Tuesday, December 20, 2016


The Kliewer reading reminded me of a documentary that I had watched in a social work class, which I think everyone should watch at some point. The film is called Wretches and Jabberers, and it is about two men with autism who communicate through typing and become global advocates for changing the perception of disability. Although the reading and the documentary focused on different disabilities, the messages are quite similar. Both talk about how people with disabilities have strengths and are no less intelligent than peers, despite not meeting certain markers. Here is a clip of the two men speaking to an audience of teachers:

Shoshone school, which Kliewer discusses in his piece, seems excellent, so I wanted to find more examples of similar schools.  I did not get a whole lot of results, but I did find this video of an elementary school in the U.K. for a series called "Inclusion Working in 2015." It isn't perfect or in accordance with the ideas of all our other authors, there are some charity-esque elements and the school is almost entirely white, but it is a pretty great example of inclusion of students with disabilities.

In an earlier post, I talked about how Best Buddies sometimes felt more like charity than change, but after reading this text, I revisited their website. I am not sure if the group at my school is taking the same approach, but there does seem to be a lot of change-oriented resources and content, especially regarding employment and inclusive language. Here is a link to their “Advocate” page under the “Take Action” tab. The organization in some ways aligns with Kleiwer, because they recognize the strengths in people, try to change perceptions of disability, and provide a space for both self-advocacy and advocacy by others for inclusiveness in our society. However, Kleiwer discusses redefining citizenship while Best Buddies seems to try to prove that we should not have to.

As a final note, here is a video created by Megan Bomgaars, a person with Down Syndrome, that is really powerful, and demonstrates points laid out by Kliewer (and Oakes!).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

TAL, Herbert, and Brown v Board of Ed

The last one came out all weird so I'm trying again.
I chose to do a connections post on TAL, Herbert, and the Brown v. Board of Ed. website. All three sources talk about the issue of segregation in schools. The Brown v. Board website has information about the case that supposedly ended the issue, but the other two, and especially This American Life, provide examples and evidence of modern-day segregation, despite also providing proof that it would be the most effective way to improve schools. Because of the fact that those with privilege believe segregation to be a thing of the past, the first connection I saw was to Johnson. He discussed the luxury of obliviousness, the idea that thinking privilege and injustices, such as racism, do not exist is a privilege itself. One example of someone experiencing the luxury of obliviousness would be the mother in the story of Normandy in TAL who says that her opposition to integrating her children’s school is “not a race issue.” Johnson is the one who said we have to say the words, and this woman refused to believe they were even applicable.

Brown v Board of Ed was not the end of the story.
There were also some very strong ties to Delpit’s arguments, specifically in the TAL episode. One that stood out, for example, was the story of one particular student, Cameron, at the Normandy high school. He was an honors and AP student enrolled in the most challenging academic classes at the school, and he only had one teacher who actually taught. In college level classes, he was being completely under-prepared, not taught the rules and codes of power, and definitely not taught enough to come prepped for a real college course. There is also a connection to Shor here (no surprise here, now that I check, given he is conducting the interview), because in one of his other AP classes, Cameron was given a middle school level worksheet that he was able to finish in five minutes, which does not foster meaningful learning at all and also does not encourage any participation, which Shor says is crucial to learning.

Kahne and Westheimer would also point out that any efforts to “change” schools, which Hannah-Jones frustratedly rattles off examples of, such as replacing teachers, replacing curriculum, and sending school supplies, are actually all just acts of charity. They are short-term, less effective “solutions” that really just avoid integration, the real but less palatable change.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sesame Street

Decided these were worth sharing!



