Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art Print that reflects our courses themes

Meredith Stern
Education is a Right
Some thoughts on improving the education system. Printed on a thin, beautiful, hand made (but not by me) rice paper. The balloons read : "multi-lingual teaching (Collier), teaching methods that value all cultures, celebrating leadership and history of people of color, racial equality in schools; quality of facilites; and hiring of teachers (Kozol), and oral story telling traditions appreciated." I wanted to make a print that addressed the systemic, institutionalized racism that exists in the American school systems, and present a print that celebrated a better value system for improving the quality of education that we should be giving to our children.
1 color linoleum block print
24" x 40"
signed/edition of 8

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Talking Points #7 Shor; Hyperlinks/Connections "Empowering Education"

I'm hoping I can pull this off with some hyperlinks- as it is my last format to use, but I really think it is best as connections.  I mean why else would Bogad make it our last read?  As I was reading the few first pages to the article "Empowering Education" by Ira Shor, I couldn't help but feel key points and words resonate with my personal pedagogy- or one that I am constantly striving for with my students: critical thinkers, active citizens, intellectual explorers, curiosity, why?why?why? questioning, empowerment, meaningful reflections.  To me this is what I envision learners to be.

Shor puts in simply that education is a "mass experience" involving millions of people, large amounts of money and people who strive for power over delegating what is important to teach in the curriculum and where money goes.  Shor goes on to say that the all of this energy, the mass of people who attend school, are "socialized" to go through the motions of learning, but that it is critical for our students "to question their experience in school."

Shor makes the powerful statement that: "(a) curriculum that does not challenge the standard syllabus and conditions in society informs students that knowledge and the world are fixed and are fine the way they are, with no role for students to play in transforming them, and no need for change." (12)  We don't want to create rote lessons, but rather engage our students to actually use their brains and think and question and give them the tools to become lifelong learners.  The quote continues to say that "education that tries to be neutral supports the dominant ideology in society." This screams Delpit.  Those in power have control and if we continue to teach this sort of "mass experience" than we continue to breed it.  We need to train our students to be active citizens and connect to their lessons with passion and care by asking questions.  This takes teaching beyond the surface to a more personal level, which teaching should do.  If what we teach them is important, than it gives them more of an opportunity to connect and figure how it works in their schema.  Our passions as teachers should inspire our students and ignite a flame inside them.  I have a friend who is deeply committed to the Waldorf School of Education.  I find it very enticing to go and work for a school that follows his philosophy. 
 "Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner education is a unique form of education from preschool through high school, which is based on the view that the human being is a being of body, soul and spirit.  Waldorf education was developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) at the beginning of the 20th century. It is based on Steiner's broader philosophy and teachings, called anthroposophy (literally, wisdom or knowledge of man). Anthroposophy holds that the human being is fundamentally a spiritual being and that all human beings deserve respect as the embodiment of their spiritual nature. This view is carried into Waldorf            education as striving to develop in each child their innate talents and abilities.

Connecting Shor ideas to Steiner's are a few following sourced quotes by Steiner:
  • To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take real interest in the world.
  • Truth is a free creation of the human spirit, that never would exist at all if we did not generate it ourselves. The task of understanding is not to replicate in conceptual form something that already exists, but rather to create a wholly new realm, that together with the world given to our senses constitutes the fullness of reality.
Shor says that "all forms of education are political because they can enable or inhibit the questioning habits of students" and August furthers that we, as teachers, are "political agents."  I personally have always hated politics and prefer to live in a bubble.  I referenced this in Karp's article NWFS and again I am finding myself referencing back to it.  Not until this class did I realize that I must pop this bubble or I will continue to reinforce the dominant ideology being reinforced in my classroom.  Shor points out that I control what happens in my classroom from my decisions of: themes/subject matter, textbooks, testing policies, seating arrangements/classroom setup, rules for speaking/discourse, grading systems, learning process.

I connected Shor to Kozol several times. "Schools (...) seem to act as powerful agents in the economic and cultural reproduction of class relations (...) social and economic values, hence, are already imbedded in the design of the institutions." (13) When I read this I immediately, thought about the class choices in the high school- hair dressing and sewing, not college prep courses.  Shor also said "(S)chool funding is another political dimension of education, becuase more money ahs always been invested in the education of upper-class children and elite collegians then has been spent on students from lower-income homes."

