Thursday, December 3, 2009

Equity in the Classroom Paper

We had to write a paper on gender inequality for my Sociology class so I chose to write about Strategies to Promote Gender Equity in the Classroom. It's pretty long but a lot of it is relevant to things we have talked about in class so I figured I'd share and see what you guys think. Here it is:

Strategies for Promoting Gender Equity in the Classroom

For generations girls have constantly been the gender that has lagged behind in schools. Girls received lower marks than boys, graduated in lower numbers, and were much less present in the University setting. In recent years however, girls have begun to dominate in almost every aspect of the classroom. The many organizations that have been set up to help girls achieve and promote confidence have proven to be extremely effective in helping girls rise from the oppression they faced just years ago in the classroom. In the meantime, while we have devoted so much effort to ensuring that girls are able to thrive in schools, we seem to have forgotten about the boys. For the first time, it is now the boys who are lagging behind in school, they are receiving far lower grades, dropping out of high school in much greater numbers than girls, and are absent from the now female dominated college classroom. Schools are now feverishly trying to put an end to the gender bias and achieve gender equity in the classroom by implementing a variety of different teaching strategies to benefit the needs of all students.
To understand the strategies being used to promote gender equity in the classroom, it is first necessary to understand why boys have fallen behind in the first place. The elementary school curriculum itself puts boys at a distinct disadvantage from very early on. “Most school curricula emphasize the left-brain cognitive skills of speaking, reading, and writing abilities, which usually develop at a slower rate in boys. Starting at the kindergarten and first-grade levels, boys are expected to perform to a standard that favors the girls. They are expected to sit still, speak articulately, write the alphabet legibly, work in groups, color between the lines, and be neat and organized.” (Connell) Boys also struggle in the emotional climate of the classroom as well. Boys are often taught to be unemotional and are therefore much less able to cope with sadness, frustration, and anger. “In the classroom, this silent code gets boys into trouble, because they are less likely to let teachers know when they are having difficulty, feeling frustrated, or just plain not getting it. Instead, they may express their feelings in the only way they know how: They fidget, get distracted, and ultimately-they get reprimanded.” (Connell)
While it is the boys who have fallen behind in schools, the academic experience is not necessarily perfect for girls either. Although the gap has become much smaller, boys still tend to test better than girls in math and science (while it is the girls who test better in writing, reading, and verbal skills) (Bleuer) Girls are also expected to raise their hands and wait to be called on in class, while boys typically just yell out the answers. In numerous studies, researchers have found that when boys call out answers, the typical response of the teacher is to listen to what they have to say whereas girls are usually told “Please raise your hand if you want to speak.” (Bleuer)
The typical classroom/class is set up and conducted in such a way that does not benefit the learning of all types of students. It has become clear that the egalitarian classroom model-teach everyone the same- doesn’t serve all students (Connell) and that changes must be made to America’s classrooms in order to keep the gap between boys and girls from growing any larger. In order to better facilitate the learning of all students, especially boys, educators recommend using the following strategies to promote equity in the classroom.
Due to the fact that boys are generally more active in nature than girls, one strategy that is recommended is to allow time for movement during the day. This movement can be done in a variety of ways, from simply letting students take a brief period of time to get up and stretch, to using movement to teach an entire lesson. For example, a teacher could ask the whole class to stand up and act out a period, a question mark, an exclamation point, or a semicolon during a lesson on punctuation. (Connell) This technique is not only beneficial to boys, but to all high active children who may struggle with focusing on the material if they are too fidgety to pay attention during class.
Using hands-on material is another strategy that is beneficial to male students. Boys tend to be visual learners, which is one of the reasons why they typically excel in sciences, spelling and math (Bradway). Being a visual learner in writing class however is much more difficult in the typical classroom setting. In order to help visual learners learn in the classroom it is recommended that teachers allow children the opportunity to show their learning in other ways besides writing. (Connell) “Jennifer Muse, a kindergarten teacher in Bedford, Massachusetts, recalls a lesson in which she was teaching her students to write the letters. One little boy complained, “Ms. Muse, I don´t want to write the letters, I want to make them.” Later, following his lead, they used modeling clay to form the letters of the alphabet. This is a perfect example of teaching with boys in mind.” (Connell)
Throughout school, boys are severely lacking prominent male role models in the classroom, especially in elementary school, where the majority of their teachers are female. In order to provide role models for boys it is recommended that teachers invite fathers and other male guest speakers into the classroom, such as authors or community figures, to help balance the female influence in the classroom. High School boys are also a great source for a positive male influence on younger boys by having them tutor male students who are struggling with certain subjects. The programs initiated for girls have been largely successful because they have provided role models for girls to admire and strive to be like, helping them do better in school. By doing the same for boys, they too would see the importance of doing well in school in order to become successful adults.
