We ask that you post an initial response to one or more of these questions from March 1st-March 9th, 2018. Then, please respond to at least two posts to generate dialogues across contexts and experience. The dialogue period will be from March 10th-March 23rd.
—Recommended reading: (We recommend reading this article, or selections from it, before participating in the dialogue.)
You are invited to respond to one or more of these questions. (To post, please log in using a Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or WordPress account.) Please feel free to share experiences, dilemmas, questions, or information about particular contexts of teaching and learning (e.g., where you student teach, teach, study, or participant observe) as you explore what issues of equity or justice look like in a particular domain for a particular person or group of people. You may also feel free to recommend or cite texts (e.g., articles, books, films) that may be of interest to others on a thread.
What are your reactions to the article? The article focuses on specific sites of abjection, namely adolescents who are deemed too sexual or too violent. Can you identify other sites of abjection at your schools for youth?
The article discusses the challenges that teachers must face to address their role in abjecting youth, especially youth they aim to support. What are some of these challenges? What are your thoughts about the challenges that teachers might need to face or undergo to acknowledge their role in abjecting youth?
In the spaces (e.g., a K-12 classroom, college/university classroom, student teaching or participant observation site) in which you teach and/or learn, how do discourses of adolescence position youth?
What are the processes of abjection in these spaces? Do any events you have observed or participated in come to mind when reflecting on these processes?
How might an educator navigate these processes to interrupt them?
How do these processes relate to race? In what ways are curricula and teaching praxis centered on Whiteness? In what ways do the curricula and teaching praxis seek to disrupt Whiteness being at the center of texts and normative ways of being?
What are some powerful pedagogical practices that you (or other educators you have observed) employed to invite adolescent scholars (i.e., learners) to reach their desired academic or social achievements?
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Hello Dialogue Discussers,
My name is Sadie Anderson and I am from a small town in Northern Utah called Logan. I am studying English and History secondary education at Utah State University, and I absolutely love it! Here is my response to the article.
Although Sarigianides brings forward some thoughtful points, I find the article about adolescent abjection initially unsettling, even with the many positive attributes presented. The research is thorough, complex, and seemingly well versed. I appreciate the thoughtful manner in which this new concept is portrayed. The background provided for the research study is fantastically detailed. Teachers involved seemed moved by the project, and more open to multicultural pedagogy after the research. However, even with these positives, I am still struggling to agree with the idea that the abjections related to overly sexual or violent students is something that I need to base my own classroom culture around.
I agree with what I saw as the overall result of the project. This is stated as teachers having “examined the ways that discussions of literature portraying youth in unexpected ways allowed teachers the opportunity to re-arrange their thinking about abjected youth in discourses of adolescence.” (p. 397) Teachers in the study began to view “the unlikely as the ok.” (p. 398) I find this to be an absolutely critical goal of any teacher. We should accept all forms of culture, or abjection, whether unlikely or not, as “ok.” I also loved what the history teacher took from the project which included her altering her curriculum to portray a more positive view of adolescence.
Where I take issue with the article is with what I feel is an implied undertone of complete openness, and borderline lack of morals. I think judgment of students is sometimes completely necessary. By the end of the article, it seemed that the teachers felt bad for labeling the student who literally beat up his sister as “violent.” Though we should avoid stereotypes, and judgments, some labels placed upon people are correct. This youth did indeed seem violent, and I don’t see the issue of labeling him as such. (p.401) Sarigianides also seems to correlate accepting sites of abjections to ignoring your own personal morals or viewpoints. Teachers felt uncomfortable teaching things that disagreed with their morals. While I feel we must accept people’s different morals and views, I don’t think we as teachers should have to change our own.
My question that stems from this then is should teachers be forced to teach material that they disagree with in attempts to accept people that differ from them. Also what other sites of abjections have you seen in your schools? I have only just began entering schools and am not yet sure of abjection sites, but would love to hear from others.
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I thought your response was well versed in the fact that you included both an examination of the positives and negatives of the article. In relation to your disagreements with the article do you think teachers should only teach what they believe in? What about presenting students with multiple sides of an issue or multiple approaches so they themselves can make the decision. I personally think teachers should be able to present information in an unbiased educational manner that presents facts as opposed to what the teacher believes in. I think teaching is a careful balance between expressing your own motives/morals and beliefs yet not overtly expressing them in a way that influences students learning experiences. In answering your questions I think that teachers need to provide all the facts and allow students to make up their own mind whether the teacher agrees with it or not. How do you suggest teachers approach material that is important but not accepted by them personally?
I thought it was very interesting how you are struggling to agree with the idea that the abjections related to overly sexual or violent students is something that you need to base your own classroom culture around. In my opinion, I feel like the classroom is one of the best places to address this kind of content because for many students, it may be the only place where they are able to talk and learn about these issues. Since everyone has preconceived biases and we socially construct the way we view the world, I feel like examining the ways literature portrays youth allows teachers the opportunity to re-arrange their thinking about abjected youth in discourses of adolescence. Furthermore, I would disagree with what you said about judging kids being necessary sometimes. As teachers, I don’t think we should ever judge our students. I believe we should create an environment where students feel safe and comfortable sharing who they are and what they believe in. Therefore, content should be inclusive and diverse, so all students feel represented by the curriculum.
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Thank you for sharing your response. It is well articulated. There are a few things I would like to address:
Firstly, though I do understand that some labels that are placed onto students are correct, I do think it is an issue to outwardly continue to label that child. If the child who beat up his sister is turned away by all teachers, without having met this student, simply because he is “violent,” takes away any chance the student would have at an education. It also continuously reinforces to that child that he is violent. He has no space to be anything other than violent because that is what others view him has. He will simply be violent. To continue, it would be very difficult for this child to change the perceptions of others with this type of label being reinforced. While I do think it is important to acknowledge a student’s past, I do think it is important not to continue to label the child. A teacher should get to know the child personally before the child is diminished to a label. Through getting to know each and every child, an environment will be created in the classroom where children feel respected and safe to be who they are.
Secondly, I do feel that teachers have an obligation to try to remain neutral in the classroom. They can have an opinion on what they teach, on life, and hold specific values, but it is important that they do not project these ideals and values onto children. It is important to acknowledge that everyone will have their differences, and that is completely okay. We can agree to disagree and spur discussion from that. Additionally, though it is hard when one has to teach material they do not agree with, it is vital students get exposed to a variety of viewpoints. Through sharing views, that a teacher does not agree with, the teacher gives more opportunities to students to create and construct meaning for him or herself.
My name is Stormy and I am a senior at Utah State University studying English and Theatre Education.
My initial response to this article was that teachers need to stop gossiping about students in order to avoid forming preconceived notions about students before even meeting them. In my experience as a preservice 7-12 teacher, I have witnessed several examples of teachers gossiping with other teachers (and, in one case, with a parent) of certain “problem” students. As in the case with Ruben at the opening of the article, what often occurs after a case of gossiping about a particular student, especially before meeting the student, is that the teacher formulates an idea of this person that can define the teacher-student relationship and experience before the student even has a chance at formally introducing themselves. Regardless of what Ruben said or did when he attended class, he had already received a reputation based on gossip and past experience, so he began his experience already in a hole rather than on a level playing field as the other students in his class. When discussing female students who are abjected based on their sexuality, Sarigianides says “studies of school-aged moms have shown that precocious sexuality in youth –especially in young woman—thrusts girls out of the category of adolescence and immediately into adulthood . . . rendering them abject not only to society but also to schools and institutions,” (391). Parents, teachers, and societies are essentially giving up hope on these abjected students prematurely based on their sexuality or previous violent behaviors, forcing them to give up their childhood.
The process of abjection begins with gossip, chalking the student up to being difficult and a loss cause, and then proceeds to leave the student shunned by the adults who would normally be the mentors and caretakers to the youth. I have personally both observed and participated in a situation that follows this exact process. I was working closely with a teacher, Ms. M, at the local middle school as the assistant director to the after school musical. One of the mothers of a lead in the show, Rhonda, was also working closely with us as a volunteer. On most days, after the rehearsal would conclude and the students would go home, Ms. M and Rhonda would engage in a negative conversation about a 6th grade student, John. John, as they said, was disengaged, refused to listen to instruction, and was generally distracting for other students in the cast. When I met him, just as when Sarigianides met Ruben, John didn’t stand a chance. I noticed that all three of us were more likely to call out John to scold him when he was talking to his peers than any of the other, sometimes equally talkative students in the cast. I think it is really easy to fall into preconceived ideas and notions of students being “problem” students when we are letting our experiences with these students be formulated by someone who has already had negative experiences. These students deserve a clean slate.
Your reaction to the article is rather intriguing in the sense that you compare it to something you have a direct experience with. I completely agree that it is extremely easy to fall into preconceived notions about students through our combination of past experiences and what background knowledge we are provided with on the students before meeting them. I absolutely agree that students all deserve a chance to start off with a clean slate.Teachers can really change a students life and if we only believe what we have heard there will not be any progress made! How do you think teachers could ensure they aren’t letting the gossip affect their perceptions of students? Do you think some teachers do it on purpose or do you think some do it subconciously
I really enjoyed reading your post because I experienced very similar reactions when I read the article. I too believe that students deserve the chance to prove themselves and become better versions of their selves with the help and support of the teacher. I like what you said about teachers being mentors and caretakers for the youth because if we only take in the negative information, we do not allow ourselves to learn the reason behind the negative behaviors. The students who enter with a challenging past are the ones who can benefit most from a positive mentor who supports, looks out, and believes in their potential and ability to be the best version of themselves, academically and personally.
I agree with you one hundred percent! Gossiping about students already sets them up for failure and creates a very non-exclusive classroom environment. Along with that, judging students based on what they are wearing isn’t right or fair. “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals,” even though this quote is from “Harry Potter” I still feel it is very applicable to this situation. We’ve all been taught “treat everyone the way you want to be treated” yet this concept seems to go away when it is between an adult and child. I understand that teachers tend to know more, but that doesn’t mean a student doesn’t have something to offer, regardless of back around or appearance. Teachers need to give every child a shot before jumping to conclusions.
I enjoyed reading your response to the article. I too am bothered by how often teachers gossip about students and how quickly students, especially adolescents, are judged even the minute they walk in the door. It is interesting to me how we talk about today’s youth, as a whole, as the future and how successful they will be and yet we find ourselves in these situations where the people who are supposed to be helping our youth become successful don’t give them the opportunity to do so. I know that parents, teachers, and society do not always contribute to these abjections on purpose, however, I think that it is important for us to be educated on this issue as a way to ensure we don’t participate in it like I had mentioned in my response. Great job!
I appreciated your response. The passion and inspiration you got from reading this article transferred very well in your writing. One of the most important things I believe you said was “that teachers need to stop gossiping about students to avoid forming preconceived notions about students before even meeting them.” This was so powerful to me, because like you point out later, abjection begins with gossip. I have been in a multitude of situation where teachers have discussed the children they work with. Reflecting upon them in such a negative light is detrimental to their progress and future. This is why I typically end up advocating for the “misbehaved” or “troubled” children. I learn to engage with them on a more personal and profound way, getting to know them not just as students but as people. I think that this is an essential step that is currently missing in education. I really enjoyed your post! It was quite thought-provoking for me.
My name is Rosemary and I am currently an undergraduate student at Niagara University.
I think one of the most important concepts discussed within the article is the fact that there is a new examination on the way history is imposed on youths and is radically responsible for adolescents actions as opposed to the focus on the youths genetics and biological makeup.
In addition the article explores the idea that the world we live in is socially constructed and the natural reaction is to deny or rather push away the things that are different. This can have a detrimental effect on student learning and further propel this dark history into the future.
In essence, teachers must be made aware of their own abjections and how they naturally regulate their perceptions in order to avoid marginalizing students who are not considered to be partaking in the traditional adolescent experience. For example, after the researcher had teachers examine a piece of literature “Weezie Bat”, the analyst collected their initial reactions and then compared them to their reactions after they analyzed the content with students during a class discussion. After hearing what students had to say the teachers claimed their views had been changed.
One of the test subjects, Rachel questioned “Why was she so appalled?” she thinks that maybe it was because she felt she needed to change her view since it didn’t fit her own and she was not capable of seeing or understanding this before the students made it clear to her. Rachel realized that literature can actually be an outlet for students and can actually help them explore their own identities and hardships through various characters eyes.
In addition, teachers realized through an analysis of the “Great Chain of Being.” That they themselves were guilty of holding to the skewed views of society. This realization is not easy to come by but within it teachers can recognize the amount of self reflection they must perform in order to be aware of the disservice they are committing to students. In addition the example in which MacyLou , allows students to speak their minds and incorporate it into their own writing, proves that students perform better when they are given a chance to write about things that directly affect their lives.
I think my initial reaction to this article is rather positive in the sense that I am happy that these issues are being brought to the surface and are being discussed. It is important to not ignore the underlying issues in society because it is our responsibilities as an educator to understand the contexts and the experiences our students are adhering to and living by in order to understand where they are coming from. This adherence to our students lives is of importance in the field of education because if we can connect with them on a deeper level, we can intrinsically motivate them and help them reach new heights in their academic ventures and lives outside of school.
The section of the article that touched on social construction really stood out to me as well. I also am an undergraduate education student and one of our first classes in our major was Social Construction of Difference and two years later, that is still the most eye-opening, relevant, and life-changing class I have taken. People do not realize how much of our world is socially constructed so people continue to live, act, and react in the same. Like you said, bringing issues like this to the surface is the first step towards making improvements for our future. As educators, we have the capability to make a better generation but if we continue in these socially constructed ways, the next generation will never learn and instead of being products of an improved future, they will be products of what already is, but, we want to create what our future could be.
I really enjoyed reading your response to this article! One thing you said in particular really stuck out to me- “the world we live in is socially constructed, and the natural reaction is to deny or rather push away the things that are different.” It is so important that we as the future of education recognize this issue and take responsibility for it. If not, and we let this vicious cycle of history run its course, it can be as you said detrimental to our student and the future of not only our country but our world. If we can recognize that even we are not exceptions to biases and stereotypes, we will become aware; in turn, we create more engaged and attentive teachers who can gain greater perspective on the potential our this new era of students! Thanks for your response!
I too was very drawn to the section of the article discussing social construction. Culture and life is so based on socially constructive norms and Ideals and it is never acknowledged as much as it should be by people. I agree that we should be focusing on the bringing those issues and constructions to life in order to make a more well-rounded world that can be just for anyone. As future educators, it is up to us to make the change and take responsibility for catalyzing the new society.
I agree with you that everyone is “guilty of holding to the skewed views of society.” This article really brings that idea to the surface. We need to recognize that every individual, ourselves included has a bias based on their personality, ethnicity, background, age, gender, religion, political views and more. What is important is to value everyone’s opinions, and recognize that we ourselves have bias. If we do this, we will learn more as educators, and foster positive classroom environments. I agree with you that it is a positive thing that these issues are being brought to the surface! We can’t ignore these issues any longer, and as educators we must help our students understand them. We are lucky because a classroom can be a very safe place to discuss issues that students may not have interacted with before. We must use our power for good, and try to teach students openly!
My question for you, is where is the line of teacher responsibility? Yes, we have the responsibility to use our power in the classroom to expose students to new ideas and foster an atmosphere of acceptance. However, where does that line stop? Are we responsible for students perceptions? I personally don’t know the answer, but I believe that everyone has their own agency.
Wow, your response to the article was greatly articulated. I love how you discussed how it is our natural instinct to deny or push things away that are different from us. We need to be aware of this and self-reflective, as you said, so we can be able to see if and when we partake in this type of behavior. If we see that we are doing this toward our students, we need to be able to clean the slate and let our preconceived ideas about students disappear. I, like the teachers who analyzed the “Great Chain of Being” would not be happy to know that I was treating my students with anything less than respect. However, I would want to be aware of this because then I could do better to allow my students to feel welcome and accepted in my classroom. Finally, I love how you talked about connecting to students on a deeper level. I think this goes along with not treating students like they have nothing to offer and are lesser than us, but treating them like they are important, unique individuals who matter.
My name is Faith, and I am currently a doctoral student in University at Buffalo’s Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning program. I also teach high school English in the Pacific Northwest.
Sarigianides (2016) defines the abject as, “When we find ourselves ‘automatically’ pushing away that which we ‘find’ violently other, we may be involved in abjecting, striving to keep that which we see as opposed to us at bay” (p. 392). I didn’t fully comprehend the meaning of this until Sarigianides brought up the discussion about the novel Weetzie Bat. I found myself agreeing with the other teachers. I was appalled at the storyline and the inappropriate behavior discussed in the novel. I live in a conservative area and I knew my students’ parents would not appreciate their children reading this type of literature. What would I accomplish by exposing my students to such inappropriate subject matter? However, Rachel and MacyLou both seemed to gain a better understanding of abject adolescents through their reading of Weetzie Bat.
Society preoccupies itself with what they deem appropriate for adolescents. Teachers soon forget the imperfection or inappropriateness of their own adolescence. I admit I was far from the perfect adolescent. While on the exterior I was a model student, on the interior, I was far from perfect. I lied, cheated, and treated those who most cared about me horrendously. However, I would not be the person I am today if not for those experiences, and I am proud of the person I have become. When we triumph through challenging times, we become stronger and smarter people.
I am reminded of a student in one of my classes who left with a bad first impression of her. She plagiarized the first essay I assigned to the class. When I confronted her, she was defensive and proclaimed her innocence even though I had evidence to the contrary. In class, this student was always talking to her friends, flirting with boys, passing notes, and never paid attention. I was very upset with her behavior and had identified her as an abject student. One day, I decided to give her a second chance and had a serious conversation with her. Since then, this student has completely changed and is now a model student. She regularly contributes to classroom discussion and turns all of her work in on time. Sometimes students need their teachers to see their potential despite warning signs that say otherwise.
After reading Sarigianides’ article I have gained a new perspective of abject students. They are not hopeless and need to be given the same chances as other students. I also realize the importance of empowering our students. Letting them know they are in charge of their lives and have a say in the direction they’d like it to take. When we as teachers can recognize the ability of all of our students to succeed, they can begin to view themselves in the same light.