Delpit (rules & codes of power w/o putting down one style or other):

Oakes and Finn

Argument post

Oakes argues that tracking is an unjust policy that is detrimental to the learning of those placed in lower tracks, and Finn shows that it also plays out on a larger scale in accordance with social class structures, with the children of the elite and wealthy in higher tracks and children of the working class in significantly lower ones. This implies then, as the other texts from this class have already done, that there is little to no mobility for those who start in a lower, more disadvantaged class. Oakes says, for example, that students who are tracked as “low ability” are not exposed to the same materials or given help developing the same skills as those tracked as high ability. In turn, Finn discusses how teachers in working class schools seem to treat all of their students as lower ability, and how “work” and “knowledge” have different meanings in classrooms of different socioeconomic status. Students will never learn what it means to learn in classes other than their own, which affects everything in the classroom, down to the student-teacher dynamic. 
To bring Delpit into the mix, students of lower socioeconomic status are not being taught the rules and codes of power to be successful in a higher class, such as an elite college or career path. This is even exemplified in Finn’s analysis of teachers in the different schools; the only ones who taught above their own level of privilege were those teachers who came from the top ten percent and taught the top one percent. Oakes shows how schools fail when they expect less of students in lower tracks, and never grant them the mobility to move up in their tracking, and Finn takes this even farther to a much grander scale, with the implications that our entire system is failing by expecting less of people in lower socioeconomic “tracks,” and training them to stay there. Since Oakes says that schools need to adopt a new policy, such as classrooms that integrate students of various levels, Finn’s piece could act as support for change such as integration of schools as a whole.

This isn't exactly a blog post (A Note About August)

August talks about the importance of inclusive curriculum and safe spaces in the classroom. Teachers and youth workers need to provide room for their students/youth to talk about what is actually important and relevant to them, especially parts of themselves that may not align with SCWAAMP. It is also important, I think, for us to stay educated and informed about social issues, if not visibly and actively fighting for justice, like my Promising Practices presenter who has one of his protest signs in the classroom. This isn't about being able to detach ourselves from the problem, I hope we have all learned that that's not how it works, and that we benefit from privilege whether we think it's fair or not. It's about showing that we mean it when we call our spaces "safe," not just putting a sticker on the wall. It is an entirely different experience to be in the class of a person who never mentions LGBTQ issues, but still has the sticker and is technically "someone you can talk to," than to be in the class of a teacher or professor who talks knowledgeably and currently about social justice. This class was the latter, and I hope to provide spaces that feel this genuinely safe in the future.

For every day:

For crises prevention:

Kahne and Westheimer

For this post, I am going to do a reflection. Kahne and Westheimer’s “In the Service of What?” really got me thinking about the ideas of charity versus change. Reflecting on my experiences, I realize that I have been a part of a lot of charity, but I really want to help create change.
In high school, I remember feeling like I was a good person. I had been super involved in the Community Service Club, and became its president my senior year. I loved it, but I remember having issues with the new policy in the school requiring community service hours, because I didn’t think it should count as volunteering if you were forced to do it. I also had brought a chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that creates friendships and hopes to eliminate some barriers between students with developmental disabilities and students without them. While the organization has a mission of putting itself out of business, and can be change-oriented (and did create some change even within my school as far as leading to a Unified Sports team and the special education department becoming less isolated from the rest of the school), it seemed like a lot of students who took part in it were doing so out of pity or because it was a “nice thing to do.” Part of me felt like they were right, it was nice, but the other part of me was sort of annoyed and wondering if we were all missing the point. I had to question my own ideas and beliefs as well. As I left high school and stopped being involved, I wondered if I had become less of a good person. I mean, I wasn’t doing so much for other people anymore, so what else could that mean?

I think Kahne and Westheimer really just gave me the words to think about and formalize these questions and problems that I’d had, and also to examine how my perspectives have shifted. For example, they talked about how acts of charity create a distance between the one acting and the one “receiving,” and how this creates a perception of those on the receiving end of charity as “clients.” I don’t think charities are bad, exactly, they can help in crisis situations and that’s important. I just also now understand that what I am really looking to be a part of is change. This class and this text are fueling the idea that I don’t want to think in terms of “those in need” and “those less fortunate,” but in terms of systemic privileges and disadvantages that affect us all, and I am not always sure how to do that. I know that, as we talked about in class, change does not always make you feel like a “good person” as charity did for me in the past, but I hope I will practice what I preach as I move forward and be a part of change anyway.

