Thursday, November 14, 2013

Promising Practices

My expectations for Promising Practices was high. I was finally attending an event that was directly designed to benefit people like me, or that have similar majors. Of course, I had no idea what to actually expect. Just things. Good things. Promising Practices? Sounds...promising.

As I sit down I'm pretty impressed by the diversity of attendants. Older folks, younger folks, excited folks, the I can't believe I'm up at 8 A.M. folks. Then there was Ms. Bogad's FNED 346. After a little waiting, the first portion began as our panel are welcomed to the front of the hall.If there was ever a point in time where I was considering jumping into local politics I think this just about turned me off completely. I sat in boredom as I struggled to pay attention to the cardboard-cut-out responses to questions that had no hope of receiving direct answers.  This part of the conference would've been just an average, forgettable portion, until one particular student raises his hand. The speaker calls on him as the student struggles to gather himself. His delicately worded question dismantled by anxiety as he attempts to recall his article. I've been there.

Go ahead, I'm looking at the speaker. Tell him to take a breath, that we have time

Because of course, most of the people here either are or want to be teachers, and teachers understand the importance patience and empathy. That all student inquiries that are given seriously will be taken and responded to seriously.  


You're just going to press him for his question and make him feel even less secure? That's cool I guess.

 Phew, that was close. Someone almost posed an innovative question backed by data, and if that had happened then someone on the panel may have had to actually think on their feet rather than regurgitating the same "Vote for me!" dance around routine. This almost became interesting.

At least I had free coffee.

This was about the time where I had a Kohl moment of my own. If I was ever learning from this, it stopped there. Luckily, things did get better at my workshops. One stood out in particular.

The presenter was an Elementary Ed teacher, she started by discussing  the increasing pressure put on teachers every day. We are pushed to teach more material to more students, never given more time. She stressed the importance of a friendly environment  before delving deeper. Her presentation was colorful and well thought out, she displayed the dynamic nature of her classrooms. As she welcomed in students, her classroom was completely empty and bland. The room had evolved over the first few weeks into a colorful hub, displaying the collective talent of every child in the class. This was vital to self esteem and overall productivity of the children.
Once she had established this sense of community, she could begin her style of teaching. She called these lessons Literacy walks. She would start with one book, she would then find a way to tie every one of the the core subjects to that book and turn those subjects into stations. "Children are naturally energetic" she exclaimed, "You can use that energy to your advantage". She accomplished this by using energy demanding activities. After giving us a packet of about 15 pages packed with lesson plans, each one of us left with a new tool in their box.

Overall, Promising Practices was pretty enlightening. A small change in time distribution could've made the event far more enjoyable. Had the opening questions been informative and enjoyable, there is no reason they couldn't retain that with at least a trim in time. The workshops, however, demanded more time. It was almost depressing to see the information flowing through classrooms come to a halt as the presenters rushed to make sure we had time to fill out evaluations.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Separate is Not Equal

While Brown vs The  Board of Education was a major victory for blacks everywhere, we see over time that there were further elements constraining many from the goal of equality. The harsh reality is that the glue that binds racial segregation contains several elements - residential patterns, housing discrimination and economic constraints. Brown vs The Board of Education only eliminated one facet from the situation. At this point, Herbert has us considering if the decision was even beneficial in the grand scheme of things. Blacks and Hispanics are left behind in less than sufficient schools, solidifying their status as lower class for generations to come. Brown vs the Board of Education emphasizes equal opportunity for every student. However, the student has no control over what school he goes to, it's merely based on his parent's economic situation, truly no different to how black students were pushed to a school according to their skin color - another decision they didn't get to make. Racism still exists, the only changes made being the terms we use to describe it. Rather than whatever offensive term we shamelessly used 50 years ago, we'll hear the politically correct refer to these people as "urban youth" or something similar, carrying the same stigmas, producing the same mental pictures.

As Tim Wise hints, racism has only succeeded in becoming more subtle.  Wise states that many describe Obama as "outside the Black and brown norm"...

...What the hell does that mean?

Not "the negative stereotype of", not "What many consider to be", but just "the norm"?

norms : standards of proper or acceptable behavior
the norm : an average level of development or achievement
the norm : something (such as a behavior or way of doing something) that is usual or expected

We, as a society expect blacks to be in some form possessive of traits drastically different from Obama's? Lacking professionalism? Lacking coherence? ambition? We expect this? This is just a passive thought?

