Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ira Shor's Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change...Connections

Ira Shor says that "empowered students make meaning and act from reflection, instead of memorizing facts and values handed to them (pg. 12)."  He believes that the deficit in our education system lies in the curriculum in the schools, which he believes to transmit the rules and knowledge from teachers to students instead of cultivating their curiosity.  By not questioning knowledge, society, and experience, Shor says that we are supporting the status quo. He also believes that despite attempts to maintain neutral status, all forms of education are political, and curriculum contents are political choices.  This relates to what August said when she called teachers "political agents".

Shor believes that empowering education has to be co developed by students and led by a democratic teacher.  He talks about how with empowering education, teachers make plans for their lessons and bring their materials to class, but then chooses to negotiate the curriculum with the students and starts with their language, themes, and understandings.  "The goals of this pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life, by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change." (pg. 14). 

I think that Ira Shor's beliefs and practices align with those of Gerri August in her article on Making Room for One Another.  Both authors mention democratic pedagogy, August doing so by performing a study on a democratic classroom and supporting the practices used.  The teacher in August's study facilitated the learning within his classroom by student's interests, questions, and statements along the topic that he provided.  This method, in  turn, helped the students to learn about and learn to respect the diversity of families and their peers.  The practices that this teacher imposed in his classroom followed along with Shor's ideas of co developing curriculum with the students and allowing the students to be active, thoughtful, and participating in each lesson.

I also felt as though this article related to Delpit.  Shor discusses the idea that we are born learners with the desire to question things around us, but education can either cultivate or stifle this urge.  The majority of curriculum used today in schools with their monological practice are keeping those in the culture of power in the same position of power while transmitting rules and knowledge to their students, and allowing little to know room for their curiosity.  If we want our students to believe that they can change their lives and achieve their goals if they work hard enough, then we need to encourage them to push to get the answers to all of their questions.  I think that Delpit would agree that students should not be taught to adapt to society.

After reading this article, it caused me to do a lot of reflecting upon my own teaching practices.  I would like to think that I gear a lot of my teaching based upon what the students are curious about, but the fact of the matter is that I have to follow a curriculum at the same time.  I think that our students would be so much more engaged and therefore much more receptive to the information they were learning about if it was based upon their own personal inquiries.  It makes me wonder how different society would be if our students were allowed this creativity and curiosity, especially because in this type of classroom students should be expected to develop skills and knowledge as well as high expectations for themselves, their education, and their futures.  Shore said, empowering education "approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative, and social process, because the self and society create each other (pg. 15)."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

August, "Making Room for One Another" Quotes

In Making Room for One Another, Gerri August discusses her observations of a Kindergarten classroom in the northeast at an urban, public charter school called the Horton School.  The teacher's name was Zeke Lerner and the main study observed in the study was a boy named Cody.  Zeke's classroom practices modeled democratic lessons and the struggle in creating a comfortable and respectful learning environment for his students.  Cody was a Cambodian boy adopted when he was five months old by two lesbian mothers. 

August began her study by first asking the question,  "what happens when a child with lesbian parents and children from other non-dominant family structures share theri family stories in a classrom taht is led by a teacher committed to democratic pedagogy?"  However, this question was eventually reconstructed into questions that asked "how might a democratic, transformative educator respond to sociocultural differences that emerge in the classroom discourse?  How might that educator create constraints and possibilities taht encourage students to recognize and appreciate difference?  How might a child who represents a marginalized community respond to such interventions?"  Using these questions as a basis for her study, Gerri August began her observations in Zeke Lerner's classroom to get some answers.  As August said, "this project attends to how Zeke created a democratic educational environment in which broad issues of difference were recognized and honored."

The following are some quotes that I found within the reading and what I believe them to mean.

"If educators understand that society is in the process of being both preserved and transformed by our collective activities, then we will see our classrooms as activity systems that have both roots and wings.  Some roots, deeply embedded in the cultural artifacts (e.g., institutions [including school] and media), have resulted in the unequl distribution of social goods.  But these artifacts are not just "out there"; they have been insinuated in the generation of our students' higher psychological functions.  And they have been insinuated in the minds of educators.  The activities in which we engage and the artifacts that we create together must serve to question and act on the dehumanization that has grown up as the necessary corollary to privilege.  We must realize that our classroom discourse has sociopolitical consequences, that our words are performative."

