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.