Sunday, June 19, 2011

Talking Point #7 – Empowering Education by Ira Shor: Argument


            This last reading entitled Empowering Education by Ira Shor was an excellent way to relate most of the articles we have read thus far in FNED 502. Throughout the reading, I was able to make connections to Delpit, Allen, Kozol, Finn, and August. Shor’s argument supported the fact that education in the world today is too focused on retelling information and expecting students to memorize facts, rather than creating a student inquiry based curriculum that teaches through cognitive and affective learning.
            Ira Shor defines empowering education as “a critical-democratic pedagogy for self and social change; It is a student-centered program for multicultural democracy in school and society. It approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative, and social process, because the self and society create each other” (pg. 13). He argues that students and teachers need to “co-create” a curriculum that will be beneficial for students. He feels that curriculums need to be inquiry based and provide students the opportunity to ask questions to further develop their critical knowledge. Like Delpit and other authors we have read, Shor feels that the outcome of a student’s education is directly related to how that student interacts as a citizen of society. He feels that what the student is taught links to the students’ development of values, powers, and debates in society.
            Empowering education can be created by instilling specific values in a classroom. Shor argues that a classroom must be participatory and students should interact in order to construct purpose and meaning of what is being taught. A participatory classroom is like a “free and democratic” society, where a classroom that follows a teacher-based curriculum mirrors an “authoritarian work world and political system”. Shor then goes on to argue that empowering education should be emotional, as well as rational, and the teacher should impose a curriculum that creates positive and meaningful emotions displayed by students. Teachers should pose problems that engage students and establishes an inquiry based learning environment.
            After reading Shor’s Empowering Education and making numerous connections to previous articles we have read, I feel that empowering education is the solution to various educational setbacks that we have discussed throughout this course. By creating a classroom in which the students are able to ask WHY they are learning, teachers create a democratic and critical thinking curriculum that gives students necessary qualities that will make them a better citizen of society. I enjoyed this article because unlike all of the others that we have read thus far, Shor doesn’t just tell the issues regarding education but gives a solution. I feel that if all teachers were to create curriculums based on empowering education, then students would learn more positive values and gain qualities to help them be successful citizens.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Talking Point #6 – Making Room for One Another by Gerri August: Quotes

This video clip is about a young boy named Alex, who has two moms. Alex tells about how his life with his peers is impacted because he is from a "non-dominant" family structure...

After reading the three selected chapters from Making Room for One Another by Gerri August, it was obvious that the main purpose of her observations was to see how students interact and engage in a classroom “led by a teacher committed to democratic pedagogy” (pg. 3). August’s research and connections to many educational theorists provided much insight inside the kindergarten classroom that she visited. Her research primarily focused on the reactions of one specific student, Cody. Cody is a student of Cambodian heritage who was adopted by his lesbian moms when he was 5 months old. Throughout the time spent in Zeke’s kindergarten classroom, August learns through democratic lessons that Cody resists to mention anything about his two moms, even during a family unit. However, towards the end of her research, August realizes that the primary reason for Cody’s insecurity and not feeling “safe” to share family stories was not as much the fact that he had two moms, but rather his adoption. I felt the following three quotes were relevant statements within the text Making Room for One Another:
“But what if the purpose of schooling in a democratic society is not simply to transmit and reproduce the knowledge and culture of the present order but to evaluate social and political practices according to principles of democratic ideals and, further, to equip students to become active agents in the transformation of society.” (August, 2)
I felt this quote was extremely relevant to August’s text because it describes the key reason for her research in Zeke’s classroom. In other words, it states that schooling is not just about teaching the “knowledge” of society’s culture of power, but rather incorporating all cultures, beliefs, and ways of life into a curriculum that creates the best pedagogy for all students. Also, it prepares students for society, and informs them that all people have differences that need to be respected. Zeke does this in his classroom by letting the students share personal stories during “Morning Meeting”. Letting the students from non-dominant family structures share seems to create an acceptance of differences in Zeke’s classroom. This actively engages all students and teaches them that it is okay to wear different clothes, be a different color, or even have a different family in society today.
“He [Zeke] wanted students to stretch their social schemas that were already constrained by dysconscious biases.” (August, 143)
As stated after this quote in Chapter 5, children tend to “participate in dominant social systems”. This statement is supported several times throughout the chapters when Zeke creates activities that ask for students to share their opinion (ex. “Yes is Winning). It always seems that the students point out their classmates who are somehow “different”. When reading, this quote caught my attention because it not only describes what Zeke wanted to do, but shows what kind of teacher he is. Zeke wanted to create an environment for his students in which all students were comfortable to talk about things that personally affected them. He wanted them to really think about these topics and try to put aside any subconscious influences that they may have already been exposed to.
“Zeke demonstrated how an awkward moment can be transformed into a teachable moment
There were many instances throughout August’s research that shows how Zeke transformed an awkward moment for a student into a significant teaching moment. One example of this was when Jackson came into the classroom with shorts on that resembled pajamas, the students pointed to him and said that he was wearing pajamas. Zeke quickly takes this uncomfortable and embarrassing moment for Jackson and says “I’ve got a pair at home just like them.” (August 144). Zeke then went on to explain that there are “many different kinds of people from many different kinds of families who may wear different clothes.” Zeke’s teaching moments like this one is what created his classroom to be a comfortable place for students who learned through Zeke how to respect each others’ differences.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Talking Point #5: Teaching Multilingual Children by Virginia Collier and Aria by Richard Rodriguez – Extended Comments


Extended Comments...