Sarigianides, S.T. (2016). Shifting the abject: Examining abjected adolescence in teacher thinking. Curriculum Inquiry, 46, 388-407.
I really related to your discussion of Weetzie Bat and how parents will most likely have similar reactions to the teachers in the study. I also was under the impression that the themes in that text were inappropriate for adolescents, despite the fact that the book was about adolescent activity. After questioning my thinking while reading the rest of the article, I found myself realizing how crucial it is for texts like Weetzie Bat to be included in the curriculum to show the various types of lives adolescents live that differ from the White, ethnocentric, male expectations of adolescent students. I also love how you ended your reflection with a discussion of the power teachers have to empower students to succeed or view them as hopeless. Thanks for sharing!
I really enjoyed reading your response to the article, especially when you brought your real-life experiences into it. I had mentioned in my article how I think that the most important way to prevent educators from falling into this trap of judging our students is to become away from the issue. It was nice to see that you are able to reflect on your own experiences in the classroom for I think that it validates my point. I believe that students really and truly want to learn and it is our job as educators to find the resource that encourages students to show their interest and motivation. I also believe in the power of empowering students because school is where they need to build confidence in order to face the rest of the world and we as educators cannot do that if we continue to judge students. Well done!
A few years ago I taught a junior who had gotten a reputation for not being good at school. But when I read his first essay, I found that despite its being filled with run-on sentences, fragments, and other mechanical errors, it was beautiful and original. I realized that though he had no sense of grammatical structures, he could tell a story. When I told him as much, he just looked at me and shrugged. At conferences, I told his mom the same thing: she cried and asked if I was sure that I was talking about her son as she had never had a teacher compliment his academic work before. I suggested that the essay could get published in the school’s literary arts magazine––all he needed to do was spend a bit of time fixing up his grammar and punctuation. He didn’t know what a literary arts magazine was, and once he found out, he told me that that would be embarrassing.
This scenario reveals another area of abjection: the lack of previous achievement.
I probably would have let this moment end with the student telling me he was not interested in further discussion about his essay if it hadn’t been for a mentor of mine who reminded me that students who believe that they can’t achieve, who have been told (both implicitly and explicitly) that they can’t do academics, need the teachers who see their success to be stronger and more persistent than the tidal wave of people telling them otherwise.
Therefore to combat the abjection of students who are deemed “too stupid,” I propose the practice my mentor recommended: keep coming back. By coming back, I don’t mean nagging. I mean gently and kindly reminding students that they can be successful, that you believe in them, and that you’ll take the time to help them succeed.
So, as the semester progressed, I reminded this junior of how much I liked his first essay. When signs for the lit mag went up around the school, I told him that I knew he didn’t want to submit, but that I still thought it was a good idea. I reminded him that I allow all students to revise essays for a better grade and suggested he do the same. And then perhaps on the second or third time I mentioned that he could re-work his essay, he finally stopped shrugging and asked how much his grade could go up, and if I’d help him with the grammar like I had been on our other class assignments. I told him that I thought he could get his essay up to A-quality work and that of course, I’d help. So over the course of three working lunches, we revised his essay.
Then I mentioned the lit mag again.
This time he agreed to submit his essay. When it was published, he not only came to tell me about it, but he also made his friends read his essay: he was so proud and not embarrassed at all.
In his senior year, he took creative writing and journalistic writing and often came to talk to me about what he was writing, sometimes to ask for advice and sometimes just to show off what he had written, because he knew that I cared about his success and I believed in him.
I really loved reading how you were able to help your student, who had never heard words of affirmation in his educational experience, feel smart and capable. Thus, I agree that if you continue to tell a student over and over again that they are not smart or will never understand, then they will start to believe it, it is the self fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, as a future educator, I found your suggestion to keep coming back so powerful. For many teachers, they feel that they do not have enough time to help those struggling, because they have to tend to the other students. They feel that if they try once and nothing happens then there is not hope. However, in your experience, you took that time to work with the struggling student, even when he did not show signs of retention. Boosting students’ self esteem can do so much for their educational experience, and that was apparent with your student. I am sure that he is so grateful to have someone like you pushing him to be his best, because if you did not, he would not have taken that creative writing class and be the student he is today! Amazing!
I loved your example in the beginning! When students are recognized for even the tiniest thing and are only told where they are going wrong, it can trick them into believing they have nothing to offer. In first and second grade I struggled with reading but instead of these teachers helping me they kept pushing me off onto the next grade. It wasn’t until third grade that my teacher sat me and my parents down and told me I needed to go to a reading program during school. It turned my life around. I was able to read at a third-grade level and eventually went higher as my skills increased. I was given positive feedback and positive criticism in the sense that what they were criticising about my work was said in a positive way and explained to me why it wasn’t correct. I was able to take that and become a stronger reader and a stronger student. It is so easy to look for the negative or to just keep pushing a child along because you don’t want to deal with them. But it’s doing an injustice to them. Teachers are to be mentors even if they don’t always want to be.
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I loved the example you used in about helping your student. Giving confidence and encouragement to students can help them learn so much more fully and give them the initiative to keep working and bettering themselves and their education. Students who are marginalized or belittled are given such an unfair bias, they are told they cannot do something or they cannot learn something, and this can have a lasting effect on them, an insecurity they may carry for years, a comment that can affect their learning and their growth. Teaching students they are as smart as they want to be and they have as much potential as they want, teaches them they have the ability to learn and do anything they want. With confidence and self-assurance, students are so much more likely to engage and excel rather than shut down and ignore learning.
Thank you for sharing this example! I agree with your thoughts on lack of previous achievement being another area of abjection. The process of learning puts students in vulnerable scenarios outside of their normal comfort level (as it should, in order to help students grow) and if we as educators aren’t careful, we can force students into a culture of failure and low self-esteem in their education. Instead we need to be “socially committed teachers” (403) and be consistently supportive of these students in order to help them open up and gain confidence in their ideas. I also loved the balance of nudging the student to publish his work in the lit mag, but not pushing him or overwhelming him. When students have suffered through this lack of previous achievement, they can no longer see their potential and they need to be mentored to the point where they can see it again. Students might give up, and that’s fine, but as educators, we cannot give up on them. I fully believe each of my future students can succeed, and if they can’t see their potential, I am not doing my job, and of course, they won’t be able to see it unless I can see it.
My name is Morgan Sanford, and I am from a small town outside of Ogden, Utah. I am a senior studying English and Spanish Teaching at Utah State University. Go Aggies! Below is my response to Sarigianides’s article.
Most teachers enter the classroom with the intent to help their students. In each of our interactions this semester, my mentor teacher mentions the importance of meeting student needs. In her article “Shifting the abject: Examining abjected adolescence in teacher thinking,” Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides supports this, arguing that “every socially committed teacher operates on the idea that she is working in the best interests of her students” (403). Teachers who, like Sarigianides suggests, are “socially committed” need the confidence that the choices they make will bring about the best outcomes for their students (403). This commitment to social justice because dangerous, however, when teachers overlook their role in abjecting adolescence. When this occurs, and when teachers are “unaware of the problems with dominant views of youth, teacher take up and maintain these discourses in the interest of helping the students who do fit these norms, all the while exacerbating the suffering of students” who do not (394). Committed teachers who believe they do what is best for their students—and who are motivated by a desire to do so—risk perpetuating dominant discourses that are harmful to adolescents. The primary challenge teachers must face to address their role in this, then, is to change.
The first step toward change occurs when teachers understand adolescence as a construct. In Sarigianides’ study, four teachers “began the painful process of shifting the abject in their understandings of adolescence” (399). It is not enough for teachers to become aware of how adolescence is abjected in social discourse. Teachers must also engage in critical pedagogy and assess their own involvement in perpetuating this thinking. They must recognize “their own complicity in maintaining dominant discourses of adolescence” (399). The process of enlightenment consists of two parts, then: teachers must increase their own awareness, and they must acknowledging their complicity. It is notable how often Sarigianides refers to this process as “painful” (402-3). Recognizing that abjection takes place at all is uncomfortable, but identifying ways it occurs in one’s classroom can be “horrifying” (403). Sarigianides states that “there is a certain horror in coming to realize that you are the oppressor” because “to realize that teachers do damage to students through ignorance about conceptions of adolescence proves horrifying” (403). Teachers must recognize both their complicity and their ignorance.
However uncomfortable this horror is, though, it is essential in producing change. Sarigianides suggests that “this recognition proves difficult to acknowledge and, yet, may work to compel teachers to change their thinking about youth and schooling” (403). Teachers must admit that they have made mistakes and, in response, alter their discourse and curriculum. In her study, Sarigianides views teacher change as evidence of learning: changes to curriculum, changes in discourse, etc. Participants in the study were prompted to “make revisions to [their curriculum] that would reflect new understandings of adolescence” (396). Those who Sarigianides suggests “succeeded” in the study experienced a “great shift in…thinking” and produced “evidence of changes in…curriculum following our work together” (404). This shift in thinking, the product of understanding abjected adolescence, must produce further shifts. A change must take place. And making these changes, I believe, poses the greatest challenge of all.
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I really enjoyed reading your discussion post regarding Sarigianides’ article, “Shifting the abject: Examining abjected adolescence in teacher thinking.” Though I do not have any experience in the teaching field yet, based upon my experiences as a student, I agree that socially committed teachers bring about the best outcomes for their students. Teaching in a strategic manner is an extremely influential tool for initiating social change because not only does material become more relevant and meaningful to students, but they become more inclined to continue their work as an active member of society in the future as well. I also really like how you point out the various steps to produce change because while, “there is a certain horror in coming to realize that you are the oppressor,” teachers must realize that they are engaging in this kind of activity. Until teachers recognize that adolescence is a construct, our society will never be able to move forward in a positive way.
It is clear you have a firm understanding of the article and I am impressed by your thoughts on the subject! I think breaking down social constructs in the classroom will always be an issue, and will always be the most important issue. A teacher’s purpose must extend universally to his or her students; the resources and benefits granted by an education must meet the needs of each unique child. Because abjection is such a prevalent, widespread, dominant, and often unnoticed practice in the classroom, it is imperative that teachers closely examine their pedagogies and applications. I am not a teacher, but I imagine the process Sarigianides and others went through to understand their own participation in abjection was extremely difficult, as she mentions. However, as you mentioned, the process begins with a shift in thinking. If we can at least get teachers and faculty to step back and critically examine their campus climate, our education system will benefit as a whole.
Hi, Sammy and Chloe!
Thanks so much for both of your comments! I guess, then, a question to both of you: if we know it’s important for teachers to make a change in their thinking and recognize that they’re participating in abjection, what do you think we as future teachers (either when we enter the classroom or before) need to do to make that shift in perspective?
I really enjoyed reading your response. I too believe that adolescence is a social construct, which I think makes it especially hard to deal with. I think the most important point you mention is that a shift in thinking is required for teachers to also shift the abject. I think it is extremely important that teachers recognize their faults and mistakes, but I don’t think that teachers should ever see themselves as oppressors. I guess some teachers might be, but I think society places a lot of blame on teachers for kids not always coming out of the school system being model citizens. Kids have parents too, and they learn from them as well as teachers.
“Teachers’ conceptions of adolescence – especially acts or behaviors hardened into the boundaries of social prohibitions like violence and sexuality – determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements” (Sarigianides, 2016).
I found Sarigianides’ article extremely thought-provoking; I have been exposed to a lot of research on problematic classroom environments, but never anything with this particular edge on teacher perceptivity in relation to a diverse classroom. However as I was reading the article, the research developed and it became clear how much of an issue adolescent abjection on the basis of sexuality and violence truly is. I think what is exceptionally terrifying is the fact that a lot of teachers just like Sarigianides do not even realize they are causing harm in real time – demoralizing adolescents can be a subconscious process because of how deeply rooted dominant ideologies about diverse populations exist in the national culture.
When reflecting on my own experiences as a student, I notice a general them to position youth as subordinate to adults. Discourses of adolescence trivialize the younger population’s lived experiences and prescribe fix-all solutions to their unique problems and hesitations. As a high school students, there were many times I felt my curiosities and critical questions not respected. Such a teacher-student relationship demonstrates to youth that their source of knowledge is and always will be found in elders’ interpretations.
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I appreciate your input and honesty. I agree with you that Sarigianides’ article is extremely thought-provoking. This was my first encounter with this concept associated with violence and sexuality, as well. I offer the idea that demoralizing adolescents can be subconscious as well as subtle. Reflecting on my own experiences I know that bias and dominant ideologies are so deeply rooted within me, when I reflect after my time in a classroom I see how my bias affects not necessarily demoralizing students but for me personally it affects student involvement (who I call on or ask to participate), student engagement (who I joke around with), as well as relationships (how and ho I connect with on a personal level). Bias also affects how we connect with students and it affects student engagement. I’ve always been student athlete so I connect easily with student athlete, while connecting with students who play instruments does not come as easily to me. I’m also an extravert so often times I find myself allowing students to not participate or be engaged while I call on the same extroverted students. This is a large area of growth for me personally. I also agree with you that positions of youth and adolescents are often subordinate to adult figures and this needs to be examined and changed. Thank you for your input!
I like your response to the article, particularly where you dive into the idea of youth being subordinate to adults. This is a very intriguing issue to me! I agree with you that as a student, I felt like sometimes my opinions where devalued by the teacher I was supposed to be learning from. I think as future teachers, we must find a way to value all opinions, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.
However, I do think it is important to acknowledge that this is a teacher-student relationship. The teacher DOES in fact have more knowledge of the subject and material, and is therefore above a student in that way. Simply on a knowledge base that is. It will be hard to balance between being a teacher who has substantial more knowledge on content material, and valuing the opinions of students. We can’t “trivialize the younger population’s lived experience,” like you suggest, but we must acknowledge our own further life experience and knowledge. Thanks for your comment!
I really like your observation about teachers’ tendency to position youth as subordinate to adults. We talked just last night in my Teaching Literacy course about how teachers might frame a course around a pre-test, which suggests to students that although they know nothing yet, they will learn by the end of the course. This ideology of “knowing nothing yet” is one example of, like you said, “trivializ[ing] the younger population’s lived experiences.” When teachers suggest to students that they do not have sufficient lived experience to make a significant contribution to the class, student learning suffers. For that reason, I believe that teachers must approach the classroom with a foundation of asset-based discourse rather than deficit discourse and draw on student strengths and prior knowledge to facilitate learning. This asset-based discourse maintains the teacher as the authority figure / expert in the classroom (as Sadie points out in her comment) while still allowing students to approach curriculum from a place of strength. This allows students to focus on their having something to contribute rather than on all the skills and knowledge they are lacking. I think asset-based discourse is one important and simple way to bring about a shift in our own thinking and to begin to overcome abjection in the classroom.
My name is Karly Bokosky and I am currently an undergraduate student at Chapman University! I am a Junior studying Integrated Educational Studies.
I found this article very powerful, because it demonstrates a type of thinking and judgement teachers have about students who are labeled negatively by others. Unfortunately, Sophia Sarigianides is not the only teacher that has experienced this kind of mindset, but the difference between her and other teachers is that she has acknowledged it and is now trying to help other educators see how their expectations affect youth. I really admire that she was able to state her wrongs in order to prevent other teachers from making the mistakes she did. The study that Sarigianides conducted showed that there can be a shift in thinking, if teachers are given the opportunity to do so. Sarigianides discusses that teachers who are “Unaware of the problems with dominant views of youth, teachers take up and maintain these discourses in the interest of helping the students who do fit these norms, all the while exacerbating the suffering of students, whose lives preclude their inclusion in the category of adolescence…”(394). Thus, teachers can be unintentionally hurting the development of their students by engaging in this way of thinking and acting.
Therefore as an educator, it is important to know how to navigate these abjects. Sarigianides found that in her study, the teachers had a “not me/not us” characterization of abjection. In order to overcome that “teachers began the painful process of shifting the abject in their understandings of adolescence by recognizing their own complicity in maintaining dominant discourses of adolescence” (399). As the study went on to talk about abjecting black youth as “violent”, it was apparent that the shift in mindset of the teachers occurred from the discussions and reflections they had on their own experiences with abjecting students at their schools. Sarigianides stated that “Describing the way that the school community produced one youth as irreversibly abject led Amelia to discuss two other examples of the effects of abjected adolescence at the school. By introducing these stories into this conversation, Amelia shows her recognition of the ways dominant discourses of adolescence circulate in the school…” (401). Thus, I feel that having the space to discuss these events and experiences with other educators helped the teachers uncover realizations about the way they teach and how their judgements affect students. I feel lucky that in my college experience I am in a space that has discussions on these topics, because it will help me be a better future educator. As Sarigianides mentions in her article, not all of the teachers changed from the beginning to the end, and that happens in real life. However, if we can get more and more educators to become conscious of the social constructs and prejudices in their classroom, it brings the education system one step closer to giving all children opportunities to succeed. Thus, I want to end with Rachel’s learnings from the experiment. She states that “These kids are too important and we have way too much power as teachers to misuse it. The trust that goes in to sending your kid to someone else, to abuse that trust…it’s the worst crime to abuse people who don’t have a choice but to be there” (403). I find this relevant to every teacher, whether they agree with this article or not. Therefore, this demonstrates that all teachers need to teach for their students and not waste their time or limit their access to opportunities due to preconceived ideas about what that student can do. Students will surprise you with what they are capable of, if you just give them the chance to.
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I enjoyed reading your response to Sarigianides’ article, and I appreciate how you framed it in terms of teachers being capable of changing once they are aware. I think this is an important consideration: most teachers are not looking to hurt or harm their students in the short or long term, but they participate in abjection because they do not know better, or because they have never thought about the process. They have never taken the time or had the opportunity to recognize it in themselves or their classroom. I am grateful that Sarigianides’ article argues that teachers can make changes once they have recognized the harm they are doing. Sarigianides expects teacher growth the same way teachers must student growth. It is never too late–or too early–to make changes.
