Saturday, February 22, 2014

Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming the LGBT Youth. Connections Piece

While reading Safe Spaces by Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, and Megan S. Kennedy, I found that I agreed with everything they had to say. The main message of this chapter of their book was to show teachers and others that they need to integrate the idea of LGBT youth into not just their curriculum, but their everyday lives. It should be seen as a normal, wonderful thing to students of any sexual preference that LGBT people are a natural part of this world. I loved their idea of "classrooms being seen as "mirrors and windows" for all students-mirrors in which youth see themselves in the curriculum and recognize their place in the group; windows through which youth see beyond themselves to experiences connected with, but not identical to, their own" (88). As crazy as this may sound when you hear this, I was thinking a lot about Rodriguez and Collier after reflecting on Safe Spaces. I thought a lot about their overall messages throughout their stories, and I wanted to talk about them in relation to the LGBT community and Safe Space's idea of integrating positive messages through school curriculum and developing a public vs. private identity in life.

First off, I would like to speak about Rodriguez's message of public and private individualities. Rodriguez stated in Aria that in order to create a public identity that society will approve of, you need to lose your private identity. For Rodriguez, his private identity was his Spanish culture that he embraced at home with his family. His school stated he would not get ahead in their classroom if he only spoke Spanish, so he began becoming an English only speaker. Therefore, he concluded that in order to become a prominent English speaker and develop an individual identity, he needed to stop speaking Spanish as a whole. So, speaking about the topic of LGBT, I feel that this idea of creating a public identity they are proud of is very important to them. Privately, they are confident in what they like, and who they are. But publically, it is not always for them to express exactly who they are; especially in the classroom setting. People, meaning students, teachers, or anyone else, are judgmental. They may only see things "one-way". They may not have the same beliefs or values other people have. So more often times then not, it is hard for students to be open about who they are and what they love. However, Safe Spaces gave plenty of scenarios in classrooms where teachers connected the idea of being LGBT as a normal, great thing to be or to be connected to. The book proved that a public identity can be made if the topic of LGBT is integrated into the everyday lives of a teacher's students. I wish Rodriguez could have seen things this way when he wrote Aria, realizing he could still hold his Spanish heritage close and make it a part of his public individuality.

I also wanted to talk about Collier. Collier believed that as a teacher, you should integrate the fact that students are bilingual into the normal classroom setting. She believed that the only way to teach a student something new is to integrate what they are already comfortable with and used to. I personally think this lesson hold true for the LGBT community, and how it should be seen as a comfortable lesson to speak about in the classroom. (No matter what age the child is). The authors of this book want teachers to be "constructive and instructive instead of destructive and provocative" (99) towards the topic of being LGBT. They want teachers to "publicly commit to creating a classroom climate of inclusivity and respect with the pledged cooperation of all students" (99). I am positive Collier would agree with the authors of Safe Spaces, and their ideas of instituting topics like these in the classroom all the time, for the sake of giving the students the background knowledge they need and should be comfortable with talking about and thinking about.

To speak about in class:
So, I hope my connections to Rodriguez and Collier are much clearer to all of you now; being that their overall message is to develop a public identity and integrate the ideas of individuality into the classroom experience.

Below is a video I found on Youtube of kids reacting to gay marriage proposals. They all have different reactions, and it is great to watch and hear about. They have more knowledge and ideologies than the average adult. (but that is just my personal opinion :)) After they watch these proposals, they are asked many relevant questions about the topic of LGBT. What they have to say is great. They are accepting, they fight for being LGBT and their rights, and they enjoy hearing about what it means to be LGBT. For some of the children, it is their first time seeing this type of love. For others, it is not, and they are completely supportive. It is a great video and completely inspiring!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Sense of Identity: An Arugmental Piece

     This author, Richard Rodriguez, from the reading Aria, argues that when people who are bilingual gain their public identity and acceptance in society due to the fact that they are comfortable with the English language, they lose their private identity as a traditional and family oriented Spanish speaker. As we all got a sneak peek into what Rodriguez's life was like as a child, as he broke down his English language barriers in order to please his teachers in school; I can honestly say I felt for him. I have never ever thought of a bilingual student in this way, that they lose the sense of closeness in their families because as time goes on and they learn more English, they have less to connect with their older relatives about. Rodriguez shows us this first hand. He points out that he always thought that Spanish was indeed a "private language" for him, where only he and his family could communicate and really feel every word they exchanged with each other. But, even as a child, Rodriguez realized that he would not be able to get ahead in his schooling if he did not learn the English language fully and confidently. So, he and his family began to speak English around each other. He explained and made his readers see that as they spoke less and less Spanish together, they lost the true connections they had with each other as a family. Rodriguez makes it feel like this was not just his family, but what commonly happens to other bilingual families when they are trying to allow their children to transition to the English language that is all around them; especially at school. I truly feel for Rodriguez hen he says "Matching the silence I started hearing in public was a new quiet at home" (37). He spoke about how he and his family no longer rushed home after school to talk about their day and be with their parents. He spoke about how dinner became quiet, along with his father, who wasn't always this way. He felt that he could not even develop a normal conversation with his mother; or even refer to his parents by what he would have liked to call them, mama and papa. That is tragic, and Rodriguez knows that by telling his readers this about his life that we will be able to conclude that many other bilingual families can understand and experience what he went through as a child. Rodriguez constantly showed us that even though he learned the English language well, he felt like he completely had to shut out the Spanish language as he knew it. He even says, "Her voice, like so many of the Spanish voice I'd hear in public, recalled the golden age of my youth" (38). The golden age. The time period where he felt like he had a true VOICE. Yes, he can speak fluent English now, but can he fully communicate with his family members in the way he would like to? No. The sense of being and individuality for Rodriguez is completely lost, and that is his main point for writing everything he does.