The actual material covered in the classroom tends to favor girls as well, and thus another strategy for promoting equity in the classroom is to choose books that appeal to boys. Girls read more than boys do, and because they read more books, publishers publish more books with girls as their target audience. Thus, even when boys do pick up a book, they are likely not to read it after finding that the stories are not told with them in mind. The fact that boys do not read as much is also attributed to girls being “more likely to read a book about a leading male protagonists than boys are willing to read about a leading female protagonist. But this, too, is likely our fault, as a culture that so often sends the message that not only are girl things unmanly, but, worse, that reading itself is unmanly.” (Baggott) Whether the main character in the story is male or female, it is the stories themselves that do not interest boys. In an interview with psychology professor Judith Kleinfeld one boy said "Why would anyone want to read novels? They aren't even true!" (Britt) In the article Why Johnny Can't Read: Schools Favor Girls, Kleinfeld makes it clear that it is not the boys themselves who are the problem, it is our schools curriculum, "Here's a fascinating fact," she said. "There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls….Why? In school, teachers emphasize reading literature and talking about character and feelings," she said. "This way of teaching reading does not turn boys on. Boys prefer reading nonfiction, such as history and adventure books. When they are taught at home, parents are more likely to let them follow their interests." (Britt)
In order to encourage boys to read and improve their fluency it is important to ‘hook’ boys early on by giving them books they want to read, whether it be a book about baseball or even just a comic, by fostering a love for reading early on teachers can insure that boys will continue to enjoy reading throughout their schooling years.
These are strategies that are proven to work, and do because they not only play towards boys strengths, but also helps girls who learn differently as well. By integrating these more hands on approaches along with some of the more traditional teaching methods, teachers are encompassing all of these students’ learning needs, so that everyone in the classroom benefits/learns.
Some educators feel that the inherent differences between boys and girls are so great that the best way to ensure gender equity in the classroom is to have separate classes for boys and girls. This is a strategy, however, that has been met with great opposition. Although, in practice, the separate classes would teach the same material to boys and girls just in different ways that benefit each gender’s hardwired learning techniques, many people feel that separate classrooms would be a step backwards. Another criticism of separate classrooms for boys and girls is that it violates Title IX which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." The new legislation brought with No Child Left Behind however, gave public schools more flexibility in offering single sex programs (Standen) and even allocated funding to some schools willing to try single sex classrooms.
No Child Left Behind has caused a number of America’s schools to try out single sex classrooms and those schools who have, have found that the students are actually benefiting from this unique classroom setting. Jefferson Leadership Academies, which implemented single sex classrooms in 1999, has reported a number of benefits from using this strategy. "Student grade point averages for students who had previously attended Jefferson in either grade 6 or 7 increased for all students, male and female, in both grades 7 and 8 under the single gender academy configuration. The increase was statistically significant for both genders at grade 7 and for males at grade 8." (Sharpe) “The California Department of Education summarized research on single-gender educational programs in a Fact Sheet: Single Gender Academies Pilot Program. The report indicates that single-gender education
• Seems to reduce the number of dropouts.
• Improves the general academic performance of urban males and the math and science achievement of females.
• Creates a setting that appears to reduce the distracting behavior boys and girls fashion for one another.
• Motivates students and parents. "The effectiveness of single-gender programs may be due more to students' and parents' motivation, commitment, and small class size than to the fact that they enroll only boys or girls." (Sharpe)
Although single gender classrooms have statistically improved test scores across the board, one of the issues with all boy classes is that some teachers report that they feel threatened by their students. “When asked about specific problems in Jefferson's single-gender classes, Rojas, the Principal of Jefferson Leadership Academies responded, "Some teachers have had a hard time with their all-boy cores [classes], but I feel it is based somewhat on the fact that they feel more physically challenged by boys who misbehave than by girls." (Sharpe) According to Emily Martin, the deputy director of the ACLU’s (American Civil Liberties Union) Women’s Rights Project, the risks far outweigh the benefits of single-sex education. "When you segregate groups of people based on a characteristic, you give enhanced importance to that characteristic," says Martin. "And the very act of putting boys in one class and girls in another encourages students to rely on differences in gender, to inflate the gender difference in their minds." (Standen) Another criticism of single-gender classrooms is that the schools “may owe their success to any number of factors: smaller class sizes, specialized teachers, and a higher profile, which brings extra revenue” (Standen)
In talking about this issue it is important to understand the difference between ‘equality’ in the classroom and ‘equity’ in the classroom. These two words are often used interchangeably, but despite this fact, equality and equity are not synonymous to one another. Equality occurs when everyone is treated exactly the same, everyone is put on the same playing field and given the same ‘tools’ regardless of what they need or already have. Although equality may seem ‘fair’, it is not the right thing to be promoting in our classrooms(For an example, if a school wanted to make sure students were being treated equally, no student would be allowed to have extra help via a reading program because not every student would be getting this same extra time.) Although Acts such as Title IX made great strides in providing equal opportunities for boys and girls the problem we now face is achieving equity. Schools need to now realize that treating students equally is not ideal, they must instead strive for equity. Not all students are able to learn in one specific way, it is time that schools acknowledge this fact and begin teaching in a way that promotes equity not simply for boys and girls, but in ways that benefit all of the different ways students are able to lean.
Whether the change is radical, such as creating single-gender classrooms for boys and girls or something as simple as allowing time for physical activity, something must be done to obtain gender equity in the classroom. We must first rid ourselves of the myth that it is the girls being shortchanged and realize that it is the boys who are now in need before America’s classrooms are ever able to properly teach boys and girls alike. By doing so, we will ensure that one day gender inequality in the classroom will become a problem of the past.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Education is Politics: Ira Shor

