Growth Through Uncertainty

Jordan, M. E., & Mcdaniel, R. R. (2014). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1–49. doi:10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Aw man, I’m a fifth grader!  Ok, I’m not a fifth grader, but that is who I was connecting with in the article by M.E. Jordan. I have so many new adventures I am starting and these days, uncertainty seems to be my constant state of mind. In addition to starting the Ed. D. program, I am now one of the mentor teachers at my school. To say that I have uncertainty about how my life will work over the next year is an understatement.

When any of my colleagues point out that I’m crazy for taking on so much and that it is going to be so hard, my response is always the same. “Yes, I’m a little crazy, but the most difficult stuff is the most rewarding.” When I read the statement, “Generating uncertainty can facilitate the reorganization of current beliefs, values and conceptions.” (Jordan & Mcdaniel, 2014), I was pleased to find an affirmation of my beliefs; further evidence, that in order to change, one has to work through the issue.

As I continued to reflect on the article and my new position at work I realized that I would not be the only person coming into this new community of practice with uncertainty. The new teachers I will be working with are not only going to be uncertain, but probably apprehensive. Jordan says that when we are presented with another’s uncertainty we will either respond in a socially supportive way or not. It is my job to help the new teachers grow as educators and to build a community of practice that deals with the uncertainty in a positive way. In an article by Wenger, he says that “Members build their community through mutual engagement. They interact with one another, establishing norms and relationships of mutuality that reflect these interactions.” (Wenger, 2000) Building relationships and establishing norms is going to play a huge role in how I can assist others in their uncertainty and vice versa.

I saw so many parallels between the 5th grade class in the article and the community I am now a part of in cohort 9. Each of us has been uncertain at many points over the last few weeks, but as a group we have helped each other in a positive way and have not only worked through our uncertainty, but have created a community of practice who works to support each other through our growth. It is exciting to be a part of it!

Tara Yosso discusses deficit thinking in her article. Even though she is discussing it from the position of minority students, I think it can be applied to any community of practice. She says that “Cultural capital is not just inherited or possessed by the middle class, but rather it refers to an accumulation of specific forms of knowledge, skills and abilities.”(Yosso, 2005) Each person brings cultural capital, regardless of race. As a leader it is really important to remember that everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. In addition, my strengths are not going to be the same as the next person’s. By valuing people for the capital they bring, the community will become a valuable tool that will allow each of us to work together through our trials.

As I continue on my new adventures, I am confident that I can work through all of my uncertainties and help my community members through theirs. It is empowering to know that, at times, everyone has doubts and that working in a community of practice will allow me to grow, in spite of my uncertainty.


Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Sage, 7(2), 225–246. doi:10.1177/135050840072002

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

Perceptions of a 9-year-old

When I was 9-years-old, my older brother had a basketball game against a team from the Ute Indian Reservation, located in northern Utah. Up to that point in my young life, I had never before been to the Indian Reservation. As we were driving to the game, I distinctly recall thinking about what the opposing team’s players and fans would be like, and how the reservation and school would look like. I won’t lie, I imagined that they would all be dressed in traditional Native American costumes, complete with feathers, while the cheerleaders beat on drums. Clearly, my 9-year-old view of Native American culture was in need of expansion.

In the article, “Race Ethnicity and Education”, author Tara Yosso (2005), explores the idea that race and ethnicity is not simply about the color of a person’s skin, black or white, colored or not. She speaks to the value of experience as cultural wealth. Cultural wealth is gained, in part, through the experiences that people of color have gained through their communities, home life, and interactions with others, whether good or bad. Cultural capital creates a more complete view of who that person is, and how we, as educators, can best engage them in the educational process.

Historically, communities of color have been viewed from a deficits model within education. This model views students who come from communities of color as lacking resources, or that they are disadvantaged. The author notes that this is one of the most prevalent forms of racism within our school system, in that it “takes the position that minority students and families are at fault for poor academic performance because: (a) students enter school without the normative cultural knowledge and skills; and (b) parents neither value nor support their child’s education” (p.75). When viewing race and culture through this two-dimensional lens, we limit our understanding of the experiences that make people who they are, particularly their ability “to experience, respond to, and resist racism and other forms of oppression” (p.72).

In broadening our lens, the author discussed different forms of capital that adds to the overall cultural wealth of people of color. Each form of capital is based on different experiences that people of color gain in their life, and includes, aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital. In the educational context, each form speaks to the experiences that students of color bring with them to their educational experience, and how their experiences have shaped who they are.

As an educator, I feel very strongly about looking at students holistically. While I will never be able to fully understand the experiences that people of color have had, it is through engaging them in their own experiences, and how those experiences create their own cultural wealth, that we are able to most effectively help students be successful in their educational pursuits.

I don’t recall anything about the basketball game, or even who won. However, my young 9-year-old view of Native American’s, was forever changed that evening. As we entered the gymnasium, I noticed something that I was not expecting. The players, fans, families, referees, coaches, scoreboard operators, ushers, and even the cheerleaders, acted and looked, just like we did, other than a different color of skin.

