Thursday, December 11, 2014

Promising Practices Event

The 2014 Promising Practices event took place at RIC on Saturday November 1, the day after Halloween.  We were all very tired and it was raining, and honestly I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I think after it was over it was definitely worth it.  We all took two workshops and then attended the keynote address given by Dr. Christopher Emdin.  My workshops were very different from each other, and were interesting, although one more than the other. 
The first workshop I attended was titled “Hands on Learning” presented by a teacher from Mount Pleasant High School.  I may have enjoyed it more, and gotten more out of it if I hadn’t been confused about what the point of it was the whole time.  Although, I admit that I probably should’ve read the description of it before I went, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen it as my first workshop choice.  In this workshop we learned about water pressure, ocean currents, and other density driven Earth processes.  We used pressure blocks to show how pressure affects ocean currents. 
This workshop was meant to show different learning processes and teaching styles, but I didn’t get any of that out of it.  The teacher passed out a handout and wanted us to fill them out, and I thought we were going to have a discussion about the teaching styles but instead it was a flashback to high school science, which I didn’t even enjoy while I was in high school.  This might be a little bit harsh to say but I think my first workshop was a waste of time and I could’ve gone to one much more interesting and relevant to the things we learn and talk about in class.  It was really boring and it wasn’t a good start to the event. 

My next event was better.  I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot.  My next one was called “Teaching while Brown”.  This workshop was presented by two “students of color, turned STEM teachers” and their experiences in the classroom.  The presenters were David Upegui a science teacher at Central Falls High school and Jonathan Acosta a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy Middle school.  They were also related, an uncle and a nephew.  They talked about their experiences and struggles in working to make a successful classroom in a struggling area.  They were great presenters and had a very engaging presentation that was very culturally relevant also relevant to our class discussions. 
They began by asking us about our favorite teachers, what made them so good as a teacher, and the impact they had on us.  The point of this was to show that the physical appearance of the teacher didn't usually make a difference to us.  They talked about their classrooms and the success of their students.  They both had extremely successful students, who you could just tell that they were proud of.    
They talked about some of the struggles they went through.  Many people didn't believe in their students and it felt hopeless.  One of them told a story about how another teacher said something to him like "We need more white kids in this school." when they got test scores back.  He talked about how discouraging it was how one teacher didn't believe in his students when he believed in them so much.  He also told us about starting up and coaching a wrestling club at his school and how it brought him closer to the students so he could connect more with them on a personal level.  
After lunch, the last part of the day was the keynote address by Dr. Christopher Emdin.  He was a great speaker, who was very lively and he really grabbed our attention and made us listen attentively.  He talked a lot about making students interested in learning and how we can do that in our classrooms.  One of the ways that he explained this was by rapping.  He talked about how some students may have trouble with memorizing facts, but they may be able to remember it by rapping, or putting it to a beat and we, as future educators need to respect the knowledge the student have no matter what the form they present it.  He talked a lot about the idea of #HipHopEd  He talked about the segregation in schools and how it affects the education that some students get.  
Overall I got a lot from this event.  It exceeded my exception, which honestly weren't very high.  Although it got off to a rocky start with my first workshop, the second two definitely made up for it.  I might even go again next year, when it is no longer a class requirement.  I just feel like there is so much to learn and people like Dr. Chris Emdin have a lot to say that we can benefit from.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Article Connection #3 - Shor

“The typical classroom is framed by the competition, marked by struggle between students (and often between teacher and students), and riddled by indicators of comparative achievement and worth. Star charts on the wall announce who has been successful at learning multiplication tables, only children with ‘neat’ handwriting have their papers posted for display” (Shor).
In the classroom, students know who is the student in the class who participates the most, is the most confident, and gets all the answers right.  In this quote, Shor