I also connected to August on page 15 where Shor states, "(E)mpowering education (...) is a critical-demogrpahic pedgogy for self and social change. (...) the goals of this pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life, by developing strong skills, academic power, inequality and change."

I had to put this in after our doll talk at the end of class.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Talking Points #6: Questions; August- Making Room for One Another

Over the 2005-2006 school year, Gerri August, observed, participated and reflected on her findings of a kindergarten class in a public charter school- specifically regarding the discourse/interaction of both teacher and students around the theme of difference and otherization. Her interest in this area of research stems from the fact that she was a former principal in a religious school and mother to two daughters; only later in life and after 22 years in marriage, she realized that she was gay.  Her partner and herself had a difficult time raising their children together because they were lesbians.  Our dominant ideology, SCWAAMP, holds power and sets norms and boundaries that reflect this power they hold.  August is interested in how the dominant ideology or "codes of power" (Delpit) in the classroom play out and what interventions, if any, the teacher has in teaching these students to become "active agents in the transformation of society." (2)  Her personal experiences along with the author, Noddings, have helped to shape her "idea of a democratic, transformative educator as one who models, facilitates, and confirms social acts of motivational displacement." (5)  After reading her article from her book, it is clear that her intentions are for all students to gain a better understanding and appreciate diversity.  It is the "educators that guide this adventure" (1) even though "adventure implies risk." (2)

As a teacher, we all teach with momentum.  Our students environments are altered when they perceive/experience differences/challenges.  As teachers we have a big job to do- follow a curriculum, manage behavior, maintain a positive culture, and in doing so teach the appreciation of diversity without "outing" anyone.  I look at the teacher, Zeke, and his ability to control and navigate these young and opinionated children to respect differences.  He did everything on a whim and in the moment.  Catching these moments and using them as teachable moments I think was always his goal.   [At least he recognized them. (Meyer)]  Whether he was completely successful is another point.   Its a huge challenge that takes experience and tools from the toolbox to navigate these teachable moments.  Its always in retrospect that we see better what could have been.  I have come up with a few questions from the text:

1. "How might a democratic, transformative educator respond to sociocultural differences that emerge in the classroom discourse?" (3) Explicitly, how do we as teachers create meaningful opportunities (implement in our curriculum) for the different/others to be recognized without making them feel outed- aside from them just coming up in classroom discourse?  I know Dr. Bogad said that the students will just appreciate the effort made by us (the ahhh, thank you), but how do we do it in a way that doesn't single them out?  Say there is 1 black student or 1 gay student in an all white class- how can I make diversity the center of discussion w/o being overly obvious.  August makes the point that if a student is part of the dominant social structure than they tend to be more accepted.  How can this "risk" of being different be less risky for a teacher to bring into light?  Sorry for the wordiness...just wondering though.  Turning to page 135, I admit, but I do do aggressive facework, with the best of intentions.  I don't' mean to "draw attention to another's vulnerabilities so as to 'make points', I just see them as opportunities to talk about it.

2. August says in regard to the episode on the lesbian episode on PBS getting cut, '(E)ducators who are alarmed by this censorship need to find effective ways to develop empathetic learners who are 'ready to learn' the value of difference." (9)  My question is that what if you work in a school that frowns upon non heterosexual relationships, say a religious school, how do you do your part to teach what needs to be taught without jeopardizing your job?

3. Why did August feel "convinced that (her) sexual orientation render(ed) her unfit for the classroom"? (4)  Aren't there non-discriminatory laws in place that hires regardless of gender,  race, sexuality, religion...?

4. Why is it that "different/other" parents don't speak up about the importance and need for their child and the other children in the class to have opportunities to learn about differences?  I think parents need to do a better job at advocating for their children.  "Cody did not offer up such narratives.  The absence of such data was meaningful." (4)  Fostering a sense of acceptance and open-mindedness will help to encourage the growth of ALL these children.

5. In regards to "Do you speak Chinese?", Zeke charged the two students who laughed at Shiloh as "participating in the same discriminatory behavior." (145)  My question is that if majority rules, how does a teacher readily turn the situation from a 'laughing matter' into more serious one?

