Thursday, December 11, 2014

Promising Practices

The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday was spend my day going to a conference that seemed extremely dull. However once the sessions began I realized that I couldn't have been more wrong. My first session was spent with a RIC student in the education program STEM to STEAM. My second session was Engaging Girls in Stem presented by staff from RI After School Programs Alliance.
and she talked about moving from

My first session was definitely my favorite because it included a hands on portion which is the best way I learn. She talked about how in science art was needed to help collect data and display the data and that is why art should be included in STEM. When she went to the fifth grade classroom she had her students make roller coasters with foam, tape and a marble and it helped convey the ideas of gravity and inertia. In the journals they kept they had to draw the model of their roller coaster and talk about how it worked. To help us learn more about it we got to do the project ourselves. Mike and I were in the same presentation so we worked together to build a roller coaster. We went through the thought process of how to make the marble go through a loop, and Mike suggested that we tape the foam to the wall which would create a steep first drop. After many trials we got the marble to go through one loop curve off of the table and finish by going through another loop.
This is exactly what learning should look like, doing the experiment first hand and being able to witness objects in motion.

The second session wasn't as active but while the speakers were talking they said something that automatically made me say SAFE SPACES! I learned that although both boys and girls perform at comparable levels in math and science, men are still dominating STEM jobs even though more women are graduation. One quote that really stood out to me was "If they [a woman] went into a job career, they'd have to work harder than a man just to be considered." It is insane that even if a girl is much smarter, she will have work much harder than a man would have to. The part that connected to Safe Spaces was "What can educators do?" We need to bring in STEM role models for students and build confidence in the students. "Girls and all children need to see the classroom as a safe space for learning." This is Safe Spaces. If the students don't feel comfortable or safe they may back out of a potential future job in STEM because they didn't feel confident in the classroom. There were young girls who had thought about going into the STEM field but backed out because they did feel comfortable in past classrooms. As a student they need to recognize mistakes and learn from them, but as teachers it is all about being the cheerleaders. We need to praise them for doing things right, and praise them for their effort even if they are wrong. The best way to help students feel more comfortable is to allow them to work in small groups. By achieving all of this, it can help include more girls into the STEM field.

The promising practices event really helped me learn about the kind of teacher I want to be, especially one in the STEM field. In this link is a video about how to encourage girls to work in the STEM field.

Theory Connection #3 Shor

Quote and Explanation:
"The participatory classroom is a 'free speech' classroom in the best sense, because it invites all expressions from all the students. An empowering class thrives on a lively exchange of thoughts and feelings" (Shor 22).

"The difference between empowering and traditional pedagogy has to do with the positive and negative feelings students can develop for the
learning process. In traditional classrooms, negative emotions are provoked in students by teacher-centered politics. Unilateral teacher authority in a passive curriculum arouses in many students a variety of negative emotions: self-doubt, hostility, resentment, boredom, indignation, cynicism, disrespect, frustration, the desire to escape" (23).

Students are more likely to thrive in "free speech" classrooms because they get to share their thoughts and learn from other students (not just from the teacher). This lets students take control of their own learning and it then creates a safe space for them to grow academically. Students need this "free speech type classroom because if they are being lectured or given worksheets all the time, they get bored, the lose focus and they no longer want to try. When students reach this point of learning they no longer have a safe space for growth and they don't want to try any more. Students' voices need to be heard throughout most of the class time.

Practice Example:
In my classroom I have seen both positive and negative learning happening. While they are on the rug, they students are asked to share their ideas quite frequently. The teacher has asked them what they were thankful for, what they did over break and she even had them exchange ideas about the history of Thanksgiving. The students loved sharing their ideas and they would build off of what their peers had said.

In this class they also do a lot of worksheets. While I'm there I watch over their work and help them when they get stuck. They don't like doing the worksheet and I
can see the look of boredom on most of their faces. They are not getting anything out of these lessons. I heard one girl keep saying "I quit" and I went over to her table. I tried to make the activity seem a little more fun than it really was, but she was still saying "I quit." She was bored and wanted to stop doing the activity.

When I had to play a word game with a few of the students, one boy understood all the words and one girl was frustrated because she didn't know what the words say. She didn't want to keep playing and she was extremely frustrated. She wasn't
learning, she was trying but she didn't understand what was going on.