This, along with Wise's explanation of stereotypes and his evidence suggesting the percentage that believe them further support our frequently denied modern segregation. This is also a major reason why Herbert says that despite the consensus that we need to help poor black people do better in school  "the consensus is that those efforts are best confined to the kids’ own poor black neighborhoods."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Talking points #6


"Educators and legislators alike  maintain that service learning can improve the community and invigorate the classroom"

Service learning is a treat in  several ways. In some form, the idea of invigorating the classroom. School systems often have a common issue, that they lack anything dynamic or inclusive. By adding another element to the classroom you are forcing a certain milestone, often building a sense of community and establishing a sense of authenticity, making each class much more than that. It can improve the community both inside and outside of school by allowing the students to develop a sense of altruism.

"Many who currently advocate service learning consider its potential as a mean of promoting moral development"

Altruism is such an important trait to develop because it counters the concept of narcissism. One's mind cannot remain closed when exposure is forced to it. For example, the article mentions that upper-middle class students were assigned to visit a lower class elementary school. They imagined a whole different world, reminiscent of Kozol's impressions. They imagined violent children running around a dirty campus, expecting them to be rude, rough and noisy. What they found were attentive and responsive students. This reminded me of Johnson's privelege, power and difference in the way that such thoughts are often the result of society rather than the victims. The students that visited had only feared what they might find because those are the seeds that their parents and society had planted within them.

"Almost all discussions of service learning practices emphasize the importance of reflection"

It is scarcely argued that reflection is a bad thing because it gives already prejudice students the chance to find support for their  deep seeded hatreds and make stronger arguments. However, the concept of reflection is best paired with growth. Every example given in the article lists positive learning experiences, mentioning almost outright that they think higher of whichever group they spent time with.

Talking Points:

Despite the argument that reflection may have a negative outcome, does that mean that the service learning was a negative experience in that situation? No matter the position, it's worth considering that all examples of real life experience hold far more weight than whatever speculation based on media or negative emotions.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Talking points: Christensen

Christensen argues that at the ages of youth, cartoons deliver unto us a "secret education" which molds and sculpts our perceptions to manipulate the way we look at certain sexes, classes, races, and body types.

On the rare occasion that you catch a glance of someone of a different color or separated from society in some other manner, they're painted with several marks that deem them in some form as lesser. While this is easily overlooked, that is the very issue. Messages are strongest when you don't get the chance to interpret them.  Children receive this "secret" education  at an age where they know only to accept what is in front of them. These simple cartoons are powerfully manipulating one of our greatest abilities as human beings and turning it into a detriment: the ability to absorb information and passively learn from it. This ability is at its most potent when the brain is new. Give child a multiplication problem when the only experience that child has with mathematics is addition and that brain will resort to addition. Put a white student in the same class as a black student when the only account of color that the white student has is one of offensive and obnoxious behavior induced by whatever morning TV was put in front of him while eating his breakfast and his brain will work the same way.
Points to share:
While Christensen makes several great points, I can't help but wonder about just one.

In the instance of social pressure, the perfect hourglass figure being shoved into the faces of women leading to insecurity down the road. All main characters in Disney films and models in media have perfect body types, if every instance of this was wiped clean, and we let generations pass, would physical insecurity stop? Would it even be less prevalent? I firmly believe that nothing would change. Instead of people blaming Disney for their lack of confidence they would blame figures from their personal life. After all, beauty isn't some man-made concept, we're hardwired to perceive certain body types as attractive, as well as to compete for health and genetics. The animators drew these characters this way for a reason, because it's what people take pleasure in looking at. As long as we have eyesight, sex will sell, as long as sex sells, we will be surrounded by sexual icons.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Good Job Talking Points


This article is something I feel I owe immediate gratification to. Partly because I feel I was raised on this system of thoughtless convenience. It's been simply enlightening, in terms of my own life and the behavior of a few of my service learning students.  "Good Job!" was probably the phrase my mother uttered to me more than any other. Since moving out, my direction, my goals and my motivation just seem so depressingly distant and foggy. I can't help but believe that never being pushed to find satisfaction within my own accomplishments has lead to this.

