Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Empowering Education: Education is Politics" by Ira Shor

This week’s blog post on “Empowering Education: Education is Politics” by Ira Shor is a Connections post. I found this article a tough read so I will be using different resources to help me make my connections.

I believe Shor’s main point in this article is that a teacher’s curriculum needs to be more than taking notes and memorization. These things can harm a child’s development and learning ability.
“People are naturally curious. They are born learners. Education can either develop or stifle their inclination to ask why and to learn. A curriculum that avoids questioning school and society is not, as is commonly supposed, politically neutral. It cuts off the students’ development as critical thinkers about their world. 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.” (pg 12)

“People begin life as motivated learners, not as passive beings. Children naturally join the world around them. They learn by interacting, by experimenting, and by using play to internalize the meaning of words and experiences.” (pg 17)

These quotes reminded me a great deal of Kliewer’s article “Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome.” Children learn in many different ways. As future teachers we will need to incorporate our curriculum to fit the needs of every child. Take the example of Shayne’s classroom and her student Isaac. I loved reading about this classroom and the ideas Shayne had! It was such an inspiration to me. Shayne incorporated a curriculum that fit Isaac’s needs. Instead of verbally communicating his interpretation of a book, he danced it out. This caused the other students to “learn by interacting, by experimenting, and by using play to internalize the meaning of words and experiences.”

Shor also discusses that we need to break the stereotypes of teachers. This coincides with Christensen’s article “Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us.” The media loves to play on different stereotypes-especially in a school setting. Christensen tells us that the media influences us in major ways. Even in college I find myself using stereotypes to describe professors. I’m sure all of us have used to look up our professors. I have looked up a professor, saw the bad reviews, and walked into the classroom worried. Of course, the majority of the time, the professor turned out to be the complete opposite of the reviews left by other students.  

I found this video and thought it helps add onto my Christensen connection. The video shows how the media uses stereotypes for teachers and the students’ reactions to the teachers and their homework. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did. (I mainly loved it because I could remember growing up with these cartoons-gotta love the 90’s!)

Points to Share with the Class:

I could personally relate our FNED 346 class to this article. I love Dr. Bogad’s teaching technique. Instead of making us memorize vocabulary words She allows us to learn in our own way. While we read our weekly readings we write our articles in our own way-a way that reflects our individual learning techniques. I have learned so much in these past weeks in our class than any other class-mainly because I am not under pressure to memorize! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

“Schooling Children with Down Syndrome” Main Argument

For this blog post I will be discussing the main argument for Christopher Kliewer’s “Schooling Children with Down Syndrome.” This article has two very powerful and moving arguments:

A student with a disability should not be segregated from other students. They should be integrated with all students of different abilities.
Students with Down Syndrome or other learning disabilities should be allowed to have a chance to learn in a classroom with all types of students. Why? Because in an integrated classroom with all types of students, each student can grow, develop and learn from one another. Each student brings to the table their own strengths which in return creates a body (community) of diverse students. 

Kliewer makes two great arguments…arguments that are sadly not seen with open minds and hearts by many.

“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. (Kingsley, 1996, p.6)” (p71)
 “How do we erase those negative attitudes?” in light of the fact that “people without disabilities are judging us. (Kingsley, 1996, p. 6)” (pg 71)
These two quotes remind me of the struggle from power, privilege, and difference that Johnson talks about: "Understanding how to bring dominant groups into the conversation and the solution is the biggest challenge we face.” (pg 11) This is what has to happen in order for all students to be allowed in the same classroom-those in powerful, privileged positions must get involved to help those of the less dominant groups be heard!

