Monday, June 21, 2010

August: Questions

The reading of this week is about the descriptions of Zeke's (what August calls) "dynamic dialogicality" that pursues a democratic learning community. While chapter five focuses on spontaneous dynamic dialogicality in his classroom, chapter six is an observation of Zeke's designed dealogicality promoting democratic classroom such as News Share, Greeting, and Questions of the Day. To provide opportunities for his students to explore experiences of non-dominant group, Zeke developed a unit that teaches about families.

In attempt to explain about Robin's family consisting of two fathers, Robin, and a cat, Zeke not only explains the structure of the family, but he also mentions the romantic relationship between the fathers saying "It happens a lot" (p.191). The usage of the phrase "a lot" is highly questionable and can be misleading and inappropriate.

Another questionable guidance during the family unit is how Zeke distorts the meaning of Grace's statement as seen on page 193. Zeke compels his students to talk about "different" types of families after she simply said that families are special.

However, the most questionable instruction in sharing students' family experience is how Zeke pairs up his students to share stories and forces students to speak what the partner said. He deliberately creates a situation in which a student cannot avoid speaking and shared stories cannot be unrevealed. Moreover, Zeke demands that Cody share family stories in class saying "We want you to share really loud...Nice and loud" even when Cody clearly displays his refusal to talk (p.195). Yet, Zeke insists even more by saying "I know you can do it" and influences other students to say "You can share it" " Cody, Cody, Cody" (p.196). Zeke's demand still persists even after Cody "shakes his head vigorously" and finally he reads Cody's story after saying "...he's feeling a little shy" (p.197).

Such a forceful approach is highly questionable when students clearly resist speaking. Empowering students does not mean forcing students to speak aloud. Real empowering education is to provide opportunities that help students achieve greater self-awareness and to create the best possible learning environment in which students can speak freely if students are ready and wish to express their thoughts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aria by Richard Rodriguez: Quotes

In Aria, Rodriguez argues the importance of becoming assimilated into a society, even when it changes one's significant element of own identity. After acquiring the school language, Rodriguez describes the change in his family as "...the special feeling of closeness at home was diminished by then...No longer so close; no longer bound tight..." (p.36). The reality Rodriguez describes here shows that the language we learn from our family is part of early socialization and an important element of our identity. Now that little Richard has been deprived of his mother language, his not exactly the same Richard anymore. Also the fact that his parents themselves stopped speaking in the presence of their children means that the parents are not real themselves either. Inevitably, the distance between Richard and his parents becomes greater.

Further Rodriguez illustrates an awkward situation at home as "She (the mother)'d join conversations she overheard, but her intrusions often stopped her children's talking" (p. 37). It's not that the children do not want to talk to the mother, but it is true that her limited English and limited understanding of American culture spoils the moment.

Rodriguez also presents an example of translation issues. He explains that there are no English words that can substitute the Spanish words that he used to use -- mama and papa. Rodriguez states that "Mother and Father, Ma, Papa, Pa, Dad, Pop (how I hate the all-American sound of that last word especially) -- all these terms I felt were unsuitable, not really terms of address for my parents" (p.37). The word, "my", in the last sentence is important here because what he is saying is that the American sounds like Ma and Dad never represents HIS parents; his parents can be described by only the Spanish words he used to use --mama and papa.

Despite the changes in the relationship between himself and his parents, Rodriguez opposes bilingual educators who believe that "children lose a degree of individuality by becoming assimilated into public society" and thus "simplistically scorn the value and necessity of assimilation" (p.38). He believes that pa person can be individualized even while becoming assimilated into society and he asserts the necessity of achieving of "public individuality" (p.39).

Monday, June 14, 2010

GLSEN Response

Many American families do not fit the stereotype of a traditional family with the husband, wife, and a couple of children anymore. I learned from the link, The Boy Captured the Moon, Jenn posted that 9 million children are being raised by gay and lesbian parents in the United States, but the literature reflecting those children's life is very limited. However, the link shows us an online magazine, Rainbow Rumpus, introduces The Boy Captured the Moon by Patt Ligman with the purpose of reading about such families and suggested discussion questions and reading activities. Whether or not reading the story to young children in a classroom could be controversial, it is very helpful for all of us to learn that families come in different types and make ups and that all the families must be acknowledged.

I find the guidelines that Rainbow Rumpus provides very useful, especially #1: Let children decide for themselves when and how much to share about their own families. Some children may be afraid how they will be judged by others; some may feel defensive about the family questions; some are simply uncomfortable talking about it without knowing the reasons.

