Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thoughts after facilitating, and inclusion...

Wednesday seemed to be a day of trials for many of us before we came to class, and even after we left class. After reflecting on my facilitation of class, I found that there was something special that happened to our cohort Wednesday night, or so it seemed to me, the support that was shown to each other was very nice. It can be hard to go from teaching all day to sitting in class at night, but having people who care about each other and support each other in that night class makes it so much more tolerable. In fact, for me, its often part of the best time of my week. I think the understanding and support that was shown to each other Wednesday night is exactly the type of support and understanding that we are asked to have in an inclusion classroom. I took some notes while each of you were talking about a strategy that you use to appeal to the numerous intelligences, and I wanted to share them here so that you could have a little "tool box" of ideas if you wanted to adapt them to your content area. 
Intrapersonal: peer mediation, peer tutoring, school improvement team
Verbal-Linguistic: Re-write a chapter of the text book with the important/necessary information that the student found most important
Mathematical: Personalize things, and look for the things in everyday items...for example, Mr. 60, Mr. 30, find Waldo
Visual-Spatial: Visual representation of the quotes...soil that makes quotes grow
Musical: Tone & Voice-piece of music that indicated the tone of voice in a character
Kinesthetic/Bodily: Skits, songs with hang motions, games that involve moving around
Interpersonal: Working collaboratively in groups, creating a newspaper, checklists to keep all members involved, self and group evaluation of the process
Naturalist: charts to help keep things organized 

I enjoyed our discussion Wednesday night very much, and I enjoyed that I had to adapt the schedule and things to accommodate us better, it made for a nice challenge for me, because after all, it ties into exactly what we talked about...making accommodations for the needs of our students. 
Thank you for a great semester, I have learned many things from each of you :-)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Once Upon A Time...

Linda Christensen, in her article, "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us" tackles the ideas that are taught to children from the time that they are able to understand a book, or understand that girls play with Barbies and boys play with Hot Wheels. Christensen refers to the "secret education" that we receive from all of the things that we encounter on a daily basis. These things, such as gender roles, are taught to us not in a formal education setting, but rather through the messages and images that we see in television, books, magazines and games. I had not thought much about this until it was brought to my attention in a Children's Literature class that I took as an Undergrad. We are being shaped and persuaded to think in a certain way right from the start. I would argue that very few people "wrestle with the social text of novels, news, or history books" or " critique portrayals of hierarchy and inequality in children's movies and cartoons." We simply take all the messages that are being thrown at us and put them into our minds as the things that are expected of us. Or at least some of them. I can remember from a very young age wanting to play with baby dolls and be the "mom" in any kind of playing. What I don't remember is when this started. When did it start that I wanted to be the "mommy"? Was it after watching television shows where girls were the moms, or was it from watching the example of my own mother? Maybe both. Christensen's discussion of Cinderella is one that I really enjoyed. Disney has an unbelieveable effect on our society. Little girls are taught by watching Disney princess movies that "happiness means getting a man, and transformation from wretched conditions can be achieved through consumption-in their case, through new clothes and a new hairstyle." Woman and girls everywhere want the "fairy tale," myself included, I think this in part is because I have grown up seeing the fairy tale and how much happiness that the princesses live with after. I came across an article last night that I can't stop talking about. Mercy Academy, an all female school in Kentucky has rolled out a new advertising campaign that focuses on the empowerment of girls by debunking fairy tales. The campaign tells girls that they are not princesses, so start doing things for themselves, and not to wait around for prince charming, but to rescue themselves. I love these ads and have even printed them out for my classroom, I, like Christensen, "do not want them thinking that the pinnacle of a woman's life is an "I do" that supposedly leads them to a "happily ever after."" I think these messages are just setting girls up to feel bad about themselves when their life doesn't pan out like that of the princesses. Christensen goes on to talk about critiquing cartoons, and stereotypes that are involved in them. For example, Popeye, has several ethnic stereotypes that run though it. Even the board game, Game of Life, has a set way to be happy, and "win." I would like very much to tie this dicussion into my class, but I am toying with how I can weave it in. I want my students to think about the messages that they have seen and been taught since they were little, and to think critically about how those messages have shaped their view for their own futures. The conversation of our distorted view of reality is one that I want to have with my students and hear their opinions on.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Identity Crisis...

