Monday, May 3, 2010

Random Blog Post #2

In last Thursday's class 4/29/2010 we did a class activity involving our values and beliefs as future teachers. We lined up and on the opposite walls of the classroom there was Yes on one side and No on the other. We then had to place ourselves on the "spectrum" based on our response to the questions asked. I really enjoyed this activity because it was really just based on things that you personally believe, and issues that will definitely come up in the teaching field. I found that it was helpful to really get a good feeling on my own ideals in certain aspects. It was also really interesting to hear what other people's beliefs were and why they went that way.

There were some issues that the class was spread out over the spectrum but there was one or two where it seemed to be half on one side and half on the other. One of these examples was if you were an art teacher would you have an art activity at Thanksgiving where students made pilgrim outfits from paper bags and headpieces with feathers for Native Americans. I was on the Yes side because I said that I believed that it was like a history craft, at the time of the first Thanksgiving the first Americans did dress like pilgrims and the Native Americans in the area at the time did wear headpieces with feathers in them. I also said that I would not allow students to go around making the stereotypical "Indian Call" or to go around saying "How". Also to explain to students that this is not how Native Americans now dress, just like it is no longer how Americans dress. Hearing the opposite side's opinions I found that we were all basically saying the same thing but that they had just interpreted the example differently. It was interesting to hear classmates opinion's on this subject and to see different points of view that I might not have come up with myself.

The second hotly debated example was if you as a teacher had planned a class trip to build homes for Habitat for Humanity and one of the parent's of a student said they would not allow their child to go on the trip because they were Jewish and Habitat for Humanity only gives houses to self-declared Christians - would you cancel the trip for all students? In this case I was in the middle but more towards the Yes side. Most of the the class was on the No side because they felt that the students would still be helping people by building houses for everyone. Nicole, another student in class, and myself both said that they really would not be building houses for everyone because people of the Jewish religion would not be allowed housing. I also did not think it was right that in this aspect it would be pushing the church and school together, something that is not allowed. I do not see how a school trip could involve something so blatantly endorsed by a religion. I still can't decided what I would really do in this situation, its difficult to say that you will not participate building houses for anyone but it's also not fair to not allow someone housing because of their religion.

(Since this topic was brought up a few years ago in Dr. class Habitat for Humanity's rules have been changed to benefit people of any or no religion.)

This activity just made me think about all of the outside aspects to teaching that I will constantly have to be aware of as a teacher. It is not just a career where you teach students the main education subjects. You have to teach students the rules and codes of society, teach them political correctness, and to be fair and aware to all the differences that make up your body of students. At times it seems very daunting, that one little mistake could affect so much in a student's life. It just proves how aware we need to be as teachers of everything we do and really think out lessons and activities before we do them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ira Shor - Empowering Education: Critical Thinking for Social Change

I found this article to be very, very long and really hard to get through. But I did find the idea of a democratic education to be interesting. Its like school deconstructed, and it makes me wonder if students actually learn better in an environment like this. I have never really experienced school like that so I can't imagine what it would be like. No set curriculum and students of all ages learning together at one time to me, I just can't fathom it. But at the same time I feel like a school that would build on the creativeness and knowledge of a student to be ideal. I did find out that there is a school to follows democratic education right here in Providence though. The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (The MET as they call themselves) has been in existence for 11 years, and in its four schools has only a little over 300 students.

Some quotes that I found interesting in Shor's article are:
  1. "In sum, the subject matter, the learning process, the classroom discourse, the cafeteria menu, the governance structure, and the environment of school teach students what kind of people to be and what kind of society to build as they learn math, history, biology, literature, nursing, or accounting. Education is more than facts and skills. It is a socializing experience that helps make the people who make society." - Page 15
    When I first read the part about the cafeteria menu helping to teach students about what kinds of people they should be it made me think of when you see fried chicken and corn bread during Black History month or on Martin Luther King's birthday. The idea that all of these things help to make people at first seems outlandish but when I thought about it some more it made sense. From everything that we have learned from all the other articles we have read education really is more than learning about facts and skills. A student learns social norms and cues, the rules and codes of power, and how to live in society.
  2. "People begin life as motivated learners, not as passive beings... But year after year their dynamic learning erodes in passive classrooms not organized around their cultural backgrounds, conditions, or interests. Their curiosity and social instincts decline, until many become non-participants." - Page 17
    I found this statement to be really interesting and something I've never really thought about it. We learn the most when we are still very little, we are born as motivated learners and as a baby you don't learn to talk sitting at a desk doing worksheets, we learn by interacting with others and doing. It makes sense that after years and years of being in a passive classroom a student's curiosity would decline.
  3. "The empowering classroom can open their voices for expression rarely heard before. Their voices are an untapped and unexpected universe of words rich in thought and feeling. From it, students and teachers can create knowledge that leaves behind the old disabling education in a search for new ways of being and knowing." - Page 54
    I think this would be a perfect setting for a classroom, when students do speak out they give thoughts and ideas that teachers would not always think of. Together students and teachers would create a great classroom experience for everyone past the education that might bind some students.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Social Justice Event

