reasoning may be, the difference in interactions between teac hers and Spanish speaking students, and teachers and at-home language speaking studen ts could make one group of students feel more welcomed in the school than the other. Why Should We Expect Any Less Of Them?: Teaching Cultural Codes At Sherwood Elementary there was a language struggl e. This struggle was acted out between the white teachers and the African Amer ican students, but underneath, there was a racial and educational divide on this topic. School personnel with a BA degree or
43 higher (including the African American Assistant Pr incipal) felt that students should learn Standard English because it is imperative for future careers. As Mr. Kast, a white teacher explained, We dont want people thinking t heyre dumb. Didnt your teachers do that to you [teach Standard English]? Why should th ey be any different? Why should we expect anything less? This statement refers to the business worlds reliance on Standard English which serves as a justification for schools instilling this skill in students. During my observations, it was apparent that the white tea chers wanted to give this skill of speaking Standard English to African American stude nts, but from what I witnessed it was not clear to the students why it was important for them acquire this form of cultural capital. African American students were essentially mocked by their teachers for the way they spoke. For example, teachers asked students, Where do you learn that? In this way, they are indirectly judging and mocking their home life and not valuing other forms of cultural capital learned within the family. Teachers who felt that Standard English was the on ly appropriate language held Spanish-speaking students to a different set of sta ndards. Teachers did not correct Spanish students when they did not speak Standard E nglish out of concern for how the student would feel to get corrected. In addition, t eachers incorporated Spanish into the classroom by asking Spanish speaking students how t o translate a word or phrase in English into Spanish. This is an example of teacher s and the institution showing preference or validating one groups cultural codes over another. Furthermore, as Ms. Vane stated previously, white teachers seemed to vi ew Spanish speaking students as more willing to please and less defiant than Af rican American students. This perception of Spanish speaking students may also ha ve contributed to the difference in
44 language expectations in comparison to African Amer ican students because teachers already view Spanish speaking students as being mor e aligned with dominant cultural norms. Insofar as Sherwood Elementary is a Title I school, there are no students from a middle-to-high income background for the Sherwood s tudents to interact with and gain access to more valued forms of capital. Teachers an d administrators do have a responsibility to instill experiences that students can pull out of their tool kit to help them succeed in the working world but, in the process, t hey appear to diminish African American students cultural codes in comparison to Spanish speaking students. As teachers in this study have pointed out, learning S tandard English is important for students to advance in school and for career opport unities. It appears that white teachers insistence on African American students speaking St andard English is one avenue that teachers are trying to pass on to their students th e dominant cultural codes needed for success. However, teachers at Sherwood did not seem to appreciate the value of at-home language for African American students as clearly as they did see the importance speaking Spanish and Standard English had for Hispa nic students. Lareau and Weininger (2003) state that as a result of a familys location in the stratification system, students and their parents e nter the educational system with dispositional skills and knowledge that differentia lly facilitate or impede their ability to conform to institutionalized expectations (p.23). Though students at Sherwood may not enter the educational system with knowledge of domi nant cultural codes, they are able to acquire those skills at school. Most African Americ an students at Sherwood seem to know how to speak Standard English but it appeared that teachers were not explaining to
45 the students why this skill was valuable and how it could be used to their benefit. In other words, students were not learning why to activate t his form of cultural capital they were acquiring in the school. For Spanish speaking stude nts, the teachers gave them the opportunity to acquire Standard English without con sistently confronting them they speak Spanish. Due to this, Spanish speaking students may feel more welcomed at Sherwood because their cultural codes are seen to have highe r value whereas African American students are constantly getting corrected by their teachers and not having their cultural codes legitimated in the school setting. This perce ption of Spanish being a more valuable language in comparison to at-home language is rep resentative of larger societal standards that being bilingual is an asset in the b usiness world where as at-home language is a hindrance to achieving occupational success. These different expectations may limit African American students opportunities to acquire a dominant form of cultural capital while enhancing Spanish Speaking s tudents opportunities.