The articles, "Aria" and "Teaching Multilingual Children" both deal with teaching bilingual students. Richard Rodriguez passionatly writes about his struggles growing up as a bilingual student in the United States and his feeling of the loss of identity with his family. Rodriguez speaks about his wish that teachers would have addressed him in Spanish when he entered the classroom, and how it would have helped to make him feel less afraid. This was an eye opener for me because I have never felt fear walking into a classroom. I can only imagine what it feels like to walk into a place where you know very little of what is being said and what is being expected of you. I can only imagine that my anxiety level would cause me to act much like Rodriguez and not speak much at all. The feeling that the home life and the school life were two seperate things is one that I had not thought of much before. So much of my school life carried over into my family life that it was as if the two were connected. That home was a continuation of school. My parents were constantly doing math flashcards with us and reading books with us after dinner. I can relate to that special feeling that Rodriguez remembers about his early family life. What I struggle with and cannot relate to is the feeling of the loss of their identity as a family. Language being the thing that tied them so closely together, and ultimately pushed them so far apart. Some of my students are bilingual students, and only speak their first language at home with their parents. A few of them have told me that they think in Spanish and dream in Spanish. They translate everything from the English that is being said to them to Spanish, and back to English to give the correct response. This must be exhausting. Collier writes about the code-switching that takes place with students, and I wish that I was better equipped to understand what students would be saying when they switch back and forth between languages. I think it's beautiful when students speak their first language, but many of them are embarrassed. Rodriguez writes "Today I hear bilingual educators say that children lose a degree of 'individuality' by becoming assimilated into public society." I agree with him, and I wish there was more that could be done to change it. The reality is that the culture of power speaks English, and therefore in order to be "successful" you need to also speak English. How awesome would it be if we could truly "teach in two languages, affirm the cultural values of both home and school, teach standardized forms of the two languages but respect and affirm the multiple varieties and dialects represented among students in class, be a creative and flexible teacher, serve as a catalyst for discovery as students learn to operate effectively in their multiple worlds, be able to mediate and resolve intercultural conflicts, keep students on task and on and on." How could we truly teach in all of the many languages of our students? The reality is that we can't, but we can have a "true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom." An example of this was brought to the attention of our faculty recently regarding our Asian international students. They live together in a dorm, and have an advisor that serves as a liason between the students and the faculty. The advisor was speaking about the Chinese culture and how when the students are not looking in our eyes when they are talking it is not a sign of disrepect, but in their culture it is seen as a sign of disrespect to make eye contact with people in authority. An example also came from a friend of mine who teaches in Jamaica. He has found that the students are typically disrespectful to adults and this seems to be a part of their culture. Learning the culture of each of the students that are in front of us is very difficult. How can we foster the individuality and uniqueness of our students and still "prime" them to be successful within the power of culture? Collier writes "academic language does not come to kids automatically, just because they are in a dominant English-speaking locale. Academic language is context-reduced and intelectually much more demanding." Giving our students the tools to have a great academic language is the definition of success in many classrooms. The "caregiver speech" features I think are good ways to bring out the culture of our students while fostering their academic language at the same time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mirrors and Windows...

