Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Random post: End marriage discrimination

I know my last random post was a video about gay marriage but it is something I am very passionate about! Such blatant inequality is something I feel should have ended decades ago and its crazy to me that its still going on.  This is a new commercial that I feel has a great concept and is amazingly executed. I will admit, it made me tear up a little

Also, here is the article that goes with it

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quotes: Education is Politics- Ira Shore

1)     1)  “People are naturally curious. They are born learners. Education can either develop or stifle their inclination to ask why and to learn. A curriculum that avoids questioning school and society is not, as is commonly supposed, politically neutral. It cuts off the students' development as critical thinkers about their world.”

I thought this quote brought up a good point about how when kids are young, usually before they start school, they are just dying to learn.  They are so curious and constantly asking questions. When kids start school this curiosity and questioning of the world is slowly taken away. It made me wonder what it is about school that takes this passion away, and how we can fix it.  It also made me imagine a world where that curiosity was nurtured instead of diminished. I would love to see a college full of students with childlike wonder and classrooms where there are constantly hands in the air asking questions, dying to know more.

This quote also addresses the idea of questioning school, which I think is very important.  Your educational career should start off with some questions and analysis. It helps the student not just think about what they are doing but why they are doing it.

2) "Students learn to be passive or cynical in classes that transfer facts, skills, or values without meaningful connection to their needs, interests, or community cultures. To teach skills and information without relating them
to society and to the students' contexts turns education into an authoritarian transfer of official words, a process that severely limits student development as democratic citizens."

This quote is very important when I think about what kind of teacher I want to be.  I feel a class is completely pointless if I can’t see how it relates to my life.  I often think about the things we learn in this class and discuss the topics with my friends because I have seen them connected to my world and that makes it interesting to me.   If a teacher just rattles off information to the class and then expects the class to regurgitate it, that is all I will do. The information is not retained and my life is no different after that lesson. 

3)     3)  "This political change of direction in the making of a democratic curriculum is a way to authorize students as co-developers of their education. With some authority, they can feel co-ownership of the process, which in turn will reduce their resistance."

This is another quote that made me think about what kind of teacher I want to be.  I agree that students should be “co-developers” of their education.  I think it’s very important for students to be interested in what they are learning and understand why they are learning it in order to apply it to their everyday life and the only way to do that is if they have a say in what they learn. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Citizenship in School- Kliewer

This article talks about the effects of the segregation of students with Down Syndrome in schools, and what classes are missing out on when this segregation occurs.I thought this article brought up a lot of points that I had never thought about. I guess that before reading this I didn't exactly see a problem with students with Down Syndrome being taught in a different class because I thought they needed special attention. This article made me think about how that effects these students emotionally and how it restricts their improvement. I began to relate this to the last article we read which talked about how schools that cater to specific social classes teach those students how to stay in their class and not excel. Special needs classes do just that. These classes do not give the students resources for a life in which they interact with other non disabled people. They teach the students that they are less valued and should be separated from the world around them.

 I thought the stories told in this article were very inspiring. They showed that not only does this segregation shortchange the students with disabilities, but also the non disabled students.  The stories show how the non disabled students learn so much from the disabled students in their class. New ways to see the world and different ways to relate to people and their environment. I especially liked the story about Isaac who taught the class that you can dance to books. This was his unique way of interpreting and relating to literature and the whole class received a new and fun way to learn that they never would have imagined without him in the class.

Ultimately, I believe a classroom should imitate the real world in order for the students to develop strategies to deal with everyday occurrences.  If disabled students are separated, this prepares the disabled students for a life of isolation and a sense of being less valued in their community and the non disabled students develop limited resources for interacting with people different from themselves.  They may grow up thinking they are above those who are disabled or that they do not have anything to gain from interacting with them.

This article really opened my eyes and after reading this I believe that every teacher should have resources for educating disabled students.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Promising Practices

The session I attended was about integrating art in the classroom and it was amazing.  The first presenter, Virginia Freyermuth taught us about a project that she created for the class room.  The project was inspired by a Native American tradition in the southwest called prayer sticks.  These are sticks that the people made as a meditative tool or as a representation of prayers.  The stick is decorated and each addition to it is representative of something.   Virginia was inspired by this tradition and brought it back to the class room.
 She told us about how she has the children make their own personalized “hope sticks”. She guides them by explaining the Native American tradition and then telling them to create their own and to represent wishes and hopes for yourself or others.  I thought this was an awesome way to teach both history and self-expression.  She also said this quote by Parker Palmer which I thought related to our discussions of how to create a successful lesson

“But what scholars now say -- and what good teachers have always known -- is the real learning does not happen until students are brought into relationship with the teacher, with each other, and with the subject.