46 Chapter Five Somebody Needs to Teach These Kids Some Manners Teachers Perceptions of Students Home Environment Public policy, news media, and educational research often highlight the strong emphasis of standardized testing to which teachers have to adhere. The pressure on teachers to have their students perform at an acade mic level that will enable them to pass state and national tests is, at times, a looming an d large obstacle to meet set standards. Though there is much emphasis on the numerical outc omes of the standardized testing, for teachers the educational context in which they have to accomplish such tasks is imperative to reaching set goals. Over the years, r esearch has indicated that urban schools face particular challenges meeting set standards du e to persisting social problems of poverty, unequal resources, and issues surrounding students home environment circumstances. It is within this type of educationa l context that I analyze the stories and experiences of teachers and administrators at Sherw ood Elementary. I evaluate the stories and experiences teachers and administrators shared with me through conversation and interviews to answer one of my primary research que stions: Do the perceptions teachers and administrators have of Title I students have an impact on teacher-student relationships? I examine the obstacles teachers fac e and the strategies they employ in building positive teacher-student relationships. I analyze the complexities of those obstacles and strategies through the lens of social capital. Coleman (1987) describes social capital in the co ntext of children and schools as the norms, the social networks, and the relationsh ips between adults and children that
47 are of value for the child's growing up (p. 35). S ocial capital is considered to be of significant importance to students academic succes s in schools. According to Portes (1998) social capital exists within the structure o f relationships and to possess social capital, a person must be related to others, and it is those others, not himself, who are the actual source of his or her advantage (p. 7). It i s within social relationships that information, norms, and obligations are transmitted (Portes 1998; Goddard 2003; Dufur, Parcel, and McKune 2008). This is important to my study because by teachers building positive relationships with students, students can acquire the social capital they may or may not bring from home. It is within this framewor k that I examine below the obstacles teachers face and the strategies they employ to bui lding positive teacher-student relationships. Perceptions of Students Home Environment Jennifer DiBaras (2007) research on the struggles of urban high school teachers, explores the tensions and negotiations teachers dea l with when working with students with diverse needs. DiBara found that teachers felt forced to deal with the very real needs students bring to the classroom despite the fact that many teachers felt constrained by their position as a teacher and even lacked the competence to deal with certain issues. Likewise, teachers at Sherwood spoke of the difficu lt stories and experiences of their students: You wouldnt believe some of the stuff [elementary] students come in and tell me but its true. I had one student bring his whole su itcase to school and I was like OK man what are you doing with this? He said that he w as leaving home and I asked why? He said, If I dont leave home Im gonna get killed. I have kids come tell me that they havent eaten in two to three days and Im like thats a hard thing to swallow. Ms. Rodriguez shared a similar story:
48 Weve had students who are a family of 9, both pare nts work and they have come down to one bedroom. They are still surviving, thin gs have happened over the past, economic hardships or whatever, but were still her e struggling and trying to get ahead and thats what motivates us even more to hel p. Ms. Rodriguezs comment on how the circumstances st udents at Sherwood face are seen by teachers as motivators to help their students wa s also echoed throughout DiBaras (2007) study. DiBara states that, for the most part teachers felt that students nonacademic needs were also a teachers responsibility (DiBara 2007). One teacher in DiBaras study commented that from her experience, students had trouble fully engaging in a lesson if there were outside distractions (DiB ara 2007). These outside distractions were also of central concern to teachers at Sherwoo d. The majority of teachers and administrators felt that the home situations studen ts came from had an impact on their classroom performance. Students coming from impover ished backgrounds, single-parent households, and parents limited education who are not able to assist with homework, and parents who work two jobs and not at home after sch ool were all outside distractions teachers spoke of. For example: There are definitely distinctive stories that are v ery bad. Parents that arent home or parents that dont want their children so they live with grandmas, grandpas, and aunts, uncles, neighbors, friends, foster care. Som e are mentally abused, some physically; some arent abused at all and come from a great home but their parents have than a high school education and are just tryi ng to make ends meet. Similarly Ms. Vane Stated: A lot of parents are young. Because they are young a lot of them are separated so its a lot of single parents and its not necessaril y single mothers, I mean there are single fathers out there too raising children but, I found that its rare to have a two parents home and most of the time its a single mot her. The dad has either left during pregnancy or when the child was an infant or they are locked away somewhere. These illustrations are examples of how teache rs in general perceived Sherwood students home life. From interviews, casual conver sations, and fieldnotes, the teachers at
49 Sherwood construct a clear picture of the typical home environment. These students come from broken homes, from uneducated parents, an d live in dangerous conditions. Economic hardships are another characteristic that is associated with students home environments. The following data illustrates how th e these perceptions present obstacles to building teacher-student relationships and revea ls the different strategies teachers employ to fulfill students perceived needs. Obstacles and Strategies to Building Positive Teach er-Student Relationships One obstacle teachers faced to building positive te acher-student relationships was administrative constraints placed on teachers to av oid getting too involved with their students. Teachers told me that the administration advised them against taking too great of an interest in their students because the area i n which the school is located is a transient one. For example, Mr. Issac expressed his frustration with the fluctuating student population: School starts in August but sometimes I have studen ts just coming in December. I have kids that I put a lot of time and effort into and then they just disappear. I have no idea where they go, they just leave. The Adminis tration tells us not to get too involved with our students, not to take too much in terest because it takes its toll on you when that student leaves. I used to make an eff ort to go to students football games or events outside of school but I dont do it as much anymore because its frustrating when they just leave. I used to go to m eet parents and see them outside of school, make a positive connection but I dont d o it as much. This type of frustration also appears in DiBar as (2007) study in which teachers commented that they sometimes used their own money to provide students with learning materials and then were disappointed when that stud ent left the school or lost the materials. It seems that Sherwoods teachers want t heir students to see them as more than teachers, rather as people interested in them both in and outside of school. DiBara states that it is through personal relationships with stud ents that teachers hope to have students
