Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shor- Quotes

Ira Shor's Empowering Education

In this reading, Ira Shor discusses the need for teachers to prepare students to participate dynamically in society.  Children need to learn to evaluate and question their reality so that they can transform it.  Shor states that teachers can do this through empowering education.  Shor describes his empowering pedagogy as having the following values: participatory, affective, problem-posing, situated, multicultural, dialogic, desocializing, democratic, researching, interdisciplinary, and activist.  In the selected readings, Shor discusses some of these values.  He states that teachers must foster classroom involvement, encourage positive emotional responses to learning, pose problems for students to help them question the way things are, use everyday life experiences in your teaching, value all cultures, and practice reflexive teaching.  If teachers use this manner of instruction, then their students will be well prepared to participate in our democracy as well as break down the status quo.  The following are highlights of the reading that really resonated with me.

 "If the aim of intellectual training is to form the intelligence rather than to stock the memory, and to produce intellectual explorers rather than mere erudition, then traditional education is manifestly guilty of a grave deficiency.” Piaget (page 12).
I thought this was a well-chosen quote that Ira Shor picked to frame the reason for his work. Shor begins this reading by naming the problem he sees.  This problem Shor brings to light is traditional education.  With traditional education, students are simply filled with information rather than being taught how to evaluate what they are learning.  He argues that the aim of education should be to develop intelligence not merely filling a memory bank.  To him, education should spark curiosity.  He thinks that students should be taught to explore, question, and evaluate and that teaching students using traditional education is a disservice to them. 

This quote elicited an affective response from me because it reminds me of why I became a teacher in the first place.  I became a teacher because I love learning and wanted to incite the same passion in other people.  I need to be reminded of this, because so many times I feel like I’m stuffing my students with knowledge rather than lighting the fire of curiosity. 

So what?

“A curriculum designed to empower studens must be transformative in nature and help students to develop the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become social critics who can make reflective decisions and implemente their decisions in effecgive personal, soicail, and political action.” (page 16)

The first quote highlights the problem that Ira Shor names.  This quote explains why it is important to move away from traditional education and why we need to use empowering education. In the reading, Shor argues that the purpose for instruction is to prepare students for a dynamic and evolving democracy.  In order to do so, students need to possess the skills required to question and change the status quo.  Ira Shor believes that teachers must cultivate the skills and qualities of exploration and curiosity instead of merely just dumping knowledge on the students through traditional education.  Teachers must develop a curriculum that questions society.  A curriculum that does not question why things are the way they are perpetuates the status quo and supports the dominant ideology as one that is fixed instead of one that can be changed for the better.  We owe it to our students to move away from traditional education towards empowering education so that our society can become a better place.

Now what?

“Participation provides students with active experiences in class, through which they develop knowledge that is reflective understanding, not mere memorization.  Further, participation sends a hopeful message to students about their present and future; it encourages their achievement by encouraging their aspirations.  They are treated as responsible, capable human beings who should expect to do a lot and do it well, an affective feature of the empowering classroom that I will have more to say about shortly.” (page 21)

The focus of the rest of Ira Shor’s writing in the selection is spent on the “now what?” Shor describes in detail what teachers should do in order to empower education and why they should do this.  As aforementioned, these suggestions include encouraging participation, engaging students, problem-posing, sharing responsibility and decision-making with students, etc.  This quote pertains to encouraging participation.  When students play an active role in their education, they get much more out of it than when they play a passive role.  By participating, students feel in control of their education and are more involved in the learning process (which leads to higher achievement). Learning is a dynamic interplay between a person and knowledge and the more active a student is in this transaction, the more they can interact with the knowledge, and the more they will learn.  Through participation, students construct their own knowledge which can “transform the students power of thought.” This means that students can deconstruct traditional knowledge perpetuated by dominant ideology and reconstruct their knowledge to include changes to the dominant ideology. Students can come up with their own way of thinking instead of being forced to repeat dominant ideology. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