Then we each got to create our own hope stick!  There were ribbons, beads and feathers around the class and we each decorated our own stick however we wanted. This was really fun and it was interesting to see what others did.  We also had a time at the end to share with the people around us what ours meant to us if we wanted to. Here is a picture of mine and a picture of the whole classes’ all together.

I thought this project was a very fun way to integrate history and art and also a great way to get the children to empathize with others and express their own hopes and dreams. I would definitely use this in a class room.
The next presenter, Kristen Vito-Silva was especially interesting because it was her classroom we were in in Henry Barnard.  When I walked into the classroom I noticed that there was art everywhere.  The curtains were painted in different famous styles such as Picasso and Jackson Pollock and there were ceiling murals and floor murals and all sorts of art projects on the walls, it was beautiful.  I was very surprised to learn that the children made absolutely everything!  She said that on the first day of class the room is completely bare and it is up to the children to create all the decorations. There is not one lame inspirational poster from the teaching store and I thought that was incredible. This definitely made me think of Alfie Kohn’s chart for what to look for in a classroom. In fact, I could probably add a few things to the list after seeing this classroom! The teacher said that she believed the fact that the children basically create their classroom is the reason there are less behavioral problems in that class. The room is like a community that the children have created for themselves and they respect it!

 I couldn’t believe some of the work the kids did, especially because they are only in 1st grade.  She went on to talk about the projects she does with her kids and I was even more blown away.  She mostly talked about how to integrate all different subjects with art. For example, there was a ceiling mural made up of rectangles that were each personally decorated by a child.  She told us about how they used math to figure out how to make all the shapes fit onto the paper and they used graphing to help the children find their rectangle once the mural was put up.  She also talked about a project in which they painted landscapes and then described what they painted and made their descriptions into poems.  She showed us some of the poems and landscapes and jaws literally dropped.  These 1st graders’ art was absolutely amazing. She gave us a packet which included some of the art observations and poetry these kids had created and I will type one out so everyone can appreciate the kind of things young children can do when guided and inspired:

Move silent
No one can see them
through the night
I climb into bed
I shiver and shake
No one can feel them
No one can control them
They are as pale
as white
Sneaky snatching
Through the air
Breezes through the
My legs curl
My arms curl too
My heart pumps
As fast as

 This whole presentation was really mind blowing to me and made me wish that every teacher in the world was like Mrs. Vito Silva! She mentioned Dee Dickinson’s article "Why are the Arts Important?" and I believe it summarizes what we learned that day.

The next part of the session, to be honest, I didn't grasp much information from (I had a pretty bad fever and had a lot of trouble understanding what was going on) However, the Teen Empowerment section has an excellent website  which I looked through after the convention to try to get a sense of what they were doing and what it means. I also found information about a youth peace conference they do every year which sounds really interesting to me.  It made me think of Delpit in a way because I think this program helps kids from every background understand the rules of power needed to succeed.

All in all I am glad I dragged myself out of bed!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Literacy with an Attitude

When reading this article I was constantly thinking back to my service learning and comparing it to my own education. The school I do interventions in is definitely a working class school and I have seen the teachers treat their students in the same way Finn describes. A quote that really stuck out to me was at the beginning when Finn is talking about working-class children resisting school and acting out: “the result is the “pretend-school model.” Teachers ask little of students in return for enough cooperation to maintain the appearance of conducting school.” It really saddened me that I have seen this happen in both of the classrooms I work in. The kids resist learning and the teachers just want to make it through the day with some sort of work done. This is kind of a chicken and egg situation, however. Are the students so disinterested in learning that the teachers become exhausted and fed up or are the teachers disinterested in truly teaching and the students pick up on that? I also thought of this when Finn was talking about the children of lower classes simply being “handled”: “This was based on the observation that schools have learned how to educate the children of the gentry and how to "handle" children of the working class-those who had been handled in school themselves.”

It was startling to read how each class is educated to stay in their class, and after reading this it seems so obvious yet I didn’t see it before. Why are we only teaching the upper class children how to be successful and be authority figures? What is it that makes the education so different amongst classes? I considered that most of the time teachers just starting out are places in lower class neighborhoods and perhaps the fact that these schools have less experienced teachers could be the reason why they aren’t getting higher quality education. I would like to investigate this topic more. Every class should be given an equal opportunity to learn so each person can reach their full potential. With this structure we are discouraging the ambitions of lower class children and giving a sense of entitlement to upper class children