I had been thinking about what I would do for my social justice event and it came to me that I should go to one of the many events that are held where I work, the public library in Pawtucket. When I saw that we were going to have a Poetry Slam held in our auditorium I thought that that would be a perfect social justice event. The event was hosted by Ray Chattelle who is from the "From the RIP" Productions, a production company in Pawtucket, RI. This was my first time ever going to a poetry slam but thankfully he explained the layout of the night. The participants, or poets, would perform their work and be judged by the audience and the five judges. Each poem had to be an original work by the poet, and each poet would get about three minutes to read/perform one poem. The judges would then score from 0-10, the highest and lowest scores are usually dropped and only the middle 3 scores count. I was surprised by how many people were actually there. It was a group of around 30 people, not including the judges, host, or participants. There was only five poets who participated that night, seeing as it was the first time the library held a poetry slam. As always there was a diverse group of people in the audience and a pretty diverse group of poets. I recognized one of the poets, most of the audience, and all the judges as library patrons. This also surprised me because I realized that I had judged these people and would not think they would be interested in an event like this.

Finally the event began and the host, Ray Chattelle started with one of his more popular poems From the RIP. I found him to be a very charismatic and articulate speaker which if a person were to just look at him they wouldn't have thought the same. He was dressed in modern fashion, with a big gold chain and a tattoo on his neck. It just proved the point that just because a person looks a certain way does not mean they will not be smart, or articulated, or even that they have to act the way that they look. I connected this man to Delpit because the minute he began speaking I thought that he obviously had to have been taught the rules and codes of power. I felt like he was the type of person who was taught the proper ways to make it in life but decided against following them exactly and tried to make his own way.

Next the five poets were up. The first two were both women with blonde hair, one was a teenager and the other I would guess was in her twenties. The teenage girl, Stacy, spoke about the pressures of dating in this day in age and said she was "more than a piece of meat". It was her first time performing and I thought she was very brave for actually getting up there. Her total score was a 19. I learned that at a poetry slam there was no clapping but snapping of the fingers for good jobs, at first I felt a little weird just sitting there snapping but then I got into it with the other audience members. The woman, Beth, was up next, her poem was about growing up in Pawtucket and pushing past the nay-sayers and becoming great like she was meant to be, her score was a 22. I found her story to really be connected to Christensen, not in the sense that her poem was against the stereotypes in television or movies, but it was against the stereotypes made against her in school. Her poetry was a way for her to "talk back" against these stereotypes. It was a way for her to be her own person without the judgements or ideals that might have been put onto her by society.

The next person up was Kyle who did his poem Life's Choices. He wrote about deciding what is wrong and right in life and how as he has grown up things in his life has changed. One of his lines was he "remember when I didn't have to worry about walking down the street worrying about guns, drugs, and street thugs". He also talked about his cousin passing away, not really explaining what might have happened, it made me wonder if it had to do with the drugs or street thugs he talked about. He wrote about wanting to make better decisions and to have a better life. His story reminded me a lot of Kozol and the lives of the people he told about. I could picture Kyle as the little boy who witnessed someone dying on the sidewalk and just wanting a different life for himself. Kyle ended up being the runner up and received a score of 24. After Kyle was an older man, John, who did his poem which was in memory of his brother who died of cancer. It was a nice poem and he received a 21, I think it scored so low because he did not perform it as well as some of the other poets.

The last person up was another teenage boy, Jeffrey, who did his poem I Have Seen It All which was about how he's grown up and he's seen a lot but hasn't seen it all. Part of his poem was about teachers and how he has "seen teachers go beyond their requirements and solely if only to connect with that kid". This made me happy that he has seen teacher like that, who go above and beyond and who have been there for him. He also talked about the environment and how some people say one thing to help the environment but then do another that would go towards destroying it. He ended with saying that he hoped one day when he was on his death bed he could finally say that he had seen it all. He ended up winning, with 27 points and I thought he definitely deserved it. He was almost as charismatic as the host, and he really got into his poem. He also had serious parts and some humorous parts, it was just very versatile.

I really enjoyed this event, and I'm glad that in a way this class forced me to go to something like this because otherwise I probably would have never have gone to a poetry slam. I never would have found out that they are really fun and interesting to go to. I think everyone should go to one at some point in their lives, its a lot of fun. For some more information on Poetry Slams held in Providence, click here. Make sure you click on the links above to see some of the videos of the poets.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Christopher Kliewer - Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

  1. "I started to notice that I didn't like the classes I was taking called special education. I had to go through special ed. almost all my life. I wanted to take other classes that interested me. I had never felt so mad, I wanted to cry." - Page 71
    I chose this quote because it was sad to read about students who are being held back in their education. It did not make sense to me that Mia would have to wait until after she graduated to be able to the classes that she actually wanted to, especially since it was at the same school.
  2. "Dewey (1899) believed schools must serve as the sites in which children develop both a sense of commitment to one another and a sense of self-direction leading to 'the deepest and the best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious'... this vision with detailed accounts of actual educational arenas where all students are welcomed, no voice is silenced, and children come to realize their own self-worth through the unconditional acceptance of one another." - Page 74
    It kind of amazed me that someone in the late 1890s and early 1900s could aspire for a school like this. I think Dewey's idea should still be something that we strive to achieve to this day for students. To have students feel welcomed and to be accepted no matter what by teachers and their peers is still something that to this day we still have not totally achieved.
  3. "It's not like they come here to be labeled, or to believe the label. We're all here - kids, teachers, parents, whoever - it's about all of us working together, playing together, being together, and that's what learning is. Don't tell me any of these kids are being set up to fail." - Page 75
    I found Shayne Robbin's class and the experience she gave her students to be the most interesting in this article. What she says about students in so true, students do not go to school to be labeled, they go to learn and interact with others. She gives all of her students the same opportunities, its like they go in with a blank slate and everyone can just build from that.
I found the beginning of this article really difficult to get through, it wasn't until it went more in depth individual experiences where I enjoyed it more. I really liked reading about Shayne Robbin's class, especially her interaction with Isaac. She is an excellent example of how some teachers can really excel in certain areas. Not everyone would be able to handle their classrooms in the way that she does.

Reading this article has made give a lot more thought into inclusion classrooms. Before I really thought that different classrooms was beneficial for all students involved, but after reading about the different experiences the students in this article have had I can really see the benefits for not keeping students separate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jean Anyon - Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

I found Jean Anyon's "Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work" to be very interesting and shocking in a way. Anyon discusses what she believes to be the hidden curriculum in schooling, or the idea of tailoring school work to prepare students for a life in the social class that they come from. It is really disheartening that students would receive schooling like this, I always thought the point of an education was so that you could go above and beyond the life you had growing up, or that is what was always drilled into my head by my family. While reading Anyon's summary of the four different categories of hidden curriculum in different schools. The schools are working class schools, middle class schools, affluent professional schools, and executive elite schools. Now the way that the categories are summarized leads the appeal to either affluent professional schools or executive elite schools as they would give students the best education. But from my own experiences it seems as if working class schools and middle class schools are the most numerous.

In working class schools Anyon says that:
"The procedure is usually mechanical, involving rote behavior and very little decision making or choice. The teachers rarely explain why the work is being assigned, how it might connect to other assignments, or what the idea that lies behind the procedure or gives it coherence and perhaps meaning or significance. Available textbooks are not always used, and the teachers often prepare their own dittos or put work examples on the board... Work is often evaluated not according to whether it is right or wrong but according to whether the children followed the right steps."
I feel like I most grew up with this type of schooling. I think that an education like this really does not teach students much other than listening to the rules and following orders. It does not give students the creativity or leadership they would need to really excel past low level positions in the workforce. Also by evaluating work not according to if the answers are right but whether they follow the directions would teach students that there can only ever be one way to find answers to problems.

