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.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Service Learning

     In the article, "In the Service Of What? The Politics of Service Learning"  by Joseph Kahne and Koel Westheimer touches upon the benefits of service learning in schools. This article brought up several great points of how service is an important aspect of learning which teaches students different perspectives in the process. In one of the examples provided, Kahne et all explain how a middle school teacher proposed their students, part of a suburban upper-middle class, to volunteer at a poor elementary school in the area. There were already mixed emotions about volunteering in that environment because of previous notions and reputation of the school system. "The students said that they had imagined 'horrifying children running around on a dirty campus...And expected them to be 'rude, tough, noisy and very unfriendly". Along with the confirmation from parents that it, "was a bad neighborhood and to be careful." The incredible result of this form of service was that their pre existing notion of the experience had a complete opposite turn out. "After they returned, the students' perspectives on these elementary school children changed. They were 'surprised at the children's responsiveness and their attentiveness, and found the children extremely polite and surprisingly friendly." One student wrote....

"Everyone at the school had good manners and I think more highly of [the neighborhood] now".... 

   "This experiential and interpersonal components of service learning activities can achieve the first crucial step toward diminishing the sense of 'otherness' that often separates students-particularly privileged students- from those in need."  I found this to be absolutely true because of the fact I have experienced this sense of "otherness" in my high school career. The high school I had attended was an urban community with a similar reputation as the middle school mentioned but on a higher scale. It was known for being scary, having fights, bomb threats, and overall a negative reputation. My junior year of high school I was forced to attend another high school, (long story), which was a privileged community with predominately white students. Before starting my first day of school, I wasn't worried that I would not fit in with this community and had pre existing notions that the students would be friendly. However, they did not meet my expectations and if anything were the opposite, making me feel unwelcome and part of the "otherness". Knowing that I had come from the different, underprivileged school system with a bad reputation, they looked at me differently. I would get the same comment, "You don't look like a kid that would go to school there...Is it scary there?.. Have you seen a fight...etc etc".What was I supposed to look like to them? It made me feel excluded and I was viewed differently than the other students. They thought I was aggressive (lol) and not like any of the other girls there. This is an example of the ignorance that creates the "otherness" described in the article.

                                   I hope this meme aggravates you the way it did for me. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gender Relevance in the Election

       In Jill Soloway's article Donald Trump, Locker Rooms and Toxic Masculinity, she argues that the "locker room talk" enables men to objectify women because it is a place that tolerates this kind of behavior. Men are quick to talk about woman in a degrading way but, as she mentions, you will never hear them refer to one anothers female wife, daughter, or sister. This kind of behavior is tolerated because it's done in the gender specific privacy of men who "would never betray their membership in the man’s club to admit." (Soloway) This can be connected directly to Donald Trump and his many statements regarding women that are degrading in many ways. Trump is a very outspoken candidate that has no issue spitting out the sexist remarks on live television. The audio clip they have of Trump talking about groping women and kissing women without consent as something that was simply "locker room talk". He refers to it as locker room talk several times as an attempt to justify his actions, which in my opinion causes him to become an enabler. 

"White cis able-bodied educated males from the ruling class are at the top, holding nearly all of the power of the planet. You get access to this power if you’re married or related to one of these men. As you head down the pyramid, by daring to be perhaps — an unrelated white woman without a ring or poise, or gosh, a black woman, or a queer person or a trans person or a disabled person, your fall speeds up exponentially. " 

                    Soloway continues that if you do not fall under this category you seem to become lower and lower on the on the pyramid which then,"Your legal rights drop away. Your safety. Your body rights drop away. You are not a body, you are a piece of a body now, you are being murdered slowly, with words and ideas." This also relates to SCWAAMP which is exactly what the quote above is saying. Anyone who is straight, catholic, white, able bodied, American, male, and has property fits into the perfect umbrella that Trump is trying to create. This has everything to do with the election because we are dealing with people's rights, and safety regardless of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Trump is an example of a cis able-bodied educated male from the ruling class who has a considerable amount of power and could potentially be leading our country. In my opinion I would not want someone like Donald Trump who does not take into consideration the fact he is justifying his actions which ultimately says "it's okay to talk about women in this way, it's only locker room talk", when millions of people will be following him. Along with the idea that not all people will feel represented in our country or feel that there is true equality amongst us.

