Saturday, November 15, 2014

"DON'T LIMIT ME" Kliewer

“Citizenship in School: Conceptualizing Down Syndrome” by Christopher Kliewer argues that all children no matter their disability, such as Down syndrome, should be included with typical children in an inclusive classroom setting.  This is a critical part in development for any student.  Schools need to recognize that ALL students can learn if their environment supports ALL students.  “School citizenship requires that students not be categorized and separated based on presumed defect.  The phenomenon of categorization at the expense of individual value has been described as a “disability spread” in which we [schools] extrapolate the characteristics we associate with the notion of disability…” (85). Any school should allow difference, server or non-severe disabilities within the classroom, with support from other adults.  "The idea is that tolerance will grow as students gain appreciation for difference" (August 85).

Students with disabilities, even Down syndrome, should be integrated in all classroom situations.  I remember having a student with disabilities who entered into our school for the first time only knowing school as being in one class all day.  This student was never integrated in any school classroom except for classes which were not academic.  “Vygotsky found that the culture of segregation surrounding people with disabilities actually teaches underdevelopment of thinking thought the isolation of children from social valued opportunities” (83).  This is dangerous because students who are subjected by these behaviors-- learn these behaviors.  The student who entered my classroom for the first time never knew how to interact with students on a social level and therefore was deprived from social interaction of typical children.  The student with disabilities was socially involved with students who were considered to have behavior disorders.  This student with disabilities learned the behaviors of other students and was then labeled with behavior problems.

The parent of the student was concerned because her child was labeled as a student who could not function in a mainstream classroom.  When the student came to our school, he was fully integrated in the mainstream classroom and learned that not all students has behavior issues.  The behavior improved and social skills improved.  This reminded me of Christine’s story.  “Christine’s skills improved… she was out in the community, Christine’s network broadened…” (92). Bringing students into mainstream classroom helps the student with disabilities become a part of a community.  This will only enhance the learning levels, because those student who may be deprived of learning from students of all levels, will then have the opportunity to connect and learn with ALL students.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Collier and Rodriguez

“Teaching Multicultural Children” by Collier argues that teachers need to understand what an English language learner needs in order to be successful at home and in the classroom.  I felt very strongly about #5 which talks about code-switching.  Collier states that “Code-switching is the most creative and dynamic process of the three, is highly structured… [it] should be accepted, and not penalized.” (230).  When English language learners are in the classroom it is an imperative for them to feel the need to relate their native language to the new language.  I had a former student who moved to this country as a 6th grader.  I had to pleasure of having this student for 7th and 8th grade as I looped in previous years.  I can remember her only having a minimal exposure to English (English was not spoken in the home). The ELL teacher would sit with her in the mainstream classroom.  Not only was she learning math content she was also learning English at the same time.  The code-switching Collier speaks of is making references to her native language and integrating English for math vocabulary.  Here is an article from Rethinking Schools for improving instruction for language learners.

A quote Collier states “The most successful long-term academic achievement occurs where the student’s primary language is the initial language of literacy” (223).  I felt that this was interesting considering the majority of students can speak Spanish at school, but do not know how to write the language.  It is my personal experience; students can verbalize what they want to say in Spanish, but rather can write what they mean in English.  So students can verbalize, but the written form is entirely absent.  I find that even when they write in Spanish, they can write what they know, but cannot interpret some words they know in Spanish.   This might stem from being able to write in English when in grade school, but not able to write their own language as a young adult. 

I found the personal story “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez just as insightful.  Hearing his version of language development as a child to an adult made more aware of how identity can be transformed over time.  It reminds me of some situations at family conferences.  I would say that over 85% of family conferences are in Spanish.  A translator is needed on hand all day.  It is interesting to me that “children lose a degree of ‘individuality’ by becoming assimilated into public society” (38).   It is so true.  So many parents do not speak English, while many of the students are completely fluent in both languages, and are accustomed to American lifestyle.  It is my concern that students do not fully embrace their culture from their families, particularly the students who are born here.  When debriefing with some students, some students are afraid that teachers will think less of them because families do not assimilate to the culture.  They know the differences and are embarrassed by their parent’s clothing styles, language, or actions. Have my students’ “public identity or individuality” been compromised through this assimilation?  I think most have, but might not realize the full importance of family traditional culture.  Sure my students embrace where they come from as an identity.  I am sure they will realize at an older age to embrace these difference.  