So What?
Every student learns differently but sometimes the activities my teacher has them working on frustrates them and they automatically give up. Some are bored and start drawing pictures on the back of their papers. For the students who understand the assignment, it's an easy task for them to complete, but for those who struggle it creates a distance for the students' desire to learn more. These are not safe spaces that allow students to question things and want to learn more. The students should have an input as to the way they want to learn so that they can benefit and be an active part of learning. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Theory Connection #2 Delpit

Quote and Explanation:
"Words invite or exclude, recognize or erase, empower or intimidate, examine or assume" (August 95)

"The power of the teacher over the students; the power of the publishers of textbooks and of the developers of the curriculum to determine
the view of the world presented; the power of the state in enforcing compulsory schooling; and the power of an individual or group to determine another's intelligence or 'normalcy'" (Delpit 24).

This quote is what Delpit is explaining for her first code of power: "Issues of power are enacted in classrooms." There is a hierarchy of who has power within the classroom and the teacher is usually the one in power. The curriculum that the students are told they must master before they move onto the next grade also holds a certain power over them. In my classroom I saw the teacher as the person in power and I also saw a student "gain" power by putting another student down by "determining her intelligence." August says that words can hurt a person, they have consequences and cannot be taken back.

Practice Example:
Every day while I am there I work with a small group and they are the students from the lowest reading group. While they were working on the worksheet, I was helping one student out and I heard a boy tell a girl that the reason she isn't doing well in class is because she doesn't pay attention to the teacher so she gets everything wrong. The little girl started tearing up and came over to me to tell me that all her friends didn't like her. The next second everyone in the group told her that they were her friends and that they liked her. I went over to the boy and I told him that if he doesn't have anything nice to say to people then don't say anything. I also told him that words can hurt people and make them feel unwanted.

So What?
This boy determined her value in society and her intelligence and by doing so she felt powerless and helpless while he felt like he was smarter which increased his power over her. By determining her intelligence he made her feel ostracized and he did not create a safe space for her. In a classroom where every one is still learning, it is not right for other people to feel like they have more power because they are smarter but unfortunately it seems to be this way. The smarter students feel more comfortable in their classes than the students who aren't as smart and they need to feel comfortable just as much. This is like MacIntosh's idea of privilege. Although this is different from white privilege it is very similar. Those who know and understand the material are more likely to succeed and feel comfortable than those who don't understand or take longer to understand the material.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shor Revisited

After discussing Shor in class I decided to go back and see if I could connect this reading to another reading we have done in class. I found
a quote that connected Safe Spaces and Empowering Education and it is something that I have seen in my Service Learning classroom. "The difference between empowering and traditional pedagogy has to do with the positive or negative feelings students can develop for the learning process. In traditional classrooms, negative emotions are provoked in students by teacher - centered politics. Unilateral teacher authority in a passive curriculum arouses in many students a variety or negative emotions: self - doubt, hostility, resentment, boredom, indignation, cynicism, disrespect, frustration, the desire to escape" (23). I have students that do not understand what they are doing and they automatically want to give up. A lot of them give up while they are doing worksheets and when I really looked at them it didn't look like they were learning anything. This type of learning environment was not healthy for them.

One girl kept saying, "I quit" during one of the assignments that my teacher wanted me to oversee. She didn't want to be there and she was just writing random stuff. I sat down with the group and I tried to help make it more fun and tried to have her put more effort into the assignment. She kept repeating the same thing and I told her that I don't want her to have that negative attitude. I said that you can't give up when things get hard you have to push through and keep going
and the outcome will be worthwhile. What I said didn't help that much because she said it a few more times but she soon stopped.

The students in the lower reading level seem to be the most bored and frustrated. I think part of it is because the material is a little hard for them, but I also think that they don't want to be learning from worksheets and that's what frustrates them the most. If students are feeling this way, it isn't creating a safe space for them. Students should feel engaged in learning and should be active participants, but these students do not seem to be comfortable in their classroom setting.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shor "Empowering Education"


For this blog post, I decided to use quotes that I felt pertained to my education in high school and college and the education of my students at my service learning placement.

