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Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is to re-envision a student or child as a “lesson in freedom” rather than a distraction or disruption. 

Directions: In Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School, Carla Shalaby turns observations of “trouble-makers” around and examines what educators can learn from student disruptions. The author highlights how interruptions, misbehaviors, and distractions can tell a story about how our schools and classrooms are not serving the needs of every child. During this assignment you will take one “trouble-making” student or child from your experience who could serve as a case-study or lesson of freedom. You will first describe the child’s behavior, the setting of the situation and 1-2 memorable experiences that exemplify the child/youth as a particular case. Then, as inspired by Shalaby’s work, you will present an alternative explanation of the lesson that you may have learn from this child. This requires putting oneself in the child’s or adolescent’s shoes and thinking about why they might have responded in this way. Finally, at the end of this piece, please describe at least two ways you could have handled the situation or interacted with the child or youth in a more positive or democratic way. This assignment should be approximately 2 pages in length and should incorporate citations from at least two readings.

Quote to inspire your reflection: Use this assignment to do as Shalaby suggests: “I want us to imagine their behaviors – which are admittedly disruptive, hypervisible, and problematic – as both the loud sound of their suffering and a signal cry to the rest of us that there is a person in our shared air. That is, when a child is singing loudly – and sometimes more and more loudly, despite our requests for silence – we might hear that song as a signal that someone is refusing to hear her voice.” (p. XXI).

Please use APA Format

Jordon’s Story

Background of the Case:

It was fall 2000, and I was completing my student-teaching internship in a school on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. I had been teaching tenth-grade American History for two months. I struggled with classroom management the entire semester, mostly because I was a new teacher. It had also been suggested that because my CT was the football coach, with a really intimidating physical stature, the administration had filled his classes with the students they considered the “most difficult” in the school.

My Cooperating Teacher (CT) was a very nice man and never critiqued what I taught; however, he never really gave me feedback either. In fact, he would always leave the room when I was teaching. Before my arrival at the school, my CT allowed the students to choose their own seats. Mid-way through the semester, I had an entirely segregated classroom; the white students would sit on one side of the room, and the African American students would sit on the other side.

Similar to many of the new social studies teachers I observe now, I often relied on class lectures, fearing that I would not sufficiently cover the material if I tried to implement different types of activities into my instruction. The school operated on a block schedule, and some days students took notes for almost one hour. Students would start out taking notes and quietly listening to my lecture, but midway through they would start talking to their friends. The chatter would begin to get louder and louder. My idea on how to handle this “misbehavior”…stop talking and wait until the students settled down.

On one particular day, the class took a little longer to quiet down. A student on one side of the room told the group on the other side to shut up so we could continue the class. Someone in the second group yelled, “Who are you telling to shut up!” Then the first student replied, “You all that are talking.” Which inspired the second half of the room to start responding all at once. It reminded me of a ping-pong match where complaints and insults were volleyed back-and-forth. It had escalated quickly, and I had no idea which student was making which comment. Finally, a white student, Todd, stood up and said, “If you don’t stop talking, I’ll come over there and make you boy.” Even at the time, I understood the racial implications when a white person in the south referred to an African American as “boy”; he was using racist language and threatening his classmate. Yet before I could intervene, another student, an African American male whom I’ll call Jordon, stood up and yelled, “I know your ass is not talking to me.” When I was finally able to calm the class down, I referred Todd and Jordon to the disciplinary administrator.

Two weeks later, after we had all forgotten about the incidence, someone called over the intercom requesting that we send T