Reflecting on Safe Spaces.

Reflecting on Safe Spaces

First, I want to thank you all for the positive and delta changes after class. From reading the positives, I was happy that many of you liked the 4 A’s protocol.  I think it’s a great strategy for anyone exploring any text.  I use this strategy often when facilitating professional development with faculty at school, so it almost felt natural to deliver, except it wasn’t in front of around 50 people.  Since many of you have English teaching backgrounds, I thought this might be an appropriate strategy to use in your classroom.  The dialogue was great between the 4 A’s and think that we could have easily used each ‘A’ for more time than was allotted.  Since we naturally have great conversations on any topic, the protocol lends itself to a variety of how each one thinks. 

The blogs you all wrote were great jumping off points.  I wanted to incorporate many of the questions you brought up and extend the conversation in class.  I basically treated your blogs as exit tickets, used your arguments/points, and hopefully be able to tie up loose ends in conversation.   Although, I felt over-whelmed because there was so much I didn't know, I felt that using your blogs helped guide me. 

I wanted to wrap things up at the end with our personal experiences (people), and realized that many spending more time on that were very valuable.  I know that many can relate to the personal experiences and sharing these out would have really finalized or brought some closer.  I know that with our students it was be a great opportunity to use that format to help students visualize their experiences and talk about them.  I hope that many of you do.  What a great experience!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Making Literacy Dangerous!

Students buying and selling stocks on the New York Stock Exchange!  They LOVE it!  I love it because the conversations are impressive!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where do I begin?

Today started out like a hurricane, I was about 10 minutes late for work (my usual time) I was there for the kids, but I usually like to get there 10 minutes before the bell rings to unwind.

I feel like it was a bright and sunny day for most of the morning.  Kids work working in the 2 o'clock buddies and everyone seemed to be on task.  It started to thunder around 1pm when a parent meeting was called in at the last minute (mind you this meeting meeting was suppose to be scheduled last week, so I felt unprepared).  Around 3pm I was ready to take on the challenge of the best chess player in the world, a sixth grader who has beat me EVERY single game. I left school feeling like a rainy day.  It was dreary.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"To BE connected.. or NOT TO BE connected"... That is the Question

"Anti-teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance" by Michael Wesch argues that classrooms are simply not as conducive to learning in the 21st century and “students are struggling to find meaning and significance in their education” (5). I feel that our students do not find the significance of education because if they want to know something they can find it at their fingertips.  Wesch coins the term “anti-teaching” to suggest that he take a less significant role in the classroom.  This means not focusing on teaching, but focusing on learning. 

I found this article naturally engaging.  I found this engaging because Wesch continues to talk about how to get students engaged without always having the end result of the test in mind.   Wesch continues to make learning the forefront of this classroom.  He quotes that students struggle to find the true meaning of learning.  Wesch creates innovative lessons where students are participating in engaging activities, but he asks us to take a step back from what we are actually doing in the classroom.   We need to look at how students are engaged outside of the classroom and integrate them into our everyday lessons.  Look at the world our students are living in today, they are constantly using media and technology.  Looking at the YouTube videos that Wesch’s students made on their own, I think Wesch wants us to gain insight on the classroom of learners.  He wants us to understand the realities of the technological world and how can help our students learn.   This article reminded me of an article Digital Immigrants- Digital Natives that I read in my undergrad, that I made me first aware of this issue.  Although it is a 2001 article, I think some of it still applies today.

Here is a picture that was taken at my Mom’s house on this past Mother’s Day.  This is a picture of my Uncle, Step-dad, mom enjoying quality time with each other (insert sarcasm here).  I am sure that we all had these memories at some point.