An organization, NDSS (The National Down Syndrome Society) is helping in making those voices heard. Here is an excerpt in the section of their website on Implementing Inclusion which explains why people are against or are in favor of inclusive classrooms:
Many children with disabilities continue to be educated in separate classrooms or schools for all or most of the day, even when their parents believe an inclusive setting would be more appropriate. WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? Researchers have identified a variety of perceptual, cultural and emotional barriers that cause people to resist the idea of students with and without disabilities sharing the same classroom. In some cases the barrier is simply a matter of prejudice. But there are also many more complex views, including the belief that only those students with disabilities who are closer to "normal" can or should be included and the belief that the needs of students with disabilities are unique and beyond the reach of general educators.
After watching the video in class on Thursday, and my personal experience of starting to view the world from a child’s point of view I have just one question: Shouldn’t we do what is in the best interest of the child? Many parents worry that having a student with a disability in their child’s classroom will disrupt their child’s education and behavior. I found this video on the NDSS YouTube Channel which describes the friendship between Charlie and his friend, Isabelle, who has Down Syndrome. This video is from five-year-old Charlie’s point of view and the main point he is trying to make: “The differences are what makes the world so great! Everyone counts!” is the answer to why ALL children need to be integrated.  This video brought tears to my eyes! As the saying goes: “Out of the mouth of babes.”

There are many other great videos on the NDSS YouTube Channel. A lot of them discuss inclusive classrooms and education rights for students with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. The videos are over an hour long but they are definitely worth watching. I believe they talk a lot about what we learned from Kliewer’s article Cohen’s video “Going to School (Ir A La Escuela)” 

I want to end with this inspiring video. As Charlie said in the earlier video: Everyone counts! This video shows that everyone has dreams. As future teachers it is our responsibility to help those dreams come to life and I can’t wait to help make that happen! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Promising Practices Reflection

Promising Practices Reflection 

         When I found out we needed to attend the Promising Practices conference my first thought was “Yes! I’m going to attend a conference where I can learn applications that I can bring into my future classroom!” I had very high expectations for this conference, especially because of the name: PROMISING PRACTICES! I made sure I choice workshops that I could relate to and thought would be great assets to my toolbox. 

           So the morning of the conference came. I experienced what many of you described either in class or your blog posts: I walked in expecting someone to check my ticket but instead they just pointed me to the nametag tables. I was very happy to see the titles of my workshops on my nametag because I wasn’t 100% sure of which ones I chose. One thing that irked me was the guy at my nametag table. He just pointed to the conference brochure and didn’t say anything. I looked at him and asked if I could take one. He huffed and said yup. My excitement level had diminished just a little. I found our class and could see what Jocelyn describes in her blog post: a bounded group. I saw this throughout the whole day. I found myself talking to different classmates more than I ever did in class. A lot of us shared our likes and dislikes of the workshops we had attended thus far during the lunch and we all gave each other insight. Like Jocelyn said, this was our way of building a stronger foundation for our class. 

       During the panel discussion, one phrase seemed to dominate the discussion: “Rhode Island College and this conference are all about diversity!”  However this phrase was contradicted throughout the panel discussion as well as in the workshops I attended. First big contradiction of the phrase: The panel was comprised of privileged and powerful people. There was only one person of color on the panel but he was still in a privileged and powerful position. I saw numerous Johnson moments during this discussion- especially when you could actually hear the “privilege” in the words the members spoke. I’m not sure if this was intentional. As I listened to the members talk I pictured Johnson saying “Your privilege is showing!”  Now I want you to know I am not trying to diminish the accomplishments of the panel members. Part of me saw the superintendent of Providence schools or the female Presidents of RIC and JWU and thought “Hey, you never know…someday that could be me.” I just wished that every time certain members spoke I didn’t hear “privilege and power” in the words they spoke. 

       We all discussed the Mayor’s words in class. A lot of us shared our disgust and uproar as he said that “The socioeconomic background of the parents should not affect the student’s future.” This phrase really bothered me because I can personally relate to it. I believe a lot of us can. I won't go into a long explanation but instead simply say...I'm in college and I am feeling the effects (negative, by the way) of the socioeconomic background of my parents. And boy has it effected my education!   So, no, I cannot agree with the Mayor’s quote.  

