Sunday, December 1, 2013

Politics in the classroom

 "You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school. For example, it's very important to begin the school year with a discussion of why we go to school. Why does the government force us to go to school? This would set a questioning tone and show the children that you trust them and that they are intelligent enough. at their own level, to investigate and come up with answers" (Meier)

   This is a great quote to me. My philosophy as not only an inspiring educator but as a person is to question the reasoning for everything around you. Everything and everyone has a purpose and to continue on with something without knowing it's purpose makes the activity seem less important. Showing the students of your classroom that you have faith in them to critically think and answer this question is a great way to build their confidence, not only in themselves but for the instructor as well.

   Students today are shoved standardized test after standardized test starting at a young age. To me it can have an adverse effect on them because of the fact that it can cause a burnout. From an early age, students are told over and over that these tests are "so important" and that all the pressure is on them to overachieve on them. They become so wrapped up in trying to do perfect on these tests that their other academics suffer because of it. It's a combination of stressing out too much from the standardized tests and just a burnout from too much work altogether. It can be too much on a young student to handle, because even as adults we all have moments of burnout due to mid-terms and other stressful times of our academic year. Imagine being that much younger without the ability to know how to manage our time better? It becomes too overwhelming and that's why I feel these tests should be limited to every couple of years after a certain age rather than once a year.

  So what can be done to prevent the burnout outside of changing how many times the tests are taken? To get back to the quote I opened up with it has to do with engaging the students better. Students learn better when they feel that a teacher isn't just there to lecture them and not hear their explanations. The politics of school is that the teachers speak and the students listen, the status quo if you will. But the real successful classes (measured in student participation and overall interest) come from those that can make students critically think without forcing it upon them. Making them feel like they want to be engaged without forcing anything is the key to preventing burnout because a student will want to think and participate in class. It's a much better alternative than having a student lose focus constantly because a teacher hasn't instilled confidence in them to answer a question posed to them in an effective manner.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Citizenship in School

     "Now we know that people with disabilities can learn and have a full, rich life. The challenge is to erase negative attitudes about people with develop­ mental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities." (Kingsley)
      Isn't that a peculiar statement; that there was even an assumption that those with disabilities were commonly believed to not be able to live "normal" lives? To me this statement speaks volumes. Some things obviously speak louder than others but the point stands; in order to get rid of a stereotype the issue itself has to be addressed.

      First off, the notion that a person can not enjoy a full life or even academic challenges if they'd like. The case with Mia Petersen is especially alarming.
     "I started to notice that I didn't like the classes I was taking called special education. I had to go through special ed. almost all my life. I wanted to take other classes that interested me. I had never felt so mad, 1 wanted to cry. " (Peterson)
      I believe the most striking thing would be the fact that she had to go back to school after she had already graduated to take the classes she wanted to take. Now I'm all for not having students pushed beyond their limits, but that should be up to the student to decide and no one else. It's frustrating to hear as a student myself that in order to take the classes she found interesting she had to go back when she could have taken them while she was in school. To be held back because of a misconception is a tragedy within itself. It's cruel, unfair, and quite frankly ignorant on the part of the educators.
     Now of course it doesn't end with just the teachers. The idea that students with disabilities are viewed any differently than students that don't is a mistake. It's a view that people are trying to fight, as they should be. The view of "Citizenship in Schools" is an interesting concept because of the very definition of the word and the water it holds. The idea that "citizenship" is built upon listening rather than spoken word is, to me, key to having an equal citizenship in schools. The viewpoint of students in schools needs to be the same for each individual attends, and by following the standpoint of the community in the school, it can start easier than any other way.

So what can be done to prevent this from happening in the future? It's simplistic in concept, however because of misguided stigmas it may be more difficult. The problem can not be solved if it is not addressed, plain and simple. People need to learn that not every situation is the same, and if a student with a disability wants to take on a difficult class they should be given a chance to do so. They are, after all, students and they should be allowed to choose the classes they wish to take and feel good in doing so.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Promising Practices part 2

     It just occurred to me, as I'm sitting here at my desk racking my brains for some more ideas to add to my first post, that I really can't find anything at all to add from the conference portion. Don't get me wrong, at the workshops I learned a great deal and I enjoyed them for sure, but the panels were just aggravating at times. But then it hit me, I had a "Won't learn from you" moment. It just seemed like they weren't relatable speakers at all. The whole time it felt like "Hey see us up here? There's a reason for that, we're people and power and you are all just the lowly masses." Now I get that may seem a bit radical but in a sense it's what it felt like. Getting back to that point about the student that was pushed aside when he had a legitimate question, it felt like they were there to talk at us not to us. His question brought up a great issue and the panel almost laughed him off to the point of embarrassment. It was like he wasn't important enough to question them at all.
     I suppose that's why I couldn't retain much from the panel and even the speaker at lunch. There just seemed to be no personality to relate to as an aspiring teacher. The speakers for the majority of the time just spoke at the crowd with what seemed like questions they practiced and the mayor just seemed like he was speaking at just another political event. I'll be completely honest, there were many times that I just tuned out mentally. I know that's definitely not setting the greatest example in the world but it's the truth. There was no way a student could identify with any of the speakers and it just seemed like "Oh you better listen to these people because they are important". Nothing of real substance was ever answered and without that ability to relate it's almost impossible to retain anything because nothing they say seems important in the grand scheme of things. What are questions without answers? Or how about ideas without actions? These two questions are the main reason why I couldn't learn anything of substance from the combined over three hours of their speaking. It don't want to say it was a waste of time, after all I feel that if anything can make you think critically then it's very far from a waste, but it feels like all of this thought is stemming from the wrong things. I feel this is a legit criticism of what can be improved as a whole. Just find speakers who we as students can identify with, maybe some recent graduates from the school of education. Let them tell their stories, even if they haven't found their dream job yet their speaking would mean so much more to me as a student than some big wig in politics.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Promising Practices

