African-Centered Schooling in Theory and Practice

By Diane S. Pollard; Cheryl S. Ajirotutu | Go to book overview

ferred to a paradigm shift in their perceptions of what the curriculum should offer African American students. Unfortunately, activities like Market Days and the Harlem Renaissance did not continue at the middle school because this group of teachers left the school. However, it should be noted that they moved as a group to another school.

In summary, at the middle school, we did not observe a consistent developmental pattern in the ways in which teachers attempted to transform their classrooms from a traditional Eurocentric- to an African-centered orientation. Rather, we observed many beginning attempts at transformation either that were short-circuited when teachers left the school or that seemed to lose momentum and peter out. Because these attempts at classroom transformation could not be followed through, we saw little evidence of movement from surface to deep levels in instructional practice. To a large extent, we attribute this lack of movement to larger organizational problems that existed within the school as well as to the external challenges the school faced. These problems and challenges were detailed in previous chapters.

It should be noted that although the aforementioned description was characteristic of most of the classrooms at the African American Immersion middle school, there were isolated examples of transformations that did occur and that appeared to move from surface toward deep levels of classroom functioning. Furthermore, we observed the development of expertise among some of the teachers at the middle school. It appeared that these "success stories" were able to be implemented because the teachers were able to transcend the ongoing issues confronting the school and staff.


CONCLUSIONS

The data from the teacher interviews and our classroom observations suggest that the possibility of deep cultural transformation was present but difficult to attain in these particular experiments in African-centered education in a public school setting. However, we did see movement toward deeper levels of classroom change as teachers developed greater expertise in integrating knowledge about African and African American history and culture into their curriculums. As teachers became knowledgeable about and comfortable with information about Africa and African Americans, they also demonstrated increased reflection about their teaching as well as more insightful perspectives about their students. Certain school-level features were important for these transformations to occur, however. These included support from the school administrators, efforts to maintain stability among the staff, and encouragement of cooperation among the teachers. These elements were present at the elementary school. Unfortunately, the absence of these features at the middle school, along with the demands made on the school by the district administration and School Board, constrained efforts to inculcate an African-centered ethos in classrooms.

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