Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Promising Practices Reflection

            The Promising Practices event on November 5 at RIC was not what I was expecting at all. I had worked at 3am the day of the conference, so when I got there I was a little bit grumpy and expecting the worst. However, once I sat down with all of my classmates and got to talking I relaxed a little bit. When the keynote speaker Robert Brooks started his presentation I was overjoyed with his personality. He was very engaging and put in jokes to his speech which made it a little bit funny while still getting his points across. I liked hearing about his personal stories which reflected his own experience building resilience in real life scenarios. He spoke about when he was in college and realized that he wanted to switch majors to psychology, and explained what a charismatic adult was.
            A charismatic adult was someone, like a teacher perhaps, who made an impact on your life that you’ll never forget, whether they meant to or not. As soon as he started talking about his psychology teacher in college and how he made him realize what his own passions were I thought of a professor I had my first semester in college for my FYS. This was a moment of learning for me because I realized how fortunate I was to have an adult make such an impact on my life. This professor showed me that no matter how nervous I got about school or my future that there was always something to look forward to and always a way to control the outcome of a scary situation. His class was a seminar on sports “scandals”, which was really talking about SCWAAMP like issues in the sports industry. Writing papers and doing presentations on these topics were so easy to me because I enjoyed learning about the content and sharing my new knowledge, and that was one of the first moments when I actually felt like I was doing the right thing by starting my path to being an educator. It’s a win-win situation where I can help other people by researching something I enjoy and help them understand in new fun ways.

            After the keynote speech I went to my first session which was titled Using Transgender-Friendly Picture Books to Build Resiliency, Understanding and Advocacy and was presented by Liz Rowell. This workshop presented components of resiliency that are important to work on with young children, especially those who are transgender, and how picture books can promote other children’s understanding of and advocacy for those who are transgender. I chose this session because of the latest class discussion we had gone through in class which was on the August piece, Safe Spaces. This was a conversation that I genuinely enjoyed having because I have many people in my life who are involved in the Trans community, and I want to know how I can be there for them and help them if they ever need it. I enjoyed this session because of how passionate my presenter was. I could tell that she really wanted us to understand the importance of using transgender picture books with young children, and even some older. While she did have examples to show us, the sad truth is that there are not many transgender picture books in existence, let alone ones that are available to schools and students. I am now aware of the benefits to using these books with young kids and I can make conscious attempts to educate people, young and old, about life as a Transgender male or female. This session also briefly went into the topic of bathrooms and how hard that can be for those in the transgender community. This discussion had me thinking about the Zelle article 11 and Gender Fluid. Something that is so simple to me like going to the bathroom can be scary to someone who is transgender, and that is sad. There is such a simple solution to this problem, making sure there are unisex bathrooms available along with men’s and women’s bathrooms, but no one cares enough about the underrepresented T from the LGBT community.

            My second session was Stress Managament Techniques to Build Resiliency presented by Susan Clark. I took this session because I find myself getting stressed out during school and I always let it get the best of me. This lecture was actually helpful for me because I realized that I can’t allow everything to get to me and make me worry, even if I think it’s the end of the world. There are so many simple ways to stay calm when assignments are piling up and I have a busy work schedule. While it was kind of hard for me to connect this session to one of our readings I found myself thinking of Kristof’s story about his friend Rick. Rick probably knew that because of where he started that he wasn’t going to make many improvements in his life. However, he is still described as a hard worker and a loyal friend. There is the instance in which Rick had given his ex-wife $6oo to fic her car instead of getting his medicine, which is very inspiring. Rick was a man who could access his situation and deal with whatever stress he had to one thing at a time.
            Overall I found that the Promising Practices event helped me grow a little bit as an individual. It was good for me to get out and listen to a speaker like Robert Brooks, who made me feel like I was going to be okay no matter what. I enjoyed the social awakening that I received from Liz Rowell, and the tips to help me stress from Susan Clark.

Empowering Education- Ira Shor

"People are naturally curious. They are born learners. Education can either develop or stille their inclination to ask why and to learn"(12). 

I chose this quote because it's a point that I think we all have seen come up throughout our educations. During class, there are often the same students raising their hands and asking questions, and usually teachers will try to get other students to participate as well, which is fine. However, it become a problem when the more interactive students begin to get pushed to the side so that other students are forced to engage. For example, if student A is always raising their hand at one point during the class the teacher will tell them to stop and let other students get a chance. I find this very problematic because maybe outgoing student A was asking a question or making a connection that could've helped student B better understand the content. It's important that we don't "stille their inclination to ask why and to learn".

"School funding is another political dimension of education, because more money has always been invested in the education of upper-class children and elite collegians than has been spent on students from lower-income homes and in community colleges"(15).

As soon as I read this passage I thought about the recent tracking reading by Oakes and the earlier reading by Kristof, which explains that we tend to end life where we started it. This funding pattern in schools is one of the reasons it's so hard to move up in social standing and better your life. The people in the lower-classes are kept their by oppression and privilege to people who already have it.

