Monday, November 30, 2015

Promising Practices Conference

Promising Practices was definitely an interesting event for me. It wasn't my first conference where I was surrounded by teaching students, teachers, and social workers since I have frequently attended the Rhode Island Writing Project Spring Conference for the past three years. But, the workshops I attended were both extremely different. One included something about schizophrenia (honestly, I could not even begin to tell you what I was really supposed to understand from it). The other was a little more interesting and included a lot of aspects of SCWAAMP and other aspects of FNED that we've been discussing all semester. It was about incarceration rates in Rhode Island and how the institution and system is broken and unable to help anyone who has ever been incarcerated.

Workshop 1: Hearing Empathy
Luckily, I wasn't the only one from FNED that went to this first workshop called "Hearing Empathy." I say "luckily" because it's good to know I wasn't the only one completely confused as to what I was supposed to be learning. So, from what I gathered from the seminar, I was being taught by a man who worked the Veteran Hospital in Providence as a social worker. And he was attempting to show us how to experience empathy with people diagnosed with schizophrenia. I wish I had more solid evidence that that's exactly what I was supposed to be learning, but the workshop was so crazy, I found it hard to say anything more than "What is happening?" To Alex and Sydnei who were both sitting next to me. However, one thing that did catch my attention was that the presenter kept repeating "safe space" to us as we were sitting in front of him, not answering any of his questions because we didn't know what he was saying. Of course, Dr. August discusses "safe spaces" in her article that we read earlier this semester and obviously, the presenter was trying to get us to feel like his seminar was a safe space just because it was all about hearing empathy. However, because he was so all over the place and constantly looking at us as though we had any idea what he was trying to say. I don't think he was making a very safe space for us because there was no attempt to explain what he was talking about or to make us feel comfortable with the subject he was trying to discuss. I would say Dr. August wouldn't agree with his teaching methods at all.
Even though I felt as though I wasn't learning a lot within the workshop, I feel like from just the title of the workshop, I can understand what the presenter had actually wanted to tell us. When you're in a classroom or in a social working environment, it's important to understand that not there are those out there with mental and physical disabilities. We have to make that safe space, just as Dr. August describes. A space where students feel comfortable and understand that it's okay for them to be who they are. And by learning empathy and understanding what can occur with any form of mental illness is a way to get to that safe space.
However, I did find this video of Anderson Cooper simulating schizophrenia. I'm like 75% sure this is what the presenter was trying to show us all but Anderson Cooper did a better job at explaining it than he did.

Workshop 2: Recovery Oriented Systems of Care
My second workshop was one thousand times better than my first workshop. For the most part, I could understand what the presenter was trying to tell the attendees because of the lessons we've learned in FNED. In the workshop, we learned all about incarceration rates in Rhode Island and mostly focused on female incarceration rates. However, she also provided many statistics on the difference between female and male incarceration rates as well as comparing the incarceration rates between black, Hispanic, and white women within Rhode Island and in the country. Unfortunately, I was too concerned with actually listening to the presenter and her personal stories to take the time to write down her statistics, which probably wasn't my best idea. However, I did find this awesome PDF from the that displays some similar statistics to the incarceration rates within America. 
I believe that one of the best connections I can make from this workshop to our own class was the article written by Kristof on the institution versus the individual. Within the PDF I had previously linked, it shows that black and Hispanic women are more likely to be incarcerated than white woman. Kristof discusses the idea that inequality is institutional and not based on the individual. Well, I believe the statistics showing that people of color are more likely to be incarcerated shows the inequality within the institution of the law. The presenter also told us how she believed the system was messed up because there was no solid way for those who had been incarcerated to properly care for their children or get jobs after they are released. The institution is based on the inequalities in gender, race, and socio-economic standing which I believe both Kristof and the presenter were trying to explain.
I also believe that the workshop connects back to Peggy McIntosh's article about white privilege. Again, I can bring up the statistics of the incarcerations rates between races. The says "In 2011, black women were incarcerated at 2.5 times the rate of white women (129 versus 51 per 100,000). Hispanic women were incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of white women (71 versus 51 per 100,000)" which just shows the inequality in race. There is a white privilege even in jail, apparently. I've also found this article and video explaining some law changes in California attempting to fix the drug incarceration difference between whites and blacks in America because there was such a difference in the amount of times black people were incarcerated for drug use over white people. I think McIntosh tries to show how white privilege exists through a lot of her own experiences, but I think that even the statistics from the workshop and the articles back it up.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Empowering Education" Connections

While I was reading "Empowering Education" by Ira Shor, I found myself thinking back to a few weeks ago when we were discussing Patrick Finn and Jeannie Oaks. I found a lot of similarities between the three articles and the ideas that they were all trying to push into the front of our my minds when we think about teaching in a democratic society.

