Saturday, December 20, 2014

Third Author Connection - Johnson

Allan Johnson teaches us that we must say the words. He speaks of how important it is to talk explicitly about privilege, power, and differences. Throughout my service learning project I experienced several moments that reminded me of Allan Johnson. The moment that sticks out to me the most was my first day at Mary Fogarty. I was in front of a group of students reading a story with them. While we were talking about the reading, a student asked me what was wrong with my face. At first I was very confused and wondered if something was actually on my face. The student asked again and pointed to his cheeks. I then realized that all of the students in my group had never seen freckles before. I told them that they were just freckles and that I was born with them. I like to tell that story to people because it really is quite comical and cute and it shows how early students recognize differences. This is a perfect example of explicitly talking about differences the way Allan Johnson says we should. The students know that I am different from them and vice versa. They asked me a question about my skin and I let them know that it is okay to ask those questions. Students should be educated at a young age about differences, privilege, and power.

 Privilege is also a topic that Johnson discusses in depth. He states, "Privilege grants the cultural authority to make judgements about others and to have those judgements stick. It allows people to define reality and to have prevailing definitions of reality fit their experience. Privilege means being able to decide who gets taken seriously, who receives attention, who is account­ able to whom and for what." Many of us do not realize the privilege that we have. I am an example of that. I knew that I was middle class and lived comfortably. I did not know how privileged I was until I walked into the classroom at Mary Fogarty. I saw the students with clothes that did not fit and walking to lunch without lunches. I was born into a culture of privilege without even realizing it. The students in the first grade classroom were born into a culture of poverty. At this young age they may not know about privilege, but as they get older they should recognize it. Allan Johnson would want these students to be educated on privilege so one day they can work their way out of the culture they were born in to. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Second Author Connection - Delpit

Throughout my experience at Mary Fogarty Elementary I witnessed several Delpit moments. I recently presented my Service Learning project with Karissa and we believed that Lisa Delpit would disagree with the way we handled our experiences. Delpit believes that teachers should teach the rules and codes of power to their students. For example, rule number four is "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." Delpit also states that "These issues include: the power of the teacher over the Students; the power of the publishers of textbooks and of the developers of the curriculum to determine the view of the world presented: the power of the state in enforcing conclusory schooling; and the power of an individual or group to determine another's intelligence or "normalcy.""

In my first grade classroom, I witnessed not just one, but several Delpit moments. The teacher explicitly told her students the rules of the classroom and how they should behave each day. The rules are posted in the front of the classroom actually. I also observe the routine of the students. They know to sit up straight, put their hands together, and keep quiet when the teacher asks who is showing 'ready'. They know where to line up and in what order when going to the bathroom or to lunch as a class. They know that the teacher is in charge and that is because of the rules of Delpit. Fridays are the classes main testing day each week. When the test needs to be completed in a certain time frame, Miss Johnson sets a timer in the front of the classroom. Once this timer goes off, the students know to put their pencils down and hand their test in. This is because Miss Johnson taught them explicitly to do so. Miss Johnson has great control over her classroom and much of that is because of the rules and codes of power from Delpit. After observing this classroom for several weeks, it was clear that much of the teaching strategies were influenced by Lisa Delpit. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Promising Practices

