Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Citizenship in Schools" - Reflection

Late Reflection:

Ever since we discussed this article in class, the topic on integration in schools has been coming up a lot lately. In fact, just yesterday, a family friend told me she was going to let me borrow this film called "Including Samuel." She said it is a documentary of a parent who is trying to raise his son, who has severe disabilities, and trying to get him the education he deserves by bringing him into a regular classroom. I'm really interested in it from what she said about it and I can't wait until she brings it over for me to watch it.
It's really hard to believe, though, that there are in fact some schools out there that are fully integrated. Sure, having a classroom filled with children of all different levels with all different abilities (and disabilities) is what we all think of as the right thing to do, but it also seems scary to me. A classroom like that is just completely out of the ordinary from what we, or at least I, know. All of my life I have learned with peers that are just like me. I never had the opportunity to learn in a classroom with a physically or mentally disabled student. I never had the chance to watch how other teachers go about teaching a classroom like that and learn how to handle different problems that would arise in certain situations. Of course, I agree that integration is a good and positive thing for both the teachers and the students. It's just definitely an idea I have to get used to through observation and a lot of practice before being sent by myself.
Integrated classrooms are not only good for the students with disabilities, but also the "well-abeled" students as well. Without the opportunity to be in a classroom with someone with special needs, children would just see them as different and want to stay away from them. But being with these students with disabilities all the time throughout the entire school day changes that perspective and lets the students know that they are all equal.
This is a trailer I found for the documentary "Including Samuel".

Friday, December 3, 2010

Totally Random, but quite FNED worthy...

Okay, so basically my entire day was centered around our FNED class. These are all very random incidents but I felt the need to blog about them.

First was work: During free play this morning, a mother came in to drop off her son and she was sporting a pin that stated "Stop with the Happy Holidays, already. Wish me a Merry Christmas." Now, I found this interesting not only because she feels comfortable wearing that in public, where anyone with any religious belief can read it, but also because this particular woman had had a big problem with our curriculum last winter as well. She had been extremely angry that we were displaying different symbols from different religions around our center. She complained about the Menorahs that were hung up next to the Christmas trees and presents and she had been appalled about the fact that her son was talking to her about Hanukah at home. Now, are my co-teachers and I wrong for incorporating different Holidays and religions in our center? This mother is an extremely kind woman and I have the utmost respect for her, but I just thought that pin was a bit too much. It's okay to show that you do indeed celebrate Christmas, but there are right ways to do it and I don't think that was one of them.
Then, about a half hour later, my boss walked in the door with two humungous Toys 'R Us bags that were filled with new "diversified" toys - she had Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog", black and Asian baby dolls, and multiple books centered around differences. I had mentioned it to her about a month ago that that was a big thing we lacked at our center was toys that showed diversity, so I was ecstatic when she brought those in.

After work, I took a ride to Wal-Mart. We all know of those employees who stand outside and ring the bell and just wait for someone to actually pay attention and drop some loose change in their bucket, right? Well, I did a double take when I realized that this particular employee was a black woman. Honestly, before taking this class, I would not have thought twice about it because, to me, it would have just seemed like an employee was chosen at random. But now that I have learned so much, it makes me wonder if it really was random, or if it was chosen purposely.
When I came home, low and behold, my siblings were watching Shrek the Third. After all of the times I have watched any of the three Shrek movies, never have I thought about this either. Okay, so it shows a princess who isn't perfect and beautiful, good right? Not really...she's an olger. This came to mind too: what is this movie really telling people? If you're unattractive and different, the only person who's ever going to love you is someone else who is unattractive and different? Either that, or a donkey? a.k.a. a stubborn ass. Even Fiona's own parents are appalled by her and Shrek - notice her parents are quite high class, and very white.