I think that this means that if educators are able to understand that our society is affected directly by the things we say, the way we teach, and how we run our classroom, than we will be able to use this environment to hold onto traditions and values while making a change in areas of our society that need improvement through our students.  This quote says that some aspects of our society are the way they are because we are instilled with certain values.  It also says that our activities must challenge and attempt to change  the dehumanization that has been assumed to be necessary to gain privilege or power.  We must be constantly aware that our words spur actions.  This is relavant to the text because it addresses how the climate of the classroom can be used to change the outlook of the chidlren growing up to be adults.  It can also point out how we can use our classroom to develop resect for diversity among our students.

"Educators who are alarmed by this censorship need to find effective ways to develop empathic learners who are "ready to learn" the value of difference.....For whether a child is otherized because of the sexual orientation of his parents, his language, his color, or his clothing, the result is the same: "disorienting powerlessness"."

I think that this quote addresses the need to promote and build an environment where children are tolerant and accepting of change so that they can learn about the differences within our society and be able to be respectful of them.  This quote also tells us that regardless of the reason that a child is singled out for being different, it will always result in loss of power.  This is relevant to the text because Zeke is attempting to build a community of learners within his classroom that are ready to learn about the value of difference and to encourage tolerance and acceptance of people's uniqueness. 

"Without a moral imagination that includes the expectation and valuing of diversity, without engendering a commitment to widen our circle to make room for one another, our children will be ill prepared to work toward our collective progress."

This quote explains the immense need for educators and adults to convey to their children that diversity exists and should be appreciated; because if we don't we are not enabling them to be accepting of those who are different within their lives.  This would truly be doing them a disservice, and eliminating the chances of their generation helping in our efforts as a whole to eliminate discrimination in our world.  I think that this quote is again pointing out how our 'words are performative'; we are to demonstrate for the children what we expect from them. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teaching Multilingual Children (Extended Comments)

After reading Melissa's blog, I realized that I too made many of the same connections between Richard Rodriguez's article, "Aria", Virginia Collier's article, "Teaching Multilingual Children", and the article we previously read by Lisa Delpit.  I felt as though Delpit outlines a sort of umbrella topic of the 'culture of power', while Rodriguez and Collier explore one of the aspects of our culture than can greatly affect one's power within our world: language.  Melissa was able to succinctly describe the article that was written by Richard Rodriguez.  He used his own personal experiences to describe what it was like to learn English as a second language, how it made him feel as an individual, and the affect that it had on his family.  He also was able to realize and describe how learning English in school ostracized him from his parents who were not taught English in the same way, but learned a few words here or there from their children.  Therefore, the parents did not hold the same amoung of power in the community as their children did because they were unable to speak the language.


Melissa describes Virginia Collier's article as supporting bilingual education.  She also decribes Collier's writing as "emphasizing the importance of appreciating the different languages and cultures that are present in the classroom."  Collier also describes the difficulties that bilingual teachers encounter, such as how to teacher enough English in less than one year?  How do you teach English in a way that still supports and encourages the languages and dialects that our students speak within the home?  Collier provided guidelines that she believes give educators the opportunity to better understand how teaching English to second-language learners can be beneficial.  This is where I made the connection, like Melissa did, again to Delpit.  In a way, Collier is struggling to find a way to provide our students with the resources that they need to be powerful and successful in school.  She is attempting to find the best way to reach these students so that they are provided with equal opportunities to their peers.  Collier is simply highlighting one of the factors that plays into Delpit's description of the 'culture of power'. 

