Accruing Credit: Theory of Cultural Capital Rewards in Early Education

Cultural capital is not exclusively classed there are also racialized factors that make students try things in different ways. Theorizing how students accrue credit marries the reaction of the teacher with what students are doing. Students have a certain credit score with their teachers, more able to push boundaries, ask for more — this happens with all of us, with bosses, family members, and those favorites can get away with more. These have racial implications for inequality — what we are trying to uncover is process. Accruing credit results to be the process by which the cultural capital matters.

Students attempt in different ways to get what they want. At times we even noticed similar attempts receive different results. After recognizing that teachers may have favoritism towards certain students, it did not match across the demographic of said favorite students. In other words, white students of higher SES have accumulated a tab with their teachers. This is a long-term behavior of favors and accommodations that their teachers now expect to be asked from. This group of white students of higher SES have accrued benefits throughout time as one would accrue a higher credit score. Hannah was allowed to interrupt and gain whatever she wanted at a mid-point of our study. In the middle of instruction, Hannah_wh_f interrupts to say “Ms. Jennifer I want [something.]” “Go get it,” she says (58). Jennifer did not need further explanation or security about what Hannah may have planned to do. She knows the standard of questions Hannah asks and no longer inquires.

Students are gaining these entitled behaviors that stem partly from the evaluation from teacher’s on students. Harper for example, gets extra attention, care and accommodation from Jennifer. She got up from her chair to ask Jennifer to do her hair, and she reluctantly agreed (73). No child appears the first day and asks for such a personal request with full confidence that she will get that accommodation. This alone represents how it is not the first time she’s done this and it has grown over time. If Aaliyah, a Black girl, who also tends to ask for many benefits asks for something like this she would not have gotten as she has not been granted such benefits along the time Dr. K observed her. In another example, Alden still does not understand Mrs. Cooper’s directions. She asks Mrs. Cooper again, “What words do you copy?,” to which she replies, “Honey, we’ve done this a million times,” and shows her the practice words that need to be copied (69). When white girls of higher SES how Alden have gotten their teachers used to getting additional instruction and explanation, they accrue credit even when the teacher is visible ticked off. Regardless, these students do get this benefit. In another case, Leah_wh_f drops her back in the doorway, then comes over to Ms. Janwari to show her the letter. Look at it, she said, and Ms. Janwari said I looked, but I didn’t see what was special about it. Look at the way it’s signed, Leah_wh_f said to Ms. Janwari. It’s just like the opinion letters! Ms. Janwari said she was so amazed that she had found that connection, that she wasn’t even looking for that (55). Through interactions like this, we notice that the student treats their teacher at this point as a friend instead of a person above them with power. The white students of higher SES have built these low-barrier interactions throughout repetition of having their accommodations granted. One time when Leah was sharing to the class about some special soap with a marble inside she brought, Ms. Janwari even helped her to find the right words. Her teacher asked her, “Were you thinking about our fossil and layers museum trip?” (58). Ms. Janwari is nudging her to use the specific lingo that fits this cultural capital moment. Ms. Janwari draws the connection for her and then proclaims it by stating that she “love[s] how she is always connecting what we learn” (58). To a certain degree, Leah was able to accrue credit to the point that her teacher even reminded her. Ms. Janwari even projects onto Leah that surely she must be thinking of an advantageous input. We see a clear distinction of which students get their behavior addressed; white students of higher SES. In this example, Tyrone_bl_m, but then a white boy’s blurted out questions are answered)She asked them again to remain quiet for the instructions. Tyrone_bl_m and Shawn_bl_ms tart moving around, and a white boy and Tyrone_bl_m blurt out questions. Ms.Miller does answer the white boy’s question but does not address Tyrone_bl_m (84).

In instances where students do not seem to be rewarded, distracting conversations are allotted space and attention. For example, when Jennifer read something about disliking peas, some of the students were surprised that anyone seemed to dislike peas, because some blurted out “I like peas” and “I love peas!” . . . Jennifer told those students who were sharing their affinity for peas that this was not important for the story and to focus more on the sketching (83). This in fact shows again the importance of knowing the lingo. These students did not know the lingo, but since these white students of higher SES have accrued credit with Ms. Jennifer, the conversation has space to take place even though told that it is unimportant.