After reading both of these articles, I decided to look at Bridgette’s blog and discuss the points that she connects between Collier and Delpit. I felt that both of these readings connected to Delpit’s “culture of power” philosophy within a bilingual classroom.
Being an ESL educator, I found Collier and Rodriguez’s articles to be very empowering because they addressed issues that I deal with on a daily basis in my classroom. Collier discusses the attributes that a successful bilingual teacher should possess.  She states that bilingual teachers should “help students master the language used in formal schooling and at the same time give students language tools for use in all context in the outside world” (pg. 227). This means that bilingual teachers should educate students in a way that prepares them to succeed in society using society’s dominant language. Both the first language and the language being taught should be used within a bilingual classroom at certain times. Collier also discusses how a literacy curriculum should be developed that would enhance the use of both language for ELL students.
Richard Rodriguez’s reading shares the point of view of a bilingual student who has to learn to master the dominant language in order to be in the “norm” of society. However, while doing so, that student also loses his first language at home and daily communication with his Spanish family. This demonstrates that “children lose a degree of ‘individuality’ by assimilating into public society” (pg. 38).  From a teacher’s perspective, I feel that it is not only important to teach students the language that will help them to succeed most in society, but to let them retain the culture and language that they were born into.
During Bridgette’s blog on these articles, she compared Collier and Rodriguez’s articles to Delpit’s The Silenced Dialog. I completely agree with her when she says “Delpit would agree with Collier and Rodriguez that students should be taught English in order to be successful in our society”. Delpit’s article primarily focuses on the notion of “culture of power”, which she defines as the codes or rules of the dominant class in society. In Rodriguez’s article specifically, you are able to read about a student who spoke very little English at the beginning of his bilingual education, yet he and his family conforms into the norm of society by learning English. Delpit would say that this is a must in order to by successful in society after one receives proper education.
Bridgette also states in her blog “Collier has a more idyllic perspective on the issue of educating children of color”. This, I felt, was evident when reading Collier’s Teaching Multilingual Children. Collier feels that the key to a successful bilingual classroom is “the true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom” (pg 223). I would honestly have to say that I agree more with the perspective of Collier than Delpit. Collier feels that embracing language and cultural differences within a bilingual classroom is a major part of actually teaching the new language. However, I have to agree with Bridgette when she states that Delpit would not agree with this as strongly as Collier presents it. Although Delpit thinks that it is an important factor, she feels that there is a “political power game” being played, and that the most important thing to acquire in a bilingual classroom is the dominant language and culture of society if you want to succeed. In conclusion, I agree with Bridgette when she says that Delpit, Collier, and Rodrigues hold the same opinion that students needs to be taught within the “culture of power” in order to be successful.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Talking Point #4: Gendered Harassment in Secondary Schools by Elizabeth J. Meyer – Questions


 After reading Gendered Harassment in Secondary Schools by Elizabeth Meyer, it was interesting to finally get a perspective from a teacher’s point of view, rather than the author just disagreeing with today’s education. I felt that I could relate to numerous things in this article that I deal with on a daily basis, especially how to interfere in certain bullying situations, as well as the relationship that teachers have with the administration.

In this article, Meyer’s discusses how “educators experience a combination of external and internal influences that act as either barriers or motivators for intervention” when dealing with gendered harassment. Gendered harassment could include sexual or homophobic harassment, or harassment for gender non-conformity.  Influences such as lack of support from the administration or colleagues, teachers feeling overwhelmed with more “important” issues, or just lack of knowledge about how to handle the situation, are all reasons that a teacher may decide not to interfere with the verbal abuse. Also, an individual teacher’s perception and feeling towards gender harassment may influence his or her decision to interfere as well.

As a practitioner, I feel that teachers are unaware of just how serious this type of harassment can be and how students most likely deal with it on a daily basis. On the contrary, I also have been put in situations where I have ignored one student’s comment to another because I was overwhelmed with curriculum or felt like I would not receive the right amount of support from the administration at my school. I feel like the administration at my school focuses too much on keeping students safe “physically” and preventing fights, rather than name-calling and verbal harassment.

While reading this article, there were several questions that I felt would be great discussion questions for class and could even be presented to school facilities in order diminish the amount of gendered harassment that is occurring in our schools today:

1. In what ways can school administration, teachers, parents, and students work together in order to reduce gendered harassment in secondary schools?

2. In Meyer’s article, various barriers and motivators were discussed that would influence a teacher from interfering during a gendered harassment situation with students. When was a time that you (as a practitioner) felt as though a barrier or motivator influenced you while one of your students were being harassed? Did you still intervene the situation?

