Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Promising Practices Blog

     At first, I was a little reluctant to attend the Promising Practice's Conference at RIC for the fact that it was at eight a.m. on a Saturday morning. However, when the event came to an end, I left with a much different state of mind. The morning started off in the Donovan Dining Hall to check in, and we were quickly rushed to our first workshops at nine.
      My first work shop was "Finding the STEM in the Urban Core"  with two women who worked at Bethune Elementary School in Detroit, MI (an urban school). I thought that this would be a really beneficial workshop considering that I was tutoring at an urban school in South Providence myself for my service learning placement and that I would most likely work at an urban school in the future. The women explained to us that children are self-learners, and that they get a lot more out of coming to conclusions and discovering information themselves than to just be lectured at by a teacher, especially in urban schools. For this reason, they created a SMART Lab at their school and other urban schools that features project based, student-centered curriculum that supports STEAM exploration. It allows children to create a hypothesis to an experiment and then solve the problem themselves, making learning hands-on and fun while creating knowledge and opening career opportunities for students. They use criteria for these labs that children can relate to their own lives in order to peak their interest and allow them to perform better. I found this workshop to be really interesting as well as informative. The women were both really passionate about the fact that a lot of times children from urban schools and from less-privileged communities are usually labeled as incompetent and that there is little hope for their success in the future. They detailed that it is important for educators as well as the community to support and believe in them, because they have the potential to succeed with assistance and confidence from their superiors. They felt that these SMART Labs could help to reach that goal.  
Example of what a SMART Lab looks like
     My second workshop I wasn't really as passionate about. It was called "Teach Like a Designer!: Design Thinking for Educators" The woman was from DownCity Design and she taught us how to incorporate design thinking for students into a classroom. She also taught us the process that designers use to solve problems and how it can be beneficial for students. She also stressed the importance to make a healthy classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas as well as producing their own work without feeling judged or afraid of failure. She went on to have us get into groups and use sticky notes to write down ways that we could make the classroom a space where all children could share there thoughts as well as ways to make the tedious design process more fun and interesting for students. Then we were given stickers and we went around the room and placed our stickers on the ideas that we thought were the best. She also described to us a game that she played with her students that allowed them to brainstorm ideas quickly and to help them to not feel judged. The students would stand in a line on teams and run straight forward towards a piece of paper and quickly brainstorm an idea, design plan, or solution to a problem and run back and give the marker to the next child in line, this allows students to not have a chance to second guess their ideas because of the quick movement of the game and also helps brain functioning due to the movement and blood flow. I thought it was a really fun and cute idea to allow kids to share there own ideas and make a game out of it
Example of Design Process to be used in classroom
      Lastly we made our way back to Donovan for the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Christopher Emdin. I found him to be extremely interesting and enlightening. He was very animated in his speech about "#HipHopED(ucators) STEMing the Tide of Disinterest in Education". The speech centered around increasing the achievement and education for students of color as well as students in urban school systems. He stressed that part of this is intertwining urban culture into education in the classroom to interest students and make school materials relatable. He discussed the importance of Hip Hop and how it can be beneficially used in urban schools. He was critical of traditional techniques of education because all students are different learners and especially students in urban schools, for example one student does not do successfully on a written exam doesn't mean that they can not be successful in showing their knowledge in different ways possibly even through rapping the information . Dr. Emdin had a voice as well as the passion that had everyone else in the room reciprocating that same passion. I found his speech to be the most interesting and revolutionary take on education that day.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Empowering Education - Shor

