Thursday, April 17, 2014

Empowering Education- Connections

Our last blogs ever...can you believe it?! This semester has flown by.

So, Dr. Bogad was definitely right when she said Shor would make us think about all the readings we have analyzed thus far in class. As I was reading, I found myself engulfed in thoughts about who all of what we have learned about discussing theory and practice as teachers.

As I started reading, I immediately heard Johnson's voice when Shor opened her book speaking about the education system. She began speaking about a man named Bettelheim, who thinks education is made to have studies socialize.
"He urged teachers to enourage students to question their experience in school: You must arouse children's curiousity and make them think..."  (1). This reminded me of Johnson because he states that we need to talk explicitly about issues of privilege, power, and difference. Bettelheim was encouraging teachers to question why they go to school, who exactly makes us go to school, etc. He thought (and I agree) that this would make students feel intelligent and get them thinking beyond just what is set in the curriculum for them to learn. Johnson would see this talk as productive and completely normal for kids to question the world around them.

Another topic Shor spoke about which got me thinking was when Shor addressed the idea that society is unequal, making schooling unequal. Students who are more in poverty will go to less elite schools than those students who aren't. Shor spoke about two people named Bowles and Gintis, who stated that "schooling supports existing power and division in society by sorting students into a small elite destined for the top and large mass destined for the middle and the bottom..." (19). This reminded me of Finn's  article because he stated about the differences in learning and teaching methods between schools of various social classes. Finn also agreed that it was unfair that students in lower-class neighborhoods were basically set up to fail in school; not thinking critically and getting hands-on experiences that they need to succeed in the real world. This also reminded me of Oakes, who studied tracking in schools between students of the higher and lower level classes.

I also heard Kohn's voice when Shor spoke about the "typical classroom", which was "framed by competition and marked struggle between students" (23). Shor also talked about sticker charts, only the "neat" children's work being put up, and other scenarios that make other students feel inferior in the classroom. Kohn would have told any teacher who did these things to make each and every child feel equal and intelligent while in their classroom. They should not feel weaker than another student, and another child should not feel stronger than anyone else. Everyone should be working to help each other and advocate for positive learning.

I immediately thought of Delpit when Shor spoke about the atmosphere of a participatory classroom. She stated that there should be a balance between patience and impatience. She stated that the teacher must "lead the class energetically while patiently enabling students to develop their propel student's development so that they take more responsibility for their learning..."   Delpit believes that teahcers need to explicitly teach the rules and codes of power to students who may not learn them at home. The ideas Shor presented to us as readers are rules she believes are important in the classroom. She states the way a great classroom should be run. Delpit would appreciate that such strict codes were being placed upon teachers to enable students to have a better learning experience.

When Shor spoke again about how teachers need to encourage a lot of student participation, I thought a lot about the Christiansen reading. Shor allowed her students to ask questions about the class they were taking, speak openly about the material and situations presented in class, and what they want from it as a whole. Shor worked to answer every student's questions and teach them all that they were curious about. One student said that she thought in college that she could do all the work on her own without going to class. The other students began speaking out about their viewpoints on this topic. Christiansen believes schools need students to take action and speak out in what they believe in class. They need to question what they are doing and find the main purpose. "Curriculum is the one place where the dominant culture can either be supported or challenged, depending on the way knowledge is presented and studied" (34).

Finally, I heard Collier's voice when Shor spoke about having multi-cultural curriculums in schools. She spoke about "The Elsaser-Irvine experiment", which is all about this topic. Collier believes that students should honor student's first language skills to help them be successful in English. This experiment states that multi-cultural curriculum establishes equality among various cultural groups. Students need to learn about their communities and the people around them in order to establish their identity (Rodriguez).

Shor actually runs a lot of her classes she taught the same way we do! The way she spoke about her teaching, which she called reflexive teaching reminded me of Dr. Bogad, who gives us questions to answer and analyze about what we read in and outside of class. " ...the teacher poses questions, listens carefully, and re-presents to students what they have said for further reflection.." (54). This allows us to think critically and get other opinions and ideas from students, especially when we work in groups. Shor believes in the "asking questions" tactics and group work. She believes that the students should talk openly about what they learned or felt from any activity they are doing. This is pretty much how Dr. Bogad conducts every class we have. We have discussions that actually matter and can be applied to more than just this class. The talks we have help teach us things that can affect how we are as teachers and people. Shor is a lot like her. :)

I thought I would end off my last blog with a cool link. I typed in "Empowering Education" and found this website from a school or teachers in Colorado which is all about the important of social and emotional wellness of students in their school systems. They pretty much created a new educational philosophy with videos and links to back up their ideas. (I know it's a bit random but it totally ties in to points Shor was trying to make!)