50 see them beyond an academic role and gain students confidence and respect, and engage them in learning (DiBara 2007: 17). From th is perspective, teachers use their personal relationships with students as an instruct ional tool (DiBara 2007). Mr. Stone, a teachers assistant at Sherwood, expressed his stru ggle with taking an interest in students and doing what the school administration advised: I coach football in the area because it is a way t o interact with the kids and get them into something positive. It is also a way for me to interact with their parents on a positive level. We are advised against taking too much of an interest in students because they move so frequentl y to do jobs and money and what have you. Its hard but its also hard not to take an interest. Mr. Stone and Mr. Issac highlight just one of t he complexities teachers at Sherwood face. Through interactions with students and parent s, teachers hear and witness some of the struggles their students endure and as well as the teachers desire to engage with these students and their parents in order to build positi ve relationships. This view often conflicts with the administrations perspective, whi ch projects that teachers who take a great deal of interest in their students will becom e burned out. As teachers and administrators described it, it takes its toll. T he administrators want their teachers to avoid the disappointment and frustration that inves ting oneself can bring. It appears that the family disorganization these students come from combined with administrative mandates to not to get too involved lessens the c hances for positive student-teacher relationships. Whether a teacher has made a personal choice not to get too invested in a student or has taken the advice of the school administratio n, these constraints placed on teacherstudent relationships can result in students not ha ving the opportunity to acquire social capital. Dufur et al. (2008) state that the inform ation, obligation, and norms that are
51 transmitted through social ties [can become] resour ces that help children learn about and internalize appropriate behavior (Dufur et al. 200 8: 147). In addition, the stronger the students ties are to the school and teachers, the m ore commitment a student will have to normative behaviors and the greater likelihood of p ositive returns on the social capital acquired (Dufur et al. 2008). These authors also examined the effects of family a nd school social capital has on social adjustment and found that social capital acq uired through the family is a stronger predictor of school adjustment than social capital transmitted through school. However, for low-achieving students social capital acquired at school can have positive outcomes such as a lessened chance of delinquency and greate r sense of school belonging (Dufur et al. 2008). Students who attend Sherwood may or may not have strong ties to their family due to single-parent households, economic struggles foster care and other home environment circumstances, but they do have the pot ential to acquire social capital from their teachers. However, the degree to which they c an build positive relationships with their teachers is limited by teachers perceptions of their students home environment and administrational constraints placed on teachers. If like Dufur et al. (2008) suggest, acquiring social capital through school can reduce delinquency issues and increase a students sense of school belonging then the advice by the administration to not take too great of an interest in students might be contribut ing to existing behavioral problems Sherwood faces. Though there appears to be a tension between teach ers wanting to get involved with their students and administrations advice not to, one of the strategies teachers employ to develop positive student-teacher and pare nt-teacher relationships is by making
52 positive-phone calls home. Positive-phone calls home means that teachers called students homes to tell their parents about their c hilds good behavior. Teachers and administrators speculated that one of the main reas ons Sherwood had trouble getting parents involved in school was because parents them selves had bad experiences in school when they were younger. Teachers and administrators at Sherwood thought that because of those bad experiences, teachers at Sherwood shou ld employ certain strategies to gain a positive relationship with students parents. Ms. W hite, the assistant principal, stated, We train our teachers to start off by saying somet hing positive to the parents in a conference and then the parents will stay with you. Teachers at Sherwood told me that they often would call students homes to tell paren ts how good their child was being. Teachers stated that if parents did not think that every phone call home was going to be negative one, then parents were more likely to inte ract with them. For example, Ms. Vane illustrates how she employs this strategy: I make positive phone calls home. Instead of callin g and saying, Ok we need to fix this. I call and say, He has really been changing his behavior in a positive manner and I really like. I just wanted to let you know he is doing a great job! In my experience positive phone calls home help and then parents do not come in stomping asking what he or she did. Likewise, Ms. Evan stated: I make positive phone calls home because it gets th e relationship on a positive level. One year I would text one of my students pa rents and give them regular updates. I have a pretty high rate of parents comin g in and having conferences. Here, Ms. Vane and Ms. Evan illustrate how using th is strategy of making positive phone calls home helps them build positive relationships with their students parents. Both these teachers comment on how making positive phone calls has helped their students parents be more willing to become involved in school such a s coming to parent-teacher
53 conferences. Not only does the administration at Sh erwood instruct and encourage teachers to do this, teachers also saw positive ret urns from employing this strategy. Character Building: Meeting Emotional and Behavioral Needs Another obstacle teachers faced was taking time awa y from teaching to work with students on character building. All the teachers in this study commented that the students home life had an effect on the classroom atmosphere and character building was an important facet of classroom instruction. Te achers and administrators referred to character building as teaching students proper mann ers and what behavior is appropriate in different situations. This was a task many teach ers at Sherwood deemed as fundamental to their job as teaching math and scien ce. For example Ms. Vane, a 1st grade teacher, expressed her thoughts on character buildi ng: Its definitely more character building in Title I because they push and shove because that is all they know. Instinctively, they feel the need to do that. One of the reasons I think Title I students are lower is becau se a lot of the instruction time is teaching character, manners, and behavior whereas i f you had a class where the parents werent always off and away from the homes, they would learn that stuff at home. It literally takes time away from what we are originally here to do. What Ms. Vane described here is that teaching stude nts the dominant codes or attitudes and behaviors necessary to succeed. Many of the tea chers at Sherwood experienced frustration by having to teach cultural codes, whic h they believed should be taught at home and students should come to school with. So, w hile teachers might be providing an avenue for students to acquire cultural capital by teaching them dominant codes and behaviors, this frustration may have been an impedi ment to strengthening social ties and the building of social capital because this seemed to take away from teachers instruction time, a concerned expressed by Ms. Vane.