In "Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change" by Ira Shor argues that modern day education is too focused on drilling information into students brains and expecting them to memorize facts and data, instead of allowing children to make meaning of materials and act from reflection.
“If the students’ task is to memorize rules and existing knowledge, without questioning the subject matter, or the learning process, their potential for critical thought and action will be restricted”(Shor 12) This quote really reminded me of the class discussion/activity for Jeannie Oakes article, "Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take Another Route." In the activity, Dr. Bogad asked for us to be the type of students and learners that Ira Shor describes in his article. She gave us a basic worksheet that consisted of true and false and fill in the blank answers that did not challenge our intelligence or understanding of the reading. It simply asked us to find answers in the text, with no critical thinking or true learning needed to complete it. Dr. Bogad's hopes for the assignment was that we would question the status quo and refuse to do work that didn't develop knowledge or set us up to be successful in the future. She went on to tell us that students that go to upper-class or Ivy League schools are being taught to question authority and become critical learners,which will in conclusion lead them to have successful jobs in the future as CEO's and business owners. However, students like myself were raised to never question the school curriculum or the work that teachers give me, just do it and pass it in for a good grade, whether if it produces learning or not. I think this is really closely related to Shor's point, he states that a lot of education in schools are based purely on memorizing facts and not questioning those facts or creating critical thought on subject matter, but he strives for all student's to question the status quo.
 “School funding is another political dimension of education, because more money has always been invested in the education of upper-class children and elite collegians than has been spent on students from lower-income homes and in community college.” (Shor 15) This quote reminds me of Finn's argument in his article, "Literacy with an Attitude" He critiques education in poor and working-class schools and districts. He is critical of these teachers giving students the type of education that will help them become middle class and live middle-class lives. Instead the education given to these students should focus on a "powerful literacy—a literacy with an attitude—that enables working-class and poor students to better understand, demand, and protect their civil, political, and social rights"(Finn). Students in upper-class families and communities are given the tools and education from their teachers to become successful in the future. While working-class students on the other hand are given the education to keep them in working-class jobs for the rest of their lives. Much like Finn, who is critical of the difference of education given to upper-class and working-class students, Shor also believes that education in working-class schools should allows students to understand and demand their political civil rights just like in an upper-class school.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome - Kliewer

I found this weeks article by Christopher Kliewer to be very interesting and to send across a really powerful message. I decided to pick out a couple quotes from the article that stuck out most in my mind as well as I was able to connect to other authors:
"Now we know that people with disabilities can learn and have a full, rich life. The challenge is to erase negative attitudes about people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities." (71)
This quote by Jason Kingsley, a young man with down syndrome, perfectly sums up the main goal of the article. He states that people with disabilities are just the same as any one else, they are perfectly capable to have a happy and fulfilling life. They are also able to learn and create knowledge in school and in life. The goal of this article is as Kingsley states, to try to get rid of the stereotypes that allow for judgments of those with development disabilities and that also create obstacles for these individuals. I do believe that people who are born without any disabilities find it easy to judge others who were not born with the same privilege. It reminds me of Johnson and the S.C.W.A.A.M.P. activity we did in class. Able-bodiedness is a privilege in our society, and it is important for those of us who are able bodied to acknowledge our privilege and realize that because we have this privilege, those who are disabled do not. We must all work together to get rid of the ridiculous stereotypes that come with being disabled, because they can not do it on their own.
"When she enrolled in a regular public high school as a freshman, Christine's Individual Education Plan was passed on from her segregated school; it suggested that she had extremely poor motor control, low-level cognitive skills, low-level communication skills, a lack of adaptive skills, and aggressive "acting-out" behaviors. In the general curriculum of the regular high school, however, these images of defect were dramatically transformed." (92)
Christine, a young woman with down syndrome had been in segregated school for 14 years when her mother finally demanded that she stopped being segregated into society and be put into regular school. Once she was put into regular school and entered into a community surrounded by other students without labeled disabilities she was able to grow and improve on her skills. I found this quote to be very inspiring, it also really reminded me of two previous articles we read. The first was the article we read last week by Jeannie Oakes about tracking in schools. In her article she expresses the negatives of tracking by stating, "Professionals and parents oppose tracking because they believe it locks most students into classes where they are stereotyped as "less able," and where they have fewer opportunities to learn"(178). It also reminded me of a quote by Kozol that stated, "Clumping so many people, all with the same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on? Our children start to mourn themselves before their time" (11). Both of these quotes I found to be closely related to Christine's situation. As both Oakes and Kozol state, clumping children who are labeled as "less able" all together leads them to only see themselves as less abled and disbelieve that they can be anything else. They begin to mourn themselves before their time and in conclusion become discouraged and lose motivation to improve themselves. These students also need to be surrounded by individuals that truly believe in them and see their potential to build their self-esteem. Students who are segregated because of their disabilities do not receive this because those around them are not inspiring them to change their situation and become successful. Student's and children that are labeled as "disabled" or even "less able" need to not be grouped together and segregated from other students, they need to be socialized and challenged to improve, just like Christine was.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Literacy with an Attitude - Finn

For this weeks blog post on "Literacy with an Attitude" by Patrick Finn, I chose to write extended comments about Jessica's blog. For starters, I agree with Jessica that this weeks article was extremely tedious and hard to get through. I think that however the article at some points felt a little boring, Jessica did an excellent job of making some really great and helpful connections to other texts that helped me tie my thoughts together.