      "Safe Spaces Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth" by Vacaaro, August, and Kennedy discusses strategies and ways of thinking that can help transform our classrooms into places of total acceptance and support for all students. The idea that inside the classroom walls and outside the classroom walls students are different people is an idea that I am struggling with. While I understand the point of acting in a certain way in a classroom setting, and speaking in a certain way, I do not agree that students check parts of themselves at the door when they walk through it. Or do they? And if they do, why? I do not think that there should be an "in classroom" and "out of classroom" student. That implies that we are not educating the whole student, only part of them.
       Because so much of what I try and do is create an inclusive atmosphere, I really loved when the article said "create an atmosphere in which difference is not only tolerated but expected, explored, and embraced, students will be more likely to develop perspectives that result in respectful behaviors" this is what makes my classes fun. If I had to teach a bunch of cardboard cutouts I don't think that I would be a teacher. Difference should be celebrated. Unfortunately, I think that in a lot of cases difference is not celebrated. Many teachers think that their job is to "manufacture" a certain student at the end of taking their class and so the actual student is not celebrated, just the knowledge that they can spit back at teacher.
      "Heterosexism is one of these unexamined avenues of privilege." This statement bounces me straight back to the culture of power.  The culture of power decides what a "normal" family looks like, what a "normal" relationship looks like, what "true love" looks like, and what "beautiful" looks like. It is true that being a heterosexual does have privileges within the culture of power. Privileges that are being fought for currently in society. The culture of power has designed school curriculum to produce people that stay within the norms of the culture of power. I think a lot of teachers are afraid to push against what they are "supposed" to be teaching. They are nervous to introduce books that are not necessarily on their curriculum lists or directly connect to a standard. I agree that "teachers still don't know what they can and can't do. LGBT students need advocacy and protection, not neutrality." Pushing against what is expected of them and then possibly causing controversy with parents could lead to teachers losing their jobs. I know this sounds extreme, but administrators do not want to deal with controversy. The media is a whole other issue. "Even teachers who describe themselves as social justice advocates fail to challenge homophobic or transphobic language and images in many early childhood settings. Powerful social messages are responsible (at least in part) for this noncritical allegiance to traditional perspectives." Thankfully, many television shows are beginning to show homosexuals in couple. This is especially true in shows targeted at teenagers. Glee, is one of the shows that has no problem showing a homosexual couple.If the media does in fact shape society, I know its not much, but maybe it is a step in the way of acceptance of all.
      A few weeks ago Rolling Stone magazine, who I very rarely read, ran an article about gay students in Christian schools and how some schools are expelling students based on their sexual orientation. This makes my heart break. That is not what being a Christian is about at all. We are supposed to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcomed and loved, not an exclusive place where people are rejected. It's schools like the ones in the article that give religious schools a bad rap and completely turn people off from any religion at all. I thought it was interesting in the article that a teacher refused to call a student by the name that they had chosen. Why would a teacher ever do that? I call my students by whatever they want to be called. I have a student now whose name is Samuel, but he is called Timmy by his family and friends, so I call him Timmy. Why would I call him Samuel if that is not who he identifies as?
      It really outrages me that schools would teach in their health classes that "homosexuality is a deviant lifestyle that poses a public health risk." That is not reality at all. Check out this article. It will completely shock you as to who is spreading diseases.
       There is a real fear or phobia of the unknown or the misunderstood, and I think that as teachers it is our job to extinguish those fears. "Instructors committed to inclusion find ways to bring the voices of the LGBT community into their curriculum." It's our job to find the teachable moments like so many of the teachers in the chapter did.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our Kids...

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

― Socrates

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Join me on the quest of learning...

