Monday, April 21, 2014

Why should we care about Potholes

Hey fellow classmates.  I didn't think to leave my thoughts on how I feel my lesson went. . .I don't think the "skeleton" of the plan was very strong.  That said, I always would like a second chance to do a better job.  I need to figure out a format in which to present the information, it was disorganized.   I do like the topic, but this plan needs work. So please leave your comments regarding my manner, whether I gave you enough time to think, etc. here.  (Seriously, don't hold back I would really appreciate your help).  And sorry about the pink marker Caroline!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

An empowering Pedagogy, Ira Shor

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

Education is a politically loaded issue.  Whenever something involves funding and budgets it is going to be political.  And one of the things that has been absent from our class discussions over the weeks as we have confronted the many injustices that are part of the status quo, is that we rarely talk about who is going to pay for "fixing the system".  In the end we all do.  This being the case it becomes a question of taxes, and then becomes a question of fair taxes.  You really do not want to get me started.  But I will quote Finn, as I did once before, “The status quo is the status quo because people who have the power (and money) to make changes are comfortable with the way things are.”  And this was so awfully played out in Jonathon Kozol’s Mott Haven years ago.

But “education is more than budgets, and policies. Schools make the people who make the people who make society.”  “Education can enable or inhibit the questioning habits of students, thus developing or disabling their critical relation to knowledge, schooling and society.”  (Apple, 1979, 1982, 1988)  These statements are highly alarming to me as was the magnitude of this article and the concerns it raises.  (I do love the Empowering Pedagogy though)
So let me focus here.

Shor states that “People are naturally curious.  They are born learners”   But somewhere along the way, whether in school or elsewhere, for many, something stifles this natural tendency to ask and learn.

While researching for my final project, I came across a vast amount of material from Alfie Kohn in which he discusses a huge web of policies and practices that essentially crush the innocent curiosity of children.  Kohn is big advocate of allowing students to instigate the creation of a democratic classroom community.  He believes it is a big mistake not to do so.  At this point so do I.

In Shor’s Empowering Pedagogy,  The first value is participation.  In both of my other education classes, a significant amount of time is spent on the tools we can use to create this empowering classroom.  In my observations, I have witnessed the result of this working, and also not working.  It is truly the key to effective classroom management, and the door to empowering educational values that can develop students into citizen’s who think critically and act democratically.

As we think about what kind of teachers we want to be, I am taking from Shor tools I hope to use at least once a year.  Can I effectively engage all students in a discussion of what the rules and norms of the class should be?  What the students need it to be?  This is the essence of the Learner centered democratic classroom.  Not necessarily an easy thing to do, especially with kids who are used to being told what is expected of them instead of asked what do they think should be expected of them.  But we have to start somewhere.  I was especially moved by Shor’s account on page 27, “To help myself. . . . students should start out by questioning the material and the process of schooling. “  Try to read this page because it is very powerful and I have heard of this approach first hand, and the teacher’s I have met who do this, insist it is magical. . . And I'd like to point out that in all of my classes I am asked to evaluate my own work.  And in this class we are also asked to evaluate our own work and in some cases each others' (Blog comments).  Personally, not feeling judged and not being in a competition has allowed me the freedom I need to learn.  Well played Dr. Bogad, well played!

Finally I want to take a moment and go back to the idea of an inquiry based learning experience. This is at the essence of Johnson, Delpit and Finn.  The classrooms that enable critical thinking will provide students with the powerful literacy skills with which to move about in the world,  they will have the power to create opportunities for themselves and to make a difference the way they want to make a difference.
If you are working with small kids, there is an age where everything out of their mouth is a question.  As parents, it can be awesome, exhausting, hilarious and a nightmare! ***  When my daughter was 5, she spent 3 days at a prestigious Providence school for evaluation in their application process.    A year earlier they would have taken her, but there was no space.  After the three days I was told she would not be considered because she asked too many questions.  At the time I was a pissed Mother Bear.  But, she ended up in a wonderful public elementary school, I didn’t have to drive 4 hours 5 days a week, and her creativity wasn’t crushed.

* * *during the “question” period, my little girl and I were driving past the big blue bug one day, and she asked, “Mom do you think that ants look at the big blue bug like god and ask it questions and if it doesn’t answer they make up answers?”   “Of course,"  I said.  "It’s the way people do it too.”  The two of us are very sarcastic.  (We are not religious, but we are very spiritual, and I apologize if I offended anyone.  That is never my intent.)

Here she is. . . yes I made the watermelon shoes. . . it's a summertime tradition at our house . . .  

 The other picture is her 8th birthday: pin the tail on the alien. . . . 

