Learning from Kids
A different reality coexisted beside my own, containing more vitality, originality, and wide-open potential than could be found in any lesson plan. How was I to enter this intriguing place, and toward what end would the children's play become my work?
-- Vivian Gussin Paley, "On Listening to What the Children Say"
When I first entered the Oceanside fourth-fifth-grade classroom as a note-taking visitor, I thought of myself as an ethnographer with an interest in gender and the social life of children. Beyond that, I had not given much reflection to what I was bringing to the research. But I slowly came to realize that within the ethnographer, many selves were at play. Responding to our shared positions as adult women and as teachers, I easily identified with Miss Bailey and the other school staff. Being around so many children also stirred my more maternal emotions and perspectives. (When I started the fieldwork, our older child was in preschool, and by the end of the year I was pregnant with a second child.) Occasionally I felt much like the fourth- and fifth-grader I used to be, and the force of this took me by surprise. This jangling