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."