Sunday, March 30, 2014

Literacy with an Attitude- Connections

I have had to read Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick Finn a few times now; but I now realized that I need to base my blog around this very quote; " When students begin school in such different systems, the odds are set for them" (25).
I really liked the way he showcased the differences between school districts; between working class schools to elite schools.
  •  Finn stated that, "In the working-class schools, knowledge was presented as fragmented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and the experiences of the students" (11). They were not given the chance to REALLY learn something; because they were completing work that was simply too easy for them. Just because a student grows up in a poorer neighborhood does not mean that they are not capable of doing great work.

  • In the middle class schools, Finn stated that, "Teachers (there) seemed to believe that their job was to teach the knowledge found in textbooks or dictated by curriculum experts. They valued this more than knowledge taught by experience" (12).  The students were simply receiving isolated information; made up of things they had to memorize or copy down. They never actually APPLIED what they learned and made it make sense to the outside world. They are more than capable of doing so, so it is sad that they were simply looking for answers, not actual solutions that could get them farther in life.

  • In the affluent professional school, "work was creative activity and carried out independently" (16). This is a step up from the two types of schools we have read about so far; because students are challenged to work on their own and apply it to more than just a textbook.

  • Finally, in the executive elite schools, "knowledge was academic, intellectual, and rigorous" (18).  The article even stated that the students carried out and created their own lesson plans. Why should schools be set up this way? Just because a student has more money does not mean they deserve a higher education than the students who may live in poverty. It is completely unjust! And Finn wanted to make this point very clear.
The separation of these school's ideologies reminded me a lot of Johnson; who states that we must talk explicitly about the issues of privilege, power, and difference. Finn has no problem publishing a book that toggles the differences in teaching based upon schools in different neighborhoods, from poor to rich. Finn simply wants to effectively help students learn using their intellect to solve problems, gain experiences, and work hand in hand with the knowledge of their teachers.
      Finn was highly inspired by Freire, an educator who believed that learning was centered around someone's cultural and personal experiences. Freire reminds me a lot Christiansen, who states that students need to interpret what they see in order to recognize the stereotypes being made about the world, or in this case, themselves. Finn even states
that, "It was about empowering the powerless as a class so they can stand up for themselves" (172). 

Finn gave us tons of examples of different styles of teaching that empowered and helped students tremendously succeed. He ends this chapter by stating the rules and codes that he believes are extremely important to teaching, from Rethinking our Classrooms. The rules stated that curriculum and method should be based around the students, they should be used to answer important questions, they should actively use what they learn beyond the classroom, and the entire system should be rigorous, visual, helpful, and powerful.  

The fact that Finn took so much of his book to talk about the rules he believed were right towards curriculum and methods in schools reminded me a lot of Delpit. Delpit believes in explicitly teaching the rules and codes of power to students; and that teachers should be very direct in doing so. Finn is working to teach teachers the correct way to teach, whether everyone believes in these ways or not.

If we push past the boundaries of class between students, create lessons around the students we teach, answer questions critical to the world around us, and give students hands-on experiences, we can become great teachers. We also can allow our students to become great learners; which is so important. Finn believes that if these ideas are practiced, students can learn anything, even if it is controversial,  and critically analyze it. This is what truly gives literacy an attitude!

So many areas around the country have based their teaching and schools around the ideas of Freire. This one organization here believes in activism and the teachings of Freire. They are just one of many, and it was almost crazy to look up. So many people just like Finn were inspired by him.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Brown vs. the Board of Education: Reflective/Argumental Piece

On May 7th, 1954, equal opportunity for different races to be integrated in schools was granted.

