Friday, April 17, 2015

Empowering Education by Ira Shor - reflection/connections

While I was reading Empowering Education by Ira Shor, I had so many connections to almost all of the articles that we read this semester. I even got a little excited when some of the recognizable authors (Patrick Finn and Linda Christensen) were mentioned in the article. Originally, this blog was only going to be a connections post, but there were also ideas in the article that I could relate to as well. And because this is the last blog assignment of the semester :( I have decided to do a connections/reflection post.

"If the aim of intellectual memory training is to form the intelligence rather than to stock the memory, and to produce intellectual explorers rather than mere erudition, then traditional education is manifestly guilty of grave deficiency." (pg. 12)

This quote came from Jean Piaget, who I just studied in my psychology class. Piaget's theory on cognitive development is amazing! Even back in his time, Piaget was against traditional schooling. He claimed that learning was not memorizing facts, but instead,  learning comes from experience. Piaget believed that traditional learning lacked knowledge. In my service learning, my fifth grade class struggles with some of the basic concepts, including reading simple words. Their teacher is very authoritarian and imposes order and expects obedience. The students are also forced to learn information that is not interesting to them. I always feel bad because anybody can just tell based on their body language that these fifth graders would rather be somewhere else. As future educators, we need to avoid forcing our students to shove information that they can care less about in their heads. Instead, we need to keep our lessons interesting so that our students maintain their enthusiasm in learning.

"Participation is the most important place to begin because student involvement is low in traditional classrooms and because action is essential to gain knowledge and develop intelligence." (pg. 17)

Throughout the article, Ira Shor, emphasizes on how important it is to have students start the conversations and develop ideas, instead of the teacher just lecturing them the entire time. This quote reminds me so much about our class and how part of our grade is just participating. I have learned so much from this class from just hearing my peers talk. Like Shor did with her classes, our teacher does not tell us about her ideas until after we are all finished talking. If our class was more traditional, we currently wouldn't be having this strong bond with one another. I found this interesting article on the benefits of participating in a class.

"As conscious human beings, we can discover how we are conditioned by the dominant ideology." (pg. 22)

This quote was explained by Paulo Freire. He explains that as young children, we do not know that we are conditioned to act a certain way depending on people and places. As we get older, we  discover that we were conditioned and try to break out of it, but old habits die hard.  Last week, our teacher gave us worksheets that looked like a quiz/test that we had to complete in a limited amount of time. Instead of throwing the papers at our teacher and being resistant (which was actually how our teacher wanted us to react) we all completed the assignment and some of us even developed anxiety while working on them (myself included). This "experiment" that our teacher did just shows that there comes a point in time where it is too late to break out of something that you have been conditioned to do your whole life. Discovering how we are conditioned to act a certain way involves some heavy critical thinking.

"Students learn that education is something that they have to put up with, to tolerate as best as they can, to obey, or to resist." (pg. 26)

If students are dreading to go to school, then their teachers are not doing their jobs correctly. If students are refusing to learn just because their teachers are not doing their jobs correctly is even worse. Students should think that education is a slow learning transition from early childhood to early adulthood rather than a learning obstacle that they just have to overcome. This reminds me of the Jean Anyon study in Literacy With an Attitude by Patrick J. Finn. In Anyon's study, students who came from working class families were stuck with teachers who actually didn't know how to teach. As a result, the students were resistant towards their education. Shouldn't teachers get the hint that when their students get resistant towards learning, something needs to change about the way they teach?

"Existing orthodoxies resist change because the standard curriculum represent more than knowledge; it represents the shape of power in school and society." (pg. 34)

This quote has Lisa Delpit written all over it! In her article, The Silenced Dialogue, Delpit mentions and explains the five aspects of the culture of power. The above quote is spot on with Delpit's second aspect of the culture of power: "There are codes or rules for participating in power, that is, there is a "culture of power'". (pg. 25) Even though some of us may deny this, but we all do not like it when things change because we like to be in control and be familiar with things in our everyday lives. If the orthodoxies changed, then the culture of power would no longer exist. Whatever happened to change being a good thing?

Questions:  After this class is over, what is the biggest aspect that will stick with you throughout your teaching career? Did your views of the world change while taking this class?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by Christopher Kliewer - Connections

I had so many mixed emotions about this week's article. The emotions ranged from happy to sad to angry. While reading this article I found so many connections to other articles that we had read in the past. The authors that I will be using for my connections are Linda Christensen, Gerri August, and Lisa Delpit. I will also make a personal connection toward the end of this blog. My personal connection is something that I don't bring up often, but this class is practically a family now, so I am now comfortable talking about it.

"School citizenship requires that students not be categorized and separated based on presumed defect." (pg. 85)

Throughout the article, the author, Christopher Kliewer discusses school citizenship and accepting all disabilities and more specifically, Down syndrome.. School citizenship is all about recognizing each student's uniqueness rather than making assumptions and stereotypes. What really bothers me is that even  to this day at some schools, students with disabilities and Down syndrome are still put in classes that are separate from students that have no disabilities. Aren't we all supposed to be created equal? This reminded me of the article, Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us by Linda Christensen. In her article, Christensen argues that we cannot make assumptions on people just because media perceives a group of people a certain way. One of my favorite Christensen quotes is this: "The secondhand information we receive has often been distorted, shaped by cultural stereotypes, and left incomplete." (pg. 127) Teachers that get to work with students who have Down syndrome get to receive the complete firsthand information while other teachers that work with students with no disabilities tend to fall for the stereotypes.

