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Funds of Knowledge

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In reading Crawford-Garrett's book, I was struck by the distancing that was going on between the TFA corps members and the students and families in the surrounding community. Some of the corps members seemed unable to empathize with these families and see ways in which they supported and loved their children that may have differed from how the corps members themselves were raised. One corps member, Wendy, was disturbed by the children's lack of access to "classic" children's literature and the lack of what she conceived of as literacy in their homes. But, as Crawford-Garrett writes, "Wendy was viewing literacy primarily as a set of skills or activities that we acquire rather than something that we put to use in our interactions with others. Zipin (2009) recounts a similar phenomenon with regards to classroom 'funds of knowledge.' ... Zipin recognizes that countless meaningful pedagogical interactions occur among students and their families and communities outside of school, though these are not often formally recognized as 'funds of knowledge' within classroom contexts" (98-9). TFA corpsmembers likely have so little familiarity with the surrounding community and the families of their students that they are unable to recognize the learning that is going on in communities and harness this in the classroom to create meaningful opportunities for engagement with their students. In the documentary film I Am A Promise, about Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia, the school began experimenting with all-male first grade classrooms taught by male teachers. These classrooms seemed to be very successful in engaging and motivating students, but what was most impressive to me was the engagement that the teacher had with the community. When talking with the children, they would reference their families and he had grown up with many of their parents and uncles and knew the intricacies of life in their neighborhood. He drew upon this to teach sophisticated lessons about race, community, and safety to first grade students. Many teachers would not have brought the students' experiences with drugs, guns, and violence into the classroom, but because this teacher had grown up in the same environment as these students he recognized that violence and danger was pervasive and that it was important to give the students a space to discuss it in the classroom. These students, who were put into this classroom because they were labeled as unmotivated learners in Kindergarten, formed a deep relationship with their teacher and 9 of the 20 students were on the honor roll that year. 

Crawford-Garrett, Katherine. Teach For America and the Struggle for Urban School Reform: Searching for Agency in an Era of Standardization. New York: Peter Lang, 2013.

I Am A Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School. Dir. Susan Raymond. Prod. Alan Raymond. Cinedigm, 1993. DVD.

Zipin, Lew. “Dark Funds of Knowledge, Deep Funds of Pedagogy: Exploring Boundaries Between Lifeworlds and Schools.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics ofEducation 30.3 (2009): 317-331.