Engaging, examining, and exploring the phenomenon of social class at Pine Tree Elementary
Shackelford, Kristy Nansteel
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In this study, I examine how the phenomenon of social class operates at Pine Tree Elementary, an elementary school located in the southern United States where over half of the students received free or reduced lunch. This study is foregrounded with class-sensitive theoretical and pedagogical commitments (Jones & Vagle, 2013), which strive for educators to engage in class equitable practices giving careful, critical, and reflective thoughts to their pedagogies, challenge deficit perspectives, and eradicate classism. I use post-intentional phenomenological methods to examine the complexities of social class as it was experienced by the students, the faculty, and myself. Societal discourses including those of meritocracy, “it doesn’t matter where you come from,” “overcoming poverty,” and being “more than” your working-class family members were spoken by educators at Pine Tree. By situating these discursive narratives within social and political contexts, I illuminate how flawed these notions are, how damaging they are to working-class and poor lives, yet how easily they are taken up. The elementary student participants in this dissertation desired to talk about their lives and wanted their voices to be heard and privileged. These students were happy children who loved their families and challenged deficit narrations of their lives through their writings and conversations. Drawing and deepening Dutro’s analyses (2008, 2009, 2011) I recognized the importance of testimonies, the imperativeness of critical witnessing, and that classrooms can be transformative spaces where lives are valued and stereotypes, judgments, and deficit perspectives are challenged.
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