Saturday, December 14, 2013

Awesome Life

Found this at Nordstrom's last night & thought of you all! Just a friendly reminder to live your life for you. Not based on where someone else is on their path. All paths and people are meant to be different!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Liberation Praxis: Participation & Inquiry

Reflecting on Quotes from Ira Shor’s Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change article


“Get up, stand up: Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up: Don’t give up the fight.”

–Bob Marley 

            I really enjoyed the first chapter of this piece immensely. This article was an accumulation of a few of my passions regarding teaching. It touched upon allowing the students to decide what they would be learning based on their interests and prior knowledge. It also talked about how important participation in the world is in helping students know first-hand how their help makes a difference. It talks about encourages students to become empowered by asking questions and seeking out the answers. By standing up for what they believe and fighting for the change that will give them what they deserve. Liberation is as praxis: the action and reflection of people upon their world in order to transform it” (Shor, 33)
            The tools we need in order to empower our students have been given to us this semester has we read through the articles each week and then blogged about them. As I read through this article I kept stumbling upon connections with all of the texts we had read. Some had one more than one author that related to the passage but here I just put down the author that came to mind first. I flagged them and will share them here:

·         August’s “Creating Safe Spaces: “Our role as teachers is to create a safe environment in which students can express opinions and most importantly, generate their own language materials for learning and peer-teaching” (Shor, 43).

August’s Advocacy & Protection: “From a critical point of view, existing cannons of knowledge and usage are not a common culture; they have ignored the multicultural themes, idioms and achievements of non-elite groups such as woman, minorities, homosexuals and working people.

·         Christensen’s Media Control: “The hostile reception in the mass media and in academic circles in the United States to feminist and multicultural studies since the 1960’s exemplifies the political nature of apparently neutral knowledge” (Shor, 34).

·         Collier’s “Code-Switching”: “As writing teachers to Afro-Caribbean students, they taught the community idiom, Creole and standard English simultaneously. They did not install white English as the preferred idiom in the classroom. Instead they developed bilingual literacy and a political awareness of the relationship between the dominant and the community languages” (Shor, 48).

Collier’s Acceptance of Home Language: “Their class in Creole and standard English is an example of multicultural language arts seeking a critical and democratic balance between community speech and the dominant usage, without denying either” (Shor, 50)

·         Delpit’s “Rules and Codes of Power”: “As conscious human beings, we can discover how we are conditioned by the dominant ideology. We can gain distance on our moment of existence…we can struggle free precisely because we know we aren’t free! That is why we can think of transformation. Human beings are capable of overcoming limits if they can openly examine them. The participatory class offers that possibility” (Shor, 22-23)

Delpit’s “Rules and Codes of Power”: “Most kids like the sound of their home language better…we talk about why it might be necessary to learn standard English…asking my students to memorize the rules without asking who makes the rules, who enforces the rues, who benefits from the rules, who loses from the rules…legitimates a social system that devalues my students’ knowledge and language” (Shor, 53).

·         Johnston’s “Say the Words”: “Politics reside not only in subjects matter but in the discourse of the classroom; in the way teachers and students speak to each other. The rules for talking are a key mechanism for empowering or disempowering students” (Shor, 14).

·         Kohl’s “I Won’t Learn From You Technique”: “Many students do not like the knowledge, process or rules set out for them in class. In reaction, they drop out or withdraw into passivity or silence in the classroom. Some become self-educated; some sabotage the curriculum by misbehaving” (Shor, 14).

Kohl’s “I Won’t Learn From You Technique”: The Performance Strike: Until students experience lively participation, mutual authority and meaningful work, they will display depr4essed skills and knowledge, as well as negative emotions. Teachers will be measuring and reacting to an artificially low picture of student abilities” (Shor, 21)

Kohl’s “I Won’t Learn From You Technique”: “The authoritarian traditional curriculum itself generate bad feelings with lead many students to resist or sabotage the lessons” (Shor, 24)

Kohl’s “I Won’t Learn From You Technique”: Some follow instructions, others go around them; some manipulate the teacher; still others undermine the class. In such an environment, many students become cynical, identifying intellectual life with dullness and indignity” (Shor, 26).