This is a fact I have learned about since the 8th grade. I have learned how America was separated into blacks and whites segregated from each other.  I have learned about the unequal education that occurred during this time. I have learned about the countless campaigns, leaders, rallies, amongst other instances that occurred to fight for the rights of African Americans. But as I was looking at the website dedicated to Brown vs. the Board of Education, this sentence stood out to me. "...(the act) did not constitute a perfect solution to the problem of unequal opportunity, but it did help end LEGAL segregation in the U.S"
After reading this sentence on the website, everything else I looked at weighed differently in my mind before. I have learned about this for years now, but I never saw it as a crack in the glass. Tim Wise shows that although the court system made a huge, positive decision by de-segregating schools, it does not completely take away racism. It does not mean that people of different races received better treatment, even though they were legally granted more rights. Tim Wise reminded me a lot of Johnson in the way that he explicitly spoke about the power, privilege, and difference. He had no problem defending black people, even though he was a white man. He just fought for what was right, and wrote a book about it to broadcast to people on how they should treat others; and how black people should see themselves. Both of his interviews have a lot to do with perspective, and I am sure everyone in our class agreed with everything he had to say.
Wise stated that things can be done to stop racism but it doesn't mean changes are being made to actually end it. I liked his idea of racism 1.0 and racism 2.0. Racism 1.0, according to Wise, is the idea of the "old school bias" people have towards people of a different race. Racism 2.0 to him meant "enlightened acceptionalism";  where people are in a place where they can move push through the cracks in the glass and have an open space. He spoke about white privilege, which reminded me a lot of Mcintosh in the way it is valued in society. Wise wants people to see that people's perception of people who are not white does not have to be so narrow; so that we can achieve equal opportunities for all in society.

These interviews with Wise really toggled the idea of how events in our history are important, but we still have to keep in mind how much work still needs to be done in order to erase racism and other issues altogether. Wise states that studies have shown that white people perceive black people as "generally less intelligent, more aggressive, and less patriotic". Why are thoughts like this still occurring in people's minds? However, what I really liked from the entire video was that "racism is not an excuse, but a reason".
It is a reason to move past the negativity, the hate and misunderstanding against something we should not be discriminating against. It is the reason to research, speak about, write books, and have classes much like our FNED class towards a positive, respectful environment without utmost respect for people of different race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever the case may be. It is the reason for how our world can become a more well-rounded place. The sooner people see this, the sooner we can look back on situations like the Brown vs. the Board of Education and see that it really did help us achieve full appreciation for African Americans. Tim Wise has very strong beliefs against racism, as we all should. This entire compilation of videos and the website was a true eye-opener for me, and I am sure it will be for the rest of the class.

This article, titled Was Brown vs. Board a Failure?    goes hand and hand with what we are blogging about this week. It talks about how racism is still being seen, especially in schools. The writer of this article is questioning if it has to do with the achievement gap between white people and people of other races. It actually goes hand in hand with Separate and Unequal  by Bob Herbert. He states that even though we have laws which integrate students of all races into the same schools; more often times than not, the students ARE indeed segregated. Whether it be by the neighborhood, economic issues, or customs, people live where it is socially normal for them to live; which is within their culture. Herbert states that " Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled. "
This quote speaks the most to me out of the whole article; because it makes a lot of sense. Teachers expect that students who live in poverty have less parental involvement, so they expect less of them. Many students have to learn on their own when they are not in the classroom. However, we have learned that just because a parent is working a lot to survive it does not mean that they do not have a lot to offer for their children; they just may not be as educated. So, since the students who live in these areas do not have the parental backbone that students have in higher achieving schools, they are perceived as inconsistent. Herbert then goes on to show that schools are finding ways to improve their curriculum to better students; so that's a huge plus!

Brown vs. the Board of Education will forever be seen in a different light to me now, because of all the ideologies people have created based upon the events and situations which have occurred after the Supreme Court made this decision. Yes, segregation is banned legally, but is it mentally?

Social Justice Event: Key Note Speaker Ana Cano-Morales on RI Latino Student Achievement

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Ana Cano Morales is one of RIC's Key Note Speakers for their Dialogue on Diversity Lectures. Morales lecture was titled "Educational Communities: Strength in Partnerships".  Cano- Morales knows first-hand about the challenges ELL, or English Language Learners face. As a child, she was a fluent Spanish speaker; but she knew she needed to learn English as best as she could to succeed. Morales did not tell her story in a "woe is me" way; she just was trying to get the point across that she has come so far in life; and is truly successful; even though she faced struggles and had to work through learning another language. Cano- Morales started off her lecture with statistics about the Latino population.

