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Reframing the Novice ersus Expert Roles of Children, Parents, and Teachers from a Cultural ... - page 9 / 22





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Co-Constructing the Transition to School


of advisors to identify the characteristics of “ready schools” and to share useful strategies with school and community leaders (NEG , 1998). According to the advisory group, there are 10 keys to ready schools:

  • 1.

    Ready schools smooth the transition between home and school.

  • 2.

    Ready schools strive for continuity between early care and education programs and elementary schools.

  • 3.

    Ready schools help children learn and make sense of their complex and exciting world.

  • 4.

    Ready schools are committed to the success of every child.

  • 5.

    Ready schools are committed to the success of every teacher and every adult who in- teracts with children during the school day.

  • 6.

    Ready schools introduce or expand approaches that have been shown to raise achi- evement.


Ready schools are learning organizations that alter practices and programs if they do not benefit children.

  • 8.

    Ready schools serve children in communities.

  • 9.

    Ready schools take responsibility for results.

  • 10.

    Ready schools have strong leadership. (p. 5)

For the purposes of the current conversation, this section focuses on the first and the fifth items because they are the areas in which the role of culture has been neglected. Speci- fically, smooth transitions between home and school require that teachers understand and respect the home just as much as the parents understand and respect the school. For the teachers and school staff who interact with children to be successful, they must rethink their approach to children and parents (Doucet, 2002b). When it comes to teachers and parents, however, a clear gap in communication often emerges; in the same way that teachers tend to treat children in a top-down fashion, trying to scaffold children to fit the school rather than trying to learn from them and encouraging a mutual adaptation (thus creating zones of proximal development in which all children can learn), they tend to treat parents as novices to the educational “game.” In this top-down model, teachers take on the role of ex- perts who own the knowledge about schooling (Doucet, 2002a, in press).

One area in which the top-down approach to parental roles is particularly evident is in the literature surrounding parental involvement, which narrowly dictates why, when, and how parents should play a role in their children’s education (Fine, 1993; Graue, 1993a, 1993b; Graue et al., 2001; Mapp, 2003; Pérez Carreón, Drake, & Calabrese Barton, 2005). Several dangers are associated with such a one-sided approach, or the “school- to-home transmission model” (Swap, 1993). One such danger is the ease with which teach- ers’ biases can inform not only their constructions of what is needed for a successful tran- sition to school but also their perceptions of whether children and their parents even are capable of preparing for a successful transition. As Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta, and Cox (2000) reported, nonminority teachers in schools with large minority populations reported higher rates of problems in the transition to kindergarten than did minority teachers in similar schools. Given the pervasive assumption that minority parents are not as involved

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