Hatch would agree with me that it is human nature for kids ages 5-6 years old to "point out the mistakes, weaknesses, and inadequacies of others." (135)  I know from experience with a 4 year old, that young children like order and to follow the rules.  I also know that high school students are always in each others business regarding grades or what answers they got right or wrong on tests to being harsh about the artwork that another person may have made.  How do we turn these vulnerable moments for some into positive teaching moments?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Talking Points #5: EXTENDED COMMENTS; Rodriguez "Aria" and Collier "Teaching Multilingual Children"

I wanted to do an extended comment for this blog.  I think that its funny that as I read Bridgette's blog (who completed this first) then Francesca's (who completed it second) that I couldn't help but laugh because we had similar connections to several of the themes and authors we have discussed so far in this course. 

Bridgette, I like how you tell the audience up front that Rodriguez's article is a personal story about being bilingual and the effects it had on him, while Collier's article speaks about teaching children that are multilingual; she says that "the key is the true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom." (223)  Collier offers educators insight into how best to navigate multilingual students to continue teaching their native language along side learning a second language.

The article called "Aria" is described by Bridgette as English being Rodriguez's public language, while Spanish is his private home language. It is an interesting point of view to understand this perspective from a child.  I too noted in the reading, the feelings that Rodriguez had when his private home dialect was encouraged to change by the nuns, to English, which would foster a better understanding in school.  Of course, Rodriguez's parents wanted what was best so they took the comforting language of Spanish, which was full of sounds  (almost like a blankie or something he had been around since he was born) so that he could learn the "codes of power" better.  Bridgette makes the strong point, that regardless of the struggles that he had to go through, Rodriguez felt more confident and "assimilated" into mainstream culture for learning the English language, despite the lack of communication he had with his parents when he was younger.  This article was interesting to read because it was told from the first-hand point of view from a child's experience.  I have had a few students who traveled abroad or transferred from other parts of the country and learning and becoming orientated to a new language does seem quite stressful- as one never wants to loose their roots or identity, but it is always interesting to see them connect with the language and make conversation with me.  I like to see their wheels turn and how they respond to me.

The article by Collier called "Teaching Multilingual Children" accompanied the first article "Aria."  I agree with Bridgette that the author stresses the importance of appreciating the differences of language and culture in the classroom.  Collier states that it is "critical to be aware of the social and emotional factors which affect the second language learner." (224)  Bridgette goes on to note the author's "guidelines" to follow that are best geared towards students learning the second language of English. I will add that Collier feels it is important to note that the success of these students is dependant on examining the needs the community such as the: "sociological, economic, political, religious, cultural, geographical, demographic, historical, and linguistic makeup"..."each school would then operate its program based on the needs of the total population attending that school." (228)

I was happy to connect with Bridgette on her connections with Lisa Delpit's "culture of power."  I agree with Bridgette when she says that "Ultimately students are learning English because it is the language of those in power."  To be successful in our society that is English dominant, people must learn the language spoken.  Being aware of each persons differences that make us culturally unique is something that should not be taken away.  It needs to remain valued, in this melting pot country we live in.  I agree with Bridgette's choice of Delpit's quote that, “To imply to children or adults…that it doesn’t matter how you talk or how you write is to ensure their ultimate failure. I prefer to be honest with my students. I tell them that their language and cultural style is unique and wonderful but there is a political power game being played, and if they want to be in on that game there are certain games they too must play” (The Silenced Dialogue, 40).    I will go on to note that when reading Collier's article, that I couldn't help but get pulled back to Deplit's example of the Alaskan classroom; the students learned to value and be proud of their "Heritage English", but to be aware of the "formal English."

Even though, I did not read Finn's article, I can make the literacy connection to these 2 articles.  I agree with Bridgette that both authors make the point that 'literacy equals power.'

Friday, June 10, 2011

Talking Points #4: QUOTES; Meyer "Gendered harassment in secondary schools"

Artist, Keith Haring was gay and died of AIDS.  His visual messages are powerful!