Map the Authors


Friday, December 16, 2016

Sexism in the 2016 Election

The first time I read the two pieces for this post, I was aggravated but also hopeful. There were issues of sexism, which sadly came as no surprise, especially after reading McIntosh’s list of male (and white) privilege. However, as Jill Soloway expressed in the Time piece about Trump’s “locker room talk,” the sexism was being brought to light, and this was something exciting and hopeful. Reading the texts now, on the other hand, just leaves me sad and afraid. Now, we live in a nation that has elected Donald Trump to be its president, and it is clear that the sexism that was highlighted in these two articles, along with so many other issues, has been deemed overlookable at worst, justifiable at best.
The New York Times piece discussed underlying sexism in critiques of Hillary Clinton’s voice, while the Time article detailed Trump’s very explicit and overt sexism. A lot of people now are claiming that they do not support Trump’s comments, but could not bring themselves to vote for Hillary, calling her a liar when they have called all politicians liars for years and still voted for them. This is not unlike what Chozick was saying in the New York Times article about how male politicians raise their voices just as often as Clinton does, but she is seen as abrasive while they are viewed as passionate. Apparently, Clinton was unforgivable, but Trump can now be redeemed. It seems to me, then, like the underlying and implicit sexism expressed by Chozick is just as dangerous as the explicit; the latter would have no power without the former.
Chozick quotes Denise Graveline as saying “some research suggests that women can be competent or likable, but not both,” and it really stuck with me. I hope to be a part of changing perceptions, and to live in a world where women are rightfully seen as both. I am having trouble, though, believing that we will get there soon with Trump as our president. I almost cried in Barnes and Noble the other day when I read a children's book called Isabella: Girl in Charge. Spoiler alert, but at the end of the book, Isabella goes with her family to the inauguration of a black female president, followed by a timeline of women in US politics with the heading "It's Time" above. As I wait for Trump to officially take office, this could not seem more like fiction.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Promising Practices

On Saturday, November 5, I attended the Promising Practices conference at RIC. The theme was Resilience, and the day consisted of a keynote address and two workshops. The keynote address by Dr. Robert Brooks was interesting and set a tone for the remainder of the event, but what I would really like to focus on are the workshops. In my first session, I attended “‘When You Fail, You’re Learning’: Embedding Growth Mindset in Everyday Elementary School Lessons,” which was presented by Sarah Hess and Makayla Calkins, who teach and student teach in an HBS classroom. The workshop was highly interactive and focused on the impact of growth (or “open”) mindset on learning. Growth mindset was explained as an ideology of “yet” (watch Carol Dweck’s “The Power of Yet” here), and a view of learning as a process where failure is sometimes one of the steps. The presenters discussed this as it applied to both teachers and students. I could see a connection to Oakes here, because schools that participate in tracking are inherently rejecting a growth mindset approach. One of the presenters’ take aways was actually that teachers can use growth mindset by setting high expectations for the entire class, which would mean not sorting students into groups based on “intelligence” or performance. They also discussed how even though growth mindset can be its own lesson, for time purposes it can also be incorporated into other lessons and activities. For instance,  we each read children’s books that taught or demonstrated the concept.
Bonus watch: Sesame Street is great, here's a video of Janelle Monae singing "The Power of Yet" on the show...note the preview for the next song at the end, too! Christensen delights, probably!
The Dot is an extremely popular example of a children's book demonstrating growth mindset.