·         Kohn’s “Manipulating Children”: “Education can socialize students into critical through or into dependence on authority, that is, into autonomous habits of mind into passive habits of following authorities, waiting to be told what to do and what things mean” (Shor, 13).

Kohn’s “Reducing Achievement”: “The typical classroom is framed by competition. Star charts on the wall announce who has been successful at learning…competition encourages people to survey other people’s differences for potential weak spots” (Shor, 23-24)

·         Kozol’s The Poor Remain Poor Theory: “School funding is another political dimension of education, because more money had always been invested in the education of upper-class children and elite collegians than has been spent on students from lower-income homes and in community college” (Shor, 15).

·         Kozol’s Stereotyping Theory: “Low status traditionally ascribed to everyday language…the medium of expression of those colonized was always viewed by the colonists as something inferior, ugly, poverty-stricken, incapable for example of conveying scientific or technological ideas, as if languages did not change historically in step with actual developments in the forces of production” (Shor, 52).

·         McIntosh’s Privileges: “Not encouraging students to question knowledge, society and experience tacitly endorses and supports the status quo” (Shor, 12).

McIntosh’s Privileges: “Instead of blaming themselves, they learned that the problem of doing well in school is a problem of an unequal society that devalues the idiom spoken by ordinary people” (Shor, 53)

·         Westheimer’s Reflecting Upon Service Learning: “Piaget says ‘Knowledge is derived from action…to know an object is to act upon it and to transform it…to know is therefore to assimilate reality into structures of transformation and these are the structures that intelligence constructs as a direct extension of our actions.’ With a Deweyan emphasis, Piaget reiterated that we learn by doing and thinking about our experience” (Shor, 17).

Other than all the quotes I listed above, I found six more that really stood out for me that I will continue to discuss here. They touched upon everything from empowerment to reflecting to participating to keeping an open mind in order to accept differences and things we at first don’t understand. These are all key elements in teaching in my opinion. “Schools need to be defended as an important public service that educates students to be critical citizens who can think, challenge, take risks and believe that their actions will make a difference in a larger society” (Shor 16).

The aspect I have always struggled with the most is that balance between teaching what I think is right whilst not enforcing my beliefs on my students, instead encouraging them to think and feel for themselves. “By limiting creative and critical questioning, the banking model makes education into an authoritarian transfer instead of a democratic experience. Any material imposed by authority as doctrine stops being knowledge and becomes dogma. Critical learning and democratic education end where orthodoxy begins” (Shor, 34).

“In the social setting of education, passive curricula help prepare students for life in undemocratic institutions. Students do not practice democratic habits in co-governing their classroom, schools or colleges. There, they learn that unilateral authority is the normal way things are done in society. They are introduced in school to the reality of management holding dominant unelected power. At the same time they are told that they live in freedom and democracy” (Shor, 19). The rules and code of power keep the students opinions at bay. They are taught that their needs and thoughts do not matter. This is why it’s so important to run a democratic classroom, where we can show our students that their voice doe sin fact matter greatly.

“To help move students away from passivity and cynicism, a powerful signal has to be sent from the very start, a signal that learning is participatory, involving humour, hope and curiosity. A strong participatory and affective opening broadcasts optimistic feelings about the students’ potential and about the future; students are people whose voices are worth listening to, whose minds can carry the weight of serious intellectual work, whose thought and feeling can entertain transforming self and society” (Shor, 26) This is important because we must allow students to know how much their opinions matter. They must be taught that their voice is powerful and needs to be used. By having open discussion forums in class, they can feel the rush and excitement of adding to the conversation!


I would like to sum up this piece with two quotes.  I’ll reward you with a video and the middle. “People begin life as motivated learners, not as passive beings. Children naturally join the world around them. They learn by interacting, by experimenting and by using play to internalize the meaning of words and experience. Language intrigues children; they have needs they want met; they busy the older people in their lives with questions and requests for show me, tell me. But year by year their dynamic learning erodes in passive classrooms not organized around their cultural backgrounds, conditions or interests. Their curiosity and social instincts decline until many become nonparticipants” (Shor, 17). This touched me so deeply because I have always subscribed to the theory that children know more than we could ever know. They are so much wiser than we are because they are untainted by society still. They still believe in their hopes and dreams and goodness and Santa Claus. Then we slowly strip away their confidence and passion for play and life. They do love to learn, they want to learn and grow much more so than most adults. So why not allow them to?
This video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking on Changing Education Paradigms, edited and drawn by the RSA team plays to the very themes in the above quote. It also touches upon all of the issues brought up in this piece as well as lots of other pressing education issues like the lack of the arts, creativity and the old industrial revolution format of our education system. It’s only eleven minutes long. Please watch it. Robinson is funny, smart, witty and passionate about what we all care about.
          The last thing I’d like to share (I know I’m dragging it out, it’s our final blog post after all!) is a quote from this piece which I refer to as the holy grail. This is why knowledge is power and why it’s so important that we how our students that they have the power to make great change! “Knowledge has always been a place where forces contend for power, as Galileo discovered in his conflicts with the Vatican, as slaveholders in the American south understood when they made it illegal to teach slaves to read or write and as the Bush White House demonstrated when it imposed strict censorship on the coverage of the Gulf War. In no society is knowledge a neutral terrain. Because some groups in history have had the power to establish standard knowledge and standard usage, these canons need to be studied critically, not absorbed as a bogus common culture” (Shor, 34-35). Food for thought indeed! 

Questions For Class:

·         The aspect I have always struggled with the most is that balance between teaching what I think is right whilst not enforcing my beliefs on my students, instead encouraging them to think and feel for themselves. What are some ways that I can use in order to not allow my passion to persuade others to believe what I do while still sharing what I believe is right to encourage them to do what’s right?

Picture Links:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An IEP Meeting Powerpoint

Hi Everyone!
    I found the powerpoint presentation of my IEP study but I don't know how to attach it here, anyone knows who can help me?
   For now, I can at least share something. On slide seven I put a youtube link. It's a xtranormal video that someone made to show what how a parent can be really confused during an IEP meeting (one-on-one here). You'll only need to watch the first minute to get the gist! It's copied and pasted it here too:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Those Who Can Teach...

Saw this in my Signals magazine today and thought of all of you and of the conference and of our class. Seems all too true. I suppose we'll have to become both teachers and lawmakers!

Individuality and Personality of the Human Being:

