Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kliewer: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome (Reflections)

There were a few points made in Kliewer's essay, aside from the incredibly touching stories, that stood out to me. He explains the difference between a model of utilitarian individualism and a model of human reciprocity. In a model of utilitarian individualism, individuals stand alone in constant competition and scrutiny of each other. Anyone considered apparently inadequate is marginalized, devalued, and stripped of having a voice in the wider community. This often includes people with disabilities, such as people with Down Syndrome - which the essay focuses on. In a model of human reciprocity however, the focus is not on individuals, but on the community. In this model, everyone is valued for the unique and varied ways they enrich the experience of the whole community; everyone is included and everyone has a voice. Kliewer argues for this model and presents stories as evidence for how well it benefits not just less abled individuals, but well abled ones also. 

He argues that schools are the most important sites for this model, to develop a knowledge and a sense of community in which they understand that everyone has something valuable to offer the group, or society as a whole. This will also lead to a more socially just society. An important part of this model also has to do with the need to have a deeper, broader understanding of intellect. In one of his examples, Kliewer points out how a 7-year old boy with Downs is tested to be considered at a 2-year old level, yet his teacher and his peers recognize that he's at the same intellectual level they're at. The model of human reciprocity appreciates the reality that intelligence and understanding can be demonstrated in different ways, ways that are outside the box of the standardized testing ideology.

One statement I really liked was this: "Acknowledging students with [disabilities] as thoughtful, creative, and interested learners with personal identities that distinguish them from all other people suggests an individual value that enhances any context containing the child."

This reminded me of the little boy, in the video we watched about inclusion classes, who said that having a disabled individual in the class was good for everyone because it offers them exposure and understanding that prevents them from reacting negatively to involvement with such individuals. Kliewer and many other professionals who advocate for inclusion further believe that learning is augmented for all students in an inclusive classroom. 

Here is a video I found that makes a lot of the same points as Kliewer in his article

and this one I just thought was cool because it used stop animation, and analogies like the one about wearing glasses we use a lot in FNED

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Disney Femslash - thought this was so cool!!!

I was looking for a picture of Belle to use as my fb default - people are doing it to raise awareness for child abuse. Anyway, I stumbled when I started seeing pictures like these:

I got pretty excited because I thought this was so cool, and I was curious so I clicked on one of the pictures and it brought me to this link, which had a ton of these pictures and fanmade videos. Apparently this is part of a whole sub-culture of fan-made LGBTQ art. Here are some of my favorites of the fanmade videos - some just coupled two female characters, the best ones told stories:

and here's one for the fellas:

I think it's so interesting to see these same sex pairings. I wonder when Disney will get the hint and come out with a real LGBTQ movie! Finding this obviously made me think about a lot of the theory we've covered this semester: Johnson - we can't be quiet about these issues, Carlson - issues of LGBTQ invisibility, and Christensen - the secret education. Go "slashers" for fighting back in such a neat, creative way!

If, like Christensen suggests, more of us were exposed to images like this at a young age, issues brought up by Carlson about LGBTQ students suffering harassment at the hands of prejudiced students would rarely ever come up. Maybe society would finally understand that love is beautiful in all forms. Seeing is believing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Nightmare!!!

So, I was thinking about the video Dr. Bogad posted for Columbus day, and decided to look for some like that about Thanksgiving. Here are two that I found particularly informative and emotional:

The next day I had Thanksgiving with my family, with this in mind. My family had placed on the table, along with our food, fake "Indian" hats and were encouraging the youngest to put them on. My Uncle put one on to humor us, and made savage, stereotyped "Indian" sounds. I was disgusted. They asked my niece if she was learning about the pilgrims and the "Indians" at school. I was so tempted to say something about the lie she'd have learned, but I was afraid to say anything without my family thinking I was preaching, being a freak, and ruining Thanksgiving. As if this wasn't enough to ruin my appetite - my niece came out after dinner wearing a tiara, saying she was a princess - to which everyone complimented how pretty she was! AAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

I would love to learn how to educate my family on these issues without coming across as a pompous windbag. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Better Late Than Never Reflections on Christensen

In "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us," Linda Christensen states that our children, our students, receive a "secret education" from what they read in childrens' books and watch on TV and in movies. That secret education teaches them "to accept the world as it is portrayed in these social blueprints. And often that world depicts the domination of one sex, one race, one class, or one country over a weaker counterpart.