I feel that “The Flight From Conversation” by Sherry Turkle argues that technology is simultaneously keeping us connected and also alienating us.  I think Turkle is suggesting that we became slaves to your devices and have become different people.  “Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding.  We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology.  And the move from conversation to connection is part of this.  But it’s a process in which we are shortchanging ourselves.  Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference” (Turkle).   I feel that we are making a conscious effort to care, but not in the same way.  I think she is saying that we are living in the moments, but not living in a moment.  We are focused on too much at the same time.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Literacy with an Attitude" by Patrick J. Finn

“Literacy with an Attitude” by Patrick J. Finn argues that our current educational systems need change and to reconsider teaching our students how we can use literacy as a power tool.  Finn talks about schools, particularly working-class, middle-class schools, and affluent professional schools, and bridging the gap of how teachers teach and how students learn.  Words that stand out to me for affluent professional schools are rigor, excellence, and creative.  Middle-class words are promise, knowledge, dictate, while working-class words are primarily “mechanical and routine” which Finn defines “developing a relationship to the economy, authority, and work…” (12). Finn emphasized how social class can dictate the type of education you receive.  

I found the Bigelow and Christiansen teachable moment very powerful.  After making personal connections with the Cherokee Indian removal and a fictional novel “Radcliffe”, Bigelow and Christiansen got the students to discuss a time when their rights were violated.  The connection between the content and their personal lives made the curriculum real to them.  However, when faced with a challenge to have dialogue with students from a different social class, they were focused on the in-differencesin school culture and atmosphere.  However, their lesson failed “They had encouraged their students to see themselves as victims.  Although the theory they offered their students gave them an analytical framework with greater power to interpret their school loves than anything they had ever encountered… suggested hopelessness” (183).  They “remind students that they can learn to understand seemingly personal problems as societal problems and act with others to solve them… This demonstrates to students that they believe fundamental change is possible and desirable” (184).  I found this to be a very powerful message.

I also think Delpit would also agree “They [students] must be encouraged to understand the value of the code they already possess as well as to understand the power of realities in this country. Otherwise they will be unable to work to change those realities.” (Delpit 40).  Bigelow and Christiansen used personal connections to help them think critically about a unit of study which I believe to be a powerful and useful tool.  Their ultimate goal was to encourage and bridge the gap through rigor and critical thinking, but privilege and class differences became a focus of their lesson.  I think this added curriculum is important and necessary for all students no matter their race, culture, or social class.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change" by Ira Shor

In the article “Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change” by Ira Shor, I felt that this article was “empowering” and also inspiring.  What I got out of this article was that a problem-posing classroom, coupled with a curriculum that is derived from both teacher and student (where the teacher acts as the facilitator) becomes a critical thinking powerhouse subjecting students to a variety of outcomes.  This means that students are responsible for their own learning and are investigating ideas on their own through means of collaboration.  

This breaks away from the traditional schooling model, dumping of knowledge, or the term “banking educators”, where knowledge is forefront to education.  Instead Shor wrote “Their questions provided some wonderful launching pads for our study.  Instead of answering their questions… I posed them one by one, so that students could participate more; answer their own peer’s questions… The syllabus was built up upward from the student responses instead of downward to my comments” (28).  This automatically got me thinking about how the KWL-S charts (Know, Want to know, Learned, and the added, Still want to know) are used when a topic is introduced  I think number 6 and 7 on this website touch base on how students engage in meaningful learning.

Shore also touches upon the term “situated teaching… where it avoids teacher centered syllabi and locates itself in student culture” (44).  I want my instruction to be based on the needs of what students are interested in, not what is prescribed in the curriculum.  This can spark interests among the group and be able to learn within the walls or outside the walls of the classroom.  In my perspective, learning is not one direction where teachers teach students, but a learning process for all involved.