The article by Meyer about gendered harassment discusses why this unacceptable behavior is happening in our schools and why teachers don't intervene every time they encounter it.  As I read through the article, several of this courses themes came up.  First was the dominant ideology of SCWAAMP, which I connected to twice, Johnson's article, which addresses talking about issues to work through them, and the card game we played in class relating to Delpit's "codes of power."  All of these themes connect to Meyer's gendered harassment investigation and how it is influenced by the culture of the school.  Meyer states that specifically there are institutional/formal influences + social/informal influences = "school culture" or our external factors.  These influences permeate into us and are filtered based on our internal influences.  The outcome is our own response and perception to situations.  Meyer states that it is the lack of support by our administrators and lack of intervention by our colleagues that prevents a school's culture to change.

Meyer believes that the root of gendered harassment, "is the hegemony of heteronormative patriarchy that constructs dominant notions of sex, gender and sexual orientation in very oppressive ways."  The dominant ideology that is most valued in America's culture is represented through the acronym SCWAAMP.  It stands for: straight, Christian, white, able-bodied, American, male, property owner.  What Meyer is saying is that our culture is negatively affected by these men who set the 'norms' or natural roles that we 'should' have in life.  Meyer uses this quote to set the stage for her argument that the problem start here.  People/students that don't share in these 'norms' are made into outcasts.  Meyer is wondering why equality for these students is not present 100% of the time when they go to school.

Meyer says that in evaluating her research it showed "a trend of teachers not trusting their administrators to support their actions and the feeling that they have to handle most non-violent discipline issues alone."  These teachers also felt that their schools had "a strong a clear response to any kind of physical violence, but in terms of verbal harassment or other forms of psychological torment, they felt that administration did not want to be bothered by these issues."   What Meyer's is saying through her research is that most vice-principals and principals confront issues of physical violence, yet dodge more sensitive issues that are harder to 'see.'  I found this interesting, yet believable.  It is almost like it would turn into a meeting with the vice-principal about 'they said, I said' and negotiating over what expired.  It would be a very drawn out process, whereas, physical violence is usually immediately identifiable or 'seen' when a fight breaks out or maybe captured on camera or witnessed by faculty/admin.  In these cases, it is easily dealt with.  Students fight and its an automatic 5 day external suspension at my high school.  I've never heard of an instance of being suspended over gendered harassment issues in my school though.  I know bullying needs to be reported- its a state law that came into effect this year.

"By only acting within the micro-structure of their classroom when dealing with behavior issues rather addressing the macro structures of the school, they are extremely limited in what they can do to improve student safety and school climate."  Meyer goes on to say that "every single participant spoke of a personal commitment to challenging bias in the classroom."  I think that it is imperative for the change to start in each teacher's classroom culture/environment.  We, as teachers, need to be role models for each of our students.  Even though its a battle that we can't do alone in an entire school, its a start.  In my classroom, I don't allow any form of harassment to exist with my community.  Teachers have to be accountable and conscientious of what is being 'learned' in the classroom as 'acceptable behavior.'  We need to step up and teach these students tolerance.  It is also hard to enforce consistency amongst a school of teachers because we are all 'leaders' and do it our own way. 

Maybe I speak so easy about this because I don't work in an urban school district, where a lot of social issues exist.  It was hard for me to relate entirely to these teachers because, I can get through my lessons.  Honestly, it kind of made me angry when one said "sometimes as a teacher I just want to ignore it...when I have TOO much to do...we gotta get through this lesson."  Skipping over harassment issues ends up sending out a message to your students during your lesson anyways.  So now you are breeding intolerance.

"a Prinicpal's priorities and attitudes towards issues permeate the school and shape the culture." AND "it really depends on your Vice Principal.  They basically set up according to their beliefs.  Their policies reflect a lot about them and how they deal with it."  Administration does set the tone for the school's culture.  They are the ones who hold the power and dish out the consequences when rules are broken.  I agree with one teacher who said that administration determines what is important based on their own belief system and morals.  Some issues are just more important than others to them; which behaviors they tolerate in the schools dictates the culture they create. 

On that note, Meyer says that it is the administrative leaders that need to initiate the school culture's of transformation.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Talking Points #3: Conglomerate of Formats- Karp "Who's Bashing Teachers and Public Schools?"

                                                         Website for Rethinking Schools

                                                                    editor Stan Karp

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)

Stephen Krashen

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.
                                                                    Whitney Tilson

Image of Michelle Rhee on the cover of Time in the year 2009.  "Her weapon was a broom to sweep away all those lousy teachers and their unions." (3)

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."