And finally, I'd like share 2 links.  The first is to the Kahn Academy.  A non-profit educational website created in 2006 whose mission is to provide a "free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere".
The quote below is from the second link.  The schools in Los Altos CA are undertaking a huge change in policy.  And it aligns pretty perfectly with Ira Shor's Empowering Pedagogy.  At the heart of their changes is the Kahn academy.

"(The) focus for two years has been on developing a culture of ongoing learning in the schools.  “Our teachers felt un-empowered; that they did not have permission to change.”  The district was introduced to Khan Academy two years ago.  Alyssa says, “Khan was a great tool to give our teachers something tangible to work with, to start moving away from the assembly line model and build a blended learning experience. It helped us all to build the rationale that we need to ‘do’ learning in a very different way.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Towards Democracy, and a Rich Classroom Community

FNED 346 

Dr. Bogad

After reading Christopher Kliewer’s article “Citizenship in School”  I could not help but think of every single other injustice we have been addressing in class.  From Johnson’s Privilege and the obvious SCWAAMP, (well only obvious to those who can’t claim these inherent privileges), to the culture and first languages of Kozol, Rodriguez, the marginalization of those who are different in their sexual orientation, to the stereotyping of princesses and princes, to segregation of class, race and community, and now this, tracking by disability.  Please tell me there isn’t anything else.
This article resonated with what started me down this teaching path to begin with.  There is mounting evidence that it is not who is in the classroom that matters, but how the classroom, the teacher, students, curriculum and real world relevance all function together as a community.  And happily this evidence also suggests that testing and grading is demeaning and detracts from true learning (Alfie Kohn).  So instead, good teachers should do less teaching, but instead become facilitators, with the goal of celebrating every child, and recognizing them as thinking creative individuals who add unique and valuable dimensions to the classroom.  Speaking to down syndrome, oft considered a disability, “To eliminate a single person through any form of banishment, no matter how benevolent the logic, reduces the web and makes the community a less democratic and less rich place.” (p.96)

(So we are ready next time. . . .for Dr. Bogad's bag of tricks! )

Shayne Robbins devotion to making the classroom a safe place for all students to learn, with the support from the families and the community, is a righteous model.  Had the disabled Down Syndrome children been labelled and then tracked by these labels, had they not been recognized as unique contributors to the classroom community, later in life they might have described their school experience as Mia Peterson did at the very beginning of this reading.

“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, I wanted to cry.” (Peterson, 1994, p.6)

Shayne Robbins' classroom was built on the recognition of the individuals’ value, the curriculum, and by creating a dialogue with the kids.  And it suggests that what is to be valued in a student needs to broaden. So that the meaning of “disability” applies less often if at all.  We saw in Jean Anyon’s research that the socio-economics of the families in a community and the resulting assumed intelligence of the students defined the atmosphere and teaching style in the classroom. And ultimately it affected the definition of success for these students.  In Robbin’s class room it did not.

In Brown Vs the board of education, the Supreme Court created federal legislation desegregated race in education.  It was the legal acknowledgement of the problem of race discrimination in schools.  The first step in addressing an issue is acknowledgement.  It is still a problem.  But it is time to desegregate schools and society for the able "disabled".

Several weeks ago, in my gym, I noticed we had a new trainer.  He has down syndrome.  The physical attributes give it away.  I have watched him, and he is no different than any other trainer in terms of his abilities.  This morning he give a client a big hug for something well done.  It warmed my heart.  Because THAT you don’t see from the other trainers, not with that kind of authentic affection.  I would love to meet this young man.

Years ago, in my daughter’s daycare, one of her class mates had a sister, a year older, with down syndrome.  Christina was treated no differently than anyone else by the children, the school, the community or her family.  About 10 years later, I ran into the family again as our girls began playing fast pitch in Apponaug.  This league allows anyone from anywhere in the state to play, and fathers did the coaching.  The camaraderie in the teams was one of the many joys of watching these kids play.  Going to the games and screaming at your kid was another!  (Not to mention you would be hard pressed to find a mother that didn’t secretly enjoy watching their daughter sitting in a cage).  But there was something very special about Christina’s team.  You couldn’t miss it.  They absolutely loved her, and she them.  All this a result of an entire community that made it a point to know Christina.

You cannot teach if you do not “know your students”.  This has been impressed upon me in every one of my classes.  (Remember our first day of FNED 346).  A visiting teacher shared with one of my other classes, that every year, during the first week, he negotiates the rules and norms of the classroom for as many days as it takes.  At the same time, he calls every parent or guardian to learn all he can about his new charges.  He creates an inclusive environment.  This aligns well with my approach to life. 

