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. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brown vs. Board of Education


While exploring the website Brown vs. the Board of Education and reading the article Separate and Unequal by Bob Herbert, the culture of power has never seemed so prevalent in history and in life today. Before Brown vs. the Board of Education the states in the south "created a dual educational system based on race. These separate schools were anything but equal." After Brown vs. the Board of Education students were able to get the same education in the same classroom. In the video Between Barack and a Hard Place with Tim Wise, he talks about how "we are no where near a post racial America" and this can be seen in the classroom. Herbert wrote, "Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality." In my elementary school most of the students were white and most elementary schools in Coventry were dominantly white. At Kennedy Elementary school, where I volunteer, most of the students are not white and are of a different race or ethnicity. In Providence, a lot of schools are this way, and it seems like these schools are still segregated because of the "economic disparities" that households experience. 

Jackie Robinson integrated into MLB in 1947
The fight that allowed all students to learn together took many years and now today students are not as integrated as they should be. In Hebert's article, he mentioned a student that "showed that low-income students who happened to be enrolled in affluent elementary schools did much better than similarly low-income students in higher-poverty schools in the county." Diverse students who learn together tend to do better because the students who live in higher income families tend to have parents who work with them as young children. The students who don't have that connection tend to do better if they are with students who do. Tim Wise mentions in his video that some black students feel that in order to succeed they need to "excel in basketball and hip hop." We need to change society so that everyone has an equal opportunity. These students shouldn't have to feel they have to identify with that stereotype in order to succeed. I think Johnson's piece of saying the words applies here because most people still believe in stereotypes. Whites generally classify blacks as "less intelligent, more aggressive, prone to criminality, less hardworking and just want to live on welfare and not work." We need to realize that we are part of the problem of segregation that is still prevalent today, and we also need to see that we are the solution to fix it. 

Wise also mentions that because the United States has a black president, we feel that we are heading towards a better place where segregation and racism don't exist. Racism is "still evident" in today's society. He brought up a point that I never realized before and it was the fact that white people are asked if is racism still present and their answers were generally no. They are not part of the ones
being targeted. The people who feel they are the victims should be asked that question and he mentions that "people still remain ignorant." Brown vs. Board of Education, the Voting Rights Act, and the Civil Rights Act, all took a lot of work to pass and there is "still so much work that needs to be done. Denial about the problems hasn't changed."

It seems like today we are falling back into segregated schools and it is one big circle. There needs to be a change that allow a racially diverse population in every school. If there is no change or no action are we ever going to be anywhere near a post racial America?

Point to Share: I didn't know much about Brown vs. Board of Education and for a while I thought about schools being diverse because I had black, Hispanic and Asian students in my schools. After going to Kennedy Elementary school and reading Hebert's article, I can now see that schools are anything but diverse.