When Shor stated “By posing problems rather than by giving answers, their approach begins in a participatory way.  By including and action phase, they make action a legitimate result of learning” (43).  Shor defined the learning process as problem-posing rather than problem-solving.  As a math teacher problems solving is finding a solution to a problem, but problem-posing offers more. Problems solving is crucial because we need this for meaningful education, but problem-posing has a social and personal connection.  This “encourages students to become curious, critical, and creative” (45).  This made me think of how can I get my students to engage using more personal connections inside or outside of the classroom?  I know that Project-Based Learning is one alternative to get them engaged on their own, but how could I integrate this mindset to all the units I teach.  I can see this being extremely beneficial within my own practice.  Giving students the opportunity to create their own goals and meaningful learning, the better able they will be connected with the content.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

“Schools and the New Jim Crow” An Interview with Michelle Alexander

The article “Schools and the New Jim Crow” An Interview with Michelle Alexander is about the mass incarceration of blacks in the United States in this post-racial society.  She analyzes a variety of statistics since 1970 and highlights that the number of people behind bars in this country has increased by 600%.  Alexander talks about the theory of colorblindness (like Armstrong and Wildman) and uses a metaphor explaining that the structural racism that exists is like a “birdcage” and “school-to-prison pipeline.” 

One quote that sticks out to me is in the beginning of the interview “What has changed since the collapse of the Jim Crow has less to do with the basic stricture of our society… In the era of colorblindness it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, or social contempt…. we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals”… we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”  It seems that with the end of the Jim Crow mindset, the 21st century attitude mirrors the racial discrimination in a different way, which keeps blacks from the same opportunities as whites.  Armstrong and Wildman write “Colorblindness is the new racism… the failure to acknowledge racial reality in the United States reinforces and solidifies existing racial inequality…” (67).  I strongly believe that society moved into the age of colorblindness where we think there is equality for blacks and whites, but use the justice system to still maintain the status-quo of white privilege and power.

Alexander also says that there is a domino effect happening when parents of color who are incarcerated are more likely to have children who will be incarcerated.   She used  the “birdcage” as a metaphor to describe “wires that keep a person trapped… they don’t have to be created to harm the bird, but they still serve that function”  Alexander says the they are “born into a community in which the rules, laws, policies, structures of their lives virtually guarantee that they will remain trapped for life.” This creates the notion that those in the “birdcage” will be denied the privileges of the "privileged."  She also says “The cage itself if a manifested ghetto, which is racially segregated, isolated, cut off from social and economic opportunities.”  This suggests to me that, mobility into a social privileged world will not be a reality for the under-privileged.   I also believe that holding people in an economic and social crunch will not only limit them, but also continue to label them as a failure (forever?).     Alexander says that “the school-to-prison pipeline is another metaphor—a good one for explaining how children are funneled directly from schools into prison.  Instead of schools bring a pipeline for opportunity, schools are feeding our prisons.”   

Alexander concludes by saying “…talk to young people about these issues in ways that won’t lead to paralysis, fear, or resignation, but instead enlighten and inspire action… it is important to teach them about the reality of the system…”  I think she is thinking along the same lines as Delpit in The Silenced Dialogue “I suggest that students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life…” (45).   Both Delpit and Alexander make points saying that educators should teach and encourage students to think about how they can make changes and to voice their own opinions and empower them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Colorblindness is the New Racism" by Armstrong & Wildman (2013)

“Colorblindness as the New Racism” by Armstrong and Wildman gives us an insight of racism in today’s culture.  Colorblindness is a term used to acknowledge racial inequality in the 21st century which still considers white privilege in the forefront.  Color insight is another term coined to suggest that “most of us see race and underlines the need to understand what that racial awareness might mean” (68).  This new terminology sheds light on racism in the modern world.

