Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Talking Points #7- Empowering Education by Ira Shor (hyperlinks)

Shor argues that we should not settle for the traditional education.  He encourages students to challenge what they are taught.  Not to just accept what they are being taught as the be all and end all so to speak but to take part in their education and to question what they are being told. 
It is our job as teachers to not only encourage our students to question, challenge, and be curious about what they are learning but to teach them the skills needed to use these critical thinking strategies to empower them as learners.   

Shor argues that it is not enough to teach our students the facts and how to memorize different facts and theories and not to settle for the “status quo” but to teach them to be an active participant in their education and to activate their knowledge of critical thinking. 

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."  Here is a GREAT short You Tube video about the people who have been critical thinkers instead of settling for the stratus quo.  Notice the people who were "crazy enough to think they could change the world."  I think you might recognize some of them. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Talking Points #6: August. Making Room for One Another (connections)

In Making Room for One Another, Gerri August can be connected to a few of the different authors/ theorists that we have read about throughout this course.  To start, I picked up on an immediate connection to Meyer when August writes about a student who has two moms.  She talks about how different that student must feel especially during circle time when the children are encouraged to share stories about traditions, celebrations, vacations, and other notable family experiences.  Already the student with two moms has different experiences which could make for circle time to be confusing and or scary.  In the very same chapter, and even the same topic, I also see a connection to Delpit.  Delpit would say that this student knows how to be a child of two lesbian moms that’s not the issue.  Delpit would say to teach this child to function given her background; to function in today’s society. 

I also see a strong connection to Johnson in Gerri August’s writing.  She writes about this student named Cody who is having a hard time when a class poll is taken and the majority of the students voted/ replied “yes” when asked if they were excited about the exhibition.  Cody replied that he wasn’t excited and Trinity was continuously adding commentary about “yes” winning because yes had more votes.  When Cody became very upset the teacher asked that Trinity stop saying that yes was the winner and to phrase it differently.  The teacher requested that when reflecting on the poll that they use the terms “most and least” instead of “winning and losing.”  I see the connection to Johnson because Johnson would say let’s call it what it is.  We need to call it by its name.  Similarly to when August writes about the teacher coming in wearing an African shirt and a little girl came in calling her an Indian because she thought that her teacher looked like a Native American.  When the teacher went through the process of asking the student why she said that, the teacher explained that the shirt was actually from Africa.  Again, calling the shirt what it is which was and a shirt made in Africa not an “Indian shirt.” 

August makes a lot of great points in her writing.  I see many connections to a most of the theorists that we have studied thus far.  I think August has many very valid issues that she address in her research and I am anxious to hear more.  I am excited to meet with her on class and learn more about the studies she has done and the research she has come up with. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Talking Points #5: Rodriguez and Collier Hyperlink

"Teaching Multilingual Children" talks about the best practices that teachers should use when teaching English Language Learners.  In her article, Collier discusses the seven key guidelines to teach English Language Learners.  The guidelines she refers to are:
1.  Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
2.  Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so-called "deficiencies" of your students.
3.  Don't teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language. 
4.  Teach the standard form of English and students' home language together with an appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom.
5.  Do not forbid young students from code-switching in the classroom.  Understand the functions that code-switching serves.
6.  Provide a literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for English-language learners. 
7.  Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Overall, Collier speaks mostly about how to teach English Language Learners most effectively and backs her arguments up with the research and studies she has done. 

Richard Rodriguez article is very different than Collier's although they seem to share the same beliefs.  Rodriguez talks more about his personal experience as a Spanish speaking student attending an English speaking school.  Rodriguez argues that teachers should encourage their students to continue to use their native language because that is the language they are most comfortable and confident speaking. Although we need to continue to teach English to these students, we also need to encourage these children to use their native language to help the other students and teacher to become more well rounded by learning something about the ELL's native language and culture. 


Below is a You Tube Video about Multicultural Education

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Talking Points #4: Meyer, "Gendered Harassment in Secondary Schools: Understanding teachers' (non) interventions"

Dr. Elizabeth Meyer in her article "Gendered harassment in secondary schools: Understanding teachers' (non) interventions," she argues that there is a great deal of harassment and bullying going on in schools dealing with gendered harassment.  She defines gendered harassment as any behavior, verbal, physical, or psychological, that polices the boundaries of traditional heterosexual gender norms and includes (hetero)sexual harassment, homophobic harassment, and harassment for gender non-conformity.  She gives the common examples of name-calling, jokes, gestures as well as physical and sexual assaults that are sexist, homophobic or transphobic in nature. 
Meyer also argues that reasons that teachers at times do not intervene to such harassment are due to external influences and social influences.  Meyer states that the external influences consist of: administrative structures and responses, provincial curriculum demands and teacher workloads, teacher education and training, and written policies.  Meyer states that the social influences consist of: perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships, and community values.
I feel that the blame is pointed at the teachers for increase in gender harassment.  I am posing a few questions for us as teachers to reflect on in addition to questions to those blaming the teachers to reflect upon.