            Quotes similar to the Mayor’s were thrown around during the discussion. “The number of beds needed in prison is estimated by the third grade reading literacy.” “Zip code cannot dictate the quality of education!” “All of our kids can achieve but there needs to be additional support.” All of these statements ended with a period. That’s it. The phrase was said and the new topic was introduced. In elementary school we learn to ask “Where?” “When?” “Why?” “How?” None of these questions were answered for any of the phrases. Like Mr. Bogad said in class: The statement’s wording is in such a way that no one needs to TALK ABOUT the solution. Johnson would refer this as not being able to just say it! I decided to reread Johnson after the conference and one phrase stuck out at me: “Understanding how to bring dominant groups into the conversation and the solution is the biggest challenge we face.” AMEN to you Johnson! So, here we have people of power and privilege, giving us problems but no solutions. And when asked how to create a solution they tiptoed around the answer straight into an irrelevant topic. So my question is...where were the lessons I was hoping to learn during this panel discussion? My guess...hidden behind the politics of it all. 

           My first workshop was called “Summer Learning and Service Learning.” There were three presenters from Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance (RIASPA)/United Way at this workshop. This workshop was a discussion about who RIASPA is and what they do. They also talked about what Service Learning is. Several great examples were shared that several different schools had completed during summer learning/service learning. A lot of interesting points were brought up during the workshop but two great points really stuck with me:
  1. Service Learning is taking the best of the school and the best of community and combining them in a way that “sneaks in learning.”
  2. Service Learning and Summer Learning should continue on past the summer. Whatever project you are working on should be brought into the community as a lasting year-round investment. 
          I chose the next two workshops for one main reason…they were about bullying. During 90% of my school years I was bullied on a daily basis. It was a struggle for me because I did not have a safe space I could turn to. The teachers did nothing about it and I was left feeling alone. I chose these two workshops because I wanted to learn how to turn my classroom into a Bully-Free Zone and help those students who are being bullied. I want to be the teacher that they can turn to if they are being bullied and I want my classroom to be a safe space for ALL of my students. I really thought these two workshops would help me add more tools into my Gerri August Safe Space drawer in my toolbox. I was ready to apply everything I learned in these workshops to August's article. 

           The first workshop on bullying was titled “Engaging Students in Anti-Bullying Efforts.” The presenters were a Vice Principal and a Teacher from Barrington Middle School. To be blunt I was very disappointed with this workshop. The workshop was entirely about the program they have at Barrington Middle School. There were some great ideas but how do I implement them? What do I do in different situations? I had many more questions about the program but time did not allow for them to be answered. What really bothered me was that they brought up different scenarios that they had faced in the school. One, in particular, was about a girl who wanted to commit suicide. They asked us what we thought we should do. Of course all of us were silent, waiting to hear from them the whole story and the actions they took. Well, none of that ever came into discussion. I’m not sure if it was because of the “survey girl” flapping her arms at the back of the classroom or if we were pressed for time but I know I left the workshop wondering WHAT DO I DO??? 

         The last workshop was my favorite part of the whole conference! It was a two-part conference called “Creating Caring and Committed Anti-Bullying Classes” & “Trans*Action : Tools for a Transgender Ally.” Gerri August truly shined during this workshop. Before I begin I have one complaint to make about the workshop. The survey girl disrupted the workshop 15 minutes before it was supposed to end so she could administer her surveys. She threw everything out of whack and the last presenter didn’t get to really talk that much. The workshop discussed many of the things we talked about in class during the Gerri August discussion. The presenter for the Trans*Action had a great, informative, well-organized presentation. He discussed the different terminology used for the LGBTQQ community as well as the struggles people face. He made on good point which puts everything into perspective: People are always using the terms sex and gender simultaneously. However, they mean two very different things. The way he described it was brilliant: “Sex is between the legs and Gender is between the ears.” This added further understanding into his discussion. The second half of the workshop was put on by a professor at RIC. This is the part that got cut off. She was describing how schools (even colleges) do not cater to the needs of transgender people. She used RIC as a perfect example: If you still have the brochure we all received at the breakfast portion of the conference do me a favor and turn it over. On the back you should find a map of the campus. Count how many buildings are listed on the Map Legend: 20. Now count the buildings that have a little cross next to their name: 5. Those buildings have gender neutral bathrooms in them. On all of the RIC campus there are only 5 buildings that cater to the needs of all students. Sad, isn’t it? The presenter said that is was a great struggle to even get those 5 bathrooms on campus. Gerri August would not be happy about this at all. August tells us to create safe spaces for our students. How are our students feeling safe if they have to walk to an entirely different building to use the restroom? Because the workshop was cut short we all received a packet of information and a copy of the powerpoint presentation. The packet of information included a long list of books that describe the variety of families in the world today.  
        While most of the day was a disappointment, I believe I walked away with some great lessons and great material to add to my toolbox. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stockings for Soldiers