"Like a lot of people in Mendocino, he's [John] accepted for what he is, not what he isn't" (pg. 86)

John is a kid with Down Syndrome and lived in North Hollywood, where he was separated and lonely. When his family moves to Mendocino, California, he easily connects and makes friends easily. The townspeople of Mendocino saw beyond his condition. This can be connected to Gerri August's Safe Spaces because in his old neighborhood, he was excluded just because he had Down syndrome, but his new neighborhood made him feel like an important member of society. Even in his own words, John calls his new neighborhood a "safe space." It seems like people enjoy focusing on the negative qualities of a person rather than their positive qualities, which in my opinion is a shame.

"If a misunderstanding emerges within the act of communication, we tend to fault the party with the least amount of cultural privileges and proceed to clinically identify which element of that individual's communication is responsible for the misunderstanding." (pg. 94)

This quote is sadly true because if something goes wrong, the person that gets blamed is usually not part of the culture of power. When we hear these words, culture of power, we immediately think of Lisa Delpit and her aspects on the culture of power in her article, The Silenced Dialogue. The above quote goes along with Delpit's fourth aspect on the culture of power: "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." (pg. 25) Telling people with less privileges that it is their fault that they don't understand a concept makes the teacher have more power in the classroom.

I am now going to talk about my personal connection that a lot of people don't know about. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder because like Isaac from the article, I couldn't talk and had very weak motor skills. The doctors that diagnosed me said that I would never talk or have the ability to do anything. They recommended that I should enroll in private special education schools that are completely isolated from students that have no disabilities. My parents were heartbroken over the news, but they didn't listen to the doctors. My parents believed in me so much that they signed me up for ballet classes, speech therapy and occupational therapy. I spent my preschool years at a private school where all of the students had a variety of disabilities. When I was entering kindergarten, my parents enrolled me in a public school where most of the students did not have any disabilities. I surprisingly adapted there pretty well. Today, I still struggle a little with speech and some motor skills, but the many years of speech and occupational therapy had really paid off. If my parents didn't believe in me so much, I don't know where I would be today.

Points to make:  This article proved that disabilities can become abilities. If people tell you that you can't do something, prove them wrong. The true friends in life are the ones that do not make a big deal about your disability. Instead, they look past that and focus on your abilities. That is how I found my true friends. About sixty years ago, children with Down syndrome were placed in mental institutions. We have come a long way since then, but schools need to stop isolating students with disabilities from students with no disabilities. I found this interesting article on why Down syndrome is decreasing

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Literacy With an Attitude-by Patrick J. Finn Quotes

First off, I want to say that writing this week's blog was a challenge for me because there are so many important and interesting concepts that Patrick J. Finn mentions in Literacy With an Attitude. I can go on and on about all of his ideas, but I don't want to bore the living daylights out of you, so I am going to try to abridge my blog by selecting and explaining three quotes that stood out to me in this week's text.

"All of us-teachers and students-were locked into a system of rules and roles that none of us understood and that did not allow for much in the way of education." (pg. 5)

In the 1960s, Finn was an eight grade teacher who worked in a dominant impoverished black school in the south side of Chicago. The students had to follow the teachers' orders and the teachers had to follow the codes of power in the classroom. Finn is frustrated that working class students are not getting the same literacy skills as students from higher class. Finn thinks that the school still runs like that today and he is not happy about that.  Unfortunately, many schools throughout the United States follow Lisa Delpit's aspects on the culture of power so seriously, to a point where students lack creativeness and freedom of expression. Someday, I hope I work at a school where the rules are reasonable and don't take away students' rights and privileges.

"Anyon's study supports the findings of earlier observers that in American schools children of managers and owners are rewarded for initiative and assertiveness, while children of the working class are rewarded for docility and obedience and punished for initiative and assertiveness." (pg. 20)

Jean Anyon did an eye opening study on schools of different classes. The results were shocking. The higher the class, the more creativeness and the more real knowledge students gained in the classroom. The teachers from high class schools were more laid back and let the students do more of the speaking and teaching. What really disgusted me was that the teachers in the working class school treated their students like animals. Awarding a student for obedience is like telling a dog to sit, shake, roll over, etc. and giving him a treat for listening to your commands. If the dog barked even once or if a working class student said if, and, or but about an assignment, they were punished. I feel bad for these working class students because if they are conditioned to not speak up, they will have a harder time getting a job because they will be too afraid to say what they actually think. I find it sad that so many good teachers prefer to work with higher class students and because of this, the impoverished students get "the leftover" teachers that do not know how to actually teach. In a way, it is like how the wealthy people of Manhattan traveled all of the way to Mott Haven to dump their trash in Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace.  Don't they know that they could have given impoverished students hope if they had educated them instead?

"Teachers are supposed to teach, not blame children for what they don't know how to do." (pg. 175)

I absolutely agree with this quote one hundred percent and am glad that Finn mentioned this in his article. According to the article, it seems that high class schools do more real teaching than working class schools, where the teachers make more commands than actually teach. What I find really annoying is that the working class teachers can't even tell their own students how their assignments connect to the real world! I'm sorry, but if a teacher can't even explain that, they shouldn't have the right to teach. Even as a middle class student, I had witnessed moments when my teachers would blame my classmates for not understanding concepts. I remember having the urge to say to those teachers "Hello? you are getting paid to TEACH us, not watch us work on packets that you give us on useless things that will never help us in the real world. You are supposed to teach us instead of babysit us!" Of course, I never said those words because as Finn would say, I was and still am "an obedient student."  In my own words, teaching is educating concepts that students can connect to the real world.

Points to make: I found an article from The Guardian about how parents' jobs affect the academic work of their children. Jean Anyon did a study on fifth grade classes from schools of different class. I loved how Finn described the main themes of each school of different class in one word. For example, the theme of the working class schools was resistance and the theme for the upper elite schools was excellence. In one word, how would you describe the theme of your fifth grade class? Why do you think the best teachers choose to work in higher class schools than working class?