3. Meyer’s research shows that “sexual and homophobic harassment are accepted parts of school culture where faculty and staff rarely or never intervene to stop this harassment.” Do you think this is the case at your school? How can this be prevented?

4. In what ways can teachers/administrators be trained to efficiently handle issues of verbal harassment in schools?

5. Page 11 of Meyer’s article discusses an administrator who was “a real jock and the real ‘man’s man’” and tells about how he intervenes with a student’s problem. In what ways do you think the image of certain teachers and administrators affects how they intervene in gendered harassment situations with students? How would a white heterosexual male teacher intervene differently than a homosexual female teacher?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Talking Point #3 – “Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?” By Stan Karp – Hyperlinks

I feel that the issues that Stan Karp raises in his speech “Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?” are in fact issues that an immense problem in today’s society and education. Karp argues that teachers are being blamed for their students’ progress and standardized testing scores, regardless of any variables. The power of educators in the public education system is decreasing, while the state and federal government seems to be gaining more power and interfering too much with education. Instead of working together to find a solution to the problem of inadequate education, the higher administrations seem to busy pointing their finger at the teachers, and overlooking other causes of the low test scores.
When first reading this part of Karp’s speech, I automatically connected it to the students in my classroom. My students receive both ESL and Special Education Services. Many of them speak little to no English and have learning disabilities as well. Regardless of these services that they receive, they were still expected to take the NECAP standardized assessments last October. Needless to say, all of my students received “below proficiency” on all parts of the test. It is completely and utterly unfair to have an 8th grade English Language Learner be tested on 8th grade material, when she is reading at a beginning 2nd grade level. Despite these factors, the government is blaming teachers for something they have no control over. Beside language barriers and special needs, students may deal with factors outside of the classroom that influence their learning as well.

This article in Providence Journal explains how teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island were fired because their school was considered “low performing”. How is a school’s performance solely based upon the way that the TEACHER’S perform?

This video supports that there is not enough money going into the public school system to create meaningful curriculums, as well as the fact that those schools are limiting the teachers’ power and giving more control to the “lawyers and corporate executives” in society today.

This video provides a description of what a charter school actually entails and how the system operates on three basic principles: CHOICE, ACCOUNTABILITY, and FREEDOM.

This article explains and supports other factors that are responsible for low achievement including food insecurity, family violence, pollution, and poverty. How can teachers educate when students have these types of stresses that they have to overcome outside of the classroom?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Talking Point #2: Kozol’s “Still Separate, Still Unequal”

            In the text Still Separate, Still Unequal by Jonathan Kozol, the segregation in education is discussed and examples are given to prove that the segregation is regressing all around our country. Jonathan Kozol argues that segregation is still a major issue in our education system, and limits for achievement are being set by school districts, which is only making the achievement gap between black and white students wider.
            When reading Still Separate, Still Unequal, Kozol’s argument indicates that students of the minority basically are limited in what they can achieve from a very young age. He discusses the issue of “money” and how wealthy white individuals are able to educate their toddlers in very extensive programs before they even enter kindergarten at the age of five. By the time the students are expected to take standardized tests in 3rd grade, these white students have had far more education than minority students who are expected to take the same standard exams. He goes on to say that money IS an important object within education because it makes the difference of whether or not a parent can afford to send their child to a private school that costs $30,000 a year, or an inner city urban school down the street.  I believe that examples like these regarding money that Kozol gave in his article are what primarily begins the “segregated education” years in a child’s life. From there, he argues that inner city school districts are limiting minority students’ achievements rather than encouraging them to succeed.
            Throughout the article, Kozol visits several inner-city minority schools that focus primarily on rubrics, standards, and creating classrooms that based on a drill-based program using a Skinnerian curriculum. At one point in the article, Kozol speaks to a teacher that states, “I can do this with my dog”. This part of the article was a shock to me because I honestly had no idea that curriculums like this existed in this country. How can these inner city minority schools be running on drill-based programs, when other suburban wealthier schools are focusing on hands-on, engaging curriculums? It is no wonder why segregation is still a major issue in our country today.
            Students at the high school level are being limited in what they can achieve as well. For example, Kozol supports this argument by talking to students who want to take certain classes, but are instead forced to take other classes that will benefit the economic need of society. In his article, he talks to a high school student who wants to take AP classes and go to college, but instead is forced to take classes that are “required” for graduation, such as sewing and hairdressing. This is telling high school students that society expects them to only have certain careers, and limits choices regarding their own future. 
            When looking at the argument that Kozol makes stating that the achievement gap between predominantly white and minority schools is widening, it is undoubtedly agreeable after reading the statistics and information that he presents in this article. His points above that I have stated prove that great limits are set for the success of minority students. On the last page of his article, Kozol states that “students in this painful situation, not surprisingly, tend to be most likely to drop out of school”. This shows that the primary reason for segregation in education and the achievement gaps between white and minority students are almost predetermined by the limits set for those minority students.