While reading this article, I found myself constantly comparing what Shor wrote to my education throughout the years. "He urged teachers to encourage students to question their experience in school: 'You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school. For example, it's very important to begin the school year with a discussion of why we go to school. Why does the government force us to go to school? This would set a questioning tone and show the children that you trust them and that they are intelligent enough at their own level, to investigate and come up with answers'" (11). In my service learning placement, my teacher is always asking the students to think. She always allows them time to participate, to have their thoughts heard. The last time I was there, they were reading a book about Thanksgiving and she was always asking them different things about the book asking them to think about what the Pilgrims went through on their journey over. She let the students say what they wanted and even if an answer wasn't totally correct she helped lead them to the right answer but only by guiding them. I feel that as I reached middle school and high school, my teachers started just making me memorize the material. 

The next quote that Shor wrote was one that I felt I could relate to. Shor said, "This kind of critical education is not more political than the curriculum which emphasizes taking in and fitting in. Not encouraging students to question knowledge, society, and experience tacitly endorses and supports the status quo. 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). This connects to Kozol because the people in Mott Haven were confined to the poverty stricken neighborhood they lived in. They couldn't rise up in society and that is what this quote is saying, by not challenging knowledge you'll still be where you started. I was never taught to question what I was learning or why I would do it. In some of my classes I was answering questions on worksheets where the answers came right from the text and I never questioned it. In my FNED class we did the same thing and had to answer true and false questions, questions like who is the author and question where one word answers came right from the text. These are similar to questions that  I answered in high school and I did it because I was told to do it. These types of questions don't challenge students and they seem like dumb questions for people who aren't that smart. Some of my English teachers would tell us what certain things meant and they didn't want to hear contradicting theories. They believed that they were right and on tests and quizzes I found myself writing their perspective not mine. I wasn't learning in these classes I was just trying to get by, I didn't bother thinking for myself because I knew whatever I thought would be considered wrong. 

"Participation is the most important place to begin because student involvement is low in traditional classrooms and because action is essential to gain knowledge and develop intelligence" (17).  I took a criminal justice class at RIC and no one in my class participated. Our grades came from our exams and it was all memorization. He would put the information we needed on the board and we had to memorize it all for the exam. I definitely couldn't wait for the class to be over and if you asked me about any of the material from the class I couldn't give you a right answer. In high school my calculus  teacher would always have us participate. We would go up to the board with questions we had on the homework and other people in the class would put the work and the answer on the board and teach the class how they solved the problem. It helped not only the people with questions but the people who presented the problems. The people presenting it got more participation points and they explained the problem which helped the process sink into their head. That in turn also helped the people who had questions because sometimes it is easier to understand something if it is taught by other students. 

I found this article that quotes Shor who explains the reasons why we should opt out or state testing. State testing sets this standard that all students have to be in even if the students aren't strong in the typical testing areas. This quote by Einstein perfectly describes state testing: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Every person succeeds in their own way. While not every student will understand the material, teachers should at least have these students questioning why the need to go to school so that they are still thinking and being critical. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kliewer Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome


Reading Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by Christopher Kliewer, really made me think back to my time in elementary school through high school and it made reflect on what type of teacher I wanted to be.

In elementary school, there were a handful of students that had Down syndrome. One girl that I remember was integrated into the classroom and she did what every other student did. There was a special needs teacher in that room to help her, but she learned everything the class did. She went to elective with them but she remained inside for recess with a couple of students from her classroom. It was amazing to see the students volunteer to stay in for recess just to play with her and keep her company while everyone else was outside. Kliewer points out that, "educating all children together reconfigures the representation of Down syndrome from burden towards citizenship" (95). Instead of being an outcast, she was integrated into the classroom and she was able to become friends with her classmates who helped make the classroom a safe space for her. Including special needs students into classrooms is a benefit because there is "no 'one size fits all model''' (Romo). Every student is different, and not every student learns the same. With that being said special needs students SHOULD be in all classrooms with their classmates because no one fits in the cookie cutter model.

In middle school there was only one class I had with special needs students and that was in gym class. From what I can remember, they were in only in my class in the beginning while we were doing warm ups. I don't think special needs students were in the classrooms though.
When I looked back in my yearbooks their pictures were with their teams but they were never with their teams. They should have been included more because they weren't together with other students and during the holidays, they didn't get to watch movies and hang out.