To speak about in class: Towards the end of this reading, Rodriguez speaks about bilingual educators and their take on the transition bilingual students go through as they become familiarized with English. However, he makes the final statement that "...they do not realize that while one suffers a diminished sense of private identity by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible the achievement of public identity" (39). This is the main message he broadcasted to his readers throughout explaining to us what his childhood was like, which is that although he became accepted in the public eye for speaking and understanding English, he lost the private, comfortable, connected relationship he had with his family because he lost his true love for speaking the Spanish language.

How many English speaking people see it:

How everyone should see it:


Now, this is a short article, but it explains the being bilingual is a BENEFIT to the mind.


Here is another one proving this theory from the NY Times.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"It is impossible to create a model for the good teacher without taking issues of culture and community into account". Quote post

"The teacher's role is to maintain the full attention of the group by continuous questioning, eye contact, finger snaps...and by eliciting choral responses and initiating  some sort of award system" (27). The Distar method. What Alfie Kohn would have approved of in his perfect classroom setting. Yes, these things should be happening. But Lisa Delpit, author of Other People's Children, questions and allows us to think about the cultural barriers that have a tendency to lessen the value of just how much children learn. How can I stand in front of a classroom and speak about what it is like to the zoo if a child has never been? That is a very simple example, but the same type of scenarios can be made for various situations. If a child has not been to the zoo, they may not understand the words being used to describe the areas where the animals live, the names of the animals, etc. It could go on and on for days.
But do not think that because this child has not been to the zoo that they do not have much. Do not think that because this child has not been to the zoo that they will not be able to learn from your lesson. They will, but with explanations that will get their imagination going, get them really into what you're doing, get them working with others, and explaining all that they DO know. Creating scenarios like this for children in classrooms will allow us to stay away from the "silenced dialogue", or the approaches in teaching that lack true comprehension for the children.

One great point Delpit brought up throughout her book was about actual experiences she has talking to students where they feel as though they were not given everything they needed to become knowledgeable about what they were learning in their classes. "The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom"(32). Someone standing in front of a group of students and not allowing them to have any input is wrong. Class becomes boring for students, and they begin to develop negative attitudes towards it. With this, nothing can truly be learned. Instead it is all isolated knowledge, or knowledge that is retained but not comprehended. In my eyes, something is not truly learned until you have full understanding and can apply it to your everyday life.

"Actual writing for real audiences and real purposes is a vital element of helping students to understand that they have an important voice in their own learning processes"(33).  Lessons should not only be centered around "what standards a teacher needs to cover before the end of the year", or "what they SHOULD know" but more about what students HAVE to know in order to become established, educated people in this world where you can only get ahead if you have a head on your shoulders. I believe, as Delpit, that students should read and learn from various types of writing and scenarios, and take what they can from it about life and how they can apply it to theirs. This means student-centered group work, peer editing and conferencing, etc. So students will get the opinions of others mixed in with theirs.
Therefore, there is no question that the student lacked the cultural beliefs of another student. There is no question that they are hearing more than the facts said by their teachers. There is no question that they will be able to develop their own opinions and ideology's toward what they have learned, and take something valuable from it.

Finally, the last point that really stood out to me throughout Delpit's book was the idea of how the way a child is spoken to at home affects the way they learn at school.  "...working class mothers use more directives to their children than do  and upper-class parents" (34). Therefore, it is easy for a child who is used to more direct approaches to expect authority from a teacher, to experience personal emotions and connections with the person they are learning from. Some students might be scared off by authority, if they are used to being questioned on what they want to do at home. Ex) "What do you want to do after dinner? Homework, or help me clean the dishes?"
Other children may be used to authority, understanding that they have to listen to anyone who has authority over them.
Ex) "After dinner, clean the dishes and do your homework".
Therefore, every teacher should have a good balance of questioning and authority; creating their own voice. In my opinion, if a teacher is confident her voice is something a student can understand and relate to, the student will be more apt to want to learn and to positively respond to what goes on based upon the atmosphere of the classroom.
So, as whole, I agree with Lisa Delpit. I agree when she says that, "Educators must open themselves to, and allow themselves to be affected by these alternative voices". I agree that every good teacher must listen, not just hear what their students have to say.
To speak about in class:A good teacher must take into consideration the cultures of his or her students. They must realize that students have great ideas and experiences that can positively apply to their classrooms. If all of this is taken into consideration, I believe, like Delpit, that a great classroom environment can be created. (No matter what grade, age group, or size of class you are working with. ) All students and teachers should speak out for what they believe in, and get each other talking about it. And in my opinion, the only way this can be done is if a teacher allows the students in their classes to feel comfortable enough to say what they feel and learn from it.
 I found an interesting article from the New York Times titled "The Science and Art of Listening", about how actually listening is becoming something people in this world do less and less as technology expands along with the amount of information we consume per day.