LAST. BLOG. EVER. :( It's been reaaaaaaaaaaaaal guys

Friday, April 4, 2014

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome (Extended Comments)

Just wanna give a quick shout out to Brandyliciousxo for her fab blog piece that inspired me to do my blog after a 9 hour work day :)

For starters, I really loved the way Kliewer set up this book. He did not just say "This is what I think and it is your choice to believe it or not". He gave us real stories, real people who wanted to fight for the equality amongst students. He gave us first-hand accounts from students with down syndrome who exposed exactly how they felt and how they lived their lives. And it was great to see how many schools and teachers were so inclusive, respectful, and welcoming to these students. Because, as Kliewer points out many times; there is no reason to see these people as different. They value freedom of expression, creativity, happiness, love, and real feelings just like we do. In a way, they express it with such courage; something many people are not able to just do.

I also found the teacher named Shayne so inspirational. She is the type of teacher I want to be when I have a classroom of my own. She embraced each and every part of every student in her classroom. She accepted their faults and was comforted by all each of her students were interested in. She made her classroom more than just a place to learn; but as a safe place for her students. Professor August would have loved to step into her classroom and see all she has done to create mirrors and windows for all of her students to come together as a community and respect each other for who they are.

I would have to agree with Brandy when she says this quote sums up the entire article. "Diversity is viewed as normal, people are considered of equal worth, relationships are of a mutual benefit, and belongings is a central societal theme" (95). We should never ever look at anyone in an negative light because they have a disability or are different from us. We should EMBRACE these qualities; because there are always positive aspects to any situation. In a way, we are all disabled in some aspect of life. I can tell you that I consider myself disabled from coping with stress. I need structure, organization, and simplicity. When my life lacks this; I feel disconnected from the world. So, even though I don't have down syndrome or a disability; I can feel how they feel when people do not treat them equally. And if you really think about it, so can you.

Brandy made some great connections so I will go into explaining what she said along with adding some personal touches :)

Before even hearing this story, a quote we should all focus on is this. "Communication is built on one's ability to listen deeply to others. It is an act through which each of our lives comes to be defined by those around us as "precious and irreplaceable" (73).  John was a student who was shunned by his community and school system because they labeled him as "uneducable".  The reason why children did not welcome him with open arms was because they did not have people around them to teach them to love and cherish everyone. They saw John as different; and in turn they were not able to open up to him and learn about who he is. When John and his family moved; his life took a complete 360 degree turn. Everyone saw who he really was and made him feel welcomed! Stories like these give me hope. This story also reminded me of August and the "Safe Spaces" reading because John could freely be John. He will never be able to change the fact that he has a disability; but he can simply show people who he is. When he did after moving; he was accepted by all.

I would also agree that John's story can be related to Herbert's article for the main reason that John had a lot more opportunities to succeed and be happy after moving. He joined classes, became a part of his community, and worked with support groups. He found his niche! Hebert was talking about how location affects a student's education; and John's new home definitely affected his lifestyle. He could be himself and he could showcase all he is capable of in his community. It is a great connection!

I also loved how Brandy chose to highlight Christine's story. All she wanted to do was be in classes where she felt included with the rest of her classmates; beyond just the students who were children with special needs. The reading states that she had "extremely poor motor control, low-level cognitive skills, low-level communication skills...(etc) (92); but she wound up having her own column in the newspaper. She was accepted and heard by all. She even spoke out about another student who had special needs. In response to the school not allowing this student to go there, Christine said "I have down syndrome, but I am not handicapped"(93). Even Christine recognizes her worth; as her peers did. This is another amazing story that should be embraced by all of us as future teachers. Brandy's connection from this story to Jeannie Oaks article about tracking is great! Oakes stated that students in lower-classes were deprived from the knowledge and skills needed to move up into higher classes and to be successful in them. For 14 years, Christine was deprived from an education where she was included amongst the rest of her peers; regardless of the fact she had down syndrome. This started to affect her emotionally and she made a change! This proves to all of us and to Oakes that even though a student may start in a lower-level class; they can be just as successful as others if they work hard.
Lastly, the article Brandy found from NBC was truly eye opening. I cannot even believe that anyone would discriminate like this. We have clearly learned (and hopefully all understood before this reading) that someone with a disability or special need is not any different from us. They just have different ways of expressing themselves and learning. That would be like someone paying people who are different races pennies while all white people received minimum wage. It is crazy to think that this article is factual. Even though it is 2014 , big changes need to be made in society and the way we see and value others. If so, the world will be a much better place.