According to Kliewer  “. . . through community, self indulgence is cultivated and satisfied.”  In other words community is there for the individual to use for personal gain and future success.  But for the most part, privilege "for personal gain and future success" is still defined by SCWAAMP.  Too often, “those who appear to lack the potential to acquire privilege through community are devalued, seen as less capable and so “less than full citizens””.  So what of their future?   

The big idea here, is that we have to get along.  We have to want to get along.  “Douglas Biklen (1992) has outlined, society itself is hurt when schools act as cultural sorting machines - locations that “justify a competitive ethic that marginalizes certain students or groups of students…(that) legitimize discrimination and devaluation on the basis of the dominant society’s preferences in matters of ability, gender, ethnicity, and race…and (that) endorse an elaborate process of sorting by perceived ability and behavior”(p.183).  And isn’t this pretty much everything we have been talking about.  That too many schools and communities “hurt”.  Either by discrimination or tracking.  

This is a quote from the above link, an article in the New York Times about the resurgence of tracking.  This approach is happening here in RI, and is not necessarily a bad thing. . . Think about Robbins' class as you read this, and follow the link (if you have time, if you even made it this far)

"About a decade ago, instead of teaching all her students as one group, (Ms. Sears, a fourth-grade teacher) began ability grouping, teaching all groups the same material but tailoring activities and assignment to each group."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Observation #2, Backwards Lesson Plan

SED 406

Prof. Kraus

CFHS observation, backwards to a lesson plan.

Once again I had the honor of observing a master in action.  Mr. U has a terrific community in his classroom.  The rules and norms are stated clearly on the walls.  His objectives are on the white board.  J and I entered the room with class already in session.  Students were gathering information.  This approach appeared to one of indirect teaching.  Students gather information first, and this results in inquiry at the end.  I couldn’t take notes fast enough.  This teacher has very clear ideas on what he believes should be taught in High School.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Literacy with Viv's attitude

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

In the preface of this week’s reading, the author Finn states that “in America from colonial times universal literacy (except for slaves) has been the aim”.  And on p. 2 he offers, “Over time, political, social, and economic forces have brought us to a place where the working class (and to a surprising degree, the middle class) gets domesticating education and functional literacy, and the rich get empowering education and powerful literacy.”  We do not have universal literacy.

And once again my humor gets the better of me. . . (no disrespect towards anyone intended)
In “Privilege Power and Difference”  Alan Johnson speaks of the power of the privileged.  Rich, white, healthy and handsome america.  SCWAAMP.  My question to Johnson was, if asked, do those with the power want it to change?  Finn states (I am still in the preface) “The status quo is the status quo because people who have the power to make changes are comfortable with the way things are.”  I’m glad this came up again. 

Finn defines “literacy as a powerful right of citizenship. . . ”  But the educational system in our country does not reflect a true social democracy.  Education is not created equal.  Being presented with such a large amount of material on what leads to this discrepancy, and possible solutions, I am choosing to focus on the work of Jean Anyon that Finn sites.

In 1978, Anyon looked at 5 classrooms in New Jersey.  Her research revealed shocking disparities in how students were being taught based on their family’s socio-economic status.

“…she discovered that the working class children are being prepared for mechanical and routine wage-labor. The middle-class children are being prepared for white-collar jobs where success comes from not rocking the boat, but in being able to problem solve and find the right answer. The professional children are being prepared to follow in the footsteps of their parents and become professionals - with highly developed linguistic, artistic and scientific expression skills. And finally, the executive children are developing the skills necessary for the “ownership and control of the physical capital and the means of production in society.” 

You can read more about Jean Anyon's work here:

I graduated High School in 1975.  What interested me the most was the Professional High School.  In this environment, students were taught “highly developed linguistic, artistic and scientific expression skills.”  The Theme was “Individualism and Humanitarianism”  This was my high school.   Most of my 600 classmates pursued careers in Government, Medicine, Education, Research, and the Arts (: .   The student body was very involved in school politics.  Anyon's description in the quote above sounded like my school.  In this format, Anyon was only allowed to take “copies” of the student work, not the originals.  When I ran my studio, licensing my artwork allowed me to keep my originals.  That was EXTREMELY important to me.

What is frightening about all of this, is that Finn included Anyon’s work from 1978 because current research reveals almost identical results.  One might conclude a solution could be desegregating economic classes.  We did not talk about it in class, but desegregation in Brown vs. the Board of Education led to bussing white and black kids to other communities and schools.  It was enormously controversial.  As a little kid, I was aware that there were a lot of people angry about bussing.  And these children do not look happy.

This site goes into some detail about the issues of bussing for desegregation.