It is for this reason that I feel the article is so prevalent to us as pre-service teachers. We will be entering the field with ideas such as this one, as well as a willingness to fight to overcome abjection and our own tendencies toward it. It is critical, I think, that we share what we know with our colleagues in PLC meetings and other similar conversations so that we can all work together to reverse these processes. Truly, teacher conversation is the most important–as teachers talk with each other and share their struggles and successes, they can support each other in their efforts to improve. I hope that we can work to foster positive learning environments in our PLCs where educators of all levels of experience can discuss topics like this. I believe, like you, that only as teachers become aware can they work to change the cycle.
I guess my question for you, then, Karly is: what other practical applications do you imagine arising from your realization that “having the space to discuss these events and experiences with other educators” was what “helped the teachers uncover realizations about the way they teach”?
My name is Sammy Hurst and I am an undergraduate student at Chapman University. I am currently a junior studying to earn two bachelor’s degrees in Integrated Educational Studies and Dance.
As I am studying to become a future educator, I found Sarigianides’ article extremely impactful because it helped me see how educators engage in social practices unknowingly, which can deepen the suffrage of youth, who are already excluded from social norms. While, “education is supposed to be the means, whereby, individuals avoid the abject: by succeeding in school, youth will avoid a life of wretched circumstances,” that is not what is happening (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 399). I think this could be attributed to the fact that we live in such an individualistic society. Similar to the concepts of positionality and epistemology, I think this problem stems from the idea that people think about things and who they are according to their relation to them. In the United States, we are taught that the social world is made up of individuals, which makes us blind to the issue of privilege. Therefore, we fail to recognize our contribution to these issues and we place blame on others. If we constantly engage to understand how our positionality biases our epistemology, I believe we will begin to greet the world with respect, interact with others to explore and cherish their differences, and live life with a fuller sense of self. If we take the time to listen to others, we will become more aware of the conceptual restraints that we have imposed through our own identity and experiences.
Furthermore, Sarigianides discusses how, “teachers’ conceptions of adolescence – especially acts or behaviors hardened into the boundaries of social prohibitions like violence and sexuality – determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 405). I think this is very important because by creating constructions in our minds, we shape how we think about ourselves and others, and how we treat them as a result. It is these differences that highlight our privilege, education, and oppression in schools and society in general. By letting our differences categorize us into various groups, we allow certain groups to have advantages over other groups, hence creating the issue of privilege. With that said, privilege typically enables people to assume a certain level of acceptance, inclusion, and respect in the world, and prohibits others, so it is our job to put an end to this way of thinking, and to all see each other as equal.
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Your response was very thought-provoking. I appreciated how you mention our tendency to view society as comprised of individuals, which makes it more difficult to recognize privilege as a social construct or systemic racism, etc. Suddenly our individual interactions with other people become the only things we see, and, like you said, “we fail to recognize our contribution to these issues.” What, in your opinion, are some practical ways to begin to see society as a more cohesive group and thus place ourselves in a position to better recognize abjection on a local and national scale? I wonder how teachers can most effectively place themselves inside a larger narrative while still maintaining enough proximity to see the micro-aggressions that characterize and perpetuate abjection.
Hello! My name is Emmery Llewellyn and I am an undergraduate student at Chapman University studying English and Education.
As a future secondary level English teacher, I found Sarigianides’ study of abjection in the classroom extremely though-provoking and reflective. I have discussed Kristeva’s theory of the abject in many of my upper division English classes. Never before, however, have I been able to understand abjection fully as I do now. Sarigianides applies this concept in a way that makes me reflect the ways in which education creates abject through normative discourses and hegemonic ideals. As a young, white woman studying at a prestigious college, I acknowledge my privilege. However, I still exist in a stratified society and keep within my own class, race, and gendered margins. Abjection is the reason. From an early age, we are taught dominant ideologies; people and actions that work outside of these categories are, therefore, classified by repulsion and disgust. Dominant parties create this, which creates the abject. As Sarigianides’ states, “the abject threatens us because it exposes how we each participate in shutting out associations that are a part of us but that we thrust aside to protect who we think we are” (389). In order to grapple with this understanding, we must become aware of the thoughts and actions that we produce individually which ultimately creates societal abjections.
Sarigianides exposes how the teachers’ assumptions create classroom environments that enable the abjection of young adolescents, especially young, African American boys. The positionalities of students can work for or against them. The “otherness” label that oppressed identities carry, puts them at a disadvantage. To combat these abjections, Sarigianides offers exploration in literature to teach teachers how to reevaluate their perceived notions of race and youth (402). By viewing non-normative aspects in literature, teachers can find awareness in their thinking and respond differently in classroom settings (402). Perhaps if these realizations and practices continue in teacher training, then the classroom setting will be a safe space for all students with varying viewpoints and experiences. Overall, this article reminds me why I am here. I want all students to feel safe to enter my classroom. Self-reflection and re-evaluating my perceptions will help me get to that point. According to Sarigianides, we all have some work to do.
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I think a teacher’s ability to self-reflect is the most important skill they can utilize in their profession. Classrooms are always changing – some years teachers will have a great group of well-behaved, motivated students, but other years, it may be the opposite. I think that too often, teachers are not changing their methods in teaching or their perceptions of students; and therefore, they are using the one-size-fits-all style of educating. This does not work. Teachers must be flexible and willing to change at all times. Classrooms must be diverse and as you stated, “a safe space for all students with varying viewpoints and experiences.” One of the things I’ve always believed is that teachers need to be objective, not subjective. They must be able to see all sides and interpretations, because in many aspects of education, there is no right or wrong answer.
You make a very good point as to why and how these abjections even come to be. I would agree with you that it seems to be this unwritten rule we all just don’t talk about and follow. Also educators do play a very big role in the abejections that are set as well as the atmosphere.
My name is Katie Heiberger and I am a second semester graduate student in the English Education: Adolescence program at University at Buffalo. Below is my response to the Sarigianides article:
I would like to start by stating that I would have liked to learn more about Ruben, the student Sarigianides tells a story about at the beginning of the article. Yes, “He has repeated the seventh grade twice, and has been kicked out of every other middle school in the district,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 388), but why should that mean he doesn’t stand a chance at this new school?
I try to put myself in Sarigianides’ position. I would probably be watching this student very closely as well, given what the vice principal has told me about him. However, even though teachers have the right to know about the students they are going to be teaching, I think it is a little bit unfair for teachers to have information about a student if it is going to affect that student’s equal opportunity to learn. When a student comes to a new school (for whatever reason), I think he or she should be given the chance to have a fresh start, no matter what his or her past behavior says about them. And that is all up to the teacher.
Clearly, “dominant expectations of adolescence exacerbated his [Ruben’s] marginalization,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 390), but I don’t think him being an adolescent is the only problem. It is unfortunate, but I think teachers also observed his race, his “Southern California dress code for Latinos in gangs,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 388), and made assumptions and formed prejudices about him because of that.
This is where I developed a problem with Sarigianides’ article. Instead of furthering her discussion that adolescents are abjected, or cast off, by the American school system, Sarigianides begins discussing her opinion that “adolescence is raced White,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 391). This is something I’m not really grasping because every child, no matter what color, race, or ethnicity, goes through adolescence. It can actually be backed up by biological facts, as Sarigianides states, “the adolescence that most of American society sees as naturally shaped by biological and psychological forces, actually relies upon ideas shaped within a problematic history that has been and continues to be imposed upon youth,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 390). Later, I feel like Sarigianides is saying that ‘Brown and Black young people,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 390), do not have the opportunity or privilege to be called an adolescent. All adolescents go through the same things, that’s why they are grouped as ‘adolescents.’ Adolescence has become a social category, and I believe that being a teenager has actually become a sub-culture of the United States.
I think the reason Ruben had no chance at his new school is because of two things: adolescence and race. He has been categorized by the teachers as an adolescent, and he has also been categorized as non-White – therefore, he is a non-White adolescent. I do believe that non-White kids are not given as hard a time by teachers as White kids are given, but that is a racial problem this country has – not a problem with adolescence. Hence, I do not agree with Sarigianides writing that adolescence is “raced white.”
I think you bring up a great question about why colleagues opinions on a student should completely dictate how the teacher sees the new student. I agree that it is completely unfair and unjust to limit a students opportunities just because the vice principal said he would not last. Although this is not right at all, this is the point that Sarigianides is making throughout her article. She is demonstrating that even though when you read this you would agree that no student should be labeled before even stepping into the classroom, many teachers do this anyway. Furthermore, I understand the point you make that adolescents are not just “raced white”, because you believe Ruben also was judged based on race. However, I think the point Sarigianides is trying to make is that adolescents are “raced white” in a lot of literature and media, while African American are depicted as violent. These are themes she found as social constructs in our society. Overall, I do agree that Ruben and other students do not deserve these prejudices, but this is why Sarigianides is writing this article, to help future educators from making these mistakes.
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I think you have some good things to say here about how racialized ideologies compete with academia in a scholastic setting and can affect the outcome of a student’s learning experience. I also agree with your assessment of Ruben. It was clear to me that he was cast out due to racial assumptions. Because of his appearance, as Sarigianides bravely and woefully accounts, she misjudged his capacity for learning and wrote him out of the narrative of the classroom as a result. By this, she made him the abject.
However, I believe that Sarigianides is here recognizing the problem with “raced white” adolescence because it plays a part in why Ruben was racially targeted and abjected. As you have quoted, “dominant expectations of adolescence exacerbated [Ruben’s] marginalization,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 390)”. Sarigianides pairs whiteness with adolescence here because whiteness is the dominant expectation. Whiteness, as a privileged construct, is permitted to outline that which should be expected in childhood and that which should not. If a child does not meet these qualifications or expectations, said child is no longer seen as a stereotypical adolescent or given the room to explore life within that stage. These students are immediately held to a different standard.
If hierarchical privilege is rooted in the genesis of our nation’s founding, then it affects every life today from the moment of birth. The classroom is no different. It cannot be extricated or isolated from the pressures of a privileged-based and racialized world. These issues seep into curriculum and the classroom social climate because of dominant expectation and shapes the way even adolescents see themselves and their peers. Therefore, I must respectfully disagree that all adolescents experience the same things in development. Every student has different educators, different home lives, and different demographics they must navigate while immersed in adolescence. To explain my thoughts through example: there is a drastic difference between the life led by a wealthy, heterosexual male-identifying student from Beverly Hills, CA and that of a young African American female student living in intercity Detroit who identifies as a lesbian. These two lives experience not only completely different things in their childhood development, but will also be exposed to drastically contrasting school settings as well. In reality, the little girl from detroit– because of her adolescence being denied by the perception of her race– is much more likely to be “abject”. Therefore, we cannot look at adolescence and race as two separate entities. More than ever, we as educators have an obligation to address them cohesively and comprehend how they operate together. Only then can we begin to prohibit abjection from entering the classroom.
Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie Ferguson. I am currently studying at Utah State University. I hope to become a high school English teacher.
Sargiandes’ article made me reflect on my own views of adolescents. At first, I felt offended that people would think that I, as a teacher, would treat abject youth differently than others. As I reflected on the piece further and my own experiences with youth, I realized that there is one area in particular that I will need to be more careful in my interactions with abject youth. The students who were described as being violent are the type of youth that I will need to concentrate on not further “deepening the hardships” of their lives (402).
In my clinical experience this semester, I have had the opportunity to observe students and the interactions they have with each other and the teacher. There was one student in particular that from the first day irritated me. I watched as he bullied other students in small ways. These incidents involved both verbal and physical bullying. Each day as I sat in that classroom I grew to dislike this student more and more. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized that I had labeled him as a bully and that there was no longer any other side to this particular student. My immediate reaction to him was that the other students needed to be protected from him. I didn’t stop to think about the reasons behind his behavior and how he could be helped in his own schooling. I related to the article that noting my own “complicity in thrusting students out of our domain of concern is painful” (402). I have been struggling to think of ways that I will be able to overcome my own complicity in abjecting youth that I would normally think of as violent or a bully. How do we, as teachers, do this? How do we protect all of our students from violence while not deepening the suffering of the students committing the violence?
Hi Stephanie! I really appreciate how you reflected on your own experiences working with abject youth. I also think the question you pose at the end of your response, “how do we protect all of our students from violence while not deepening the suffering of the students committing the violence?” is a powerful and important one. In reflecting on my experiences working with elementary-aged students, I realized how quickly I would label certain students as bullies and therefore, not give them the same opportunities as other students. In the interest of the group as a whole, I would exclude those students from participating in certain activities if I thought their presence would pose a threat to other group member’s safety. For example, if I knew a specific student had previously thrown legos at another student, I would send that student away next time I was running a lego activity. While it is extremely difficult to admit my own complicity in abjecting youth, I agree that teacher self-reflection is an important step towards cultivating inclusive, safe, empowering, and equitable educational spaces. In the moment, especially when you are responsible for the well-being of large groups of children, it can be challenging to find a way to meet every child’s needs. However, what I have come to realize is that if all students are not given the same opportunities, then all children are not safe. Exclusion, stereotyping, and abjection are all harmful and oppressive practices that have been normalized into educational culture and institutionalized into everyday educational processes. Expectations regarding how teachers should strictly control “bullies,” combined with zero-tolerance policies and exclusionary discipline tactics (removing children from classroom spaces), creates very limited notions of what a “bully” or “problem-student” is. We are socialized to buy into a deficit view that defines certain students based on the ways they deviate from a norm, rather than encouraged to construct nuanced and wholistic perceptions and understandings of each student. When it comes to implementing these ideals in reality, I think it starts with challenging our biases about which students should be “disciplined,” trying to give all students opportunities to be understood through their complexities, and like you express in your response, be willing to explore the underlying causes of deviance and defiance and how they could be linked to an unresponsive classroom/school climate.
I really appreciate your candidness in relaying your experience with this certain student. This reminded me of something Sarigianides said in the text:
“Teacher’s views of adultified boys whose school behavior and transgressions were deemed evidence of their “unsalvageability”: “As ‘not-children’, their behavior is understood not as something to be molded and shaped over time, but as the intentional, fully cognizant actions of an adult. Deficit views of adolescence in dominant discourses affect all youth, yet, for youth of color, deficits views pose an especially insurmountable set of beliefs, making it difficult for some people to even see some youth of color as human” (Petrone & Lewis as cited by Sarigianides, 2016, pg. 400).
Here, she asserts that educators can come to view students as “one-sided” because they do not initially fit the mold of an “adolescent”. Like the boy who violently hurt his sister on the playground, it is easy to forget that the actions of students are the actions of youth– meaning that they are not as calculated and cognizant as we deem them to be. If we forget that children are still children, and thus, are still in the process of developing sound understanding of ethics and morality, we can blot them out of the educational narrative.
I wish I had a quality answer for you about how to mend this. However, I think a step toward healing may start with us as individuals. Being able to acknowledge how we perpetuate harmful ideology as educators sets an example for our co-workers and our students. Also, opening the dialogue in the classroom is important as well. Children are not immune to or ignorant about the stratification and abjection that happens in the classroom. Addressing it in communal classroom discussion creates a safe space for students to open up about how they feel and what can be done to best benefit them in the learning process.
My name is Alyssa Kaplan and I am a student at Chapman University currently working towards my undergraduate degree in Integrated Educational Studies as well as my Masters of Art in Curriculum and Instruction.
As a future educator, I truly recognize the power we have as teachers to be the support, encourager, and role model that not all students have at home. So often, adults, including teachers as we saw in this article, take this power for granted and instead create a large gap between the teacher and student. In order to interrupt such practices, it is vital for us to make multiple efforts to lessen the gap and in place create a relationship. Of course a professional relationship but one where there is trust, communication, and understanding between both parties. We need to really know our students. We need to get to know our students on our own and create our own understandings of who they are. By allowing a student to walk in the door with a pre-conceived label of who they are as a person and as a learner, we have already failed that student. Every person, adolescent or adult, enters any situation with their unique baggage and sometimes it is good and sometimes it can cause for hardships and struggles that do not allow them to instantly thrive in that environment. These are the students that we as educators need to invest time and compassion into because clearly there is more than meets the eye and their record. We need to work to break down that wall and be able to create a safe space where students can feel able to be open and honest. Once this happens, we can alter our first impressions and alter what and how we are teaching, speaking, and thinking about that student. Amelia from the study had a great realization that too often students do not get the opportunity to speak for their actions because adults automatically pull the “I’m the adult” card leaving the student feel that being a child/ student means they are worthless and incapable of change.
If teachers work to change their goals in teaching, fewer adolescents would feel unworthy, useless, dumb, unwanted, and given up on before they are even given a real change. Our goals need to go beyond getting high test scores but instead focus on individual growth, improvement, and maturation. These goals are going to look different for each student but if we do not make the effort to actually know our students beyond their lives in our classrooms, accomplishing this goal will be impossible. As teachers, we are creating the next generation and if we raise them in our classrooms to believe they are not good enough and not capable than we will have a new generation who believes they are not good enough or capable to create change and a better world.
My name is Abby Galletti and I am an undergraduate student at Chapman University studying Integrated Educational Studies!
As I read this article, I questioned why this was the first time I had read anything regarding this issue. In all of the educational courses I have taken this far, we have discussed what a problematic classroom may look like in various ways, however, I couldn’t help but wonder why this issue had not been addressed until now. The truth is that not many educators are as willing as Sophia Sarigianides to critique and self-reflect on their teaching philosophy, especially years later and to publish their findings for others to read out. Sarigianides speaks her truth and even though it may not be something she is the proudest of, I believe that she wanted educators and future educators to read about her self-reflection to help them be aware of how our expectations of youth could affect them negatively. If educators are aware of this issue that Sarigianides pointed out, then it may prevent them from making the same mistakes. In the study, Sarigianides states, “I trace how teachers’ recognition of their participation in these processes opens them up to understanding the need to re-think the category of adolescence and, perhaps, their curriculum, to better match the real youth in their classrooms in ways that do not continue to marginalize them,” (2016, p. 393). It is evident that others can benefit from learning about Sarigianides’ written experiences because by educating them on an issue that they may not be aware of gives them the opportunity to alter the way that they instruct in order to enhance the education of youth rather than suppress it.
When reflecting on abjections that I have seen, I think that most evident is seeing youth as adults. The truth is that youth are still youth! We can not treat them as adults based on the way they look or act in school because the truth is that they are not adults. The article touched upon this issue, more specifically how it affects young women, by stating, “…precocious sexuality in youth…young women…thrusts girls out of the category of adolescence and immediately into adulthood regardless of the youth’s age,” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 391). We as educators need to try and shift these abjections that we have of youth and I believe that the first step to do so is exactly what Sarigianides did: self-reflection. I know that this may be easier said than done, however, I do think that we must all start somewhere and what better place to start than within?
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Hi Abby, I really appreciate your reply. I have one question I am curious about. You wrote that as you read the article you “questioned why this was the first time I had read anything regarding this issue.” Can you tell me what you mean by “this issue”?
One of the most vital concepts within the article is the idea that history and the views on its story have been forced on adolescent learning in a single, stringent way that relays only one narrative. This effect on youths can be linked to young rebellion and formation of their identity as it is identified by society, based purely on their ethnic background. As a History and Education double-major undergrad at Chapman University, I aim to explore the lack of diversity in historical education. Within a socially-constructed world, the stereotypes and pre-formed judgments of people create a bias that may come naturally. These assumptions can have a huge effect on the education of groups. The lack of variety of narratives in history education must be changed. It is up to the educators to create an open dialogue about lessons being taught in the classroom. Creating real analytical thinkers is the first step to creating a more inclusive learning environment when lessons can be challenged and explored by all, not just the dominant narrative. Marginalization of students must be stopped by teachers, they much work to create an forum for students to learn and discuss for the sake of learning and bettering themselves.
Your point about the stereotypes now taking over the judgement in certain groups in history now is very accurate. It definitely is up to the educators to create that open dialogue with their students, this way a conversation like this can take place. Having that safe environment idea it the most important part to be able to discuss things like this. Having students that can challenge the conversation and lessons are important and beneficial to the other students as well.
Hello Caroline, I want to thank you for your response. I liked how you linked this article to your own personal background. You found things that were happening in the article and applied it to your own life by being aware and noticing the lack of diversity in your field of study. I also enjoyed that you went a step further to suggest a resolution to the problem that you see prevalent in your own community. This made me think about things that are lacking and how I would like to fix them. Thank you for your thought provoking response.
My name is Jodi Payne, and I am a double major in Integrated Educational Studies and English at Chapman University.
As an individual who has passionate ambition to enter into education in public schooling after graduation, this article truly pin-pointed some fundamental issues of the classroom that are personally relevant.
Sarigianides utilizes Kristeva’s theory on abjected youth in her own research most poignantly. I believe that there are many teachers who consciously understand and witness the idea of youth abjection in the classroom, though they may not be equipped to articulate it. There are tangible microaggressions that take place in school settings which educators may find valuable to address. It is easy to admonish the usage of racist and sexist language or to intervene in the face of racially-induced physical violence. However, as Sarigianides suggests “many of us engage in these social practices unknowingly, and by doing so, deepen the suffering of youth already excluded from social expectations mapped onto their age” (Lesko as cited by Sarigianides, 2016, pg. 389). These social expectations have constructed adolescence based on the dominant views of whiteness. Deconstructively, these views also require that blackness operate as an erasure to whiteness. By this, I mean to say that the dominant expectation of (white) adolescence relies on the “othering” or abjection of those who are marginalized by such expectations. When this dynamic plays a role in the classroom, it contributes to identity development in extremely negative ways. As Sarigianides asserts, defining adolescence in this way “[helps] explain how subjects achieve and maintain a sense of a coherent self, but also how social groups affirm their sense of coherent status. Groups construct categories of “filth”, bodies that are not-us, as a way to ensure that which is us” (Sarigianides, 2016, pg. 391).
The problem is that because teachers are conditioned by this social construction of identity, abjection of youth of color seeps into curriculum quite deceptively. Sarigianides confirms such truths in her study through the teachers’ perceptions of Weetzie Bat. Their initial reading of the text left them appalled by what they observed as inherent dirtiness and raunchy depiction of youth. The teachers unanimously agreed that they would never implement something like Weetzie Bat into the classroom curriculum. It’s just too inappropriate. However, upon further analysis, the teachers began to realize that their identification of these traits in the text was the product of unconscious abjection– viewing the characters in the text as atypical and unnatural when held to the dominant standards of adolescence. Furthermore, the teachers also witnessed how their views of Weetzie Bat were engendered by the innate desire to legitimize their own “wholesome” adulthood. In other words, the educators felt the need to deem the characters as “not-me” in order to establish themselves as “me” in the chain of being.
To me, this is the greatest and most convicting achievement of the study. It is crucial that we engage with texts in the classroom that cause us to evaluate corrupt social structures. Yet, we must also allow these texts to implicate us as educators and authentically reveal our own participation in such abjection. If we as educators can humble ourselves enough to lay bare our own faults as members of a privilege-hierarchy and hegemonic ideology, we have suddenly brought abjection into the classroom in a fashion that re-examines it. Sarigianides emphasizes that teachers have an obligation to this process: “shifting the abject of adolescent discourses require[s] that teachers change the subject…the subject of youth and who they are permitted to be” (Sarigianides, 2016, pg. 402). In this way, we partner with students in identity creation. More than this, however, we establish mutual respect in the teacher-student relationship as members of a fractured world who seek to mend it.
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My name is Ansley Wong and I am a senior undergraduate student at Chapman University with a major in Integrated Educational Studies.
This article addressed a tough topic but a reality in many classrooms across the nation. Just like any human, we tend to have preconceived notions of particular types of people. Kristeva’s theorization of abjection (1982) emphasizes how dominant ideologies have been the center of what is taught in classrooms, thus, a part of the dominant culture in society. As teachers, it is important to recognize these dominant practices and provide students with an equal space where they can be engaged in learning. In order to do so, teachers much recognize their faults or room for improvement. Sarigianides states “to realize that teachers do damage to students through ignorance about conceptions of adolescence proves horrifying. This recognition proves difficult to acknowledge and, yet, may work to compel teachers to change their thing about youth and schooling” (Sarigianides, 2016, p.403). Although this is a difficult task, it is something teachers should be educated about and be aware of.
As undergraduate students, fieldwork is a key component in many of our courses. Whenever I step into a classroom the teacher tells me which students misbehave and which are the “model” students. Even before I meet these students, I already have a particular notion of what they are like. Instead of viewing students with a negative deficit, the teacher should develop a positive or strength-based approach. As an educator, we should be responsible for providing a safe space where students can be themselves and not be judged by their teachers. Each student comes in with unique strengths that we should use within a classroom community. By recognizing your personal bias as a teacher, the relationship between teachers and students will be greatly improved. Students need a safe environment in order to grow and learn.
I agree that it’s incredibly important to hold yourself accountable when making snap judgements of others. I also found that your need to inspire students positively in order to lessen the negative experiences that they have had very inspirational. I also agree in your statement that each child has their strengths and should be praised on their individuality.
You bring up a great point which I have come to realize only just recently. My personal bias can affect the way I teach my students. I recently started working with a teacher and she did something similar to the situation you described. She told me who were the good students and who were the “jerks” in the classroom. Sometimes these can be true representations, but I feel that it is important just as you said about providing a safe space for students. Our job as teachers is not to judge our students but to help them and teach them so they can decide for themselves. The question we have to consider now is how do we incorporate this mindset, not only into our own teaching, but into the culture of the schools we teach in as well?
My name is Kristi Kayoda, and I am currently Education and English major at Chapman University.
While reading this extremely powerful and eye opening article, I realize that the judgments some students receive, like the ones mentioned in the article, are very real and happen on a daily basis at various schools across the nation. It is disheartening to think about, since many students are judged before they even have a chance to get to know their classmates and teachers; they are given up on without any attempt to reach them as an individual.
The theory of abjection that Sarigianides discusses is definitely an idea I have discussed before but never under that formal theory title. It revolves around othering individuals. She states that “many of us engage in these social practices unknowingly, and by doing so, deepen the suffering of youth already excluded from social expectations mapped onto their age” (389). I definitely think there are so many projections on today’s youth that causes them to get labeled. Because labeling is something we as people so often do, without realizing it, we need to take a step back and reflect before labeling students. This is especially true for educators who impact and shape student experience so highly. If a student is labeled as a problem student, that is what that student becomes diminished into. As a future educator, it is my job to give all students a chance and really try to help all of them to the best of my ability. It is also important to reflect and take that step back to check my biases and how I am labeling students.
I agree with you that judgement happens in classrooms all the time. It is really sad to think about the students who do get labelled as “problem students” and can never recover from that. I was recently in a classroom where the teacher proceeded to tell me a story about a student who was so bad that he had to do classes online for awhile. He was finally able to come back to school and he ended up in her English classroom. She was so worried about him and how he would affect the rest of her class. However, I spent a week in her classroom and, other than some snide comments from this student, I felt like he was doing quite well. This teacher is still on the “problem student” bandwagon with this student, despite everything. My question now is how do we check our biases at the door when we have other teachers telling us how well or how poorly a student did in their class or giving them labels?
Okay, for some reason I wrote Lauren when I meant to write Kristi. I am so sorry for the mix up.
No worries at all for the name mix up.
Thank you for sharing your personal observations! It is really saddening that the teacher is on the bandwagon about the “problem student.” Some teachers fail to see that their own perspectives and expectations of a student can shape that student’s attitude and outlook on school. When teachers expect highly of students, students will rise to meet those challenges. A teacher’s attitude is everything!!
Your question, about checking our biases, is an extremely difficult one to consider and come up with a solution for. It is a question that I have had and am continuing to explore. Thinking about it, though biases are hard to check, and even realize sometimes, it is vital to take a step back every time we feel ourselves making a judgment about a student or placing a label on a student. If we do this, we will be less likely to place labels onto students. It is also important to continue to tell yourself and others that a student may have done poorly or have had attitude problems, but there is a lot going on internally and outside of school for the student that we may not know about. One last thing I can think about is to acknowledge and believe in the fact that everyone has the capacity to change. As a teacher, it is important we foster the positive idea of change. A student may be having a rough few weeks of school, but maybe in a month or two, that child we be someone totally different than you think.
I really liked your post and it made me think about how often we label without even thinking about it. It is so important as students who are learning about being educators to always think about how we are labeling and challenge ourselves to not. Instead, we should learn about the people around us and listen to their stories. We can always learn from others and when we allow ourselves to not try to place people under labels, I think we will be more accepting.
Hello I want to thank you for your comment. I like your quote about how subconsciousness judgement and how students already receive enough judgement without their teachers judging them too. You are correct that it is our job to shape our students regardless of our own personal judgments. It is important for us as educators to not diminish our students in any way, but to help them to the best of our ability. I loved your response, thank you for sharing your ideas.
I have the opportunity to work in a unique educational space: academic support services for collegiate student-athletes at a major university. In my current position, I support the transition to college academics for incoming student-athletes. While not all, the majority of individuals I work with are African-American males, who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Sarigianides’s (2016) article focuses on sexuality and violence as sites of abjection, but I would contend that athleticism is an emerging site of abjection in education.
Athleticism and sports have increasingly been idolized in our society, but I am interested in the way educators dismiss “jocks” in academic spaces as athletic bodies void of intellectualism, especially African American males. Sarigianides (2016) comments, “For youth of color, deficit views pose an especially insurmountable set of beliefs, making it difficult for some people to even see youth of color as human” (p. 400). I see this play out with the population I work with.
While some could argue athleticism provides perks in educational spaces, I would argue that these “advantages” are actually disadvantages that ultimately abject youth and hinder academic growth. For instance, I work with an African American male who told me in high school his math teacher “let him slide” through class (i.e. required him to do very little work to pass the course) because he was a star athlete. Just as Sarigianides (2016) explains “Even before arriving, Ruben did not have a chance with me or with our school” because of his misbehaving reputation, the young man I referenced didn’t have/wasn’t given a chance with his math teacher because of his athlete reputation (p. 388). In this light, given a chance looks like being held to the same educational standard as other students. The student I referenced was perceived as a wonderful athlete and thus, not held to the same academic standard as others—either because his teacher assumed he wasn’t intellectually capable or because he was trying to help an athlete (notably not viewed as a student too). Both cases are harmful. Neither are acceptable.
Some will disagree with my interpretation of abjection, but I think it’s interesting and constructive to consider how abjection can be based on athleticism, specifically in regard to African American males in the classroom. Casting off these students as athletes and nothing more is dangerous and goes against the aim of education.
Your post reminds of the very recent comment about professional athletes and their political statements, “Shut up and dribble.” Just bodies, for our entertainment, devoid of intellect and political contribution.
I appreciated you sharing your own experiences and take on abjection as a current teaching professional. I have never thought about the effect of athleticism on academics in this context, but reading your post made me re-examine my own preconceived notions of athletes. As you touched on in your article, I think the majority social culture praises athletes for their physicality and their intellectual advancements are compromised in the mean time. Before transferring to Chapman University, I attended school at a large university devoted to its football team. I experienced firsthand and heard from my friends on the team about instances of being let off the hook in classes simply because they were the star athletes – the pride and joy of school spirit. My first instinct is to be jealous and angry, but you are making me think about the ways in which this is truly a form of abjection. Thank you again for sharing, I feel grateful to have heard your perspective!
I really appreciate your comments about abjection in terms of athletics. I am in an education class at the moment where I have repeatedly heard “the jocks” referred to in a very distasteful manner. It has really bothered me that future teachers are already labeling these students as not being capable of achieving academic success. I like the way you point out that even though athletes may be receiving so-called advantages due to their athletic performance, they are not advantages at all. The students who are allowed to let work “slide” are not being challenged in a productive manner. It is vital that we not continue the cycle of abjection when it comes to these students.
My name is Nicole Fulgham and I am studying English education at Utah State University.
I was surprised in my initial reading of this article. As a pre-service teacher, I am continually trying to learn and open my mind up to new possibilities to be found in the classroom. However, as I have spent time in different classrooms, I have come to see that my own personal beliefs color my view of adolescence. Sarigianides says, “I aim to help educators see the ways that many of us engage in these social practices unknowingly, and by doing so, deepen the suffering of youth already excluded from social expectations mapped onto their age” (389). I did not consider that by holding students to my own personal belief system, I might be causing them harm or encroaching upon their own identity. I believe that the purpose of being a teacher is not to impose my own belief upon my students but to teach them truth and to teach them skills that they can use to better their own lives, in their own ways. It is not my place to judge or condemn them for their choices.
Currently, I am working in a school in a relatively rural area. The students are either classified as “hicks” or “Latino” by other students and some teachers. This is, of course, a broad generalization of the student population. My focus in this school is on the “Latino” population. There has been controversy with these students, both with students and with teachers. This group of students is considered to be less than the other students in the school. Some students will not partner with these other students just because of their culture or their skin color. They are stereotyped and often do not have the same opportunities. They are often not given the same opportunities. Teachers often write them off because these students are in ESL or were formerly in ESL. They do not consider that these “Latino” students might have the same, or more, potential as the predominately white students found in the school. When I entered the classroom and say the dynamics, I was shocked. Not only because of what I saw but because in these white students who are hesitant to work with this population of students, but because I was once that white student. As I have tried to open my mind to the differences in beliefs and cultures found in the world and in schools today, I am ashamed to admit that I have been the one to be closed minded because it was different.
This article helped put into words the things I have found as I have entered the classroom and engaged with the students and teachers. It is important to not fall into the trap of abject adolescence. In the article, the author tells us what the four teachers involved with the study learned at the end. It was not surprising to find that the male teacher, Larz, found out that after the fact that he had taught the young violent student who beat up his sister. Often, teachers share “horror” stories about certain students and that can cause teachers to have preconceived notions about the students, as well as about certain races or genders. It is important to recognize that abstraction is a real thing and that it can affect students in many different ways. As Sarigianides says, “Teachers can allow students to be that which the discourse does not permit” (405). Do not let personal belief systems limit the potential of students in the classroom.
Hi! I’m a junior at Chapman University in Southern California. I’m currently studying Education as well as English and Leadership.
I was really intrigued by the article overall because it brought up things like judging and stereotyping but addressed that we never take the time to really stop and think about what our thought process and actions are doing. In a classroom, having those profiles already created for the students that walk through the doors is jeopardizing their educational journey.
I grew up in a small agricultural/suburban town. We had a mix of farmers, middle-class, gangs, working class, and even some upper-class. But it was not until middle school that the labeling really began. Looking back now, I remember certain teachers being harder on certain students and not others. Most of the students that those teachers came down on all looked the same or had a common thread that linked them together. I’m now wondering if it was because the teacher automatically assumed they didn’t have anything to offer the class or if they were warned ahead of time and believed their time would be wasted on actually teaching these students. The looks and the tone the teacher would use expanded to both genders. If a student came in dressed a certain way, this teacher automatically had a place for the students inside their mind. There never seemed to be a chance to redeem themselves. And because of the way this teacher treated her students, they became the image that teacher had created. There seemed to be an unspoken hierarchy and there didn’t need to be.
At the time I didn’t notice it, but now going to a university and studying education, it is so apparent. I think about how those students continued to do in high school and it seemed as if they were still stuck in something that was created for them. They were never able to escape the negative connotations. Some of the students the teacher type-casted was one of the smartest kids in our graduating class. It goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Teachers have so much sway over their students. Every little thing stays with them and that is why it is so important to have incoming teachers trained to be open-minded and to judge the student based on what they give in the class or what they give to the teacher. Shutting down and not giving them a chance only messes with the students. Teachers have the opportunity to build someone up and help them to be the best they can be. And it starts with having an open mind.
I also grew up in a small agricultural/suburban town, with the same mix of farmers, middle-class, gangs, working class. Looking back, my fifth grade teacher was very similar to the teachers you describe. She had a very different demeanor when working with certain students. I remember one instance she had to choose a handful of students to represent our class in a U.S. history competition with the other fifth grade classes. She had a jar of Popsicle sticks, each stick had a name of a student on it. In order to make it “fair” she told us she would pull names from there and that would be the team, however she ended up pulling out sticks until she got her perfect dream team. She used one of her classroom management techniques, a routine we trusted, and abused it. She went back on her word and manipulated the team until it had her perfect choices and she ignored any names of her abjected students.
However, my sixth grade teacher was the complete opposite. There was a student in my class who was pretty obviously involved in some sort of gang activity. However, this teacher didn’t treat him as a problem or any differently than the other student. This teacher was an example of how to include every student in our class, we loved him for it and were a really close group of students because of it!
My name is Jaclyn. I am a former student of Sophia’s. I had the great pleasure to take her course in constructs of adolescence, as well as her Methods course.
When I took her course, I had already fell in love with Weetzie Bat at the age of 14. I did not credit the fantasy world of the book to have influenced my behaviors at that time. I thought that it was a book that did, however, provide representation to marginalized characters. Of course, being an adolescent myself, I didn’t recognize their age as one of their identities.
The biggest challenge of the course for me was to push away my own judgment about my behaviors at the time. One of the readings suggested that even the idea that adolescents going through a hormonal, storm/strife stage is like a self-fulfilling prophecy because we expect it to happen, whereas, meanwhile in other countries/cultures, the expectation and vision of adolescence is different, therefore influencing the outcome. I found this incredibly interesting, but still had some cognitive dissonance. I was required to take an Adolescence Psychology class prior to my teaching program. In it, I learned about the biological, neurological, and psychological changes during this time.
Despite these challenges, what I did gain was some space between my perception and the preconceived social constructs that I’ve been fed culturally through media and community. I was able to begin teaching and seek to value my students. Even now, I work with elementary students, and I believe in implementing this approach (in giving students awareness, voice, and choice).
I am also a mother of a two year old, and I try to resist pinning her as being in her “terrible twos.” (Although I have been guilty of this lately!) Instead, I try to read more on gentle parenting approaches and find ways to allow her practice her independence more often.
I think that this type of work is important, and I’m pleased that Sophia has impacted many teachers by encouraging them to peel back the layers of social constructs and see why they have preconceived notions about the people in the world around them. This conscious approach to education is important, and rereading this work was an important reminder for myself that this level of consciousness is the ideal.
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Hi Jaclyn! I really appreciate your response and think you make a lot of very important points about why teachers should aim to give students “awareness, voice, and choice.” Your idea that education should encourage students to “peel back the layers of social constructs” prompted me to think about how critical pedagogy could be an effective approach to mitigating forces of abjection. I believe one of the central purposes of schools is to raise students’ critical consciousness. Movements for positive social change must be informed by those on the margins of society, and if there is any place that has the possibility of interrupting the hegemonic distribution of power, it is a classroom. Instead of reinforcing social stratification within the classroom by viewing some students as adolescents and others as inherently deviant, teachers could embrace the diversity of their students’ positionalities– deconstructing the barriers between “other” and “self,” without erasing the difference. In other words, teachers should find a balance between seeking understanding of their students and recognizing the limits of their understanding; each students’ identity belongs to no one but themselves and it should be within their power to define their identity. By offering students more independence and highlighting the power of each of their voices, a teacher may initiate dialogues on the origins of stereotypes, inequality, and oppressions, challenging each student to reckon with how they fit in with the larger question whilst reinforcing their agency and autonomy.
Hello everyone, my name is Zoe Bonfield and I am Junior Integrated Educational Studies major at Chapman University, hoping to someday teach first grade!
Honestly, when I first read this article, I was shocked. I had never heard about this idea of adolescence as a construct before, despite the Integrated Educational Studies program being fairly progressive and centering around ideas of the social construction of differences. Despite not having heard about this theory of abjection for adolescents, when reading the article, I found myself easily thinking of examples in my own experiences, both as a student and as a future educator, when this process of abjection has occurred. One of the most interesting points that stood out to me was the way that young people of color, particularly males, are not viewed as children when they are of adolescent age. Rather, they are seen as adults and are held to a higher standard when their behavior deviates from the “norm.” This idea reminded me of many ways that this is seen in our society even beyond the education system, such as in cases of police brutality, especially towards black, male, youth, as well as the school to prison pipeline. These are systems of oppression that are established for adolescents to find their way into once they are abjected from the school system.
An easy trap to fall into that I see as a future educator relates to Sarigianides (2016) point that, “teachers conceptions of adolescence… determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements” (405). Like she explains in her study, the student that performed an act of violence towards his sister was seen from that point on solely as a violent kid, so his future educators who knew about that incident already viewed him as deviant. However, when one of the teachers in the study realized who the student was and that he had been present in a summer program of his, the teacher described that student as “one of his best that summer” (Sarigianides, 2016, 405). This teacher did not know of this student’s past, so he held him to the same high standards and expectations as the rest of his students, and he was able to be highly successful. The lesson I learned from this experience is that students will meet our expectations of them. If we expect them to be unsuccessful and to be out of our classrooms within a few days, they will be. If we hold them to a higher standard and provide opportunity for all students to succeed, they will be able to.
Hello, my name is Ian and I am not currently teaching although my primary interest is in teaching is in English and composition. When I think of adolescents I usually end up first thinking of the John Green quote which criticizes an article written the Daily Mail which says:
“They claimed that books about teen terminal illness, death and bereavement are becoming a worryingly popular phenomenon, and that youngsters are too undeveloped to deal with issues such as cancer.”
He goes on to critique it saying: “…it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I’m tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren’t smart, that they can’t read critically, that they aren’t thoughtful…”
What worries me about grouping adolescents together as a separate culture(which I do think they are) is that it can create a us and them dynamic. I prefer the term young-adult because it forces adults to consider youth as a member of their group and they can’t separate themselves by thinking I was never like that. I worry that it is possible to become so far removed from the world of young adults that contextually as educators no longer have any idea of what they’re thinking. It’s part of time and aging, but it also means that we’ll fail to connect what needs to be taught to their real lives outside of the classroom. I believe education works better when the label adolescent or youth isn’t the most important part of the classroom, but instead we just try to see the students as complex individuals whose needs cannot always be served simply because of the high student to teacher ratio. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t try to serve every student, but what I find most important from Sarigianides is that we bring our own preconceptions to the classroom and we need to be aware of them. Not only this, but the students also bring their own preconceptions and we should work to make them aware of them so that they can learn not only about the world but about themselves.
Thanks for sharing the quote from John Green. After reading that, I definitely agree with you on how it relates to Sarigianides’ article. Educators can make or break their students just based on their conception of their students. If they do not think their students are smart enough or thoughtful enough, that will severely limit how the educator teaches and how much the students learn. In terms of categorizing them into the term of young-adults, I don’t necessarily think that is needed as long as the educators are able to take on different perspectives. Everyone was a teenager or adolescent once, and they all had their struggles during that stage. Just because they are older now doesn’t mean that they can completely forget about their past. Just a few years ago I was a teenager struggling with school and family matters, and because of that I will make an effort to take into account my students’ perspectives and work with them to help them succeed.
Hello, my name is Nicole Giacolone and I am a graduate student at the University of Buffalo.
As an educator we face many challenges teaching our students as is. Then adding in their hormones and emotions, only makes our job that much harder. After reading the article, I don’t exactly know how I feel about the dramatization of the sexuality and violence of our students. I believe that we will encounter a few students that are like that but I don’t think that is majority. The challenge comes in when we have to meet the needs of all our students, and not just academically. We have to be able to have a good enough relationship where we can talk to them and they will actually want to listen. All of the challenges we face in our education setting will be a lot easier when we have that opportunity to build that relationship with our students and connect with them. Being able to steer our students away from decisions that may put them in a bad spot, comes from the trust that our students build us up on.
In a classroom or educational setting, discourses of adolescence impact our youth by shaping them. The decisions they make when they are young, may make or break them. It’s our job as educators to make sure they have the information they need, as well as setting them up for success. If they don’t have anyone to do that for them, they may be stuck in a position that they don’t realize will later get them in trouble. This is where I connect the article because it was mostly about those students that you have to constantly keep an eye on and make sure that nothing is going on, even at home. It doesn’t happen to all students, but every teacher needs to prepare their students and give them the tools they need to succeed. This is how we can position our youth to be successful and get out of most of the crappy situations their in at home.
I love how you talked about having to meet the needs of all our students, and how the key to that is by building a relationship with them. It is impossible to form connections and motivate our students to learn if we abject them at the first sight. Of course there are going to be some students that are more difficult than others, or others who may need more of a push. Just because a child is a little difficult is no excuse to give up on them. Educators are crucial in their students’ development, and it is their responsibility to make sure all the students succeed. I definitely agree with how you say their decisions that they make when they are young make or break them. Many adolescents at this age may be struggling back home or internally, and may not understand what decisions to make. It is our job to make sure that they are put on the right path, especially if they have no one else to depend on.
Hi Nicole! I really appreciated your point about building trust between us and our students and shaping students and their decisions. I think a lot of what we do as educators is presenting our students with several options and helping them navigate around the potential outcomes. By no means do we make the decisions for them, but I agree that is it important to assist them in seeing 5, 10, 20 years into the future while they work their way through a very foundational part of their lives.
You mentioned that we need to be able to meet the needs of all of our students, not just academically. This is a concept I struggle to find a balance with. How much influence should we have as teachers? How much is too much?
Hi There! My name is Dana and I’m a student at Chapman University finishing up a Bachelors in Integrated Education while working on a Masters of Art in Curriculum and Instruction.
What resonated with me most was the concept of perpetrating societal views, biases, and bigotry within the school system. I’m currently working on a secondary teaching credential so for me personally I automatically think of high school. I think of my high school experience where we had separate lunch spots for white people and separate for people of color. These were not designated spots at all, but rather a gathering of students that hung out with each other in separate eating areas. As I reflected on this some questions come to mind: Why is this happening? What does this tell us about the hidden curriculum? What does this represent? etc… As a future educator I hope to not perpetuate my underlying bias beliefs on students however, Sarigianides says, “I aim to help educators see the ways that many of us engage in these social practices unknowingly, and by doing so, deepen the suffering of youth already excluded from social expectations mapped onto their age” (389). I understand the importance of having this conversation. By having this conversation about abjection, we as future educators and as human beings can open a conversation and understanding of our own biases. Sarigianides talks about the abjections of students as overall sexual or violent. This concept is new to me and difficult for me personally. It’s not something I had expected to read and dialogue around. I am still grappling with this idea and concept. I am unsure if I would base my classroom culture around this concept and understanding. I know that I want to get to know each student individually because I believe each student is unique and has lived experiences and knowledge. I understand that the because bias societal beliefs have been embedded deeply int he school system, adolescent students suffer greatly.
Sarigianides, S.T. (2016). Shifting the abject: Examining abjected adolescence in teacher thinking. Curriculum Inquiry, 46, 388-407.
I loved how you directly addressed the education system and different ways that we can improve. In middle school, it is an incredibly influential time that can divide students based on labels and negative effect their being. I enjoyed your emphasis that we should be reflecting on actions even if they seem to be unconscious. Knowing each child individually is incredibly important in strengthening their skills as well as their perception of self.
Hi Dana! Thank you for sharing a little about your own high school experience. I also appreciated the way the article discussed social biases and how teachers sometimes perpetuate them. Just like in your example, students often perpetuate stereotypes or social separations. I hope to be able to remain conscious of my own biases as a teacher and not let the interfere with my teaching and my relationships with students, but how can we–as educators–help break up the abjection among students without forcing our worldview onto them?
I really like your post! I think you have some really great questions and they made me think about my high school as well. I think that in society, we tend to gravitate to those who are similar to us. For example, in our MACI classes, the primary education students sit together and the secondary education students sit together. It is important to challenge these ideas to start thinking about why we wouldn’t sit next to those who are different. When we change this, we learn more about people and about their stories. As students who are learning to be educators, we should think about this more and think about how we can challenge this in our classrooms.
My name is Talia Cain and I am an undergraduate studying Integrated Education Studies and English Literature at Chapman University.
I found Sarigianides (2016) work to be a powerful analysis of the complex processes that are involved in the construction of adolescence and labelling of nonnormative youth as abject. The construction of adolescence served as a means of reinforcing racialized hierarchy that privileged whiteness, which thereby excluded youth of color from the boundaries of adolescence, for “the entire category of adolescence relies on…the abjection of Black and Brown bodies” (pp. 390-391). Abjection is defined as the “borders which set up who we are and who we are not,” and therefore, “acknowledging the abject threatens us because it exposes how we each participate in shutting out associations that are a part of us but that we thrust aside to protect who we think we are” (p. 389). In the case of adolescence, youth “marked by excessive violence” or “sexual promiscuity” stand outside the boundaries of accepted behavior, and are then abjected from the social category of adolescence (p. 389). The article points to how this abjection process has detrimental implications and consequences for students. In order to redirect the abject and challenge the oppressive ideological and institutionalized practices that exclude and marginalize youth of color and youth belonging to other minoritized social groups, Sarigianides suggests teachers must begin by looking at ways they have been complicit in the abjection process.
By bringing attention the normative way teachers identify their “self” in relation to the “other,” whilst also focusing on how hierarchical distribution of power is transposed onto teacher-student relationships, teachers can begin to understand how their privilege is directly connected to a student’s disadvantage. The power teachers have to define the narrative of their students often goes unchallenged in educational spaces; this needs to change. By making the abject visible “in a way that subverts existing discourses” creates opening “for a more risky look into how teachers might be engaging in such practices of abjection with real students in their classrooms and schools” (p. 393). Therefore, shifting the abject is a means of taking inventory on the ways teachers participate and reinforce oppressive narratives about students, on taking “note of the boundaries typically enforced between norms of adolescence and those adolescents who fail to fit the norm; what marks such boundaries (e.g., sexuality, violence and parenting); the effects for youth and teachers engaged in abjecting youth; and the possibilities and challenges of doing this difficult analysis as teachers” (p. 390). Engaging with literacy practices and studies that create opportunities for authentic meaning-making and resistance, such as analyzing the text explored in the study– Weetzie Bat– open doors for students to reclaim the identity and voice that has been appropriated to meet the needs of colonialist, imperialist, and patriarchal discourses about who should have power and for what purpose, ultimately creating space for teachers to allow “students to be that which the discourse does not permit” (p. 405).
This article resonated with many of the experiences I have had working in community education spaces. In a predominately white, upper-middle class neighborhood, I observed how adult discourses about the use of profanity amongst middle school aged Latino males worked to abject Latino males from the category of adolescence. Adults found ways to justify their lack of intervention, reasoning the Latino males’ repeated rule-breaking was due to “improper” cultural values rather than unresponsive and exclusive educational spaces. Placing this population of students outside the boundaries of intervention simultaneously situates them outside the boundaries of adolescence, reinforcing the hegemonic narratives that Black and Brown bodies are inherently deviant or requiring of strict surveillance and control. These same principles can be extended to analyze how gender-nonconforming, queer, transgender, bilingual, low income and immigrant students possibly face abjection in school settings as well. When these narratives go unquestioned, schools become sites of social reproduction, where those belonging to the dominant social groups gain access to the capitol needed to retain their privilege and those from marginalized communities face harsher exclusionary discipline, punitive school climates, and higher suspension and expulsion rates– all of which contribute to the problematic teacher expectations that work to sustain educational injustice.
Therefore, shifting the abject to consider how teachers have the power to create educational spaces that affirm the identity of their students, explore how notions of self and other are constructed, and interrogate the purpose of schooling, increases the chances that more students can learn to see themselves as worthy of an education. Simply put, schools are not safe places if certain students are automatically framed as “delinquents;” this kind of thinking is the foundation for institutional prejudice and fuel for disproportionate school drop-out rates amongst students of color, criminalization of juveniles and school settings, and overall school-to-prison-pipeline. On the other hand, if teachers can recognize how these problematic ways of identifying the “other” can be interrupted within the classroom, it becomes clearer how education harnesses the potential to be a means of cultivating justice and liberation.
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Hi there! My name is Darya Bayat. I’m a student at Chapman University. I am currently majoring in psychology with a minor in Integrated Educational Studies. My passion stems from both the aspects of education as well as the function of thought and emotions. I found this article impactful in emphasizing a sensitive topic that is desperately in the need of growth in our day and age. Issues such as abjection, bigotry, and discrimination are topics that I personally have felt has been the source of injustice for many individuals. I have both experienced and witnessed instances of behavior of statements that at the time left behind innate feelings of uneasiness. There are moments growing up where teachers had made comments based on preconceived notions about both me and my friends that was undeniably based on their assumptions of our culture. In feeling passionate about this subject, I have always held the idea that my actions have always been based on equality and fairness. In having jobs in childcare and teaching many after school children’s classes the past few years, I always thought that I treated each child equally. This article opened my eyes to the fact that this has not always been the case. When a child who has known to be difficult was assigned to me, I made preconceived notions that the child must be a trouble maker and that I need to in response be especially stern with the child. I have been guilty of instances such as walking through a parking lot at night and holding my purse extra tight after seeing a man in the distance. One of the most heartbreaking moments is when a friend had shared with me that there have been countless moments where women have noticed him as a man of color on the same street at night and have walked around him fearfully due to assumptions of his intensions. Moments like these and this article have opened my eyes to the horrible judgements that I have made of others. Before anything, I should reflect on my own actions and behaviors before those of others.
Hello, my name is Sylvia Tavetian. I am a senior at Chapman University. I am studying Education with a minor in History and Language and Literacy. I am in a 4+1 program at Chapman called the Masters in Curriculum and Instruction (MACI) program. I would love to teach early elementary.
