Daily Archives: February 17, 2014

Family Day

In Ontario we have a public holiday called “Family Day”, a day in the depths of February where most adults have the day off from work and children stay home from school for the purpose of spending time together. It is a day meant for us to relax and enjoy the wonderful people in our lives.
In honour of Family Day, I (Yiola) would like to share an interesting and inclusive way of thinking about family from the perspective of a child.  This idea comes from the descriptive findings from my research project on critical literacy practices of elementary school teachers.  In the Grade two classroom students designed their autobiographies and published books called “Selfologies”.  The published books include a variety of literacy process and forms of writing including: interviewing family members, writing narratives, developing timelines, creating family trees to mention just a few.
Instead of a traditional family tree that is a chart representing the family structure, often with the child at the bottom of the tree and the space for the father on one side and the mother on the other, the teacher used something different.  The teacher recognized the traditional family tree chart normalized the nuclear family and left no space for all the wonderful family structures that exist. The teacher introduced a “family circle”.  This graphic organizer places the child at the centre of the page and bigger circles that include family members surround the child (see image below).  This way of organizing the concept of family changes the perspective and value we place on “what is a family” and “who is in a family”.  The family circle empowers the child to decide on their own who is in their closest inner circle. That may be siblings, two mothers, a grandparent, a family friend. By using a new and improved structure we are teaching students how to read the world differently. Family today is a broader and more inclusive term.

The first image is of the children designing their family circles.

Image Family YC

Family Circle


Can you understand what I am saying?

In the New York Times on the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote a stinging criticism of academics. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-professors-we-need-you.html?ref=nicholasdkristof
He notes that when someone utters the phrase “That’s academic” it is a very loaded comment. That retort implies scholars are irrelevant. He quotes Anne-Marie Slaughter who observed that “disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public.” He feels that the PhD programs “have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Although I (Clare) found his comments a bit harsh there is something sobering about his analysis. Often I find myself reading a journal article on teacher education (my specialty) that I simply cannot understand. The jargon overwhelms the central points and the writing so turgid it is inaccessible. As academics our many masters (tenure review committees, funding agencies, journal reviewers) expect our work to sound “academic” so we are almost forced to employ an unnatural writing style. There is no easy solution. We may not be able to do anything in the short term but in the long-term I hope that our research can be used to inform general discourse about teacher education and public policy. Writing for different audiences is difficult but hey, we academics are quite smart. Let’s take up the challenge to make our work more accessible to many readers.