"If I were a primary-grade teacher, I would devote my time to problems of socialization. The most important thing children learn is not the three R's. It's socialization"

This quote really stuck out for me. While it is obviously important to teach children how to read, write, etc. far too often teachers forget to teach their students how to be a member of the world/how to socialize with others. It is especially important to teach children socialization skills at a young age; you can learn multiplication facts, for example, at any age, but learning how to interact with others is something we must learn early on. It is important that students master the material but if children are unable to go out into the 'real world' once they grow up to interact with others and share their ideas then everything then all they were taught was in vain since they are unable to share it. Too much focus is placed on memorization, we are turning our youth into robots who are great at spitting out facts, but are unable to socialize with others.

"You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school. For example, it's very important to begin the school year with a discussion of why we got to school. Why does the government force us to go to school? This would set a questioning tone and show the children that you trust them and that they are intelligent enough, at their own level, to investigate and come up with answers"

I think that all teachers, no matter what grade level, should take this advice. Everything being taught in school should have a purpose and it is the students right to know and understand what that purpose is. So many students get left behind simply because they do not see "the point" in learning things, and this is no fault of their own, it is the teacher's fault who failed to make their students see the importance of learning the material. Very few people feel like putting in hard work when they see no purpose in the long run and are gaining nothing in return, and children are no different. So many teachers tend to loose sight of the 'big picture', they get caught up in the curriculum, what the state tells them they have to teach their students, and forget that what they are teaching will have a vast affect on their student's futures. As the quote says, when students are allowed to have input in the classroom and question what they are learning a sense of trust is formed. In a classroom where students are just expected to sit and listen the students get a sense that the teacher is the only one who knows everything and this it is wrong to question things. They are taught to just accept what they are told as fact and go through school not posing any of their own questions, or sharing their own ideas. We want our students to become productive members of societies, not just observers, so it is important to make sure that this is modeled in the classroom setting by letting students know it is okay to ask questions about what they are learning.

"People begin life as motivated learners, not as passing 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 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 is not the fault of the students if their learning habits wither inside the passive syllabus dominant in education."