But the other solution that is put forth in the rest of these chapters is to create a community in the classroom that mimics the community of those in schools where students are being taught powerful literacy, or what Finn coins,  “Literacy with Attitude.”

We need teachers to be committed to affording empowering education and powerful literacy to every child.   As teachers, we are being taught the techniques that support this.  (Just wait for SED 406, and 407).  And we are being taught to engage and challenge our students in a safe place.  How we teach needs to encourage critical thinking, problem solving, with literacy, no matter what the discipline.  Every thing needs to support everything.  So how great would it be if the education that we provide, created possibilities for everyone.  

I hope that as future teachers, we can discuss the idea of how you create a powerful community in the classroom.  It seems that so much of what we’ve been reading is leading up to this.

And then there's this. . .  . . . 

Monday, March 24, 2014

SED 406

Prof. Kraus

3 / 24 /14    To my Classmates,

I have created this post for you to reflect on my lesson today.  I hope you learned a little about how life works and why rabbits can be pretty scary when left unattended.

Please share with me your thoughts on my teaching skills.

Many Thanks

Sunday, March 23, 2014

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

I don't even know what to call this.

This is the most difficult assignment so far.  I don’t know if it’s because we are looking at four sources of information, or if the subject is so broad, or that it cuts across not just other readings in this class but all of my classes.  In any case I am going to try to sort this out.  

A Turning Point in History

The supreme court, led by a 24 year old Chief Justice Jack Greenburg made “equal opportunity in education the law of the land,” a right belonging to everyone.  (  Imagine being the head of the supreme court at 24.  Surprisingly (I think) Dwight D Eisnerhower, a Republican, was President.  Richard Nixon was Vice President.  Under this administration, segregation, the separating of people by race in education was deemed unacceptable by law.

I was born soon after this event, but this is what I remember.

This is the famous painting by Norman Rockwell, the illustrator of typical American Life.  The little girl is Ruby Bridges.  She was escorted by 4 marshals into the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.  It wasn’t until she was 18 that she saw this painting and in her words “I thought , Oh, my god, this was important.  This changed our country.”    (   

What does it say that this sweet young thing had to have 4 grown men bodyguards.

So what really happened after this landmark turning point in History.  Tim Wise summed up both of his interviews with the remark “We are nowhere near a post racial america”  And continued with when “black people can be as mediocre as white people and still get hired” we will have an equal opportunity society.  What a sad word to use.  Mediocre.  This idea rings loudly with Alan Johnson’s Privilege, Power, and Difference.  According to Johnson, being white is the most powerful privilege. In his opening paragraph he states that there is “A huge store of Knowledge (of this inequality that) leaves no doubt that (privilege) causes enormous amounts of injustice and unnecessary suffering.” (P. 7. Privilege, Power, and Difference)  So how do we get to an equal opportunity non-racist society?

Regarding his book, “Between Barack and a Hard Place”, (City Lights, 2009),  Wise states that there are still double standards.  He speaks of the accomplishments of Barack Obama.  He had two years to prove he was articulate, intelligent, well educated and worthy of the office of President of the United States.  On the other hand Wise points out that as a white male, “you can be articulate or inarticulate and still become President.”  He adds that “There is no way in the world that a person of color would have been taken seriously as a Presidential candidate if they had graduated 5th from the bottom of the Naval Academy they had attended, or a Vice Presidential Candidate that had gone to 5 schools in six years. . .  or if a black man had crashed 5 airplanes.”   He is speaking here of couse of George Bush Jr.  And his election was McIntosh’s invisible “Whiteness” showing it’s power.  Wise's point is, as a person of color, you have to be “truly exceptional to break that ceiling.”   

Here is a picture I did yesterday just to break things up a bit.

Then I read “Separate but Equal” by Bob Herbert.  He argues that in spite of segregation being illegal, you still can’t have ethnic diversity in schools because the nature of communities can’t support it.  “Residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long - held custom“are today a reality.  We need only to look at Jonathan Kozol’s description of the community of Mott Haven in 1995.  Not only did it wreak of under-privilege, it was surrounded by a city full of opportunity. . . . for the privileged.  There was no place for these citizen’s to go to be successful.  The disparity of wealth in this country is shameful, and a daily reality.  You see it in the communities, and you see it in the schools.