Joe L. Kincheloe, kecia hayes, Karel Rose, and Philip M. Anderson

One of the most compelling concerns of decades, educational researchers have
our era is the question of what to do about been collecting data confirming the defi­
the neglect of our urban schools. Thirty- cits of urban youth while sensationalized
one percent of U.S. elementary and sec- media produce images of urban youth
ondary students go to school in 226 large running wild and out of control. In this
urban districts. There are nearly 16,000 context, many urban school leaders
school districts in the United States and attempt to hide the problems undermin­
almost one-third of all students attend 1.5 ing education at their particular schools
percent of them (Fuhrman, 2002). In the (NWREL, 1999; Ciani, 2002; Kozleski,
urban context one finds “the emergent 2002). The problems-the crises-besiege
U.S. culture.” The ways in which urban many of us who work in urban systems.
educators shape urban pedagogy in. the , We have come to realize that without sig-!
coming years is central to the way people I nificant structural changes, even increased
in this country reinvent the nation (Ander- l funding will merely prop up pathological
son and Summerfield, 2004). With this in systems and provide little help for stu­
mind the United States faces an uncertain , dents and teachers.
future, because in the schools in these 226 In the eye of the perpetual crisis, teachers
urban districts, observers encounter a keep on teaching and many students keep
wide diversity of problems and successes. on learning. Indeed, there are urban teachers

Urban education is always in crisis- who perform good work in a context in
yesterday, today, and certainly in the near which impediments are many and resources
future. Teacher shortages force many are few. Even if resources were provided
urban school administrators to scramble and equal funding of urban school systems
madly during the first weeks of school to were mandated, there would still be inade- .
fill classroom vacancies. Inadequate funds quate monies. Poor urban schools are so in
cause cutbacks in essential services in the · need of financial help that equal funding
middle of the school year. In con tempo- 1 ~ )would have to be supplemented by addi-

1 rary U.S. society the use of the term

. tional infusions of resources just to get to

I “urban” has become in many quarters a where they might be able to visualize the
I signifier for poverty, nonwhite violence, . equality of resources on the distant horizon.
, narcotics, bad neighborhoods, an absence 1 Reform efforts proliferate in this context.

of family values, crumbling housing, and Overwhelmed by these disparities and the
failing schools. Over the past several crisis atmosphere surrounding them, urban

xii Preface

policy makers ha

adical Equations
Rights from Mississippi to

the Algebra Project



Beacon Press


The Experience of Teachers and Students

The most pressing consistent question students had was “What has·

riding the T got to do with algebra?” Though it was a struggle to

not explain the idea of the train trips as the physiC_al event on Which

future algebra concepts would be modeled, it was worth it. My­
response to the question was usually to ask another question. “Wh~?:”

do you think the connection is?” One girl looked up at me as she

was doing her math test with an “I know you won’t answer this”

smile and asked, ”Just what did our trip have to do with algebra?”

I smiled a “you’re right, I’m not going to answer you” smile and _
said, “You’re going to learn how to answer your own questions and::·,

in the days to come I’m sure you’ll be able to answer that question.’.’·:~

Lynne God

I know what the kids can do ifI can just get theni to believe in

Johnny L. Hughes, principal, Lauier High School;:§

By I 99 I we had moved from Cynthia’s home and were settled intc __
new space in Cambridge, where we are still located. By then th{
first generation of Algebra Project students had graduated, or were
close to graduation, from college. Many did not want ro end the#
relationship with the project as they entered the “adult” wor!,f
Some in this group, like my daughter Maisha, who went on t,
Harvard University after finishing high school, had stayed co
nected to our work all through their college years by tutoring•~,



‘ng and working with summer algebra camps. And so then when I
a senior and I had to try to figure out what I was going to do, what

‘•ork I was going to do ‘!fier college, it took me a while because I really
_ n’t sure. I knew that I loved working with kids. And I knew that I
•anted to do something I felt was working to address the problems offree­

,_om and equality for Black people. And I felt that the Algebra Project was
ling that in a way that I didn’t see a lot of other types of projects doing.

ltid so I thought about it far a while and decided I wanted to work with
‘•’,Algebra Project. So I talked to my father.

Maisha and I walked along the Charles River discussing this
,ne afternoon. In that conversation, she also told me that she did

J§t want to work in the Boston area. I needed my space. I had grown
· l;there and I spent my college years there and I just felt like I needed to
ive my own space. Dad was pleased that I wanted to work with the pro}­
{, and there were choices. The Algebra Project was no longer a per-

-inal experi

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