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gender equality in education is important because everyone has the right to be taught in a way that makes it possible to succeed. I read a very interesting article which brought up some questions about why girls tend to do better in school, and in turn are more likely to go on to higher education.  The article has a link to some research that addresses girls' success mainly in language.  The research suggests that girls process words differently than boys.  Boys tend to need oral and visual representation in order to understand as well as girls.  I believe this research is important because it shows that a boy who is struggling may be just as smart as the girls, but needs to be taught differently.  I think this addresses equal opportunity in the classroom.  Boys may be given less of a chance to learn if they do not get the concept right away when it is much simpler for the girls.  
I also found an article that suggests that stereotype may play a role in how well kids do in specific subjects.  For example, the article states that "you act like a girl" is still a huge insult for young boys.  Things like language and arts may be considered "girly" to boys and therefore affects how well they want to do in the subject, and how hard they try.  I believe that every child wants to do well in school, but if they are struggling in something like language arts, they may just disregard it as a girly subject and not try as hard to succeed.

What are teachers to do about this? Creating an environment that both encourages equality in gender, but at the same time recognizes the different needs of boys and girls is ideal.  The last article I linked ended with a great quote: "Pitting boys against girls in competition for a good education is out of place in today's world. It shortchanges both sexes. The educational gender wars must cease. If we must have a war, let it be a war against ignorance. In this surely we are all on the same side!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Talking Points #6

I thought the interview with Tim Wise was very interesting and thought provoking.  I agree with almost everything he had to say.  When Obama was elected, I also thought that people were acting too much like it was the "end of racism" that because a black person could become president, we would become a post-racial society, but that is not true.  Just like after Brown vs Board of education, it did not solve racism, we still see it today.  When we see a white person become president, no body thinks of their accomplishments as a credit to their race, but when Obama became president it was all about how he was able to do it in spite of his race.  As Wise said, it is racism 2.0. We have set "brown and black norms" as in, it surprises us to see a person of color become president because that surpasses the "norm" we have put on them.  Wise also discusses how racism will continue to exist until people of color can be as mediocre as white people and still be successful.   He discussed how Obama is exceptionally smart and well spoken and that is why he was able to be so successful, but we have seen many white presidents who were mediocre in intelligence and got to the same point.  I thought this was an excellent way to show how racism still exists in ways we may not see right away.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two husbands?

I thought this video was adorable and shows a little boy discovering that two men can get married, accepting it, and inviting them to play ping pong. This is how the world should always work!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Extended comment to Elyssa's blog: In the service of what? -Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer

In Elyssa's blog, she discusses the negative effect that service learning can have.  She argues that when charity is made into a requirement, students will see it as only that and not a chance to grow or help others. I believe this is true and experienced the same thing in high school.  I knew I wanted to graduate as easily as possible so when faced with this obstacle, I chose the easiest option instead of the one that interested me most.  This can make charity seem like a chore when it would be best to see it as a part of life.

In addition, the article also mentions how service learning can sort of "miss the point".  For example, the students who made the kits for the homeless.  This was a real opportunity to find out about the lives of homeless people and learn from them and implement a useful change in society. But instead, the student did not have interaction with the homeless and therefore missed the opportunity. Like the article said, this was a form of "giving" instead of "change"

However, in the big picture service learning is a positive thing.  Any sort of charity is a good thing and even though it can be better, it is still a step in the right direction.  I think service learning should be required of everybody but so should discussions about how it could be made more successful.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hyperlinks: Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us- Linda Chistensen

In this article Christensen talks about children's media and how it shapes the way children view gender roles and other stereotypes.  It made me think it is strange that as we get older, our media becomes more aware of other lifestyles and has a broader range of diversity portrayed, so why aren't we starting earlier? I found a video that shows an interview with children on gender roles that confirms the fact that children are starting out in life with the belief that men and women have specific roles.

What I found most surprising was that all the children said the men go to work.  It seems like a lot of children have parents who both work, yet when asked which one is supposed to work, they still said the man. 

I also found a study done by USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism which looked at top grossing family movies from 2006-2009. (click on the pdf file in the article for more statistics) I thought the most interesting statistic was that 71% of the leading roles in the movies were male. What is this telling our children? How do girls feel when they do not see themselves portrayed in media? Or when they do, they are portrayed as sex symbols?

In addition to gender roles, Christensen also talks about racism portrayed to children. Although this article mainly refers to older media, it is still an example of what children (this includes us) have grown up watching.
Disclaimer: this article is from cracked.com so it may not be appropriate and is kind of silly. 

Lastly, this article talks about the Disney princesses and which ones portray a strong female role and which do not. This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Disney princesses distorting gender roles, but it is interesting to see the progression of the princesses and how some of the more recent characters actually contain some sort of role model. 