August- Connections

In Gerri August's Making Room for One Another, she writes about the need for schools to cultivate an environment where students are able to "evaluate social and political practices according to principles of democratic ideals, and, further, to equip students to become active agents in the transformation of society," (page 2).  Gerri states that teachers can cultivate this type of environment by questioning dominant ideology through dialogical discourse instead of monological discourse.  This means that teachers should teach students about diversity so that they can question the status quo and eventually be able to transform society in a way that values that diversity. Teachers should "model, facilitate, and confirm social acts of motivational displacement," (page 5)

As I spent time reading these chapters, I couldn't help but connect it to Lisa Delpit's Other People's Children. Most evident, is that I believe both August and Delpit recognize that a culture of power exists and that this culture of power must be challenged in order to create an evironment where all diversity is equally valued.  In Other People's Children, Lisa Delpit states that there is a "culture of power" made up by white, middle/upper class people and that they are the ones with the ability to establish the rules of normalcy. This idea of the "culture of power" is also reflected in August's piece.   August's concept of "otherization" reflects the notion that a culture of power exists and has the power to establish societal norms.  Students who do not fit in with the culture of power can be "otherized" and it is up to teachers to eradicate this.  August states that "any instance of otherization not only threatens the targeted individual but also obstructs social progress in that, by excluding an individual from participation in public deliberations, the perpetualization and institutionalization of oppressive practices go unchallenged," (page 5).  This demonstrates that both August and Delpit acknowledge that a culture of power exists as well as the need to rise against this culture of power in order to challenge and break the status quo.

Another connection between August and Delpit was in the value they place on explicit teaching.  Delpit writes that teachers must explicitly teach students the rules and codes of power in order to make them successful in the larger society.  While August doesn't make mention of explicitly teaching rules and codes of power, she does place emphasis on the explicit teaching of dialogical discourse.  She writes about how Zeke encouraged dialogical discourse through morning meeting as well as through curriculum (ex. unit plans on family and heroes).  Zeke had to explicity discuss with students things that went against societal norms (such as differing family structures) in order to model motivational displacement so that students can eventually question and break down norms on their own. Despite the different manner August and Delpit use explicit teaching, both highlight the importance of explicit teaching in order to teach students how to fight against the status quo.

Finally, I could not help but thinking about Delpit's rule of power that those with the least amount of power are usually most aware of it while reading about Cody.  Cody appeared to feel that he was different in a negative way and was very aware of this in his interactions in the classroom.  This self-view caused him to appear shy and unwilling to share about his personal life because he felt different.  Since he was not a member of the culture of power because he was adopted and had two moms, he appeared to feel powerless.  I think Delpit would agree with how Zeke handled issues of diversity since he validated everyone's culture, race, opinion, family structure, etc.  This validation and instruction of dialogical discourse appeared to make a difference for Cody.  I was so happy to read that Cody finally willingly acknowledged his two moms and his adoption at the end of the reading. This made me feel optimistic that teachers can help children see the value in all traits/people regardless of if they are not the same as one another.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rodriguez/Collier- Extended Comments

The readings for this week by Collier and Rodriguez surround educating English Language Learners. Rodriguez writes of his own personal experiences navigating through the American education system as an ELL student.  I found this reading to really resonate with me since it was from a first-person perspective. It was refreshing to read about ELL education from a personal perspective since most of my readings in the past have been research articles or teaching tips.  This reading really helped me see how emotional it can be navigating through a new culture and language.  In the second reading, Collier describes various methods for educating ELL students.  This type or reading is more like the readings I have done in the past.  I have read about some of the strategies proposed by Collier, though I found the strategies to be useful and easily implemented.  I also liked the layout of the reading where the different strategies were broken down and numbered.  This made it easy to read. 

Despite the differences in the readings, both authors discuss the importance of properly educating ELL students.  I am not an ELL or bilingual education teacher and do not work in a district where there is a high prevalence of ELL students.  Therefore, I found these articles to be very informative and a good way to provide me with background knowledge on this topic.

