Monday, June 20, 2011

Empowering Education: Ira Shor

Connections: Shor/August

Ira Shor says that the most important thing children learn is socialization.  He urges teachers to encourage their students to question their experience, evaluate their schooling, and feel confident to change things.  He makes references to Piaget who urged a reciprocal relationship between teachers and students, where respect for the teachers coexisted with cooperation and student centered pedagogy.   Empowering Education essentially means to participate. Shore feels that best practice in education is when the teacher leads and directions instruction democratically, having a balance of power and encouraging input from the students which jointly enhances the learning process. The goals of this pedagogy are to enhance academic knowledge and to develop critical thinkers about society, power, inequality, and change. After reading this piece, I was able to relate Shor to many of the other pieces we read pertaining to social issues in education.  I especially see a connection between Gerri August and Shor.  Gerri August talks about democratic pedagogy and dialogicality and shows us (Zeke's classroom) how a teacher who teaches with this style can facilitate learning in such a way where students learn to recognize, respect and accept each others differences. Moving away from a dominate mindset and being open to sociocultural differences creates a safe environment focused on equality. Shor says we as educators  need to question the status quo and encourage our students to do the same.  Gerri August questioned the status quo by researching and investigating what happens when a child with lesbian parents and children from other non-dominate family structures share their family stories in a classroom that is led by a teacher committed to democratic pedagogy. 
Shor really challenges the teaching style of most teachers.  Typically, teachers have his/her agenda and there is little room for questioning or changes.  Shore reminded me to relinquish control and create an environment that is more community based  where each member plays an active and important role where their input is valued and encouraged.   August refers to school as an adventure for children and educators need to guide this adventure and do so with varying degrees of sensitivity and skill.   I think she means that we need to take the time to learn our students, their families and their unique situations then, guide their adventure individually according to their circumstances and their personality.  Shor and August both challenge educators not to be neutral.  Neutrality is not an option because if we are neutral we are essentially conforming to the dominate culture and not allowing for social change.   

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gerri August, "Making Room for One Another"

Gerri August: Quotes

Gerri August in her book, "Making Room for One Another" conducted a research project in a kindergarten classroom to answer the question of what happens when a child with lesbian parents and children from other non-dominant family structures share their family stories in a classroom that is led by a teacher committed to democratic pedagogy.  The educational system is in the midst of rapid changes pertaining to the dominate culture, social norms and in the definition of what constitutes a family. While schools struggle with how best to educate students for the future, they are also dealing with serious sociocultural differences that emerge in the classroom.  One of the targeted children in Gerri's research was a Cambodian boy "Cody" who was adopted by a lesbian couple and has two moms.  Although data did not allow for an interpretation, it was very interesting to see and experience how an individual from a non-traditional family might struggle with anxiety over his/her home life due to fear of ridicule, discrimination and or exclusion.
"Differences that make a difference (the particulars vary according to social context) can lead to otherizing and even exclusion." 
"If educators understand that society is in the process of being both preserved and transformed by our collective activities, then we will see our classrooms as activity systems that have both roots and wings."
As Educators, we need to be aware of the different homes that are students come from so we can do our best to create a safe an comfortable environment that represents all families.  The two quotes above, clearly emphasis embracing each others differences and although the dominate culture is changing we need to preserve and reflect on the history of societal norms but accept and embrace the changes. It is our job as Educators to teach students to recognize yet accept and appreciate each others differences.  As the leader in the classroom, we can use some of the strategies recorded and represented in Gerri August's book that were demonstrated in Zeke's classroom to eliminate discourse, societal biasness, and have an understanding of more than just the dominant ideology. To create a classroom community with democratic pedagogy, teachers need to have a commitment to diversity and teach their students to value and accept people's differences.  The students need to provided with examples/scenarios and opportunities to share, comment and express themselves to work toward creating a positive classroom community.
"Educators who are alarmed by this censorship need to find effective ways to develop empathic learners who are "ready to learn" the value of difference".
I chose this quote because I was pretty surprised that PBS canceled an episode of Postcards from Buster because it focused on a family with lesbian moms. I think I was even more surprised that congress who helps fund PBS based on the federal governments Ready To Learn initiative said that Congress never intended that RTL funding would "introduce this kind of subject matter to children" and that many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode. Last I checked, society has changed drastically and continues to change when thinking in terms of family.  With the high divorce rates, blended families and gay marriage equality, many families look and operate differently than the traditional nuclear family.  Children, in some way, will be exposed to some of the many different types of families.  Regardless of a families preference for what ever the reason, I feel as though parents  need to teach their children to understand the diversity of families in this country and not refrain from exposing them to today's reality.  Families are changing and PBS could have taught children about different families in a loving and appropriate format.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bilingual Education: Aria/Collier