Michael Wesch, and his article, "Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance" is an article that speaks volumes to me. Just about everything that he writes about rings true for me in my classroom and in my teaching. Wesch writes about how so much of what is taught to kids has no meaning to them, and how students struggle to find meaning and significance in their education. I spend a lot of time thinking about that issue specifically, especially in teaching Theology. My job is not to convert people to Catholicism, and I think that if my job was just to pump kids full of facts about the religion that it would be silly, so I try and find the balance between an experience and facts, because I need to have grades, after all.
Wesch's discussion about "some students are just not cut out for school" is one that I have heard before. I LOVE how he switches it around with the word learning. Of course all students are capable of learning. The level of learning may be different, but the reality is that they are all capable. I have heard teachers say negative things about students and their success in school, and about how not everyone is "good at school". I agree. Not everyone is good at rote memorization, and spitting back information on tests that have no relevance to their everyday life. It saddens me that teachers are the ones that say things like students not being cut out for school. Dalton Sherman is a truly inspiring young man who I think all teachers should watch. I do truly believe that if a teacher does not believe in their students then they should not be a teacher. Their calling is somewhere else. 
Questions, questions, questions. Wesch's discussion about the correct type of questioning connects very closely to our discussion in class last week. Dr. Bogad talked about students asking questions during class and then responding to them with a question. I think it takes a real vulnerability on the part of the teacher to be able to do this. In my first few years of teaching it was not easy for me to admit that I did not know all the answers to every question a student may ask, but now, a few years in I love to look up the answers that I may not know the answer to alongside my students. Wesch says "the only answer to the best questions is another good question", exactly what Dr. Bogad said in class last week, and I think that is so true. Wesch also says " the best questions send students on rich and meaningful lifelong quests, question after question, after question". If we are truly trying to create lifelong learners, this quote will be especially true in our teaching. How we get that to actually happen, I think has to do with what we are teaching students. It points to the heart of what I am trying to get my students  to do as a result of my class. I tell my kids all the time that I am not just teaching information, that I am teaching life.  They laugh, but in reality, I am trying to make the things that we do and talk about relevant to their lives. The video that I linked to the word 'relevant' is all about just hat, how do we make learning relevant to our students, not now but also in the future. It talks about creativity and the need for it. It reminded me of Finn, and his mention of the lack of creativity in most schools and curriculum. How did our education system become one where being able to just spit back information meant that you are smart? The information that you are spitting back is someone else's' ideas and discoveries. Wouldn't it make more sense for the definition of 'smart' to be having an original or creative thought of your own??
Wesch talks about test taking and how students just want to "know what is on the test". I find this to be especially true of my honors level students. They are just looking for the information to get the good grades and move on. It really plagues the question of if they are actually learning anything or is the information gone once they put the answer down on the test. I guess that idea leads to the discussion of what is true knowledge. Is true knowledge rote memorization, or is true knowledge being able to make conclusions based on information. 
Wesch goes on to talk about the learning environment of students. He quotes authors Postman and Weingartner who say "the environment of learning is more important than the content (the message) and therefore  teachers should begin paying more attention to the learning environment they help to create". YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! That is the exact reason why I spend the beginning of the school year creating a classroom environment where students feel welcomed, and comfortable to speak. A place where each of their voices is heard, and a place that they feel they belong. I wish that more of my colleagues felt the same way. So many of them do not create a classroom environment that is student-centered. They create a classroom where they are the star of the show and any interruption of the "show" is not tolerated. My classroom is not about me, it is about my kids. I can relate to Wesch when he said that the janitorial staff would ask what is happening in his classroom. I, too, have had the janitorial staff ask me what the heck is happening in my classroom that things are always moved around. Other teachers have asked about the movement in my classroom. Why are the kids always up and moving around, and oh goodness why do they hear us laughing??? I often find that the most challenging part of my job is not my students, but the other adults that work in the building. 
The globalization of everything is an idea that I talk about a lot with my kids. Teenagers are naturally self-centered, and its part of my job, I think, to show them how they are part of a big picture. not to discredit their little pictures, but to show how all those little pictures fit together to make a really great big picture. Wesch says "when students recognize their own importance in helping to shape the future of this increasingly global, interconnected society, the significance problem fades away". This is so true. Make knowledge something that can actually be used. The dates that the original colonies were formed is not going to help students in the real world, but being able to think critically about the world around them and challenge that world will.
Sherry Turkle and her article, "The Flight from Conversation" is an article in large part about me.  Or at least I felt like it was. I have mastered the looking at someone in a conversation while texting someone else. I first got a cell phone when I was a sophomore in high school. I had just gotten my license, and it was a "safety" thing to have with me in case of emergency. I can honestly say that from that time on, I have become a less effective communicator with my peers. Texting, face-booking, and everything else has made it possible for me to not have to have conversations with people...even with my own family members. I have found that it is easier to just text someone rather than have a full on conversation with them. Maybe this is because I am introverted and the barrier of the phone helps me to have time to respond instead of the instant response needed from a face to face conversation. I have heard students say that they can shape who they want to be with their online profiles, and tweets, that the way the world sees them and the way that they actually are can be two different things.
Turkle writes "we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection". Self-reflection takes time, and time is something that people seem to never have enough of. When I ask students to "disconnect" and take a few minutes for reflection they become uncomfortable in the silence...they do not know how to handle the free time to be with themselves and their thoughts. 
I can also relate and connect with Turkle when she writes "When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device". I am guilty of this, especially in the car. I do not know how to just do nothing. Either do my students. This translates into a very active classroom. I always say to my kids, if I am bored, then I know for sure that you are bored too. While I am guilty of most of what the article says, I also know and can relate to the value of a good conversation. "Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another". Beautifully put Turkle We need to allow ourselves to be vlunerable, to make mistakes, and to be more than someone behind a computer pr phone screen. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Literacy with attitude...