As student teachers, RIC has given us specific service placements in hopes that we start to see the challenges that kids face, forget about what our challenges will be.  And from the stories I’ve heard in class it’s clear that there are many little victories when kids are given the attention and direction to learn.  Herbert states that “If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty.”  (  But how does one do that, on a national scale?  The Mott Haven that Kozol described in 1995 is a different place in 2012.  Positive advances are being made.  One such change was implemented by the compassion of a charter school in California.  (I mention this ironically as in Herbert’s article, he states that Charter Schools have done very little to improve the (lives) of poor black and latino students”).  But this is only one community.  In regards to school systems, Herbert points out, “Nothing has brought about the gains on the scale that is needed”.  This is also true for social equal opportunity.

Alan Johnson points out that everyone is part of our privileged system, it has a life of it’s own.  So the definition itself negates the idea of equality.  And if we go back to Rodriguez’s heart wrenching account of choosing a public identity to acquire more power and create more opportunities, I am ready to throw up my hands.

Perhaps we teach the rules of power to kids no matter where they are in school.  In thinking about the kind of teacher I want to be, I believe we absolutely should.  More specifically, we should teach proper grammar, letter writing skills, presentation skills and give them real world experiences, successful experiences.  Maybe then we begin to level the playing field.

And isn’t that what all 4 of these sources were talking about.  The Supreme Court, led by a 24 year old, stripped our country of constitutional sanctions that made segregation in schools OK.  Well, at least legally it’s not OK any more.  And we have a black president, but he had to endure 2 years of scrutiny to prove he was exceptional.  (Does anyone remember Sarah Palin?)  And we are being trained and guided by our RIC Professors in the ways that make todays kids want to learn.  It may not be enough, but I have to believe it's something

On the comments page of Bob Herbert’s article I found this from a teacher in the Bronx in NYC:.

Lastly, on July 28, 2011, Jack Greenburg, the former Supreme Court Justice who argued the Brown vs Board of Education case spoke at the Kansas School of Law:  I really can't get over that he was 24 years old.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Politics of Service Learning, what Viv thinks.

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

When I was in junior High and High school, I spent every summer doing volunteer work for inner city day camps in my home town.  When my daughter was growing up, she did charitable work every year with her girl scout troop.  Her senior year in High School, she went to Mississippi and built a house with her classmates for Habitat for Humanity.  In her case and mine, we believed we did some good.  But as I read this article, I found myself wondering why there needs to be a conversation about the value of kindness, or the importance of charity.  I want to believe that it is a heritable trait.  

Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer reveal how politically loaded the ideas of service learning really are.  In Table 1, they provide moral, political and intellectual distinctions for use in analyzing service learning curricula, whether to emphasize charity or real change.   

( I feel the need to point out that the “Daily Life” kits that were distributed to the homeless in San Francisco included a small Bible. . . . Does this bother anybody else?????)

Sorry for the digression.  The Common Core, the common “heart”, is about developing critical thinking skills and abilities.  Service learning that is about analyzing the need, and making things better aligns itself with the common core, in every discipline.  And intellectual change is where I find myself lingering. Using a critically thinking to understand why the need exists in the first place is so powerful.  And I have to believe that this isn’t just a mission for young people.

See here the difference between altruistic behavior, and true reform:  George Bush’s Thousand Points of Light “through which the lucky served the needy”, was certainly charitable, yet it also ensured that tax shelters of the privileged remained intact.  In contrast, when Jimmy Carter left office, he started building houses for people in need.  Habitat for Humanity is working right here in Rhode Island. 

And I would be remiss not to mention Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative (CGI).  It’s mission “ is to inspire, connect, and empower a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”  Todays students are our future global leaders.

CGI U is more than just an event. It is a growing community of young leaders who don't just discuss the world's challenges -- they take real, concrete steps toward solving them. Prior to attending the meeting, each student and university must develop and submit a Commitment to Action: a specific plan of action that addresses a pressing challenge on his or her campus or in the wider global community. Commitments range from installing energy-efficient light bulbs to establishing campus bike-share programs, from distributing life-saving water filtration kits to designing medical backpacks for nomadic doctors in Africa. Since the inaugural meeting, nearly 2,000 commitments have been made by students around the world. CGI U is proof that young people have the power to make a significant impact by confronting some of the world's most urgent challenges.

I see no argument here. 

And if you have a minute still, (because I know we are all busy) this is beautiful.  Stephen Marley,  Playing for Change:  

He will be in RI at Fete In Olneyville, April 20th. . . he is his father's son.

Friday, March 7, 2014

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

Pechakucha !

On Wednesday 3/26, I went to my first Pechakucha.  What an awesome evening!  I have wanted to attend this event for the last 3 years.  With it’s inception in Japan in 2003 this information sharing format has grown into a world wide sensation.  You must apply to present, and if accepted, each participant is allowed 20 slides, accompanied by a 20 second narration.  In Rhode Island it is monthly, and locations are never the same.   