Good Evening Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend. Since today is Veteran’s Day I wanted to share something with you regarding our troops.

 At work yesterday I learned that a co-worker of mine participates in a program that gives stockings to deployed soldiers. She was telling me that she has family deployed overseas. She started participating in this program as her way of giving back at Christmas time. I listened as she told me about how the soldiers are always running out of the necessities and how she wanted to help fill those needs. She told me about the program and said it’s a great way of giving a little Christmas spirit to the soldiers who can’t be home with their loved ones for Christmas.

I have decided I want to help her out with this program and want to spread the word.  I asked her for a list of items that the soldiers could use. I wanted to share the list with you all.

Here are some of the main items on the list. Everything must be small or “travel size” because they must be able to fit it in their bag:

·       Hand Sanitizer
·       Breath Mints
·       Mouthwash
·       Mouthwash strips
·       Pens and paper to write letters
·       Crystal Light/Flavor Packets for water bottles
·       Baby Wipes
·       Hand Cream
·       Mini nail polishes (They can’t paint their fingernails but they can paint their toenails)
·       Chapstick
·       Hair Elastics
·       Barbie Pins
·       And anything else travel size that would be nice to add to the stocking
·       I also thought it would be nice to send Christmas cards to the soldiers as well.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I’m not asking for your money or anything like that. I just wanted to share this great program with you all.
If you are interested in helping, the deadline for items is November 25th.

Thanks everyone! Have a nice night. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Separate is NOT Equal!

I was so happy when I learned that we would be discussing Brown v. Board of Education this week in class. I have always had a deep interest in this matter and didn’t really know where to start with researching it further. The Electronic Field Trip  found on the “Separate is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education website” was very insightful. Many aspects of this major point in history but I want to share two things that really stuck out to me. 

I think it is safe for me to say that all of us are asking the same question when we are at our Service Learning placement or reading a new article...Can I really change it? I find myself asking this same question to myself whenever I see a student hiding in the corner of the room or read an article that says that something has to change! This video has made me realize that yes I can change things! The video discussed Five Communities that helped to change the country.

In this case Harry Briggs and nineteen other parents of Clarendon County go against the school board chairman, Roderick W. Elliot. White children were able to take a bus back and forth to school; African Americans did not have that luxury and many had to walk up to nine miles to go to school. The parents petitioned for transportation for their children to go to school.

This case also was fought by parents of the county: Oliver Brown and 13 other parents from Topeka. The defendant was the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The complaint was that segregated elementary schools and the harmful psychological effects of segregation on African American children. A study was conducted among White and African American children. When showed a white doll and a black doll, a majority of African American children chose the white doll. This showed that segregation decreased the self-esteem of African American  children. 

This case involves ninth-grader Dorothy Davis, 16-year-old student Barbara Johns and 116 other students and parents of Farmville. The complaint was that segregated schools for African Americans were overcrowded and underfunded. The schools did not have gymnasiums or cafeterias or even bathrooms for the teachers. Many schools went without chalkboards and desks. 

The pictures above were taken from the Resource Section (Unit Two of Teacher’s Guide) of the Separate is Not Equal website and represent the differences in white schools and black schools. 