   As I walked into Donovan last Saturday morning I didn't really know what to expect. First thing I noticed was name tags lined down in a row on multiple tables for people to pick up. These name tags had the names of the workshops we would attend for the day (thankfully because to be honest I had already forgotten which ones I had signed up for). I took a seat with the rest of the class as we waited for the conference to start.
    The first thing I want to point out would be the fact that this portion of the conference was much too long. I'm not trying to set a bad mood for my experience because let me state that it wasn't at all. However, I feel that the panel did not accomplish too much in the almost three hours they were up there. They just seemed to dance around many questions that seemed to be given prior to the event starting rather than provide answers to legitimate problems. The most striking moment from this portion would have to be when there was another student who was raising a legitimate issue and he kept getting rushed from the moderator. This caused the student to get flustered and to be honest I don't think he ever got the complete question out. I don't really remember what the poor guy had to say (and that's probably an indictment on myself as well) because I felt outraged for him. Was it because he appeared to be African American that this moderator didn't take the student seriously? Or was it because he was raising an actual issue that they hadn't thought of or had a political answer lined up for? Whatever the case may be I felt right there that the moderator had no credibility anymore as a professional. Perhaps I read too much into it but I felt that was very wrong to do to someone who showed enough effort to prepare his question in the manner he did. The could've showed him the professionalism that he had shown them.
   The mayor really wasn't much better in a sense. Mayor Angel Tavares did alright as a speaker, but much like the others on the panel, they really didn't have any answers. Questions were raised and like everyone else there danced around them never giving an answer to the issue. If anything he used this time to promote himself. The whole time the questions were addressed to him it really felt like he was running the campaign trail. Now I get it, he's a politician and he is running for governor at the time of this conference, but would it kill him to ease up on the self promotion and actually answer what could be done to help the education systems that need it? His major focus on the school system disparity in Rhode Island is the fact that the students are too lazy. Tavares basically stated that "if I could do it, anyone can". To me that just isn't a good enough answer. Somebody's personal accomplishments just isn't a large enough sample size to state that there isn't a problem. Nothing against him at all but it's almost like he couldn't see the bigger picture because of his own personal success. To me it's a great example of being in power and not seeing the privileges they might have had.
    My favorite part of the day came from the individual workshops we went to. Granted, I thought that this was going to be the majority of the day and not about two hours. They were informative and the ideals they had for their programs were fantastic. I honestly wished that they had some more time to explain things to us because they actually seemed genuine rather than the aforementioned panel. But I definitely enjoyed my time at the two and I don't really have any complaints concerning them.
    Between those two experiences I can say that next year they should distribute the time better than what thy did this year. I felt that they could've made a difference in attitude to the students there if they had more time at the workshops rather than have the panel last three hours. They actually had answers to issues that is plaguing the education system so why not spend more time there? If they do that next year I can say with the utmost confidence that they will see a difference from student reaction.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Seperate but Equal" An ideal thrown to the wayside

           To start off this post I'm going to come out and say how I feel personally; segregation is alive and well in current day America. Now I'm a  bit of a history buff and knew about the case Brown Vs. The Board of Education before it was mentioned on the Professor's blog. While it was a win in the ever changing struggle for equality it was a very slight one. While education systems agreed upon an equal opportunity for all races there was still a divide in the school systems themselves over the years. Segregation is alive due to economic constraints rather than just race now. Rather than segregation through race and education being affected by that it is now affected by who can afford a private school for their children. The people who can afford these private schools can expect their children to receive a better education than those in public schools. This also has implications on where they can apply to college, because it is no secret that colleges will always look to those in private schools before those in public schools if the grades are similar. It's just a sense of superiority due to something the student themselves can't control; their family's economic situation. This is eerily similar to the very thing that was fought for in the case of Brown Vs. The Board of Education, equal opportunity for every student. How can a student be responsible for their parents' living situation anymore than they can be responsible for what they are as a human being? It's just as simple as that students are still being punished for things they can't control almost 60 years after the fact.
        Speaking of things taking awhile to advance Barack Obama was the first African American to be elected president after over 200 years of the country being independent from Britain. Now I'm not going to get into a political debate on how I think Obama is doing with the country because that is not the basis of my argument at all. What I am arguing would be the longevity of just white males being elected in this time period. If equality was achieved in 1954 in the education system then perhaps it wouldn't have been a stretch to believe that maybe even in 30 years someone other than a white male would have been thought of as a presidential candidate. Well as history has shown us that wasn't the case. There is even still a racism with Obama being elected president according to author Tim Wise because their is the idea of Barack Obama being considered at times to be "Outside the black and brown norm" To also paraphrase Tim Wise, he basically says "Thinking that America will go into a post-racial point would be just as absurd to think that Pakistan is any less of a sexist community because of their elected official in the 80's". Much like the education system there is still blockades to actual advancements because of the ideals that people are different, and in a sense, still segregated.
       The separate but equal phrase held no water ever because to imply that something is different means that they aren't equal. If a difference has to be distinguished then the ideal of equality is a falsehood in that scenario. I just personally feel that we aren't moving fast enough as a society in the right direction. Not speaking morally of course because that's an entirely different thing and an argument for another day, but in the argument of equality of education in the country it's still just too slow. While one problem is slowly being fixed another one arises. There needs to be a sense of equality from student to student, and one should not be seen as superior over the other because they went to a "special school".