Talking Points #2: ARGUMENT- Kozol's "Still Seperate, Still Unequal"

WHAT?          The 2005 article by Jonathan Kozol called "Still Separate, Still Unequal", addresses the "obvious reality" that segregation still exists in schools.  Kozol use this article to argue that segregation continues to remain a major issue in our school system and that more educational opportunities exist to those in power, the whites, while the blacks and Hispanics are receiving severely malnourished opportunities in their educations.  This inequality has continued to widened the achievement gap between both the races into "two very separate worlds of education."

SO WHAT?    In this article, Kozol wants his readers to gain a better awareness on the issues that are effecting the "minority" of students in urban schools.  He shows statistics that supplement the underlying question of why minorities are being treated unfairly and given less opportunities for success than their white counterparts.  I have gone on to bullet some of the main issues he brings to light:
Choice of where to educate
·        not sending students of different races to the same school, even when the opportunity exists. (whites choose to go white schools) (those in power create a shift in the balance- $ included)
$$ is a factor
·        per pupil spending in '98 was $8000 for a 3rd grade student in NYC urban public schools vs. $12,000 in a fairly typical white suburban district of NY vs. $22,000 in wealthiest white suburbs of NY
·        even teachers salaries were comparable.  So inequality is shown to be a factor of who has the money.  If you have money, you get more opportunities and more experienced teachers. (expensive education-whites vs. cheap education- minorities)
·        preschool (Baby Ivies upward to $24,000 year vs. NO/denied opportunity for preschool for no reason)
·        "high-stakes testing accountability" (head start with preschool vs. slow start to learn, which was not their or parents faults!)
·        schools operating in unsanitary conditions: "water flowed down," "green fungus molds," "class size rose to thirty-four and more," "no windows," "no place for recess," collapsing ceilings," "decay and disrepair," "art and music programs had disappeared," "no doctors"..."lack of basic supplies like toilet paper"... Does anyone care or bother or look in that direction?  Clearly it is the whites in power as one girl said, "It's as if you have been put in a garage where, if they don't have room for something but aren't sure if they should throw out, they put it where they don't need to think of it again."
·        "school reform" (I think of Gist and how she wants to uproot Central Falls because they haven't meet the standards for years) (Skinnerian approach sounds horrific- lack of hands on learning and real authentic engagement.  One teacher goes on to say that "I can do this with my dog."  I take from that, that what she meant to say is that it doesn't take a dummy to know this. "rich get richer, and the poor get SFA.")
·        courses offered are not geared towards college, but "vocational and obviously keyed to low-paying levels of employment."  Why can't the students create the supply and demand for classes, rather than have the school dictate what is available?  The schools are limiting their chances for high achievement.  Its a continuum of feeling stuck and no way out or up.

NOW WHAT?           Those in power, the white, would think "who wants to invest in this mess without seeing any results?"  Its a mentality that I feels exists.  The problem is seen as an endless money pit because they need so much help.  Its our fault though for letting the gap widen for so long.  There is work to be done.  Kozol doesn't argue how to fix the problem, he just brought to light the issues.  From what I have learned so far, it is those in power that need to step it up.  The future seems grim because we have a LOT of stepping up to do.  We the privileged must reconsider sending our white children to schools with the minorities.  This is the only way to bring attention to the issues I have mentioned.  When there is a shift in power, there is a shift in attention.  When there is a shift in attention, there is a shift in where money should be spent.

Alison's Blog on Kozol

Nice work on summing up Kozol.  I wanted to get a feel for what others were focusing on before I started my blog and you definately touched upon lots of the info I also felt was important to mention.  really well done!

Briggetts Blog about Finn

Great job finding those clips relating to literacy arguments.  I havent read this article, but it seems really interesting. It realtes to the article by Kozol where he states that Fremont High School who is a predominately black student population, doesnt offer AP level or college level courses, but courses about sewing or hairdressing.  Its a vicious circle - staying in obviuosly low paying jobs- and unable to grow out up from the suppressed lifestyle.  I am excited to hear more about this article!

Francesca's blog about Kozol

Nice job on your post.  I really liked how you clearly seperated the blog into the 3 areas of an argument...What? So What? Now What?  I t really helped to see it laid out rather than put all together.  BTW love the Perpetually Hungry heading :)