The Sharing Circles: Two Stories of Circles and Indigenous Culture
Theresa Meuse-Dallien and Theresa Larsen-Jonasson are not only authors with surprisingly similar names, but they’ve also written books with surprisingly similar titles: The Sharing Circle. Both offer parents, educators, and children the opportunity to learn from or administer culturally responsive teaching (CRI) and would likely be viewed positively from a liberal pluralistic perspective. However, the two differ significantly in the way they integrate their cultural and anti-bias teachings. Therefore, these texts present exceptional examples of how educators may use CRI in their classrooms and how those practices influence young children.
While CRI is undoubtedly a piece of the multicultural classroom puzzle, it’s not the only one. Gay (2010) describes culturally responsive teaching as “[using] the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant and effective for them” (p. 31). Dover (2013) describes it as “one of the five strands that form effective teaching for social justice in K-12 classrooms” (Alaca & Pyle, p. 757). The other four of Dover’s “strands” consist of (1) social justice education, (2) multicultural education, (3) critical pedagogy, and (4) democratic education.
Considering how both Sharing Circles contribute to these five strands can help us understand how they play a role in supporting the development of socially just students who choose to question the structural norm instead of reinforcing it. As Jones and Diaz (2006) explain:
In many respects, early childhood education, as a microcosm of the broader society, operates to perpetuate the status quo in society…However, we share Dahlberg et al.’s (1999) vision of early childhood institutions as potential ‘civil forums’, and perceive that through collective community action we can actively foster and create more democratic philosophies and practices (p. 169).
With this, we begin to see how Dover’s five strands are not mutually exclusive. All work together to support a socially just, multicultural, and anti-bias classroom.