Extended Comments from Chelsea’s Post on Christopher Kliewer’s Citizenship in School: Reconceptualising Down Syndrome article
As Chelsea pointed out in her post, this article was difficult to get through. I think this is because we now can read article like this with new lens. Lens we have honed with the tools we have gathered in reading other pieces that focused on aspects like the rules and culture of power, safe spaces and privilege. We will never see the world the same ever again. As we have found out in reading this article, that is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because our antennas are now up and receptive much more clearly to what is really going on around us and so we can no longer ignore it without feeling something about it first. A blessing for the same reason because now we can do something about it! In this article we learn about teachers who have done just that in their classrooms with children who have Down syndrome. Chelsea talks about three such students; Lee, Isaac and John. I will take it a step farther by comparing these stories to the theories of Bilken, my man Vygotsky and the super cool Dewey.
The story of Lee illustrates how we automatically stereotype those students who simply look different. Lee’s teacher points this out when he is singled out saying “anybody who knows Lee knows he’s gifted in how he solves problems, cares about others, reads, loves math. So I guess what I’m arguing is that if you did pick Lee out, you wouldn’t be seeing Lee. It’s not Lee you are picking out. It’s your stereotype, your mind-set. It’s you and it has nothing to do with Lee” (pg. 84). “The challenge is to erase negative attitudes about people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities” (pg. 73) says Kingsley.
We can do this by changing the rules and codes of power that Delpit speaks of and Bilken points out because it is they that sort everyone out into compartments they can label and it is they who controls where they are all placed. I agree with Kozol when he says that if we don’t, we end up paying a tremendous intellectual, emotional, spiritual and economic cost” (pg. 73). “Society is hurt when schools act as cultural sorting machines justifying a competitive ethic that marginalizes certain 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 behaviour” (pg. 73).
This perceived ability and behaviour can also be seen in Isaac’s story. Isaac’s teacher Shayne saw early on how he understood lessons in his own way. She didn’t see his movements and outbursts as behavioural disobedience but instead saw it as his flair for the dramatic because he enjoyed the “drama of life.” As Chelsea also points out “the presumed defectiveness exists not as an intrinsic commodity of the child who thoughts fail to fit within the perceived static border of normality. Rather the idea of defect emerges from culturally devalued sets of relationships that that child has with his or her surroundings” (pg. 82). Vygotsky would agree as he believed that children constructed their knowledge by having relationships with others and then learning to understand them through their engagements.
When Isaac is tested with blocks and spoons and doesn’t follow directions to a tee, the evaluator, who doesn’t know him at all, misreads his actions. “He separated the blocks from the spoons and tasted each spoon before throwing it aside. He was not even given credit by the psychologist, who noted that Isaac had not conformed to the specific directions of the test item and so he didn’t even get credit for it because he didn’t do it right but he clearly knew which was the block, which was the spoon and he followed directions in an organizing sense” (pg. 84). Shayne saw this incompetence as a perception ascribed to a child by others who misunderstood the meaning of the child’s performance” (pg. 83). As Kohn points out, the student isn’t going to learn from you if you don’t respect what they have to say or how they handle learning themselves.
As Shayne points out “the notion of Down syndrome often obscures out ability to recognize the child as a child”. John Mcgough knew this first hand when he lived in North Hollywood where he did not know what it was like to be “accepted for what he is, not what he isn’t”. When he moved with his family to Mendocino, John was able to really throw himself into the community because they welcomed him with open arms and didn’t treat him as someone who was lacking abilities of any kind and instead were able to “see past his chromosomal anomaly to his humanity”. As one of his siblings pointed out “here he is safe-what he calls a safe space and he can concentrate on what he can do instead of being shown or being told what he can’t do” (all pg. 86) August touches upon this as well, cited how in created a safe space for students, they are able to feel more comfortable in their skin so that they can focus on learning.
Dewey too mentions a safe space in the way of a community, which is what Mendocino is to John. Most importantly how a democratic community can help value individuality. In the realization of human reciprocity we can see democracy as “more than a form of government it is primarily a mode of associate living, of conjoint communicated experience”, which can also be seen in Shayne teaching in an inclusive classroom with Isaac and other Down syndrome students. Just as Shayne too points out how the students learn from one another, Dewey took notices “democracy as a way of life in which community both establishes and is derived from each individual’s recognition of the value of every other individual.” This is the most important part to remember because “democracy can only occur when no person’s voice is deterministically silenced” (pg. 72).
          In Chelsea’s blog, she address key points in this article including why students with down syndrome should be place in inclusive classes because they learn from one another, what it means when we accept people for who they are instead of who they aren't and how common traits in all of us help us to relate to other's who are different than us. I posted a YouTube video below called We’re More Alike Than Different. I think it shows that is certainly true of people with Down syndrome, other learning disabilities, ablebodyiness and any other aspect that makes them different that the so called “norm” (up, there’s that word I so despise again). Shanye has been teaching that way for years. Kliewer is bringing it to our attention here. Now it’s our job to take our lens out and go make the necessary changes to show why schools should constitute inclusive classrooms because the “dialogic of democracy is ultimately a set of values based upon respect, humility and creative listening” (pg. 73).


Question For Class:
  • I really appreciated how this article compared the inclusive classroom to the fundamental framework of a democracy. The question left is how a democratic country, which is based on accepting one and all and treating everyone the same has turned into a place of segregation, privilege, labels and opportunities to point out what is different. How can we fix this and make America what is was intended to be all along-a place for all?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Art Speaks

I keep watching this...sometimes I just listen. I can't get enough of it. Perhaps it's Radiohead's (a favourite band of mine) soothing sounds pushing you towards forward thinking or Sir Ken Robinson's (a hero of mine) welcoming voice reminding us that it is we who are responsible for removing the idea that we are creative ourselves. Perhaps it's because it's a subject that moves me. Perhaps it's because it's important. Perhaps is a accumulation of these things-in fact I know it is. All of the subjects in school should meld into one another to show how everything is connected because it is. We are. The arts shows us this is true.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Collaboration, Connection & Reflection

Promising Practices Conference 2013

As I took my seat at one of our class’s circle of tables, I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of a bonded group. We all sought each other out and even those of us who sat with other friends, sat close by. I’m sure part of the bond came from our Thursday class supportive discussion on college and our teaching professions but as we learned at the conference, a foundation must be laid before you build upon it. Attending this conference together was a way to add to the strong foundation we have collectively built in class all ready.
I noticed how we all jotted down notes and kept our reactions to our self for the first hour. Perhaps it was because we were getting restless or because the Mayor said the hot point words that hit a chord with us, but an hour into the panel, we were all starting to show our feelings on what we were hearing and experiencing. All we had to do was make eye contact with one another in order to understand that the told Dr. Bogad had given us in class where at work, applying themselves as a way to connect what we were hearing to what we were feeling.
I have lot of random notes from this panel, which can be read out like a beat poem. In order to hone in on some ideas, I went through and highlighted aspects that jumped out. These notes are a mix of what I was hearing and the connections I was making to what I was hearing. Here they are: cohesive collaboration within the community, show them a better logic-build the ground-now secure it, take ideas and actually put them into action-real purpose in the real world, needs are connected, can’t just fix one-must fix all-only way to prevent the band-aid (Kozol-Mott Haven), don’t use socioeconomic achievement as an excuse BUT you must guide them through-they can’t do it alone, whole needs of a family-not just teaching but food and housing too, America isn’t the best anymore-we need incentives to be the best (Kohn-Good Job), stop changing theories and foundations every 3-4 years-look at basics and bring them into the digital future, take the parents and encourage them to exceed and then their children will want to do the same-show by example.
I just delivered those ideas to you in the order I heard them. I’d like to point out the first and last idea. It starts with a cohesive collaboration in the community which is how we can help to encourage parents to strive for a better life by going after a better career. Then their children will see them as an example and follow suit. The point I’m making in joining these two ideas’ together is that in order to put the parent in a position where they can change their socioeconomic status and be a good role model for their children, we must collaborate ideas together in order to connect with them so we can give them guidance and help lead them to better opportunities. Show them a better logic model, build from the ground up. Stop changing theories every 3-4 years and look, focus, on the basics. Take ideas and actually put them into action. See a pattern here? The observations are in place. The ideas are swirling. Now it’s time to add a bit of action to them, like our good friend Benjamin Franklin suggested centuries ago!
This pattern of collaborate, connect and reflect continued throughout the sessions I took and key-note address. In Artistic Approaches in Cultivating Community the instructor gave us an artsy model of civic pride through collaborative work.  A 6th grade class in New Bedford, MA studied the history of their area and then brainstormed on what they learned. In their conversation, they created a list of pictures from the past, present and their hopes for the future that they joined together with a common element for a mural in their cafeteria.  This helped the students to not only feel proud of where they came from but also build a personal sense of ownership to their part in the community. Even the parents got involved, prepping the panel with whitewash and painting alongside their children. They were given enough patience, persistence and time to complete the project, which garnered the attention of the Historical Society. They students were given an opportunity to look around and notice the place they came from and then to make changes in their environment.