      1. The first connection that she made was associating one of Finn's quote that states, "But, in fact I was schooling these children, not to take charge of their lives, but to take orders" and "I had work assignments on the board when the students entered the classroom, and so there wasn't a moment when they didn't have anything to do. I didn't say to an errant student, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Stop that and get to work.’ No discussion. No openings for an argument" (Finn 4). I found it really interesting that Jessica connected this quote to Delpit, because I was able to see the same similarities between the two. One of Delpit's rules is that "if you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that power makes acquiring power easier." Finn, in fact recognizes and admits to not following this rule when teaching his students. Finn simply would write an assignment on the board without explaining explicitly to his students what was expected of them. Finn just assumed that his students would understand what they were supposed to do and produce efficient work. He also addresses that if the student's were not doing what he wanted from them he would tell them plainly to "stop that and get to work" he would not allow students to explain they're feelings or opinions. He felt at the time that he was right and that the students were wrong, but in fact according to Delpit, his student's failure would be his mistake because he did not explicitly tell his students his rules and what he wanted from them.

       2.  The second effective connection that Jessica made was when she related the quote, “the working-class children were learning to follow directions and do mechanical, low-paying work, but at the same time they were learning to resist authority in ways sanctioned by their community. The middle-class children were learning to follow orders and do the mental work that keeps society producing and running smoothly. They were learning that if they cooperated they would have the rewards that well-paid, middle-class work makes possible outside the workplace” (Finn 20) to Rodriguez. I thought it was really interesting that Jessica made the association between the two texts. When I first read this section of the article, I did not make this connection, however, after reading Jessica's blog and then re-reading the quote I instantly saw the connection. I could also see that in Finn's article, he and his classmates had to alter themselves and give up their "private identity" to be accepted into society as well as become successful members in their communities. This is extremely relative to Rodriguez's schooling experience where he was also forced by his teachers to change himself  and sacrifice his "private identity" in order to acquire his "public identity" so that he could prosper in the real-world.
     3.  Lastly, I really enjoyed reading Jessica's connection to her service learning project. She addressed Finn's statement, "‘Just do your best. If they learn to add and subtract, that's a bonus. If not, don't worry about it,’ A second grade teacher said the children were ‘getting dumber every year,’ Only twice did Anyon hear a teacher say ‘please’ to a student in an unsarcastic tone. She heard ‘Shut up’ frequently” (Finn 11). Much like Jessica, I also hear a lot of negativity towards students and a lot of sarcastic tones in my service learning placement. I really respect my the third grade teacher that I assist at Bailey Elementary School, however I disagree with some things she has said to and about her students. I often hear her use the words "shut your mouth" to students who try to give their opinions without being called on, in my opinion a very harsh statement to make to a child who is only eager to share their ideas on the given material. I have also heard a lot of negativity from my teacher about some of her students academic ability and her lack of faith in their future success. Once she told me that one of her students  struggled with spelling due to the fact that she is bilingual, she explained her to me by saying " her elevator does not go all the way up to the top floor" (meaning that she is not too bright). She also frequently points out students to me that she believes are just not intelligent, she usually blames it on their parents, and then comments that she doesn't see them being any different from their parents in the future. Much like Jessica, I find this language and attitude in the classroom to be very discouraging for the students. Students that come from less privileged communities are the ones that need the most genuine acceptance and confidence from their teachers to build their self-confidence and help them become successful.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brown vs. Board of Education

         In my "readings" this week, I was able to make not only a lot of connections between the current texts but also with our pasts texts as well as with the Promising Practices Conference we had attended on Saturday. In the first text this week, a brief history of segregated schools in American was illustrated as well as the journey towards the Supreme Courts ruling of the Brown v. Board of Education case. In 1896 the case of Plessy v. Ferguson declared that segregated facilities could not be categorized as discrimination and did not violate the Constitution as long as the facilities were equal. However, educational facilities for blacks and whites were anything but equal. For people of color, segregated schools kept them in their roles as second-class citizens in society. Black communities realized the unequal education their children were receiving and worked together to raise money and support to fight for a fair and equal learning experience for black students. It was a long battle for these individuals and finally African Americans from five different communities brought their issues to the supreme court in hopes to end segregation in the United States for all. in 1952, the case of Brown v. Board of Education took place in the hopes to desegregate America. Earl Warren wrote the final decision of the supreme court stating, "Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group...Any language in contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Meaning that blacks and whites were finally equal, right? Well not quite.

