Against the Standards: Analyzing Expectations and Discourse of Educators regarding Students with Disabilities in a Kindergarten Classroom
AbstractThis two-year ethnographic case study critically examines the language educators use to describe students with disabilities who are considered to present challenging behaviors in one classroom. Focusing on the language and practices used by one special education teacher and three teaching assistants, this paper explores how educators respond to students’ behaviors by analyzing educators’ utterances and the implication of such use for the education of the students. Using critical discourse analysis, this paper highlights how educators’ language in the classroom reflects a discourse of expectations that is based on various social standards and pressures that educators have to juggle. Educators expressed academic and behavioral standards by comparing students’ performance to the expected norm as well as through comparisons between students. Based on such comparisons, some students were constructed as always lacking and ultimately defined by the adjectives originally used to describe them. Students were perceived to embody defiance or smartness, the characteristics by which they were defined.