"In school and society, the lack of meaningful participation alienates workers, teachers, and students"(20).
Without participation to create a sense of community how are the members of a school society supposed to feel close and trusting of one another? I know that in my elementary school there was constant interaction between classrooms so that we could mix with other students and work our social skills. Whether it was a movie day with hot chocolate or an end of the year barbecue. Participation doesn't even have to be performed on this large of a scale. Small things like getting students into small groups in the classroom help them understand each other and make connections that give them similar qualities. No one should feel like they don't belong when they are with their peers.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Schooling Children with Down Syndrome

This article started out very strongly with Mia Peterson's story about being forced to take certain classes because she has Down Syndrome. It must be so awful not being able to take any fun classes that you enjoy and spark interest in education.
"Success in life requires an ability to form relationships with others who make up the web of the community"(Kliewer). 

Similar to the negatives of tracking, keeping these "special" students separate from typical classrooms is limiting their full capabilities as members of a democratic society. By mixing these students, even if it's only for a small amount of time at once, students with disabilities can feel accepted and realize that they have potential. This article is full of success stories from children with Down Syndrome who attend classes with non disability students. This makes me think of a few experiences I've had in school. In Elementary school, I was a part of a group that would stay inside during recess to "hang out" with students who had a variety of disabilities, and now I see how important this was to them. Also, in my high school band class, there was a disabled student who would always come in with his recorder and play music with us. He was always so happy to be there and it made me happy. One last example is my friend Adrian from high school. Adrian has autism and is one of the most amazing people I know. He is a brilliant pianist who has put out several albums of original music and covers. If Adrian was separated because of his "disability" I never would have met him. Like the student Lee, who loves math and cares about others; he is an asset to the classroom and helps other students grow with him.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Oakes- Skill level classrooms

Oakes speaks about the problem we have in classrooms when they are divided based on intelligence and skill level, giving advantages to those with higher skills and disadvantages to those with less skill.

It's like in the reading by Ira Glass in which we learned that when classrooms were integrated the grade gaps between the lower black students and upper white students closed. When you have all of the low testing students together they will continue feeding off of each other and make little to no progress. The low level classrooms don't challenge the students with curriculum, so maximum effort isn't being put into schoolwork. However, when you keep the students unified, the grades will rise.
"Students who are placed in  high-ability groups have access to far richer schooling experiences than other students"(Oakes).
This is something that we subconsciously see everyday. Think about when you were in high school and you had a class of mixed grades. The lower class men could look at the upper class men as examples of what they should be doing and how they should be acting. On a sports team, if you keep all of the week players together they won't be challenged and won't grow their skill set. Those players will be confined to a bubble of mediocrity.

Oakes discusses how the relationship between the teachers and students changes in different classrooms with different separations.
"In low-ability classes, for example, teachers seem to be less encouraging and more punitive, placing more emphasis on discipline and 'behavior and less on academic learning. Compared to teachers in high-ability classes, they seem to be more concerned about getting students to follow directions, be on time, and sit quietly"(Oakes).
This causes students to feel discouraged, which isn't what should be happening in schools. Integration for not only color, but everyone in general is key to successful students.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Separate and Unequal

"Separate but equal. The Supreme Court understood in 1954 that it would never work. But our perpetual bad faith on matters of race keeps us trying"(Herbert).
 I picked this quote out while reading Separate and Unequal by Bob Herbert. Herbert mentions similar things to the The Problem We All Live With transcript, including the fact that enforcing integration in schools is the only way to help improve the education system for people in the lower class and people of color.

"In other words, on standardized reading tests in 1971, black 13-year-olds tested 39 points worse than white kids. That dropped to just 18 points by 1988 at the height of desegregation. The improvement in math scores was close to that, though not quite as good" (Ira Glass).
These are real numbers that show the effectiveness of integration, but it still isn't being used in schools. This relates back to the whiteness in SCWAAMP. If it were white students testing 39 points worse than black students, immediate actions would be taken to shorten to gap in scores. However, integration would be an inconvenience on white parents who have that deep embedded racism in them. Relating back to the article White Privelage: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack...
"I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me" (McIntosh). 
Because of the white privelage present in society, we aren't making strides to help those who need it the most.

"If you're surrounded by a bunch of kids who are all behind, you stay behind. But if you're in a classroom that has some kids behind and some kids advanced, the kids who are behind tend to catch up. These kids in these classes in schools of concentrated poverty don't have that" (Nikole Hannah-Jones). 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Kahne & Westheimer Argument

In the article In the Service of What? Kahne & Westheimer spend a decent amount of time arguing the difference between charity and change.
I consider charity to be a short time fix, like what Kozol mentions in his article by saying it's a band-aid on a broken leg. There's nothing wrong with charity when it's all a person can do, but it is nothing compared to change. It's not a bad idea to supply clean needles to a drug ridden community, but it's an even better idea to try and fix the drug problem. Fixing the drug problem would be change vs charity. When working at a soup kitchen why stop there? Why not start a group or program that works to decrease the amount of people in your community who go hungry. Work to fix the minimum wage and make it a working wage. This is a shorter article that gets to the point of the difference between charity and change and address the fact that we need more change to progress in the future socially.
It doesn't take much to change someone's life forever instead of just changing it in the moment. For example, in our service learning projects right now I believe that we are doing "charity" work, not necessarily because the schools and students need us, but because we are changing their lives in the moment. If we do our best to nurture them and teach them the skills needed to thrive in our community, they can take those skills with them and have better futures. Don't just brush this off as an assignment needed to pass the class, look at is as an opportunity to better the lives of children who need role models to look up to.