On November 1st I attended the Promising Practices Event, but unfortunately I was only able to stay for one session. Even though I was only at the event for a short time, I still was able to take in a lot of information and learn. The workshop I went to was called ‘Making It Personal’. When signing up for the different sessions, I chose this one because I predicted that it would be about individualized learning in the classroom, which is very important. There were two presenters for this session. The first one was Buddy Comet. He is the Dean of Pedagogy on the administrative team at Central Falls High School.  Buddy is a National Board Certified teacher, a New Teacher Center presenter, and an educational coach accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and administrators through professional coaching. He is dedicated to building high quality teaching and learning communities. Buddy began with an introduction to the activities we would be completing. He spoke about individualized learning and one-to-one learning and how it is becoming popular. There is currently a study going on where an entire class is comprised of students with IEPs. These students will go to every class together that has teachers as well as teacher assistants. After his introduction to individualized learning, Buddy Comet explained our next task. The group, which was rather large, would stop at each station around the room and complete the work in five minutes or less. The instructor asked us questions like, “How do the activities balance individual autonomy and collaborative work?” and “What needs to be in place for students to be successful?” The first station my group went to was called ‘Cubing for Slope’. The instructions were to roll the dice to get coordinates for your slope and then calculate the slope. The group worked together to find the correct answer. The next station my group moved to consisted of matching tables and graphs. One example was “Tom left his home for a run, but he was unfit and gradually came to a stop. Match a time graph and table of data to the interpretation.” This activity works to help students who struggle to understand rise over run. Unfortunately there was limited time so each group was only able to complete two stations. Buddy then began to discuss the purpose of the activities in depth. The group discussed how students would need prior knowledge and precise directions to complete each station. He suggested that teachers be up front and let the students know that it is okay to not be finished and that they can move on if the work is not fully completed. The stations Buddy set up combined students of different abilities to work together. He also noted that getting up every 10 to 20 minutes to move to a different station is a positive aspect.
            The next presenter was Karen Oliveira. She works in the School of Social Work here at Rhode Island College. Her lecture was directed towards Social Work Internships. Karen informed the group about what her position at the College is and informed us about how we can involve ourselves in an internship. The social work internship would consist of classroom observation, behavioral planning, and implementation. It provides one on one support and counseling as well as group facilitation. Those who work in the social work field would develop IEP goals and participate in team meetings. Karen explained how the social work internships were going at Central Falls High School. At that high school, educators are implementing social-emotional learning with the students. She noted that trauma, poverty and stress impacts children’s learning. Current teachers were in the workshop and shared their personal stories about what are affecting students in their classrooms, which was very interesting.
            Through each of these workshops, I learned a great deal about different elements of teaching. I learned about personalized learning, which I knew little about before attending Promising Practices. I also got to learn about social work internships and social emotional learning. It was also great to hear real stories from current teachers. I saw the teachings of Delpit when Buddy Comet explained that students need precise directions to complete each station.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Empowering Education - Extended Comments

For this week's reading by Ira Shor I decided to complete an extended comments piece using Jessica's blog. In her discussion of the text, Jessica made connections to other readings we have done in class. 
The first connection she made was to Alfie Kohn, from a journal entry we had to do in regards to our service learning. Kohn's What To Look for in a Classroom is a table that he created that consists of both good and bad things in a classroom. Jessica also said that her reading of this piece was long and painful which I can fully agree with. To show her connection she provided the following quote from Empowering Education...
"The typical classroom is framed by the competition, marked by struggle between students (and often between teacher and students), and riddled by indicators of comparative achievement and worth. Star charts on the wall announce who has been successful at learning multiplication tables, only children with ‘neat’ handwriting have their papers posted for display” (Shor, p23-24). Kohn believes that star charts and reward systems should not be in the classroom and Shor says that these are quite common in the classroom. I found this very interesting because in almost every elementary classroom I have stepped in to, rewards and star charts are seen frequently and used often. 

The next connection Jessica made was to the assignment we did for Dr. Bogad in class. We had to fill out a very simple paper with questions about the Jeannie Oakes article. The questions were so simple that I thought I was answering them incorrectly. Most of them were fill-in-the-blank questions which require little thought. Throughout my schooling, I was taught not to question authority so when Dr. Bogad gave us the paper, I completed it without question. Once the time to finish the assignment was up, she explained to us the purpose of the work. She wanted us to refuse the work because it was so simple that it insulted our intelligence. Even if I felt this way, I would not express that to the teacher, as I explained in class. Shor says, “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, p12). Shor feels the same way that Dr. Bogad does, as Jessica explained. They both feel that students should be challenged in order to excel and further their intelligence. With this challenge in the classrooms, students can become thinkers and change society in positive ways rather than becoming minimum wage workers.
The last connection that Jessica made was to Collier, Rodriguez, and August. I agree with this connection completely. Shor says, Our role as teachers is to create a safe environment in which students can express opinions and, most importantly, generate their own language materials for learning and peer-teaching” (Shor, p.43). August's article "Safe Spaces" explains how important it is to create a safe environment for students, like Shor stated above. Rodriguez explains his struggle with keeping his first language in the environment he was put in. In order to be successful in society, he was told to speak only English, loosing his native language and identity. As for Collier, she believed that it is crucial for students to embrace their first language skills to acquire new ones. This quote pulls together three different readings perfectly. Jessica did a great job on all of her connections and I agree with all of them and was happy to elaborate on them.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome - Reflection