As this quote states, we are born inquisitive creatures, young children are constantly asking questions, wanting to know more about the world around us. I think the word "why" is the most used phrase among 2-4 year olds. And yet, once we reach age 5 we are sent off to school where the adults who once answered all of our questions are now expecting us to sit and listen, and we spend 12-13 years being forced to sit at a desk being quiet, the complete opposite way we are are used to learning things, and the opposite way of how we all learn best: by exploring the world around us and asking questions. After being expected to be quiet year after year, and realizing that their questions are no longer welcome students are so apt to sitting and passively learning that they no longer really know how to ask the questions.

Although this article was a bit lengthy and hard to get through at times I really enjoyed it. I think it is important as future teachers to remember how we felt as students wondering "what is the point of doing this assignment?" and to make sure we keep our students from ever wondering why they are doing what they are doing. I personally never want my students to feel that way, everything we teach should have a purpose, and our students should know what that purpose is.

While reading this article I constantly had something that happened to me on my mind. When I was in 7th grade I was having trouble in my Pre-Algebra class. My teacher was explaining the rules of multiplying and dividing my positives and negatives and we were going to be tested on the rules. I could memorize the rules without a problem, a negative times a negative equals a positive, sure, but I could not figure out why and so every time I completed a problem it just looked wrong to me. I had always been shy in school and afraid to raise my hand and class but one day I finally got up the nerve to ask my teacher why. The answer I got in return was: "Because that is the rule." and we moved on. I can remember exactly what I felt like in that moment, I felt stupid, like everyone else got it and I didn't, I felt defeated, and never wanted to raise my hand and ask a question again. Although I learned a lot of facts from my pre-Algebra teacher that year, I never understood why the rules were what they were and it wasn't until last semester in my Math 143 class that I finally learning why a negative x a negative equals a positive.


Governer Carcieri Vetoes Bill to Allow Burial Rights for Domestic Partners

Until I stumbled upon this video last night I had no idea that Governor Carcieri had said these things and vetoed a bill that would allow people in domestic partnerships to make decisions about their partners funerals/burials. I find it completely enraging to think that not only are gay people not allowed to married in our state, but they can't even have the same rights to simply die with some dignity, we have to take away their loved one's rights to give them a proper burial as well? I just can not get over the fact that the Governor has said these things, you would think in Rhode Island, where we have an openly gay Mayor in our capital that we would be progressive with these issues. Apparently that is not the case. Here is an article that better summarizes what exactly Governor Carcieri has done: Read here

This recent event is so controversial that it has made it's way on to the Comedy Central show 'The Colbert Report'. If you have not seen this show before it is important to know that Stephan Colbert is NOT SERIOUS, the show uses satirical comedy. While he is saying things that seem to be offensive and go against people in the gay community gaining rights he is simply doing so to emphasize the fact taking away such a basic right is ridiculous. I hope no one takes offense to this video, that is certainly not my intention.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kilewer: Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Sydrome

1. “How absurd to be judged by others at all, especially those who have never experienced a disability or who are unwillingly providing us with support or who don’t listen to the voices we have.”
I absolutely love this quote. It reminds me of the saying “take a walk in someone else’s shoes”. This quote reminds us that we should not judge others simply because they are different, especially if we have never experienced what it is we are judging. Very often however, it is the people who have never experience a disability, or those who would just not listen to them in the first place who pass the greatest judgments on those with a disability. We should not judge others for the ‘state’ they are in, especially if we are unwilling to do anything to help them.

2. "[Community] requires a willingness to see people as they are -different perhaps in their minds and in their bodies, but not different in their spirits or in their ability to contribute to the mosaic of society."
This quote says that yes, we are all different, our minds work differently, we appear differently, and we are differently able, but none of this has anything to do with how much we are able to contribute to society. Children/people with Down syndrome or any other mental disability are often treated like a burden, like second class citizens from which little is expected. I have worked with a Special Needs class teaching dance classes for a performing arts program my mom runs and what these individuals have inside of them that they are willing to give is more often than not, far greater than what any “normal” student gives. These children will put their heart and soul into a performance and want nothing more than to be included and accepted by their peers. The performing arts program my mom runs has ‘normal’ students working with special needs students to create and perform a musical. When the program first started 3 years ago, the ‘normal’ students were apprehensive about working with the special needs students, they segregated themselves from them, but now ALL of the students work together despite their differences. The ‘normal’ students may be better at writing and articulating what they have to say better, but it is the special needs students who put everything they have into making sure they know their routines and putting every ounce of energy and all of their being into performing their dances. Everyone has something to offer to society, and it is each different, individual contribution that makes us better as a whole.