54 In addition to teaching cultural codes, teachers at Sherwood also have to deal with the emotional needs students brought to the classro om. This presented another obstacle to building teacher-student relationships. Some teache rs felt that the lack of attention students received at home made students crave atten tion at school. Teachers stated that they felt Title I students, especially boys, were m ore affectionate than usual. As one first grade teacher stated, The boys are always coming u p and asking for hugs. They need the assurance and attention that they are in a safe pla ce. On a similar note a 5th grade teachers assistant stated, I dont even know half the kids that come up and give me a hug but they know me. They come up and say, I just wanted a hug. These kids just want to know someone cares. I frequently witnessed teac hers giving students hugs throughout the day. However, my observations do not allow me t o assess whether students who received this type of emotional support displayed b etter behavior in the classroom. In any case, providing this type of emotional support appe ars to be another avenue for teachers to build a positive relationship with their student s. Some teachers attributed students bad behavior and trouble completing assignments to students demanding extra instruction time where they could work one-onone with a teacher and, thus, have extra attention. When teachers felt that students were acting out in order to receive this attention, th ey often felt frustrated because it was a demand difficult to ignore. Often, teachers recogni zed behavioral patterns, specifically in situations where a few students acting out turned t he whole classroom into an unmanageable disruption. In such cases, teachers fe lt that if they gave the initial students who were disrupting the class the attention they so ught, it would prevent the situation from escalating into a class-wide event. This inter action was something teachers felt they
55 had to do and not something they wanted to do. It m ay be that this tension prevented teachers from building positive teacher-student rel ationships. Like teachers at Sherwood, teachers in DiBaras stu dy also felt that working with students of diverse needs made it challenging to s ee where their responsibilities end (DiBara 2007: 15). Similarly, Sherwood teachers sta ted that their responsibilities were broadened by having to deal with emotional and beha vioral needs while also being expected to do their instructional job. It appeared that Sherwood teachers first priority was to fulfill the students emotional and behavior al needs, and deal with academic concerns second. Noddings (2005) refers to these ty pes of emotional and behavioral issues as over-whelming needs (Noddings 2005: 151 ). She also states that, [a]ll kinds of real, pressing needs overwhelm the academic ones we so easily infer for schoolchildren. Homelessness, poverty, toothaches, faulty vision, violence, fear of rebuke or mockery, sick or missing parents, and feelings o f worthlessness all get in the way of the learning deemed important by school people (No ddings 2005: 151). According to this author, it is unrealistic and inappropriate to address educational needs when basic biological and social needs have not been met (Nodd ings 2005:154). The complexities teachers faced in meeting students emotional and be havioral needs was very apparent in the classroom situations I witnessed. In the remain der of this section, I illustrate a few scenarios I observed at Sherwood that give a genera l overview to the complexities teachers face and the strategies teachers employ to build positive teacher-student relationships. During my time at Sherwood I was witness to many be havioral and emotional issues teachers at Sherwood faced. I observed the c omplexity of dealing with students
56 with diverse needs while managing a classroom. The se teachers also had to control their own emotions and frustrations when confronted with students emotional or behavioral needs. For example, Ms. Vanes taught a 1st and 2nd grade combined class. Charles was in her class, a student who was supposed to be in 3rd grade but was held back. Charles presented many of the issues previously described. He would frequently walk into class 20 minutes late without a worry on his face. Charle s did not seem like a 3rd grader but a 16-year old boy on the brink of manhood with saggin g pants and his collar turned up. Charles did not get excited over writing on the whi te board or having stories read to him like his classmates. Rather, he spent most of his d ay with his head down at his table, causing trouble with the students seated around him or on most occasions saying fuck loudly when Ms. Vane was teaching. Charles was also very reluctant to complete assignments. However, Ms. Vane and I quickly realiz ed that if you sat with Charles and worked with him, he was capable of doing the assign ment. Ms. Vane often struggled with making decisions on how to handle Charles behavior It appeared that Ms. Vane showed compassion for Charles and saw him as a student who did not get the emotional support he needed at home but, could not let him continue t o distract the class. One day Charles refused to walk in line with the rest of his classm ates and after many warnings and a week of Charles resisting Ms. Vanes instructions, she sent him to the office to have his parents called and asked me to walk him there. Char les cried the whole way and begged to be brought back to class. This situation highlights the complexities teacher s at Sherwood face between feeling empathy towards their students and dealing with discipline problems while