These cases involved Sarah Bulah, Ethel Belton and seven other parents in Wilmington County versus Francis Gebhart and the State Board of Education. The complaint of the parents was that the segregated schools were far from the homes and neighborhoods of the African American children. They also touched on the conditions of the only African American highschool in the community. 

This case also involved students: 12-year-old Spottswood Bolling, Jr. and four other students from Washington, D.C. This case addressed that black students had to attend overcrowded segregated schools and were denied admission to well-equipped white schools. 
 Hearing about how the students got involved in these cases really made an impact on me. These cases gave me hope that I, too, could possibly change things for the best.

The next thing I would like to address is President Eisenhower’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education: “I won’t say it’s right and I won’t say it’s wrong.” This really aggravated me. One of the presenters in the video said that the government reflects the people of the nation. As I was listening to this discussion I couldn't help but refer back to Johnson when he tells us to "Just say it!"  I think Johnson would tell Eisenhower to just say what he really means-stop turning it into a riddle. Say the words! If the President of the United States gave the decision half-hearted support than in return the nation would as well. The video discussed that many people violently opposed the Supreme Court’s decision. I can now understand why. Although he may not have fully supported the decision he knew that he had the job of protecting the court’s ruling. He ordered that troops protect black students as they walked to school. 

Painted by Norman Rockwell-this painting called "The Problem We All Live With" features soldiers escorting young Ruby Bridges to school.

“Between Barack and A Hard Place” by Tim Wise

As he was interviewed by Mike Papantonio, Tim Wise made some very great points about racism in America. The fact that intrigued me the most was when he referred to how many hoops a person of color has to jump through to even be considered truly exceptional. People of color are hindered by their skin color. A white male could, as Wise said, crash five airplanes, and still be considered a Presidential candidate (referring to John McCain). Yet, if a black male had crashed five planes he wouldn’t even be considered a candidate. We are missing out on an equal opportunity society. Wise discussed five common stereotypes of people of color: Whites believe people of color are less intelligent; Whites believe that people of color are more aggressive and more likely to have a criminal background; Whites believe that people of color are less patriotic; Whites believe that people of color are less hardworking; This point goes along with the 4th point: Whites believe that people of color want to live on welfare and thus do not work.

I was reminded of Johnson’s article and something I learned from the Promising Practices conference yesterday. On pages 27-33, Johnson gives us a list of “What Privilege Looks Like in Everyday Life.” The last workshop I attended had two parts to it. The first part “Trans*Action: Tools for a Transgender Ally” is the part I would like to connect to Wise’s interview. The presenter, Jaye Watts, a social work for Youth Pride, Inc., gave the class a “Privilege Checklist” which lists the struggles that people of the LGBTQQ community face. Both Johnson’s list and Jaye’s “Privilege Checklist” only add a deeper meaning to Tim’s words. 

"Separate and Unequal” by Bob Herbert

I don’t know how many of you were bothered by the Mayor’s comment yesterday, but I was really upset by it. As the Mayor said that the socioeconomic background of a parent should not affect the success of the student. Or the comment made that zip code cannot dictate the quality of education that is offered to children. I believe that Bob Herbert would disagree whole-heartedly with these two statements. We see these in different quotes from his article:

 “Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty.”

“If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty.”

I see this everyday at my Service Learning placement. I overhear conversations about who brought their lunch from home and who had to get a “special” lunch from school. This week’s hot conversation topic was who had a costume for Halloween and who didn’t. I see how this affects the mindset of the children.
Many circumstances affect the education a student receives. I do believe however, that Herbert would agree with one major point the panel made yesterday. The education of the student starts with the parents.

“Studies have shown that it is not the race of the students that is significant, but rather the improved all-around environment of schools, with better teachers, fewer classroom disruptions, pupils who are engaged academically, parents who are more involved, and so on.”

Everyone, especially the parents, need to get more involved in the schooling of EVERY child. 

Question for the class:

Many points of view were presented in this week’s reading/videos. I found a lot of connections to the Promising Practices Seminar yesterday. How do you feel about the Mayor’s and panel’s thoughts about zip code and socioeconomic background?