Within the art class I teach for service learning, there is one student I've been curious about. His ability to absorb a 10 minute set of instructions, and efficiently complete his class objective seems to surpass any other student in the class. When he is done, he helps those around him. Yet, the last two times I've met with the class he's asked for help on his assignment. I'll repeat the teachers instructions and about halfway through he'll begin his assigned work. He'll finish the first step, place his freshly cut paper down on the table, and just look at me with this confused look that reeks of insecurity. It's just now become apparent that his mood and self esteem at that point hinges on the same two words as so many other kids. He doesn't need my help at all, only my approval.

Points to share:

There is a reason so many respond with these monotonous phrases, because it's simple. It has become first nature after anyone mentions an accomplishment to hit the go-to phrase or some other sort of praise. Ditching it won't be easy but it remains obvious that it can't continue. Forms of praise turn children into drones, the alternatives boost self confidence and drive, all things that are directly related to success. When a child is taught to live his leave to please others, what happens when no one is left to please, what does it say about how much you value yourself?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Talking points #3


August argues that the existence of a LBGT lifestyle needs to be further exposed rather than ignored within primary eduction in order to remove the negative stigmas attached to it.

The biggest enabler for bullying, emotional harassment, and social discomfort to those that possess differences is a lack of information surrounding those differences. Lack of knowledge leads to assumptions, and assumptions, when left unchallenged or ignored eventually devolve into bigotry. When students aren't told that a certain unfamiliar quality is the norm, or is okay, they quite often grow up to assume it isn't. By schools keeping mouths shut about those enjoying a LBGT lifestyle, they're keeping it a taboo. Bullying at a young age is often a catalyst for a life of discomfort, emotional scars and the crumbling of an ego. Yet when bullies harass someone practicing what many only know as a taboo, they look like heroes, encouraging the behavior. The theme of bullying remains one of the biggest dangers to individuals of all, with the blow up social media, bullying is becoming more pervasive by the day.
Points to Share:

Exposure to different races and lifestyles seems like a piece of the common core. Even the Art class I'm taking part in for my service learning project is, at the center, more of a cultural education class. We teach students of tribal Native American beliefs, the pride to be taken in African art, or the elegant and emotional display of Japanese theater. If the theme of appreciating every different culture is so prevalent, then why is the culture of LBGT being omitted? When we're taught to avoid something, we have the natural behavior to assume that the reason is because that topic is wrong, or in some manner, offensive. Teachers avoid cuss words because we believe they're bad, so what does that say about our omission of gays?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Talking Points #2, Aria

"What they seemed not to recognize is that, as a socially disadvantaged child, I considered Spanish to be a private language"

This quote introduces to us Rodriguez' perception of the languages he's grown up with. In a way, society quickly taught him that the use of Spanish was not suitable for the classroom or anywhere outside of his house. At an early age, society has altered his perception so that he believes certain traits and inherited customs he would otherwise be proud of should be hidden away. Further in the article it is explained that such a thought pattern leads to a significant  learning disadvantage. Because of this, Rodriguez felt out of place growing up.

"Without question, it would have pleased me to hear my teachers address me in Spanish as I entered the classroom. I would have felt much less afraid."

Continuing with the initial quote, Rodriguez makes a greater effort to convey his sense of discomfort in the classroom as a young Spanish-speaking student. He states that even if this were the case, it wouldn't have solved his problem. English was still what had been drilled into his head as the "language of the public society". That he couldn't have been kept from learning it, as the longer it took, the farther the gap between him and English-speaking students would have widened.

"But the special feeling of closeness at home was diminished by then"

Not only did learning English take its toll in the form of time and effort, it slowly drained from Rodriguez' love of home life and the quality of bonding with his parents. He lost his sense of individuality, his eagerness to be home. The learning of English was very much a trade. As the language barrier closed between him and his teachers, it widened between him and his parents. Though Rodriguez had lost his sense of personal individuality, he mentions that he was compensated with the ability to define his public individuality.

Points to share:

Although Rodriguez is proud of his public success and accomplishments, he sounds somewhat regretful when considers what his private and personal language used to mean to himself and his family. He mentions that he had lost the precious and nostalgic sounds he used to to share in his own home. However, it was also his comfort with the new language of English that allowed his realization that he may not have otherwise came to: he is indeed an American citizen.  His parents were also compensated for what they had lost. They had grown more publicly confident. Thoughts on raising bilingual children have come a long way, but the success still comes with great struggle at the expense of both parents and children.