The whole article was so interesting and all of the different stories that Sarigianides added to it really made the ideas meaningful. It is so important that when we are teaching, we do not make assumptions about our students. In many of my classes, we learn that we don’t always know the whole story about our students and to keep that in mind when we teach them. This also leads to the idea that the classroom should be a safe space and a place where students can talk about important things and their ideas are respected. It is important to not ignore what is happening in the world and instead to allow the students to talk about what they think about problems there are in the world. I believe that this would let students realize that they are important and they have the ability to use their voice to make changes. This article is so important because it shows how influential teachers are in students’ lives. The positivity and support that teachers can bring to their classrooms will inspire students to not let stereotypes and assumptions control their lives. I really like this quote from the article, “Teachers’ conceptions of adolescence—especially acts or behaviors hardened into the boundaries of social prohibitions like violence and sexuality—determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements. Teachers can allow students to be that which the discourse does not permit. Perhaps, the kind of extended professional development discussed here—with opportunities and time to discuss artistic representations of youth that do not fit normative views—can help teachers create those kinds of discursive spaces in the classroom that school or culture in general precludes” (405). This is all so important for teachers to remember because it is easy with so many students to take an easy route and not talk about difficult problems. It is when teachers take the more difficult route and challenge the problems in the world that students recognize that their teacher cares about each of them.
It won’t let me log on with FB. My name is Savannah Fleming!
I really appreciate your response for its focus on the stories of students. Something that I hold tightly onto in my own pedagogical beliefs is that every students has a story to tell and that that story is important. While these students are young, all of the experiences that they’ve had up to the time they walk into a classroom make them who they are. Without these differing (and often difficult) stories, we lose diversity in the classroom. In addition, your statement that, “It is when teachers take the more difficult route and challenge the problems in the world that students recognize that their teacher cares about each of them,” is incredibly reminiscent of the idea of Critical Pedagogy as defined by Paulo Freire in his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” Allowing our students to recognize, define, and act to right social injustices that they see in the world is essential to a classroom based in Critical Pedagogy.
My name is Daniel Chiao and I am currently studying Education at Chapman University.
I really haven’t thought about abjection in schools from a teacher’s perspective before, and this has really opened my eyes on how I plan to view and treat my future students. I was in high school just a couple years ago, and I remember the “druggies” or the “rejects.” The majority of the other students often refused to be associated with them, and the truth is the majority of the teachers had given up on them as well. Sarigianides puts it perfectly when she says “I aim to help educators see the ways that many of us engage in these social practices unknowingly, and by doing so, deepen the suffering of youth already excluded from social expectations mapped onto their age” (Sarigianides, 2016, p. 389). These children’s reactions to schooling may very well be the suffering that is going on every night in their homes. Students are being abjected based solely on their race or by how they act, with no consideration of what is going on behind the scenes. They may be experiencing so much pain within their family and their peers, how can it be fair that their very own mentors are treating them this way as well? By giving up on students before even trying to know them is probably one of the worst things a teacher can do.
I think one of the biggest challenges to addressing the issue of teachers abjecting youth is to have them understand their own social constructs of adolescents. Sarigianides says that, “Teachers’ conceptions of adolescence – especially acts or behaviors hardened into the boundaries of social prohibitions like violence and sexuality – determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements” (Sarigianides, 2016, p.405). It is absolutely true that there are constructs that are driven into society. People who are extremely violent or extremely sexual are often looked down upon or abjected in a community. However, there is no way that an adolescent is lashing out and acting the way they are in their young age without some sort of backstory. Teachers are one of the few adults that can make a huge impact in these children’s lives, and giving up on these students could very well be taking away their only opportunity to succeed in their lives. If teachers can understand that they are being biased based on a student’s race or a student’s action, they can then take steps to adjust and recalibrate their social constructs of their students.
One of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher was so that I could help those exact students who think they are “too cool for school,” or the ones who have no motivation to learn. I was in their shoes once before, and I was struggling with my own demons. Because of this, I want to make sure that all of my students have a chance to succeed; I want to make sure not a single one of them is cast off as a failure, and I will not let them give up without putting up a fight.
Daniel, what if the character Weetzie wasn’t “overly” sexual, but just sexual and still abjected? How does that reflect how we look at young women’s sexuality in schools?
Hi Dr. Sarigianides,
I think that Weetzie Bat would still be abjected regardless of the extent of her sexuality. Based on societal and cultural norms, promiscuous behavior is greatly frowned upon for women, especially for adolescents. The purpose of schools is to create functioning adults who abide by the rules and norms of society. Because of this, I believe schools often make an effort to conceal anything that might promote sexual behavior. Parents tend to try to cover up sexuality in their children as long as possible as well, so there may be pressure coming from parents to prevent schools from allowing books such as Weetzie Bat.
Hello! My name is Emily, and I am currently studying English Education at Purdue University!
This article really opened my eyes to the impact that labeling and categorizing has on students’ lives, and how much impact I will have, as a teacher, to fight against these stereotypes, and be an advocate for my students. I realized just how many stereotypes and judgments are made daily, based off a student’s history, ethnicity, gender identity, how they dress, etc. I know that I, as an individual, am guilty of making these judgments, but this article really opened my eyes to the profound effect it can have on my students, so I will definitely be more aware of my internal biases in the future.
Kristeva’s theory of abjection is particularly interesting to me, because it is an idea that has been touched on in some of my education courses, but not thoroughly discussed, nor has it been put in this light before. This article discusses that classrooms may unknowingly create environments that abject students, since there is oftentimes a ‘normative’ classroom that doesn’t allow for ‘otherness’, and oftentimes further abject students that differ from what the teacher considers the ideal traits of an adolescent to be, creating a rather hostile environment. The article touches on several ways to combat abjection. One way to combat this is to incorporate texts into the classroom that involve definite ‘otherness’ of characters. This will help break down the stereotypes of adolescents who do not fit the ‘ideal’ norm. Another way to combat abjection is self-reflection. In several of my education classes, we have discussed the importance of self-reflection and revision, but mainly in terms of lesson plans and assignments. Why shouldn’t we do the same process when analyzing our attitudes and biases? If teachers can reflect on their biases and stereotypes, they will be able to better realize them, and therefore combat them in their classroom. This will also help create a more welcoming environment for the students since fewer judgments and stereotypes will be made. As a teacher, I realize that how I view my students can heavily impact their success in my classroom, and how they view themselves. After reading this article, I understand more about the harsh realities of abjection, and ways to hopefully combat it from happening. I believe it would be beneficial for all educators and individuals who work with adolescents to read this article because it emphasizes the dangers of abjection, which could help break the stereotype of adolescents who do not fit into typical ideals.
My name is Emmery and I am a junior at Chapman University, double majoring in English and Education. I resonated with your response to Sarigianides’ article because I had similar reactions. Much like you, I also realized the importance of self-reflections and self-assessments regarding our impact to the classroom environment. In one of my first education classes, I learned how one of the major factors in a student’s success in the classroom is, in fact, the teacher’s biases toward that student. I am happy to see that you have also touched on these teachings in your previous classes! This concept of abjection in the classroom is an extremely important concept to understand before we start teaching; I am glad that this article helped open your eyes to this issue. I as well am guilty of making judgments, but I also understand why we need to check our internal biases. Hopefully, through our understanding of abjection, we can become build more critical lessons that explore “anti-normative” stereotypes so that we can become more mindful and self-aware teachers who prioritize student success over personal perspectives. Overall, great response!
My name is Tiffany and I am currently studying English Education at Utah State University. I love what you write about personal biases towards students and the importance of acknowledging our own personal biases. I particularly love that you point out the importance of self reflecting about our attitudes and biases! I have recently been discussing the importance of acknowledging when others use deficit discourse towards students as well. Deficit discourse is negative discourse directed towards students, often times this happens between teachers about students. I think that by acknowledging the way we talk to students as well as the way we talk to others about our students can be a great way to help us reflect on our own biases. It can also help in removing stereotypes of students in the school as well. I really like what you wrote!
Hi, everyone! My name is Amelia Ostrowski and I am a doctoral student in University at Buffalo’s Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning program. I have been teaching composition at a private, four year university for eight years.
Teaching at the university level, my students are towards the end of what is considered to be adolescence. Most of them are in their first or second semester of college and many are on their own for the first time in their lives, making adult choices at a time when science claims that their brains are not fully developed. Last semester I had a student in my office who had been a CCP (college credit plus) student in a class I taught that consisted of students from a local Catholic high school. She had been accepted to attend the university as a freshman, and I casually mentioned that she would have an easy transition since she was already familiar with the school and several of her classmates would also be attending. She gave me a smile, and stated that she wasn’t so sure that was a good thing. I thought about what she said long after she left, and realized that by entering college, adolescents have an opportunity to reinvent themselves as a new individual, independent from the messiness of early adolescence. As an instructor, I also need to allow my students the space to do so, and try to encourage this through their writing.
In Sarigianides’ (2016) article, she argues that we label students based on where they fall on the spectrum of what society perceives as “normal” adolescence. Last year I had a student in my class, Mark, that I was warned about. He was a convicted felon, had a history of drug abuse, and was several years older than the students in my class, due to his time in prison. I had him in his first ever college course. Without taking attendance, I could identify him immediately. A few minutes into the class, I could tell that the other students viewed him as an abject student, based on both his appearance, his language, and his mannerisms. I realized quickly that he was intelligent, and he demonstrated this mainly when we conferenced on his writing and discussed the readings, but I feel as if the class always viewed him as the other in the room. The rest of these students were white, middle-class students (as was he), but by occupying a space outside of what even the students viewed as normative because of his history, Mark was not one of them. Sarigianides’ discussion of how race factors into students’ classification as abject is what forced me to reflect on my experience with Mark. As I stated earlier, Mark was white, but Mark did not “act white” according to the racial norms inflicted upon society. His dress, his mannerisms, and his language made him appear nonwhite in the overt whiteness of the classroom. Obviously I noticed this, which means it is entirely possible that I was just as guilty as my students of labeling Mark and changing my expectations. Where I struggled, and where Sarigianides’ study is challenging me, is how to acknowledge that students like Mark arrived in my classroom on a drastically different path while refraining from viewing this path as abject, given the effect that it can have on a student’s education.
Amelia, your example of Mark and the effect he had on your semester is fascinating! I wonder. . . If you hadn’t been warned about Mark’s past, would you have thought of him in a different way? Sure, he was an older student and maybe didn’t act as you would typically assume, but do you think you would’ve noticed the difference less had you not been told about him beforehand? Your comments remind of Stormy’s post, written earlier in the chain, about teachers who gossip about their students with each other. I’m curious to know if you think had you not been “warned” about this student you would have still thought of him as ostracized.
The student did display some behavior that was atypical compared to the traditional student that we see at my university. I think I would have noticed these differences, but knowing his history before meeting him probably made me expect or look for different behaviors. I developed a good relationship with the student and he worked hard in my class, but unfortunately fell into old behaviors and left the university. I do think that because I knew his past this helped me watch for some troublesome behaviors, but it was not enough.
Thanks for your comment!
Hello, my name is Sara McCurdy I am a student at Utah State University and am finishing up my degree in English Education.
As I read through this article, I thought about the abjected from my own high school experience. I graduated eight years ago from a relatively large school in South Jordan Utah. If students were always sick, into drugs, or overly sexual (gotten pregnant, etc.) they seemed to disappear and be sent to a different school in the district “Valley High.” Valley High was and remains stigmatized as the school that the abject student attends. I have a friend who is a couple of years older than me and was in and out of the hospital during high school. She missed a lot of class and when she was finally feeling better was told she needed to be transferred to Valley High. Her mother fought the situation and eventually the school district allowed her to stay at her current school. I think that there may be times that a student might need to be placed into a different learning environment, however, after reading this article, I felt that too many youths are labeled as unintelligent, immoral, and incapable of learning.
Another type of abjection is a student being disregarded because the teacher taught an older sibling and the older sibling was a troublemaker. I had a friend in high school who had two older brothers. One brother was always in trouble, and the other dropped out. When he finally got to high school he had many of the same teachers who would say things to him like, “oh your Cameron’s brother…” and seemed to expect the same sort of behavior from him. He was nothing like his brothers and graduated high school with an associate’s degree. However, he had to continually prove himself to his teachers who were often skeptical that he completed his own work.
I think that sometimes abjection is the result of rumors-rumors we hear about students and their families. In some way students failing can be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy either for the instructor or the student. I don’t know how to stop abjection from happening entirely, but I think that being aware of it is an excellent place to start and helps me be more aware of my behavior and attitudes towards students. Also, I believe that it is wise to teach literacy that reflects a more honest view of the world… life is violent and sexual. I don’t think these texts should be overly violent or sexual, however, as a high school teacher we are in many ways preparing our students to enter the real world, and that includes showing them the truth about it, and the fact is its far from PG.
I can totally relate to your explanation of sending students to the other school, in your case Valley High. Where I come from, the equivalence to that is what was called L.O.P aka Lockport Opportunity Program. It was exactly what Valley High was to you, a place where the “bad” or “unteachable” students were sent. Now that I think about it, I succumbed to this stereotyping myself. Anyone who went to L.O.P. was a problematic person. But isn’t that sad? It took me a few years to realize this? And for these kids who are given these labels, what does that do to their self confidence and self image?
I also loved you idea of abjection through siblings. I myself had an older brother who, wasn’t a bad student but, was very lazy. So whenever I had a teacher he had had, the preconceived ideas of who I would be and the work I would produce was already set. Teachers thoughts don’t give their students a chance if they come to their career this way.
My name is Rebecca and I’m a graduate student at the University at Buffalo studying English education.
When I read this article, I was intrigued by the historical context that Sarigianides presented. The fact that adolescence as a group was constructed to meet an economic demand really emphasizes the unnaturalness of our culture’s standards for adolescent behavior and our persistence in policing said behavior. Sarigianides’ point that meeting these standards is essential for teenagers to be seen as adolescents and that breaking them leads to teens being treated as unsalvageable adults also seems to back up the idea that adolescence itself is a cultural phenomenon used to control teens and force them to conform to the standards favored by our society.
If secondary school students are being held to these standards and the standards are that of the dominant, white middle-class, it makes sense that minority students would suffer by being treated as essentially different from other teens. Being outside of the sphere of “normal” adolescence, causes these teens to lose the privileges of their peers, and be forced to the sidelines by their teachers and other adults. I think this is one manner in which the dominant racial and class structure in our country is preserved.
Since teachers play an essential role in feeding into this system that oppresses minority students and students of lower SES, I think it’s vital that we make an effort to question our standards on adolescent behavior and the ways in which we label our students. Sarigianides states, “Teacher’s conceptions of adolescence…determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements” (p. 405), and if this is the case, it is our responsibility to work toward the advancement of all students regardless of their conformity or nonconformity to societal standards of adolescence.
The last quote you stated in your last paragraph, I personally think, summarizes the whole article. It is scary how our education system truly does oppress the minority students and those of a lower SES. This concept puts so much weight on the shoulders of our teachers who are trying to advocate for their students but are waging war against the system that is telling them otherwise. I think we all, as future educators, want to say we would do anything to fight this idea of conformity of oppressing these students, and I hope this idea is never lost, but I think we can all also agree it will constantly be an uphill battle fighting the system and also fighting the teachers around us who say :don’t waste your time” or “he won’t be here long”. in retrospect of things, it is important that we as individuals are doing our part to do what is right despite consequences and push back.
As I was reading your post, I was thinking about the importance of remembering we were all once adolescents and how as a teacher when we may feel inclined to abject we can and should reflect back on when we were in high school and the peers and friends we may have had who were abjected. It might also be good to share with students our own experiences of high school to help them feel we understand or even to just connect with them. The word adolescent in many ways is an insult, and I think as a teacher we should be careful about negatively using the term. We should try to create a safe environment where we treat adolescents as a positive thing and experience. I think having an open mind and being conscious of our biases, stereotypes, and prejudices can help.
Good evening, all. My name is Sierra and I’m a graduate student going for certification in secondary ELA. I won’t be answering any of the above questions particularly, but I wanted to bring an interesting observation to the table.
Reading Sarigianides’ article reminded me of a course I took in my undergraduate year at Loyola University. During the Psychology of War course, we examined in great detail WHY wars exist and what triggers set off the violent and cruel impulses within all of us. After reviewing my work in the course, I found that the idea of abject figures is similar to the theory of Othering. As detailed by Freud and Lacan, Othering is when we push people into categories outside of our identifications. The idea of the Other–and in this case, abjection–is born from the ego telling us that we are NOT the Other, and any similarities between the Other and the Self causes discomfort, confusion, and internal conflict. I believe this is why so many teachers fall into this trap of abjection and isolating their students. Sarigianides states that any acknowledgement of the abject causes teachers discomfort because they more than likely embody traits outside of their personal and societal norms. Othering can extend into hierarchical structures and sociopolitical contexts. If someone is acting dissimilar to the expectations laid out by a predominantly white, middle-class, heteronormative society, then it almost feels like a personal attack to OUR ego as the teacher. To best instruct our children, we have to put our ego aside and be willing to allow the Other to come into our worlds.
My name is Emmery and I am an junior at Chapman University, studying English and Education. I really enjoyed reading your response to Sarigianides’ article! I am glad it made you think of your psychology class because I believe that this concept of abjection can be applied across many different disciplines. I agree that Freud’s concept of the ego and how it deals with “otherness” is similar to Kristen’s theory of abjection. I think the whole point of the abject is the fear of oneself created by normative ideals and perceptions. You mention that these feelings tend to “isolate” students. This is true! I believe that everyone has a natural tendency to judge on the grounds of their “moral ideals,” but I do not think there is such thing as a universal moral code. So, like you said, when “white, middle-class, heteronormative society” is challenged in a classroom run by a teacher who aligns with these ideals, it will create a tense and demotivating space. I agree that we as educators must put out egos aside and create open spaces that challenge ourselves to think more critically. I believe that this will lead to more successful students. Overall, great response!
I enjoyed your response to the article and appreciated its connections to abjection in other aspects of our world(s). Your response got me thinking even further about why abjection might occur. You mentioned that abjection, “is born from the ego telling us that we are NOT the Other, and any similarities between the Other and the Self causes discomfort, confusion, and internal conflict.” I wondered, then, if it might stem from other aspects of our subconscious as well. Could it be a function of our internal sense of survival? As humans, do we push away the other in order to better our own chances of survival–assuming that the other is a liability? I wonder if this is why it is so hard for us to set aside our beliefs/opinions/ideals and accept “the other”.
