Current Connection #4

The assigned reading for this week was titled Urban School Reform, Family Support, and Student Achievement, written by Kiersten Greene and Jean Anyon. The overarching theme in the reading is how school reforms, as they are gone about now, are not doing enough to help battle the growing economic obstacles that are preventing students and families in low-income urban schools from their highest achievement. It’s not so much worried about how poverty is the leading cause for lower academic achievement in these areas, but rather how living in poverty affects people’s lives in ways that make academic success unfeasible. Greene and Anyon explain that, while poverty itself doesn’t cause low academic achievement, it does create despair and frustration that hinders one’s effort, enthusiasm, and expectations for the school year. Their main point of the article is to bring attention to the fact that the “money doesn’t matter” ideas on educational reform don’t take into account the ways that low income affects students abilities to perform well in school.

The way that they go about making their argument compelling, is by using past-collected data on certain areas in the U.S., and how the low income in these areas are affecting the students. They mix this data with historical laws and government help programs that give money to low income areas in order to show that the achievement gap shrinks. It doesn’t completely go away, but the data and programs that they reference throughout the piece suggests that, if we were to put more programs like the New Hope program in place, academic achievement in those areas would strengthen. You can tell from the analysis used, as well as the importance put on government assistance programs, that the political views of Greene and Anyon probably lean more towards a democratic viewpoint–opting for more government intervention (something that republicans very rarely are in favor of).

For my current connection this week, I chose to use an article titled Racist ‘Redlining’ Policies Leave Legacies of Stroke for Black Americans. The Lexis database didn’t give me a name for the author; however, it seems to have come from the FICCI. I connected this article to the idea of redlining that our class reading described as a very influential piece of the poverty-puzzle in urban areas. The article describes different instances of how redlining still shows its face in our modern day lives by pointing out “Little Russia” in Portland, Oregon, which leads the reader to think about all other cities that have areas named things like, “Little Italy,” or “China Town.” These areas didn’t come about expressly from groups of people with the same backgrounds choosing to live together (although surely some of them may have), but rather were forced upon these people by denying housing loans to certain demographics when it came to the rush to the suburbs. It describes how life in these areas, that people got trapped in, is riddled with problems that suburban and rural areas never really have to deal with. The author explains that, in a lot of these redlined areas, there is what’s known as a “food desert.” A food desert is a location that doesn’t have easy access to grocery stores, or any way to get healthy food for that matter. This in and of itself, having fast-food chains on every corner instead of grocery stores with healthy food in them, plays a large role into the high cases of strokes in redlined areas of Columbus, Ohio. Along with the food deserts, though, there’s also lack of state funding to the areas because of low taxes. The cities around a lot of these places often don’t pay as much attention to these areas as they should. As a result, a lot of these areas are riddled with major pollution (like smog), as well as having an underfunded educational system. When you look at the high rates of smoking, mixed with areas being considered food desserts and underfunded education, it’s not hard to see why the way of life in these areas lead to heart disease. If there was more money going into the school system, then they could have better health programs to teach the students ho to eat healthy and live healthy. This in turn could lead to the push to have real grocery stores instead of just having liquor stores, gas stations, and fast-food joints in the areas. It could also lead to a lower rate of smoking–if it’s taught to students just how bad smoking is for you. Unfortunately, since redlining played a huge role in creating these areas, the cities already have a history of overlooking the true problems that these areas are facing. One can only hope that change comes along soon, and these places get the funding, and attention, that is needed from the local government.

Service Learning Reflection #5, 6, 7, and 8

For weeks 5, 6, and 8, no students showed up to the allotted time for our tutoring service event. It was nice to be able to catch up with the other members of my service learning group, but it was a pretty big bummer each time that we got the news that there were no students for us to help. For week 7, I was unfortunately absent because of a renovation that was being done in my apartment–a section of my ceiling had caved in so we had to repair it. I really hope that we have some successful session to wrap up the Spring semester, it would be a really big bummer if we kept having no one show up. On the bright side, though, maybe this means that the students are really exceeding expectation with their work, and are really leaning the things that they’re being taught!