This is completely different from the basis of affluent professional schools where:
"work is creative activity carried out independently. The students are continually asked to express and apply ideas and concepts."
This seems like the ideal type of schooling but not every student would like working in an environment like this. Some students really strive on structure and a school environment that revolves around creativity might not excel in this environment. Its difficult to say that this is the type of curriculum that should be given to all students when its obvious that not all students would learn well from it.

Anyon ends this article about her own views on the hidden curriculum and whether or not it really is good for students. She writes:
"The 'hidden curriculum' of schoolwork is tacit preparation for relating to the process of production in a particular way. Differing curricular, pedagogical, and pupil evaluation practices emphasize different cognitive and behavioral skills in each social setting and thus contribute to the development in the children of certain potential relationships to physical and symbolic capital, to authority, and to the process of work."
This still implies that it keeps each child in the class that they grew up in. Though these curriculums work with students to their "social learning skills" they would still keep some students back from ever going beyond those social classes.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gender and Education

While researching the issues of gender and education I came across the same problems that everyone else did because there is not a lot of current information out there about this topic. I was able to find the following graph done by UNICEF about the different gaps between men and women in primary and secondary education from 1990 and 2005. In both cases the percentage of females net enrollment ratios rose by a large amount. You can go to the website for some more information about the NER in primary and secondary education in countries around the world.

I did find some information on a different interpretation of Title IX that happened in January 2010. This happened in
Mohawk, NY:
"The U.S. Justice Department intervention in the civil case of a former Mohawk Central School District student could lead to a broader interpretation of a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination by applying it to the harassment of a gay male... The 14-year-old openly gay student... alleges the district failed to stop other students and a teacher from bullying him because of his sexual orientation..."

"The government cities Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed to prevent gender discrimination, as the basis for joining the lawsuit filed last summer in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York. The teenager's lawyers Friday night might cast the case as a fight for basic human rights."
It has been reported that since then "the Justice Department stepped in. Federal lawyers argued that Title IX does not only protect students from gender discrimination. They said the law also covers discrimination based on gender expression. That is to say, boys who act like girls. It's a legal argument the government had not made since the Clinton administration." (NPR)

I think that this case alone shows the key issues that exists now surrounding gender issues in education, it doesn't necessarily need to be black and white male and female issues. It can now surround issues involving sexual orientation. I also feel that there is still gender discrimination in America but definitely nothing compared to what it was in the past, and nothing compared to the problems that other countries across the world are dealing with at this moment.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brown v. Board of Education & Tim Wise

The Brown v. Board of Education and the time leading up to that decision was one of the most important times in our country. It put equality to education, one of the most valuable things in any persons life. But after the decision was made it took many years later until it was actually held in every city and state. But like it said on the Smithsonian website:

"Brown v. Board of Education did not by itself transform American society. Changing laws does not always change minds. But today, thanks in part to the victorious struggle in the Brown case, most Americans believe that a racially integrated, ethnically diverse educational system is a worthy goal, though they may disagree deeply about how to achieve it."

This quote really resonated with me because I feel it is so true. There are so many laws that are made and changing them doesn't mean that people will change there minds along with them. This is shown in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education when there were still many people in the country who believed that everything should be segregated - including schools.

I found the Tim Wise interview to be the most interesting, his idea of enlightened exceptionalism, or racism 2.0 intrigued me. This meant that people supported Obama because they viewed him as transcending race and that he was different from the "black or brown norm" - putting black or brown norm in a negative light and this is not really moving away from racism. Wise said that many people of color are just as bright and educated as Obama but with a different style. That people do not need to be just like Obama in order to be successful.

One of the things that Tim Wise said really affected me; he said that the "proof of racial equity will be the day that people of color can be as mediocre as white folks and still get hired." To me this quote was shocking because I never really saw racial equity as this. I thought things were equal if any person of race or color had the same school, job, or living opportunities. I never thought of it as racial equity was when anyone could be just as mediocre as the other - and this is so true. Until we can really prove that we have this in society we won't have reached anything.

The last thing that I found the most shocking from Tim Wise's interview was some of the stereotypes that 6/10 whites still (as of early 2000s) acknowledge and continue to make the stereotypes. They were: "1) Blacks are generally less intelligent, 2) Blacks are more aggressive and prone to criminality, 3) They are less patriotic, 4) They are less hardworking, 5) All blacks just want to live on welfare and not work." I found this the most shocking that people to this day still believe these stereotypes. After learning about this I feel like we really haven't made any progress at all over the years. It was very sad.