           In both the video, "Between Barack and a Hard Place" by Tim Wise and the article, "Separate and Unequal" by Bob Herbert arguments against the notion that America is a land of equal opportunities for all are debated.  Tim Wise makes the claim that many white Americans would like to believe that because of the election of a black president, that we are currently living in a post racial America. However, this could not be further from reality. He states that although we may have abolished  Racism 1.0 (racism people can plainly notice by seeing it), that Racism 2.0 (racism that carves out exceptions for only some people of color) still widely exists. This relates to McIntosh's quote, "I was taught to see racism in only individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group" (1). McIntosh and Wise both make the argument that most white people in society only perceive racism as visible acts that can be physically seen and witnessed, however the racism that is most present today  can not be physically seen. It is the privileges that all whites can be accepted into society while  most blacks can not be acknowledged in society unless they are identified truly exceptional human beings, comparable to Barack Obama. However, most white Americans are still living in denial and ignorance to this, believing that blacks have equal opportunities. Wise states that if we want to know if we still live in a world of inequality and racism we must go to the target of the problem, the blacks who are still greatly affected by these issues. This statement made by Wise reflects Delpit's belief that "Those with power are frequently least aware of - or least willing to acknowledge its existence. Those with less power are often more aware of its existence" (24). Meaning, that white people are the ones in power, leaving them unaware of the social and economical inequalities that blacks still face in comparison to them, while Wise states that since blacks are the ones without this power in society they are more aware of the existence of racism today.
         Much like Wise's video, Herbert's article makes most of the same arguments. He states that as a nation, we are still greatly separate as well as unequal. He explains, "Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality." This reminded me of the speech that Dr. Chris Emdin made at the Promising Practices Conference. Dr. Emdin highlighted many of the same issues, stating that although America may not still be legally segregated, that many schools are still separated. If you go to a school in a poverty stricken town such as South Providence, you are likely to find that almost all of the students are colored. While if you then go to a middle to upper-class town such as Barrington, you are more likely to find that most students are white and there are very little colored students. Herbert also goes on to make the argument that ,“Ninety-five percent of education reform is about trying to make separate schools for rich and poor work, but there is very little evidence that you can have success when you pack all the low-income students into one particular school.”  This can be connected to a passage from Kozol's article that stated, "Clumping so many people, all with the  same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on? Our children start to mourn 
themselves before their time." Both of these passages testify that putting all students in desolate conditions together will not allow them to improve their current situations and become more successful in the future, being surrounded by the same problems of poverty and unemployment leads students to give up hope from a young age. The black students that are currently in these schools that are "smothered by poverty" are never going to be able to become profitable unless they are able to be put into better schools in a more affluent environment with as Dr. Emdin stated in his speech, put in classrooms with teachers who truly believe in them and want to work their hardest to see them succeed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Privilege, Power, and Difference- Johnson

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan Johnson, allows the reader to step back and approach society’s main issues from a different light. Johnson depicts, that our world’s main problems circle around gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and social class. He argues that the first step to solving these issues is to first NOTICE these problems and realize that there are both privileges as well as disparities that come with being in each of these groups (S.C.W.A.A.M.P.) . The next step is for society to realize that we are all responsible to create a change, and we can do this by consistently talking about these privileges and "saying the words." Here are some quotes and pictures that I believe summarize the main points of Johnson's article:

1."Peggy Mcintosh describes it, privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they've done or failed to do" (23). Johnson believes that it is important for us to realize and notice the problems in order to fix them. To do so, it is important for us to first understand the idea of privilege itself, whether we belong to a privileged group or not. (As we know the privileged groups in society fall under the categories of Straight, Christian, Whiteness, Able-bodiedness, American-ness, Maleness, and Property Ownership) Sometimes it is easier for those of us that have the luxury of falling into these valued categories to pretend that privileges don't exist, however Johnson stresses that we must recognize and accept that privilege is a problem that exists if we want to make a change.
2. "No, her misfortune is connected to my fortune; the reality of her having to deal with racism and sexism is connected to the reality that I don't" (8). In this quote, Johnson is talking about his female African American colleague, and he realizes that there are misfortunes that she must deal with because of her sex and race that he does not have to worry about because he is a white male.  Johnson states that there are two sides to privilege, the fortunate end of privilege as well as the disparity of privilege, and that the two are connected to each other. Those who have to deal with the disparity of privilege in groups is due to the fact that those who are privileged do not have to. Meaning, it is important for us to realize that WE are all part of the problem.