I agree with Melissa in that both Collier and Rodriguez expressed that they thought children should be taught English because it is the primary language here and will provide students with more opportunities.  Melissa stated that Delpit feels as though educators need to be aware of how the 'culture of power' can negatively affect childen within the minority population.  I think that she summarizes that well and that teachers do need to be aware of their students feelings towards the 'culture of power' and be sure to validate the culture of our students so that they can still hold on to the uniqueness of that as well.  Melissa summarized the connections between the authors very well when she said, "A child's unique culture and language should be acknowledged and appreciated, but in order to be successful within today's society a child need to be explicitly taught the values of the 'culture of power.'"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gendered Harassment in Secondary Schools (hyperlinks)

In this article Meyer talks about teachers' perceptions and responses to gendered harassment issues in Canadian secondary schools.  Six teachers within one urban school district were interviewed for this study to discover why teachers fail to respond to these types of situations effectively.  It was found that educators experience various external and internal influences that act as either incentives or preventatives.  The teachers expressed a lack of support for both colleagues and administration, the fear of parent responses to interventions, and inconsistent consequences for students.  It is important for both students and schools that administrators, teachers, and parents work together to develop a plan with will provided consistent, effective responses to gendered harassment so as to create a safe environment for all of our students.

This strong video was created to remember all of the children that have taken their own lives because they were being harassed due to their gender or sexual orientation.  This issue needs to be seriously addressed as the title of this video very well states enough is "Enough".

Bullying and harassment are significant problems in schools and it is happening at all ages and levels.  Harassment is affecting students behavior and education.  Students might not be able to concentrate in class or may even skip school to avoid bullying.  Ignoring the problem is not helping our students. 

President Obama and the First Lady support the LGBT community.

The Annual Day of Silence is a youth-run effort using silence to protest the actual silencing of the LGBT community due to harassment, bias and abuse in schools.

Gendered harassment needs to stop, children need to know that they are supported and be able to feel safe within their schools and communities.  We as teachers need to work together in an effort to make this happen for our students so that they can live their lives free of fear.

Monday, June 6, 2011

NOT Waiting for Superman

Karp “Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools, and What Can We Do About It?”  -Questions

1.       Teachers are being held accountable for the test scores of their students, but which assessments will measure social growth, personal goal achievements, hard work, and determination against all odds?  So many students going to school in high poverty areas are dealing with so much more in terms of personal battles, such as where their next meal will come from and when, or where they will be sleeping that night; how can we really expect them to concentrate in the classroom when that is what is really on their minds? 

2.       Karp refers to a current policy as “Race Over the Cliff”, how do you feel about the Race to the Top policy?  Do you think that it could help to close the gap in achievement?  What makes this policy a positive or negative one for the communities participating in it?  What does Race to the Top do to the nation’s view of the public education system?

3.       Our profession, our students, our schools, and ourselves are being judged by people who have never stepped foot in a school since the day they graduated, but think they understand the difficulties we face and the many hats we wear; will anything we do ever be enough?  How can we demonstrate to those outside the classroom the things that we encounter inside the classroom to give them a better understanding of why test scores do not always show the amount of growth that has taken place?  Why are we being blamed for the aspects of our country that are not related to education but have significant affects on it?

4.       Stephen Krashen said, “If we spend as much on protecting children from poverty as we are willing to spend on testing children and evaluating teachers, we can reduce the problem considerably.”  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  With the right resources, what steps do you think could be taken towards protecting children from poverty?

5.       Karp talks about Finland’s test scores, unions, compensation, tenure, and lack of standardized testing as being a huge success in the public schools.  The child poverty rate is 20% less than that of the United States, but Finland has access to more resources, such as universal daycare, preschool and healthcare which helps children to achieve better results in school.  Should the United States look into the systems that are proving to work for other countries and try some of their procedures and policies here in an attempt to increase our own success rate?  What do you believe should be done?