3. “The Wild Thing production was not an add-on to a preexisting curriculum. It reflected Shayne’s unique approach to building community through the process of learning. Within the web of activities, Shayne and her co-workers systematically developed opportunities for their students to engage with literacy, and numeracy skills, problem solving and critical thinking processes, and interpersonal capacities. Though the children may not be aware of it, learning was always a central concern.”
I have often heard teachers complain that the curriculum is so set in stone they are unable to do different things with their students because of all of the standards that have to be met. This quote and story about what Shayne did with her students is proof that these types of teachers are simply too lazy or too unimaginative to come up with different ways of learning in the classroom. This quote also reminded me of the ditto we were given in class the other day and the subsequent discussion about that kind of work that followed it. Shayne’s class learned so much more about not only the story itself, but about working together as well by doing this production, much more than they would have ever learned from filling in a ditto, which, because of their disabilities would most likely be frustrating task. In order to teach any students, not just those with Down syndrome or other special needs, we must instruct them in a way that is beneficial to the way they learn. Shayne’s class was clearly benefitted much greater from this type of assignment than if they were to be asked to write a paper about the story. The best way for kids to learn is simply by making them feel like they are not even learning. Teaching does not mean everyone has to sit at their desks, with a textbook open, listening to a teacher lecture and it is important that we don’t get trapped in only using this model.

I really enjoyed this article. This article shows how much students with Down syndrome and special needs are capable of. The worst thing to do is to ever put a limitation on what any student, not just those with Down syndrome can achieve. By doing this we are essentially ensuring that, that student with never become anything more than our low expectations of them. This article was a reminder that everyone has something to offer to society and thus we all deserve to be treated equally. People with Down syndrome are much more than the label that is placed on them just like a White, Black, or Asian person is far more than the color of their skin, but this is fact that so many of us often forget. As future teachers we much remember never to limit our students. I have decided on a concentration in special education and this article will certainly remain a useful tool in the “filing cabinet in my head”.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Promising Practices 11/07/09

After getting only about 3 hours of sleep Friday night, it was quite a struggle to get myself out the door to go to Promising Practices on Saturday morning. By the time the day was over though, I was very glad that I went; I actually enjoyed myself and learned so much more than I ever expected.
The first session I went to was called ‘Teach Transgendered Children’. I found this presentation to be extremely interesting. Although I am a firm believer that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are born that way and that it is not simply a ‘life choice’ I had never really thought about the topic of transgendered children before and what it would be like to be a young child that feels trapped in the wrong body. I have seen plenty of Television shows, such as MTV’s “True Life” and movies that deal with transgender adults, but this session was the first time that I really ever heard anything about transgender children.
This session was extremely interesting, not only because of the topic, but because the presenter brought a variety of different materials with her. The session began with the story of a child who was born a boy, named Joseph, who from a very young age insisted that he was a girl. Joseph now lives a girl named Josie and although she is only 10 years old she has been giving speeches about her experience. Although Josie is now legally recognized as a female, the military base on which her family lives would not allow Josie to attend school and so her mom must home school Josie and their other adopted daughter. I found this completely sickening. This child is simply living her life the way she was meant to and that somehow justifies not allowing her to attend school.

After learning Josie’s story the presenter talked about how limited the resources are for the classroom. At this time there are only a very limited number of books in print that deal with transgender issues. She read us a book called 10,000 Dresses in which a little boy, who felt he was a girl, would dream every night about trying on different beautiful dresses.
After learning about different books available we then were taught about the concerns of parents of transgendered children which included:
• Will they be welcomed?
• Should the teachers be aware?
• How to work with the school
• Should they be allowed to dress in preferred gender?
• What name will be used?
• When should they transition?
• Safety
• Emotional safety
• Will there be a safe bathroom?
We then talked about what the school should do in order to accommodate transgendered students which included:
• Having welcoming employees
• Being knowledgeable
• Have a no tolerance policy for teasing and bullying
• Teach students to respect difference and to stick up for those being treated unfairly
• Have resources available
The next topic we covered was about how to refer to transgender children. I think this information was very beneficially to everyone, I know I have found myself stumbling on whether or not to call someone he or she when talking about a transgender individual. The presenter told us it if best to refer to the student by their preferred name and gave us the example of “This is Janice’s pencil. Give it to Janice.” Rather than saying “This is his/her pencil. Give it to him/her”. I think this piece of advice is very valuable, it causes less confusion and a lot less awkwardness for both the teacher and the student.

