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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

weather check-in

So today I feel that there are many weather systems roiling inside me today.

I am partly sunny because it was a nice day, which always lifts my mood, and I am at SED 561, which always makes me feel sunny.

I am also partly cloudy, because it has been an awfully long day, I was in school to meet with someone early, taught straight through to 245, then had a faculty meeting until 345, then fought mineral spring traffic to get here for class, only to have to fight it again to make a fundraiser meeting at St. Ray's in Pawtucket after class.

There are also storms forecasted for me, because a number of my students are going through difficult life situations, and I want to help, but know that there is only so much I can do.

Finally, when Al Roker predicted snow on Sunday, I thought "Why not?"  So I'll claim snow in my check in, and attribute that to feeling old in yoga today.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Discipline Games

Patrick Finn describes a teacher preparation class roll playing exercise, where he has the students (all teachers) play a student, teacher, and jury.  They have dialogue regarding the negotiation of student desires, and teacher responses, and after a pre-set amount of time, the jury rules on the item at hand.  I found this to be an interesting exercise, and I loved the idea of dialogue vs. anti-dialogue, but I opened with this description, because I thought the title "The Discipline Games" would make an apt title for the article selection. 

Finn opens in chapter one, discussing various considered titles for his book, and while we did not have access to the entire book, the selection we read could have been titled "The Discipline Games" because of the in-depth study and description of the set-up and inequality found in schools and how that inequality funnels students into their roles in life following.  The set-up of schools, and the idea that it could be intentional (conspiracy GASP!) by those with privilege, evokes powerful connections to that other title so popular in today's classrooms and society "The Hunger Games."  So in honor, I will be peppering my blog today with movie references for those of you who love the cinema.

In "The Book of Eli" Denzel Washington's character carries a bible through the apocalyptic world, where very few can read, and those who can hold all the power.  The main antagonist, is on a mission to collect and/or destroy all books, especially the bible, because it is the most dangerous of all books.  When he finally gets it from Washington's character, it is useless, because it is in Braille, which renders the villain functionally illiterate.  Eli continues on the a society of pacifists, and proceeds to recite, word for word the entire contents of the King James Bible, which he has memorized.  Finn opens by telling us of the power of literacy, and access to books, and continues throughout his book to describe "literacy with attitude."

We go on to read Finn discuss how students in working and middle class schools are taught to follow directions, get the right answer, and exhibit acceptable levels of resistance, mixed in with some hope for opportunity.  This type of learning is directed toward a future of wage labor, or service labor, such as teaching, law enforcement, nursing, and "accountantry(my word)."  There were two phrases that stuck most with me in this section, the first, concerning working class students and a science experiment was:  "what did we find" of course this came after the teacher performed the experiment in front of the students who were expected to sit quietly at their desks and observe.  The second was "There was more excited patriotism around holidays here than in any other school." when referring to middle class students.  This screams to the "caste system" of our society.  While hourly wage workers and working class people have little reason to look forward to the holidays, and those who are affluent don't need to have their holidays and gift-giving dictated to them, the middle class "managers" grind ploddingly forward, waiting for a chance for a little extra moment of what appears to be joy, in the form of a three day weekend.  What more appropriate image than a Disney classic:

The ants pick the food, the grasshoppers eat the food, and nobody gets squished.  These ants don't even know enough to know that they are oppressed, or to question their lot in life, until one renegade ant screws up and has no choice but to force change.  I think Finn and Friere might have moonlighted on Disney's writing team for this one.

The last idea I wanted to touch on was the idea of students from working class schools being hosted by those in affluent schools, and the differences between the food, and the classes, and the hallway expectations, and the rules, etc.  I have often rebelled against the popular idea that if you took a student from a poor community, and dropped them in an affluent one, they would prosper, or that if you took a teacher from an affluent community and dropped them in a struggling urban school, they would fail.  I'm just not sure the issue is that simple, but I do understand how he felt that he had let the urban students down by reinforcing the image they already have of sub-ordinance. Here's two last hollywood pics that deal with that idea:

Can't wait for class this week!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

From the Three R's to the Three C's

First a video from this week's Saturday Night Live, just for fun, but which talks about the rain:

Now on to the discussion of the Ira Shore article.  

It seems as if we are discussion the movement/revolution in education from pedagogical "readin' ritin', rithmatic" and the role of teacher as lecturer, to a newer model of teacher as "problem poser" and the idea of students as creative, critical, and curious.

What teacher would not like to describe their students with these words?  What teacher actually describes all their students with these words, check out the 2nd video, by Sir Ken Robinson, who discusses exactly the model of schools we have been accused of in the Shore article:

The first time I ever saw this, I was ready for the revolution.  It helped that, the same year, I was moved from a middle school reading classroom, to a high school multiple pathways program.  I was in fact asked to energize, motivate, and engage a group of students, for whom the educational process had become "endullment"(my favorite term from this article).  I chose project-based learning as my format for ELA class, and we read Into the Wild by John Krakauer.  My first year in the program was spent in students self-discover, and despite a few hiccups, was quite successful.  To my surprise, many students found that school was engaging, and worthwhile, and that learning at their own pace, and being asked to figure out what topics meant to them, and then being asked to apply this knowledge in a practical way, inspired them to want to pursue new knowledge.  

In many ways, this style brought me back to my 2nd grade classroom, where Sr. Beatrice, rolled out the Scholastic Reading Leveled System.  Which to this day remains my favorite unit in any school experience (except of course for SED 561).  In this unit, there was a box with 50 or so colored levels. Students would all begin at level 1, then proceed through as quickly as they could test out.  Our teacher allowed us to choose our readings, and supported us all individually.  I flourished, as did many other students in class, but it was the expert facilitation of our beloved Sr. Beatrice that allowed this to happen.  

I believe the art of teaching, is the student focused-student centered support of learning, with citizenship, empowerment, and participation at the core.  This article hits me right where I live, and leaves me with the question: How do we make this the norm rather than the exception?