Finn Connections:
A lot of the time while reading "Empowering Education" I found myself thinking about Finn a lot. I think it was mostly because I could see a lot of issues were similar between the two. Finn discusses a lot about working class schools focusing on following directions and learning how to follow directions in society. I feel as though Shor is trying to point out a lot of similar characteristics of schools following that trend. Shor discusses the importance of students participating in their classrooms and schools. Many teachers learn that they should lecture and be the ones that make decisions. However, Shor argues that that is not exactly the case. Finn's model of the working class, middle class, affluent professional, and executive elite schools, the higher up in class you go, the better the school is seen. And in the affluent professional and executive elite schools, students are usually taught to be more creative and are given more choice in their schools. What Shor is arguing that those schools produce more productive members of society because they are given the opportunity to learn more about being individuals rather than to become parts of the institution.  
Oakes Connections:
Oakes and Finn are very similar in many aspects which may allude to the fact that Shor also relates to both of them. Oakes discusses a lot of the importance of comfortable classroom environments that enrich not only the students but the teachers as well. By encouraging participation from the students, both Oakes and and Shor are encouraging changes to the classroom based on what the students believe to be enriching. A student in a classroom where teachers simply lecture from books does not create the environment a student wants to learn in. In fact, Shor claims that those classrooms encourage students to not go to class when they feel as though they can simply read the book and work with friends to get the same type of instruction. However, this also feeds into what Oakes wants from a classroom, one where students participate and build their own learning environments.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Citizenship in School" Christopher Kliewer Quotes

The article "Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome" by Chrisopher Kliewer was a really interesting read for me. As a former volunteer for Special Olympics and someone who took classes working with a lot of different students with different forms of mental disabilities, it was really cool to read an article that reflected some of the things I had seen through the years. So, I pulled a few quotes out that really got me thinking, not only about down syndrome but just teaching in general. I also found this website from the National Down Syndrome Society that had a whole section on education with multiple resources that might be interesting or useful for teachers down the line.

"Dewey promoted a democracy as a way of life in which community both establishes and is derived from individual's recognition of the value of every other individual... democracy can only occur when no other person's voice is deterministically silenced."
So this quote was really interesting to me because it just got me thinking about the society we live in as Americans and how democracy should actually work. Everyday, we're told that America is a democracy but, lately those lines seemed to blurred to me. We learn in class about the classes, races, genders, sexualities that get silenced everyday in the classroom alone. So, can we truly be a democracy when we close the dialogue of the society. From this article alone, we're learning the voices and individuality of a whole group of learners just because they have Down Syndrome and society has been taught to not include them in the community. 
"Along with recognizing an individual's ability to think, Bogdan and Taylor (1989) suggest that respect and citizenship require a realization of the person's individuality."
Without an understanding of who we are, we really don't have individuality. And there needs to be respect in order for us to grow into the people that we choose to be. Individuality relies on respect and citizenship because people usually can't look past what society tells them to see. So, until people take the time to see an individual for who they are, they won't see past those barriers to give respect and citizenship to an individual.
"Community behavior of students with Down Syndrome stems from their lack of behavioral and communicative conformity to school standards that form the parameters of intellectual normality. In essence, a gap exists between the performance of students with Down Syndrome and the performance expectations that define a useful individual."
I think that it's important to understand the different educational needs of students and not just believe in a particular expectation across the board. Sometimes, standards are necessary, but when it stops others from learning or thriving, there needs to be someone to look at the standards and go "how can we fix that?" So, seeing a gap between students with Down Syndrome and performance expectations of a useful individual makes me sad to see that there isn't a way to fix that yet. To make sure that people are recognizing the differences and trying to understand it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"Literacy With An Attitude" Argument

Patrick Finn argues that schools in different economic standings teach their students how to thrive in the society that they already live in. He argues that there are four different kinds of students in schools are: working-class, middle-class, affluent professional, and executive elite children. As a teacher in working-class schools, Finn prospered because he was able to control his class and move up the ranks to get higher leveled classes. Although this originally made him happy, until he realized the issues holding back the students from learning how to really thrive in society past their working-class upbringing. The basis of his argument reminds me of Nicholas Kristoff who discusses the idea of living in a certain class usually makes you unable to move up within society because you are not taught the rules and codes to. Working-class students learn how to follow directions and do work that basically turns into them robots. Basically, they turn into people who work in dead-end jobs. Middle-class students learn through their textbooks and teachers that follow the curriculum based on experts. In the end, they learn how to work blue and white collar jobs through following orders. Affluent professional students had teachers from somewhere in the state and were taught the importance of creativity and development. This leads to a future of creating art and finding self importance within work. Finally, in executive elite schools, students were taught difficult concepts, how to reason, and how to problem solve. Logic is praised and students are taught to take more responsibility for their actions. These executive elite students are in turn taught to be leaders and society and learn how to shape the society they were born in. That's just like Delpit's rules and codes of power, these top elite students are taught how to be leaders in their society and in turn, know how to thrive in society. 

It reminded of this political cartoon that I've been seeing for years. I know, it's not exactly what Finn is talking about with the different classes in schools. But, it's more about the idea of the system not accommodating to certain disadvantages and advantages of the students in the system. They also don't learn how to get past the disadvantages in the system and are forced to say at the level they are on.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Author Map

My teacher asked every student in the room whether or not they knew a second language. Then they all raised their hands if they had spoken English as their second language and knew another language before going to school. After, I got a chance to sit down with a few and acknowledge all of their language skills and let them know how awesome it was that they knew other languages. 
When I acknowledge the kids speaking other languages, I was creating a safe space for them all to show off their language skills. 
One student was teasing another because he was using a pink iPad and it was a "girl's iPad." I simply asked him "what do you mean by that?" and it was an opportunity to put the idea that pink isn't only a girl's color. 
Both of my teachers make sure to clearly and concisely give directions to all of their students. They understand that they need to make sure that all of their students are able to understand their directions. They also make sure that the students are learning the rules and codes of power.