I enjoyed this weeks reading very much. Inclusion in classrooms is a topic that cannot be avoided. As a special education major I found this article to be quite relatable and interesting. I believe that it is crucial to integrate those with disabilities into learning environments with classmates who do not have a disability. As an elementary school student I never thought about why my classmates who had special needs were separated from me and other students. But now as I mature, I start to realize how wrong that really is. In my educational psychology class I just learned about Vygotsky who was quoted in this article. His words really stuck with me. "Vygotsky found that the culture of segregation surrounding people with disabilities actually teaches underdevelopment of thinking through the isolation of children from socially valued opportunities” (Kliewer, p.83).   
Educating children as a whole and together pushes away the idea that down syndrome along with other disabilities is a burden. Down syndrome is defined as a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. It arises from a defect involving chromosome 21, usually an extra copy. 
Down syndrome can be defined as a disability, intellectual impairment, or physical abnormality but individuals with this condition do not need to be treated like they are. Like Vygotsky said, if you segregate those with special needs you are essentially isolating them from other social opportunities and experiences. A child with down syndrome may not easily understand the topics that are being taught in school, but they are certainly not that much different from the rest of us. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Literacy with an Attitude - Connections

Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick Finn was quite lengthly, honestly, but I found much of the article to be very interesting. The beginning began with the discussion of various titles that the author had for the article. For example, Finn contemplated titles such as Subtle Mechanisms, Savage Inequalities and Making Literacy Dangerous Again. The text then continued on to information about the author. "It's about the resistance of working class children to the kind of education they typically receive, education designed to make them useful workers and obedient citizens."

"First Anyon noted similarities among the schools. They were nearly all white. They were all located in northern New Jersey and subject to the same state requirements. They all used the same arithmetic books. They had the same language arts course of study. Two of the schools used the same basal reading series. There were startling differences, however. In the working-class schools, knowledge was presented as frag- mented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and experiences of the students. Work was following steps in a procedure. There was little decision making or choice. Teachers rarely explained why work was being assigned or how it was con- nected to other assignments." After reading this part of the article, I immediately thought of McIntosh and the article about whiteness as an invisible privilege. This excerpt taken from Literacy with an Attitude explains how prominent the division of working class and upper class is. It is a first hand study of five elementary schools and shows the reality of the separation.

"When I discussed discipline problems with other teachers, a frequent topic of discus- sion in the teachers' lounge, I would talk about my teaching meth- ods as methods of control. 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." (page 4) What this teacher said here is the exact way that Delpit explains students should be talked. The teacher explicitly tells her students what they need to do without any discussion about it. 

In essence, this article is for teachers, parents, and students who are on the side of working class children. It is about a new brand of teachers who are learning new and effective ways to teach students in working class classrooms. It is about making literacy powerful for students. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Collier -- Revisited

Quote 1:
"One must teach in two languages, affirm the cultural values of both home and school, teach standardized forms of the two languages but respect and affirm the multiple varieties and dialects represented among stu­ dents in class, be a creative and flexible teacher, serve as a catalyst for discovery as students learn to operate effectively in their multiple worlds, be able to mediate and resolve intercultural conflicts, keep students on task and on and on." (222)

Quote 2: 
"The critical distinction to maintain is between how children acquire the capacity to converse casually in a second language. and how they learn to become proficient students using second language. These are two entirely dif­ ferent processes." (225)

Quote 3:
"Once upon a time there was a grown-up who loved children. One child who came to know this person was eager to find out about many things. Together they discovered the intimate secrets of time and space and nature and the way things work. They played with language. They both grew in wisdom and they learned how infinite and mysterious knowledge is ..." (222)

Quote 4:
"Don't teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language." (227)

Quote 5:
"When two languages are used in the school curriculum, the teacher should plan the precise times to use each language. Bilingual pedagogy research indicates that the teacher should clearly separate the two languages of instruction. For example, the teacher should speak Spanish when the instructional language is Spanish, and speak English when instructional language is English. On the other hand, young children should be permitted to speak the language they know best." (229)

