Sunday, June 20, 2010

August: Making Room for One Another

Questions Format

The article written by Gerri August, Making Room for One Another, raises many questions and challenges educators face on a daily basis. Most educational ideologies involve an equitable education for all where learning communities are fostered to ensure success for all.
As an educator I strive to make all children feel comfortable and welcome in my classroom by pointing out differences in people and then talking about those differences. I find the younger the children are, the more likely they are to agree with the idea that being different is ok and that we are all the same on the inside even if we look different on the outside. But as great as that may sound, I don't know how genuine it really is. In other words, do children really believe what we tell them or is it that they have been preconditioned already? Are they just playing their role in society's norms and for how long? We teach (or preach) that differences don't matter in a world where differences do matter! Is it better to act as if prejudices don't exist, as if we all feel the same about everything or everyone all the time? When do you address why differences do matter to some and why in 2010 there are wars being fought because of people's differences?
In August's article, he follows a boy who is Cambodian by definition but who has been adopted by two homosexual women. Something that first struck me was the fact that Cody felt insecure about his family or rather felt insecure in how others would accept his family. It's typical to discuss family, to listen/read stories about family and to exchange stories about our families. To have a child feel as if he can't share that because it isn't something that's ever been discussed or shared, is sad to say the least. Cody felt like there was a problem when his moms were coming in to school and he felt like his world was wrong. How do we as educators really raise the issue of differences? How do we begin the change necessary to ensure that all children succeed?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aria, Rodrigues

Links related to English Language Learners

This is a good website in case anyone is interested in some facts about English language learners, particularly "The Many Faces of ELL's " section.

To help with teaching ELL's this website might be helpful. It has quizzes in two languages, you choose the target language, it also has word searches and much, much more. It's definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Does Racism Exist Today?

This past weekend a URI graduate was driving home from school and it was late, 2am to be exact, and he was pulled over for speeding. To help paint the picture for you, he drives an Audi and it looks nice and shiny and he's of Guatemalan descent so he looks Spanish. Well he was asked to step out of the car, they tore the shirt off his back and proceeded to hit him. They yelled racial comments like "Where are the drugs? and We know your kind." They gave him a sobriety test and I don't know if taking off your shoes is a new added addition but he was made to do that. When he passed it the first time they made him do it all over again. They searched his car over and over again, they found nothing. He kept telling them that he had just graduated from URI, didn't sell drugs, and had no idea why they were doing this to him. After what seemed like hours and after much abuse both verbally and physically, they told him he could go. They didn't issue him a speeding ticket or a warning, just told him he could go. When he didn't leave fast enough, they asked him "Why are you still here?" He responded that he had to call his father to come get him because he was too distraught to drive. He doesn't know their names, badge numbers, but he knows there were two guys and a woman. Does racism still exist? This is a true story! Spread the word, don't help silence these racists. This is all I can think to do to help correct this wrong.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



The organization GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) advocates for students whose sexual orientation or identification make them the target of bullying and name calling in schools. GLSEN has conducted surveys to show how often students feel unsafe at school due to verbal abuse or name calling, and physical abuse, stating that many children that suffer at the hands of bullies often do not report incidents because they feel nothing will be done. GLSEN has two nationally recognized days; National Day of Silence and No Name Calling Week. Both events are designed to bring awareness to the issue of bullying in regards to children who are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or bisexual.
This organization helps support children, teachers, and administrators to help foster an environment of acceptance of all children regardless of their sexual identity. Something that came up that I had never thought about was the name calling even when someone does not identify him/herself as gay, lesbian, etc. In other words, I read about a boy who had committed suicide because of being called gay by other students even though he never identified himself as such. It made me think of all the times I've heard people use the word "gay" to describe someone in a negative way. This boy must have thought so negatively about the term "gay" that over time it killed him. Whether he was or not, that was never mentioned, but imagine all the kids that get picked on for being weaker, for being different, the words used to describe them are often words like gay and faggot.
At the elementary level, 3rd grade, I wonder if this is something I would ever feel comfortable teaching and if so how parents would feel about it? It crosses into sexual education which is a touchy subject and often the cause of much controversy in the field of education.

PBS: People Like Us

Social class has to do with how people perceive others, how we perceive ourselves in comparison to others, why people feel unsatisfied with what they have if they feel they deserve more. Why does social class matter so much? Driving fancy cars, living in big homes, being of certain professions, who decided all of these things to be markers of class?
People Like Us, the PBS website was interesting. I especially liked reading people's stories about social classes. One that hit home for me was the one where the young man married up and suddenly had to face comments from his family that implied he was better than them. It reminded me of my parents' history. My father came from a large poor family where something as simple as chicken soup was a rarity. Chickens were only sacrificed if someone was sick or if it was a holiday. My mother's family on the other included judges and well respected people and my mother never went without. She led a simple life by all means but yet her experiences reflected a higher class. How I know this is because this was the topic of many conversations growing up. My dad would make comments about my mother's family being snobs and my mother would make comments about my dad's family not having class. Actually my mother's father didn't want my mother to marry my dad mostly because of his family and I believe because of how they were perceived in society. My parents have been married 37 years and are happy and my grandfather later came to respect my father very much but I know that social class played a big part in their relationship especially in the beginning.

Inequalities in Education: Finn

Extended Comments

Nikki's blog mentioned some examples of inequalities in education, namely which teachers teach to privileged students and which teach to students in most need. Even in the best schools the most senior teachers who are usually better teachers, not always the case, seem to have the cream of the crop. They tend to have a lower number of students per class, with very few, if any, students labeled as "behaviors". On the other hand, the least senior teachers have larger class sizes, increased chances of having "behaviors" and they're usually teaching to a group with many diverse needs. This happens within schools, across districts, from urban communities to the suburbs, everywhere! I would argue that this practice although common, when in urban communities makes the biggest difference in shaping children's lives. Urban schools face the biggest challenges ranging from low socio-economics to parental involvement and support, to lack of resources and funding. I believe that any teacher willing to teach under those circumstances is a well-intentioned teacher but he/she needs extra support, more resources and more experience in the classroom to really make a difference. This relates to what recently happened in Central Falls, part of the reason administrators knew they had to re-hire all it's teachers was because they knew they weren't going to get more experienced or better teachers. Those teachers don't want to teach in CF, and the students of CF would have been worse off with teachers just graduating from college with little or no experience. For the record, I do not mean to sound like I am blaming the teachers for low-performance, I believe in my profession and know the challenges we face as educators.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kozol: America's Educational Apartheid


"There are expensive children and their are cheap children...." written by Marina Warner ...
The expensive children being the children of affluent families whose formal education begins at the age of 3 and 4 and sometimes even 2. These children learn prenumeracy skills before entering Kindergarten and by the time they sit down for their first state wide assessment (ie. NECAP) in 3rd grade they have already been in school preparing for a total of, on average 6 years. Meanwhile the cheap children who unfortunately weren't able to make preschool enter Kindergarten without knowing how to properly grip a pencil. Three years later when they sit down for their first NECAP test, after only 3 years of formal schooling, how can they perform the same as privileged children? Back in 1997-1998 some children cost New York state an average of $8,000.00 a year in educational costs while some cost $12,000.00 at the same grade level, in the same year and even worse to know is that some children, again at the same grade level and school year cost the state of New York $18,000.00 (Kozol 4, 2005). How did the state of New York explain that difference, especially when education is equitable for all children? Huh...And this happens today all across the nation....

"That's a Level Four suggestion..." (Kozol 7, 2005) rather than "that's a thoughtful suggestion" or "that's interesting." These are the words spoken in the type of educational system where students are taught standards, know how to regurgitate them when necessary and if teachers want to keep their jobs they make sure students can do this. This type of system is an utilitarian system where students are very restricted on what they can and can't do, what they can and can't say and basically what they can think and not think. In a classroom where a teacher responds to a child by stating a state standard as a way of inspiring a child or better yet as a form of praise, one can't help but wonder what would happen if a situation were to arise where emotion was evoked, where the teacher may be compelled to respond with emotion, would he or she have to find a standard to quote as a way of making the situation relevant to their education?

"Did you ever stop to think that these robots will never burglarize your home?"..."will never snatch your pocketbooks...These robots are going to be producing taxes" spoken by the head of a Chicago school when questioned about rote instruction as if students were robots (Kozol 10, 2005). It's sad that before I got to this page in Kozol's article, and as I was reading I was thinking that it sounded like robots were taking the place of children and interestingly enough I later came across this quote. It is obvious that not only is this a racist comment because the speaker is assuming that the children he speaks of are all headed in the wrong direction but it also implies that children are only going to learn if someone tells them what to say, what to do and essentially what to think. As if these children are incapable of anything more. This comment is offensive on so many levels...