Learning Experience #4

This week, my group gave our lesson on a reading from Christopher Mallett. Mallett is a professor at Cleveland State University, does a lot of work in the social work field, and has a special interest in representing vulnerable youth and their families. The reading that we did for the week was titled The School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Critical Review of the Punitive Paradigm Shift. The reading focuses on four empirical questions: (1) what is the history of school discipline? (2) is the school-to-prison pipeline real, and if so, who does it impact? (3) what are the outcomes of school discipline policies across stakeholders? and, (4) do these policies make schools safer?

Throughout my life, I’ve heard people talking about the school-to-prison pipeline, but I never really thought about how it could connect to my life, because I never actually attended a school that has School Resource Officers in attendance. I have been to schools that implemented zero tolerance policies, though (like most other students nowadays as pointed out by the reading). I remember growing up thinking that zero tolerance policies weren’t the best way to go about behavioral problems. When I first heard about zero tolerance polices, I sat down with my dad and talked to him about what exactly a zero tolerance policy meant. He explained to me that zero tolerance policies were put in place as deterrents for bad behavior, saying that if someone is immediately removed from a situation, that they may think twice before doing something. The thing that he happened to leave out, though, was something that the reading hits on over and over again: zero tolerance policies don’t really work. Yes, they’re put in place with the purpose of being a deterrent, but as Mallett writes in the reading, they’re more often one of the biggest reasons behind the mass amounts of youth being put through the juvenile criminal system nowadays.

The main theme that emerged in the reading was the harm, that these pretty newfound policies that schools have put in place, does to the children in the school system. He uses a mix of statistics and references to other works to back his claims about how the punitive policies put in place in schools are harming school children more than keeping them safe. He highlights the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, and how it lead to the harm of students through the enforcement of School Resource Officers (really just police officers surveying the school). The largest thing that Mallett writes about, in terms of the harm brought on school children, is the fervent circle that students get sucked into when they’re expelled over a non-violent school-related problem. To start this process off, Mallett highlights over and over again how important it is that most of these kids getting stuck in the juvenile justice system are stuck there due to non-violent acts in school, only being kicked out because of the zero tolerance policies put in place. This is an area he uses statistics in. He points out that when someone is expelled from school, it severely impacts their ability to get back into school–to get back somewhere other than stuck in the juvenile systems. The largest thing that he keeps highlighting again and again (which is why I am), is the fact that most of these kids are being suspended or expelled over non-violent acts. I can tell that Mallett leans towards a more progressive view of education, not quite the same as Dewey, but in terms of the rehabilitating process that he believes schools should employ to help their students. I think that schools should take out their School Resource Officers for their students because it will allow them to actually be present in their studies instead of always looking over their shoulders at police officers. I also think that zero tolerance policies should be taken away–especially because we’re talking about children. People make mistake—heck, adults make mistake–so should we really be expelling children from school over a mistake that they may have made instead of trying to help them? I don’t think so. We should be helping these children at all costs.

My L.C. decided that we wanted to keep the class together at the start in order to give a brief overview of the reading, before we broke out into smaller breakout rooms. We tend to use the breakout room technique because of the intimate nature of the breakout rooms. I feel as though it is more conducive to conversations when it comes to tough topics like this. It makes it a bit easier to bring up your opinion on a topic when you don’t have lots of people looking at you say it, so a breakout room of about three people is going to make talking about it easier. In these breakout rooms we showed a video that portrayed some instances of School Resource Officers getting out of hand, as well as some interviews with students about how they feel about the state of their schooling. We also used a Google Docs with questions and a comic on it in our breakout rooms to try and help foster more conversation. We wanted our students to learn about how bad zero tolerance polices and RSO’s can be for schools, as well as show them how RSO’s are usually out in schools that are mainly non-white. We thought that highlighting this would show how the resegregation of our nation’s schools is impacting the anti-violence policies that are sweeping the country.

I need up creating the base Google Slide for our group, doing about half of the slides before sending it out to the group and inquiring about what they would like to add to it. Joni had already started on one too, so she ended up moving some of her stuff over to the one that I had put together so that we could consolidate our information. I was also the main communicator when it came to planning what we were going to do for the lesson, along with allocation of who presents which slides (once Joni acknowledge that she wanted to present certain slides). As always, we split up our presentation into each of us presenting a third of the information from the slides and then leading our own discussion group. I really enjoyed putting the lesson together for this week, and working with the group was, once again, very enjoyable.