"Literacy with an Attitude" by Patrick Finn is an account of the education system here in America, and how it differs based on socio-economic status. It is also an account of challenging the status quo, making education real for students, and having fun in the process. In the first part of the reading, Finn writes about the inequalities in what and how students are being taught. "People can become conscious of injustice and inequity, and through disciplined, focused, and strategic action, they can bring about change". This disciplined, focused, strategic action has to, I think, start in our classrooms.  Where we highlight the injustices and inequities and do not let students think that this is "just the way that it is". I am currently at a conference in Baltimore, and a few experiences that I had today really rang true to Finn's writing. For example, a teacher at a pretty wealthy school was speaking of the number of AP classes that are available to her students. She was saying how they can start to take them as sophomores, and can take up to 5 of them as seniors, and how because of this they are stressed out with their workload. I immediately thought of my school and the number of AP classes that we offer, which does not even compare to the other school. It lead me to think, is it because my students are not from the upper-middle class? Is it because my school does not think that they would need access to that many upper level classes? What are the determining factors in that decision? I also immediately thought about the things that are stressing out my students. For most, it is not school related. They are stressed about their home life. Where are they sleeping that night? Is there going to be dinner? Will mom have another new boyfriend over the house? Why does my mom keep telling me to act like a man, when I have not had a good man in my life? It really is interesting to me the different struggles that our students are facing and where those struggles stem from. Does my school not offer more AP classes because my students don't want to take them, or because somewhere is this idea that they can't handle them among the other things they are dealing with?
What are we working to prepare our students for? Are we forcing them into a mold based on their economic status?  Finn made me take a look at my own teaching. Am I, as he says, "schooling these children, not to take charge of their lives, but to take orders"? Some of the structure of school does indeed lead kids to take orders, but I think that is part of life in the real world. There is always someone in charge, an authority. That does not mean, however, that students in our classrooms should be taught to just spit back facts and "tell me what I want to hear". I find that more and more students are asking me "to just tell them whats on the test" so that they know exactly what to study, instead of being able to draw conclusions on their own. In so many ways, creativity is being taken out of schools. I know that last week Mary linked a Ken Robinson video in her blog about creativity in education, and I have used that video with graduating seniors to see if they agree with Robinson or not. It is sad that they agree that most of their creativity is gone as a result of their education. At this conference, the keynote asked us to think about the "seeds" that we are sowing in our students and to list the top ten. What are the top ten things that are most important to me that I want my students to walk out and have experienced/learned? Is the content really the important part, or is it more important that my students felt respected, that they know that someone cares about them? Finn would say that many schools would completely reject anything not content driven, and how can they not, because they are driven by state tests. Unfortunately there is no section of the test that asks about life experience, and how students learn to respect each other, or about the time they finally felt that their voice was heard. I feel lucky that I have so much wiggle room in my curriculum that it was fine for me for example, to take a whole class period and discuss the N word, other negative slang words and their implications and how its disrespectful to speak to each other in that way. Will I ever test on that? No, but was it a valuable lesson, nonetheless? I think, yes. I try and make real world connections with my students everyday. I think this is important teaching Theology because they do not all believe in the faith that I am teaching them about.
I love so much of what Finn writes about empowering our students to rise above the lot they have been given. Society, and people who are not in the classroom teaching are afraid of what would happen if there were people rising up from the bottom. Finn writes "What would happen if working-class students had political motives for acquiring literacy"?It is my job, I believe, to teach students to have motives, and not settle.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Empowering the future...