3. "And if people in privileged groups don 't include themselves in the solution, the default is 
to leave it to blacks and women and Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, lesbians, gay men, and the lower and working  classes to do it on their own. But these groups can't do it on their own, because they don't have the power to change entrenched systems of privilege by themselves. If they could do 
that, then: wouldn't be a problem in the first place" (10). Johnson states that those who are privileged need to use their privilege in society to help make a change. People without power can not make a change alone, and as Johnson states if they could there wouldn't be a problem in the first place. We need to change our mind set from "THEIR problem" to "OUR problem." Johnson uses the example that men tend to leave sexism as a problem for women to deal with on their own, as well as whites tend to leave racism as an issue for people of color to deal with. He stresses that we ALL must fight for equality for each group to truly make a difference.
4. "...if we dispense with the words we make it impossible to talk about what's really going on and what it has to do with us. And if we can't do that, then we can't see what the problems are 
or how we might make ourselves part of the solution to them"(2).  In this quote, Johnson highlights the importance of using words such as racism, sexism, privilege, heterosexism, classism, white racism, etc. that may make some people uncomfortable and even offended (especially those who are privileged). But he stresses how important it is for us to use these words and name our problems. By naming our problems we are recognizing their existence, and by doing this it draws our attention to it and one can start to think about it and start to produce solutions to solve it.
5. "Individuals are the ones who experience privilege or the lack of it, but individuals aren't what is actually privileged. Instead, privilege is defined in relation to a group or social category. In other words, race privilege is more about white people than it is about white people." (34). Johnson describes that being privileged has nothing to with the individual, and who you are as a person. It is rather given to us based on the groups that are valued in our culture that we are placed in (Whiteness, Straightness, Maleness, etc.) Meaning, you only have access to this privilege when people identify you as being part of one of these categories. Also, meaning that an individual can lose their privilege if others think that they don't belong to one of these valued category. This is why many people are ignorant to the fact that they are privileged, constantly using the phrase "Well I don't feel privileged", because being privileged has nothing to do with the individual but the category that individual is placed in society.

Friday, October 17, 2014

In The Service Of What? - Kahne and Westheimer

        "In The Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning" by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer highlights the importance as well as the benefits of service learning programs for both students and communities. Service Learning allows a student to take the information they are learning in a classroom and transfer it into real-life experiences while responding to the needs of their communities at the same time. I strongly agree with this notion, sometimes student's become bored from being lectured in classrooms and wonder "how am I going to use this information in the future?". Sometimes the most beneficial form of learning comes to us through action. Service learning allows students to have a more hands-on learning experience and connect what they are being taught  in classrooms to real world events.
This video helped me to gain a better understanding of the academic benefits 
of student learning as well as reiterated the points made in the article 

         One of the sections of the article that I was able to connect with the most was when the music director had her upper-middle class students volunteer at an elementary school in a poor neighborhood. Many of the student's parents objected however. They were worried for their children's safety with concerns of rude, tough, unfriendly children on a dirty campus in a bad neighborhood. After they returned from the schools however the student's outlooks had completely changed. They found that they had been completely wrong, that the children were all polite and friendly and were surprised by their willingness to learn as well as their excellent behavior. One student even commented on how they had more respect  for the neighborhood that they were once fearful of. Kahne and Westheimer point out that through service learning in a classroom, the students were able to create caring relationships with those in need as well as diminish the sense of "otherness" that more privileged individuals sometimes feel.
         This experience in some ways reminded me of my own personal service learning encounters. Much like the students of this middle school, we have been asked to volunteer our time at schools in less privileged areas than most of us are accustomed to. I was not raised in an upper-class family without any financial cares, however my family has been able to get through life comfortably. When  having to step out of the middle-class community that I was used to and enter a less fortunate neighborhood, I can not deny that I had some concerns. I had heard stories of South Providence not being the best area, so when I found that I would be volunteering my time at an elementary school there, I was slightly concerned with the safety of the neighborhood  as well as if the students would be as willing to learn as the students in the elementary schools in my neighborhood. The first day at my assigned school, however, all of my fears went out the door. The students in my third grade classroom were all incredibly sweet and attentive. Their eyes light up when I walked into the classroom and as I began to tutor them, I instantly saw their impressive intelligence as well as their passion  for learning. I left the school that day feeling completely ridiculous for having those prior concerns. Those concerns  that I had once felt had been replaced with excitement to create a stronger bond with these students and hopefully have a lasting affect on them. I had realized that my involvement in the classroom displayed Kozol's message in "From Amazing Grace", entering a less-privileged classroom and helping students learn gives them the tools to create a better future for themselves. However, I might not be changing the world from my service learning experience, I hope that I can make a change in at least one individuals life. From my own personal service learning experience I have been able to create the caring relationship with my students that was mentioned in the article and I have felt more inclined to serve less fortunate communities.