Below are the links to the Google Slide and Google Doc

Current Connection #3

This week my group did our current connections in relation to a chapter written by Elizabeth J. Meyer titled, “But I’m Not Gay”: What Straight Teachers Need to Know about Queer Theory.” In this chapter, Meyer starts off with a little introduction about queer theory, and explains how it shouldn’t be something that people shy away from. She explains that it has evolved quite a bit since the use of the word “queer” started being used, and has now come to represent new concepts that have the ability to liberate and positively influence the way schools are working. She goes on, in her first section, to highlight the ways in which homophobia and sexism are perpetuated in certain workings of the school (like dress-codes and bullying), and how these things keep schools from being perfectly safe. Her next chapter steps further into problems that the school perpetuates, and highlights the strict gender codes that schools impose on their students (like always asking for “strong” guys to move the desks around, or reenforcing that girls should be viewed in the guy’s eyes [like peer-to-peer interactions of girls calling classmates “hos” and “b****es”]). Meyer then moves on to the topic of language, and how language is used in school to further the perpetuation of hetero-dominant curriculum. She says that it may be invisible to many, but that’s because of the decades and decades of books and language that have portrayed heterosexuality to be dominant, as opposed to the decade or so of literature and studies that have tried to break past this barrier. The last section before her conclusion points the reader in the direction of literature that has come out to explain key ideas that come out of Queer Theory that are relevant to teaching today. Throughout the chapter Meyer uses mainly literary referencing to back up everything that she writes about. The chapter is littered with references to other works and studies, and her works cited area spans for a whopping three pages! So, if there are any questions or doubts that are brought up throughout the reading, then there’s a whole lot of references to try and reconcile those initial findings/feelings/questions. It seems to me that Meyer really agrees with a push towards including queer theory in our curriculum, and that’s an idea that I would have to say definitely leans more toward the liberal side of the political spectrum. She doesn’t seem to be too extreme in the way that she writes about the topic, and she references Freire in good light, so I would have to venture out on a limb here and say that the political, cultural, and ideological perspectives of this chapter are all leaning to the side of liberal/progressive.

I decided to connect the section of sexism in this chapter to an article by Morgan Greenwald titled “Actress Highlights Sexism of High School Dress Codes in Series of TikToks.” I thought that this would be a really good article to connect to the reading because of how Meyer highlighted the ways in which school dress codes can be sexist. Meyer talked about how sexism is heightened in schools by girls putting other girls into the male view of things. This concept of the male view can actually be called the “male gaze.” The male gaze is something that can often be seen as threatening, objectifying, and dehumanizing to women–especially young women and underage girls. The school dress codes and perpetuate this by placing blame of girls for something that they have no control over: the male gaze. Often these girls are called to the office because their shoulders showing “distract” the boys in the class. And way too often are these girls ridiculed and called names like “hooker” or “slut” but their teachers in front of the entire classroom. Along with completely humiliating girls in front of the class, the girls that experience this often feel lots of discomfort by the fact that an adult male is looking at them in this way, too. Even if the teacher wasn’t looking at them in that way, often times the way they frame their statements on how a girl breaks dress code violations is embarrassing and discomforting to the girl. The article connects to this idea because the actress made up a character of a secretary to the high school office, and highlights how uncomfortable the girl is, and how ridiculous it is that boys never have to deal with this embarrassment of having attention drawn to their butts or chests.

Learning Experience #3

For this week’s lesson, my group read a chapter out of one of Paulo Freire’s books, titled “The Banking System of Education.” This chapter focused on how the banking system of education is absolutely hindering the learning, and critical consciousness, of students throughout America. Freire focuses specifically on how the banking system of education perpetuates the oppressive state of our nation by mirroring the aspects of an oppressive society through its teaching methods. In the banking system of education children are not taught to think; instead, they’re looked at as though they’re containers that need to be filled with knowledge by the ‘all-knowing’ teacher. Freire writes on how the banking system of education strips away all the knowledge that a student may have learned throughout their life, and reframes the way that student thinks by making him see the world as static and unable to be changed by a single person. He highlights, specifically, how the banking system of education stimulates the credulity in students–successfully taking away their ability to think of the world in any way other than, “I must fit into a certain mold.” It’s evident through his writing that Paulo Freire is an extreme advocate for a more progressive model of education, and fully opposes the banking system of education. This makes me think that Freire is an advocate of a more liberal ideology of the world. Throughout the chapter he uses his own lived experiences, as well as quotes from other author’s and thinkers to further his point that the banking system of education must go. He was actually exiled from his home country, Brazil, for his thoughts and advocacy of education because of the oppressive regime that was in power at the time. As soon as that regime was taken over, he returned as a lead educator in Brazil.

