Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Education is Politics -Connections

Ira Shor questions the kind of education we have versus the one we need. He states that “people are born learners. Education can either develop or stifle their inclination to ask why and to learn.”(Pg 12) Therefore, teachers should encourage students to question, and “arise children curiosity” to make them think about school and their own learning process. He wants students to be active, thoughtful, and participating in their own education with a critical attitude. This line of thinking reminds me of August’s monologicality and dialogicality theory. She defends that educators should avoid the monological practice, which is very common, that “pulls all voices to the normative socio-political center, promoting uniformity among utterances” (pg.7). Instead, teachers should strive to encourage dialogicality that promotes diversity among utterances, like Zeke, the kindergarten teacher in her research, does. In this perspective, both agree that in order to not support or mere reproduce the dominant ideology in society, the curriculum cannot be neutral- “all forms of education are political…”Karp, also defends this idea explaining that “…imposed reforms have no record of success as school improvement strategies and in fact are not educational strategies at all, but political strategies designed to bring market reform to public education.”(Pg.6)

 I also related this author to Delpit that argues, “…I do not believe that we should teach students to passively adopt an alternate code. They must be encouraged to understand the value of the code they already possess as well as to understand the power realities in this country.”(Pg. 40)This statement all along aligns with Shor’s ideas that students need to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills to understand their reality and to transform the society they live in, that is not fix, but changeable. Also, following a related though is Johnson that believes in “changing how we think so we can change how we act, and by changing how we participate in the world, become part of the complex dynamic through which the world itself will change.”(Pg. VIII). Johnson wants to change how people think about issues of difference and privilege, by talking and naming this issues, which seems the same thing that Zeke, cleverly, tries to do with his kindergarten class, in August’s article: Room for One Another. In addition, Meyer says that “…the way that teachers respond to diversity could assist educators to create more inclusive school climates” (Pg. 2).  Shor defends that education for empowerment has to be codeveloped by students, led by a critical and democratic teacher. This philosophy takes me back to what Karp says about “teachers being the key to implementing the changes….and finding ways to promote a kind of collaborative partnership…” (Pg 6)
 Shor seems to answer Colier’s question: “How do we prepare students to face this complicated world we have created and yet allow them to retain their love for learning?” by  suggesting to listening to students to learn about key issues in the community, dialoguing on these themes and figuring out ways to act on problems discussed and build critical curricula: posing problems rather than giving answers through a participatory process: “ to discover the limits and resources for changing self and society”(pg.51)
 Empowering Education

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making Room for One Another -Quotes

 Gerri August, Rhode Island College Professor

In This study, Gerri August analyses a kindergarten classroom in which the “teacher’s practice aligns with the principles of democratic, transformative pedagogy” (August, pg. 4). She also examines the ways children interact with each other, and she focuses on one student, Cody, from a non-dominant family structure. During her observation, she noticed that Cody was resistant to share family stories, which at first made August interpret it as insecurity about Cody’s family structure, but, discovering at the end that the child was more insecure about being adopted. “Making Room for One Another” is basically about the analysis of Cody’s experience, but also it reveals how Zeke (the kindergarten teacher) created a democratic educational environment in which broad issues of difference were recognized and honored.
1-       “Children whose discourse patterns match those of the dominant culture, for example, seem to enjoy longer turns and more meaningful interaction with the teacher.” This statement reminds me of Delpit and Johnson when they defend that the successful structure is the one designed for the children of those that are part of culture of power. August say that “… these children see themselves reflected in the explicit and implicit curriculum…”.  On the other hand, a child with a different family structure rarely is represented in books, school’s curriculum, etc, as would  agree Meyer, as well.
2-      “How might a democratic, transformative educator respond to sociocultural differences that emerge in the classroom? How might that educator create constrains and possibilities that encourage students to recognize and appreciate difference? How might a child who represents a marginalized community respond to such interventions?” I found these questions so strong and deep -they are simple questions that demand deep reflection of our own practice, values and bias as educators to respond them and to better guide the students in class to deal with certain subjects. According to August, the kindergarten classroom that she observed “….although devoid of child-initiated opportunities to explore non-dominant family configurations, lent itself to an analysis of democratic pedagogical practice related to broader issues of difference and otherization.”(pg.3) On my understanding, August looks for a balance between individual and institution to deal with the inequity of the difference, but she seems to lean more towards the individual perspective to solve this issue: “if educators understand that society is in the process of being both preserved and transformed by our collective activities, then we will see our classrooms as activity systems that have both roots and wings.” (Pg. 7). This idea is reaffirmed on page 9: “Educators who are alarmed by this censorship need to find effective ways to develop empathic learners who are “ready to learn” the value of difference.
3-      “The community needed to adjust, to make room for a newcomer…” According to August, and I agree, openness is what we all need to do to accept and recognize the difference. As teachers, language constitutes a power tool that we have to teach our students to use -we must “intervene in class events to alter their course.”August says that this power is vital to democratic life, but, normally, it is not equally distributed among students and teachers. We all need to learn to appreciate the diversity and practice solidarity.
Along the article, August shows through many examples, how the kindergarten teacher demonstrated, in the moment of teaching, the value of dialogicality.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teaching Multilingual Children -Extended comments