Quotes from the blogs of other classmates:
1. "While reading Virginia Collier's  Teaching Multilingual Children, I feel one of her main arguments is teachers need to embrace the different languages and cultures students bring into the classroom and use that in order to teach children English." (Essence's Blog)
2. "Collier explains that as a teacher, our mission is to help our students become fluent in their academic language but also give them the tools to continue sufficiently speaking their native language in the outside world." (Erika's Blog) 
3. "If life as a adolescent student is difficult and tumultuous at best when speaking only one language, When integrating a student into a curriculum or cultural setting that is that differs from their own native background, the everyday stresses of schooling may seem tenfold to a struggling multilingual student." (Chanel's Blog) 
4. "Suppose you are put into a classroom where the teacher only speaks Swedish. You're incredibly confused for most of the lesson, but you've got a few Swedish phrases down, but then you realize that you have to use the bathroom. And for the life of you, you can't remember how to ask to use the facilities." (Chanel's Blog)

Main Point:
I think that Collier is trying to stress the importance of the proper way to teach multilingual children in the classroom. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

In The Service Of What? - Reflection

"In The Service Of What? The Politics of Service Learning" is written by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer. The authors discuss how important and beneficial service learning is to those that participate and the community. Service learning allows students to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply to every day situations. This is a great program for students to get involved in because it helps communities and allows students to take what they are learning in their classrooms and apply it which extends their learning. I believe that the easiest way to learn is through hands on work and that is exactly what service learning does. 

I am currently working on a service learning project at Mary Fogarty Elementary School in South Providence. For the past three weeks I have going into a first grade classroom and helping the students with literacy. To be completely honest, I was slightly concerned going into the school because of the area it is in. South Providence does not have a great reputation. I come from a middle class family who lives quite comfortably. I knew that I would be helping those who are less fortunate. As soon as I walked into the classroom, the teacher as well as the class welcomed me with open arms and it was obvious that the teacher found my coming to be very helpful for her. She has a full class with 24 students, many whom speak spanish as their first language. I work with the students who are on the level of reading and those who are below the level. Many of them can use the extra help that they may not get at home and I am very pleased to give them that help. It is also great to see that I am helping the teacher in the classroom get a break from keeping the entire class in control. I have been working with the students for just three weeks now, but I have already learned so much. It is such a joy to see how excited they are when I walk in the class and it feels great to help others. Working with the students and watching the ways in which the teacher conducts her class has helped me grasp the understanding of teaching and gets me excited to one day have a class of my own. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us - Hyperlinks

This article by Linda Christensen is very interesting. It discusses how the issue of cultural stereotypes was introduced to children through Disney movies, books, and cartoons.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Safe Spaces (Reflection)

In this reading, my eyes were completely opened to something I have never thought of before. To start off, I would like to give a quote that stuck out to me while I was reading and perhaps sums up the entire reading into a few sentences. "If our homes are incubators, keeping our children safe as they grow into the patterns of family life, schools are 'outcubators'- places that introduce new ways of thinking and behaving." (page 84) I found that this quote was perfect and so relevant. In today's society, we see the idea of a 'perfect' or 'normal' family depicted through advertisements, magazines, paintings, movies, and many other ways. Typically you see or think of a woman, man, and children when you hear the word family and marriage. In reality, our society should welcome any form of relationship and family whether it be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In this particular article, the writers are educating readers on why and how teachers should incorporate the topic of LGBT into their classrooms. As a future educator, I have never really thought about how I would introduce the topic of LGBT into my classroom. This is a topic I am very passionate about. Last year, in my human rights class, many of my papers and presentations revolved around LGBT. As a straight person, I think it is crucial to know and learn about the LGBT community. I know many people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual and it pains me to see them have to hide their sexuality around family, friends, and especially in school. 
I went to Pilgrim High School in Warwick for my entire high school career. We welcomed the LGBT community and had a club for those who are part of that comity and also for those who are straight. Many people became involved which was great. I had never heard of a big issue with any discrimination against those who are LGBT. But, in 2012, there was a student mural being painted by someone who I was graduating with. The mural was suppose to depict the life of a man, which included a young child in school growing into a man marrying a woman. This is where the problem arose. As you can see in the mural below, the man is with his wife and his child with wedding rings above them. The painting was almost completed until a faculty member said that it may offend those who live alternative lifestyles, which is very true. Once again here is an example of how easily the 'normal' life of a man and family can be represented. After a lengthly debate, the decision was to paint over the family portion of the mural and be done with it. My high school got backlash for this and the story was featured in many newspapers and on the news. I found this to be very surprising as my high school community was very open and welcoming to those of the LGBT community. 