Children's literature having a controversial theme can be a great resource for older students though, -- this is what I recently leaned in a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) course. I work international college students, so I may utilize children's literature The Boy Captured the Moon or several other books Nikki posted, to introduce the diverse mix of families in the United States. Thank you very much for the information.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finn: Connections

In Literacy with an Attitude, Finn argues that the existing social system remains the same as long as working-class schools continue domesticating students having oppositional identity by simply giving non-demanding, mechanical work with little decision making that is "appropriate preparation for wage labor" (Finn, pp.10). In addition to the quality of academic work at working-class schools, Finn describes the attitude of teachers toward students. Controlling students is the focus of classroom instruction, and the teachers often make derogatory remarks such as students are "getting dumber every year" or "Shut up" (Finn, pp.11).

The descriptions Finn provides in his book mirror Kozol's article, Still Separate, still Unequal, in which he criticizes Skinnerian approaches and educators' attitude that disempower students. Utilizing management techniques for factory employees theorized by Frederick Taylor, Mr. Endicott keeps the students "under a tight control" to force them to obey. Similarly, other schools demands precise acts such as stepping together in a straight line when students walk in a hallway. Uncovering practices in inner-city schools, Kozol argues that "Childhood is not merely basic training for utilitarian adulthood."

Finn believes that teachers can help students realize education as "a potent weapons" (pp.xi) and suggests that teachers to become transforming intellectuals who can empower children by helping "the powerless as a class so they can stand up for themselves" as Paulo Freire has done (pp.172) and by helping students "question the truth" as Freirean teacher, Robert Peterson has done (pp.176).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kozol: Hyperlinks

Kozol reveals great needs for equal educational opportunity in an article "Still Separate, Still Unequal" and one of the discussions Kozol raises is astonishing low graduation rates in large cities in the United States. According to Kozol, not even half students in the 100 large districts, where black and Hispanic concentrate, graduate on time. This reminds me of an article, One in Three Kids Drops out of School by Colin and Alma Powell, that I found in USA Weekend on February 26-28, 2010 that discusses what can be done to reduce the high dropout rates in large cities in the United States. According to the article, the lowest graduation rate is 30.5% in Indianapolis and the next is 34.4% in Cleveland (Source: EPE Research Center, 2009). In order to reduce the high dropout rates, Gen. Colin and Alma Powell work with America's Promise Alliance that assists students in succeeding in school with "five promises": caring adults, safe places, an effective education, a healthy start, and opportunities to help others. Kozol's article speaking for underprivileged students, while describing the inadequate conditions of facilities and course requirements not allowing students to succeed in college, forces us to examine the existing education system that fails to provide equal educational opportunities.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The IAT Test

I was so surprised to learned that the test has concluded that I have a strong preference for European American compared to African American. I was expected to have a result telling me that I do not have a preference for either groups because I am not neither European nor African American. But I was not that surprised to learn that I have a strong association of female with family since that's what I saw growing up, and that's how I lead my life. Although I work and my job is very important to me, I have been a part-time so that I can be home when my children come home form their schools.

I am not sure about the validity of this test; I am looking forward to reading other people's responses.

The Silenced Dialogue from Other People's Children: Argument

In the Silenced Dialogue from Other people's Children, Deiplt (1995) argues that the significance of teaching the non-participants the codes and rules of the culture explicitly.

Deplit(1995) begins her discussion by describing the conflict between white and black teachers in educating poor children and children of color, revealing black teacher's frustration at not being fully understood and not being heard by whites. She identifies the fact that teachers of color have basically resigned themselves to the intractable discussion, resulting in (without their awareness) virtually agreeing with whites, as a problem. She attempts to seek the answer for how to empower students of color through an underlying issue, the debate on skills vs. process approach, which she claims that "the debate is fallacious; the dichotomy is false" (Delpit 1995, p.46). She believes the issue is related to what she calls "the culture of power", and in her explanation she discusses the importance of teaching the non-participants the codes and rules of the culture explicitly, which is not practiced in classroom therefore, causing the non-participants to have difficulty in learning.

Providing some examples of how the process approach upsets students and describing some of black teachers' conclusion of the progress strategies as the liberals' scheme promising only their children succeed in society, Delpit maintains the value of the skill approach that empowers students of color to acquire the skills necessary to be heard by participants of the culture of power. she introduces the findings of a research by Siddle concluding that including direct instruction produces "the most positive changes in the students' writing"(Delpit 1995, p.33). Moreover, Delpit asserts that "commands are commands" whether they are directive or veiled, and indirect instructions "only makes it more difficult for some children to respond appropriately" (Delpit 1995, p.35).

Delpit also presents her response to the notion of simply celebrating diverse culture in attempting "to be nice" in education that in reality neglects teachers' duty to teach students necessary skills to succeed in society. she urges that assisting students needing some support is to help them realize the value of acquiring rules to be heard and to teach them explicit rules while accepting their cultures. In conclusion, she proposes what need to be done in order to improve the conditions of poor children and children of color. She asserts that the debate of skills vs. process approach does not provide any solutions, but having true dialogue while recognizing how power of culture exist does.