"Empowering Education" written by Ira Shore discusses the idea that the classroom is a place where students learn many of the social cues or responsibilities that will be expected of them as a successful member of society in the future. Shore points out how many of the people that are in positions to make decisions for the masses are people that are not directly related to that field. For example, how "hospitals are governed by appointed bureaucrats, not by delegates accountable for the clientele." The people making decisions are not the people that are in the "trenches" and who see the actual people that their decisions affect. This idea directly relates to a conversation that we had in class last week about the commissioner of education. The people that are devising all of these evaluations and tests for our students are not the same people that are in the classroom with them everyday, dealing with all of their issues, either emotional, academic, or anything else and still trying to teach them and get them to perform up to a certain standard.
I love so much of what Shore writes regarding empowering a classroom. "Empowerment as I describe it here is not individualistic. The empowering class does not teach students to seek self-centered gain while ignoring public welfare." The 'me, me, me' attitude is everywhere in our classrooms. This is because a lot of students feel the need to compete with their classmates and be the 'best at school', at least that is my experience at my school. I think encouraging students to examine how their experiences relates to academic knowledge is so key to true education. When information is relatable to everyday life and experiences that students have already had, then they do not have to form new connections in their minds, they can use things that are already there. This is very important in my classroom because not everyone believes the same thing. When I am teaching something based in the Catholic faith specifically I ask students to give me similar examples in their own faiths, or something that they can relate to.
I thought it was fascinating when Shore spoke about how students can become 'enslaved' in education. How when they stop asking questions, and participating and just taking everything as it is presented that they become slaves to their own education. Ken Robinson talks about how education can be like a Death Valley, killing our kids creativity and the things that it takes for them to flourish.
Shore's explanation of student participation and positive affects rang so true to me this past week. It has become more and more apparent lately that the commitment level of teachers affects the commitment level of students. If a teacher is only there for a paycheck it rings through loud and clear in their teaching and interaction with students. We had an assembly Friday and many teachers thought that it would be ok not to show up at the assembly. While this may not seem like a big deal, it shows the kids that these all school activities are not important to them, and can just be blown off. This bad example to the kids can translate into them not taking things seriously either. I feel like it is a slippery slope.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Saw this video today and it really warmed my heart and made me smile. This is what being a great teacher is all about. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"When Are You Coming to Visit?" by Elizabeth Schlessman

"When Are You Coming to Visit?" by Elizabeth Schlessman was in Rethinking Schools from the Winter of 2012-2013 issue. The article speaks about a teacher who took on the heavy task of conducting home visits with her students. The visits are short, 10-15 minutes, and are meant to make the family feel comfortable, and for the teacher to learn something about the student and their home life. Through her visits, Schlessman learned more than she could have ever learned about her students from just classroom interaction. This was especially important for her and her interactions with students because many of them were bilingual, or in some cases even tri-lingual. She also got to have great interactions with parents, which sometimes never happens. Or if it does, can often be in a negative light. For me, parent-teacher conferences are a source of anxiety, rather than a time to form relationships with parents. 

"Social justice curriculum is grounded in students' lives. Yet what are our students lives? How do we know them? How can we push beyond our own unspoken norms and assumptions-for me, white and middle class-to see and listen and learn and create space to understand the lives of students?" This quote, I think, ties into exactly what we have been talking about in class for the last few weeks. If we, as educators, can truly see our students, all facets of them, then I think we will be able to truly teach them as whole individuals, and not just as a student in my class, because they are so much more than that. I try and see my students outside of the classroom as much as possible. I am constantly going to games, and events after school so that I can see them in other places other than the desk in front of me. I also realize that this is easier for me because I do not have a family of my own to take care of yet. I do not have to rush home and make dinner, or pick up someone from a bus stop. I can only imagine how difficult it is to attend extracurriculars for the students that you teach during the day and then also take care of biological children. 

Schlessman goes on to talk about how interactions with families are often agenda driven. She writes, "Whether families come to school for a game night, a young authors celebration, or 10-minute conference slots, school-based family interactions are filled with agendas, information, and activities." The reasoning for home visits would be to go against this notion of agenda driven interactions. The San Juan Unified School District has begun to do home visits, and have found that the relationships formed between parents and teachers are priceless. They allow students to feel comfortable in their own homes, and allow for personal dialogue between teachers and parents. 

I wish that there was an opportunity for me to visit the homes of my students. At the high school level, I feel as though this could be impossible. I simply have too many students. But, this is when parental involvement starts to wain because they feel like students should be responsible for their own work.Also, where would this fit into the busy lives of other teachers? Many teachers are already stretched to the brim. Schlessman says at the end of her article that "Home visits taught me humility. They taught me to wonder." I think parental involvement is really the key to many of our students success. There is so much research to support this idea. The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education is an organization that is working to promote just that. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Time to take off the sunglasses...