      Extended Comments from Brigette's blog on Rodriguez and Collier

In Brigette’s blog she talks about the article from Virginia collierTeaching Multilingual Children, and the article from Richard Rodriguez, Aria. She points out how both discuss the issue of bilingual education, but stressing different perspectives: Rodriguez describes a very personal side of it- his one feeling with the experience of learning a new language with all the bumps and struggles that it brings along in one’s life. In his case, the process of becoming a “public success” it was very sad, scary and confusing as he became distant from his loved ones while he acquired a new language; he referred to this painful process as “loss of closeness”. He achieved his public individuality and moved away from the disadvantage child position he was in before, as he overcame the silent period and started to assimilate into public society, but something was missing and was sadly broken: his  private individuality, and the ties with his family and all the security that, at the time, it meant . Losing his essential identity shook up his whole life, the roles and the way he perceived his family. Rodriguez’s article make me think about what Bonny Norton referrers  to as subtractive bilingualism; Rodriguez learned English at the cost of losing his mother tongue, instead of developing his second language with no or little lost of his first language (additive bilingualism). English language learners need to adapt to the new culture without losing their identity or their mother tongue.

Brigette also comments on Collier’s article in which she examines the challenges bilingual teachers face. They should appreciate and validate all the background knowledge that ESL students bring to class. Brigette points out in her blog; the seven guidelines that Collier offers to help teachers better understand how to teach ESL students, effectively.   As a fourth language speaker myself, I totally agree with Collier when she says not to treat the ELL as deficient or having deficiencies: teachers need to understand what the process they are going through, be aware of the emotional and social factors which affect L2 learners, and consider all the variables that affect their learning process, as well-teachers need to become knowledgeable and be well qualified to teach ESL to be academically proficient-it is not enough to just speak English to teach English-
I agree with Brigette, that students need to be taught English to succeed in the American society, but as Delpit would agree, many children are learning English and forgetting their native language because it is the language of the “culture of power”.  Brigette connected Delpit and Collier, that seem to agree that “teacher should value and appreciate students’ own language and culture, and also agrees that students should be taught the values of the “culture of power” in order to be successful in society today.”  She also connected Collier with Finn, both see literacy as power: “…both feel as though the students not only need to be shown the importance of literacy, but need to be taught it in an empowering way, so they can achieve powerful literacy.” (Brigette, blog)

Virginia Collier                         Richard Rodriguez

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gendered harrassment in secundary schools: Understanding teachers interventions-Hyperlinks

In this article, Meyer presents a study of teachers’ perception of and responses to incidents of gendered harassment in Canadian secondary schools. Meyer examines why teachers fail to respond effectively, or at all, to gendered harassment, and she looks at the interaction of external and internal factors, and how they relate to teachers’ responses or lack of responses to gendered harassment. External factors,( formal and informal: institutional and social), and internal factors.
It is essential that educators and everyone takes responsibility to stop bullying and sexual harrassment, "quid pro quo" ("this for that)  in schools.

Harassment in schools is present, and teachers need the support of administrators to  intervene and stop it. Although, according to Meyer, "teachers are not trusting their administrators to support their actions and the feeling that they have to handle most non-violent discipline issues alone." Teachers feel that with large classes and heavy work load demand are obstacles that prevent them from acting consistently to many forms of harassment or even worst, ignore certain behaviors-which can have serious consequences.

Being aware of what's going on in your school, it is a powerful tool to  deal with many kinds of harrassment.

Homophobic harassment in schools":...I had to push for action when one kid called another kid 'faggot'."

Transgender harrassment it's another strong issue in our society that people should be aware of and educated about it.

It is crucial that parents and teachers act -fight back-to protect their kids, in order to avoid tragedies due to discrimination of all kinds. Actions, need to extent  to the whole school, not only particular students, to improve students' safety and school climate.

Something needs to be done to stop harrassment at schools. Kids need to know that there is help and support out there, they just have to seek for it with the guidance of teachers and parents-We all need to take actions, consistently, and do something to prevent harrasmment and its tragic consequences.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools, and What Can We Do About It? -Questions-

Stan Karp is concerned with the school reform and how the political process is shaping it, while many people are bashing teachers and public schools. According to Karp, teachers count a lot for students’ success, but also do the reality that these students and teachers are dealing with. So the teachers are not the only ones to blame- probably not the ones. Schools need to respond effectively to the communities they serve, but alone they cannot make up for the inequality and poverty that surrounds them; in line with Karp, it has become an excuse to impose  failing reforms that are not educational but political strategies to bring market reform to public education.  He believes that we need to recover our schools and our public policy-making, in order to have some control, at least, over our economic and social future: not only the schools need to be fixed, but the democracy, as well. “… as advocates and activists for social justice, depends in part on our ability to re-invent and articulate this missing equity agenda and to build a reform movement that can provide effective, credible, democratic alternatives to the strategies that are currently being imposed from above.”(Pg. 12)
Karp really wants to take the burden off the educators’ shoulders, as he points his finger to the institution, the government: the democracy we live in. His reflections made me think of these questions:
1-      It is a fact that politicians are cutting schools funding. How can educators sustain a good education to students? What can they do, creatively, to still give the students a decent education? Or can’t they? Does good education depend solely on funding?
2-      What are the roles of the teachers in the school reform, especially, when they are the ones to blame for the students failing and low test scores? What are the resources that teachers are being given, in order to improve the test scores? Why aren’t the evaluations made to support teachers in classroom, and to promote collaboration with colleagues and school-based instructional leaders and include parents and students, as Karp says to be effective?
3-      How do you envision your future practice as an educator, when the government is spending so much money on standardized tests to track academic achievement gaps? “Race over the Cliff” (Race to the top policy) how efficient has it been? Why and to whom these tests are so important, seemingly that high test scores are are not synonymous of high academic achievement? Do you think that these tests are being used to manipulate private interest, as they become an obstacle to an effective public service?
4-      As a professional, how do you feel when teachers are made “escape goats” of almost every education problem?
5-      What is our voice as professional educators? What can we do to stop people from bashing teachers, if we can do something? Karp talks about test scores being successful a different country-Finland, I don’t know if it would work for USA, because as he says, there is many thinks to take into consideration when thinking schools, especially, the reality that one is living in, so Finland and USA may or may not have a different circumstance… what do you think? Why are the test scores so successful over there, and not here?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Still Separate, Still Unequal (Quotes)