As a family, we discussed perceptions and misperceptions, assumptions and misassumptions. But it was my mother’s view that changed how I view others, particularly people of color. She taught me that it wasn’t about treating people the same, for in treating others the same, we miss the characteristics, qualities and HISTORY that make them unique.


Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, (8)1, 69-91.


“Barbershop” as an Entity of Cultural Wealth

Short video clip here:

(Source: Story, T. (Director). (2002). Barbershop [Motion Picture].

This weekend, the film Barbershop, starring rapper Ice Cube, was on television. One of my favorite movies, the film chronicles the everyday life of “Calvin”, played by Ice Cube, who has inherited his father’s barbershop. Not just your ordinary barbershop, a long-standing, well-known, “pillar of the community” barbershop opened by this father during the civil rights era. The cast is comprised of old and young men, loan sharks, criminals, congressmen, and other colorful characters that frequent the barbershop on a daily basis. Calvin, who has other aspirations of his own, is reluctant to keep the shop open, but is quickly schooled by “Eddie”, the senior barber on the staff, who reminds him of the history, purpose and value of the ‘shop, saying, “This is the barbershop! The place where a black man means something! Cornerstone of the neighborhood! Our own country club! I mean, can’t you see that? “Through this exchange, and other insights Calvin begins to understand that closing the shop would mean the demise of a major cultural institution in his predominately Black community (Story, 2002).

I saw a direct connection from this film to Tara J. Yosso’s (2005) article, Whose Culture has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth. While Barbershop is not about education inequity, the themes in the film have strong connection to cultural wealth in the Black community. Yosso (2005) uses Critical Race Theory in drawing attention to how minorities draw on the values, wisdom, and inspiration that are deeply rooted within their own cultural community. Yosso (2005) begins her sentiments by discussing the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1977), and his idea of cultural wealth to explain why minority students do not excel as frequently as White students. According to Bourdieu, students obtain capital through cultural means (i.e. language, education), economic means (i.e. finances, assets), or social means (i.e. “who you know”), and such capital is received from one’s formal education or through their family connection (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977). However, Yosso (2005) takes issue with Bourdieu’s position which openly presents the White, middle-class culture as the standard by which to judge others cultural wealth and value.

In my own life as a Black girl, I was responsible for getting my younger sister and myself to and from school every day. I was to cook breakfast, put our clothes on, pack our backpacks, lock the door, catch the city bus to the school, deliver my sister to her school, and walk to my own school. Our mother worked two jobs, so light grocery shopping, cooking dinner, answering the telephone, bathing my sister, homework, and bedtime were left up to me as well. Basically, I could manage our home! However, these skills were not as valuable as those obtained by my White classmates who had cars to take them to and from school, and whose parents could provide them with technology to help them excel in school, which was expected in the school system at that time. Today, my seven-year-old daughter is often assigned online homework. Again, this supports Yosso’s (2005) statement that White-middle class culture is considered the normative, excluding many marginalized who families do not own a home computer, nor do they have access to the internet, which is clearly the expectation in our school systems.

Yosso (2005) goes on to explain that Communities of Color foster cultural wealth on different principles than White communities do. Aspirational, familial, social, linguistic, navigational, and resistant capital are building blocks that create a foundation for rich, cultural capital in minority communities. Interestingly, Barbershop shows several of these types of capital within the movie. Many of the patrons talk about their dream jobs, goals, and plans for their futures while getting their hair cut (Aspirational). Calvin often leans on his wife for advice and moral support, while being reminded of the historical value of the barbershop by others (Familial).  Congressmen and lawyers who patron the barbershop, as well as citizens step up to help keep the ‘shop open, and the staff employed when the city attempts to tear down the business for upgrading by persuading officials to keep it open (Social). Finally, the patrons often come to barbershop not only to get their hair cut, but they also come for a weekly dose of strength and support  in dealing with racial and social injustice issues within their jobs, schools, and community (Navigational and Resistance).

So, while Barbershop’s script is not based on education, it does show the paradigm of cultural wealth in the Black community. Furthermore, educational entities should take note on how valuable such cultural institutions are and partner with them to help marginalized students succeed. Yosso (2005) draws upon Gloria Anzaldua’s (1990) sentiments of “de-academizing” educational theory putting it to practical use by connecting educational institutions to the community. Schools should partner with local churches, beauty shops, barbershops, athletic coaches, and recreational centers within marginalized communities to re-structure the mainstream standard of cultural wealth in an effort to see these institutions as valuable and practical for people of color; a concept I deeply agree with. After school tutoring programs could be held at neighborhood places of worship, or perhaps, “real world” learning credit can be earned for students who have part-time jobs, or who work in a family business. Recognition of cultural wealth is essential for change to happen.


Anzaldua, G. (1990). Haciendo Caras/making face, making soul: creative and critical perspectives by women of color. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Press.

Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J.-C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society, and culture. London: Sage.

Story, T. (Director). (2002). Barbershop [Motion Picture].

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006