When I had finished reading through the chapter, my first thought was of how dangerous this model of education really is. I immediately started thinking about how I was treated throughout my educational career. At first, I thought of the Montessori schooling that I had been a part of when I was in kindergarten and second grade. It made me grateful that I had been a part of that system of education before being tossed into the throws of the banking system of education. When I look back on the public schooling that I’ve received, I immediately saw the ways in which the banking system of education ruled over my education. I remember trying to use the logic that I had been taught by my parents and the Montessori schooling system, just to be shut down by my teachers because, “that’s not the way you’re supposed to do this.” The entire idea of the banking system of education strikes me as, more than anything else, dangerous. I know that I just said that, but I think the danger of teaching children to overlook their own critical consciousness in favor of their credulity is one of, if not the, most dangerous things that can be done to a nation. All I can think about is how often I see the implications of the banking system of education throughout my everyday life. Freire wrote about how it stimulates children’s credulity and squashes their critical consciousness. I see this all the time by the way that people take other’s words as gospel without actually looking into the topic themselves. I see it whenever I have a political discussion with someone else. I see it when I see the way in which people fight. Freire also references how it creates this false sense of advocation and action by making people act through others. I see this every time I open my phone and go onto social media platforms. It seems to me that these places have gotten away from free-thinking ideas and the sharing of information, and have instead turned into a giant echo-chamber of people acting like they’re acting. Placing themselves into positions that make it look like they’re acting to change something, when really they’re just posting something online. The implications of the banking system of education are massive, and I do firmly believe that if we don’t see a change in this soon, our great nation may be doomed.

While putting together our lesson plan, my group decided that it would be best to start off with a general overview of the banking system of education, as well as the problem-posing system of education (that Freire wrote should take the place of the banking system. I also included a slide that lead into how the banking system of education not just can be, but is, oppressive. We decided that we should focus on these three main topics from the chapter because, without a background on the two systems of education, we didn’t feel as though we could have the best small group conversations possible. I decided that we needed to add in the oppressiveness of the banking system of education because I thought it was super important for everyone to see just how dangerous the system can be. Then we broke off into smaller groups and each talked about a different aspect of the reading. Again, I focused on connecting the oppressive nature of the banking system of education to our lives throughout education and the word around us. I wanted to spend more time in smaller groups on this because of how dangerous I truly believe this method of education is.

Joni and I took the reins when it came to talking about how to go about our lesson planning, and then Joni created the Google Slide that we’d be using for class. She created the bones for most of the slides that Dan and I then went and put the meat on. I also decided that we should add two more slides–one on the oppressiveness of the banking system of education and one asking if our classmates had any questions or concerns from the reading–because I thought it would better lead into the smaller group discussions that we would be having. We were each responsible for teaching the slides that we created, and then we were each responsible for the small breakout rooms that we created for the lesson. We tried to spread the work out as evenly as possible, but I think that next time we can do an even better job of it. The only outside source of information that we used came from Joni’s slide where she talked a little bit about Paulo Freire’s life and other works. Other than that, all we did was present out Google Slides and give out quotes for our classmates to think on for our small discussion groups. Both of those resources are posted below! (Quotes for the students) (our Google Slides)

Current Connection: “The Radical Supreme Court Decision That America Forgot” by Will Stancil