On this particular evening, I met a good friend at “Fete” in Olneyville.  This venue was also new to me. The setting was magical.  The bar decor was an eclectic mix of bright color with rustic charm, and amazing lights.  It was perfectly artsy, and the crowd reflected the bar:  a room full of wild hearts.  It felt like home.  I wanted to live there.

Every Pechakucha event has a unique theme.  On this particular night, it was “Connect”.  And it was a pleasant surprise that the first presenter was a young teacher.  As it turned out he was one of 4 young teachers that took the stage over the course of the evening.  Everyone was supportive and there was much laughter.

The most interesting thing about this format was imagining how easily I could incorporate it into a classroom.  It would work well as a “get to know your students” scenario.  It would also work for presentations of group and individual projects.  The time and slide limit is stressed in order to keep presenters on task.  It eliminates extraneous rambling and maintains a direct transmission of information.  So it could also work as introductions and summarizations of lesson units as well.

Before I headed out, I had a chance to thank several of the presenters, and I did speak briefly to the organizers.  The next event has a date, but the theme has not been determined yet.  I am not done with this.  I will absolutely present one day, quite possibly this summer.  And it will involve my art, probably my community of 3D pieces. . . . 
If you are interested in more information as well as dates and locations, you can go to the following website:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SED 407

Prof. Napolitano

Textbooks and how best to use them. . . .

I just finished reading Chapters 3 and 6 all at once.  A luxury to be sure. Time is a luxury.  And I only bring that up, because textbooks robbed me of a lot of time some years back.  

I carried those books around in my backpack from class to class.  I highlighted them, fell asleep on them, re-read them at least 3 to 4 times only to find that I didn't get it, I felt stupid.  I couldn’t give up though.  I had tests to take and at the very least pass.  Which I did.  But ask me what I remember.  Only what I found interesting.  Only the things that continue to touch my life.

I was so happy to read both of these chapters.  And this happiness piggybacked my first week at RIC when I discovered that the required reading materials for my classes consisted of only two textbooks.  The rest have been a variety of excerpts and articles with connecting content.  I am enjoying this kind of reading, more importantly I am not having to read it 3 times to remember it much less comprehend it.  I am being challenged, and I am thinking, and I am being provoked. I am alive with opinions that are being supported by research.  And I get to add hyperlinks of my choosing to my reflections.

And as much as I want to say my head hurts form my perceived enormity of the task of becoming a  teacher of young people, I am relieved that there are pioneers of this new approach of providing content from both traditional and non traditional sources.  There are indeed vast and growing genres to be tapped.  (The list is on p. 55).  And I can add my own materials, and students can choose as well.  How smart is that.

A few years ago, when my daughter was home for a weekend from college, I came across her Art History Text. I opened it and began to read.  Moments later I was texting her screaming (the way you scream in a text. . . )  “WHAT TEACHER HAS ASSIGNED YOU THIS GARBAGE. . .”  (She  loved me for doing that).  I call it ego driven text.  Someone had the “need” to be published.  It was perfectly horrible and I was furious that she was required to read it.  In no way was this going to help her in life.  To it’s credit, maybe there was some viable content, but I could neither see nor comprehend it, so how was my daughter going to get anything out of it.  Twenty years ago, my response would have been quite different.  I would’ve thought “well of course I’m an idiot because I can’t understand this.”  But my experience now tells me that just because it’s published doesn’t mean it’s well written.  And just because someone is a teacher doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at it.  And to add insult to injury I was paying for this.

As I head into the classroom, I know that I will be on the lookout for a comprehensive textbook on Biology.  But I so appreciate that our textbook, "Subjects Matter" offers guides as to what to look for, and how to help students engage with the material.  And to grasp the big ideas. How to choose the most important "fenceposts".  Further, to utilize other resources that have more of a connection to a student’s own experiences, and then having them engage with each other and help each other learn the material, just makes good sense.  It’s time, resource and people management skills, all good things to learn.

When I tackle an art assignment or idea if you will, no resource is out of bounds.  And what works is different every time.  Creating an environment that is fun, engaging, and makes sense to those whom it impacts is the best and most effective kind of learning experience there could be.  That is certainly what has worked for me.

I want to be a good if not great teacher.  I want to encourage kids to dream.  This is not ego driven.  I do not need anything more than to see them hungry to find their own way.  That’s it.  And I hope to find a school system that will support this approach.  Because it is smart.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

FNED 346
Dr. Bogad

• Damn Myths •

(Sorry, my sense of humor is showing)

In the article “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us” by Linda Christensen, I had many intense reactions at a number of different levels.  I grew up with Disney in the 60’s, I raised a daughter with Disney, and Bugs Bunny, because I loved them.  And it appears that this is just another area where stereotypes are subversively displayed, damaging the developing minds of our children.  I suppose in some way I was aware of this, but as an artist my appreciation for the product had my attention.  While in college, however, I distinctly remember, if I happened to pick up a fashion magazine, I would be depressed for days.  And I knew why.