57 managing a classroom. It appeared that teachers str uggled to address behavior issues, especially among students whose personal story they knew. Another example of this type of situation occurred between Mr. Kast and Keith, a kindergarten student. Keith would not follow directions during a P.E. session so Mr. Kast instructed him to sit in the corner. When Keith did not follow this direction, Mr. Kast told him he was going to tell his mother about the situation at the end of the day. K eith responded, I dont have a mother; Mr. Kast replied, Well then I am going to tell your father. Keith responded by saying he did not have a dad nor a grandma or grand pa and when Mr. Kast finally asked Well then who do you live with? Keith responded b y saying, My foster mom. This conversation played out in front of the entire room consisting of two teachers and a classroom of 4th graders. Mr. Kast decided to let Keith play the ga me with the other students and to not take the punishment further. Teachers perceptions of students home life and of the students themselves as emotionally deprived individuals, impacts how they deal with classroom issues. Early in my research at Sherwood, Ms. Bates, a retired teach er who was helping out for the summer session, pulled me aside and instructed me t o look around the room. She then proceeded, Every child in this room is a survivor. They are survivors of their environment. Every child has a story. They need saf ety and predictability, two things they dont get at home. Though most teachers would agre e with Ms. Bates statement, the way she structured her classroom was very different from all the other classrooms I observed. I spent three days observing Ms. Bates c lassroom and assisting her with reading activities. Unlike the other classrooms I o bserved, Ms. Bates students were not
58 allowed to talk unless spoken to and were called by numbers instead of their names. Teachers did not allow boys and girls sit next to e ach other or play together at recess. One afternoon I was helping students play animal vo wel bingo and I asked them to make the sounds of the animals that I called. I called lion and the students roared and laughed as they made their hands into lion paws and pretended to claw. Ms. Bates did not like this at all and stood up from her desk and tol d me very loudly and sternly that the students under no circumstances were allowed to tal k, laugh, or anything else. They were to do their vowels and if I could not keep them qui et while they did it, I could leave. Embarrassed and a little confused I hushed the chil dren and continued with the lesson. Ms. Bates explained to me that she ran her classroo m based on what she thought her students needed: discipline and predictability. Ms. Bates acknowledged that her students come from tough home environments and she felt her classroom environment would best suit their needs. Providing a classroom environment of discipline and order was a strategy Ms. Bates employed. Though Ms. Bates strategy was different than Ms. Vanes, who took more time to sit one-on-one with students and fostered a classroom environment where students could talk quietly and move around t he room freely to choose books when assignments were completed, it was what Ms. Bates f elt was needed to fulfill her students needs. Ms. Bates, Ms. Vane, and Mr. Kast are all examples of how teachers develop strategies to work with the obstacles they face. Though all three of these teachers had similar perceptions of their students needs, t he way they sought to fulfill those needs were different. It appeared that the environment Ms Bates created in her classroom did not foster an atmosphere for building positive teac her-student relationships as did Ms.
59 Vane and Mr. Kast who gave their students a certain amount of autonomy in the classroom and more one-on-one attention. Conclusion It seems that the perceptions teachers had of stud ents: as emotionally needy individuals, from unstructured home environments, a nd economically deprived, had a direct effect on the way they deal with classroom i ssues and broadens their responsibilities as teachers. These perceptions inf luence the types of student-teacher relationships at Sherwood and in turn influenced st udents opportunity to build social capital at school. If students do not build the soc ial ties at home needed to adjust to school and internalize proper behavior, then the ne ed for them to acquire this type of capital at school becomes even more imperative. The home environment students come from, their nee d for emotional support, and the need for character-building are all obstacles t eachers at Sherwood are faced with. The strategies they employ to fulfill the students need s are based on the perceptions teachers have of students home environment. As illustrated earlier, many teachers felt conflicted between getting to know their students in and outsi de of school and using their role as a teacher as an instructional tool and listening to a dministrative warnings about becoming burned-out. Making positive phone calls home, giv ing hugs and emotional support, teaching students cultural codes, and working one-o n-one with students are all strategies teachers at Sherwood used to deal with these obstac les. The strategies not only seemed to help teachers deal with the obstacles they faced bu t were also ways teachers work around administrative constraints and build positive relat ionships with their students that in return provided avenues for students to acquire soc ial capital.