In high school special needs students were kept to one hallway where only a couple classrooms were, and they never had classes with other students. The only times I felt they were included is when our school had special olympics or basketball games that were played by special needs students. I feel that our high school was not inclusive at all. I found this article that helps teach students with Down syndrome and one thing listed that stood out to me was self-esteem. Students with Down syndrome usually have a lower self esteem and I think she should be in places where they can have people around them that will higher their self esteem. The teachers who worked with the special needs students did not look pleasant so I wonder if they were doing everything they needed to make those students feel wanted and included. This does not seem like a safe space that August talked about. The special needs students should have been integrated into gym classes in high school like they did in middle school.
The one thing I did like is that students would volunteer to take time and work with the special needs students and they would go around to different classrooms to deliver the newspaper or take coffee orders for teachers and then go out and deliver the coffee. I believe that all students should be allowed to be in classrooms together so that everyone can be accepted and included.

My favorite quote from Citizenship in School is from Mia Peterson which I think ties in with what I was thinking that all students should be in the same classroom. She says, "I started to notice that I didn't like the classes I was taking called special education. I had to go through special ed. almost all my life. I wanted to take other classes that interested me. I had never felt so mad, I wanted to cry" (Kliewer 71). Why can't special needs students take classes that I took it doesn't seem fair that they don't have the same opportunities that I had.

Question: From my experiences I never really had classes with special needs students. Are there schools that have special needs students in classrooms all the way through high school? What are these schools doing to integrate students with special needs that my schools need to start doing?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finn Literature with an Attitude

Extended Comments:

For this week's reading Literacy with an Attitude, by Patrick Finn, I found that I was looking at other blogs to help me understand the reading better. This week I decided to use Lindsey's blog as the focus of my blog.

Lindsey connected Literacy with an Attitude to Delpit, Kozol, and Collier in her blog. She starts with the quote, "They valued this more than knowledge taught by experience. For example, when a child said that the plural of mouse in not mouses because 'it wouldn't sound right,' the teacher said that was wrong reason. The right reason was that mouse is an irregular noun, as it says in the book" (13). These teachers are teaching based on what "curriculum experts" are telling them to teach. These experts are people who are clearly in the culture of power. I agree with Lindsey's point, instead of the teacher trying to help them understand that the word mouse is irregular, the teacher flat out told them you're wrong. In the article Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take Another Route, by Jeannie Oakes she provides both sides to show why tracking can be a good thing and a bad thing. The argument for the people opposing tracking is that, "they believe it locks most students into classes where they are stereotyped as 'less able,' and where they have fewer opportunities to learn. Many express particular concern about tracking's effects on poor and minority students" (178). This fits in with the culture of power. Students who are poor and/or a minority they will not succeed
like the white upperclass students will because those students will be placed in lower reading groups which puts them in lower level classes in middle school and high school. Lindsey's connection to Kozol was one I never thought to make, but I completely agree with it. She writes, "Unlike Kozol, who fought for the children and families in Mott Haven, Finn simply gave up. He says, 'I was pretty tuckered out after eight years of handling poor children' (6)." Finn gave up on teaching while Kozol kept caring about those families. These children need someone in their lives, a positive, strong role model, and he just gave up.

I completely agree with Lindsey's connection to Collier. She says, "The question he uses is , 'How would this work in my classroom?' ... Collier was one who was a strong believer in that the teacher or authority within the classroom had no right to change the languages being spoken by the students, but rather adapt to it. In discussing how it would work in your classroom, the teacher is finding a way to work around the students while adapting to them rather then changing them." She is right! Instead of changing how students learn or understand material, teachers need to adapt to the students. They need to understand how to deliver material that allows it to make sense to every student.

This video talks about the facts about illiteracy in the US.
Point to share: "I corrected and graded and returned every paper by the next class so the students felt that completing assignments mattered, or put an- other way, students were punished with a zero if they did not do their assignments. But, of course, that meant assignments had to be easily correctable, fill in the blanks, matching, one- or two-word answers on numbered lines on spelling paper" (4). I feel I can really connect to this because when I handed in assignments in high school, some teachers would hand it back right away and some wouldn't. In my classes where the assignments wouldn't be handed back right away, I found my self getting lazy because I didn't know what my grades were and I stopped trying to hard all the time. If I knew my grade I knew if I had to try harder and I also knew exactly what I had to work on in order to improve.