I apparently did my own “24 hour challenge" yesterday and didn’t even realize it.  I was completely mesmerized at my findings- keeping the article in mind.  I went into a family-owned pizza parlor for dinner where I was waiting in the lobby for a table.  I noticed that there were pictures of the business on the wall- pictures from the 1950s to the present.  Many of these pictures showed the business owners with politicians, the business owners with awards, and the business owners will employees.  One picture stood out to me- it was a picture of the business owners with family (white descent) with a person of color towards the far right.  All people in the picture were posing and smiling.  All the white people were standing while the person of color was sitting on two milk crates.  All the white people were dressed nicely; the person of color dressed in an apron (a possible worker).  It was a black and white photo which suggested to me it may have been an older picture.  As my eyes drew closer to the bottom I looked at the caption- the photo was taken in front of the building during 1997 renovations.  The photo was mixed in with pictures from the 1950s and 1970s (most of the present pictures were in color). 

I was astonished thinking about “Colorblindness as the New Racism” it further advertised the worker of color in working clothes and white privileged persons in clean business clothes.  As I left the restaurant I wondered what the person of color may have been thinking.  He definitely looked subordinate in this picture while sitting with his dirtied apron.  Was this picture a product of colorblindness or was this picture taken as a product of color insight?  I still wonder about this-- even 20 hours later.

I read Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, by Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel.  In this reading (just the preface and part of chapter 1- with many pages missing) I learned about how routine traffic stops occurred in New York City and the how these routines are part of everyday police business.  Epp writes “If people who are subjected to an ongoing, discriminatory pattern learn to recognize it as such, they will come to conclude that the process is deeply unfair [even if the officials carrying it out are unfailing respectful and polite]”.  It seemed to me that non-white people who were stopped more often were felt that white police asked more intrusive question.  It also occurred to me that if minorities are subjected to unfair process then resistance and retaliation may emerge. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit (1995/2006)

When I read The Silenced Dialogue: Power Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children by Delpit, I considered scenarios in my own classroom and am completely intrigued with what Delpit wrote.   I thought maybe my own experiences were exceptional or maybe considered the fact that universal language my school uses helps foster these “culturally influenced oral interactions”.  Delpit wrote “The attempt by the teacher to reduce an exhibition of power by expressing [herself] in indirect terms may remove the very explicitness that they child needs to understand the rules of the new classroom culture” (35).   I do believe that encouraging this behavior may set up for ALL students to be a success in the classroom.  Here are some quotes that were captivating to me.

Delpit talks about cultural misinterpretations between socioeconomic statuses.  “Middle-class parents are likely to give the directive to a child to take his bath “Isn't it time for your bath?”… By contrast, [a mother of color]… “Boy get your rusty behind in the that bathtub”(34).   I strongly believe giving ANY student a directive creates a choice factor.  We hope our students will make the positive or best choice.  I always use “Is this…?” or “Are these…?” statements and give the students a directive in any situation and then tell them why I am saying it to give meaning and a reason.  Telling students to do a task no matter how simple it is, is not something I believe is respectful and may create an anxious classroom culture. 

Delpit also says that children of color might respond differently to the directive and may feel it is “weak” or “soft-spoken” of the teacher of “non-color”.  I feel that the teachers’ authoritative nature is something a student might respond to well, but might not look at it as disrespectful.  When a teacher [of color] uses “push” statements, the child was more accepting of the “meanness” and was able to learn.  I find it fascinating that students pick up on the way teachers instruct and Delpit points out the cultural differences. 

It appears that students bond differently to teachers. I think that having a universal language and universal expectations in a school can only help construct a meaningful, positive, and "uni-cultural" learning experience.  When I say "uni-cultural" it does not mean only one significant or dominate culture, but rather a culture of understanding and respect for one another.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson (2001)

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson (2001)

Johnson talks about privilege defined by Peggy McIntosh, and how the "diversity wheel" suggests an inclusive sense of self.  The inner ring of the diversity wheel being things that are uncontrollable and the outer ring being controlled by only you, and possibly some other force.

He defines privilege, from work by McIntosh, with two major umbrella headings, “unearned advantage” and “conferred dominance.”  Johnson writes that unearned advantage is a condition that you happen to inherit or supposedly cannot help, but constructed by the social norms of your society.  So according to Johnson, white, heterosexual males have the most power in our society, simply because of a birth rite. Conferred dominance is the assumption that privileged groups have more of the upper hand than those of non-privileged groups.  So a white male, regardless of status, may challenge a higher status white woman, simply because she is a white woman.