For the purpose of this blog, I am extending Brigette’s comments.  I found myself agreeing with many of her connections as I was reading her post.  When I read the assigned chapters, I kept making notes in the margins of how these readings related to Delpit.  In reading Brigette’s blog, I found that she also made these connections.  Brigette writes that the “culture of power” is evident in both Rodriguez and Collier’s articles since these students are learning English since it is the language of this “culture of power” and students need to know this to be successful in the society.  I also agree that the language of the culture of power is English and that students need to learn how to speak and be literate in this language in order to be successful.  While this was evident in both readings, I found the Rodriguez reading to match Delpit more closely.  Delpit states that students must be explicitly taught the rules and codes of power in order to be successful in this culture.  This is echoed in Rodriguez.  His teachers explicitly taught him to use English and as he became more proficient in it, he became more confident.  Rodriguez’s parents wanted him to be proficient in English even though it later meant that they communicated less.  This reminds me of the Delpit reading where the mother said “My students know how to be black, I want you to teach them how to be white.” Rodriguez’s parents wanted him to be taught how to speak English so that he could be successful later in life. 

I also agree with Brigette’s connection that the Collier reading matches up with Finn.  Finn writes about “literacy with an attitude.” This is the idea that when students from less advantaged groups (like the working class or minority students) are provided with good and engaging instruction, they can grow out of the status quo. Collier mirrors this by explaining that literacy is important for the success of ELL students and provides strategies for successfully teaching literacy to this demographic. I like the quote that Brigette uses from the Collier reading: “Many transitional or ELL programs do not emphasize the backbone of school success, academic literacy. On the false premise that English oral competence is all an immigrant child needs to compete with native English speaking peers, too many ESL or ELL programs fail to provide a literacy curriculum for their unique needs. This curricular cheats immigrant students, since literacy is indispensable for lifelong success.” For both Finn and Collier, academic literacy empowers students and is the key to future success. 

More information on instructing ELL students:

Here is another article by Dr. Virginia Collier that explains the effectiveness of dual language education

This article has a review of research on successful strategies for teaching ELL students as well as how to implement best practice

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Elizabeth Meyer argues that there is gender harassment going on in schools and that teachers are less likely to intervene in these cases due to influences that act as barriers for their action on gender harassment.  Meyer states that we must understand how teachers view and respond to this harassment so that we can work towards removing these behaviors from the school setting.


In the reading, Elizabeth Meyer posits that gender harassment is a problem in our schools.  Meyer defines gender harassment as “any behavior, verbal, physical, or psychological, that polices and reinforces traditional heterosexual gender norms such as (hetero) sexual harassment, homophobic harassment, and harassment for gender non-conformity.”  Gender harassment can include calling someone names or negatively referring to people or actions as “gay,” lewd gestures, jokes, social exclusion, etc. This gender harassment is exacerbated by narrow (and oppressive) views on sexuality, gender, and orientation perpetuated by the “culture of power” (i.e. the white heterosexual male).

So What?

Gender harassment is a problem because it encourages hate in our schools.  Students exposed to such harassment will not feel safe or comfortable in school, which can then impact learning and quality of life. This type of bullying can also lead to more serious problems like suicide, as written in Dr. Bogad’s blog. I have seen the affects of high school gender harassment with two friends and understand first-hand how detrimental this can be to a person. I am not sure if teachers in my high school knew this was going on, but nothing was done to stop it.  In my opinion, this type of bullying is the worst kind since it seems people “turn a blind eye” to it.  The reading states that teachers are less likely to intervene in cases of gender harassment than other kinds of bullying, which is the problem posed by the article. When teachers do not intervene, this fuels the cycle of hate, even if that is not the teacher’s intention.

The article names barriers to why teachers may not intervene in issues of gender harassment.  Meyer describes both internal and external influences that create barriers (or motivators) for action.  External influences can either be institutional or social.  Institutional influences are administrative structures and responses, professional demands, school policies, and teacher education.  For example, the teachers in this study reported that they were less likely to act on instances of gender harassment if administrators did not follow-up on the issues consistently or if they had too demanding of a workload and did not have time to pursue repercussions for gender harassment.  Social influences include perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships, and community values.  For example, if administrators were not perceived as placing importance on issues surrounding gender harassment or who may view discipline referrals as reflecting negatively on the teacher, then teachers were less likely to intervene.