60 Chapter Six Conclusion The data presented in this study highlight obstacle s and strategies encountered at Sherwood Elementary to students acquisition of cul tural and social capital. Through participant observations and in-depth interviews, t his study sought to answer several questions: Do the resources available to students a ide the acquisition of cultural capital? What expectations do teachers have for students la nguage usage and do these expectations impact acquisition of cultural capital ? How do teachers talk about and perceive Title I students? Does this image affect a students ability to build positive teacher relationships? Does this perception have an impact on students opportunities to build social capital at school? I examined these qu estions through the lens of social and cultural capital. Chapter three highlighted the lack of resources She rwood had in regards to learning materials such as pencils, books and techn ological resources such as computers. A lack of these material resources seemed to impede students ability to acquire cultural capital. Teachers responded to the lack of material resources by using their personal funds to purchase pencils, books, and other materia ls needed to run a classroom on a dayto-day basis. This is one example where teachers at Sherwood took it upon themselves to improve the educational context within which they w ork. Teachers at Sherwood recognized the importance of learning materials bey ond textbooks, such as chapter books and short stories, for students academic achieveme nt. To help students acquire this type
61 of knowledge, teachers allowed students to checkout books to take home with them. This is one avenue for students acquisition of cultural capital at school. Lareau and Weininger (2003) state that learning environments with valued educational resources provide students with access to obtain cultural capital. Th erefore, teachers were not only improving the educational context they are working within, they are also providing their students ways to acquire dominant cultural codes th at are necessary for success in the educational system. Though the school lacked some l earning materials, Sherwoods administration did make a conscious effort to expos e students to cultural experiences they did not get at home or in the community. As Ms. Jones, the assistant principal, stated, Sch ools in higher socioeconomic districts have daily exposure to cultural experienc es that our students do not. During my observation time at Sherwood, I witnessed two progr ams that were brought into the school for this purpose, a healthy eating program, and the Westbridge Middle School Band. The goal of the health-eating program was to educate students on how to make healthier food choices and to expose them to health y snacks they may never have tried before. The Westbridge Middle School Band played a concert at Sherwood to introduce students to an extracurricular activity that they c ould participate in upon entering middle school. Both of the programs exposed students to a form of cultural capital. The healthy eating program provided an avenue for students to b e exposed to middle-class nutritional habits and norms, whereas the band introduced stude nts to an activity that may allow them to acquire a skill with others may view as pos itive and beneficial. In addition, some studies state that minorities and low-income studen ts have a harder time passing standardized tests because they do not have the cul tural experiences needed to fully
62 understand the questions (Oakes 1985; Meier and Woo d 2004; Kozol 2005). Perhaps, Sherwoods strategy of exposing students to dominan t cultural experiences will have a positive impact on their ability to relate to the i nformation they are taught in school for standardized tests. Though I cannot say if Sherwood was successful in teaching students how to activate the cultural capital to which they were exposed, is important to highlight the acknowledgement and effort Sherwoods administr ation put into exposing students to dominant cultural experiences. School resources were not the only avenues for stud ents to acquire cultural capital at Sherwood. In Chapter four, I discussed teachers expectations for language usage and how those expectations differed among groups of stu dents, but also impacted students acquisition of cultural capital. This study found t hat many African American students know how to speak Standard English, but it appeared that they did not know why it was important to activate this form of capital to their social benefit. Secondly, it seemed that teachers held Spanish-speaking students to a differ ent set of expectations. Teachers allowed Spanish-speaking students to speak Spanish in class and, at times, teachers incorporated Spanish into the lesson. In contrast, African American students were constantly corrected when they did not speak Standa rd English by their white teachers whereas their African American teachers did not fee l acquiring Standard English was as important and did not correct students. Due to the difference in expectations, it was not s urprising that African American students developed the ability to code switch. It a ppeared that African American students did not know why or when use their acquisition of S tandard English as a form of cultural capital, but rather used it only when prompted to b y their white teachers. Literature on
63 cultural capital states that acquisition of dominan t language codes is important for students success. Minority students who speak Stan dard English are more likely to be viewed as a smart and good student (Carter 2004 ). Teachers perceptions and expectations of students influence a students acad emic achievement (Finely 1984; Oakes 1985; Stein 2001). Therefore, if Title I students a re able to acquire Standard English and the knowledge of how to use it to their benefit, te achers may be more likely to have higher expectations for them and may be more likely to engage in a positive teacherstudent relationship. This may affect their ability to acquire social capital, as I discussed in chapter five. In chapter five, I explored the perceptions and att itudes teachers have towards Title I students and how those influence students ability to build positive teacher-student relationships. Analyses of my interviews and observ ational data revealed an image of what it meant to be a Title I student to teachers a nd administrators. It seemed that teachers perceptions of students as emotionally de prived children who live in dangerous conditions and whose families face economic struggl es did not always hinder a students ability to build positive teacher-student relations hips and acquire social capital. Though some studies have found that the label of Title I h as negative consequences (Stein 2001; Meier and Wood 2004), this study found that teacher s employed various strategies to fulfill students perceived needs that helped teach ers and students build positive relationships. These strategies included giving hug s to students, spending one-on-one time with students, making positive phone calls hom e, and taking an interest in students activities outside of the school.