  • 138,550 Latinos live in Rhode Island.
  • Latino's household earnings are 26% lower than the national average.
  • 1 to 3% of teaching forces in schools are Latino.
  • 23% of children in RI schools are Latino.
  • By the 8th grade, Latino students are 2-2.5 grade levels behind white students.

These numbers show just how impactful Latinos are in our communities. They are increasing steadily in the state. After reading these statistics, I thought about Rodriguez, and his ideologies of a "public vs. private identity". It is clear to see that the number of Latinos in our state is increasing rapidly, and is only going to  increase. The statistic which states that there are BARELY any Latino teaching forces in RI, and 23% of students are Latino is hard to hear because we have learned directly from that children need to use their strengths to expand and work on their weaknesses. If Latino students do not see anyone who is like them and shares their culture in schools, I am sure it is very hard for them to create their public identity. So instead, they keep their private identity; where Spanish is the main focus of what they know and do not learn as quickly as the students around them. This is just a theory of mine, but this could be the reason why Morales stresses that Latino students are so behind!
   Cano-  Morales stresses that we need to find ways to help ELL learners achieve success in school. I am sure Rodriguez would agree that finding more Latino workers would help children find who they are. Even simply just integrating their at-home language in the classroom would be extremely beneficial. Cano-Morales says "teachers need to try new things and work with students on their language barriers"; and she is right!
This article on Latino Achievement Gaps is an inside look on all of the points Ana Cano-Morales spoke about at this lecture. It shows how much she believes in leadership in schools towards helping the Latino Community, and her personal thoughts which I have stressed about RI schools.

If we were to speak with Virginia Collier about Latinos in RI schools; I am sure she would partner up with Cano-Morales in a second. Collier believes that students should "use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language" (127).  Cano-Morales stressed that teachers need to be willing to experiment and be flexible when it came to helping ELL learners succeed. It is extremely important to her that teachers play on the strengths of bilingual students, and Collier would agree. By doing so, a "school culture" can be created, where students are able to learn through their at-home language, and be proud of who they are and where they come from. Rodriguez and Collier's teachings go hand in hand, because Latino students would be able to achieve their sense of identity while learning and being accepted by the people around them.
This video and this article showcase the positive ways ELL students should be learning. Both of these links encourage ELL students to use their first language as a tool for what they are learning; which is something both Cano-Morales and Collier would be proud of.

Finally, I thought of Mcintosh throughout this lecture. Mcintosh sees whiteness as a privilege, and that we should really dissect how whiteness shows power in our communities. She believes that people who are white do not recognize their privilege; because they are taught not to do so. (1). The statistic which states that by the 8th grade, Latino students are 2-2.5 grade levels behind white students goes hand and hand with White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.  I am sure that white students do not realize that students of other cultures are behind them; and if they do; they do not say anything about it. Many people simply worry about themselves and their learning. However, I believe that if students want to improve their communities and the people around them; they could be active helpers in ELL learning. They could learn something from ELL students, while ELL students could learn something from them. It is a great way for students of any culture to get acclimated with each other and who they are in response to their communities. Mcintosh challenges us to examine whiteness in the community; and clearly based upon this statistic, white people are ahead compared to Latinos. In this way, they exhibit power and it puts Latinos at a disadvantage. Cano-Morales wants Latinos along with students of other cultures to be at an EQUAL. To be actively learning and engaging with teachers who can help them get ahead. However, thanks to programs like how RIC is teaming up with Central Falls schools; innovation in the way ELL students are taught are being positively changed. This partnership is researching and developing a new type of education. Steps like these will help RI for the better; along with Latino students.
In this article , it is stressed that multicultural learning is the only way for students to succeed. Teachers must "burst the bubble" about the student's different races, genders, cultures, and backgrounds and that they must apply these attributes to student's learning. It is an overall great piece that works hand and hand with our class!

Take home pieces of this lecture:
  • We need to use our knowledge of Latino students statistics and improve their learning for the better.
  • We need to develop new curriculums and models for effectively teaching ELL learners.
  • We must have a work force composed of people from the same decent or community as these Latino students so they can feel comfortable.
  • We must use their home language to help them learn other things.