When analyzing his diversity wheel and understanding the defined privileges as stated, I concluded that there is a hierarchical order to privilege with limited mobility.  According to Johnson, the heterosexual white male is at the top of this hierarchical order and everyone else has lesser order depending on the “social construction” of where society places.  Everyone else is placed in their own hierarchical category based on their characteristics of the diversity wheel and the unearned advantage privilege.  Those that are below each hierarchical category can show conferred dominance toward the person of higher status.

So the hierarchy of peoples’ status, which Johnson illustrates, does in-fact give you a visual of how all kinds of people are represented.  However, I think his perception fails to include people who may be disadvantaged, mentally or physically, and also does not take language difference into consideration.

For example, I am friends with a heterosexual, white male, who was badly burned in the 2003 night club fire.  At that time, according to Johnson, he was a privileged white male at the top of this hierarchical order.  However, does his physical condition and physical appearance, still make him eligible for privilege?  Does this mean the physical state he is in still make him a candidate for the top of the hierarchy?  I think Johnson fails to include that it could be taken away, therefore it is not permanent.

Language was also something that I considered after reading Johnson’s article.  Let’s consider a white male living in America who speaks English (their first language) and later becomes fluent in Spanish.  Or let’s consider another white male living in America that speaks fluent Spanish (their first language) and later learns English.  Are they both equivalent on the hierarchical order? Although this may be a far-fetched case, I am concerned about the privilege implications he emphasizes in his article.  I struggled on Johnson’s inability to look at language differences and mental and physical disadvantages people might possess.   

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Today is September 3, 2014,

     My name is Kenneth Kard and I have been teaching in the City of Central Falls for the past eight years. I must say it is the most rewarding experience working with children and teaching mathematics.  I have grown to love the students, the families, and the community. The students are creative and have great minds (8th graders have the biggest imaginations).  I welcome parents into my classroom and they always walk away with satisfaction.  These families have a great rapport with me and support me when you welcome them into your "home".  The community that Segue has built is both extraordinary and unique.  I have not worked in too many schools, but I have to say when talking to many of my "teacher friends", they are amazed at what we do as a school. Some are envious and many are baffled at how we do things.  I love coming to work knowing that I am supported by my community.

     Since working at Segue IFL for the past six years I have grown professionally.  I feel that now is the time to further my education and have a well rounded perspective of teaching.  I am excited about this new adventure and continue to be the best I can be.  I am a 2007 Rhode Island College graduate and glad to come back for the Master's Program.

    I have many other hobbies and unique  interests outside the math classroom.  First, I have a pet duck named Kicker and she is about 6 months old.  She is amazing.  When I get asked about having pets and I say I have a "duck", I get the same reaction, "You have a what... duck?"  It's different and not a popular pet, but yes, my duck rocks.

    Speaking of "Rocks", I am a huge concert goer, I love hard rock, metal, and lots of 90s alternative.rock music.   I will be seeing Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat September 28th.  This will be my 4th time seeing them since 2012.  I also have plans to see Rob Zombie (my second favorite) again in 2015.

     When it gets cold and snowy, I head up to the mountains in New Hampshire and Maine for some snowboarding.  I started snowboarding in 1997 and have maintained the love for it.  I think I am fairly great at it, but not enough to be in the Winter Olympics.  Sage Kotsenburg, 2014 Winter Olympic gold medalist, is my number one hero when it comes to the slopes.  Go USA!

    When school is out for summer I am in Florida from the end of June to the beginning of August.  I may be contradicting myself saying I love winter too, but heading down south for hot temperatures makes me happy as well.  I also enjoy surfing, wave running, going to the beach, and relaxing by the pool with family and friends.  If I had to choose my favorite season--winter or summer, that would be a toss up.