Meyer also describes internal influences that shape the likelihood of whether or not a teacher will respond to gender bullying.  Internal influences include personal identities and experiences.  These personal identities and experiences can be motivators for action, or barriers. Teachers who felt marginalized by the “culture of power” may be more likely to act out against gender harassment. However, if a teacher felt vulnerable in his/her school then this may act as a barrier for action.  This reminds me of the conversation we had during the last class where many of the teachers, myself included, did not feel protected in school.  Teachers like us may be nervous about acting out (especially if the administrator doesn’t see the issue as a big deal) because we feel vulnerable. 

Now What?

Meyer writes, “By identifying the barriers from the teachers’ perspectives, we can design more effective intervention programs to support educators in their efforts to create safer spaces in schools.”  This goes along with the course theme that we must name a problem before we can provide a solution.  The problem in this reading is that gender harassment is being allowed in schools through the aforementioned reasons.  Now that we know what these barriers are (institutional influences, social influences, and personal influences), we need to fight against them. 

For one, Administrators need to be held responsible for the tone they set in schools and how this affects the school community.  Administrators also need to be consistent with their discipline on gender harassment and create school policies that reflect zero-tolerance for gender harassment.  Teachers need to protect students from gender harassment at all costs, pushing for discipline for bullies, even if they feel vulnerable or have a lot of work to do.  Also, finding ways to motivate teachers to act, such as education and training on this type of bullying, can be useful in ending the hate.  Overall, removing the barriers to action and increasing the motivators for action will be successful in helping eradicate gender harassment in schools. 

Here are some articles about what some schools are doing to eliminate gender harassment in schools:

 This is an article on a new anti-bullying program in California
 Here is what a NY district is doing to help protect students
Click here for an article  on gender neutral proms

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Karp- Questions

In this reading, Karp explains that while there is no doubt issues in the education system in the U.S. it is not teachers who are to blame.  He states that while there are some bad teachers out there, this is not necessarily the majority, and it is a variety of other factors that should be blamed for failing schools. He also writes that the recent move to standardized testing, merit pay, and charter schools will not be successful in improving schools and that such things are motivated by corporate groups wishing to privatize eduction for their own monetary gains.  What Karp discusses in this reading is contrary to many of the things I find in mainstream media.   I chose to do questions this week because I believe that it is important to fuel discussion regarding failing schools and what or who is really to blame (especially if it is contrary to the media).  Only when the real problem is identified can it be fixed.  Along with the questions, I wrote my own opinions.  Feel free to comment :)

1. Why do you believe there is such heated debate surrounding education reform in America?

The current public opinion in the United States seems to be that schools are failing and in need of reform.  The Karp reading states that at the center of the debate is whether reform will lead to privatization of schools or keep them as public institutions that are “collectively owned and democratically managed.”  Those in favor of privatizing education have much to gain (in terms of money) by commercializing schools and push their ideas into politics and the media (through movies like “Waiting for Superman”). This media coverage popularizes the notion that schools are failing and therefore it has become a “hot topic” of discussion. It is hard to turn on the news (local or national) without some story relating to education.  In addition, because most of the population of the United States has experience public education, people may feel as though they have the experience to comment and develop opinions about reform (though sometimes these opinions may be misguided). 

2. What are some pro private interest arguments for educational reform?  What are some anti private interest arguments for educational reform?

Pro- Some may argue that if things like merit pay work in the private sector it must be able to work in the public sector.  There are also statistics about the success of charter schools that, shifty as they may be, some people take for face value.  This can lead to the mentality that if it works at school “xyz” then it should work for all schools. 

Con- If education becomes privatized, it is not protected against corporate abuses.  The article states that, historically, education has been protected from “unchecked commercial exploitation and privatization” but may no longer be protected if this becomes a reality.  This would mean that the democratic pillar of “free, appropriate, public education” would go by the wayside.  If our public schools are privatized, then who would be checking them against abuses such as racial or socioeconomic segregation and further inequities?

3. What are some pro public policy interest arguments for educational reform? What are some anti private interest arguments for educational reform?

 Pro- Accountability is necessary to ensure that teachers and administrators are doing what they are supposed to.  The article states that “we do need accountability systems that put pressure on schools to respond effectively to communities they serve.”  Without accountability, teachers could do whatever they want even if it means that they are not adequately educating students. Educational reform in the form of increased funding and decreased inequity would also help fix the nation’s schools. 

Con- Some may argue that the system is already broken and that there is no way to fix it in the public sphere. 

4. Do you believe education is a systematic failure?  What do you believe is at the heart of the concerns with education?

I believe that changes need to be made, but that the system is not broken overall.  In my opinion, inequity and the over-emphasis of high stakes testing are at the heart of the concerns over education.  Schools have been labeled a failure due to low test scores, but nothing has been done to address the reason for these low test scores.  Low test scores could be a result of inequity such as poverty, institutional racism, and underfunding not necessarily low performance in and of itself.  All schools are not equal therefore it is unfair to measure them by the same standards without providing help.  The article states that “schools are labeled as failures without providing the resources and strategies needed to eliminate the gaps,” and I agree that this is the heart of the problems with education.

5. What can we do to encourage healthy school reform? What are some suggestions provided by the article to promote change?

The article provides us with some ways to encourage appropriate reform.  First, the reading tells us that we need accountability systems to put pressure on the schools.  Karp states that “parents are the key to creating this pressure and teachers are the key to implementing the changes needed to address it.  Finding ways to promote a kind of collaborative tension and partnership between these groups is one of the keys to school improvement.” Therefore, parents and teachers need to collaborate in order to inspire reform. 

The reading also makes mention that instead of spending so much money on developing standardized tests and accountability policies surrounding these tests, that money could be better used to address the underlying problems (such as poverty) that are linked to poor performance. We should also work towards closing the inequity gap in the United States through fair and adequate school funding formulas.

Karp also cautions against allowing for the privatization of schools.  We should fight against things such as merit pay and test-based teacher evaluation because it has the possibility to destroy the collaborative environment of schools and “move decision making to external bureaucracies and managers.”  This would take the power away from those most able and most capable to make a real difference in educating students.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kozol: Still Separate, Still Unequal- Quotes

In this reading, Jonathan Kozol posits that racial segregation is still evident in America’s schools and that this racial segregation fuels the achievement gap. The beginning of the article states, “All people are due equal education and everything else that goes along with maintaining a healthy society,” but this is not the truth according to Kozol.  There is deep segregation in our schools and it is up to us to fix this problem.

The following are quotes from the reading that highlight this problem:

“There is something deeply hypocritical about a society that holds an eight-year-old inner-city child ‘accountable’ for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years earlier.”

In the article, Kozol explains that it is unfair to hold inner-city students accountable for their performance on high-stakes testing when they have not been provided with a fair and equal chance as their suburban counterparts to perform well.  Children of the middle-class and the wealthy (including government officials), who often comprise these suburban districts, shave the money to provide their children with preschool, expensive private schools, tutoring, etc. which makes them better prepared to take standardized tests.  Inner city children have not been afforded these opportunities due to their socioeconomic status. This discrepancy creates an unfair bias in testing, yet students are held accountable all the same.

Recent public policy has been developed regarding accountability.  However, these policies simply penalize or reward performance.  They do not address the underlying issues of inequality and underfunding. It is the high officials that should be held accountable for the poor test scores due to the inequity they allow to continue, not the students or teachers. I believe it to be a travesty to punish those who are least able to change the circumstances when those most able to fix these problems are left unscathed. Using high stakes testing to determine if a student is able to graduate or move on to a different grade or to determine the quality of a teacher are unfair considering current inequities.

“Childhood is not merely basic training for utilitarian adulthood.  It should have some claims upon our mercy, not for its future value to the economic interests of competitive societies but for its present value as a perishable piece of life itself.”

This quote demonstrates Kozol’s belief that schools should not be factories that turn out future workers, but places where children are happy to learn and can enjoy their childhood.  Kozol writes extensively on his experiences visiting schools where children have been turned into “robots.”  Everything in these schools has been defined, standardized, and reduced to rote experiences from curriculum to classroom discourse to walking in the hallways.  All these changes are in the name of raising test scores, keeping control, and turning out humans “appropriate” for economic interests.  In doing so, schools have become places where there is no fun or enjoyment.  Teachers are unable to create fun experiences for their students because such experiences do not relate to standards.  Students often times do not have recess due to punishment or lack of accessibility to a recess yard or playground. 

