Monday, April 28, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Empowering Education:Education In Politics Connections

Before I even begin this blog post, I just have to say that I can’t believe it is our last blog for FNED. Time went by so fast! When I found out that we were supposed to blog as a requirement for the class, I was so nervous about the idea of other people reading what I wrote, but now it feels kind of weird knowing that we don't have another bog post due next week, I had gotten used to it. I appreciated this experience a lot! 

Now getting to the reading: I have to say that this article was a nice way to end the semester. It brought everything together, and it was just great how in my mind I could see connections of past readings we have done. I just think is awesome how we have become better readers and more informed people about what is really going on in the eduction field. Although  I always  knew how education is political, this article definitely  helped me see in more detail how much politics is behind what we teach out students and what they lean from school. 

For this week’s blog I have decided to do a connections post. While I was reading, McIntosh and Finn were always in my mind. I could see their ideas reflected in what Shor was explaining  in detail. 

One of the things that really stuck my mind was how “the choice of subject matter cannot be neutral “ what we learn is all chosen by the people who give us funding, which is the government. They decide “which groups are included and which are left out of the reading list or test, from whose point of view is the past and present examined, and which themes are emphasized  and which not, along with many more decisions. I can relate to this because all throughout elementary school we learn about the great Christopher Columbus, what his journey was and what he accomplished in discovering the New World, all throughout the history books in my public schooling, I learned about what he did for humanity, but honestly he didn't do anything else but to harm people. I learned this in college, I was asked to read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, where the point of view is not the same as from the ones we get in  our history books, but rather we see things from the perspective of the minorities, of the people being hurt. From that book I learned that Columbus was not a hero, but a villain, who killed people just because  he wanted their gold, forgetting about their value as human beings. This power that the government has over us, and the students of this nation reminded me of McIntosh, and how she talked about privilege that white people experience due to their race, but I further connected it to the privilege that the upper class of this nation has, because  they control what everyone else in this nation sees and learns. McIntosh talked about how “when [she] was told about our national heritage or about civilization , [she] was shown that people of [her] color made it what it is” and that she is sure “that [her] chidden  will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race” and all of this is because of the power that the government has over us, and their ability to choose what students learn or at least what they want them to learn although it might not always be true. Keeping this system the way it is, just guarantees that the social classes remain the way they are and that the least advantaged remain to be so.

Finn, was always in my mind as I read this article. Just as Shor said, “Politics reside not only  in subject matter but in the discourse of the classroom, [and] in the way teachers and students speak to each other”. This reminded me of when Finn talked about the working-class schools, “Where knowledge was presented as fragmented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and experiences  of the students”. Finn also talked about the lack of participation of students, which a key in education just as Shor described. Shor says that politics in present in “what the teachers say about the subject matter, [in how] students  respond to each others’s remarks, [and if ] they are asked  to think critically about the material and to see knowledge  as a field of contending interpretations” among many more things, which are not present in working-class schools that Finn described. Finn stated how in these poor schools the opposite of what Shor recommends takes place, because there is “little decision making [by the students] and teachers rarely explained why work was being assigned or how it was connected to other assignments”. From what Finn described we can see that what we tack in working-class schools is what McLaren, in Shor’s article describes as “a curriculum designed to empower students [that is]  transformative in nature and help[s] students to develop the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become social critics who can make reflective decisions and implement their decisions in effective personal, social, political, and economic action”, that way we can break the cycle and create students to learn about new opportunities for them in order to change their economic or social statuses thus breaking the cycle of the status quo that  the people in power want to keep in place. 

As for discussion points, I would like to talk about ways in which us future educators can make the curriculum a  better experience for our students, and helping them make more our of it than what it is intended. 

Here is an Article that talks about how the new Common Core Curriculum won't fix the many problems that the American schools face. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Social Justice Event: Dialogue on Diveristy

As part of my social justice event, I attended RIC’s Dialogue on Diversity, which featured the presence of Ana Maria Cano-Morales, a true “warrior” as she described herself and the thousands of Latino students struggling from day to day as she once did. I found this event to be very inspirational to me, and it showed me the importance for all to be united to make changes happen.

As I sit down to write down this reflection on Ana Maria’s presentation, I can’t help but to begin saying how she took the time to ask not for a moment of silence but for a “moment of active listening” in honor of RIC’s professor Jen Cook. For me it was a nice way to start, by honoring the legacy of what she described to be a great educator and one that truly cared about her students and a fighter for educational reforms. This perhaps was what set the tone for a great presentation, that I truly enjoyed, and one that became to be more than a requirement for the class. For me this dialogue on diversity was a realization of the struggles of the Latino community, but also a realization of all the positive things that are taking place thanks to people like Ana Maria and colleges like RIC.

There is no way we can see the greatness in Ana Maria Cano-Morales if we don’t get to know part of her story, and why she is a “warrior”. She told the audience the story of a Colombian-American girl born in Central Falls as the youngest of twelve siblings. Her parents were Colombian immigrants who came to this nation looking for a better life for them and most importantly for their children. She described how proud that little girl was of the hard working parents she had. They worked in factories all day long, just to give their children all that they needed, especially an education which they did not receive in Colombia. That little girl’s parents had limited education, and had no idea that their children needed academic support in their journey of learning English as ESL students. That little girl was Ana herself and her story just resembles the current story that many Latino students are experiencing right now. She was one of the few Latino students at that time. She didn’t attend preschool nor head-start, nor did she have any clue that she belonged in a bilingual classroom.  It was that fear or uncertainty of where she belonged, or what she had to learn, or what language she had to learn best, or the pressure of dealing with two cultures at once that made her have “lack of self-confidence”. Yet, the message that I got from her life story is the message that she didn’t use the obstacles she faced as an excuse, but rather as a motivation to succeed and be better in life. Her desire to overcome her obstacles made her earn a "bachelor of Science Degree - Human Development, Counseling, and Family Studies, with a minor in Latin American Literature, from the University of Rhode Island in 1991 [and in] 1999, she received a Master’s of Social Work – Policy, Administration, and Systems from Rhode Island College" until finally becoming the director of The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University as we can further read in this Link. Together with The Latino Policy Institute, Ana Maria  "is committed to generating and communicating non-partisan data of Latinos in Rhode Island [and] stimulating public policy discussions [that] enhances the public’s understanding of the Rhode Island Latino experience".

Why Latinos? Why do we need reform for that particular ethnic group? Just in case there is any doubt why, she explained it. To begin with as she said, Latinos are the fastest growing population in RI and in the nation. In the recent census of 2010, the Latino population in RI increased 53%, resulting in RI “having the 13th largest population of Latinos in the US, and resulting in the fact that 13% of the state’s population is Latino”. For instance, she mentioned that in Central Falls, every three out of four people living there are Latinos. Most importantly, the reason why we should care is because Latino and minority students are the main consumers of public education in the state and in the nation. In RI, the biggest concentration of Latinos is in Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls, and these are among the districts which need the most reforms. A prove of the need for reforms in the educational system in school districts is that as Ana mentioned “by 8th grade, Latinos are behind 2-3 grades when compared to their white classmates”.  One of the possible reasons for this academic struggle can be the economic status of most Latinos in the state. When compared to their white counterparts, Latinos earn less. They earn an average of $32,000 yearly; meanwhile whites earn an average of $54,000 yearly.

Getting more in depth with regards to education and Latinos, Ana Maria mentioned that only 1-3 percent of the state’s teachers or administrators are Latinos. When I heard this I immediately thought of Delpit and her point on the importance that students find people that look like them, the importance that students see themselves reflected in the school system, so that they can know that they can also achieve what  the person standing in front of them one has become.  Ana Maria would agree with Delpit on her argument and suggestion that “the appropriate  education for poor children can only be devised in consultation  with adults who share their culture”, that way the decisions made regarding those students won’t  be only  made by white educators or legislators that don’t understand minority cultures, but “instead ensuring that each classroom incorporate[s] strategies appropriate for all the children in its confines”. 
This idea of having someone to look up to, that shares a similar history, life path, or difficulties, got me really inspired and I have found great examples of people that overcame their obstacles and are true role models for the Latino community.  One clear example is Mexican-American astronaut Jose Hernandez, this is his story...

 Another great example of leaders that the Latino community greatly needs to see, in order for them to realize their potential is Angel Taveras, the first Latino mayor in the City of Providence, this article talks about him and his historic win that can help as inspiration for the Latino youth in RI. 

 Adding on the topic of Latinos and education, Ana Maria mentioned one of the biggest topics regarding the Latino youth, and that is the importance of ESL programs to be established in the state. Young children and Latino youth are the ones that need help and support in their eduction when learning English, and it is important to mention that 75% of the Latino population in the state of RI were RI born, and they are the new generation of future leaders of the state, therefore we have to  prepare them. Ana Maria would agree with Collier that the key concept  in teaching multilingual students is the “true appreciation  of the different linguistic  and cultural values that students bring into the classroom”. Along with this key concept and the establishment of good ESL programs, Ana Maria and many more educators and advocates like Collier hope to end what Ana Maria mentioned which is that “ESL students don't have access to the same basic concepts  like English, reading, writing, and math” due to the lack of strong ESL programs. Ana Maria mentioned the importance of a team effort, and in this team we need educators that are widely prepared but most of all that they understand the process of learning another language. Certainly, Collier would agree saying that those teachers would have to know such things as “the social and emotional factors which affect the second language learner, [and other techniques such as] not forbidding  young students from code-switching in the classroom” enabling them to exchange among their two languages, that way increasing their usage of grammatical practices and vocabulary usage in both languages as well. 

One of the quotes that Ana Maria said, that stayed in my mind up to this day, is how “language is not the only barrier, but it stops teachers from seeing other problems”. I think it is true, there is something about the system that is wrong, and that keeps things running in such a way the rich gets richer and the poor get poorer. There is something wrong  when we have students in private schools “buying” their way out of NECAP, and at same time struggling working class families being left without an income simply to be able to pay for the private schools of their children so that they don't have to take the NECAP, thus creating an educational segregation. There is something wrong in our nation when we have schools  in Providence or Central Falls, that are so far behind the academic levels they should be at. Perhaps this problem comes from , the way we teach in this nation, how we teach a “domesticating education , which leads to functional literacy, literacy that makes a person productive and dependable, but not troublesome” as Patrick J. Finn mentions in “Literacy with an Attitude”. As I remember the statistical reports that Ana Maria showed, that displayed the low scores in poor towns and cities in RI, make me go back to the Finn reading, where we see that one of the problems is that in “working-class schools knowledge [is] presented as fragmented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and experiences of the students”. In these schools, students are told what to do, with no opportunity to think for themselves, or think creatively or critically. Meanwhile, in executive elite schools the knowledge  taught is more “academic, intellectual , and rigorous [students there learn] to be the masters of the universe”. There is something in the system but we can help to change it just as RIC and Central Falls High School are doing. 
One of the things that Ana Maria was most proud to present, as being part of the Board of Trustees for the Central Falls School District, as we can see in this website was the partnership between RIC and Central Falls High School. Together they both joined in this  partnership, to help better the education and academic status of this high school. This gives the opportunity for only the students in Central Falls to have more support academically and in many other aspects, but also to future educators graduating from RIC to experience a true urban scenario and also the chance to take part in making a change in the lives of many struggling teenagers. This a project that makes me so proud, just as  much as the pride that Ana Maria and RIC must feel. As she talked about this project I had to google it and learn more about it, and this is the website that talks more about it in detail. I am sure that positive changes will come along this partnership, and great news as well, just like the one received just this past October, when it was announced that  the “Central Falls graduation rate increased 20% in three years” as we can read in this article

Overall, attending this Dialogue on Diversity made me realize and learn many things I wouldn't have known before, and it certainly made me connect back and reflect bak to past class discussions and readings, that I am sure have made me a better future educator. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Schooling Children with Down Syndrome: Reflection

The reading for this week, Schooling Children with Down Syndrome by Christopher Kliewer, was definitely great! I loved reading it, although I have to say that in some parts I had to reread to understand things better, but yet most of the time I just had to reread simply because the information and stories in the text were great. For this blog post I decided to do a reflection post.
 Every time I think of children with disabilities, I think of admiration. I admire them, for their greatness, for the unique people that they are, and most importantly I don’t see as different, but rather as extraordinary people who deserve to be treated just as everyone else. I am a big believer of integrated education and after reading this article that idea has been reaffirmed.
 I haven’t had many interactions with children with Down Syndrome, but just the few ones I have had have made be admire them even more. The first one was with my friend’s brother. He has Down Syndrome, and he attended middle school in Providence when I met him. For some it would have been a crazy idea to put him in an integrated middle school in Providence, but he loved it. He got to see the diversity in our schools, not just ethic wise but academic wise. My friend for her Junior Research Project, which in some schools would have seen their senior projects, did a presentation on integration for children like her brother, she got a perfect score. She showed the techniques her brother used and a calendar where he listed with symbols what he had to do each day. When I read the article, I remembered this story and I do believe that by having integrated classrooms we are creating “educational arenas where all students are welcomed, no voice is silenced, and children come to realize their self-worth through the unconditional acceptance of one another”, because we create a community were all children get to experience and see each other’s uniqueness and abilities. We mostly create a community where we establish respect for one another regardless of any disability.
My other interaction with a person with Down Syndrome was at the Sherlock Center on the RIC campus. I don’t know if she is a student here, or if she just worked there. She was organizing papers and putting some information about them in the computer, I sat next to get as I was trying to log in into the computer. I am always confused and she noticed it. She came and introduced herself, and shook my hand. I was so surprised, and so glad to meet her. She explained to me how to log in and the password and all of that, but most of all she was so friendly and independent. She talked to me like I was a friend. She was amazing. What was most fascinating as I mentioned was her independence, and again as I read the article I think integrated education can create that. If she worked at the Sherlock Center I think that is great. I think it is important to provide people with disabilities with employment opportunities. Just like “Shayne succeeded in finding a family- owned movie rental shop that hired Anne, [because by doing that we create] not only a valued community role for Anne but one that” she loved. It is important to make them feel like they are part of the community, and that they are not any different from what we are.

As part of my reflection I have to include this quote, “John’s North Hollywood existence was a lonely and isolated one. Outside of his family he had few acquaintances and little opportunity connection. School personnel abled him “uneducable”. I was just so mad when I read that. I can’t believe there are people like that that don’t understand the greatness of people with disabilities. As the article went on I was glad to hear he moved to Mendocino, California where he found a “safe space”, which connects back to August’s Safe Spaces. There he was comfortable and found people that appreciated him, for what he was worth not for their “stereotype, [and their] mind set [that] often obscures our ability to recognize the child as a child”.  He found a safe space where he could feel appreciated and not different from everyone else. I wanted to reflect on that because I think as a whole, as a whole community it is important to learn to integrate people with disabilities in everything not just schools.
This video shows the life of people with Down Syndrome in the 21st century, and all that they are able to do.

As for the points I would like to talk  about in class would be, what could we do as future teachers, to ensure that all of our students regardless of any disability are treated equally and with respect to enhance his or her abilities.