Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Buidling bridges or creating gaps?

Chapter seven of Nakkula discusses racial identity development, the labels that are routinely placed upon us and students, and how to break away from the stereotypical teaching of racial identity. I have to admit that before I started this graduate program I was very insecure with talking about race with my students. I consider my school to be racially and culturally diverse, and being a young, white, woman, I was unsure how to approach race and to have meaningful and respectful conversations about it. By learning about things like SCWAAMP, color-blindness, and the theories in Nakkula, I feel more prepared and able to discuss racial identity with my students. I have often thought of Nakkula as a book that addresses all the puzzle pieces that make up the students in front of us, and again I believe that this chapter addresses one of the pieces to that complete puzzle.

While reading this chapter, I can't help but think of a show that I have recently seen advertised on ABC. The show, "Black-ish" is about a family that lives in the suburbs and how they adjust to that life. You can watch the trailer here. The problem with this show, is that from what I can tell by the trailer, it does exactly what Nakkula says that we do all the time. "Students and teachers alike are routinely asked to select a specific racial identity when filling out forms and taking standardized tests....inevitably produces numerous quandaries that seldom get the attention they deserve: "My mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is Black-which box do I check?"(121)." The family in the show are trying to figure out which 'box' they are going to check. Some may say that by trying out different things they are figuring out who they are, but I think that they the show as a whole is seriously playing into a stereotype that 'Black people do not live in nice neighborhoods with great jobs, so they don't know how to act when they do.' I found this other video that talks about exactly this idea. Is the show progressive or problematic? This made me think also of when Lupita Nyong'o won an Academy Award. There were so many comments by news anchors, critics, and viewers that said something like "wow, she is really beautiful." The tone was almost as if it was shocking. It really troubles me that there is so much disrespect for other races. I do not think that we should be color-blind, but we really do need to break down the walls that still exist in society around race. Nakkula says on page 124, "regardless of its lack of basis in scientific fact, "race" functions as a segregating marker of power in nearly all societies on earth." There are many that would disagree with this, but I challenge the most skeptical person to take a look at the wage gap that still exists not only in gender, but in race as well.

I think that a lot of time I automatically and unintentionally mix race and ethnicity together. I am now aware that they are different pieces of the puzzle and needed to be treated as such. I came across this great blog that explains racial identity development quickly according to the theory, some of which were mentioned in Nakkula.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Princess in pink...

Chapter six of Nakkula, dealing with gender identity development tugged at a lot of cords in me, both in a positive and negative way. Right from the start Nakkula states on page 100, " other props arguably more influential even than biology, stem from cultural expectations rooted in societal, community, religious, and family values." I think that this is directly tied into what we as a society, community, family, culture value as the roles of each person. The problem that I have with this is that it seems as though the roles and values do not seem to evolve with time. What was valued in the 1920s, 50s, 70s, is not necessarily what is valued today, but I feel as though there are pigeon holes around gender and gender roles that expired decades ago. Nakkula again says this on page 100, when he writes, "we internalize gendered norms for masculinity and femininity that are picked up through family life, in the neighborhood, and throughout the media." I see this reflected so often in the jobs that men and women opt to pursue. I was reminded of it again in an article that I came across about little girls being interested in the tech field. It really boggles my mind that there are still "gendered" jobs. Men that want to become nurses are often made fun of and called names because "that's a woman's job," and women that want to work in construction are often called "butch" or "manly" because they want to work with their hands. I understand that in a different time, specifically war time that men and women had separate jobs, but why is this stereotyping still in effect today? Why does it seem as though we can't get over this hurdle? Why is it still so crazy to some people that I, as a woman, know how to use a power tool? Do our schools support typical gender roles, or do we challenge our students to really pursue their passions and interests regardless of the gendering that is usually in effect?

A few months ago on Facebook I encountered the story of Ryland, and when I read on page 100 in Nakkula, "their roles are so thoroughly scripted that modifying or breaking out of them takes extraordinary acts of insight and courage" and I would add to that quote, "support" I was reminded of Ryland.  Ryland is a transgender child, who would have never been able to accomplish what he has so early without the support of his parents.

I began to get upset when reading on page 103 about the "messages that girls should be supportive and accommodating and that "appropriate" feminine behavior is neither loud nor aggressive." It brought me back to my middle school days. I was a loud and out going middle school student. I was outspoken in class, played basketball with the boys at recess, and was not afraid to say what was on my mind at any time. It was at the end of my 8th grade year that I was told that boys don't want that kind of girl. They are not attracted to the girl that's always "playing with the boys" or the "loudmouth." And so as Nakkula states (103), "rambunctious girls shed their childlike ways in favor of more refined ways of being and becoming-specifically being in a manner that is "becoming" of a lady." And so did I. I started to change the way that I acted, my participation in class, and the activities that I did after school. I started to play on less sports teams, and spend more time at home working on my grades. "To break out of the usual ways of doing things is to let others down. That is the message many adolescent girls hear, whether shouted and demanded explicitly, or whispered and encouraged implicitly"(107). This statement resonated with me as well. I certainly did not want to let my parents down, I wanted them to be proud of me, and so I changed a lot of who I was to fit into that mold. I am curious as to what it is like at an all girls school. I wonder if they are teaching girls to be 'proper' women, or if they are teaching them to push back against the mold. I want to believe that they are teaching women to step out against these things, but I'm not sure. 

