Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Gender Development"

“Gender Development”

I particularly focused on the Jerry Callahan scenario towards the end of chapter 6.  Nakkula and Toshalis tell us he is a straight, white, male student who is involved in many after school activities, but only those after school activities which are geared towards straight, white, and male oriented activities.   I found this to be unsettling because as a culture we do gender activities.  I remember looking at a student-created poster last year for spirit week.  It was recruiting the first ever cheerleading squad.  This poster had only girls represented and was geared towards middle school girls.  As an educator, I try to be as gender neutral as I can, since I am more aware of this being an issue in adolescent development.

After reading Safe Spaces by August, it triggered some thinking.  Why was this poster only recruiting middle school girls? What if a middle school boy was interested?—something as simple as a poster could possibly make a middle school feel alienated if a middle school boy had an interest.  How these feelings could be internalized for the future of students who are not represented.   What if a chess club, auto mechanics, or wood chop class only featured adolescent boys?  Some girls may feel alienated. What if our culture portrayed the images below?  The socially constructed world of gendered and stereotypical activities that Nakkula and Toshalis discuss in chapter 6. 

Since reading Safe Spaces, August quotes “Our classrooms need to be ‘windows and mirrors’ for all students - mirrors in which youth see themselves in the curriculum and recognize their place in the group; windows through which youth see beyond themselves to experiences connected with, but not identical to, their own.” I’ve learned we need to be sensitive to these gendered ideologies and include all students.  Nakkula and Thosalis say “As educators, our job is to promote student learning and creativity through safe and enriching experiences.  Optimal learning requires the presence of intact, full present students” (115).  As educators, it also our job to send gender neutral messages to our students.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Encouragement does more...

This first quote stood out to me because I felt there was no other options in terms of assessments.  Yes we primarily “hunt for mistakes” when grading.  “When teachers see an upward of 100 students per day and are expected to assess the progress of each of them and then differentiate instruction… it is no wonder that standardized diagnostics become necessary” (page 67).  Doesn’t that happen with everything?  I felt my hands tied after reading this.  Yes, I do believe there must be an emphasis on “grading” and knowing what students can and can’t do (with the emphasis on can’t) because it helps a student learn from their mistakes and then learn to correct that mistake. 

I feel it is the nature of learning any new skill academic or interest-based.  Also, highlighting the strengths is just as necessary, but also depends on how and what is being measured.  A homework assignment is going to measure what the student knows, so it seems ordinary to know where their thinking needs improvement, just like any sport of student interest.  Sure, academic work looks different from extracurricular activities.  What if academic work was focused on positive outcomes and extracurricular activities would focus on the “needs improvement” skills.  Seems like there is not much a difference on how good measurement is achieved.   I think encouragement can help in any situation and is the key for succeeding in anything.


I think Maggie and Colby Steinburg would agree with the quote above.  They both found Lorena slipping away from academics and tried to find something positive to build skills.  This encourages her to become team player and to focus her energy on something attainable (college).  The connection from extracurricular activities and academics help become a “bridge” to success and skill building.  Their support is necessary for their success. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Commitment & Crisis

In Understanding Youth, I felt like the “Commitment & Crisis” chart was helpful into identifying patterns of adolescence.  I looked at my own adolescence from reading a 1996-1997 journal about myself.  I thought this was just something interesting to look back on and reminisce about high school, but to my surprise, I began to think about what kind of an adolescent I was and my ‘identity status.”  I felt that the stages were a healthy part of growing and becoming an adult. 


I think the career choices I see are the most popular when I ask students in advisory, or when I ask students outside the classroom.  I feel the limited understanding and knowledge of these things are only careers they see in the media or in front of them. 

I began to think about the student I am interviewing and trying to pinpoint the current state of identity.  Then I started to think about his environment (social and urban) and whether he is in between stages. I found this interesting because I am interviewing him before the high school fair where he has simply made decisions based on his experiences with family members.   I am sure that this will change when he gets more facts/knowledge about high school opportunities and career paths.  I am sure we can say he is in the diffuse identity category at this time.   I wonder if the student I interviewed will in fact become a lawyer or someone who joins the National Guard.  I feel the two are very different, and he is only exploring these ideas because it is all he knows in his immediate life (jobs his uncle and dad are currently doing).

On a side note, I feel like I wanted to completely change the order of the chart only because it went in the completely wrong direction as I understood it.  I felt like it should have started in the first quadrant, then to the left to go in the order of the quadrant system.   

Sunday, September 20, 2015

"To Teach" Part II


WOW! [Spoiler alert if you haven’t read] The end made me smile.  “We learned that out actions as teachers and students, as citizens and community members, echo down the generations and that a useful guide for all of us is to try to respond to the dreams of youth” (p. 122).  An overpowering emotional feeling came over me.  To put it into perspective, it sent chills down my spine.  I never read or experienced anything like this.  I never EVER read a book (in a long time) that made me feel as empowered as I do today.  Sure, I know that I am making a difference in a student’s like.  Sure, I see students from previous years and have small talk.  But to think about a student becoming a teacher (who may have been labeled with some deficit) just made me open my eyes much more.  I thought about some of those students who had deficits in learning and wondered, how those students are contributing to society. 

I thought of one student in particular and thought about how this student struggled in class.  This student needed all kinds of supports and interventions, like Quinn.  Quinn was labeled by outsiders simply because he was not acting "of the norm." Ayers depicted Quinn as a disruptive individual.   Even though he learned differently and acted differently from others, he was still an individual who contributed to the class as a functioning student (I use the word functioning, instead of typical).  I think about how Ayers supported Quinn as a student “…if I wrote you a note it would say that you’re a brilliant artist, and that you’re hardworking…” (p. 30).  Ayers talks about the positive attributes and changed his mentality by not thinking he was a child with disabilities. 

Quinn says towards the end “As long as I live I am under construction” (p. 121).  He completely understands the struggle and continues to keep “a growth mindset.”  Quinn will be an excellent teacher.  He will continue to “echo down to the generations.” I think in the end the story comes in full circle.  The cycle continues to grow as one child explores and looks up to Quinn for guidance.  He understands the importance of self-exploration and maintains "a learning with the students" approach.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

To Teach...

"To Teach: the journey in comics"

This is my first time reading a graphic novel.  I must say, I thought this was going to be an easy read, but I was incorrect.  I think I focused more on how the graphic novel flowed (meaning, I had a difficult time distinguishing the order of the conversation and the direction it was going).  However, after a few dozen pages, I was able to catch onto how the story was suppose to go.  Also, "reading" the pictures was also something that I had to get accustomed to.

The first part that caught my eye was the "at risk" component.  I took a step back knowing that many of my students would be labeled this stereotype by other communities around the nation.  " risk functions like a metaphor... [it] adds an authenticating medical dimension to a prescription made long before any investigation beings" (p. 21).  This automatically helped me to realize that grouping all the students in this "at risk", already makes them a lesser.  To live this everyday and to read it is one thing, but to understand that these labels are dangerous to use, especially when students at the middle level know it is not them, or how they feel about themselves. Some mission statements have this "at risk" component (I've read them at certain schools).  Our school uses "at promise" in our mission, but it 'seems' to be more positive, but as I was reading it still makes me think about the label-- but isn't every student "at promise" for ANY school, not just the schools 'in trouble"?  It was extremely challenging to have dialogue with my team about this.  It might be me over thinking this, but I think the "at promise" embellishes the negativity-- just a bit.

I really tuned into Chapter 3 "Creating an Environment for Learning." I felt this chapter was a large part of work that totally change my pedagogy of teaching.  I read this chapter and feeling the "oh snap" moment.  Last semester I changed my thoughts about teaching by arranging my classroom to fit the needs of students and came across some interesting findings.  "I want to build spaces where the wisdom in the room is uncovered and the experience and knowledge of students becomes a powerful engine for our work" (p. 44).  My students are mathematicians.  I strongly believe what Ayers has to say about organizing a classroom where learning happens for all students in their own way. Classroom are not "informational dumping grounds" they are "informational pumping grounds"

Monday, September 7, 2015

"What's Going on Here? A Take of Two Visions" by Smith

What’s Going on Here? A Tale of Two Visions:

After reading, What’s Going on Here: A Take of Two Visions, I kept the activity we did the first class in the back of my mind.  It was almost instantaneous because “…we learn from people around us with whom we identify.  We can’t help learning from them, and we learn without knowing that we are learning” (Page 3).  I felt that the activity we did, by jotting down things we learned and who inspired us to learn them, was not something I would naturally think about, because it is “effortless.” I could not help to think about who I am as a person, my identity, and the influences that made me-- who I am. 

After talking with Tina about what I learned over the years, many of the things I listed were not academic.  They were all things I identified with and whom I identified with.  For example, skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing are all things I have or had a passion.  These were mainly the topics I shared.  I learned these things because it was something that interested me.  I understand my passions and how I learned them.  I know if I posed this question to students I probably would not get "Mr. Kard teaching me how to graph quadratic equations."

Now my question is how I can use my student’s interests and identities to engage them in math.  I know twelve students from my advisory, but what would happen if I knew all my students right now at the beginning of the school year? How would a forum of interests become the topic in my math class?  This is now a goal by the end of September.

The visions of learning also made me think of my content and my presentation to students.  I have a passion for mathematics and I “sell it” to students as best I can.  By “selling it” I do not mean a prescribed and generic conversation about why math is important.  But I learned that creating dialogue about a different topic makes students less anxious and more excited about the subject. It is unrealistic to know all my students will have the same passion for math that I did.  I do know that having conversation about what makes students interested in learning math makes students make connections.  In the Smith article, “the official theory is unsound and dangerous, and we must help each other to gain the confidence in the alternative point of view, which all the real-world evidence… demonstrates is right” (page 5).  I fell this statement hits the nail on the head.  It is important that teachers implement effortless learning based on self-interests that is a social and promotes growth (Project-basedLearning or PBLs).  The link I provided reminds of the differences between "the classic view of learning" and "the official theory of learning."  I feel this philosophy of learning and teaching makes the teacher/student dynamic more engaging.