Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shor- Empowering Education

In this article, Shor discusses what Empowering Education is and what it looks like. Empowering education will produce educated students, and productive participants in society - the "aim of intellectual training is to form intelligence rather than to stock the memory" (Shor, 12). Empowering Education means thriving in a classroom of mutual respect where questioning everything, curiosity and open discussions are encouraged versus traditional education, which is essentially being fed information, without 'meaning'. Shor states that a key to empowering education is critically thinking. As with many of our other articles, this one also discourages teachers assuming the stereotypical role of all-knowing adult there to educate the children and encourages teachers and students working together to make learning happen.

This relates back to the Jeannie Oakes article on tracking. Oakes analyzes how separating children by ability- called tracking- dictates how rich of an education children receive. Children in lower-ability classes spend more time learning basic facts that don't encourage critical thinking while those in higher-ability classes spend more time on really questioning what they are learning, delving into the topics.
 The concepts of empowering education are also looked at in the Finn article. Finn looks at how socio-economics dictates the quality of education received. Lower classes are taught the skills and behaviors needed to keep them exactly where they are in society, doing menial work, while children from upper classes are taught to think critically and question the system- skills that enable them to continue occupying the better jobs.
Shor encourages a democratic classroom learning environment where teachers and students are learning from each other. He stresses that each party, has something to learn from the other, much as Kliewer did through his discussion of inclusion.
As a student, I don't believe I received a very empowering education. Most of the work that I completed was like the worksheet Dr. Bogad assigned us, not critical thinking work and discussions. I always did okay in classes where I was just fed knowledge, but it was short term success, not anything that stuck with me. It was fact recitation not a critical examination of what I was learning. I am fortunate enough to have teachers in college who do believe in empowering educations, and it is so refreshing. Also very interesting to look at your own school experiences through the lens of these articles to see what best practice is in comparison to the traditional education practices.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Promising Practices Reflection

Promising Practices Reflection

I attended the Idea to Implementation workshop and the Using Technology in Early Childhood Classrooms workshop. In the idea to Implementation workshop, they discussed a new classroom concept, and as a group we discussed the possibilities for it's use. The classroom is a beekeeping faciliy and outdoor class. We were asked to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to use the classroom besides just for lessons in beekeeping. The goal was a cross disciplinary approach, for example studying hybernation and how other species adapt to survive the winter (bees cluster by the way) or using the honey comb in the hive to study geometry in nature. It was fascinating to see how everyone came at the question with different ideas, and I was shocked by how many different ways the space could be utilized that I wouldn't necessarily have thought of. Within our discussion on creative teaching, we also dicussed culturally relevent STEM teaching. We basically learned about the guidelines to what culturally responsive teaching looked like, and established that it isn't going out of your way and doing extra, but rather is just good teaching- it's something that should play out naturally anyway. This related to all of our Delpit discussions about cultural aweness, and the culture of power- how to teach it.

The other workshop I attended was exactly what it sounded like- they gave us examples on how to integrate technology into the class, and a lot of resources also. There were websites where we can make games to have the students play on the smart board, these cool digital microscopes, interactive atlas's and so many reading resources. What was cool is that with the math and reading, it allowed the kids to go on, and be assessed as to what level they were at, and gave them work that was on their level. So for kids who are behind grade level, it provided them with work that is specially picked for them, they won't be inclined to become disenchanted with school if they feel smart and empowered. It also provides the teacher with a resource to know exactly where the students are, and how to best serve them in the future. Another thing was with the online reading- most of them could be read aloud by the program, so for ESL students, it could be a huge resource in helping them pick up the language away from the pressures in the classroom. It is a more Rodriguez-esque approach, with children being taught in English however, rather than a Collier approach of learning in the home language, or integrating both.

The Keynote speaker was Dr. Christopher Emdin. He discussed his work in Hip Hop Ed, and a lot of what he was saying resonnated with our class. He advises to not make assumptions about a student's culture, but instead to allow a student to tell you about it, and to really understand your students culture. He explains that the education system hasn't really changed since 1890- sure we've integrated technology, but the footwork of the teaching pedagogy is the same. He used the analogy that education is a crumbling house, but people still just want to paint it. And that the people wielding those paintbrushes are the ones who call themselves progressives and claim to make changes. I found that this resonnated with our conversation about Kozol with bandaids on broken legs, that we are just fixing the symptoms rather than solving the problem. Emdin also said that the highest success rates of black students in school was pre Brown v. Board of Ed, this was because even though the segregated 'black' schools had fewer resources, what they did have was a way of teaching that worked for the students. When those students were put into white schools, the teaching methods there didn't resonate with them, they became disenchanted with schools, and the dropout rate soared. He also says that schools today are being re-segregated today, but now based on socio-economics, which in turn reflect race. This connected with the Oakes article on tracking which states that students are being separated by economic status, and that this is damaging the educational experience for all students. Another point he made was that you can't give assessments without taking cultural differences into account (he used the example of rapping vs. written assessments and how they would have different success rates accross different cultures). This is where his Hip Hop Ed comes in, he believes that integrating music into schools would decrease the success gaps. He want's students to be taught the information perhaps in a rap format in school, because that is how the students would learn it, but explain to them that you can say it that way here, but out there, you need to say it 'like you're at Harvard'. I found this to resonnate with Colliers idea on teaching second language without destroying first, and allowing a student to learn it how they now, and then build off that using skills established previously.

I really enjoyed the information and experiences I recieved by attending Promising Practices. I would definitely like to attend again. My only complaint is really that it was at seven A.M. on a rainy saturday, other than that it was a very enriching, fun experience.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome


This article by Kliewer discusses the fundamentals of how the special education systems works in most American schools today, but also looks at a few teachers who use a very different model, Shayne's work with children with down syndrome in particular.
In this 'citizenship' model of special education, Shayne uses the strengths of each student, to develop lessons that appeal to them, and teach them the critical thinking skills they need to become productive members of society. This is an integration model, in which students with special needs aren't segregated, but rather integrated into the classroom, and valued for what they contribute to the class, while learning from what others have to contribute.

I always used to think that my high school had a pretty decent special education program (separate room for special ed, not inclusion) that was progressive and really helped students in the program grow and succeed. And in some ways it was, there was a program that placed the students in a bunch of different employment opportunities and allowed them to experiment  with what they liked. It also taught them general skills, a big one was that they went out and did all the shopping for the culinary classes. This provided them not only the skills with how to grocery shop and participate in society, but also provided them the opportunity to participate within the school. I always felt that the student body was very inclusive of the special education population. But then I had the opportunity to do a practicum in my old high school and saw a different side of things. Most people in the school are very kind, polite and inclusive, but a few of the aids in the special ed class routinely talked down to the students, and didn't provide meaningful opportunities. It was heartbreaking to see. While the students in the program weren't looked down on by those in general population, by not having an inclusion program, they were set apart and not provided the opportunities that the children in Shayne's class in the article were. Reading this article was so enlightening to me, to read what true inclusion (what they refer to as citizenship in the school community) and positive teaching can do for students, both special ed and non.
Edit: (Add Connection)
In the Kliewer article on down syndrome, I saw a lot of resonance with Jeannie Oakes discussing tracking. Although their subject matter is different, they are both discussing inclusion. Together they believe in mixing students of different abilities and socio-economic status together in the classroom, allowing each to learn from, and teach each other new skills, with all participants reaping the benefits. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Literacy with Attitude- Quotes

In this article, Finn is enunciating that there are two kinds of literacy education, the functional (which is recieved by working class students) and the empowering (which is recieved by the wealthy students). As with many of the other articles we have been reading, this one proves the fact that there is a huge discrepancy between the classes, and discusses how to bridge that gap as well as who is responsible for creating the discrepancy.

This article also discusses who is to blame for that gap, as the Kozol article did; Is it those stuck in the unempowered situation, or are the rich responsible for intentionally placing them and keeping them in this unempowered place, or, is it not a person or group doing so intentionally, but rather the systems we are all involved in. The Finn article seems to support the idea we discussed in class that not one person or class is intentionally belittling another, but that it is more accurately the systems.

"A conspiracy? No. The beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of the poor have contributed as much to the present state of affairs as those of the elite. We all participate in this social system as if it were natural, the way things were meant to be. In the past 25 years many scholars have abandoned the fruitless search for heartless conspirators among the Carnegies and Rockerfellers and have been trying instead to figure out what happened- what social dynamics and mechanisms have led to the present state of affairs." (preface)

I pulled this quote because it resonnated with what we have been discovering related to the culture of power and SCWAAMP. As Delpit says, those power are often least aware of their power, and as Finn says, least likely to desire changes because the current systems serve them well.

"The status quo is the status quo because those who have the power to make changes are comfortable with the way things are. It takes energy to make changes, and the energy must come from the people who will benefit from the change. But the working class does not get powerful literacy is necessary for the struggle. How can the cycle be broken?" (preface)

Also on the subject of COP and Delpit, I also found a story Finn shared interesting. That as a white lit teacher of predominently black students, his teaching method was very authoritarian to maintain control. And a black teacher of black students accross the hall taught in a different method that worked better for the students. She taught in their natural culture if you will, while Finn was trying to teach them the Culture of Power of the world around them. I also saw a connection in this story to Dr. Emdin, when he discussed black students having better success in segregated schools pre- Brown V. Board because the teaching methods worked for them.

I also want to draw attention to pages 9 to 21, to the discussion of what occured in schools of differenct socio-economic bacgrounds, ranging from working class to executive elite he called them. While the children in these classes were not dramatically different in IQ, the education they were recieving, and the skills they walked away with were. I found it so enlightening to see this broken down in such a straight forward way. To really be able to see that socio-economics places kids and schools into this caste system, and makes sure that each generation follows in the footsteps of their parents, with few breaking out of the mold. The systems in place work to keep all the slots in society filled, to keep the country running smoothly. This section was intriguing to read for me, because I come from a pretty working class family, but due to situation, we live in a very affluent town, and my schooling was that of upper middle class students.

"The working class children were learning to follow directions and do mechanical, low paying work, but at the same time they were learning to resist authority in ways sanctioned by their community. The middle class children were learning to follow orders and do the mental work that keeps society producing and running smoothly.... the affluent professional children were learning to create products and art... they were learning to find rewards in work itself and to negotiate from a powerful position with those (the executive elite) who make the final decisions on how real capital is allocated. The executive elite children? They were learning to be masters of the universe." (p. 20)


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

In the News

Saw an article today that related to student's learning success rates in relation to the classroom d├ęcor. Not an in-depth article, but the connection to Safe Spaces and Culture of Power definitely resonates through.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wise and Herbert on Brown V Board of Ed. Post-racism

Between the 1950's and today, the issues surrounding racial equality still exist. The difference is that today- racism isn't so overt as it was, but more subtle. Brown v. Board of Education was a case in Topeka Kansas that resulted in the integration of schools. 14 parents came together and filed the case that segregated elementary schools resulted in harmful psychological affects. They argued that the segregation violated the 14th amendment. In the state court, judges conceded to the harmful affects, but ruled that the education was equal and therefor constitutional based on the power of precedent. The supreme court ruled the segregation unequal, and integration began, America was now in a time of post-racism.... or was it?

Wise calls this shift in display of racism 1.0 vs. racism 2.0. Wise says that we aren't in a post-racism time, so stop pretending we are, this is more damaging than admitting that it exists. Wise claims one thing that hasn't changed since the 50's is societies habit of denying that racism exists. It is still a taboo subject that we neglect to discuss. He also has a Delpit-like perspective on the matter- that the culture of power exists (SCWAAMP). He claims that it is easy to deny or remain oblivious to the problem when it doesn't affect you, this doesn't make you yourself a bad person, but perpetuates the power of institutions. Wise claims that we can't consider ourselves a post-racism society until we are truly equal. There is still a discrepancy between what someone who is black needs to achieve and what someone who is white needs to achieve in order to gain the same position. He uses the example of presidents; Obama needed far more credentials than Bush to achieve the same status. This exists in all school and employment circumstances, just like it did before Brown V. Board of Ed, the only difference is that we aren't still hanging signs that say "No Black Applicants Allowed" instead we pretend equality while inventing reasons to deny employment.

Herbert has similar views- that while we claim to be post-racism, we really aren't. Schools are still segregated. He states that while schools my not be openly racially segregated like they used to be, they are still segregated by socio-economics. While there aren't laws ensuring this, it happens on it's own, by where people can afford to live, and how that influences where they go to school. The system traps them, as Kozol demonstrated. Much like Kozol, Herbert claims that poor children in poor schools do worse than poor children in affluent schools. You can't put all the poor in one community, it multiplies the issue and "children have nothing to grow on". In studies that place poor children in affluent schools, he evidence showed that they did better than their counterparts in poor schools. Integrating based on economics tends to also be integrating based on race, which is where it becomes a taboo subject. Everyone says that the poor children need to received better education, so develop programs for the poor schools, instead of integrating schools based on socio economics- band-aiding the problems. This idea of integrating based on socio economics was also discussed by the keynote speaker at promising practices Dr. Christopher Emdin.

Previous to this class and reading these articles, I had thought America had made progress on the concept of segregation, but it is becoming more and more apparent that we haven't come as far as we believe we have. I completely agree with the assessment that we live in denial, this is true of most things I find. We choose to ignore the problem and see sunshine and rainbows instead of fixing it. I can also see that schools while schools aren't openly segregated, they still are by socio-economics. I saw this in my own school, and the school I'm completing SL in. I  can also see how the concept Herbert presents of integrating schools of different socio-economic status' would benefit everyone involved.