Christensen urges us to "look at the roles of women, men, people of color, and poor people," and encourage us ask the following questions:

  • Who plays the lead?
  • Who plays the buffoon? 
  • Who plays the servant? 
  • Look at the race, station in life, body type of each character. 
  • What motivates the character? 
  • What do they want out of life? 
  • What's their mission? 
  • If there are people of color in the cartoon, what do they look like? 
  • How are they portrayed? 
  • What could children learn about this particular group from this cartoon? 
  • How does the film portray overweight people? 
  • What about women other than the main character? 
  • What jobs do you see them doing? 
  • What do they talk about? 
  • What are their main concerns? 
  • What would young children learn about women's roles in society if they watched this film and believed it? 
  • What roles do money, possessions, and power play in the film?
  • Who has it?
  • Who wants it?
  • How important is it in the story?
  • What would children learn about what's important in this society?
She offers her students a chart to fill out as a guide when analyzing these media messages. Often we find that the lead characters are often the most attractive, the heroine is mostly concerned with winning a man, this becomes her happily ever after, the hero is hyper masculine, she is the damsel in distress and he becomes the knight in shining armor, poor people are uneducated and illiterate, people of color are horribly stereotyped, overweight people are buffoons, ugly people are evil or comical - need I go on? 

These are the messages being taught to our children, which can lead to a whole heap of insecurities for many, among other things.

Christensen offers us, as teachers, a way to help our students fight back by first, using her model to have them analyze different media, and secondly - taking action!

Instead of just assigning students an essay critiquing a book, show, or movie, Christensen has her students come up with a project that will go beyond the classroom, empowering students to educate others about what they've learned. While it must still be specific, and use specific examples - the students have the opportunity to publish their work for an audience of their choosing: "parents, peers, teachers, children's book authors, librarians, Disney video store owners, advertisers." One group of students decided to make a pamphlet that graded different cartoon shows that they would hand out at the PTA meetings. Here is another example which explores the roles of women and demands a new kind of self-sufficient heroine, and one examining the gender roles taught and their affects on the lives of the viewers. 

 Reading this article, as an individual, has caused me to examine and re-examine everything I read and watch to look for the social injustices they might be teaching, I think about having my own children. I've decided not to shelter them from it, but teach them about what they're watching. As a teacher, I hope to do the same for my students, and incorporate an underlying theme of social injustice in the media message into my curriculum, so that as a class we are continuously analyzing what we read and what we see, and I hope to give them the kind of assignments recommended by Christensen.

I hope that, in class, we can talk more about specific ways to incorporate this kind of critical analysis into our own classrooms someday. Because it's easy to look at and discuss these issues in a class designed around them, but we need to know how to teach our students about these issues in different classroom settings.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

***Thoughts on Learning and Mixed Media***

In the animated speech we watched today in class, there was a spot that talked about how kids have all these learning resources like the internet, and TV, movies, etc. but they are penalized in class for being distracted from "boring stuff." I've also noticed that, on my blog, I mostly only get comments on posts where I include a video clip. I think there's a lot to be said for this, and about the importance of using mixed media to teach in the classroom. I know I feel I learn a lot more from watching clips and movies than from just reading, writing, and talking about the articles. It holds my interest more, and I internalize it more.

So, in light of this, here's a clip about a teacher using facebook as a learning tool!

Share some thoughts, links, or clips of your own!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Promising Practices

I arrived at the conference on time and well dressed. Checking in was easy and I quickly found a table and some familiar faces. I was disappointed by the "breakfast" we were offered which consisted of one kind of chewy granola bar and mini bottled waters. Tea and coffee were also available. Jackie and I ended up buying breakfast in the cafeteria. My classmates and I gave out subdued cheers as Dr. Bogad gave a welcome speech. Then we were sent off to our first seminars.

My first seminar was A.L.L.I.E.D. which was slow to start but ultimately picked up. The panel was concerned with making classrooms safe for students in underrepresented groups such as blacks, Latinos, Asians, and LGBTQ. Everyone was at one point asked to stand in a circle around the room, and given an index card to read aloud. Written on them were true, anonymous stories of classroom experiences individuals had had which showcased the difficulties of being excluded, singled out, and misunderstood. After this activity, we were broken up into groups of four. As we discussed the stories that stood out to us and our emotional reactions, we also brainstormed some prevention strategies. The seminar was concluded  by sharing these suggestions together as a whole, and they were made into a comprehensive list:

~ Don't single anyone out to represent an entire group
~ Don't assume a student is an expert on their culture
~ Don't assume a student needs "fixing"
~ If you're unsure about how to address a student in class, ask them directly in a private setting
~ Use media to expose the entire class to related issues and encourage them to question media messages
~ Challenge your fear . . . say something
~ Include content of underrepresented groups in the curriculum
~ Have class discussions about related issues; break the silence
~ Let students be the experts on their own lives
~ Students need to see themselves in the classroom (figuratively and literally i.e. pictures and posters)

I felt this was a great way to wrap up; it provides clear, explicit solutions in a simple format as a take-away for educators. Implementation is ultimately what matters as a take-away, and I know I can easily implement these tips in a classroom.

During this session I thought of Delpit because of the obvious examples of the culture of power in the individuals' stories, and the explicitness of our take-away list. I'm thinking now, also, of Oakes because of the success of our cooperative group tasks. I decided to find some posters that would satisfy the last tip on the list:

Next was lunch: an improvement compared to breakfast, and some time to view the vendors' wares. I was disappointed at the huge lack of material and information relevant to secondary education. Still I left with a fair stack of free goods.