1.      It is very clear that bullying and harassment is on the rise.  As teachers, many times we are up against a wall if our administrators do not support our decisions to take action against someone who is bullying or harassing another student.  At times, (and not always) administrators are hesitant to make a bold move to make a change or at least set an example with as to what severe disciplinary actions may and possibly should be taken because they are afraid of having parents disagree with the decision made and not wanting to draw negative attention to the school.  How can we as teachers take a stand and make a change without going over our supervisors’ heads and getting in trouble for sticking up for what we believe in?
2.      How do you feel the bullies should be dealt with?  What do you think is a reasonable consequence for the students that are responsible for harassing other students?
3.      How would you approach a parent of a child who is being bullied or harassed if the administrator doesn’t feel it is necessary to draw attention to the situation just yet?  How are you going to protect your students as a preventative?
4.      How can you incorporate some of GLSEM’s lessons into your teaching to help prevent some of this gender harassment and teach understanding and acceptance in your classroom?
5.      I think this final question is probably the most difficult to answer.  This question I think will help us get to the “what now.”  Why do you think there is such an increase in gender harassment and what can we do to change it?

Just wanted to warn you this You Tube vidio is very powerful and emotional!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Talking Points #3: Stan Karp "NOT Waiting for Superman" (extended comments)

I'd like to quickly start this blog by saying- I wish I could have had some of the people at my district's budget meeting Monday night read this article or listen to Stan Karp speak!  Every individual who bashed the teachers (and many did) should consider reading this article and better yet visit my classroom and watch me do my job for a week (they probably wouldn't make it past the second day)!  Ok, I'm done ranting; on to the article.
Here is a You Tube link to watch Karp's speech

Below you will find Micaela’s talking points.

The article/lecture "Not Waiting for Superman" by Stan Karp is all about the politics of education.  Personally, I have always turned away from any sort of politics because it makes my head hurt and I tend to live in my own bubble.  After reading this article though, I found that I had become a victim to the central argument that "public education is failing because of bad teachers and their unions and that charter schools are the solution." (4)  As an educator in today's public schools, this statement directly threatens the accountability of my peer teachers and myself saying that through the results acquired through testing that we are doing a shitty job as teachers.  I support Stephen Krashen who says that, "If we spend as much on protecting children from poverty as we are willing to spend on testing children and evaluating teachers, we can reduce the problem considerably." (7)
The problem is that our democracy, who collectively operates the public school system, has been slowly weathering down on our system- demanding more from us teachers and giving us less resources to work with, which is due to their dysfunctional financial system.    As I hear from many non-educators, teaching is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world.  It is very demanding and yet they keep wanting more.  With the government on the Oh-Snap side, they see wealthy individuals with money like hedge fund managers,  like Whitney Tilson, who is interested in investing their money to make a profit, to start up charter schools as a way to help out.  Those in support of charter schools see this as a corporate business, where they are in control of the policies and pay based on merit (merit pay).  My principal can be quoted as saying, "you get what you pay for."  Charter school teachers get paid less and only later realize the benefits of working in a public school system, where your voice is heard and backed up by a union and the pay is based on step/seniority not merit.  It was interesting to learn that 1 out of 4 charter school teachers resign every year.
Obviously, we all connected to the Central Falls HS portion and how it IS the poorest community in our state and how LOW these students are..  I related Karp's comment to Kozol when he states, "(A)nd it's the kind of punitive test-driven policy that the Administration is proposing to impose on over 5000 schools in the nation's poorest communities." (5)  Will the test results be any surprise when 65% of the learners are ELL?  Honestly, who benefits here?  Its wrong to use testing data when there are other factors that belong in the picture.  It's not just the teachers.  We are a part of it, but not the only ones accountable.  Parents have to have a place in this equation also.  Karp agrees with me that this is the key to improving a school. (7)
Karp also goes on to say a universal daycare/preschool system would benefit ALL to get the necessary start to an education.  This definitely relates back to Kozol also.

I want to tell Bill Gates and his foundation to screw for proposing that class sizes should increase to say money, and to end paying teachers so that they can advance to higher degrees, close down schools, and have more virtual high schools or online classes.  It is obvious that I am a "defender" of this "education reform(ation)" who "support(s) increased school funding, collective bargaining and control of school policy by educators."
I very much agree with many of Micaela’s comments.  In the first paragraph she states that she doesn’t like to get involved with the politics of teaching because it makes her head hurt.  This really made me laugh because I hate being involved with the political side of teaching because in my eyes I am here to do a job and that job is to educate my students the best that I can and to look out for their best interest.  My job it to take into consideration the way my students learn most effectively and do my best to use that method or strategy as much as I can to give them the best education possible.  My job is to provide my students with and environment that is student friendly and student centered.  My job is not to listen to talk shows or watch political on TV bash me as an educator.  Karp empowers educators in his speech.  Being a teacher himself was helpful.  He was not some businessman off the streets or some “billionaire with now educational experience who couldn’t survive in your classroom for two days, but has made privatizing education policy a hobby.”  Karp just gets it!
Micaela’s next paragraph talks about the situation Central Falls was facing just last year.  She talks about how wrong it is that so much of what our government and school systems look at for progress is a giant standardized test which should not be.  When you thing about it, many people do not test well (and we all know this).  A standardized test does not give us a complete picture of a student’s overall knowledge and progress.  It is simply a very small piece of a very large puzzle.  If we spent all our time teaching to the test, sure our students would test well.  However, we would be doing them such a disservice! 
Both Micaela and Karp make a great point when they talk about where the fingers should be pointing.  I think we should put more pressure of our politicians to help us fix our educational system without blaming teachers.  We works so hard because we love our jobs and we want to make a difference in the lives of our students.  I don’t think it is unjust for us to be criticized for doing what is best for our students. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Talking Points #2 (Argument): Finn, Literacy with an Attitude.