Extended Comments: Heidi's Blog

Richard Rodriquez and Virginia Collier are both supporters of bilingual education and argue that teaching students in their native language is the best way to educate students whose first language is not English. In "Teaching Multicultural Children" Collier very clearly presents a case for bilingual education. In "Aria" Rodriguez talks about his personal experiences and suggests that if he had been offered a bilingual education he may have adjusted better to school.  I found both articles very interesting and especially liked the fact that the article written by Rodriquez was a personal experience which  allows readers an opportunity to  better understand the personal struggles one faced as he tried to learn the English Language.  Unfortunately, his experience had a negative impact on his view of school which also affected his home life.  As teachers, it will hopefully be a reminder of what to take into consideration and what not to do/suggest. Collier, presented an excellent assortment of options for teaching students who are bilingual or ESL learners.  Her guidelines, can be easily implemented, "to better understand how teaching English to second-language learners can become an enriching experience when appreciating students' different languages and life situations."

After reading Heidi's blog I decided to do extended comments because I thought she did a nice job explaining the authors argument and relating Collier to Delpit. I liked the example she used in relation to Collier's guideline number three,  that the goal should not be to eliminate or eradicate the home language and replace it with English, it should be to support the development of both languages simultaneously.  Delpit talked about learning how to communicate in the dominant culture, the "culture of power".  Collier seems to say that English is the language used in the "culture of power" and that in order to be successful children need to learn English. Collier is in favor of teaching children the importance of learning English, which is the dominate language, " the culture of power" while supporting their retention of their home language. Collier teaches us the guidelines for teaching students whose first language is not English, however, she feels strongly about each student continuing to use his/her native language.  Perhaps, Rodriquez's experience would have been different if on his journey to learn English he was still able to engage in dialog in his native tongue which was a part of who he is, his identity and heritage. 

As Heidi states, "as the number of children who speak a language other than English at home continues to increase in many classrooms across the country it becomes increasingly important that teachers know how best to provide these English language learners with the best education possible". I agree that teachers need to approach each student individually and take into consideration his/her learning style and comfort level as well as best practices and effective guidelines when education students who are learning English as their second language. It is important to support them and make them feel secure in an environment where they struggle to understand and or communicate. 

In my district, we have a small ESL population and the students are taught in their grade level classroom where English is the only language spoken.  Theses students are pulled out of their classroom environment and receive 1-1 or small group instruction with other ESL learners thirty minutes per day.  What I found most interesting is that the ESL teachers do not know how to speak, read, or understand the native language of their students."Is this enough?  Collier would say no, that full day bilingual education is what is truly needed.  Is this a realistic goal?  In the current climate of budget cuts and increasing class sizes it seems unlikely that the availability of bilingual education is going to increase".  In response to the question Heidi posed I would have to say no based on the two articles I read.  When I read this, I was reminded of  Kozol and his example of the "baby Ives" when he talks about unfair advantages that some students have, this means that all of those children who enter school with limited English proficiency, or with no English at all, they will struggle to catch up to the native-English speaking peers and may never really get there.   Yet, all children are held to the same standards and have the same expectations placed on them in regards to state assessments.  I agree when Heidi said, Collier presents bilingual education as the solution but she does not address the practical issues of how to implement it on a large scale.  As a Special Educator I had very little knowledge of whats best for ESl learners. Actually prior to reading these articles, I thought it would be best for students to be fully emerged in the culture and language.  Apparently, I was incorrect and appreciate my new knowledge in this area. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gendered Harassment in Secondary Schools

Hyperlink: Gendered Harassment in Secondary Schools: Understanding Teacher's
I found this article to be very interesting.  I have to admit this topic and issues concerning harassment due to gender is something I have never given any though too due to the age of the students I work with.  I was quite surprised but could understand the position the teachers took in regards to addressing the issues and following through on disciplinary action or lack there of.  Due to the sensitivity and controversy of the issues I can see where teachers felt they needed a better understanding of the appropriate ways to address all students involved and be formally trained on specific and proper protocols.
" By gaining a better understanding of the complex factors that shape how teachers view and respond to gendered harassment we can work towards more effective solutions to reducing these behaviors in schools".(Meyer)

                   These statistics are alarming!

"Through the process of listening to teachers talk about their experiences with gendered harassment in secondary schools it is clear that it is not possible to create safer and more positive learning environments until school leaders initiate a whole-school process that would transform the formal and informal structures of the school". ( Meyer) 

I found this video and thought it would be interesting  to share, to show the controversial and sensitivity of the challenges that exist when trying to confront such forms of harassment that involve gender issues.
Lady Gaga is donating a portion of the proceeds from her new song, "Born This Way" to GLSEN!