The Psychology of War Course you took sounds fascinating. Your comment reminded me of having a “Us-vs-Them” mentality, and I thought about Brene Brown’s book “Braving The Wilderness.” This book is all about finding belonging and making connections with people. Connecting with others in meaningful ways is very important to a happy life, and yet we become disconnected from others when we separate ourselves into categories such as “oh you are anti-gun” and “I’m pro-gun” so, therefore, we have nothing in common, and one group automatically hates the other. When this happens, we ruin our chances of connection. I think the same thing can happen with adolescents and adults. Abjection can happen as a result of thinking we have nothing in common. Abjection seems to be a means of invalidating and as a teacher I think there is a real need to teach students that they do have a place in society.
I especially like this quote and think its something to keep in mind as a teacher and something we can and should teach our students.
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Salutations World. My name is Tiahna Burbank and I’m a student at Utah State University, where I’m pursuing an English and Physical Education teaching degree.
I thought about the different sites of abjection stated in the article. Though it mainly talked about students deemed too sexual or too violent, it kindled different abjections I saw in my secondary school experience. Each site of abjection created its own challenges, and it wasn’t till reading this article that I was able to see how teachers may have done better to rid of their abjections of students and rid of the educational barriers created by those objections. One factor I saw in my schools that influenced this typed of discrimination had to do with the strong Christian (or better-known Mormon) Culture that dominates Utah and dominates the schools here.
Students who didn’t match the social-success of the Mormon culture were greatly abjected by teachers in my experience. A friend from California walked into my high school on the first day and was encountered by the vice principal. Noticing she was new, his first question to her was “Are you Mormon?”. Since she wasn’t she answered no, and his reply was, “oh, you’re not going to fit in here.” Now statistics show that over 95% of my high school was Mormon (which my friend would soon realize), but that the deficit discourse given to her by an educator only solidified her social success. I’m sure she would’ve noticed she didn’t fit in as much as a minority student would notice not fitting into a school of only white students. The label given to her as “not Mormon” was the main abjection site for my school, and it was an excuse for teachers and students a like to label the minority of students as not good enough.
Like the black boy we read about in the article, I’m sure his violent actions came from outside expectations, pressures, bad family life, mental blocks, etcetera, and what others thought about him only amplified the behavior. So, students at my high school who weren’t Mormon were labeled as immoral, sexually active, smokers, drug addicts, alcohol drinkers, foul mouthed, and not someone students wanted to associate with. I noticed that teachers would quietly distance themselves from these students. They’d still give them the same work and lecture, but it seemed the teachers mentally detached themselves from those students. As stated in the article, silence can be more powerful than words.
One challenge of this situation, as a teacher, is that students given this label would participate in the listed activities above because they felt that’s how their world viewed them (though not all of them did). As a teacher, I think it’s important to separate student’s life choices from their education. Yes, a student’s life effects their schooling and I think it’s almost impossible to separate the two, but no matter what, every student has the ability to learn. An example from one of the teachers in the article was a 6th grade boy crying to his teacher about his current girlfriend. This is a great example of how a student’s life and their education can come together in a positive way. It’s also a great example of a teacher not letting that student’s life choices affect how much effort she put into instructing him.
As teachers, it’s essential to accept that teachers are learners as well, and to best teach their students is to learn from challenging situations. At my high school, it would’ve been better for teachers to accept that students of minority religion were just as teachable as the majority, and realize that the students’ biggest learning barrier could be the teacher’s own discriminating attitude.
Your comment that some of the students at the school began to adopt behaviors that others believed they had caught my attention. I don’t think many people consider how those labels can impact a student’s self-perception, both in terms of behavior and academic ability. I had a student in my first-year composition course who told me that she was a “bad” writer. I asked her what that meant and she wasn’t exactly sure, just that her high school teacher and told her that she was a bad writer and she never received good grades on her writing. This conversation arose after I noticed a lack of effort and motivation on her first essay. As you mentioned in your post, that student appeared to have internalized that belief.
I agree with you on the importance of separating a student’s life choices from their education. Once they are in the classroom, they are there to learn. As you stated, sometimes we have to acknowledge a student’s hardships and help them cope, but this cannot affect our perception of them as learners.
You mentioning your student who claimed she was a “Bad” writer reminded me of my niece. Her favorite subject in school was math until her fourth-grade teacher told her she wasn’t any good at it and suddenly she stopped putting in the effort. My sister finally started to tutor her, and they decided to prove the teacher wrong, and so every day they would study math and practice at the end of the year she ended up getting the highest score on the math section of the SAGE test which was awesome. My sister was picking up her daughter from school and the teacher came up to her and said something like “wow she did great in math but shes bad at English.” This really bugged my sister because the teacher for the second time said her daughter was “bad” at a school subject in front of her (my niece). I think it’s damaging for teachers to tell a student they are bad at something. I know that it’s important to have a “growth mindset” and believe we are capable of learning and growing but often if a teacher tells us we aren’t any good we end up with a “fixed mindset” and feel stuck at our current level of ability. I think my niece got lucky and was able to work hard to prove her teacher wrong but so many of us believe authority and stop trying. I hope never to tell a student they are “bad” at something and instead foster a growth mindset in them. And in some ways, I guess it is also important not to have a “fixed mindset” about our students. We shouldn’t believe they are lost causes or deserve to be abjected we should see them as capable of change and growth even if that feels and seems like pulling teeth.
I very much enjoyed this reading! It pairs well with some of the research I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in over the course of my master’s degree, so I had a lot to connect to. Additionally, through my master’s program I have engaged in a lot of readings which have caused me to “check my privilege”, truly reflect on how I view others who are different from me, and how I have unknowingly participated in the abjection of others. This article has helped me to continue in and deepen this time of self-reflection, and for this I am grateful.
I have decided to respond to the following questions, and I look forward to reading more responses.
1. What are the processes of abjection in these spaces? Do any events you have observed or participated in come to mind when reflecting on these processes?
As one who has primarily interacted with students and teachers in inner city schools, the processes of abjection among teachers towards students can be alarming at times. I have definitely contributed to the abjection of adolescents, especially those of color. I am a white female who grew up in a rural town and went to a small school. I believe there was one student of color in my entire school. Shifting from this into an urban school during student teaching where there was only a small handful of white students was a culture shock to say the least. Because of my lack of understanding of this culture and because I didn’t know any better, I fell into conversations with other teachers which usually shifted between two narratives: 1. the adolescents in the school need white female teachers to “save” them because their families are not raising them “right” – While I definitely saw parents do things that were objectively hurtful (physical and emotional abuse, neglect, etc.), I think that the dominant narrative among teachers suggested that these parents could stop being bad parents if they’d just pull themselves together. Even parents who were not doing these things were sometimes looked down upon because they were not instilling in their children the type of “respect” for others that would be expected in a white culture such as talking over others, being “too loud”, or just “too much” in general. 2. some adolescents in the school were “too far gone” to be helped. When certain teachers found out that students had been caught stealing, had otherwise been in trouble with the law, or had parents who were prostitutes/drug dealers, etc. the teachers sometimes wrote them off as not being able to be saved at that point. The students who fit the description of what is culturally “acceptable” of an adolescent were treated much better than those who did not. I once witnessed a teacher pick on a problematic student in order to make him angry so she could kick him out of her room as soon as possible “so that she could teach”.
Since I had no experience in this new culture before, it was easy for me to agree with these teachers at times. After taking some time off from teaching and engaging in real self-reflection alongside my academic research on the types of expectations I carry with me into these schools as a white female, I hope that when I step back into the classroom I will be ready to shift the abject!
How might an educator navigate these processes to interrupt them?
I believe that a willingness to learn about these processes and accept them as reality is the first step to interrupting them. Unfortunately many get stuck on the word “racist” and they simply cannot imagine how the term “racist” can apply to them. I have heard things like, “If I were racist, then why would I even have pursued a job in a school that has a dominant minority population?!”, as though that is the answer to the question and no further reflection is needed. While I understand that these teachers might not be openly using racial slurs or holding back students of color, unfortunately abject behaviors toward others can be much sneakier than that. By understanding that we all walk into school with an idea of what counts as acceptable behavior from adolescents, students of all races and ethnicity, etc. we can begin to unpack how these preconceived notions subconsciously contribute to abject behavior towards students.
I believe there should be professional development regarding this topic, however there will always (unfortunately) be teachers who immediately decide that they are not the problem, and they will not engage in the self-reflection necessary to begin shifting the abject. Regardless of this, it is still important to bring these issues to light.
Hi Angela Marie, I really appreciate your dual-perspective of being in such different school settings. As a woman born and bred in such a White bubble, I am fascinated with the opportunity to observe and contribute to the inner city experience. Something so honest in your post that I’d like to point out is this idea of knowing what is culturally acceptable for an adolescent’s behavior. First of all, I think we can all agree that adolescence is the exciting time of life when nothing makes sense and nobody knows who they are or what they’re doing. Of course, we as teachers expect them to already know those things to a certain point so that they can behave and be proper and respectful young minds in which to interact with us. Hormones aside, students have their purposes for acting out or bringing a little “‘too much'” into the class, as your past colleagues put it. Though we don’t always understand what those aims are, we can at least be aware of their presence and act with empathy towards those students. I have a firm belief that all students want to be happy, well-learned community members who succeed in life. However, the many factors of adolescence make that goal a little foggy at times, and those students get lost. During that time, we begin to make assumptions and mentally categorize students in various ways to assess who they are academically and what they’ll become in the future. Sad, right? I’ve come to learn that as a teacher, I can’t base a student’s success or future on who they are at the ages of twelve to seventeen.
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Hello! My name is Jessica Hahn, I am currently studying English and History teaching at Utah State University.
There were so many elements of the article that I appreciated! I particularly appreciated Sarigianides attention to the different ways that abjection occurs, even among very open-minded individuals and teachers. I enjoyed watching the other teachers, like Rachel and Ameia, questions why they found certain things appalling or dirty and ultimately deciding they need to shift their worldview. I think this idea is particularly important for educators as we seek to differentiate our instruction.
The questions that came to my mind revolved around morals. The article made me question where I should place my morals as a teacher and if/how I should implement them into my classroom. I never want any of my students to feel stereotyped or categorized in my classroom. I hope to treat abjected students like most any other student–I want to teach them, challenge them, help them succeed. However, I do not know if it is possible to teach a student who is, in fact, violent (no matter the race) the same way that I would teach an average student. Abjected students likely need a different kind of attention from their teachers, a kind that is accepting but also one that expects them to work hard.
I think the idea that I boiled my interpretation of this article down to is that educators should not push away students because their culture or worldview is different. Chances are, I will not agree with many of my students’ lifestyles; however, that should not stop me from doing all I can to teach them.
Hello everyone, my name is Montana McIntyre, and I am Junior Integrated Educational Studies major at Chapman University and want to someday become an Elementary School Principal!
This article was chalk full of information that I had never considered before. The concept that adolescents being viewed as a construct is a term not very familiar to me. I took a class in my first semester at Chapman centering in the construction of social differences; however, we had never touched upon this topic. As I read me on, I tried to focus on instances in my life live where abjection occurred, specifically in cases of highly sexual or violent children. I primarily work in a heavily Caucasian, affluent community. There have been many instances in which the children I have worked with, have shown signs of these behaviors. There were a set of identical twins I worked with over the summer, who were continually touching themselves and each other. The other teachers typically would not say much, unless they were giggling at their sexuality. However, when we had another child, named Nathan, who was half black, it became of high priority when he began to show signs of excessive sexual behavior. Which I think points right back to an instance they discuss in this article, which states that typically children of color, in particular, male students, are held to a high degree of appropriate behavior. They are reprimanded more regularly than their Caucasian female classmates. This issue of “racism” goes far beyond the classroom walls; however, it filters into society at every level. It can be seen specifically in the instances of police brutality. Recently in the film, Get Out, to the topic of modern black oppression and police brutality is put on public display in Hollywood. One of the underlying themes in this movie is that the flash of a camera, awakens its black “zombies” out of their trance, much like phones are being used today to awake our society into seeing the depth of our issues. Although in many aspects we are making great strides in making our world a more understanding and accepting place, we still have much work to do; and education is a prime example! Schools are systems of abjection, pigeon-holing students.
As I travel on my educational journey in becoming a teacher and eventually a principal, it is highly important for me to reflect on these issues that are plaguing our educational system. Sarigianides(2016) believes that teachers “conceptions of adolescence…determine the limits of students’ academic and social achievements”(405). This is such a crucial idea to address. The conception that we as educators are capable of making such an impact before these students have even begun their academic path is crazy to believe. This is why we have to hold ourselves to higher standards; recognize our power, and use it for the greater good. One notion that I like to live by is that past performance is no indicator of future performance. I know that this leads many to believe I am hopelessly optimistic; however, I think it is the best way to live. When people feel supported and that you believe in them, they are more eager to please you and to follow through. If you expect the worse from someone, there is only a 50/50 chance they will be motivated to prove you wrong. As a child, I never did well in math. I was always told I was going to fail, was failing and that I would never succeed. There were many instances where I just felt like quitting. Had I had someone in my corner cheering me on and making me believe that I had the potential to do more, I think I would have done much better. Much like in Sarigianides study, she talks about a student who on one occasion acted violently. Due to this, he was only ever seen as a violent child from then on. However, in comparison to his behavior during his summer course, he had a completely different positive behavioral report. Because the teacher did not have any primary knowledge of his behavior, they were able to move forward as a team and do better. This is a prime example of the impact and influence we have on our students and how imperative it is for us, to support them in the best ways possible.
You bring up some interesting points in your post. You mentioned the student in the article who acted violent on one occasion. This made me think about how it would have affected us if we were all judged on one day of bad behavior or bad choices when we were students. Arguably, we all had at least one of those moments, particularly in adolescence. For many of us, particularly those of us who are female and/or not a minority, this behavior appears to be brushed off, just as the twins’ behavior was in your post.
I agree with you that a student’s past performance does not necessarily indicate their future performance. I have had students in my composition courses who did poorly in other courses, but did just fine in mine. Alternatively, the opposite has occurred. However, I do think you have a point in being optimistic, because if we do not believe that our students are capable of success, why bother teaching? You mentioned that when students have someone to believe in them that they are more likely to be motivated to do well. One of the most powerful experiences I have had as an educator is asking a student during a conference to use their writing as an example for other classes and having them tell me that no one has ever thought that their writing was good enough to be used as an example. I have found this incredibly motivating for students to polish their writing and work through some difficult revisions. Obviously I do not tell this to everyone, but it has drastically increased the motivation of many of my students over the years.
Great post and good luck on your path to becoming a principal!
Hello all, my name is Gillian Mangani and I am an undergraduate studying English education at Niagara University.
I feel like this article was a very eye-opening, albeit disturbing one to read. Obviously as a teacher I never want to make my students feel isolated or unimportant. I feel like nobody goes into teaching wanting that to happen. The scary thing is, as Sarigianides’ article shows, it does happen. This article will definitely make me think about my actions more carefully because even if I do have good intentions, they may not always turn out the way I would like them to.
Reading this really made me think about other things I have read that discuss adolescents. Often times, educators, or just adults in general, treat adolescents like they are “dumbed down” and do not have anything worthy to bring to the table. We tend to think that because they spend so much time on their phones or on the internet and not reading traditional forms of literature, that they are missing out. Although there is merit in reading traditional works of literature, adolescents do in fact do a lot of meaningful reading, even through their phone or computer screens. Their aptitude with technology is actually a very big strength that a teacher can utilize to create purposeful lessons where students can use their funds of knowledge to push them forward.
I think if we truly knew adolescents and understood what they are going through, the act of abjection by teachers to students would decrease immensely. This goes farther than simply understanding what is relevant in their lives; we also have to understand what is going on beneath the surface. I remember reading an article that talked about what goes on inside the adolescent brain. A negative idea about adolescents is that they make rash decisions because they truly do not know or care about the consequences. In reality, they do know the consequences and most likely they do care, however their brains are not fully developed yet so they focus more on the instant reward than a possible negative outcome. I believe having knowledge like this will be nothing but beneficial for teachers and by extension, the students they are teaching. We need to stop treating adolescents like they are a separate and lower entity to adults. We are all humans after all and our students have just as much to offer us as we do to offer them. If we treat them more like equals, they will feel more appreciated and respected and will be more compelled to learn.
Greetings Gillian, I liked how you took the knowledge you learned from a previous course and this article to come up with your own philosophy about the matter. I agree that as a future teacher, I would never want to make a student feel inadequate because of objection. Though I feel the article did well on opening our minds to objection and how to be aware and avoid it, I feel that it could’ve given us more. Like the author of the article, she experienced objecting her student. She wasn’t able to fix her mistake because the student was sent out of her class, but what about the rest of us? Certainly one mistake of objecting a student or group of students would be the end of their successful education with us. I would’ve liked to know how to handle objection after it’s been delivered. Though half of the battle is avoidance, I think as teachers, its important to know how to (or know the steps to) correct our mistakes for the sake of our students.
I like what you had to say on how teachers need to treat their adolescent students. I completely agree that adolescents are very smart, and that they’re like smaller adults. This doesn’t mean that they’re dumber than adults, it just means they can be less experienced (notice that I said can be). The point you made about adolescents knowing their consequences is really important for teachers to know. Most kids know what happens when they drink, smoke, has unprotected sex, or any other crazy and reckless things that teenagers do. Sometimes that doesn’t always keep them safe though. For a classroom, it’s important that teacher set guidelines and consequences for undesired actions (dock points on late work, tardy marks, acting out in class, etc.), so that students can process what they’re consequences might be. Like you said, this doesn’t mean it will stop teens from acting stupid, but it gives them a learning experience in a controlled environment; if a teacher treats their students without abjection because of these behaviors, students will be able to grow into successful adults.
Hi my name is Tiffany Ross and I am currently studying English Education at Utah State University!