In the article, Hillary Clinton Raises Her Voice, and a Debate Over Speech and Sexism Rage

opinions of her as a presidential candidate. 

“It is 2016 and I cannot believe — cannot believe — we are having this conversation,” said Stephanie Schriock, the president of the group Emily’s List, which works to elect female candidates, in an interview. If Mrs. Clinton is shouting, “what is Bernie Sanders doing?” she asked.

It is a great question to ask because it is absolutely true that Bernie Sanders projects his voice to almost a shout. Because Hillary Clinton has the real potential of becoming elected, she is viewed as a threat especially being a woman. This can be connected back to Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us by Linda Christensen that touches upon the notion that women are portrayed in Disney movies to be lower than men and rely on their looks to succeed. Basically "We are taught, more than anything else, how to not rebel"and Hillary Clinton is defying this idea and is speaking out. Hillary also snaps back at Bernie Sanders when she says, "sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting", regarding the comments of her delivery of speeches. This election has a great deal regarding gender considering we have a legitimate potential female president on our way, however, her delivery of speeches regarding volume should have no negative impact on her election. This race should be legitimately equal amongst the candidates taking away focus on the male and female differences. 


Thursday, October 13, 2016


      Starting my service learning project, I was aware that teaching in a high school would impose different challenges from the get-go. However, I was unprepared for the lack of control and how difficult it was to get the students to participate. The first class I had each student create their own name tag however they wanted. Some added drawings and designs to make it a little more authentic, which I appreciated. We then played an icebreaker game to get to know each other,  they were all given a packet of M&M's and used each one as a fun fact about them which they could eat after contributing to the class. It went well for the most part, but students were talking over one another and comments were being thrown left and right causing the classroom to become chaotic. After going through each student, they completed a worksheet titled, "The Soundtrack to your Life" where they chose songs they felt represented them and explained why. Many participated and had a lot to say as to others who left the sheet blank or as one student wrote, " I love bacon".

      Before the class was over we had began talking about values and what each students individuals values were. I was having difficulty bringing the students back to the lesson until I asked the question, "Would you rather be rich and dumb or poor and smart?" "Immediately, the alpha of the classroom, without raising his hand yells, "Hell yeah rich and dumb" and "I responded with a quick "why". The class went silent. It was the most incredible moment to see the students wait for his response because of his clear lack of preparation of a follow up question. He was deliberately answering this way for attention and I wanted to let the student know that it wasn't supposed to be a joke. I made it clear to the student that he wasn't wrong as long as he had evidence to back up his argument. This led to a major debate amongst the students but was done in a behavior that was completely opposite to the beginning of the class. Students were raising their hands, were not talking over one another, and had great, in depth arguments. It was then I realized I needed to create activities and lessons that would engage them in this way and truly connected with them.

     Therefore, when I went to the high school to teach again, I was a bit more nervous about the class because I was unsure of how they would respond a second time. I began the class digging a bit deeper into what values are and what are some things they value themselves. Many said family, money, friendship, etc. I compiled a list of 9 where they only chose five of them. It boiled down to success, truth, friendship, love and happiness. We were able to go through the list and explain what each word meant and why it is a value. They were completely attentive and it was clear they wanted to participate, which had me a little confused. I then explained that each word would be placed on chart paper and they would split into groups to write about why they value this, an example of this value or something that represents that value. They were helpful when setting up the activity, hanging up the posters, helping me cut each one, and were ready for more instructions. I proceeded to tell them they had five minutes at each station and then we would rotate. The entire activity ran smoothly and was ultimately a success! I was so impressed at how well they responded to this activity and how much effort they actually put into it. After it was all said and done, I had them write me at least a paragraph about their thoughts on the activity, something that they learned doing the activity, or the option of telling me their values and explaining why they valued it. I have just read through all of the papers and I am thrilled that they responded so well. Aside from the student who wrote, "I value bacon".  Each student wrote almost an entire page and now I have had this proud moment that I really was able to connect to the students and was able to almost feel like a real teacher.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth

 Safe Spaces written by Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, and Megan S. Kennedy

           Annemarie et all argue that LGBTQ's  inclusion into the curriculum of all school systems is crucial in creating a safe space for all students. They bring to light the importance of educating and integrating students of other lifestyles to in turn prevent bullying due to another students ignorance. As educators we should all strive to make every student feel absolutely comfortable in their classroom environments in order for each individual to have the right tools to succeed. I personally feel as though this topic is a difficult conversation for many but most definitely is a necessary one. For my service learning project there is a student in my class who is transgender and identifies themselves as a male. Before starting my project, I had visited the class to talk with the teacher about her expectations from me in the classroom and learn a little bit more about the kids. She explained to me how the student prefers a different name than the one presented on the roster. Immediately I made note of that in order for the student to feel comfortable when going through attendance. I had connected with a few of the students and had a chance to learn more about them. I did also have a conversation with the male student in particular and had a moment when I referred to him as "she". I felt embarrassed and upset that I may have offended him, even though I specifically made an effort to not make that mistake. I quickly corrected myself and he gave me the "it's okay look". He completely understood and shrugged it off. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that it was clear that the classroom accepted him. There was complete inclusion in conversation and there were no negative comments which was great. It's nice to know that with all the negativity and hate around this topic that we hear of so often, that there are communities where we see progress amongst the students and faculty. Going forward I absolutely will make the conscious effort to respect him and his identity.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us. (Hyperlinks)

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us by Linda Christensen

I found this piece to be a very interesting look into the media, movies, gender roles, and gender stereotypes. Christensen argues that specifically cartoons, and Disney tend to have racist content that focuses on the role of women, the roles of people of color, and gender stereotypes that we still have in our society today. She also adds that this mass media causes people to shape their lives around these standards and causes people to form their own idea of what their lives should portray(Christensen 128) . A line that stuck with me was, "We are taught, more than anything else, how to not rebel." (Dorfman) In the video below, they portray how Disney shapes the minds of young children and adolescence to believe, for example, "beauty is good and ugly is bad." It causes them to believe that beauty is valued over those who are not as attractive. Including the fact being more attractive increases the likelihood of succeeding. They also give a false sense of what beauty is,

  • Big Eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Thin waist 
  • Delicate limbs 
  • Flowing hair

(All from video) 

This false sense of "who they should be" causes young girls to strive to look like Disney Princesses. Intelligence isn't something of high value because beauty is more important, which is pointed out in both videos below with examples like the Little Mermaid and The Beauty and the Beast. It surpresses reading for young girls and "who needs a voice when you have your beauty?' It teaches girls to become dependent on their looks and makes them believe that they will live "Happily ever after" if
    1. they find a man to marry 
    2. " Transformation can be achieved through consumption" 

    This notion that transformation can be achieved through consumption also touches upon how the media uses commercialism and consumerism to their advantage. The media uses the same strategies that Disney does, however it is used in advertisements to get people convinced that they need the next new product because it will make them happy. 

    "We are taught, more than anything else, how to not rebel." (Christensen 128)

    Christensen mentions that the "industrially produced stories" teach people how to do almost everything in their lives, down to "how to succeed, how to love, how to buy, how to conquer, how to forget the past, and suppress the future". These images and ideas shape our emotions and how we view ourselves which also lead to our constant need for consumption. 

    In the Documentary, Miss Representation they bring this strategy to light. This is a documentary I had watched in my digital media class and I found it to really dissect the media and the role it plays in our everyday lives. I placed the whole documentary into the post if anyone is interested in watching. It's a little lengthy but definitely worth the watch.