The second seminar I attended was titled Caring In School: Problem-Solving Issues of Equity. I was expecting to get a clear set of suggestions for creating an equitable class community but was sorely disappointed in that respect. The speaker rambled about her research, and gave us the simple task of answering the question: "What does 'care' in education mean to you?" She briefly mentioned the different approaches that women and men have to teaching but never followed up on it or gave it any kind of conclusion. Finally, the only tips she provided were on how to analyze student narratives by asking the following questions:

~ What was the conflict about?
~ How was the conflict resolved?
~ What does this story reveal about what was important to the student?

After that, she didn't provide any clue of what to do with that information, or how to resolve any kind of issue for an individual student, or class. The What? and So What? were confused, and the Now What? was non-existant.

I enjoyed the President's speech. I thought her stories were entertaining and I liked her message: to ignore formalities and be inquisitive of people who are different. I thought it related well to the Johnson article we read at the start of the semester.

In spite of a few shortcomings in, the keynote speaker, Dennis Shirley's speech, I got quite a few valuable take-aways. For example, the 5 Dimensions of Multicultural Education are:

1. content integration
2. knowledge construction process
3. prejudice reduction
4. an equity pedagogy
5. an empowering school culture

I appreciated his warnings of the common struggles teachers face, relating to what he calls "The Unholy Trinity," which consists of Presentism - trying to survive the present and losing sight of a vision for the future, Privatism - feeling isolated with no support system, and Conservatism - accepting administrative designs and neglecting to develop a unique curriculum designed around the students' needs.

The ending of his speech was rushed, but he said to at least take away the following two things:

1. you need to know what your vision is
2. you need a supportive network

He also said, "rally for the kids!" Again, although there were a few shortcomings, I consider these tidbits valuable.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Quotes on Oakes

The essay, "Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take Another Route," by Jeannie Oakes really struck a chord with me. As the differences between low-ability and high-ability classrooms, content, and teaching were described, I was reminded of my own experiences as a student.

In low-ability classes, for example, teachers seem to be less encouraging and more punitive, placing more emphasis on discipline and behavior and less on academic learning . . . they seem to be more concerned about getting students to follow directions, be on time, and sit quietly . . . When they're not being disruptive, students in low-ability classes are often apathetic. The reason for this may be that because they're more likely to fail, they risk more by trying.

I am an intelligent person. As an adolescent, I read for pleasure, and had a talent for creative writing. I possessed good reasoning and analytic skills. I was a fast learner. I was diagnosed with ADD as I was often distracted in class. Really I think I was bored. The content wasn't stimulating to me, nor were the teachers. They fit the descriptions in the quote above. I acted out in school, furious with my teachers for various reasons. Once, a certain English teacher accused me of not handing in an assignment I knew I had. This particular teacher's desk was piled high with papers in disorganized stacks. I told her I had handed it to her prior to the due date. She would not admit that she may have lost my paper and refused to even look for it again, still insisting that I had not given it to her. She was rude, as many of my teachers were in Tiverton, so I was rude back. I was often suspended, and labeled as a troubled child. I was kept back in seventh grade and had to go to summer school to pass the eighth grade because I continuously refused to learn from these teachers who didn't respect me, care about me, or believe in me.

In [high-ability classes], critical thinking and problem-solving skills seemed to emerge from the high quality of the course content . . . top-track classes spend more class time on learning activities and less on discipline, socializing, or class routine . . . Their teachers tend to be more enthusiastic , to make instructions clearer, and to use strong criticism or ridicule less frequently than teachers of low-ability classes. Classroom tasks are often better organized, and students are given a greater variety of things to do. 

I moved to Vermont my sophomore year of high school. At U-32, things were different, they were so much better! I fell in love with school. The teachers were excited about the content, they respected the students, cared about them, believed in them. Critical thinking was incorporated and encouraged in the classroom. Silly rules like not being able to wear hats or chew gum, which never really made much sense to me, were abandoned. Teachers were referred to by first name, which I think really created a sense that teachers and students could be on the same level, could relate. My teachers were no longer boring or rude, they were passionate and kind. I rose to be consistently on the honor role, and enjoyed being an active participant in class. I developed positive relationships with many of my teachers. This turn-around I experienced was entirely due to the kind of education I was receiving here, compared to the kind I had received in Tiverton schools.

Unless teachers and administrators believe and expect all students to learn well, they will be unlikely to create school and classroom conditions where students believe in their own ability and exert the effort it takes to succeed. 

Having experienced both sides of the learning spectrum is part of what fuels my passion for becoming an educator. I want to be one less teacher who abuses his/her students by disrespecting and under-estimating them, who causes them to shut down and refuse to learn. I want to be one more teacher who shows his/her students passion and possibility, who makes learning fun and exciting. It was this sentiment, for me, that Oakes spoke to.

In class I would love to hear others share similar stories in which a teacher's positive or negative attitude made a difference for them and how they were able to learn.