Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

What it means to Read

swetha's picture

Reading about Pedro's journey through being mislabeled "Learning Disabled" and the misunderstanding of the type of knowledge that he carried, I was tempted to see his story through the lens of a broader immigrant experience. I think the extent to which knowledge is so inherently cultural, from the way it is received to the way it is held, is a clear indicator that schools were built and maintained for a specific type of student--specifically one who has the basic language and cultural skills to navigate the learning process. The fact that Naiditch was able to create an almost instant connection to Pedro's mom and find out the importance of an oral tradition in Pedro's life speaks volumes to the simplicity of opening that door for communication. Granted, there were many factors to Naiditch's advantage, like Spanish fluency and concentrated focus on Pedro during the day, but I think there are ways to find help to do those things in most places, even if it means asking students for help translating. It meant that there was someone on Pedro's side treating him like an actual person with knowledge rather than an illiterate student lagging behind the class, a physical manifestation of the desire-based approach. I wonder, though, how feasible this process of getting to know students' parents and home lives outside of school is for underpaid, overworked teachers with huge classes and mandated state tests every year that determine more than they should. Instead, I wonder what alternatives there might be. Would it be feasible for students to be more encouraged to bring their home lives into the classroom? How would that happen? Should teachers be more explicit in naming the structures in their classroom so that students are more aware? At what point does that just become boring for students to hear?

It is important to acknowledge that schools are often the first sites of forced assimilation for children of immigrants. The fact that it can happen so unassumingly and cause so much damage is a little scary. Thinking about what might have happened if Naiditch hadn't taken the time to find out more about Pedro's life, not to credit Naiditch with "saving" Pedro (even though that is sometimes the tone of the piece), but I think it could be assumed that Pedro would have been tracked for most of his schooling as having a learning disability, and that would have inhibited his experiences and opportunities for the rest of his academic and non-academic life. Also, being seen as "the kid" with a learning disability whose parents immigrated, I think perceptions of Pedro would have been more negative and less open to getting to know him. Of course, one person looking into his life will not alleviate all of these issues, and we could play the "what if" game forever, but there is a huge truth to the power of getting to know a student in a way that might make a teacher radically restructure their views and their class.