64 However, teachers did face obstacles to building re lationships with their students. Administrators at Sherwood advised teachers against taking too great of an interest in students because students frequently moved. Adminis trators did not want teachers to get burnt out or discouraged after they put effort an d time into a student and then that student moved away. It seemed that teachers percep tions of students stemmed from experiences teachers and administrators had encount ered with students families. Whereas some studies state that the lack of parenta l involvement in school by workingclass families may negatively influences students i n the classroom (Lareau 1989; Lee and Bowen 2006), this study found that the teachers who knew about students home circumstances made a conscious effort to try to ful fill students emotional and behavioral needs. One example includes teachers attempting to work wi th students behavioral issues instead of automatically sending them to the office or calling their parents. As illustrated in chapter three in the situations with Charles and Keith, their teachers felt bad for them because they believed that these students did not get the emotional attention they needed at home which caused them to act out in sc hool. This study is not suggesting that the label Title I placed on students is positi ve or helps students achieve academic success. However, the findings in this study sugges t that the knowledge of students home circumstances does not always hinder students ability to acquire social capital at school, but at times may help to build positive tea cher-student relationships, as teachers try to fulfill students perceived needs. This study contributes to literature on social and cultural capital in school especially among young children ages 6-11 years old By analyzing how social and
65 cultural capital are mediated through a Title I pro gram, this study was able to highlight the ways in which low-income minority students are able to acquire social and cultural capital through the educational system. Further res earch is needed to explore how the amount of time teachers spend dealing with emotiona l and behavioral issues take away from teaching academic lessons and how this impacts Title I students academic achievement. If teachers have to spend a significan t portion of their day giving one-onone attention to their students in order to prevent bigger classroom disruptions, how does this impediment to academic lessons impact students abilities to acquire the necessary information to succeed on standardized tests? Also, does the exposure to cultural resources impact students ability to perform bette r on standardized tests because they are better equipped to relate to the information presen ted on tests? It may be that Title I students who are exposed to dominant-culture experi ences may perform better on standardized tests because they are more familiar w ith the dominant knowledge and codes that standardized tests are based upon. Furth ermore, what types of strategies can schools employ to take some of the emotional respon sibilities off of teachers so that they can focus on academic concerns? One possible method for helping to relieve teachers of this responsibility may be to increase the number o f school counselors and teachers assistants. In addition, it seems that it is import ant to study if and how Title I students learn to activate the social and cultural capital t hey acquire at school to their social benefit. For Title I students, it is in learning wh en and why to activate the social and cultural capital acquired that will provide them th e social benefit they need to expand their networks and open opportunities for academic and career success.
66 References Bourdieu, Pierre. 1973. Cultural Reproduction & So cial Reproduction. In: Brown, Richard (Ed.) Knowledge, Education and Cultural Change London: Willmer Brothers Limited. Carter, Prudence L. 2004. Keepin' It Real: School Success Beyond Black and Wh ite New York: Oxford Press. Coleman, James C. 1987. Families and Schools. Educational Researcher 16:32-38. DiBara, Jennifer A. 2007. Responsible to the Kids: The Goals and Struggles of Urban High School Teachers. The New Educator 3:11-30. Driessen, Geert W. J. M. 2001. Ethnicity, Forms of Capital, and Educational Achievement. Internaitonal Review of Education 47(6):515-538. Dufur, Mikeala J., Toby L. Parcel, and Benjamin A. McKune. 2008. Capital and Context: Using Social Capital at Home and at School to Predict Child Social Adjustment." Journal of Health and Social Behvaior 49:146-161. Finley, Merrilee K. 1984. Teachers and Tracking in a Comprehensive School. Sociology of Education 57:233-243. Goddard, Roger D. 2003. The Relational Networks, S ocial Trust, and Norms: A Social Capital Perspective on Students Chances of Academi c Success. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis 25(1):59-74. Gray, Paul S., John B. Williamson, David A. Karp, a nd John R. Dalphin. 2007. The Research Imagination. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hillsborough County Public Schools. 2009. School I nformation. Tampa, Florida: Hillsborough County Public Schools, Retrieved April 8th, 2009. http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/schools/ Kozol, Jonathon. 1991. Savage Inequalities. New York: Haper Perennial. Kozol, Jonathon. 2005. The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America California: Three Rivers Press.