So much of this chapter also reminds me of the stages that we talked about previously, specifically moratorium. If we limit the experiences that we allow or want young people to have, or tell them that certain things are not acceptable, then I do not think they will experience all the things they need to in order to truly find themselves. 

My final and favorite part of this chapter is when Nakkula talked about homeplace. I think of what home means to me-home is the place where the real you is supported and validated, a place where you are not afraid to just be you, loose ends and all. On page 108 Nakkula says, "to learn which school spaces adolescents consider homeplaces, one need only locate the teachers'and counselors' rooms where youth gather before school, at lunch, and after school. Youth tend to linger in these places precisely because they feel at home there-at home in a way that accepts them as fully as they're capable of showing up, and sends them out more fully capable of coping with the demands of the day." This is my classroom, and no matter how many negative people try and tell me that they is weird or out of the norm, I know that this is a safespace for my students. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Teaching the whole picture...

The past two days I have been at a meeting talking with teachers and Brothers from Toronto to Michigan, to Washington DC about vocations. Yes, this was a religious conversation about the promotion of vocations to religious life, but I can't help but think of Chapter 4 of Nakkula. Possibility development is something that I think that we may not do enough of in schools. The conversation about goal development is something that I think is truly essential for all students. In an ideal world this would happen with a guidance counselor in a one on one setting, where the counselor sits down with the student and helps them to develop realistic goals, and realistic ways to reach those goals. On page 63, Nakkula writes "high goals must be met by realistic hope-hope cultivated by successive, ongoing experiences of accomplishment." I think this could be tracked specifically in guidance because they are the ones who stick with a student for the years that they are in our school. I think that check points need to be set up for students to make progress toward their goals, to show achievemnet or benchmarks. In each class, I think it would be appropriate to set a list of goals for the class, but individually I think it would be veru difficult to track for each student. Project If that Nakkula talks about on page 66 is a realistic solution to how we could go about this process with students. Nakkula writes, "Project IF was designed explicitly to help middle and high school students build a realistic sense of hope for their futures-hope rooted in the interests, strengths, and skills they already posessed, even though they might not be fully aware of them."  This directly links to the conversations that I have been having at my meeting for the last two days. We need to be forming and talking to students about the whole picture...not just what their favorite subject is in school, and push them toward that path in college. A conversation, or many conversations about vocations would be beneficial for this. I am not talking about vocations in the sense of becoming a religious, but rather, what do you feel like you are being called to be/do? The reality is that beyond the subject that we get the best grades in there is something more that we are being called to do with our life. I think explicit conversations about this needs to be woven in with their goals. I think that schools set out to form students for the future, but they often forget about all parts of the student, only focusing on aquired knowledge.

It's at this point that you may be thinking that I am getting too 'touchy feely," but Nakkula brings me back when he says on page 68, "imagination may fuel the vehicle of creativity and learning, but skill building is required to move the vehicle in the intended direction." I 100% agree with this statement. I can encourage my students to dream big every day until I am blue in the face, but the reality is they need to put in the work as well. Students need to be taught the skills to put their own train in motion. I think this is done most easily by students when they "learn for the love of it." I also think that learning can be more focused and targeted for the individual student. If students are lead to make thoughtful and meaningful goals for their education and life then they should be able to move toward those goals right from the start. I do, however, understand the value of a well-rounded student, but I am not sure I jump on the train that all students MUST learn "xyz." I do know that in order for students to learn they need to feel a connection to the material...that connection does not have to be positive, it can be negative, but it tips them into that disequilibrium, and pushes them out of their safety zone. Nakkula says on page 71, "the more confident and competent we feel, the more likely we are to venture into new learning activities." I am not sure that I agree completely with this statement. I think this is also where we as learners can become stagnant. I know for me as a student, if I am comfortable and confidant in a skill, then I tend to just continue to use that skill over and over when applicable. Venturing into something new is scary, trying out a new skill is scary, especially if I am unsure of how the teacher is going to grade my end result. I know as a learner I have had to push myself to try new things, and not be afraid of not being perfect....not an easy thing to do as an adult, and certainly not an easy thing to do as a teenager.

I think that student engagement in their own learning process is crucial toward their development. Nakkula writes on page 73, "the skills we develop orient us toward the possibilities that are likely to follow. Without the efforts of educators and other adults to encourage their sustained engagement in meaningful and challenging activities, adolescents may allow expediency, peer pressure, or the media to direct their energies, perhaps closing off the high-end skill development that requires sustained commitment and yields the greatest developmental payoff." Again, I think this links back to an education that is tailored to the individual student. To some extent, at my school, we can tailor the education that the student is receiving, but we still have "requirements" that have to be met. Teaching in a private school, I do not have to worry about the 'numbers game' that Nakkula talks about in chapter five. I don't have to worry about standardized test scores, and I wrestle with this being a blessing and a curse. I think more about our school environment, and I am often in conversation with my principal about the culture of our school. On page 83, Nakkula writes, "Sullivan placed a strong emphasis on the school environment as a key contributor to healthy development, particularly for those students coming from difficult home lives." I know that many of  my students do, in fact, come from difficult home lives, and that the school environment is where they find peace. I often wonder if there was a test for school environment, and student environment, how my school, and many other schools would score.