Just a couple things I never would have thought of before taking this class. Everything I have learned this semester from this course has been enlightening and so extremely important, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Empowering Education - Connections

In this article, Ira Shor argues that students should be active in their classrooms at all times by participating and being given the chance to think critically. Most classrooms now a days are filled with repetition, memorization, and questions with only one specific correct answer. Students are taught to fill in the blank and circle the right letter in order to be successful and pass their class. Shore states that teachers need to start teaching their students how to think for themselves and let them get involved in class discussions because, believe it or not, students can learn from each other.
As I was reading this article, of course the first things that popped into my head were the readings from Finn and Oakes that we came across a couple of weeks ago. Finn and Oakes wrote about how kids in higher ability classrooms get a better education and experience in schools because they are encouraged to think critically and they are not ridiculed by the fill in the blank quizzes and worksheets. Children who are taught to think for themselves and different possibilities have a better chance of having a successful future both academically and financially.
"Students in empowering classes should be expected to develop skills and knowledge as well as high expectations for themselves, their education, and their futures... empowering education invites students to become skilled workers and thinking citizens."
Giroux says that schools need to be a "public service that educates students to be critical citizens who can think, challenge, take risks, and believe that their actions will make a difference in the larger society."
Students who have been challenged in school to become critical and creative thinkers do no only benefit themselves, but also their society and the world. One who had been trained to come up with multiple answers and possibilities can really make a difference.
I also thought that this article related well to what Delpit taught us in the beginning of the semester. Not so much about being explicit when it comes to having authority, but more towards teaching the codes of power. She taught us that the most important thing one can teach a child is how to survive and be successful in this world and in whatever type of society we live in. Shore believes the same thing. He quotes from Bettelheim that "the most important thing children learn is not the three R's. It's socialization."
Sure, algebra chemistry will come in handy one day, but not as much as the knowledge students get about how to be a successful, respected, and critical citizen.
I really like this article that I found because it includes a clear list of what a teacher's curriculum should include in order to give their students the empowering education they deserve. It shows why teachers should teach "responsible decision-making," "relationship skills," "social awareness," and "self-awareness."
In class, I kind of want to argue about how part of this article somewhat contradicts Delpit. I related it to her but I also think the two disagree. I'm not sure if I'm just reading it the wrong way.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Promising Practices Conference Experience

Prior to arriving at the Promising Practices Conference, I was kind of nervous because I had never attended anything like this before so I had no idea what was in store for me. As soon as I walked in the Don, I could tell that it was very organized and I knew right away where I was supposed to go and what to do. Our entire class found each other and we all sat at a few close tables in the back. After that, I felt comfortable because I was with people I knew and I wasn't the only one experiencing something new. 
My first workshop was on LGBT Harassment and, even though we've been discussing this topic in class already, I was still very interested and I loved it. My presenter was great. She definitely had my attention the entire time I was there and she couldn't have been any sweeter - not to mention, she brought a stuffed giraffe with her, which made my day ten times better from the start. The giraffe represented confidence in children; giraffes have long necks, so they stand up tall, just like people do when they stand up for themselves and for what they believe in. I thought that was great and really inspiring. 
While in this workshop, we watched parts of the videos "It's Elementary" and "It's Still Elementary", which I had already seen in FNED, but I enjoyed watching them again. It really reenforced how important it is to be able to teach children of any age about this type of diversity and the differences that appear in our world. 
I also found this great site that is actually directed towards parents about how to help their children deal with this type of harassment. One thing I learned is that nothing is more important to a child that is going through that kind of emotional abuse than a parent's help and support.
This workshop actually ties in extremely well with Dennis Carlson's "Gayness, Multicultural Education, and Community" because he writes about how homosexuals are not accepted and are viewed as completely abnormal to many people. Reading part of his book and taking part in this workshop has made me realize that there is still so much hostility present in our world. As long as there are still people among us who refuse to accept any differences, issues such as LGBT harassment, which is often fatal, will never be fixed. 
I also thought it connected very well with "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us" by Linda Christensen because homosexuals would not be seen as different and abnormal if there was never a set social norm in the first place. If all of these myths about "what makes you beautiful" and "what makes you 'perfect'" were never even invented and thrown into the minds of everyone through the media, everyone would be accepted equally. 
My second workshop was, unfortunately, not as rewarding as my first. It was on problem solving in mathematics and, honestly, I wasn't really impressed with the presentation. I didn't feel like I had learned anything new to walk away with. One thing I did like was that the presenters made it a point to give a few examples on how to incorporate diversity in different math problems to make sure that every student in the class would understand it and be able to connect with it. I found this interesting and very important because we never know who we might have in a classroom. As a math minor, though, I feel like I didn't get enough out of the workshop than I would have liked to.
I found this interesting math site that includes different problem solving strategies and some steps and clues on what to do next when it comes to math problems. It things like this that I would have liked to learn more about during the workshop. 
As for the keynote speaker, I have a ton of respect of Dr. Dennis Shirley seeing as he did come to RI all the way from Chile just to attend our conference. However, as much as I would have loved to, I felt it was nearly impossible for me, personally, to be able to pay full attention during the entire presentation. It was lengthy and it seemed as if it was only directed toward the teachers that were sitting right in front of the podium. I felt as if the students in the back were disconnected from the rest of the audience, which definitely made it harder to concentrate on what he was saying. 
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at my first teacher's conference and I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to go to many more and keep learning. I like that it was part of a class assignment because it was very rewarding and I'm glad I went. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oakes and Finn: Extended Comment