The Radical Supreme Court Decision That America Forgot is an article written in The Atlantic that delves into the Supreme Court ruling on Green vs. New Kent County. The main theme that this article addresses is the fact that it seems as though the decision of Green vs. New Kent County has fallen out of American’s minds–the case that actually ended segregation in our nation’s schools throughout the entire United States of America. Stancil highlights how, even though Brown vs. Board of Education seemed to end segregation in our school systems on the surface, it was Green that eradicated the “freedom of choice” that Brown afforded mainly Southern communities. Freedom of choice was the term that was used to say that segregation in the South was eradicated, while really all it did was give whites and blacks the option to enroll in the all-white or all-black school. An option that an underwhelming amount of people were choosing, and one that white students never took up the offer of. The last main theme that he focused on was just how badly the school segregation was in the North when it came to having freedom of choice. Green unearthed many cities in throughout the North that had the same level of segregation as many places in the South, and without Green it probably would have gone unnoticed for longer than it did. Throughout Stancil’s piece, he references historical events and court rulings as evidence for the information that he is putting forward. While he doesn’t use a lot of numerical data or lived experiences as evidence, he does do a really nice job of using the historical context behind the topic. He even uses the numerical data for how the ruling in Green actually turned out, which was pretty cool to see! To me, it seems as though the author of this piece has a more progressive thought when it comes to his political views. The thing that makes me think this, is how he used reparations as the tagline to pull would-be audiences into his article. It’s not often that you hear moderates, republicans, or conservatives praising something as being the closest thing to reparations that our court system has ever endorsed.

I chose to connect the assigned reading article to an article by David A. Love titled, “Schools nationwide should teach ethnic studies; To have an honest discussion about the future, we need a meaningful understanding of the past.” The reason that I connected to this article is partly because of the conversation that our class had on how we never learned about Green, and because Stancil referenced the fact that the case of Green is often overshadowed by the case of Brown. In Love’s article, he writes a lot about the “whitewashing” of our nations history–also known as teaching history from purely white America’s point of view–and how, often times, children of different racial/cultural backgrounds don’t get enough, if any, representation of their own history in schools. Love points out a lot of new legislation that has been written recently when it comes to having ethnic studies in our schools, and it seems like the overwhelming majority of people agree that there should be a truthful representation of history in our nation’s schools. Our education system shouldn’t be jumping over the things that we did to groups like Native Americans and Mexicans. I think that this article of how our education system ignores many other cultural histories in class goes well with the fact that we don’t even learn the correct history of our country when it comes to the eradication of slavery!

Service Reflection #4

What struck you or stayed with you?

The thing that struck me today was just how different math is being taught now than it was when I was their age. When I was doing the math that they are, my school wasn’t using Common Core, yet. So, when it comes to me helping them, I have to think through how to do it before I’m able to help them. It’s a little bit odd to see the different ways that math is being taught, but here I am learning it in a new way alongside these guys!

How do you show up to this experience? How much effort are you willing to put forth?

I show up with excitement and a smile! I actually really like being able to help these kids out with their homework (though I wish there were less math and more ELA). It’s something that I look forward to each Friday, and something that gives me an extra reason to smile. I’m willing to put in as much effort as I can on any given day. I never want to show up and seem like I’m tired or out of it. Being an older student than them, and being the one helping them, it’s my responsibility to be the best role model that I can be whenever I’m around.

Today went pretty well. The student that I was helping had their camera off for the whole time that we were in the session, but by about 25 minutes in he was sharing his screen and asking for help. We were working on math that I haven’t seen in years–Common Core math–which wasn’t how I learned to do it, but we figured it out together and got going on it! He left pretty unexpectedly while I was in the middle of helping him out with a problem, but it seemed like he had a good grasp of the concept. I’m looking forward to next Friday!

Service Reflection #3

What struck you or stayed with you?

Something that stayed with me after I was done with my service for the day, was how quickly Ronald was able to pick up the skills he needed to be able to his math homework. When I was his age, I would have really struggled to want to put in that work–especially on Zoom–right after I got out of school on Friday. He seemed happy to be getting the help that he was, and I’m really glad that I could give it to him.

What are you discovering about the differences between being in person vs. online?

The main difference that I’ve found between being in person and being online, is just how hard it is to get some younger kids to communicate. It’s so easy to turn off your camera and do your work totally alone. When that happens, I just kind of have to sit there and occasionally ask if they need any help.