But I’d like for a moment to back way up to the days of cavemen, when division of labor was probably physically and skill based.  Men were hunters, Women gave birth, watched the children, and “gathered”.  Communication may not have been very sophisticated, but these divisions were, to a degree, practical.  And I will not claim to be a sociologist, however, one might argue then, that this stereotyping may have roots as practical and skilled based.

Back to the topic at hand, and my other “Big thought”.  Is Art imitating Life or is Life imitating Art.  And does it matter?  I related to Justine, who disclosed in her journal that the dissection of the media portrayals of women was depressing.  Realizing that her self image had been formed by some  outside force of what defined happiness for women was painful.  It is for me too.  But I have to ask again is Art imitating Life or Life imitating Art.  Did the media start it, or did we start it.  Every December as the holidays approach, I have to accept that my daughter will be with her father and his new family.  This year we had a talk about changing that.  She’s not happy, and neither am I.  The idea of what a family is, and what happiness is for women, is an assumption that plays out all year round but is more pronounced at particular times of the year.  The world appears just as resistant to alternative choices for celebrating the various passages that life presents by it’s assumptive promotions of what holidays and other family celebrations look like.  (Incidentally I never had a Barbie, this was a foreign concept to my european parents.  And my daughter’s first interaction with a Barbie was to pull her head off, an action which I applauded with great maternal enthusiasm.)

But I digress. The issue becomes, what to do once you have uncovered the conveyors of the powerful myths that teach children “what will make them happy”?  (As if the answer to happiness is an external one, and yes I struggle with that one).  Once again we find ourselves where we have so often in our readings.  We must acknowledge the problem first before we can take action.  

This article hits closer to home than some of our previous readings.  (And this is not a value judgement on what defines an "issue" by any means).  I still love Disney and Bugs Bunny (and Spongebob), as does my daughter.  But taking on the media seems implausible if not impossible. Christensen’s resolve as a teacher is to offer her students, and future teachers (yes, that’s us) a great tool.  She challenges them to create opportunities to funnel their anger into possibilities of action.  In other words, she is turning her students into teachers.  Her class created a number of proposals in which they could create a message and take action,  And with conviction, individually and in groups, they created an awareness campaign of sorts.   

I have to admit, I feel a bit of a victim to these myths.  Growing up my favorite song was “Someday my prince will come”  Just the thought makes me sad.  So let me leave you with this.

This week Disney announced that it was going to discontinue it’s charitable contributions to “The Boyscouts of America”, but not because of what you might think.  BSA is placing a ban on gay leaders in it's ranks.  What Disney is doing is a step in the right direction.  And you have to start someplace.

More on the same issue from Time magazine:

Disney is a big part of our culture. The earlier films are classics, and I wonder do we have to "fix" them.  We certainly can talk about them.  And maybe the positive changes can happen as we move forward.  I do not necessarily have answers, but I do love Disney.  And for what it's worth, for animation and gaming, it is one of several amazing training grounds for future young artists.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Yeah, I embedded a video! ! ! ! Thanks Dr. Bogad!  I love school.  (see last 2 posts. . . )

Sunday, February 23, 2014

FNED 346
Dr. Bogad

Inside the Classroom Walls
foundations for an inclusive and safe society

“Classrooms lay the foundations for an inclusive and safe society: a just community where common interests and individual differences coexist.”  The world would be a wonderful place if this were true. And in fairness to everyone, it should be true.  In Amazing Grace, Kozol stated that if we do not acknowledge the problem we cannot even begin to fix it.  So too, the authors of “Inside the Classroom walls” argue that in any classroom, “silence in the presence of anti-LGBT statements (and attitudes) suggests acceptance and approval.”

So even though the walls of a classroom create a definitive space, the authors assert that it is not necessarily a safe and nurturing place.  Much like osmosis, these walls are permeable to the beliefs and assumptions of the community at large.  Students and teachers reflect the community.  So the challenge becomes how do we create a classroom where difference, specifically the LGBT community, is “expected, explored, and embraced,”  and students  “develop perspectives that result in respectful behaviors”.  And the inclusive and safe classroom becomes real.