After reading this article I couldn’t help but reflect on my own philosophies as a future educator. One of the main reasons I wish to teach is to help my students feel empowered, and one of the ways I wish to do that is to break down stereotypes and abjections in my specific classroom. I think that this article does a great job of making teachers reflect on their own forms of abjection. More importantly, I feel this article address the need for a change in the way we think as educators.
However, I find myself feeling an overwhelming sense of pressure as a future educator to break down the stereotypical walls and break the habits of abjection in my classroom. Until this semester in school I have spent little time inside the classroom working with students. This semester, however, I was able to spend time in a middle school English classroom and found myself a little overwhelmed at all the forms of abjection I witnessed. Our society is ruled by abjection in so many ways, and the thought of breaking down that wall in a classroom can be daunting.
Sarigianides addresses how “education is supposed to be the means, whereby, individuals avoid the abject: by succeeding in school, youth will avoid a life of wretched circumstances” (399). I find this statement very poignant. Students need to be given the opportunity to succeed in school, and teachers are the ones that can make that happen. We cannot change the way the world thinks, but we can change the way we think. By constantly reflecting on the way we address abjections in our classroom, we will hopefully be able to broaden the possibilities for student learning in our classroom. After reading this article I hope to better be able to acknowledge my own forms of abjection and how to better myself as a future educator in the classroom.
Hi Tiffany, after reading this article I also had a moment of self-reflection as a future educator. I do think that we as educators do have pressure to break down the stereotypical walls and habits of abjection in our classroom. However, I feel like if our goal to becoming educators is to empower students that will come out naturally. Through our words and actions, students will know that we, their teachers, do care about them and want them to succeed. Most importantly, as educators, we need to recognize our own bias and to make sure that we aren’t showing that to our students. I really liked the quote you pulled out from the article it will emphasize what education is supposed to mean. The teacher plays a crucial role in the way students view themselves and develop their sense of identity. As I read this article and other discussion posts, I continue to wonder if there are forms of abjections that I may not be aware even when I am actively self-reflecting.
Hello all, this is Jamie Ammirati from Utah State University. I don’t have a Facebook, so I’ve logged in with my husband’s. Though I’m late to the conversation, I would still love to participate! I’d like to thank all who have contributed to the conversation thus far.
Something that I really struggle with as a pre-service English teacher is knowing which literature is and is not appropriate to teach in schools. The example of “Weetzie Bat” and what the teachers thought wasn’t appropriate drew concerns to the surface that I’ve been harboring for some time (398). Oftentimes, I think adults try to suppress or hide novels and content from teenagers because they don’t want to soil their young minds with reality. However, those students have more than likely already read, heard, or experienced this kind of content. I think about how there are so many expectations for me as a teacher to remain unbiased, all-encompassing, aware of the individual’s needs, and so forth. How do I do that without bringing in some type of literature that has the gritty, the explicit, the honestly? Does preventing them from reading about the issues of today going to prepare them for today? Is that my place? What do you all think about that moment in the article?
Changing the subject. . .
Much like everyone else, Sarigianides’ article took me back to my experiences in high school. I laugh at the abjection and grouping in pools even as large as the school district I was in. All five high schools in the district were known for hosting a certain group of students: mine involved the “prego’s” or high percentage of pregnant students, another was known for having the most “druggies”, the third housed the “homos”, another the “snotty rich kids,” and the final school was where the “hicks” resided. I laugh at the noticeable separation and characterization of the schools now and wonder why it is that we as students chose to see the schools in that way as opposed to what the schools were really good at and had accomplished. In the end, it comes down to the idea that we as a people group things and people together based on percentages or similarities. We are taught to abject at a young age from our parents, choosing who will be a good friend and who won’t, based on their grades or family life or appearance. From there, we make assumptions of who they are and what they’ll accomplish in life.
Similarly, I have noticed since reading this article that I have become more aware of the automatic responses I make when I meet a new student in my clinical experience. I’ve started studying my automatic responses to what students due on the first day of the trimester, and I’ve tried to work through my automatic grouping of which students will most likely do well and put in the effort and who won’t. I want to be able to look each student in the eye and truthfully tell them that I think they can and will accomplish great things in my class this trimester. I’ll tell you what, though, it’s a process. . .
Hello! My name is Morgan Huffman and I am a students at Utah State University. Being a future educator, I have learned so much by reading this article. The main takeaway that I got from this article is the affects of teachers preconceived judgements and how it can have a negative affect on students. Coming in with a judgement on students can ruin the chance of forming a professional relationship with students, because a student is being based entirely on assumptions rather than factual evidence. Students are also very intelligent and can tell when a teacher has assumptions about them, therefore diminishing any trust that could have been created. Assumptions can also damage the progression of a student. If a student is labeled as a “trouble” student, their work and progress is dismissed based on the work ethic that the teacher has labeled the student as. Teachers tend to pass judgement instead of taking the time to simply get to know students. Students cannot strive in a classroom where the teacher has created a false identity for their students. This false identity can then be passed on to other educators and ruin others teachers perceptions about their future students, therefore creating a permanent identity based on an assumption.
The only way to avoid this situation is to avoid the prejudgements from other teachers and not starting a class with a preconceived assumption. In order to truly know students, it takes time and communication. In order to do this, a teacher must create a safe classroom and slowly build relationships with their students. When trust and communication is open, a lot can be learned about students. Things that can be learned is about their home life, their learning style, and their weaknesses in school. All of these things make up a student’s identity, but it does not make the student a “trouble” student, these are only things that teachers should be aware of while helping students progress and find their strengths. It is not our job to put a label on students education, it is our job to help them feel comfortable in school and have a positive learning experience.
Hi Morgan, I had a similar response to the article as you did. This article was extremely thought provoking especially as an aspiring educator. I really liked how you described the main takeaway to the article. Teachers’ preconceived judgments can affect students especially when they are negative. This makes it extremely important for teachers to be aware of their actions and words when speaking and interacting with students. I agree students are extremely intelligent and can tell when teachers have assumptions about them. This includes body language and facial expressions. With this type of assumption, it could lead students to a lack of motivation in learning which could hurt them. As teachers, it is our role to motivate and empower students to be the best they can be. I also think that the only way to avoid this situation is to avoid prejudgments from teachers. Especially as a first year teacher, it is hard to stand up for yourself and let teachers know that you don’t want to know who the “trouble” students are. I found your post to be super insightful in ways teachers should create a safe classroom environment for students to have a positive learning experience.
What stuck out to me most in your response was when you said that we should learn about different aspects of students like such as their learning style, home life, and things to work on yet, we should not let those be the labels that a student will get for the rest of their education. I absolutely agree that as teachers, it is essential to take the time to get to know our students so that we can take into account what outside factors may be impacting their learning in the classroom. When I created this relationship with my teachers in school was when I felt less stress in the classroom and gave more participation. As you said, “…it is our jobs to help them feel comfortable…” and I think by showing empathy to our students and allowing them to be recognized and heard but not singled out and judged is how we can extinguish abjection and provide an enriching learning experience for all students.
My name is Jenna DiMartile and I am a Junior Secondary Education major at Niagara University.
This article man. This article, I personally think, makes anyone who reads it reevaluate their thinking. There is a quote by Margaret Thatcher that says “Watch your thoughts; they become your words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions; they become your habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” They way we think; how we perceive others in our own mind, how we judge others, how we inherently treat others, is the foundation of who we become. If we, like the article talks about, have these preconceived ideas of others, these ideas ultimately come out in the way we act towards other, especially our students.
The reason I want to be a teacher is solely because of the students. Not because I am in love with my content area or anything else, I want to be there for the students who do not have anyone else. Knowing that, I can not imagine how awful I would feel if my students experienced any kind of judgement or rejection from me due to my own worldview or disposition. Personally, I am very strong in my Christian faith. Through that, there can be a lot of push back as to what people may think of me being a Christian and a teacher. Many people do not believe in what I do and may be bothered by that. But as a Christian, I believe in loving other, that means everybody, no matter what the circumstances. This concept is hard for anybody – but is so importance to me personally and me as an educator.
It is not my job to judge my students by their race, ethnicity, language, sexuality, etc. It is my job to teach and to be an outlet for my students to grow and confide in. There was a part in the article that Macy Lou refused to ever talk to her students about personal things – I think my jaw dropped slightly reading this. Can you imagine teaching without having a personal relationship with your students? How does one form trust and comfort with out being personal? I am sorry but all the poetry in the world won’t make my students get to know me or appreciate or respect me or feel comfortable around me. Obviously, there are lines. There are always lines, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for personal relationships to grow. When Macy Lou allowed her student to talk to her about his relationship problems, her student found comfort in her and even found a way to improve his writing during the process. Win, win, win.
Rachel put it perfectly when she said “it didn’t fit my worldview, so I had to change my worldview to make sense of it.” As teachers, even as human beings, we are not going to agree with everything on this earth. Almost everything has conflicting sides. But even in a divided world, one person can be the bridge. Having a wide worldview, and being open to others views it was makes a successful teacher and human. We will all always have our own opinions and ideas of what is wrong and what is wrong, but ultimately, it is all about how you handle your response and actions.
Jenna, you had some pretty powerful stuff to say in your discussion. I love the quote you shared by Margaret Thatcher, and I will definitely be using that later on in my teaching career. It was a strong thought that our preconceived ideas about others can affect how we treat them. I went to a Saturday lecture about teaching diversity and that speaker pointed out that as humans we’re all bias and all prejudice. Prejudice literally means pre-judge, and it’s something that we do naturally every day. This doesn’t mean that we’re all bad people, but it does mean we have to be aware of our actions and thoughts after our first reaction of seeing our students. This can be from stereotypes students may hold because of what they look like, act like, or believe. To add onto your “preconceived ideas of others” comment, I think it’s important to catch our first pre-judge thoughts about students and remind ourselves that our first reaction doesn’t tell the full story of the student, that they have lots to offer the class, and that every student is capable of learning.
I agree with you that taking relationships out of teaching defeats the purpose of teaching. I had a few teachers that wanted to know absolutely nothing about me. I’d be discussing something going on in my life and the teacher would shoot me down and say that my personal life is none of their business and they didn’t need to know anything about it. Well, I didn’t learn much from those teachers. Because they were so unwilling to learn about me, I subconsciously didn’t want to learn from them. How a teacher treats their students has a huge impact on their learning. I’m an assistant coach at the local high school by my university. There is no way I could do my job right if the athletes and I didn’t have some sort of relationship. I coach distance track, and on long runs I talk to the kids about their school work, their extra curricular activities, what events are going on in the school, and countless others. An athlete’s face lights up every time I ask how their solo ensemble practice or college interview went. The more effort I put in, the more effort they put in.
Even when it comes to their beliefs I’m careful not to object them through stereotypes. Most of my athletes are Mormon, since I’m not Christian or Mormon, I don’t agree with many of their beliefs, but I’m very careful to never object their beliefs and the activities correlated to them. One boy was called from his church to go on a mission to the Philippines. Even though he knows I’m not religious, he was still excited to tell me about his call. I supported him by asking him what language he would speak, what he already knows about the place, and even told him about my aunt and uncle that love down there. This relationship between me and my athletes is what keeps them so determined to learn from me. I can’t it imagine it being any different in a classroom.
Hi, my name is Savannah Fleming. I am a preservice teacher located in Logan, UT studying at Utah State University.
First, I wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading Sarigianides article, it offered a wonderfully open minded and understanding view of adolescence that moves past the traditional and views youth as dynamic, mature (if still growing) decision makers who both have, and are in the process of creating, stories of their own. This view of youth is something that I firmly believe and hope to implement in my pedagogy.
That said, the article never struck me more than it did in the opening paragraph. Sarigianides description of the student named Ruben and his abjection by not only her, but by countless other teachers, administrators, and students seemed to me an incredible injustice. While I don’t think that violence is something that should be easily written off, the idea that a mere seventh grader should be so quickly dismissed as un-teachable because of it seems to be a self fulfilling prophecy–he is violent because he is not educated and he is not educated because he is violent. Sarigianides stated in the article that she “[did] not remember if Ruben threatened a student, disrespected me or if I imagined the offense that warranted my call. . .Ruben left after only a few days at the school. . .Ruben’s presence in relation to my “proper” students, teachers repelled this boy, isolating him regardless of his attendance at a summer rehabilitation program and his actions after the fight” (389-401). In her reaction to this article, another respondent–Stormy Knaak–described the situation quite eloquently, stating, “regardless of what Ruben said or did when he attended class, he had already received a reputation based on gossip and past experience, so he began his experience already in a hole rather than on a level playing field as the other students in his class [had].”
Abjection occurs when we oppose ‘the other’. I think, however, that it is through experience of the other that we can learn most broadly. If we never seek to understand that which is outside of us, we run the risk of living within the confines of one single point of view. In that way, everything and everyone outside of us is the abject. In a talk given for National Geographic, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie described “the danger of a single story,” stating, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. . .The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.” Ruben was surely more than the violent gang member that he was flattened into–and I was struck most heavily by the consequence that his abjection might have had on him in his youth and growing into his adult life.
For me, this article brings up the idea of equity and equality–are we, as teachers, giving all students equal opportunity to succeed by equitably giving them the tools that they need to do so? In addition, this reminds me that people are more than their actions–are we giving our students the opportunity to be more than their reputation, more than their parents, more than race or gender, more than their sexuality or lack thereof, more than their past and/or present?
My name is Kenya Thompson and I am a student at Utah State University in Logan, UT!
This has been mentioned a few times, but Sarigianides personal story at the beginning about Ruben really stuck out to me. Years later, she does not remember what happened that led to her calling the vice principal but she is still affected by her decision. She claims, “ousting Ruben violates my sense of who I am professionally.” she also claims, “I am not that which I profess to be.” (389) I can’t help but think about what impact these events had on Ruben. How can a student react to the simple statement of “If he does anything, he’s out”? (388) What would Ruben’s life be like when he was kicked out of every middle school in his district? As educators, we are still human. However, we have to keep in mind how our actions will come across to our students.
The danger in abjection is that it could be anything that causes inconvenience in our classrooms. It would be so much easier to label our students as a problem that can’t be fixed, and move on. Any of these inconveniences stems from various iceberg problems (problems where we can only see the surface level, but there is still so much more underneath.) At this point, I think we can all agree we aren’t in this for the money, or because it will be easy. To shift the abject is to take steps to change the culture of a school district. Some areas are better at this than others and are more accepting of students and their various backgrounds (in which sexuality and race, among other things, play a large role) however, education as a whole needs to move forward. Sarigianides states, “Acknowledging the abject threatens us because it exposes how we each participate in shutting out associations that are part of us but that we thrust aside to protect who we think we are.” (389) and I couldn’t agree more. It’s hard to admit, but protecting ourselves could be playing a large role in student/adolescent abjection. I admire this statement for almost calling educators out and allowing us to take a step back and reexamine our commitment to our students and their needs in the classroom.
My name is Alex Howk, and I’m a first year graduate student in the English Education program at the University at Buffalo. I’ll admit upfront, I’m at a slight disadvantage when it comes to big national discussion boards like this. As I’m only in my first year of my program, my amount of formal classroom experience is very limited, mostly consisting of times when I had to go in and do observations or interviews for a project. So please forgive me if some of these thoughts and responses sound a little naïve. First off, my response to this article was more less that it was something I had already seen, at least in part. Between all my different teaching courses we’ve read a lot about adolescence, or the lack therefor of when it comes to minority students. Adolescence in some ways is a privilege, enjoyed by those who can afford it. Unfortunately, the ones who can afford to keep it tend to be white males. Their sexual or violent incidents tend to just be brushed off and categorized specifically as being part of their adolescent stage, something they’ll grow out of. It seems the opposite happens with minority students and female students. Sexual activity is the swift and complete end of their childhood. In the eyes of teachers and authority figures, those individuals are adults now, and if there are consequences, they should have thought about it before hand. The same goes for violence. Once violence enters the equation, those children are instantly adults, with adult consequences and punishments.
It’s curious though, that there’s a student population that actually seems to experience a reverse version of this. LGBTQ+ students are often simply categorized as “confused children”. Their realizations about their own sexuality and gender identity expression are seen as choices that should not be left to them, the children. Teachers and authority figures regress these students away from adolescence, only viewing them as children who couldn’t possibly understand the choices they’re trying to make. However, this denouncement of student choice is motivated by the exact same drive that causes them to force sexually active and violent students into adulthood. That drive, is the drive for control. If they’re simply children, they can be restricted and told to wait until they realize what’s actually good for them. If they’re adults, they can be punished as severely as seen fit without any restrictions.
So how as educators are we supposed to fix this in our schools? Short answer is, we can’t. There will always be people who seek to control others, and our students will often become their main targets. The world is not a nice place, even inside the walls of a school. Which is why the best thing we can do, is what we’re meant to do; educate. We need to teach our students about the system they’re part of, and the kinds of difficulties and issues they will face, sometimes through no fault of their own. If students are sat down, and at least explained to why things are happening to them the way they are, they will be much more receptive to trying to find a more constructive solution. Aside from that, the best thing we can do is to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for everyone who’s willing to at least try and be part of it.
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Alex, for someone just starting out, your command of the ideas in the article and the realities of youth and youth in schools is strong. Picking up on your points about LGBTQ youth, you are right on one side of the equation, that youth still questioning their sexuality–or positioned to be questioning by the grown-ups around them–are positioned as innocent, to continue to support a sexually innocent adolescence. But for youth affirming their non-heteronormative sexuality, such youth are deemed “too knowledgeable” about sex–even if they are physically sexually innocent (see Kokkola’s Fictions of Adolescent Carnality as one reference for such representations in YAL).
Wow. Your post really made me think. I love the way that you point out that many people refer to LGBTQ students as being confused children and yet expect others of the same age to have a complete understanding of their actions. Your comments have really made me question my own beliefs about adolescence as much as the article did. I have recently been researching the way identifying as LGBTQ affects a student’s learning and schooling experience. I know that I will need to strive to make these students feel safe and comfortable in my classroom along with all other students.