Finally, the last thing we did in this session was a short film that concentrated on the issues of transgender adults finding an appropriate restroom to use. I was shocked at the fact that although there is no law stating that girls must use the girls room and boys, the boys room, transgender people who are simply just trying to use the restroom are not only taunted by everyday people, but police officers as well. Transgender people are forced to sometime hold it in all day because they are either unable to find a unisex bathroom to use, or that are too afraid of physical/emotional harm that may take place by using a facility that is marked to only be used by one gender.
The next session I went to was on teaching Global Studies. In this session the two presenters, who are teachers from Henry Barnard, taught us about different ways to teach global studies in the classroom, such as using literature to show students that ‘even though they may be different from people in other countries they can still be friends’. One idea that I really liked was the idea of “Cuddly Friends”. The teachers talked about how when a student has to miss school to on vacation they take a “cuddly friend”, a stuffed giraffe or frog, with them. The stuffed animal has a note card tied around its neck with different questions on it that the child must answer while they are away, such as “where did you go? Who did you meet? How did you get there? Journal what you did today”. Then when they go back to school, they share their experience with the class. I thought this was a great way to ensure that the students are still learning when they go on vacation, in a way that is still fun for the students.
After going month by month on their curriculum of teaching global studies we all got to make different crafts that they let the students make when learning about the countries. We got to make Japanese fans, Native American Story Sticks, Carnival Masks, along with several other crafts. While we did our crafts they played a CD with children’s songs from different countries, one of which was a song I recognized. I commented on this to the other Brianna (who I went to elementary school with) in our class who was in this session with me about doing this song in elementary school teacher Mr. Valente used to sing this song with us. The woman sitting next to me then looked up and asked us where we went to school, we told her Thornton Elementary in Johnston, and we then realize we were talking to our Art Teacher, Ms. Pringle, from Kindergarten-2nd Grade. She remembered us from all those years ago, partly because she knew our moms. It was great to catch up with her, and we ended up having some great conversations about what its like once you get out of college and teach on your own, and about our feelings of No Child Left Behind.
Before I knew it my second session was over and it was time for lunch and to listen to the key note speaker, Tricia Rose. I absolutely loved Dr. Tricia Rose’s speech. As someone said in class, it was like her talk was made for our class. Everything she talked about reminded me of something we talked about in class, or a piece that we have read. One of my favorite parts was definitely the pledge, in which she talked about not being personally responsible for things such as racism, but that we can make a difference in changing these situations.
Although Dr. Tricia Rose’s speech could probably be connected to any of the authors we’ve read for this class one of the authors I felt it closely represented was Johnson’s theory that ‘We must learn to say the words’. One of the stories Dr. Tricia Rose told was about how people will talk about race, and give entire speech on the topic without ever actually using the word ‘race’. One of her points on ‘How to teach difficult subjects’ was also “Be painfully honest about the subject- face the reality”. In Johnson’s piece, he talked about the same idea of being able to talk explicitly about these issues in order to work towards making a difference.
Another author I found her speech to be closely related to is Christensen: “Students need to find real ways to “talk back” and take action against oppression”. Tricia Rose first brought forth this idea with the pledge in which she said (and I apologize for just writing a rough idea of what she said, I regret not copying it all down!) ‘I, Tricia Rose am not personally responsible for these issues but I can change them’. This theory was also present in her third way to teach difficult subjects which was “teach structural circumstances of inequality and solutions to resist them”. Like Christensen, Dr. Rose is saying that we must teach our students about the problems that exist and give them the tools to then go out and change them.
Even though I was only running on 3 hours of sleep, I left Promising Practices feeling completely energized. I learned so much in this conference, things that will not only make me a better teacher in the future, but a better person now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

1. "The teachers rarely explain why the work is being assigned, how it might connect to other assignments, or what the idea is that lies behind the procedure or gives it coherence and perhaps meaning or significance"

When I read this quote I immediately thought about how this would be completely unacceptable in today's schools, or at least in the schools that I went to. By the time I reached middle school, nearly every assignment we completed had 'Standards' and GLE's printed on the top of them. Teachers were expected to explain to us why we were doing what we were doing, and we were expected, as students, to understand why as well. This made me wonder if this practice still goes on in Working Class/any schools even though teachers are now supposed to have standards and give reasons why they are expecting their students to complete each assignment.

2. "Work is often evaluated not according to whether it is right or wrong but according to whether the children followed the right steps."

The article made this seem like it is a bad thing for teachers to grade students on, but I honestly do not find that much wrong with it. In order to arrive at the correct answer to a math problem, a student must first be able to correctly perform each step of the equation. If any step of the process is done wrong, the answer will be wrong, and so it seems right to me that it would be necessary to get steps right. Throughout my years of math (and sometimes certain science classes) in school most of my teachers gave us credit for performing the right steps even if we got the answer wrong. Arriving at the right answer is obviously important, but I think mastering the right steps is equally important as well.

3. "During the week that two-digit division was introduced (or at any other time), the investigator did not observe any discussion of the idea of grouping involved in division, any use of manipulatives, or any attempt to relate two-digit division to any other mathematical process"

I can't believe these teachers expect their children to be able to learn in this type of environment. Even in my math 143 and 144 classes my professor constantly used manipulatives to demonstrate different ideas, such as division, and we are grown adults. If we need these hands on approaches, obviously children learning it for the first time do as well. It makes me wonder what type of training these teachers received, and how they graduated from a college teaching program without knowing how to integrate some of these rudimentary techniques into their classroom.

This article truly shocked me. I can't believe that there are such vast difference between schools that are nearby in the state (New Jersey) in not only the way teachers present the material but the curriculum itself. I also can't believe that the principals of some of these schools actually encourage the teachers to only instruct in certain ways. It is as if they want less fortunate students to grow up to be nothing better than their parents, they knowingly give them limited knowledge which is quite frankly, sickening. I wonder though, do you think this still goes on as much in schools now that there is No Child Left Behind and the use of Standards? Have you seen these types of things in the schools you do your Service Learning?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gender and Education

Until we recently began covering this topic in my Sociology class, I never paid much attention to the lack of boys in my high school and college classes. Once we read a few articles and watched some movies about gender equity in the classroom however, I wondered how I never noticed that this was going on. I thought back to the classes I took in high school, the majority of which were all honors or EEP classes, and almost all of them had a majority of girls. In my English Honors EEP class senior year for example, only 3 of about 12 people in the class were boys, and in my Honors EEP Anthropology there was only 1 boy out of about 20 people. The same trend is evident here at RIC as well, and not only in my education classes where a female majority tends to be expected, ALL of the classes I have taken so far are made up of a majority of females.

One of the articles that we read for my Sociology class was The War Against Boys. This article does a great job explaining what the issues are with gender inequality in today's classroom, and why schools are in this situation. This article also gives surprising statistics that show just how far behind boys are in the classroom.

For years now girls have been told that they can achieve anything they want, they are pushed to do well in school because that is the way to succeed in life and there have been programs put in place to help girls gain self esteem and reach their highest potential. But throughout this 'girl power' movement, no one has stood up for the boys, and consequentially they have fallen behind in the classroom.

This video covers a wide variety of topics that have to do with why boys are being shortchanged in the classroom, how things are being taught the wrong way, and what we need to change in America's classrooms so that boys are just as motivated as girls to do well in school.

I thought this video was very interesting. It shows just how early on children learn gender roles, and gender stereotypes, just as the black children in the doll experiment conducted by Dr. Clark had learned racist stereotypes.

This next video is one we watched in my Sociology class. Although it does not directly talk about education, it does offer an explanation of why boys are falling behind in schools by showing what boys are taught to view as important. (The entire film is 9 parts all together, to watch the rest of the film click here and pick from the related video list on the side)