This quote really resonated with me. One of my greatest fears in public education is that we become too standards and testing oriented to the extent that we force children to lose their childhood.  High quality education is important in creating functioning members of a global society, but I believe this should be done in a manner that still gives a child the right to be a child.  School is a place where children spend a majority of their day and I believe we owe it to them to make this time enjoyable (especially since research shows there is a link between student engagement and achievement). 

“Whether the issue is inequity alone or deepening resegregation or the labyrinthine intertwining of the two, it is well past the time for us to start the work that it will take to change this.”

This quote is a good summation of the reading as well as a “call to arms” by which Jonathan Kozol tells us to begin the long overdue change necessary to fix the defacto racism that goes on in schools today.  In the reading he discusses the impact that inequity and segregation have on the racial achievement gap.  This quote shows that whatever the cause of the problem, the problem still exists, and it is up to us to fix it by creating more equal schools and promoting desegregation. This quote makes me want to help in this endeavor, but doesn’t provide me with an answer for how to do so.  I wish that the reading went a step further and outlined specific ways to help the problem.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Delpit Post- Hyperlinks

Institutional Racism in Schools and what Lisa Delpit has to say

This reading examines the effects of the culture of power on the educational system of the United States. In this reading, Lisa Delpit argues that there is a culture of power present in the educational system and that the achievement gap between white students and students from racial and ethnic minorities is partly a result of this culture of power. White teachers, even if they are well-meaning, may not have the skills necessary to adequately educate children of minority. Lisa Delpit states that, in educating ethnically and racially diverse students, people with the same background as the students should have the biggest voice in how to educate them (not the white teachers/members of the culture of power).  However, because of the power discrepancy, often times the voices of such people are lost even though they are the ones with the exact expertise and experience needed.  Only in truly listening to these alternative, differing, or dissenting voices, and providing them with a forum to be heard, can reform come about.

The following is a video on institutional racism in schools.  Institutional racism is a way that what Lisa Delpit calls the culture of power exerts power and influence of minority groups in the educational environment.

Current Events and discussion on institutional racism in schools
In searching the internet for further information on this topic, I came about a variety of information on the internet.  It was interesting to me that there was such a plethora of information on the topic, which made me think about how truly relevant the reading is to current educational practice.  The first piece of information I came across was the work of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings. In what she calls "culturally relevant teaching,"  Dr. Ladson-Billings also discusses the idea that students should be taught in a way that is relevant to their own cultures. 

I also discovered some other articles and information that I thought demonstrated Lisa Delpit's point well.  When we hear about racial discrimination in schools, our minds tend to go to what we learned in history about segregation, etc.  I do not think many people realize that this is a current problem, not just one confined to history.  The following are some news articles about current events surrounding this topic.

Alabama's method of funding schools challenged in court for racial discrimination

The above article  is about how Alabama's funding model does not provide enough money to certain school districts that are mainly comprised of the poor and minority demographic.

Racism in Schools: Unintentional But No Less Damaging

The above article is about the dangers of unitentional racism found in current day schools.

Finally, I also wanted to begin to search for ways that I could become a teacher who is more able to teach a diverse group of children.  The following is a start of some information I found.  I hope that this class helps provide me with more tools on this subject, but also teaches me how to evaluate the tools that I do find to determine if they are useful or not.

Now what?  How to use culturally responsive teaching to off-set the impact of institutional racism in schools

Race and poverty don’t need to be the elephants in the classroom. As culturally responsive teaching takes root, these issues can actually help your students learn.

Monday, May 23, 2011

About Me

My name is Amanda and I am a special education teacher in North Smithfield.  I work with students at the K-3 level and this is my third year teaching.  I am currently pursuing a masters degree as a reading specialist.  In my free time I enjoy going on vacation, walking my dog, and going to the gym.