Armstrong and Wildman have much to say about color blindness and color insight and a quote that resonated with me is "Society cannot battle a phantom that it cannot recognize by name."(67) I feel like too often we try and sweep certain issues "under the rug" because they make us uncomfortable or we do not know how to respond to them in a 'politically correct manner'. This way of dealing with issues is not helpful to us or our students. I spent a little bit of time reflecting on colorblidness, and how limiting it must be to not see color. So much of what I think is beautiful in the world is color filled, so why would a different attitude be adopted for my outlook of people? Trying to take race out of everything makes the world bland. So much of our richness as a country and society is based around our differneces and embracing them. If we aim to take color out of the world then we will end up with a society of robots. Cookie-cutter adults who have trouble thinking for themselves, and acting like themselves because they have been told what is "right" their whole lives. I think Armstrong and Wildman give us as educators practical strategies for activities with our students. "No person is purely privileged or unprivileged; we are privileged in respect to some categories and not privileged in respect to others."(71) This is a statement that I have been thinking about since our first week of class. It has been unsettleing to me to think that just because I am a white "I have it easier" than someone who is not white. I like the image of the koosh ball as a center object with all things that come out from that center to make it work and look as it does. The pieces of the ball are different, but without them the koosh is not anything out of the ordinary, but rather just an ordinary ball. I feel like I am not making any new observations or thoughts as a result of this reading. I feel like the discussion is very similar to that of Delpit, maybe I am missing the mark...I can't wait to hear thoughts in class tonight.

Monday, September 16, 2013

They are my kids too...

The book "Other People's Children" by Lisa Delpit raises an interesting arguement that we as educators may not have been atuned to before reading this selection. Delpit writes about the "silenced dialogue" and the power that language has over our students. I have to admit that I read this same article when I was an undergraduate and at the time felt no real connection to the material. But now, after having been teaching for a few years, my feelings are very different. Right off the bat, the wording of other people's children put me on guard. When I think of my students I do not think of them as someone else's child, I think of them as my own child. I try to treat them all as my children. Reflecting on and thinking about dialogue in my classroom, it is a place where I try to make everyone have a voice. I was shocked by the many student reflections in the article about not being heard. It made me wonder if my students feel that way too. Am I hearing their real voices? Or am I hearing the voice that they have been taught to share? I love the explanation of ethnographic analysis, the giving voice to alternate worldviews. This I think is crucial in the classroom. Listening to the experiences of different cultures and ways of life enrich my classroom tremendously. Yes, I teach Catholicism, but hearing about the religious experiences of my students who are not Catholic make my class so much more interesting and full. The five aspects of power were interesting to me for a few reasons. I want to talk about a few of them. "There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a "culture of power."(25) This is a reality of the society and world that we live in. I understand that the culture of power may not be the culture that our students are accustomed to, but I would argue that if we do not teach them within the constrains of this culture of power than we are doing them a disservice. We are not preparing them for success after they leave our classrooms. If my students lived in the bubble of my classroom for the rest of their lives and could be successful without every leaving my room, then yes I would say that I could teach to them in the culture that they were accustomed to. But because that is not reality if I do not speak to them in the proper manner, or expect them to speak in that way, I feel as though I would be setting them up to fail in a situation in the world outside of school. Delpit speaks about this when talking about the Native American student and her writing.She writes that "to bring this student into the program and pass ehr through without attending to obvious deficits in the codes needed for her to function effectively as a teacher is equally criminal"(38) So where is the line? How do we gauge between allowing our students to speak/write/communicate in the way that they are most comfortable with and teaching them the "proper" way to speak/write/communicate? The next aspect, "The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power" (25). While I agree with this statement, I find it interesting that Delpit speaks about middle class children and the structure of teaching geared toward them. I would argue that if the middle class is shrinking then they are no longer the majority-so shouldn't the structure change to reflect that? "Teachers do students no service to suggest, even implicitly that "product" is not important. In this country, students will be judged on their product regardless of the process they utilized to achieve it" (31). This statement spoke to me as a result of our conversation about SCWAAMP. Being an able-bodied member of society, one that can contribute goods and be productive is important to the culture of power. Thinking about this culture speak in language makes me think that instead of making the classroom more inclusive of difference it just sets up an even bigger segregation or divide. I also feel like it could be insulting to a student to speak to them in the same manner as say a parent. I feel like acting in this way could just set up more stereotypes toward a certain culture or race. In my reading, I subscribe to a magazine called "Teaching Tolerance". They also run a website version of the magazine. In the issue for this month, there is an article called "Is My School Racist" Intereseting read, along with the other resources on the website.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Round and round the wheel we go...