talks about how in schools, teachers put even more emphasis on these students.  Things like these “star charts” publicly show who is the most successful. In the class and can make the other students feel inferior, and uncomfortable. 
In my service learning classroom my teacher usually has me work with the kids on their “multiplication fluency.”  This usually means that I have them do a worksheet of multiplication facts then they correct it, and track their progress on a bar graph.  One of the girls that was at my table was embarrassed about her bar graph and refused to show anybody.  I felt like she shouldn’t have had to show anybody but the teacher wanted to post them up on the wall.  Compared to the other students, she hadn’t done very well and she knew that, and once it was up on the wall so would everyone else.
 “Our role as teachers is to create a safe environment in which students can express opinions and, most importantly, generate their own language materials for learning and peer-teaching” (Shor)
I think that Safe Spaces would agree with Shor that by comparing the students, and making it a competition, the classroom was not a safe space.  We want the students to be able to learn and if the feel uncomfortable or embarrassed they won’t be able to learn, and comparing them will make them feel this way. 
                “Classrooms lay the foundations for a safe and inclusive society: a just community where common interests and individual differences coexist.” (Safe Spaces)

Article Connection #2 - Johnson

It wasn’t until I heard Emily and Erika’s Pecha Kucha presentation that I realized really what Johnson really meant.  I agree with every thing that they said about having privilege and not even realizing it.  These thoughts probably wouldn’t have even crossed my mind if I hadn’t taken this class, and come across these articles. 

            At my school for my Service Learning project, 85% of the students are given free lunch.  They also all receive breakfast every morning and a snack a few days a week.  My teacher told me that this was because many of the students don’t have anything to eat outside of school.  When I was in elementary school I was not in this situation.  I had plenty to eat and I went to a private school and I didn’t even realize how good I had it.  I didn’t ever think that having regular meals at home was a privilege, but it really is. 

"And if people in privileged groups don 't include themselves in the solution, the default is to leave it to blacks and women and Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, lesbians, gay men, and the lower and working  classes to do it on their own. But these groups can't do it on their own, because they don't have the power to change entrenched systems of privilege by themselves. If they could do that, then: wouldn't be a problem in the first place" (10)

            Johnson argues that we need to “say the words.”  In order to fix the problem, we need to acknowledge that there is a problem regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and social class.  Macintosh also recognizes this problem when she she talks about white privilege in her article "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack".  She tells us that white privilege is an "invisible package of unearned assets"(1).  By seeing the problem and realizing that we, as a society are responsible for fixing it, we are one step closer to fixing it.  

For me, the words are: It is not okay that the students at my school don't have enough to eat.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Empowering Education - Shor - Quotes

         "Empowering Education" by Ira Shor discusses different methods for learning, and teaching in the classroom.  It discusses how classrooms today are too focused on drilling information and memorization rather than thinking critically and making connections than will benefit students later on in problem solving and real life experience.
            "If the students' task is to memorize rules and existing knowledge, without questioning the subject matter or the learning process, their potential for critical thought and action will be restricted" (12). 
          While I was in elementary, middle and even high school this was the way school was.  I got good grades in school because I had this system of memorization down.  Looking back I don't really remember the things that I read until I memorized, took a test, passed and then forgot about.  It wasn't until I took my First Year Seminar class, similar to our FNED class that we had to read and not memorize, but critically think about the articles assigned.  

          "The teacher plays a key role in the critical classroom. Student participation and positive emotion are influenced by the teacher's commitment to both. One limit to this commitment comes from the teacher's development in tradition. In schools where passive, competitive; and authoritarian method, dominated. As student teachers learned early and often that to be a teacher means talking a lot and being in charge." (26)
          This quote made me think of Delpit. She argues that there are rules and codes of power, and in the classroom the teacher is need to explicitly teach these rules and codes to students, especially because many of them may not learn them at home.  
         “Our role as teachers is to create a safe environment in which students can express opinions and, most importantly, generate their own language materials for learning and peer-teaching”
         Similar to safe spaces, Shor emphasizes the need to create a safe and comfortable work and learning environment for students.  If a student isn't comfortable in a class they won't be willing to share an opinion and think out loud.  In my service learning classroom, the teacher really believes in collaboration and working together.  I have noticed that "peer-teaching" really helps the students learn, and teach in a language they understand.