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Talking Point 6

   This article had some pretty valid ideals concerning service learning in America and what it means to not only the community but also to the people that help out. As everyone who reads this is aware, our service learning is a huge part of our curriculum, and speaking for myself, it is the best part of my week. The idea that I can make a difference in the community is exactly what service learning is all about. It's the most rewarding part of the process and the lessons that it gives is integral to the development of aspiring teachers. It also brings invaluable experience in dealing with situations that you may not think of normally.

   What I mean by that is every student has a different story, and with that different living situations they deal with on a daily basis. Some people have a bad habit of seeing the "troubled" child as someone who just doesn't want to learn. However, much of the time that is not the case at all. Sometimes if a student is labeled as "troubled" right off the bat then they just won't want to learn from that instructor plain and simple. There are also the cases where a teacher won't try to relate to every individual student and that creates a disconnect in the learning process. By going through the process of Service Learning, we as students can identify these problems in a real time scenario. The real enlightening thing is when you can identify when a teacher is having one of those disconnect moments and remember not to do what they do.

  This isn't about criticizing the teacher you are put with constantly though, it's merely just a learning experience for people like us in a real environment. With service learning we are able to ease ourselves into a classroom, and instead of having a whole class alone, we have just a small group of students while the teacher of the class has the majority. I can personally say I'm beginning to feel very comfortable in that environment because of this. It's just not as overwhelming when you only have about four or five kids to pay attention to rather than about twenty as your first experience in a classroom. My major thing I want to get out of Service Learning would be to avoid the aforementioned "not learning from you" moments, after all the main reason I decided to go into teaching was because of my experiences with that as a student. To be able to identify when I could be losing a student is just so important to what I want to do and who I want to be. Thanks to Service Learning, I'm understanding what to do and what not to do more and more week after week.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Talking point 5

      This piece is no shock to me at all. As noted, children's entertainment is lazy and for the most part just plain wrong. It's been this way for a long time from Popeye to Disney movies, the amount of racism and sexism is truly shocking if you don't pay attention to it. Popeye is a show about the big, strong, American male saving his helpless girlfriend from the big bad ethnic groups. Not as entertaining when you talk about it like that is it? Naturally the show creators never have an episode where they just come out and say it but the interpretation is that America is the best and it's people superior to every other ethnic group.
      Disney movies really aren't any better in that regard. Granted, the racial undertones are not as noticeable as in Popeye because really I don't think they could have been even if they wanted to. The problem with Disney movies would be the unrealistic standard they have for women in general. They constantly portray them as almost physically perfect but absolutely helpless in ever other category. They aren't what you would call brilliant and have all the personality of a wooden log you would find on the side of the road. You can name every Disney movie plot the same way; the helpless princess gets in some sort of trouble "she couldn't possibly get herself out of" and the male lead has to save her so they can happily ride of into the sunset together. Kind of odd how that works out when you think about it, the man saves the damsel and apparently she is his for life. Talk about unrealistic expectations, if a firefighter or a police officer were in a Disney movie they certainly would have quite a few partners in their lifetime.

    So really it's all about the standards these movies and cartoons set for children. They can give the males that watch them an unearned and definitely unmerited feeling of superiority over women. In turn, the girls that watch these cartoons gain this dependence on feeling pretty and looking perfect as well as a constant need of a man to feel complete. To me it's all laziness on the part of the writers. Just because it's aimed at children does not mean that the characters in the story can't have their own distinct personality and development. It's easier to write stereotypical characters because there is nothing to establish, the connection to the audience is already there because of the common usage of these stereotypes. I really feel that if you can improve the writing and actually try to send a positive message to children of every demographic you can challenge them to think as well as make them feel positive for who they are.
   As shown in the link it's just respecting the culture of all that needs to be fixed. Plenty of children that come from different ethnicities shut down and hate these cartoons because they can't relate to the characters. So these movies and other forms of media will never teach these children anything because of the insults of the movie and the imminent shutdown that is coupled with it. If a child can't relate or is told right off the bat he or she is bad for being different then they won't want to hear the message that movie or person wants to tell them.