67 Lareau, Annette. 1987. Social Class Differences in Family-School Relationships: The Importance of Cultural Capital. Sociology of Education 60:567-606. Lareau, Annette. 1989. Home Advantage. New York: The Falmer Press. Lareau, Annette and Elliot B. Weininger. 2003. Cul tural Capital in Educational Research: A Critical Assessment. Theory and Society 32 (5):567-606. Lee, Jung-Sook and Natasha K. Bowen. 2006. Parenta l Involvement, Cultural Capital and the Achievement Gap Among Elementary School Chi ldren. American Educational research Journal 43 (2):193-218. Madigan, Timothy. 2002. Cultural Capital. In: Lev inson, David L., Cookson, Peter W., Jr., Sadovnik, Alan R. Education and Sociology: An Encyclopedia. New York: Taylor & Francis Publishing: 121-124. Meier, Deborah and George Wood. 2004. Many Children Left Behind. Boston: Beacon Publishing. Monkman, Karen, Margaret Ronald, and Florence DeLim on Theramene. 2005. Social and Cultural Capital in an Urban Latino School Comm unity. Urban Education 40(1):433. Noddings, Neil. 2005. Identifying and Responding t o Needs in Education. Cambridge Journal of Education 35(2):146-159. Oakes, Jeannie. 1985. Keeping Track. New Haven: Yale University Press. ODonnell, Megan, Richard G. Lambert, and Christoph er J. McCarthy. 2008. School Poverty, Time of Year, and Elementary Teachers Per ceptions of Stress. The Journal of Educational Research 102(2):152-159. Ogbu, John U. 2004. Collective Identity and the Bu rden of Acting White in Black History, Community, and Education. The Urban Review 36(1):1-35 Perry, Theresa and Lisa Delpit. 1998. The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African American Children. Boston: Beacon Press. Portes, Alejandro and Julia Sensenbrenner. 1993. E mdeddedness and Immigration: Notes on the Social Determinants of Economic Action . The American Journal of Sociology 98(6):1320-1350. Portes, Alejandro. 1995. The Economic Sociology of Immigration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
68 Portes, Alejandro. 1998. Social Capital: Its Origi ns and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology 24:32-47. Putnam, Robert. 1995. Bowling Alone: Americas Dec lining Social capital. Journal of Democracy 6(1):65-78. Rahman, Jacquelyn. 2008. Middle-Class African Amer icans: Reactions and Attitudes Toward African American English. American Speech 83(2):141-176. Roscigno, Vincent J. and James W. Ainsworth-Darnell 1999. Race, Cultural Capital, and Educational Resources: Persistent Inequalities and Achievement Returns. Sociology of Education 72(3):158-178. Stein, Sandra J. 2001. These Are Your Title I Stud ents: Policy Language in Educational Practice. Policy Sciences 3:135-156. Vanfossen, Beth E., James D. Jones, and Joan Z. Spa de. 1987. Curriculum Tracking and Status Maintenance. Sociology of Education 60:104-122.
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Eisenberg, Jarin Rachel.
"The best we can with what we got"
h [electronic resource] :
b mediating social and cultural capital in a Title I school /
by Jarin Rachel Eisenberg.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 68 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: This study examined teachers' perceptions and attitudes of Title I students at an urban elementary school in which over 90% of the student population receives free or reduced-priced lunch. Using participant observation and in-depth interviews, this research analyzed three avenues for Title I students to acquire cultural and social capital at school: material and non-material resources, language acquisition, and the building of positive teacher-student relationships.In order to analyze these avenues, this study explored the following questions: How do teachers talk about and perceive Title I students? Do their attitudes and the images constructed from these perceptions impact students' ability to build positive teacher-student relationships? Do these perceptions and attitudes impact students' opportunities to build social and cultural capital? Do the resources afforded to students aide the acquisition of cultural capital? What expectations do teachers have for students' language usage and do these expectations hinder the acquisition of cultural capital? These questions guided my data collection process and analysis on how social and cultural capital operates within a Title I school. This study found that students attending Sherwood did not have access to quality material resources such as books and computers. However, they did have exposure to non-material resources such as nutritional programs that provided students' avenues to acquire cultural capital through dominant cultural experiences. Students' acquisition of Standard English was another avenue for students to acquire cultural capital. Teachers at Sherwood held different expectations for African American students and Spanish speaking students. African American students were constantly corrected when they did not speak Standard English by white teachers. In contrast, Spanish-speaking students were not corrected because teachers did not view their language as a disruption to the class. My findings suggest that African American students did not know why Standard English was important. Thus, it is likely that they did not learn how to activate this form of capital to their social benefit. In contrast, the cultural codes Spanish-speaking students were perceived as of higher value and incorporated in the school.Last, this study found teachers' perceptions of Title I students did not always hinder their ability to form positive teacher-student relationships, but may have helped these relationships to form because of teachers' perceptions of students' home life. Throughout this study, I explored the strategies and obstacles faced by Title I teachers and students as well as how these affect the acquisition of cultural and social capital.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
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Advisor: Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.
Co-advisor: Tomas Rodriguez, Ph.D.
No Child Left Behind
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.