In his book, Allan Johnson discusses the issues that surround us as a society regarding race, class, sex, age and other prejudices. He states that in order for society to rectify the issues that plague us we need to recognize that they do in fact exist. This is the crucial first step in working toward change. If we are stuck in the mindset that racism is no longer prevalent in society because slavery no longer exists in our country then we are stuck in a place where there is no room for change or growth.  Johnson writes about different types of privileges that we have simply because of our state of being. He gives numerous examples of this and how we can see it happening in our society on a daily basis. Things such as whites not beings arrested as often as people different races, and even if they are arrested, often not convicted when brought to trial.

I would argue that Johnson's main point for his book surrounds working toward recognizing inequalities that maybe we would not recognize normally because we are so used to seeing them. I am not sure if Johnson's repetitiveness in stating that he is a heterosexual white privileged male was meant to make me feel uncomfortable or not, but after awhile it did. I am not used to directly labeling myself and others in that way...or maybe I do but do not state it out loud and in context of conversations. Maybe that was his have us recognize that we do label like this all the time, just quietly or to ourselves and to make us uncomfortable with that notion. 

I spent some time talking with my students about racism in society today. I asked them if they thought it was the most prevalent prejudice that we are facing today, or if it was something else. Some of them said that racism was still a huge prejudice today, and others interestingly enough said that they are not racist at all, but then followed up their thoughts with a stereotype of a certain race. One of my students said it well when he said, "issues of race are not black and white anymore, but really shades of gray". I thought this was interesting, so I had him explain his thoughts. He went on to talk about how so many jokes and slang revolve around racist comments that they are not seen as very offensive anymore, as just jokes...but that deep down at the heart of it he knows that they are wrong. 

I loved when Johnson said "It doesn't seem unreasonable to imagine a school or workplace, for example, where all kinds of people feel comfortable showing up, secure in the knowledge that they have a place they don't have to defend every time they turn around, where they're encouraged to do their best, and valued for it."(7) This is the type of classroom environment that I try and create in my classroom. A place where every student has a voice, and is not afraid to let their voice be heard and not afraid to make a mistake. He is rights, it does not seem then why does it seem so hard for society as a whole to get this right? It just brings me back to the Golden Rule. Religious or not, treating people the way you want to be treated can translate in every language, culture, and way of life. 

" A trouble we can't talk about is a trouble we can't do anything about"(13) Johnson is right, but if we do not have difficult conversations with the students in front of us, and their parents are not having them either, then who is? I understand all about curriculum and standards, and test scores, and that is all great, but if we do not have conversations with our students about real life, and the real world and their actions in it, then how can we expect them to live in it properly. I think sometimes it is assumed that parents are playing a bigger role in the lives of their kids than they actually are. Difficult conversations are just as relevant as difficult math problems. 

"Privilege has become one of those loaded words we need to reclaim so that we can use it to name and illuminate the truth".(23) Johnson is right when he writes about privilege being a word that we shy away from because we are afraid to sound exclusive. Being entitled to something has gives a certain level of prestige or power. Also, words that sometimes are used in a negative light or way. 

I struggle with labels, even though I know they are a very real part of life. Just because I am a white woman does not mean that my life has been full of these great entitlements and privileges. But, not recognizing that they are there would be ignorance. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013



My name is Allison Amodie, and I teach at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket. I decided to do my masters in ASTL because the program seems very interesting and accessible to me while being a teacher. In my spare time (ha! what is spare time?) I play softball, read, work part time at WEEI sports radio, crochet, and plan and attend many extra curricular events at Saints.