Katie's Post:

Quotes from Finn and Oakes

As I read the two articles for this week I tried to keep Dr. Bogad's words in mind, "can separate be equal?" I found that unlike the Brown v. Board case, where I could firmly say that separate was not equal, I could not come to a definitive answer on either side of the issue of tracking students in public schools.

Starting with Oakes, Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take Another Route, I found myself going back in forth between arguing that schools should group students into different levels to arguing that it is harmful to students to do so.
Oakes writes,

"Tracking leads to substantial differences in the day-to-day learning experiences students have at school. Moreover, the nature of these differences suggests that students who are placed in high-ability groups have access to far richer schooling experiences than other students." 

I’ll draw from my own experiences to comment on this quote. In my own school, Math, English and Science classes were broken up into high, middle, and lower level groups. When I was in honors classrooms I did much better than when I was in inclusive classrooms because the teachers spent less time on discipline, we went at a faster pace, and I was motivated to keep up with the other students. In my regular classes I was bored easily, distracted, and less challenged. While on the one hand I think it would be beneficial for previously labeled lower level students to be in classrooms with highly motivated students, I worry that it might drag the material behind for the students who are moving faster.

I enjoyed reading Finn’s experience growing up and teaching in urban Chicago schools in, Literacy with an Attitue but when he described the feelings of some of his graduate students, I must say that I had to agree with them,

"When I suggest to my hard-bitten students that poor children are not being as well educated as they could be, they are not amused. They take it as a personal attack from someone who has been living in in ivory tower for the last thirty years and they resent it—a lot"

Finn describes the only 8 years he ever spent teaching in public schools as being the wrong way to go about it (militant-like, not challenging) and then went to graduate school where he changed his perspective. But he never describes how he personally implemented his new teaching method theory. Considering how difficult these teachers in urban areas seem to have it, if he hadn’t tried these ideas on his own I probably wouldn’t listen to him either.

I think the best quote from Finn was about students in working class areas and schools systems,

"Their capacity for creativity and planing was ignored or denied. Their response was very much like that of adults in their community to work that is mechanical and routine."

I am a firm supporter in social justice opportunities for underprivileged students and I think it is horrible that teachers significantly lower their expectations and materials to those children who deserve a good education. That being said, I also think it is unfair to punish highly motivated students by giving them less attention because they somehow, “don’t need it” and this is the unfair attitude that these authors seem to suggest.

If you are interested in social justice and equitable education, I suggested looking to books by Louise Dunlap: Undoing the SilenceI met and worked with her at a teaching conference two years ago and found it to be a great experience.

I’m interested to hear what the rest of the class thought of these articles and the conference. Do you think schools school segregate based on GPA and perceived abilities of students?

