Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Loving out Loud: Community Mentors, Teacher Candidates, and Transformational Learning through a Pedagogy of Care and Connection

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Loving out Loud: Community Mentors, Teacher Candidates, and Transformational Learning through a Pedagogy of Care and Connection

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although there has been significant research examining the practice of culturally responsive teaching, little empirical work to date has examined the role that community-engaged, teacher preparation models play in shaping prospective teachers' orientation toward cultural responsiveness. This study of 60 preservice teacher candidates enrolled in a program of community-engaged teacher preparation at a midsized Midwestern public university specifically examined the ways in which caring relationships between preservice teachers and volunteer community mentors scaffolded candidates' contextualized understanding of culture, community, and identity of children and families. Findings provide evidence that as candidates experience authentic caring within the space of supportive relationships, they emerge equipped to care in more authentic, culturally responsive ways for their students.

Keywords care, culturally responsive teaching, community-engaged teacher preparation, community mentors

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The traditional black church service is an emotion-packed blend of sacred and secular concerns, [and] informality is the order of the day. It is not a lax, anything-goes kind of informality, though, for there are traditional rituals to be performed, and codes of proper social conduct must be observed. For instance, if the Spirit moves you, it's acceptable to get up and testify even though that's not on the church program. On the contrary, when the preacher is "taking his text," (1) a hushed silence falls over the whole congregation, and it is most out of order to get up, move around in your seat, talk, or do anything until he finishes this brief ritual in the traditional structure of the sermon. As the traditional black church is a social as well as a religious unit, the preacher's job as leader of his flock is to make churchgoers feel at home and deal with the problems and realities confronting his people as they cope with the demands and stresses of daily living. Thus, preachers are given wide latitudes as to the topics they can discuss and the methods of presentation. Indeed the congregation virtually demands digressive commentary and episodic rappin as a prelude to the big event. I mean, if you a preacher in a traditional black church you just don't be gittin up and goin right into yo sermon like they does in them other churches.

--Geneva Smitherman (1997, p. 87)

For the past 9 years, we have been privileged to situate our work with preservice teacher candidates in Whitely, a historically Black neighborhood in Muncie, Indiana. To understand this neighborhood, one must appreciate the ways in which faith gives meaning to people's lives and anchors their continued struggle for survival. Whitely, a neighborhood of approximately 2,500 people, is served by nine churches, which additionally act as meeting places that birth mobilization efforts. Church on Sunday begins with a service, often followed by fellowship that lasts into the afternoon, and Wednesday evening Bible study is a neighborhood norm. It is rare to enter into a conversation with neighborhood elders where someone does not express being blessed, bless others, or extol the goodness of God. In Whitely, it is faith that has informed the navigation of past and present oppression, and fed the patience, perseverance, and resilience required to address current issues of social (injustice. It is faith that pilots members of the neighborhood through celebration and despair, and it is through faith that individuals are able to reconcile past and present wrong with a spirit of optimism.

As our work with preservice candidates is also situated in neighborhood schools, we frequently find ourselves juxtaposing Smitherman's vivid description of religion with children's experience in mainstream American classrooms. Throughout our combined years in traditional public schools, we have seldom seen instances where "if the spirit moves you, it is acceptable to get up and testify," or where "digressive commentary" or "episodic rappin" are accepted or celebrated. …

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