The second workshop I attended was “Fostering Student Resiliency Through a Pedagogy of Critical Caring,” as presented by Julio Alicea, a teacher and adviser at Blackstone Academy Charter School. This session was extremely powerful, and drew on the work of Christopher Emdin, who recently wrote the book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood (and the Rest of Y’all Too). Alicea took “3 C’s” of critical caring and discussed practical applications of each. The C’s stood for compassion, community, and cultural relevancy. He discussed how important it is to not just care about your students or social issues, but to actively do something about it. This reminded me of Johnson’s piece, which discussed how people with privilege need to realize that they have it, but they also need to be vocal about it and act against it. In Julio’s class, for example, he has a bulletin board dedicated to black lives that were lost at the hands of police violence. In the center of this board is a sign that he has held up at local protests, which proclaims “My Skin Color is Not a Crime.” When one of his students lost a family member the same way, he asked their permission and added their bio to the board. He has shown in this way that he has compassion for his students personally, but also that he is working actively for justice in the greater community, which makes the classroom culturally relevant. As Kahne and Westheimer would say, he is doing more because he does not want to give his students charity, but he wants to work for real change. This workshop gave me a lot of concrete examples of how to work towards change, but also the importance of letting the young people with whom you work know that you are on their side and being active about it. Not only does it build a stronger relationship and sense of community, but it gives youth the space to talk about their experiences and work to create change together.
In a moment that really tied the two workshops, the keynote address, and the Kahne and Westheimer and Oakes pieces together, Julio Alicea said something about sympathetic tracking that really struck me: “We think we’re doing something good for them by making it easier, but what we’re really doing is disempowering them for the rest of their lives.” It is an act of charity, one that actually hinders the potential for change, to give certain groups of students “breaks,” and it perpetuates the system that we are living with now. Having high expectations for all students, and helping them develop growth mindset strategies to meet them, truly shows critical caring.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I. Shor Can See These Connections

Ira Shor’s piece, “Empowering Education:Critical Teaching for Social Change” can probably be connected to every other text we have read this semester. In this post, I am going to connect it to Delpit’s “The Silenced Dialogue” and August’s “Safe Spaces.”
Shor argues that there is no such thing as a neutral classroom, and that a teacher should encourage students to question everything from what goes on in class to their roles in society as a whole. He suggests that teachers should let students discuss their ideas and come to their own conclusions before providing materials, rather than just giving them the “right answer.” I am not sure whether Delpit would support this, because, although she discusses social injustices and problems with our education, she also argues quite strongly that it is important to be explicit with your students and to teach them the rules and codes of power. Society does not tend to give much support to those who push against the status quo. Shor’s policies do not set his students up to be powerful in our society, as Delpit’s do, but to dismantle the structures that make our society unjust to begin with...but you need power to do that, and I am not sure whose ideas make more sense to me.

There was an idea on which both Shor and Delpit agreed, though, and that is teaching the required materials through the perspectives of students, so as to prepare them well without eliminating or undermining their cultures in the process. Both give excellent examples. Delpit, for instance, talks about teaching academic English to a group of Native Alaskan students by respecting their native way of speaking and explicitly telling them in which situations and environments they should use the each style. Neither form, especially not the native, was devalued in this process. This is an example of what Shor describes as relating to the students’ contexts. Another example he gives is of a science class learning about the nurtitional value of their school lunches or learning about and examining the air and water in their communities. These classes still cover the required material, but they do so in a way that actually has meaning in students’ lives. Classrooms do not exist in a bubble, and so in order for learning to be meaningful it must be relevant outside of the classroom as well. This is a key component of Shor’s affective or emotional learning.

Shor argues that to teach solely from the cognitive domain and ignore the
 affective is limiting and does not prepare students to be democratic citizens. 

Here is an example of what Shor called "A Door to Empowerment: Participation." This teacher talks about creating meaning in the material & also a new model of school that sounds like the MET. 

Shor’s piece also has similar themes to August’s “Safe Spaces.” He raises the questons of what stories are being told in the class, and from whose perspective. He notes that the teaching the dominant ideology (SCWAAMP) is a pre-made choice, and the erasure of history and literature that challenges that ideology is deliberate and poilitical. August discusses this as well, narrowing their focus primarily to LGBTQ representation, and provides insight on how these political decisions can personally affect students. If they do not feel like their presence belongs in the classroom, if they are not able to see themselves in history, art, science, or any other subject in school, then this will not only isolate the students and potentially make them feel unsafe, it will negatively impact their capacity for affective learning, which Shor says is crucial.

Here is another example of this: