Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Promising Practice 2016

I was given the opportunity to attend the 19th Annual Promising Practice conference at Rhode Island College. The conference focused on resiliency in students and how as educators we can help foster that resiliency. The keynote speaker was a great and really kept my attention throughout the entire conference. Dr. Robert Brooks had a great resume as a psychologist, educator, author and the list goes on. He shared several stories of his past as a psychologist and his experiences in classrooms. Dr. Brooks bring to attention something the August would agree with; that classrooms must be welcoming and make students feel safe. If the students feel safe and comfortable. If there is no safe space, learning is difficult especially resiliency. Students can become turned off to learning if their environment isn’t open and positive. Dr. Brooks adds that if there is positive reinforcement and positive emotions set in the classroom, that it creates a climate that has hope and gives the students a sense of purpose.
It was great to hear a speaker admit to the struggles and obstacles teachers face in any classroom. He admits that he would go home wanting to quit his job because he was feeling defeated which is something I think teachers don’t always tell their undergrad students. He said he woke up one morning dreading to go to work until he reminded himself that, “Today could be the day that I change a student's life forever.” Teaching is most definitely a difficult job but it was inspiring to hear his stories and how he handled several different situations in his career. He reminded us that as educators, we have real potential to impact a student's life.
The first workshop that I had attended was Fostering Resiliency: Strength based interventions that support diverse learners on the path to standardized tests. I felt this session was helpful for me not only as an educator but also as a student. It touched upon different ways to approach standardized tests for all different types of learners. Some students need the extra help to become better at dissecting a question to find the correct answer. They gave examples like ruling out the incorrect answers to narrow down your options. As well as go on what you know and then try to make the connection using your previous knowledge.  This workshop also gave us pointers on how to help the student not feel defeated if they did not pass or have to take the test more than once. I can totally relate to this because I am not a great test taker and not passing a standardized test is a frustrating cycle . This workshop reminds me of Delpit because this was our way of learning the “rules and codes of power” in order to be successful in these difficult standardized test that students will continue to take. It helps us better understand what steps we need to take as educators to not let these test discourage students but more so teach them how to approach these kinds of difficult tests.

The second session I was able to attend was Stress Management Techniques to Build Resiliency. I found this also to be a great tool to have 1. Being a future educator, and 2. Being a student myself. They touched upon the ideas that your mindset can change how you view your situation which ultimately will reduce your own stress. They had us do an activity which I then used in my service learning classroom. I felt that this connected to Finn because it created an open discussion and collaboration that the students do not usually do. We were told to sit in a circle and write on a piece of paper a stressor. We then were instructed to crumple the piece of paper and throw it into the center of the circle, and pick up a new one. On the new paper, you were to write advice as to what someone could do to help reduce their stress about whatever they wrote about. Again we were instructed to throw it back into the center and pick up a new one and then we could share them outloud. This went over well with my service learning students because it gave them a chance to reflect on themselves and collaborate with other students. I found this to be effective because it allowed students to open up and give their own opinion without having to hear this advice from a teacher. Students are more inclined to listen to one another versus hearing it from the teacher because they “wouldn’t understand”.Overall I found promising practice to be a great conference that I was able to learn a lot from as a student as well as a future educator.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pecha Kucha

Monday, November 28, 2016

Extended Comments

I chose this week to use Kelseys blog for my extended comments on Empowering Education written by Ira Shor. Kelsey used great quotes that captured Shor’s main points, that education is not simply about learning facts and memorization but it's also about socialization. Shor also brings to the table the idea of empowering your students by making them feel valued and intelligent in an adult social environment.

“You must arouse children’s curiosity and make them think about school. This would set a questioning tone and show the children you trust them and they are intelligent enough at their own level, to investigate and come up with answers.”  (Shor 13)

I saw this occur first hand with my service learning project where students became engaged and realized that I had valued their opinion and their beliefs. When I opened the debate to the whole classroom, students were hesitant but once a student gave me an answer, I responded positively and asked for more opinions. More hands went up and began to give full answers because they felt that they were intelligent and their opinion mattered. There were times in my service learning where I felt students did not want to participate because they always felt they were “too dumb” to know the answer.

Shor also mentions, “Politics are not only in subject matter but in the discourse of the classroom, in the way teachers and students speak to each other” (Shor 14). I’m sure most students in FNED 346 with Bogad would agree that the classroom she describes is the one we are in every Tuesday and Thursday. We hold open discussion in class, not much one-way teacher talk, and there is mutual dialogue between teacher and the students. We all feel comfortable enough to disagree with Bogad and are able to discuss it amongst our classmates in open discussions. No student (in my opinion) feels that they are unable to voice their own opinion or that their opinion is not a valid one. That is what I believe is key in empowering your students. Allowing the students to have an open “safe space” that there is substantial critical thinking going on. The video below shows Gary Bennett's philosophy of teaching with that same idea in mind. He ensures his students are able to engage and tackle the hard complex ideas and make sense of them together. Not having a right or wrong answer but being able to discover together.

“In sum, the subject matter, the learning process, the classroom discourse, the cafeteria menu, the governance structure and the environment of the school teach each students what kind of people to be and what kind of society to build as they learn math, history, biology, literature, nursing or accounting. Education is more than facts and skills. It’s a socializing experience that helps make the people who make the society” (Shor 15).

We all learn from one another, for example when they say you learn through play. Regardless of the age group, we learn from our environment and those around us. Your school and experience with teachers can mold you into the person you are today. It can sometimes take one teacher to make you see things differently or make you "question everything". Regardless, each social experience "makes the people who make the society".

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reconceptualizing Children with Down Syndrome in schools

After watching the hour long film about special education students from Los Angeles, I had the AH-HA moment where I realized how important it is to incorporate these students into the “regular classes”. The students were showing improvement from the first couple of months being in the regular classes by being able to stay better focused, develop better math and language skills, and learn how to follow the “rules and codes of power” in each classroom. Their social skills were also being practiced and they were accepted by the students in their classrooms. After watching it, I felt that yes integrating the students into the classroom was a very beneficial decision for both the special education students and the "regular students". The regular students developed a connection to the students and created friendships with them. The idea of reconceptualizing children with down syndrome in schools is something that takes time, and integrating the students is the first step to do just that. 

However, with all the benefits,  I felt very conflicted. After reading Tracking by Jeannie Oakes, I somewhat agree that it is beneficial to have higher ability groups and lower ability groups for the students who excel and need more of a challenge; as well as the lower ability students having the resources for extra time and help. Integrating the special education students has great benefits and they do deserve the education that any other child receives. However, I still feel in the middle about having the special education students integrated. I keep wondering how would a teacher find a way to make the lessons adequate enough for all students at different levels of understanding. The special education student has disadvantages and may fall behind the other students in the class, or the "regular students" (Don't like using those words) will feel that they have to go at a slower pace for those students. Thus I still cannot decide what I believe to be the better option in order to end the discrimination and segregation amongst the students. Socially I agree that the students should be incorporated because they deserve to be treated as any other student. When mentioned in the film that wing of the school landed the reputation of "special ed wing" and no students would use it bothered me. In my high school, special education students were very involved in our community whether it be in dance or unified sports, they were incorporated. No student should feel that they do not belong in their community and that's exactly what was happening.

The parents shown in the film had brought to light their rights as parents and that the school system should be able to accommodate and bend for their students regardless their child's conditions. This is something that should have progressed years ago. Students should not have to attend a different school that is no where near their friends or community because that school cannot accommodate for them.

I found this video to help me understand a little better and view it from a different perspective. Check it out. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mapping the Authors

My Mapping the Authors.

Why Schools Need To Take Another Route, Jeannie Oakes

"In low-ability classes, for example, teachers seem to be less encouraging and more punitive, placing more emphasis on discipline and 'behavior and less on academic learning. Compared to teachers in high-ability classes, they seem to be more concerned about getting students to follow directions, be on time, and sit quietly. Students in low-ability classes more often feel excluded from class activities and tend to find their classmates unfriendly. Their classes are more often interrupted by problems and arguing, while students in higher-ability classes seem to be much more involved in their classwork."
-Jeannie Oakes
This quote reminds me of my service learning classroom because it is absolutely true that in low ability classes, like mine, they are more focused on discipline and behavior. The first twenty minutes of class is usually an attempt to control the classroom and have everyone sit down in their seats. Twenty minutes. Students are either arguing with one another, showing each other videos on their phone, listening to music, you name it. There is wasted time on attempting to reign the classroom together to focus on the task of that day. However, if the teacher did not spend that time getting the class together, it would be chaos and there would be no way of having a productive class. Students will also not participate in workbook activities which would cause the class to be interrupted to point out the students weren’t doing their “busy work”. Most of the class consists of talking, playing on their phones, and being rather loud until the task of the day is finally enforced by the teacher. When at most times, the teacher only expects one assignment of the students, which isn’t a whole lot.

Typically, low-track high school students have been in low-ability groups and remedial programs since elementary school. The gap between them and more successful students has grown wider - not only in achievement but in attitudes toward school and toward their own ability to succeed.
-Jeannie Oakes

I loved this quote because it captured exactly what I was thinking while reading this article. Students that were in the low-ability groups since elementary school, of course have a different attitude towards their achievement and their own ability to succeed. It’s almost as if being in those groups caused them to lose their self esteem academically. Imagine being a student who never is able to escape from the lower ability groups from elementary school to high school. Their opinion of themselves will be, “I’m too stupid to be in that class”. I have heard classmates make comments of that nature because they have been in that environment for so long they feel they would never be capable of being in the higher level classes. Oakes also points out that some classes require basic skills that may not seem so basic to a student in a lower level classroom. I have also seen this among classmates who would look at the work that I would be doing and say that it looked way too hard and that they would never be able to do the work. They haven’t been given the opportunity to master the same skills as someone who is in a higher ability classroom and if they are never given that chance, they will continue to struggle to have the drive to move up to a higher classroom. This creates a gap amongst students which will pave a clear path of who will succeed and those who will not. That seems like a very broad statement, however, not given the proper tools, you will see the students who thrive and those who fall behind.

“Few low-ability classes, on the other hand, were taught these topics skills. Students in the latter class learned basic reading skills taught mostly by workbooks, kits, and “easy to-read stories.” -Jeannie Oakes
This quote reminds me of my service learning project and how this is what the class is based off of. They are given “dumbed- down” activities and worksheets that the students themselves view as too easy or “stupid”. They are not given enough credit for the intelligence that they do have and are forced into the redundant, easy work to just get by. Most students recognize the difference in the level of difficulty, but don’t seem to mind. They see there is no challenge and have no motivation or drive to present themselves with one. In this quote she is comparing how higher ability students classrooms are learning literature including Shakespeare to develop their basic reading skills versus their simplified versions. Along with the higher level literature they were expected to learn vocabulary that would expanded their vocabulary and help boost their SAT scores. This gap clearly makes a difference among students, by simply holding one to a higher expectation.

This video shows how in this particular classroom, they were able to bring together both lower ability and higher ability for all students to have a better understanding altogether on the particular subject of math. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"The Problem We All Live With"

In the "The Problem We All Live With" radio broadcast, Nikole Hannah-Jones from the New York Times argues that integration is necessary in order for the "bad" schools to "catch up" to the "good schools". Listening to this broadcast left me in shock and ready to attack this blog post. Nikole brings to light the idea that integration is the key in closing the achievement gap amongst black and white kids in school systems. She mentions how most segregated schools have a high poverty concentration which means the majority of the students are from the same kind of lifestyle. Most of the students are behind and remain behind because they are all behind. Nikole argues that if integrated with other students, some advanced, there will be an all around improved environment for all students.  Integrating the students would give the African American students the equal opportunity to be in the same facilities as the white students and access to the higher quality teachers.

     Of course this idea comes with backlash and wave of negative opinions.  Ma'Riah's story of her experience with integration in schools was nothing short of an uphill battle that in my opinion will open the eyes of many. Her mother, Nedra Martin shares that her daughter has always been an A student but after attending Normandy, her grades had dropped significantly. The teachers had not notified her about her slipping grades and said that there were too many students to reach out to all parents. It seemed as though the teachers did not care or were not as invested in the students that attended Normandy. She also mentions how the classes seemed to be unorganized and even dumbed down. Nedra, concerned of her daughters education decides to look elsewhere and find more information to have her transfer. After endless calls, Nedra weighs out the options and realizes that its unrealistic to pay tuition for a public school or a private school simply because she cannot afford it.

Newscaster: "New tonight, a major blow to a school district in the metro area. The Missouri State Board of Education is pulling accreditation from the Normandy School District" (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" )
This was great news for Ma'Riah, due to The Transfer Law which allows students attending Normandy to have the right to transfer to a nearby accredited school for free. However, there would be only one school of their choosing to have free transportation which was closer, but unfortunately in the same district. Ma'Riah was an honors student who wanted to receive the best possible education and wanted to attend Francis Howell which 1,000 other students from Normandy were also interested in. Francis Howell was 85% White whereas Normandy had been predominately a black community. There was an uproar for the parents from Francis Howell school at a Town Meeting on the subject matter that absolutely shocked Ma'Riah, Nedra and myself included. The meetings topics were the following:

  1. Accreditation- is a fancy word for the act of granting credit or recognition, especially to an educational institution that maintains suitable standards. (Google) A parent brings up the question, "Once Normandy comes in here, will that lower our accreditation?" with a follow up of cheering amongst the people at the meeting.  Normandy has extremely low scores and, "In 2014, Points for academic achievement in English-- zero, math-- zero, social studies-- zero, science-- zero, points for college placement-- zero. It seems impossible, but in 11 of 13 measures, the district didn't earn a single point. 10 out of 140 points, that was its score." (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ). Any parent should be concerned with the accreditation of their child's school system, especially scores like Normandy's. However, when they fight and resist the idea of the students entering Francis Howell school system, they are also resisting a student to receive the quality education their child is receiving simply because of their previous school system failing them, not the individual.
  2. Discipline- "So I'm hoping that their discipline records come with them, like their health records come with them."  (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) This quote from the transcript blew my mind when I had first read it. The blunt-ness this woman had at the town meeting was astonishing to me. The Normandy district had a reputation to be a "bad" school with violence, drugs, etc you name it. However, I cannot help but wonder if she had ever stepped foot into the school and experienced it herself. Also the students who wanted to attend Francis Howell had to travel substantially farther without free transportation just to go to that school. Clearly they are looking for a better education and are grasping the opportunity to. The reputation doesn't mean the whole. I have experienced this kind of negativity for going to Woonsocket High school where it also had a bad reputation. When I would tell others where I went to school, they seemed shocked and couldn't believe that I went to such a "scary"school. Or they mention how everyone there must be dumb. That was the kicker. I was an honors student and excelled in my school, just as Ma'Riah has, the reputation does not mean the whole.
  3. Integration history- "Years ago, when the MetroLink was being very popular, St. Charles County put to a vote whether or not we wanted the MetroLink to come across into our community. And we said no. And the reason we said no is because we don't want the different areas [INAUDIBLE] coming across on our side of the bridge, bringing with it everything that we're fighting today against."  (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) As I mentioned in the previous point, this parent assumes that the whole upholds the reputation of the school. The fact that this exists today should surprise me, however it doesn't. I've witnessed this kind of talking that is a "walking on eggshells" conversation because of the fear of being politically incorrect.
  4. Safety in school- "This is what I want to know from you. In one month, I send my three small children to you. And I want to know is there going to be metal detectors? Because I want to be clear. I'm no expert. I'm not you guys. I don't have an accreditation, but I've read. I've read, and I've read, and I've read. So we're not talking about the Normandy School District losing their accreditation because of their buildings, or their structures, or their teachers. We are talking about violent behavior that is coming in with my first grader, my third grader, and my middle schooler that I'm very worried about." (Beth Cirami, "The Problem We All Live With" ) I hope you are seeing a reoccurring theme amongst the parents attending the town meeting. As a parent, (even though I am not one) I can imagine that your child's safety is at the top of the priorities list. However, the parents seem to "jump the gun" and assume that every student being transferred is a delinquent and that Francis Howell school system will not be able to provide their children safety without metal detectors, as an example. "You have no choice like me. I want to know where the metal detectors are going to be me. And I want to know where your drug sniffing dogs are going to be. And I want-- this is what I want. I want the same security that Normandy gets when they walk through their school doors. I want it here. And I want it-- and I want that security before my children walk into Francis Howell. Because I shopped for a school district. I deserve to not have to worry about my children getting stabbed or taking a drug or getting robbed. Because that's the issue.(Beth Cirami, "The Problem We All Live With" ) Granted I have not met any of the students at Normandy or went to the school, but the descriptions from the parents seem to be extreme.
  5. Race not being the issue- "We have both-- my husband and I both have worked and lived in underprivileged areas in our jobs. This is not a race issue. And I just want to say to-- if she's even still here, the first woman who came up here and cried that it was a race issue, I'm sorry. That's her prejudice calling me a racist because my skin is white and I'm concerned about my children's education and safety. This is not a race issue." (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) This is the first statement that is mentioned that has somewhat of an argument in their favor. Parents are supposed to be concerned in their childs education and safety, and shouldn't have race as the focus when in their case it is not. Just because she is speaking out does not mean that she is a racist herself.
  6. ...... "And let me assure you, I personally know a family in the Fox School District that was shopping for houses in our school district that were negotiating on a home. And when this came on the news, they ended negotiations. So-- " (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) This is where the prejudice and racism come into play.  

Students like Ma'Riah do not get factored into this equation. Nikole Hannah-Jones also mentions another student who transferred to the middle school, Rianna who had a negative experience at first because of the reputation her previous school had. A white student made a racial slur and was instigating a fight. The student made comments regarding her being ghetto, questioning her intelligence, etc which Rianna had not involved herself in.
"Because I feel like, if I was to run away, if I was to come back, then she was winning. And I had to prove her wrong. I had to prove to her I'm not stupid. I'm very intelligent. And just because I went to Normandy, that doesn't define who I am either." (Rianna, "The Problem We All Live With")
All I can say is S.C.W.A.A.M.P. Because the students were not part of the dominant power, the parents of Francis Howell students viewed them unfairly. Luckily Ma'Riah and Rianna were able to overcome the obstacles of the debauchery they had dealt with between schools. However, not all students, school systems, or parents, get involved enough in order to make changes in their education systems.

Here's the link for all you non FNED students if you're interested in hearing the broadcast/interview.