     I found this article to be extremely interesting.  Stan Karp is an incredible speaker and really caused me to think about all that is being said about teachers today.  This article also made me think about how differently teachers are treated and viewed in other countries and cultures.  So much of what we do and how well it is received by the child is determined by what happens at home and how parents view their child's teacher; none of this is taken into account when reviewing student test scores, but lack of support at home can make a significant difference in the education of a child. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finn's Literacy with an Attitude (Argument)

In this article, Finn argues that the United States has developed two different types of education provided to children in schools, empowering education and domesticating education.  He defines empowering education as that which leads to powerful literacy and prepares students for positions of power, while describing domesticating education as that which leads to functional literacy preparing students to be productive and dependable.  Finn argues that the result of schooling between rich and poor children is unequal and difficult to liberate due to oppositional identity and the inability of working-class schools to respond to changing attitudes of working-class parents and students. 
Finn argues that teachers are in the position to help their students see that literacy and school knowledge can provide them with the power to bring about change and to strive for a better life by connecting school knowledge to the reality of working-class students’ lives.  He says that rules can be transformed so that there is greater justice and equality in our country if the students are given the knowledge that provides them with the power to do so. 
Finn provides the findings of a study conducted by Jean Anyon to demonstrate the importance of this issue and how immensely the type of education a child receives and the environment in which they receive it in shapes their lives.  Anyon found that the students in the working class were in a school in which the dominant theme was resistance.  Students vandalized school property and resisted any efforts made by the teachers to teach.  There was an immense lack of enthusiasm and effort among these students.  The children within the middle class were in a school in which the dominant theme was possibility.  The students viewed knowledge as being a valuable possession that could be used to get them further in life.  Anyon found that these children were developing skills that were appropriate for working-class and middle-class jobs.  The students within the affluent professional school were viewed as having a common theme of individualism and humanitarianism.  The teachers valued their creativity and personal development.  These students had developed a nurturing environment in which mutual help and concern for one another are important.  Finally, Anyon described the executive elite school as having a theme of excellence.  These children were taught to be self-disciplined, more was expected of them, more was taught, and they were being prepared to be the best. 
I think that what Finn was trying to demonstrate and argue is that the children in our country are not all provided with the same resources and therefore do not have all of the same opportunities.  America is said to be the “Land of Opportunities”; but this may only be the case if you come from an affluent background and already have many of the necessary resources to start.  If all of the students in our schools throughout the country were provided with the same nurturing, creativity driven, high expectations that some of the students in Anyon’s study were shown to have, then maybe the job market would become a more level playing field for applicants from different backgrounds. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lisa Delpit: The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children (Quotes)

~ "If schooling prepares people for jobs, and the kind of job a person  has determines her or his economic status, and therefore, power, then schooling is intimately related to that power."
     This quote means that the type of schooling that a child receives plays a key role in determining their economic status and power.  Schooling/training will prepare a person for a job that will automatically place them in an economic status and determine their power.  Therefore, schooling/training directly influences the amount of power of a person by preparing them for a particular field of work within a certain economic status. 

~"Students need "to be taught the codes to participate fully in the mainstream of American life, not by being forced to attend to hollow, inane, decontextualized sub-skills, but rather within the context of meaningful communicative endeavors; that they must be allowed the resource of the teacher's expert knowledge, while being helped to acknowledge their own "expertness" as well, and even while students are assisted in learning the culture of power, they must also be helped to learn about the arbitrariness of those codes and about the power relationships they represent."
     This quote expresses Delpit's opinion of how important it is for students that are not members of the culture of power to learn the rules of the culture of power so that they are given the accessibility to try and change these rules one day.  She wants teachers to use everyday examples of how these rules affect our lives to teach our students what the rules of the culture of power are.  While teaching the children about these rules, Delpit explains that she also wants to make sure that the students understand that these rules should not replace their own and that their own cultural rules should also be valued.  Delpit also emphasizes the importance of teachers and students exploring and sharing their "expertness" in order to learn from each other. 

~"To imply to children or adults (but of course the adults won't believe you anyway) that it doesn't matter how you talk or how you write is to ensure their ultimate failure."
     This quote says that by ignoring the culture of power, we are setting children up to fail.  We would be kidding ourselves to think that people do not pass judgement on others based on how they speak and their language style.  This quote emphasizes the importance teaching children about different language and cultural styles and how expectations of speech will affect how people are often viewed by others.  Delpit uses this to introduce the ideas of "Formal or Standard English" and cultural language styles and how these types of language are viewed as being more appropriate in different types of settings.