Ana Cano-Morales was a great speaker and I am glad I chose this event to go to!

Friday, March 14, 2014

In the Service of What? An Extended Comments Blog: Thank you Sarah :)))

As I was reading through everyone's blog posts on "In Service for What?" by Kahne and Westheimer  for this week, Sarah's really hit home for me! Her ideas were pretty much everything I was going to choose to elaborate on for this blog, so I thought why not do my first extended comments piece?
The quote which states that "learning and service reinforce each other and should come together in America's schools" is extremely important, and something I have realized are more intertwined together than we think. Service Learning projects were created for people to come together with their community, make changes, learn from others, move out of their comfort zones, and help them become better people and have different mindsets about the world around them. I agree with Sarah when she says that it is so great to read about such a widespread involvement towards Service Learning projects all around the country; where people are becoming advocates for helping the people of their community.

Throughout this article, I really wanted to answer the questions asked on page 2 of this reading. The first one was "What values do service learning curricula model and seek to promote?"
 I know firsthand from working in my second grade classroom at Times Squared Academy that that these projects model what it is like to be a teacher; and how it is to work in areas where the children have such cultural backgrounds and experiences that shape the way these schools run. The projects promote learning through others, engaging with children, learning about different cultures and experiences, and forming an idea of what kind of teacher we want to be in the future.

"What kinds of relationships develop between students and those they serve?"
     Like Sarah, I found myself reflecting upon my service learning project the entire time I was reading this article. I really liked how Sarah said that Service Learning is all about perspective: you need to put yourself in the shoes of whoever you are working with, and you need to allow the project to help you learn who you are, who you want to be, and who you can be to be an advocate for others. Beyond this second grade classroom; I have volunteered at an inclusive preschool at the Trudeau Center in Warwick. This experience really shaped what I wanted to do with my teaching career; because I had the chance to work with children as young as infants to preschoolers. The children were so eager to see me and the rest of my class every week when we came in with activities and projects for them; and it always put a smile on their faces. It is great to do something for others and know that you could be a part of something that people truly look forward to.

Also, at Times Squared, I have been blessed with working with the most amazing class. They are kind, hardworking, and hilarious. They give me a piece of their lives and background to take with me every time I walk in the door; and I try to give the same back to them. They are so INTELLIGENT for their age; and have such great input on any topic we speak about. They have verified for me that I want to be a teacher and that I want to work with students who have these great differences and backgrounds that shape who they are. They have the utmost respect for me and their teacher; along with their classmates. It is a great, refreshing thing to see.

I love that Sarah really emphasized that every time we go to our Service Learning, we should think about the community we are working in. This goes hand and hand with the question asked in the article, which was "What kinds of social and political relations do they ask students to imagine?" These projects allow us to work with students who might be from a different social background and apply it to how we interact with them. We learn about a community separate from the ones we have known all of our lives. It also gives us time to think about how Service Learning is a widespread project done all across the country; where other people feel the same way we do towards their volunteer work.

"What kind of society does service learning lead students to work toward?"
I really loved Sarah's idea of EXPOSURE to something new and different from what we are used to, and I think it was a great ending point for her blog. I think every major at RIC (if they do not already) should participate in a project related directly to their major; so they can get a feel for what it actually is like and who they are as someone in whatever field they are studying. Service Learning allows us to work towards a society where everyone is interested in bettering the world around them, learning new things, sharing their culture, gender, race, experiences, etc., with others, and so much more. As Sarah said, this project shouldn't be a requirement to us; but instead something we are honored to be a part of.