In his article, Finn argues the different styles of literacy education which he says are empowering education and domesticating education.  Finn explains empowering education as an education that prepares students to be in positions of power in their future.  He explains domesticating education as functional education that prepares students to be productive and dependable.  Finn argues that there are significant differences in the quality of education that children of the working class receive as opposed to children of middle and upper class families.  Finn supports his argument with a study that was conducted by Jean Anyon.  This study gave many example of how teaching students of middle class families differs from teaching students of working class families here in the United States.  Many examples were given of the assignments the children of working class families differed from assignments given to students of middle class families.  There was a great quote that summed up the education for the children of working class families and that was “their capacity for creativity and planning was ignored or denied.”  This quote was referring to the quality of education that the children of working class families were receiving.  They were required to work from their text books in many of their subjects requiring no higher-level thinking.  In math, they were not allowed to use their own creative ways of finding solutions to equations but were required to find the answer using the method the way the teacher or book showed.  The children of middle class families on the other hand were encouraged to use higher-level thinking and their thinking was challenged by their teachers instead of just accepting and answers word for word from a book.  The children of middle class families also had access to technology to do projects and research.  There is a quote from the reading that sums up Finn’s argument and it is “The more advanced a people’s technology is, the greater the power they have to transform the world.  Education, technology, and power are closely related.”  He goes on later to say “power is derived from advanced technology and advanced technology relies on literacy.”  This quote simply says that the literate are powerful.  Thus the middle class are given more power even starting young in school over the working class. 
This was an eye awakening article.  I didn’t think that this could possibly still occur in the United States.  It is true what Delpit says about the powerful being blind to the problem of power and I suppose I myself am guilty of that.  Fortunately, I also have the power to change it!  The problem is we are not educating our students fair and equally.  So what?  This needs to change if we want our country to be a fair and equal nation with equal rights for all children.  Now what?  From here forward I for one will be more conscious of what goes on in the educational field and use my knowledge of the unequal and unjust decisions being made in education to educate those around me in the hopes that spreading the word will make a difference because teachers do have the power to change.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Talking Points #1 (Quotes): Delpit, The Silenced Dialogue from Other People’s Children.

I have taken the following quotes from Delpit’s “The Silenced Dialogue from Other People’s Children.”  I have chosen quotes that jumped out at me while I was reading the article so I felt the need to elaborate and give my opinion and argument for or against these very powerful messages in the reading. 
“Teachers do students no service to suggest, even implicitly, that product is not important.  In this country, students will be judged on their product regardless of the process they utilized to achieve it.”  I feel that this statement is somewhat hypocritical.  In some of our schools we require children to learn things a certain way using a very specific method or program.  If a child veers away from the specific method being taught, many times they are looked at as “not getting it.”  Whereas on the other hand, we give our students a standardized test and require them to somehow find the correct answer and fill in the corresponding bubble requiring the students to show no work at all.  I truly believe that a standardized test does a student no justice.  It does not tell us by any stretch of the imagination how much a student knows.  We should rather, acknowledge students’ higher level thinking and encourage them to find a solution however they can.  Who’s to say that the district or state’s way of solving a math problem or comprehending a text is any better than a student’s way of thinking.  We need to encourage our students and support them to use the skills they are learning but not to limit them to those skills.  We can learn a lot from our students and even different ways of thinking to get to the same solution. 
“I have frequently heard schools call poor parents ‘uncaring’ when parents respond to the school’s urging, saying, ‘But that’s the school’s job’.”
I do not think it is any teacher’s or administrator’s job to judge the parents of their students by their socioeconomic status.  Parents’ money has nothing to do with whether or not they care about their child’s education. Unfortunately, parents who struggle to make ends meet are forced to put their child’s schooling on the back burner not because they don’t care but because they have far more important things to be doing other than homework such as working long hours to put food on the table so their children don’t starve.   
“To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them.”
I think this last quote relates back to the first quote I took from the text.  Who are we or any other individual to say what a student does or does not know based on how we perceive their learning.  Children are much more capable than many people give them credit for.  We need to encourage them to use their creativity to tap into their higher level of thinking.