1)      “There is no misery index for the children of apartheid education.”
With this quote Kozol means that minority kids are being taught most of the time by white teachers with little or no experience dealing with children of inner-city. According to him, the only way to find out what “those kids” (this is, usually, how the minority kids are referred to) really need is to “breathe the air the children breathe in the school” to find out how their lives are, and what they need. Many teachers grew up in a completely different environment, and realistically, have no idea of the kind of life and the vision of life these kids have.
 Kozol illustrates a reality about the unequal attention given to urban and suburban schools. In the text, “Still Separate, Still Unequal”, he shows that public schools are still separate and offering an unequal education and opportunities for African Americans and Hispanics. Normally, suburban schools, primarily made up of white students, are given a far superior education than urban schools, which are primarily made up of Hispanics and black people. Kozol affirms that even though the law prohibits discrimination in public schools, many American public schools are still segregated and treated differently; therefore they are not integrated as the law pushed to achieve.
2)      In Kansas city, Missouri, the curriculum addresses the needs of children from diverse backgrounds”
Despite the fact that 99.6% of students were African American, this statement was still published. By point this discrepancy between facts and statements, Kozol wants to point out that certain communities are wrongfully denying the fact that their schools are not integrated. They are using the term “diversity” as a euphemism for racial segregation. Kozol brings out attention to the growing trend of racial segregation within America’s urban and suburban schools. He provides statistics to prove the existence of segregation, e.g.: the great majority of enrollment in most public schools are back or Hispanics, and poor: 79% in Chicago, 94% in Washington, D.C., 82% in Saint Louis and 84% in Los Angeles, just to name a few. He also strengthens this claim by describing astonishing differences in urban-suburban school conditions; discrepancies in teachers’ salary; disparity in funding from federal and state governments, all in wealthy-white people’s favor.
3)”If it takes people marching in the streets and other forms of adamant disruption of the governing civilities, if it takes more than litigation, more than legislation, and much more than resolutions introduced by members of Congress, these are prices we should be prepared to pay.”
With this quote, he means that we all, parents, educators, administrators, citizens need to act to stop and transform the apartheid education, in order to give all students a fair chance to succeed, otherwise it will lead us further in a very dangerous direction of inequity, inequality, and deeper resegregation.  Kozol doesn’t blame the parents; seemingly that they most likely had the same segregated education thirty or forty years ago, but he points his finger to the legislatures, and people in power that can do something to better fund the schools-and do nothing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Delpit- Talking Points: The silent Dialogue from Other People's children


   In silenced dialogue, Delpit examines the issue of race in schools and cultural clashes in the classroom. Lisa Delpit points that most of the problems attributed to children of color are the result of miscommunication across different cultures, and not really over instructional methodology. As schools and the minority students struggle with the  imbalance  of power that leads to the dilemma as to whose voices are heard in our society  and  discusses how students (especially minority) are not provided with valuable education opportunities that stimulates the individual’s analytical and creativity skills. She addresses concerns about “skills” versus “process” approaches to writing instructions, and how they affect students who do not belong to “the culture of power”:  inequality that teachers and students find in the school community because of their culture background, and capital.  Wealthier, and white kids are provided better educational opportunities than low-income, and black students- the curriculum restricts them from valuable learning tools- because the rules of power are enforced and hard to detect, and are so deeply ingrained into our culture and education system.
She emphasizes that students can expand their creativity through writing in a meaningful context as they develop new writing skills, and encourages truly skilled teachers-those with good intentions to admit their role as power brokers, to use both “skills” and “process” approach, reexamine their instructional techniques, to see their students  as unique, multi-dimensional individuals  and embrace the different cultures, and ethnic identities brought to classroom which in turn guides students to establish their own independence and let their opinions be regarded in society because the prejudice that teachers place on the cultural difference has tremendous impact on school community and student’s performance within the environment, as well.
When educators of color who are familiar with these students’ culture try to suggest alternative methods for teaching, they are silenced. When they refuse to take part in the debate because nobody listens, their silence is misinterpreted as acquiescence. So, standards to suit American middle class children continue to be used to evaluate children of color, to whom these systems are foreign. Delpit is interested in promoting the kind of education that would have a transformative effect on individuals and society. She believes that nothing will be gained in the educational system if people continue to shut out people who have different beliefs and interpretations from their own.
I agree that the absence of voice in any society is a big problem, and at times they are not heard because their thinking or beliefs differ from the majority dominant. Often educators don’t want to change or be irreverent in order to survive, be accepted and succeed in the existent society, which is predominant white and have deemed to standard all its rules. Besides, people are afraid of difference and don’t know how to cope and react to it. As in black-and-white friction it can mean giving up to their culture and identification. Furthermore, understanding that there are sensible reasons why people act and hold the beliefs that they do is necessary.
Delpit, feels that a sense of flexibility will benefit everyone and give to all members in society, regardless of any racial factors, a more balanced voice.