In general, I believe that every child should be able to see themselves portrayed in a positive light in the media and in order to do that we need to embrace new protagonists and make different lifestyles more acceptable in the media.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reflection: From Teasing to Torment

This article states the results of a survey taken by kids ages 13-18 and their teachers about harassment in schools. I wish I could say the results are startling but they did not surprise me at all.  The article states that 65% of teens have been harassed in school, most commonly for the way they look but a close second is their perceived sexual orientation.  These facts do not surprise me because I went to high school.
Most of my friends were scrawny artsy type guys and every single one of them had been harassed even beaten up by a bigger older and meaner guy at some point.  Sometimes in lunch we would take our trash and make a sculpture on the lunch table. It was fun and silly and we would laugh and take pictures, unless, of course, one of those other guys happened to see us, they would walk over and knock down the sculpture say "fags".  If we tried to say something or stand up for ourselves, they would make a physical threat We would always look around for teachers and most of the time, they wouldn't see it.
 We were part of the 57% the article mentions that experience harassment but do not report it. Maybe students like this believe it is just part of life and they have to learn to accept it. The article states that most kids believe teachers wouldn't do anything about it and that the harassment would continue, and from experience I know this is true.
How can we stop this viscous cycle? I think the best way is awareness. Meaning not only every teacher but every student should be on the look out for harassment.  The people who are harassing have to be in the minority as compared to those who want it to stop, therefore, the majority needs to become aware and work together to make the general feeling of schools to be that this is not okay and will not be tolerated by anyone.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Argument: Aria by Richard Rodriguez

The author, Rodriguez, argues that bilingual children's path to language assimilation goes further than the classroom.  Rodriguez talks about how English seemed like a public language while Spanish was a private at home language.  He says that he had trouble speaking English in class at first, but I believe he states that the teachers calling on him and forcing him to speak helped.  Also, the teachers came to his house and talked to his parents about speaking English at home too.  This made Rodriguez realize that the language was his to use as well, it wasn't just his "at school language" and it became part of his everyday life. After that he's able to talk to strangers and speak more confidently in class.

The author also addresses a downside.  He says that his parents learn the language slower than the children and they have problems communicating.  So many problems that eventually it is easier to just not speak at all.  I think the point the author is trying to make is that while it is important for bilingual children to own their new language and feel as comfortable with it as their original, it is just as important that they never forget their heritage.  Also, their teachers have to be aware of these goals and go the extra step in helping the children achieve it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quotes: Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol

   1)  “If poor people behaved rationally,” says Lawrence Mead a professor of political science at New York University, “they would seldom be poor for long in the first place”

-This quote is used as a transition into the background story of Alice Washington, a woman born into poverty who continues to live in terrible conditions and sickness despite her best efforts.  This quote illuminates the problematic views of some people, even professors at top universities.  This woman’s background, like many others in the same situation, shows no irrationality. Alice finished school and went to a secretarial college and got the best job she could.  It isn’t until she gets sick that she is forced to turn to the mercy of the government which causes much of her financial downfall.  The author concludes her backstory by saying “I have spent hundreds of hours talking to her in her kitchen. I have yet to figure out what she has done that was irrational.” This professor’s quote is unnerving and shows a sort of arrogance that people in powerful positions can have if they don’t consider people’s perspectives that are not in power.

           2) “I believe that what the rich have done to the poor people in this city is something that a preacher could call evil.  Somebody has power. Pretending they don’t so they don’t need to use it to help people- that is my idea of evil”

-          This quote especially stood out to me because it relates to a lot of the subjects we have been discussing in class. The existence of power and the advantages of acknowledging your own power in order to help others.  Acknowledging power can be difficult because you are admitting that you are part of the problem, but it is necessary to be honest about the realities in the world if we want to change them. 

 3) “My teacher says we came here in chains and now we buy our own chains and we put them on ourselves. “

-Even though this quote is specifically talking about black people in this text, I think it can be used to describe most.  The person who said this is referring to the way people in her neighborhood entrap themselves in this life and see no way of getting out.  Some turn to drug use, that’s a chain, or a dishonest way to get money, another chain.  However, for people who are in power and have advantage, the chains can be their own ignorance or denial that there is anything they can do.  We all put on our own chains and lock ourselves in our lives and our closed perception of reality.  

The point I would like to discuss in class is mainly the feeling of knowing there is suffering in the world and not knowing what to do about it. It's all too easy to put situations like this out of your mind when you aren't confronted with it everyday and I think educating ourselves is the first step. But what else can we do?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


My name is Shannon, this is my first semester at RIC.  I transferred from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan where I studied photography. I took a few years off and changed my major to Secondary Education with a concentration in English. I live on campus in the basement of the New Residence hall, aka the dungeon, but I go home to New Jersey some weekends to visit my friends and cat, Blackcat. When I am not at school or studying I like to see bands and  hang out. So far this semester has been very interesting and I'm excited to learn more.