I like doing this a lot, but I wish that there was a way to do it in person. It’s so great to be able to help these kids with their homework, but it can become a little frustrating being online. I do my best to make sure that I’m looking like I’m there for them, as well as reminding them that I’m there to help, but they like to keep their cameras and mic’s off for the most part. They’re starting to warm up a little bit more, though.

Service Reflection #2

What struck you or stayed with you?

Something that stayed with me from this service event is how well the students are able to multitask when it comes to talking to their friends, while doing homework, while receiving help from me. I used to be able to talk to my friends while I did my homework, but if you ever asked me to focus on a computer at the same time, then I’d be out of luck!

What needs in the community does this organization address? Why? How have your eyes been opened to the realities of the people you work with?

This organization addresses a wide variety of needs in their community. They’re a religious based organization that serves their community in as many ways possible, even having different levels of service to make sure that everyone has the ability to help the community through them. My eyes have been opened to how quickly people’s minds pick up the ways in which we use our computers now. It never ceases to amaze me that it seems like everyone is becoming tech-savvy now.

I really enjoy being a part of FATIMA Family Center. While, occasionally, the kids that I’m helping would rather have their cameras off, they’re very engaging for the most part. Whenever they need help, they make sure that their attention is on you and their homework only. It’s really nice to see how happy they all are since they’re in-person with their peers. I can’t wait until I can do service in-person again!

Learning Experience #2

For this week’s learning experience, our group read and spoke on an article titled The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz. In this article, Koretz shares his opinion on the wrongdoings that are being committed by our education system due to high-stakes testing. He takes the experience that he has in the field, and creates an overview of how high-stakes testing is transforming the ways that children are being taught. His overall view of high-stakes testing stems from the bad ways of teaching that it promotes: test prep. He writes extensively about three different types of bad test prep: reallocation between subjects, reallocation within a subject, and coaching. By using not only his experience, but also sharing stories that some of his students have shared with him, he really creates a clear picture of how he feels about this overtaking of high-stakes testing and its repercussion. You can tell that he really wants to have an impact when it comes to people’s lives, through education, and that he thinks that the bad test prep that’s taking over is bad for children (and young adults) going through the educational system.

When I was reading this article, I found a striking amount of similarities between what he was calling ‘bad test prep’ and the ways that I was taught in school. What the article really made me think, though, was how grateful I am that bad test prep didn’t dominate my educational career. While each teacher I had did some sort of ‘bad test prep’ at one point or the other, the majority of the time they were trying to foster relationships and make sure that we, as students, were fully understanding the material. This article also made me think about John Dewey’s ideology behind teaching and education, as well. If schools and education are supposed to be here to enhance people as a whole, then what good is it doing teaching people to regurgitate rather than think critically? This article has made me realize that I want to try to make a difference when it comes to teaching. I was never a fan of high-stakes testing as a student, and after reading this article I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of high-stakes testing as a teacher. We should be focusing on teaching children/young adults how to think critically and apply their knowledge across an array of fields, rather than teaching them how to beat the testing system.

My group decided, mainly, to focus on the three aspects of bad test prep that were highlighted in Koretz’s writing. We decided that we should focus on them because of how prevalent they are in the lives of anyone currently going to school. When we took a look at how high-stakes testing works, we decided that the most important aspect of it was how it undermines students’ abilities to learn. The thing that I focused on the most was the idea of coaching. I wanted the students to understand what coaching entails, and why it’s not really a good thing for teacher to employ. Our group as a whole wanted our students to think deeply about when test prep becomes something similar to cheating. We highlighted what is known universally as cheating, but then challenged them to think of how these ways of test prep could be seen as cheating if done a certain way. We really wanted our students to recognize the harm that comes from relying on these ways of teaching; not only are you not doing your best to teach, but you’re also not teaching the whole child.

When it came to planning the lesson this week, Joni took the lead and created a Google Slide for our group to work on. I started the email chain to get us to think about how we were going to go about the lesson for the class, and then we brainstormed and all worked on the Google Slides together–filling in the slides that we were working on. When it came to teaching the lesson, we tried our best to split our content up into thirds. We opted to get away from the breakout room style that we’ve been using throughout the class, and instead have a group discussion about the reading for the entire time. We wanted to try to keep the whole class thinking and engaged by doing this. I think that the class went well overall, and I’m really happy with how things turned out.

Here is the link to our Google Slide!