Pratt’s Essay *Revised*

 It was my junior year of high school, the start of the second semester. My schedule got a little mixed up in order to allow all my elective courses to fit, so I had the “pleasure” of starting this semester off with a new teacher, Mr. Thompson. I had heard various things from my fellow classmates – things like “Oh, he’s a lot of fun” or “If you don’t like math, that’s the class for you!” because as it turns out, we hardly did any work at all. In fact, he was hardly in the classroom! I learned this on my very first day when he left to play a prank on a teacher down the hall (as he often does) and my classmate began to have a seizure. Having been prepared for emergency situations in my sports medicine and multiple CPR classes, I immediately took charge. I ordered everyone to clear the area so she wouldn’t harm herself, kicked everyone out except for a couple boys who could help me when she was done, and sent someone after the nurse. I approached her and said in a loud, firm voice, “Ashley, if you can hear me, please calm down, I’m going to take care of you” and just like that, she stopped. I felt like I had some sort of superpower – it was AWESOME. Apparently, while this was all going on, my teacher had returned, panicked, and took off running down the hall; who knows where he went. Ah, yes, this was going to be an interesting year…We all know that in everything there is an equal and opposite reaction. This was made very clear to me throughout my high school career since I had the opportunity to experience a variety of teachers. I am awfully fortunate enough to come from a high school where diversity is in abundance. I enjoyed it very much. Even though there was an excellent connection between all the students – even those who couldn’t speak hardly any English were welcomed and helped a lot throughout the years – the teachers seemed to have an issue. There was a constant struggle to determine how to run the classrooms; a contact zone.

What is a ‘contact zone’? Mary Louise Pratt, author of “Arts of the Contact Zone”, coins this term and describes it as “A social space where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other…” In my opinion, she is spot on! Each biology teacher had their own teaching styles causing some students to excel and others to lag behind – this pattern is seen through every department. It’s sad to think that kids are arguing with their counselors, begging them to transfer them into another teacher’s class, simply because they know the fail-to-pass of the teacher they’re stuck with.

Everyone is always interested in who the ‘winner’ is and who the ‘loser’ is. When teachers invite their own strategies into their classroom this may be viewed as a ‘win’ – right? After all, they have had a more extensive educational background, which probably brings along more real-life experiences – right? Perhaps a teacher who uses their own strategies is taking away from the learning experience – such as my math teacher, Mr. Thompson, who preferred to use precious class time to play pranks and socialize rather than work out equations. What if a teacher is actually depriving students of “intellectual spaces” instead of providing an environment for higher learning? Is our education system is too ‘utopian’? – Which is the inability to enact fraternity, liberty, and equality. We were definitely lacking in the equality of our classrooms at my high school. According to Pratt, she argues that “we need to develop ways of understanding (even noticing) social and intellectual spaces that are not homogeneous or unified”.  Well – I think my high school was definitely NOT homogeneous – or rather it IS heterogeneous, just as she was hoping for us to see. I’m just not sure how this was such a great idea. I think the idea of a heterogeneous learning environment is good, but in actuality, it is bad. To decide on either a ‘homogeneous’ learning environment, or a ‘heterogeneous’ learning environment, I feel would be wrong. There can’t be one specific ‘winner’ as everyone hopes for. This is something that has too many variables to decipher right now. Its perfection can only come with time.

I can see the issues with both sides of the problem. While some teachers may have very good points of view on particular subjects, others may not. If teachers were allowed to use whatever material they wished curriculum would be inconsistent and virtually useless. How would we know if students were learning the skills they needed if textbooks and resources were left up to the teacher? Of course, if it’s placed on lockdown too much, students would be left with nothing but dry, hard-to-get-through material, which they would not enjoy. I feel as if I can relate to each side of this problem because I’ve experienced it on each extreme. I feel that if teachers have the power and ability to dictate the way their classrooms are taught, they need to meet with fellow coworkers to find a way to cultivate a classroom that is pleasing to all students. There should be a consistency in the classroom community (a system of shared beliefs, ideas, etc). Students shouldn’t have to gripe with higher authority in order to get the education they need.

Mr. Thompson had the sort of power that allowed him to utilize his classroom in whichever way he saw fit. He was given the ability to maximize performance in his students, give them all that they needed, bring in additional resources aside from the school district assigned textbook, and create activities that would best fit the learning styles of his students. However, he chose to let the child within him control this precious classroom time. So you can see how many feel that this power ought to be taken from the teachers. Too many teachers, like Mr. Thompson, are destroying the educational community by taking away what’s being directly given to them.

I feel that this particular issue with all the clashing and struggles, A.K.A: contact zones, isn’t something that will be solved now or in the near the future. With all the recent changes in school administration, people are trying to force change when it isn’t quite time. Good things come to those with patience, and I think when contact zones are involved, patience needs to be a key ingredient.

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2 thoughts on “Pratt’s Essay *Revised*

  1. You did a really good job on this essay. I can tell you really understand what Rodriguez is talking about. You did a nice job on putting this together. I thought it all flowed well and that the revision made it even better. Good job.

  2. I stand corrected. You took an already great 1st essay and revised it into an even better! How you did it, I don’t even know! good job!! I really like the changes you made. It really helped tighten the structure of your essay. It keeps it to the point and an easy read! The 1st paragraph about the seizure and what not…that’s crazy! That’s great you knew what to do in that situation. No thanks to that Mr. Thompson! gah. Anyways, good imagery as well and you still brought in Pratt’s points very well. Very good job!

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