Questions/Comments/Points to Share:
Obviously the conversation about LGBT is an ignored or avoided one. Many people become uncomfortable when they hear the words gay or transgendered. Why? Why is it that in 2014, there is still controversy and discrimination to those who are in the LGBT community? It is hard to wrap my mind around why some of us care about other people's sexual orientation. There is no reason for the news to be covered with stories about an actor, athlete, or musician 'coming out'. It is time to stand up for what is right. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Aria - Richard Rodriguez - Argument

The author, Richard Rodriguez argues that, that while one suffers a diminished sense of private individuality by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible the achievement of public individuality" (page 39). I think that Rodriguez is saying that you have to change yourself to fit into today's stereotypical American society. He shared his personal story about his spanish speaking family with readers. Reading the story and understanding his struggle as a child really put things into perspective for me. Rodriguez wants readers to know how difficult it was to unwillingly loose his spanish culture just because it was mandatory to speak english in school. For example, his teachers continued to call him Richard when he was referred to as 'Ricardo' at home. Richard and his family lived in the United States and were forced to speak the "American" language, leaving his native language behind. The author explains how heart breaking it was to see his family grow apart as they continued to speak more and more english. It was as if their spanish language was the glue that kept them together. It was saddening to read how little their family communicated after this change. This article reminded me of the culture of power within the classroom that Lisa Delpit discusses. She says, "teachers are in an ideal position to play this role, to attempt to get all of the issues on the table in order to initiate true dialogue" (Delpit, 47). The nuns that approached Richard's family thought they had the power to change the primary language of the Rodriguez home and they did so. Unfortunately this was not a positive part of the families lives. Nowadays there is no issues with language. The United States has over 300 languages spoken within the country, spanish being one of the major ones. Signs in stores and other public places now contain both english and spanish. Languages like Italian, Spanish and French are being taught in many school systems. And in many cases, it is certainly easier to get a job if you are bilingual. 

Questions/Comments/Point to Share:
After reading this article, it is obvious that it is very important to connect with students personally. It is crucial to know about their lives at home so the teacher can help the student further. Do you feel that teachers try to know about the culture of their students? Are the cultures of other children used positively in classrooms today? I am sure many of us have heard people say, "This is America, everyone should speak english". Do you agree with this statement? Is english really the primary language anymore?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and Dear White Mom (Connections)

After reading White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh, I was completely moved. Once again, this article brought up many topics that rarely cross my mind until they are raised. I found that her work was very interesting to read as she is a white women talking about white privilege. Not often do you see or hear those of white race bring up or even admit that they have an advantage because of their skin color. 

One of the first things that stuck out to me was the section called "Earned strength, unearned power". I immediately thought of the reading we just finished by Lisa Delpit. McIntosh opens by saying "I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systematically. Privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate." (4-5) These words are very similar to that of Lisa Delpit who discusses the five aspects of the culture of power. Two of those aspects are, "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." and "Those with power are frequently least aware or least willing to acknowledge its existence. Those with less power are often most aware its existence." Each author discusses their definition of the advantages of power and how power still exists. They both connect in a way that says those who are white have power and therefore are privileged. I think both of these readings go hand in hand as privilege and power are essentially the same thing. 

The next article I read was Dear White Mom. I enjoyed this reading very much. It was alarming to read how distressed the author was about her colored son growing up in today's society. She discusses the Michael Brown shooting case that recently happened. This is not the first time a shooting like this has happened and unfortunately it probably will not be the last. She says, "Tell your children about how unbalanced it is — to put it mildly– that the news makes it seem as though only African-Americans commit crimes." I found again that this article was similar to that of McIntosh's. She brings up the issue of how colored people are followed around in stores or are assumed to be dangerous while white people rarely have that happen to them. A few things I found interesting that she said: "Speak up to the checker who asks for your black friend’s ID to take a check and not for yours.Talk about how racism isn’t history, it’s now." 

Racism and white privilege are happening now and many of us do not even realize it. Those of white race are privileged daily and may not be able to point it out like McIntosh did. Unfortunately it occurs in daily life. Why do we only sell nude colored band-aids? Why were 'flesh' colored crayons once made? Like McIntosh said, "It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all." Its time to recognize the problems and deal with them.