The group that presented The Community Lens showed their students civic engagement through collaborative engagement. They asked their students to visualize peace and justice and to write, talk and capture through photographs what that looked like to them. In working with kids from Providence through City Arts and from Ecuador they were able to show how similar the ideas around peace and justice were. They showed that through reciprocal and enduring relationships, there could be conflict resolution. By using photographs, you didn’t have to speak the same language. Instead you could use non-verbal’s to be together, to communicate together. Stereotypes could be squashed, like they were in the Kahne and Westheimer piece, once the students were able to see the existing humanity in other countries. They discovered that peace and justice looks the same in all places. Perhaps this is a great way to actually help peace and justice on earth come into fruition.
During the keynote address, our presenter focused on the charity versus change model that Kahne and Westhemier shares with us. He does this by flipping the idea of service learning on its head by titling his presentation “Why Service Learning Is Bad.” He spoke about how we needed to engage with our communities again and that service could “solve” that need but only if we started to focus on the whole of the problem instead of the individuals within in the problem or, just as Kozol pointed out, we are only making a temporary fix. He said that we need to change the oppressive elements of reality by redistributing the power because right now we are living in an economic contradiction. McIntosh and Johnson also point this out when they talk about white privilege as well as Delpit in her culture of power. Well-being in the way of success is based on your zip code because those zip codes are often zoned by race and the minorities are always left with the bottom of the heap. The presenter recommended that we combine the work of anthropology, sociology, geography and community studies in order to focus on the whole problem.
My last session was a combination of two subjects. The first was a quick study in Service Learning. They used a design, implement and assess model. Just like in Kahne and Westhemier, the focus is not only on the actual volunteer work but the reflection of it as well. The presenter adds education to the community service umbrella and focuses on two needs; that of the community and that of the student. He shared a story about a student’s experience who discovered that the water in town was toxic so they did further investigation, brought up the issue and worked towards cleaning it up, which they did. But connecting service, education and community they were able to fix a problem that mattered.
The second part of the last session was probably my favourite. In Critical Stance or Critical Dance we learned how to evaluate possibilities and envision alternatives. To take a stance means to speak your opinion at another person and then moving on-it’s not a conversation, instead it’s just spewing out words. While dancing is a form of collaboration where something is created together-it’s a relationship that acts. Dance has elements of fluidity, variation and improv. So a critical dance is a way to share out in the open your opinions and then listen to other’s view as well. The presenter shared a story from the school she works at called School One. A few years ago students had put up posters in the hallway advocating for equal marriage rights. One female student was very upset about and took it up with the Principle. The Principle said that she had every right to her feelings but that a discussion had to take place in order to discuss how they would handle the struggle between her feelings and the students who put up the posters as well as the rest of the student body. Upset, she left the room and ripped down all the posters.
The school had an assembly where they discussed how to handle the subject of hanging posters and also the disciple that should be given to the girl who pulled the posters down. The treated the school as a democracy, one where the students had a say. They decided that the student should make a hate speech poster to show how she made the students who put up the posters feel when she ripped them down. They then discussed how to handle political speech and put rules into place. They would designated an area where students could put up any message they wanted as long as it only focused on your opinion. No words of opposition from the other side of the issue were allowed on the poster, it had to remain positive. The girl saw how her actions affected others and learned from her punishment. Later on she ended up coming to terms with her sexuality and came out. This story showed how to deal with an unavoidable dance through care ethics that ended up transforming the entire school!
As I have mentioned above the themes I saw throughout this conference are collaboration, connection and reflection. I believe these themes have also been prevalent in our classroom throughout all of our discussions on the texts we have read and the experiences we’ve had during out service learning. Topics we have covered in class also came up throughout the conference. Ideas on white privilege (Johnson and McIntosh) and the culture of power (Delpit). The change vs. change model of service learning (Kahne & Westhemier). The look of education and life of those in the low class (Kozol). The safe spaces we can create for LQGBTV students (August). And actually tuning our minds in order to notice and analyze all of this (Christensen). As Dr. Bogad pointed out in the beginning of the semester, if you had bad eyesight, why wouldn’t you want to wear glasses so you could see better? Through the topics we have worked on in class, we now have super charged glasses which give us the power to see clearly what is really going on in our country. Together through collaboration, connection and reflection, we can make the changes we truly wish to see!

Picture Links: