Tuesday, May 4, 2010
One day in class, I was working one on one with a 4th grader named Sara. Sara and I were working on a reading assignment together where we would take turns reading back and forth to each other. I actually stole the method my great FNED teacher taught us to make sure Sara was paying attention. This method is where you stop mid sentence and allow the student to finish off the sentence to make sure they were paying attention.
Anyway, we reached a point where the story talked about the work conditions in factories during the Industrial Revolution. Sara turned to me and said “Mr. Nate that is retarded”. There were two options I could take at this point, ignore it; or make sure she knows never to say it again. The easier method is obviously option number one, but proudly I decided to do something about it. I said to Sara “Sara don’t say retarded, if you mean to say stupid or dumb, say that. I really made sure she understood why she shouldn’t say retarded in that way again, and not just because there may be someone in the room who has a learning disability and you may insult them. The relationship I built with Sara allowed me to communicate properly with her and we both left the problem a better person. In a classroom we must realize the issues going on in the world and have to be open to talk about them in class.
This scenario relates a lot to an article written by Carlson. The article mostly talks about homosexual issues and a democratic multicultural education. Carlson speaks a lot about the different word choices and how that words don’t just stand for things. How the terms homosexual, gay, queer, and fag all can mean the same things but all carry different implications. This is why it is important why a teacher must consider which words to use, and not use, in all aspects of education, not just issues of homosexuality. Homosexuality can be an awkward issue for both teachers and students to deal with. But Carlson makes a great point that if a student is old enough to talk about heterosexual sex issues than they are old enough to hear about homosexual issues as well.
In my 4th grade class my teacher, Ms. Carter really tries to open up to her classroom to see what the children are thinking. Being a middle class white female teacher, her beliefs are going to be vastly different from the children (who according to info works are vastly Hispanic or African American and have a low family income). The great part about Ms. Carter is when discussing topics in class she makes sure not to push her beliefs onto the students. A few sessions ago she opened the class with a story about a local high school who may fire most or maybe all of their teachers. Ms. Carter, who had discussed the issue before with me, had a very strong opinion on what is going on in this town. However, she only carried along the student’s debate on whether this firing was necessary. I thought it was great to hear what the students had to say; surprisingly most of the students came to the teacher’s side of the fight. I loved the way Ms. Carter approached issues in the classroom, I definitely see myself using her methods.
When thinking about this prompt, I think it was impossible for me not to think of Alan Johnson. Johnson’s main point of his article “Our House is on Fire” is how everyone is taking the approach of “I’m not a racist, so I’m not part of the problem”. We must accept that there is bias, and there will be for our whole lifetime. It is what you do about it that really matters. I absolutely loved his connection between the American view towards race and global warming. That it will take a horrible consequence in order to fix the problems of our society. This connection blew my mind; because I was once guilty of saying that exact problem quote. I always felt I was out of the problem, so there was nothing I could do to help. But the reality is we are all part of the problem and is our jobs as teachers to do something about it. As a participant of privilege I must take a stand for those who do not benefit from it. And it all starts in the classroom, with open discussions among students.
I actually found a surprising connection between this concept of accessing and a Kliewer article I read a few weeks ago. The article mostly covers teaching students with disabilities but its concepts can cover many grounds. Many times Kliewer tells us of an idea of disability spread; which is taking something know about a disease and applying it to every person with that disability. I think this whole concept can be applied to students without disabilities, just as well as it is for children with. Just because one style of testing or teaching works with one student doesn’t mean it will work for all students. A teacher must realize all students are different, and we must find the best way to teach each student
Often you may find in a classroom, students who may have a disability that causes them to have a disadvantage from everyone else. This is actually a situation that is occurring in Ms. Carter 4th grade class I have been tutoring. A really nice kid named James, has a reading disability which makes it really hard for him to efficiently take some of the test the class takes. Ms. Carter decided to set up a computer program that has really helped James and his schoolwork. The program has audio and allows James to not only be able to read with the computer, but also so the program can read to him. It has proven very successful in the classroom. The only problem I really saw with this method is it is segregating him from the rest of the class. It makes him stand out from the others, but this hasn’t seemed to be a problem among James or his classmates.
The relationship between a teacher and parent brings me back to a Lisa Delpit article “The Silenced Dialogue”. The connection wasn’t a direct one but more of a realization in one of my tutoring sessions. I saw that maybe the problem between teacher and parent isn’t necessary about the student, but because the two are not speaking the same type of language. The teacher in my classroom endorses the power approach Delpit calls the “verbal directives given by the middle-class”. If a student is use to the more assertion and direct approach to discipline, it is because the parents are using this style at home. So not only will the student have a tough time with the middle-class approach, but the parents may have a tough time understanding it as well. I’m in no way endorsing one way or another, but when a teacher uses their preferred method of power they must understand others may not be used to it, and make a point to establish it to their students.
A major problem came about in my classroom that I wanted to discuss that is worst than just a misunderstanding. This was where a parent takes the attitude of “you’re the teacher you fix him”, came into play. I think this is one of the worst case things we could see out of a parent. As a teacher you have 30 or so students in a classroom, there is barely enough time in a day to become their teacher, never mind having to become a parent to them as well. At Francis Elementary, two fourth grade girls, Tanya and Marie, began arguing quite offensively. Ms. Carter stopped the quarrel relatively quick, and separated the two. She then took the two girls into the hallway to settle everything. The whole problem had started the night before via instant messaging. So the two girls are bringing problems outside of the classroom into the class. After talking to Ms. Carter about everything the week later, she had told me she called the two girls home to settle things. Ms. Carter said one parent didn’t even have the decency to get back to her about it at all. It’s absolutely ridiculous that Ms. Carter had to take time out of her personal life to deal with non-class issues, and parent still doesn’t even care.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Growing up in Pawtucket, I have been fortunate to have been exposed to many different cultures. Through sports teams, schooling, and other activities I was able to avoid the cultural slap in the face that many of my fellow classmates went through. First off, when I say cultural slap, I don't mean it to be a bad thing. What I mean is from hearing many of my classmates; they grew up in pretty segregated neighborhoods. I found it astonishing when I heard these statements more than a handful of times "We had 2 black kids in my school" or "we had 3 black kids in my school". I was shocked that this was something kids knew; I believe and really hope that these were not racist comments. My high school was plenty diverse, and I couldn't tell you how many kids of any race we had in our school.
As a teacher of a classroom it is crucial to understand who you are educating. At Francis elementary I found it to be one of the more diverse schools in the state. The statistics I looked up through info works backed my notion correctly. The breakdown of race is the following: 46% African American, 26% Hispanic, 25% White, and the remaining a small percentage of Asian and Native American dissent. What I found to be the most interesting statistic was the amount of English language learners there were at my school; 0%. I must say, this statistic has made me weary about the statistics info works has collected. I question them because I know for a fact a few kids in my class' first language is not English. I actually had an experience that reminded me of Goldenberg’s article I read in my FNED class. The article was about ELL’s (English language learners) and they have gone through and will continue to go through. I was assigned by my teacher to work one on one with a student, Myra, who had been struggling with her math assignments. Myra was Hispanic and I could tell English was not her first language. I noticed she would subtlety count in Spanish before translating it to me in English. Myra actually seemed embarrassed of the situation. I’m not sure if she was embarrassed of her lack of math skills, or if it was the way she felt about her English speaking skills. I think it was a little of both, but more of the latter. I tried to make her feel as comfortable as possible during the whole process. I couldn’t help but think of Goldenberg’s article, where one of the key components to teaching ELL’s was advocating a child’s first language. I, not knowing how to speak Spanish, wasn’t quite sure how I could apply this method. One thing I did remember from Goldenberg’s article is that you may have to change the way you teach to an ELL so a student can understand you better. I followed this method by trying to simplify things for Myra, but also not greatly changing the content. By using a basic vocabulary and clearly instructing her as much as possible I really felt we had created a much more comfortable setting for the both of us. I do feel however if there was a Spanish speaking teacher was around to help the whole process could have gone by much smoother. I feel this could apply to all ELL’s throughout our country. English is one of the hardest languages to learn, and we have to do everything we can do to try and help.
What I noticed with such a diverse classroom is the differences in cultural capital that is brought into the classroom each day. One of the first things I noticed is the way different students dress to class each day. There are a few students who dress very nicely to class each day. Not only do they stand out (in a good way), but they are also treated differently directly because of the clothes. Literally dressing to impress had a crucial impact on the way the teacher treated them. The teacher was noticeably more lenient and patient with the nicer dressed students than she was those who weren't. It was a completely unconscious thing by the teacher but still noticeable.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I recently have begun a tutoring program at a school called Francis Elementary. At Francis Elementary I will be in a fourth grade classroom. The first thing I noticed on the drive there was the neighborhood where the school was located. It seems like a nice area with more houses set up than apartment complexes. I also noticed the school had many good sized areas for the kids to play during recess. These areas were all cement, there wasn't any grass area around the school. There's a small playground set up that the younger kids seem to really enjoy. As soon as I walked into the school I noticed the odd way the structure was set up. I felt as if I was in a maze with all the cuts and turns I had to make attempting to find the office. There are many wings set up throughout the school with a mix of different aged students. I found it odd that children of the same grades were not necessarily in the same wing. I saw a few classrooms of younger students right across the hall.
Now getting into the classroom, which was a great experience. It had a nice feel to it, like the kids wanted to be there (or at least didn't hate being there). The kids seemed to be really excited to have a college student (myself) reading and helping them. When I first arrive during class, it is reading time. This is where the students take out a book of their choice, and read for 20 minutes. The teacher, Ms. Carter, had a student, Anthony, read his book to me. He was so excited to tell me everything about the book before we really go into it. I thought it was awesome how pumped he was to be reading. I really liked how the kids were not restricted in their book picking. As great as the kids have been, Ms. Carter has been the best, she has been extremely helpful to me. She doesn't just tell me to go do this or go do that, she actually talks to me as if I was a teacher myself. Informing me in detail of what I can do to help the kids, and even telling me some personal experiences of hers that can really help me in my future.
The number one thing valued in the classroom is open discussion. Ms. Carter really tries to have the kids talking and discussing things as a group. She allows the kids to have their own opinion even at this young of an age. It was a really cool thing to hear what the kids have to say. It reminds me of our FNED class when we get into our groups to discuss things. Overall it has been a great start to the program, and can't wait to see where it will go.