Finally, I liked your video about the more sciency (cool new word I made up just for this blog) take on Service Learning, and how much it really impacts people and forms experiences for them that they will carry with them in life.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us (Hyperlinks). -Disney Style

If anyone knows me, you will also know that Disney has always been  a big part of my life. I am an 18 year old girl who loves the POSITIVE messages it brings forth, the emphasis Disney has on happiness. I have lived my whole life watching Disney movies and I am not corrupt. I am not what the media wants me to be. I am my own person, and I am all for change, value of who you are, and acceptance. So who is to say that because a little girl aspires to be a princess that they are corrupt? A "princess" can be someone who is high above the rest in life, above what they do not like about the world; completely content with life and their ability to make decisions for themselves. A princess can be a hardworking girl who is proud of all that she is accomplished.
When you think Disney princess, many ultimately see beauty. But do you see the brain power? Well, again; it is how you see the world. So if you think each and every movie out there is made with the intent of imposing racial, gender, or sexual barriers; you might just see the gowns and happy endings. But it is important you stick to your beliefs, your take on every situation.

I understand I might get criticized for this post, and I am completely okay with that; but I just want to broadcast a point that will be different from many other people's blogs this week. In the book titled Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us by Linda Christensen, she addresses the fact that "Our society's culture industry colonizes their minds and teaches them how to act, live, and dream" (126). Most people would take this quote and see it as "society  teaches us negative things about life"; which in many cases, it does. But why can't we, as open-minded thinkers; with the ability of having perspective on the world; take this quote as a positive? Yes, she may have shown her students that cartoons and movies did have many negative gender, race, or sexual issues embedded into them; but she did not say to ban these movies all together and to completely forget they exist. She is teaching her students to read between the lines through these movies.

There are a few things that we can take into consideration when analyzing and dissecting a movie; but I want to show you some other things you can take into consideration. Snow White was created in 1937. She often gets criticized for her beauty in the media, and they state that she only cooks and cleans. But she is 14 years old. Of course she wishes for a prince to sweep her off her feet; of COURSE she is cleaning and cooking as a part of her everyday routine. Women did not know any different. Look at the 2014 woman. Independent, capable of much more than this.

Let's look at how Snow White is depicted in the show "Once Upon a Time" on ABC. She is strong, she fights for what she believes in, and is not scared to take a stand. She is the modern Snow White, the way Snow White SHOULD be depicted in this day and age. I get that some children do not watch this show, but it is living proof that the way a character is depicted can be changed and viewed in a different light based upon how the world works now. A place where woman can be of power and make decisions, for this example. If Christiansen were to have her class dissect this show, I am sure they would find many positive messages being showcased.

There has always been the argument over Disney being racist. Tianna was the first black princess, from the movie The Princess and the Frog. However,  we cannot forget Jasmine, who was Arabic, or Mulan, who was Chinese, and Pochahontas, who was a Native American. We also cannot forget that Merida, who was Scottish, will forever be depicted as white. She is from Scottland. You will not find an African American named Merida in Scottland. Most Disney movies make their characters based upon the settings  of those movies. As we have learned from this class, you can have a culture even though you are seen as white. So that is something I always like to take into consideration when I watch ANY movie, not just a Disney movie!

This makes me think of more positives I believe Disney DOES show. I found another blog where a girl writes about all the messages she took from Disney movies. I think it is something we can all benefit from reading if you clicked here. The messages I took from this are that you can feel like you have power after watching certain movies, it is what's inside that counts, and that love matters the most. Ariel, from The Little Mermaid taught me that if you really want something, you need to go for it. Cinderella showed me that when one door closes, another one opens. (Her father died and she was left with her step-family who did not treat her well, but she got her wish to go to the ball and find happiness). Tianna showed me that if you have a plan, you must carry through with it; no matter how hard it might seem to get there. Merida showed me that you can be a girl and be tough and independent. Yes, Christiansen did say that "no one wants to admit that they've been "handled" by the media" (128); so reading a post that spins the way this reading wrote about Disney movies may shock you; but it is another way to look at it. I think Christiansen would approve of the way I am dissecting movies and characters from my personal point of view; even though I am not looking for negatives, just positives.
This link here also speaks about positive messages you can receive from Disney movies as whole; that I personally can agree with. Yes, there are many negatives that were pointed out in Christiansen's class about these movies; but her students are not corrupt by watching them; they are just more knowledgeable about the world around them. And that is what she wanted to get out of her lesson as a whole. We have learned directly from this class that life can be depicted from the way we look at things; and so can these movies!!