I took this article to heart.  I am headed towards high school classrooms.  The beliefs and assumptions that I expect to encounter, good or bad, will have been boiling for a long time.  More than once I found myself thinking “the more I know the less I know.”  And although it wasn't high school, the manner in which the kindergarten teacher challenged a child’s intent by having him research the meaning of his “hurtful” words, disarmed the child's intent.  This was a powerful technique.

I recently observed a High School class that was engaged in a lively group discussion about the human reproductive system.  I was struck by the maturity of the students, and the non challant way in which they followed the teachers prompts with potentially uncomfortable material.  But there was no visible discomfort in the students behaviors.  What they were learning were facts.  There was nothing to judge.  This particular teacher had clearly defined the rules of acceptable behavior.  It was visible in the classroom.  Of course not everything is on the surface.  But as an observer it was an extremely positive and hopeful experience.

In my field work at a local alternative high school, I have three students who are enrolled in a college level course on Human Sexuality.  During our first tutoring session, one of the students shared their paper on the history of Homosexuality in Rome.  The topic was the student’s choice.  All three students seemed completely matter of fact about the material.  Granted this is an alternative high school, where part of the mission statement is one student at a time.  It is a priority that each student is celebrated for who they are and what they want to pursue.  But I was again impressed.  In both of these high school scenarios, something good is happening.  I am however aware that I may be observing only the tip of an iceberg.

At the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, GLBT intolerance is written in the law.  I feel this is worth mentioning because it is currently a punishable crime to behave “openly” gay in public.

In July 13, 2013, The New York Times published the following:  "A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed into law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail."  (Fierstien, New York Times 7/31/13)

Upon hearing this, I was shocked that the United States did not decide to boycott the games, or at least challenge Russia on such an outrageous policy.  After all, we had boycotted the olympics in 1980 over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.  Yes the situations are different, however the common thread is/was persecution.  And we do not know what other countries might have joined suit.  Nevertheless,  I do not understand how the current climate around the games does not infuriate the global community.  

This first link is to CNN, detailing the public flogging of the band Pussy Riot and the concerns of what will happen next.

This is an interview of Stephen Colbert, two members of “Pussy Riot”, and their interpreter.  The two women had just been released from a Russian prison.

And just because you may not be gay, lesbian bisexual or transgender, doesn't mean you are not being victimized as well.  What we have in common with our fellow man is the human condition.  Persecution affects everyone.

I take from this article some valuable techniques.  As our class moves forward I hope that there is more sharing of personal experience and observation.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Every Child needs a champion.  It's just under 8 minutes long.  A terrific site, this is wonderfully inspirational  (Yes I know, my first reaction was I do not have eight minutes. . . Listen to it while you brush your teeth. . . . )

and then there's this. . . .

Understanding by design
SED 407
Prof. Napolitano

UbD response

“Understanding by Design” provides a curriculum planning framework for organizing big ideas for learning into manageable and assessable lesson plans.   The framework describes effective learning as a “Backwards” scenario.  Beginning with analyzing what is to be learned; the big picture, followed by the essential questions: the big picture objectives, then developing pre, during and post assessment techniques.  Only then can one create truly effective lesson plans.  The concepts of a Big Picture and Essential Questions align perfectly with the design and development of thought provoking effective units and lesson planning, and direct explicit teaching that I am currently exploring in SED 406 and FNED 346.  Once again I feel as if I am the student that I am learning these processes for.  I will be working on my first lesson plan soon.  Understanding by design makes so much sense.

Module A, part one of the concept “Understanding by Design”, gives a descriptive account of what is considered the Big Picture.  While reading, (before reaching "What Is Understanding?" on page 6) I had a bit of a knee jerk reaction to the word “understanding”.  Bloom’s Taxonomy discourages using “understanding” as an objective behavior because it is difficult to measure without additional context or explicitly defined conditions.  I continued to read "What Is Understanding?" and was pleased that my concern was addressed (to my satisfaction, as if that matters!).

In Module F, part 2 of “Understanding by Design”, the essence of an essential question is explained.   Similar to the objectives used by Bloom, the essential questions are objectives for students to achieve, but are a bit more open ended. They could be answered with a "yes" or "no" but encourage further inquiry by the phrasing of the questions.  They provide a jumping off point for true learning.  These Essential Questions aid the teacher in focusing a unit while prioritizing appropriate issues. 

Using both Modules, A and F, teachers and unit designers, should be able to develop “thought-provoking essential questions related to the unit topic and understanding goals” and “precisely state the desired understandings as full-sentence generalizations.”  ( p.70)

This approach, consistent with the principles I am working with in my other Education classes, provides additional consistent supporting tools for the development of good unit design.  It also supports the reflective approach to teaching.  With gratitude, I have added them to my toolbox!