My Response:
I was very interested in the points that Katie made in her blog about Finn and Oakes. I like that she brought up the line "can separate be equal" because all of the readings we have done in this class have shown some sort of separation that, in turn, prevents equity in our society. The topic that these readings focus on is the idea of tracking in schools. Separating students into different classes and levels according to their ability and performances - does that sound anything close to equal to you? 
Like Katie, I can personally relate to these thoughts on tracking and the quote that she pulled from Oakes' text: 
"Tracking leads to substantial differences in the day-to-day learning experiences students have at school. Moreover, the nature of these differences suggests that students who are placed in high-ability groups have access to far richer schooling experiences than other students." 
I experienced this happening in my own high school as well. All of the "standard", or general education, classes are split up and broken down into Honors, First Level, Second Level, and Third Level (the Third Level classes are not considered college prep classes. In other words, if a student is in this class level, he/she is not eligible to go on to College after high school). The majority of my classes were Honors classes, all except my history class, which was a level one. Switching down from an Honor's history class was my choice because I had always struggled in that subject, and when I did, I realized that there was a significant difference in the two levels. My honors classes continued to move at a much faster pace while the level one class seemed to be taken a lot less seriously by both the teacher and the students. Switching out of my honor's class was even greatly discouraged by my counselor and teachers when, honestly, it shouldn't have made a difference. 
The fact that students are getting different learning experiences depending on what level they are in schools does not promote equality. The classes students take are highly publicized which makes it really easy for false judgements to be made about those students as well as lack acceptance for them. 
As Oakes stated in his article: "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" and there is no better way to put it. Students with high academic capability will continue to be praised and receive better opportunities for education, and those who may tend to fall behind will continue to fall further and further behind and may never be able to catch up. 
I found a video in which Jeannie Oakes actually talks about why she disagrees with tracking. Dr. Robert Slavin states that teachers only use the tracking method as a convenience to them. Flexible grouping, meaning that students are not trapped in the same groups at all times, is also highly encouraged in this video.
I would like to hear about any other experiences that anyone has had in their previous schools. Do most schools have this tracking strategy in place? How do we all feel about it? 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gender and Education

It is safe to say that gender inequality is very much around and very prominent in most schools in our society today. Girls are seen as more intellectual and "smart" than boys and thought to be more successful academically, while being taught that sitting quietly and focusing on her social status is equally important to boys focusing on their independency. This article titled Gender Bias in Education by Amanda Chapman includes a lot of information on how boys and girls in school districts are looked at completely differently both education wise as well as socially.

This website is all about gender differences and its role in education; how it affects both ends of the line. It lists some of the disadvantages for both boys and girls, as well as ways in which both genders cope with certain experiences differently and whether or not they should be educated in completely separate classrooms.

Of course the most common place in which gender bias takes place is within the sports' teams at school. The teams are divided into boys only teams as well as girls only teams; and we can all guess which one of these two groups gets better privileges for their sport. 

The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations had a pole to see whether or not the public agreed with the fact that female athletes would play on all boys' sports teams. It was really interesting to see what the public had to say about this topic in their comments on this article.

This article even has statistical data proving that females are well capable of being just as successful as males in their ability to do math, however girls are more apt to have confidence issues when it comes to their math abilities.

All of this research is so contradictory because there are so many studies that say girls are more successful than boys in schools because of either the way they are taught or the way they are programed to learn, and other studies say that boys are more successful because they have more confidence than girls in their academic abilities. This article basically just talks about "gender gaps" and how boys and girls act very differently and learn differently in schools.

All of this information that I read and found is such good proof that there is still a large group of people that do not believe girls and boys are equal in any way, shape, or form. I think that every human being learns a different way and is successful in their own way and whatever that way may be has nothing to do on whether or not you are a female or a male.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Between Barack and a Hard Place

Brown vs. Board of Education

While listening to the videos of Tim Wise discussing his book, Between Barack and a Hard Place, I found myself agreeing with him more and more. It is disappointing to admit it, but racism is still very prominent in today's society. The "Separate Is Not Equal" website we explored explained a lot about Brown vs. Board of Education and how it supposedly "marked a turning point in the history of race" in the United States. Yes, this problem has come a long way and there have been many great improvements throughout the years on racism, but all of this hard work has yet to diminish all form of racism everywhere. 

Wise admits that Obama's presidential election was a step forward in this long battle, but racism still has a long way to go before being completely resolved. People really need to change they way they view people of color (and people of different "styles") because I believe that an issue such as this will never be resolved unless every single person is on the same page. It's one thing to say that there is no racism and that everyone is equal, but it's another thing to actually put those words in action and prove it

There are a couple of videos that I found that pertain to racism that is still seen today. They include some vulgar language, but they are amusing to watch, and they are completely true. I only posted two of them, but if you go on youtube, you'll see that these same characters have made many different videos pertaining racism in today's society. 
And since I can't seem to be able to post them directly on my blog, here's video 1 and video 2 :)

After watching the Tim Wise videos, I'm actually really interested in reading his book. There is nothing I want to learn about more than modern day issues in our society that clearly need to be fixed.
In class, I want to brainstorm about some of the small steps we as individuals could do to make a small difference, as well as giant leaps that we as a whole could accomplish in order to really start changing people's perspectives on this issue.