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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pecha Kucha

Had a close call where I almost lost my entire presentation, but was able to save it with Dr. Bogad's help (phew).  I am pretty new at the Google thing still, so I'm putting in the 15 second slide link that the website gave me when I published it just in case (only option was 15 or 30 seconds) and the link I am trying with the instructions from your blog with the 20000 at the end. :)

15 Second Provided Google Link

Pecha Kucha (20 sec slides)

Monday, April 18, 2016

PARCC

I have to admit that this week's reading was tougher for me, because I do not have any experience with testing or public school teaching.  It was disheartening, however, to read about how much of a struggle this testing is for students, especially those with disabilities.  It seems from educators' experiences and observations, that the testing is not productive in the least, rather, it sets students back in terms of their confidence and willingness to learn. Further, through my own experiences, I have seen how deeply and negatively change in structure and routine can affect young students, and the schedule change that is so drastically implemented during testing periods cannot be helping said students.  In addition to this, it is insane to believe that a third grader can sit for that duration of time and type on a computer for timed testing.  I feel, as it seems the educators the authors of this paper surveyed also feel, that it is completely ridiculous for these students to have to undergo such testing.

Furthermore, as the authors argue, I feel curriculum and content that is supposed to be included and taught is probably being forgotten about, simply to try to help children prepare for a test that they have little chance to be fully prepared for; as if it it setting these children up to fail, and still not learn the content they need to actually be learning.  "In some cases, teachers reported that 'whole curriculum projects were put on hold and maybe cancelled because tech was reserved for PARCC.'  Essentially, teachers had two options: speed through content too quickly or skip certain content altogether.  Either way, both situations were detrimental t learning" (10).  I can see how detrimental this can be to all students, but especially ELLs and students with disabilities.  I cannot imagine how difficult and overwhelming it would be for young students who have a tough time with everyday curriculum, to be thrown into testing in this fashion.

I noticed from all of the data graphs taken from teachers answers on the surveys, that is not a small amount of teachers that strongly disagree with the positivity or usefulness of this testing, but rather, more than 80% on all of the questions asked.  If the majority of educators feel so strongly against this testing, why has nothing been taken away from that and changed?  From my own experiences when I was in elementary school, I remember teachers cramming material into us and almost drilling into our heads for weeks before standardized testing; when I look back on all of that, I could not tell you one thing I learned.  It's purposeless to drill something into children's heads all for a test, only to be lost shortly after, in place of teaching them meaningful curriculum that they actually need.

I enjoyed reading the authors' ideas for solutions, and I agree that public conversations with teachers and parents should be conducted to find solutions, and that there should be authentic opportunities for teachers and educational researchers to help plan an assessment system based on the local and diverse student population.  I think this is the most important thing we can do, because it seems standardized testing is not helping anyone in any influential way.

I look forward to reading everyone's blogs this week, because like I said, I have no experience with this, and I know the majority of you all do!  I also found an interesting article mentioning the issue that people assume students actually try on standardized tests, when in fact, many do not even bother.





Sunday, April 10, 2016

Teaching Multilingual Children

Similar to how many previous readings have done for me, I found myself seeing a situation in a completely different light from someone else's perspective when reading Aria, Richard Rodriguez.  I have dealt with many similar situations in my own classroom, with young children having difficulties learning to speak English because their family only speaks in their native language at home.  As a teacher, it can be frustrating to have a parent come in multiple times a week asking why their child is not excelling as quickly as others in learning English, when all they do is speak to the child in another language.  I had tried to explain to this parent that it is confusing and extremely hard for a young child who still simply learning their own language, to then learn to translate in their head to learn to speak and understand a new language.  However, while reading this article, I began to see it in a totally different way for the child and family.  The author made this situation feel so sad.  While they all seemed to learn and become more confident in the English language after speaking it at home, they were also not as happy and felt their family had changed, and it sounded heartbreaking.  I don't believe families should ever "abandon" their own language to the point where it is lost, but I can see the troubles with finding the balance with learning a new language, as well.

I actually wish I had waited to do my summaries and interview until after this week, because these readings would have been so perfect with who I interviewed, since she is teaching English to Spanish speakers in Spain and Costa Rica. 

The second reading, Teaching Multilingual Children, is a great reading for teachers who may be having the challenges I just mentioned above.  While the authors present many strategies and implementations for teachers, they also present two concepts: that teachers should be aware of the special kind of speech that mothers and fathers are automatically with their children, and try to emulate this, and that it is critical to be aware of the social and emotional factors which affect the second language learner.  This article presents many guidelines for teaching English to non-English speakers, and it really covers all of the topic that educators may need.  I actually ended up also sharing this with my friend who is teaching those children, because I know it will be very helpful for her as well, as experienced as she is now.  In addition, I printed a copy for my assistant who is still working in my previous classroom, because I know she also had a tough time understanding from the family's point of view when it came to teaching those children English.  This was a very important and helpful read for me. 


After speaking with my friend whom I am interviewing for this class, she sent me a link to her friend's blog that she is teaching with currently, that is unrelated this week, but I thought it was very interesting and really went along with a lot of what we talk about in this class.  Hence, I wanted to share it on my blog. It is all about how she is treated and perceived as a multiracial woman throughout all of her travels. Give it a read if you get a minute!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Seeing Queerly

Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth
Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, and Megan S. Kennedy

The authors of Safe Spaces create the idea that schools and classrooms should be, as anyone would hope, a safe space for all students; especially LGBT students.  However, "without the deliberate creation of an inclusive atmosphere, what happens inside classroom walls reproduces the prejudices that exist outside these walls: straightness and gender conformity are assumed; LGBT identity is deviant" (84).  I felt the paragraph about teachers and peers ushering the children from their homes and relative protection and insulation of family life makes the reader reconsider just how important it is that we as educators make these children in our schools feel welcome and encourage equality as much as humanly possible within schools and communities.  "If our homes are incubators, keeping our children safe as they grow into the patterns of family life, schools are 'outcubators' --places that introduce new ways of thinking and behaving" (84).
When the authors point out the fact that sexual orientation topics are entirely absent from most curriculum in elementary schools, it opened my eyes to how valid and important that statement is.  I hate to say it, but while curriculum is based solely around core subjects, I do feel these children should also be learning real life situations, and that includes the situations of gender and sexual orientation that they may not be familiar with, but will be exposed to in their daily life.  This entire reading actually made me frequently think of Allan Johnson's piece.  I felt the two were so closely related-just on different topics.  Both express how great of an influence communication can be, yet how negative and demeaning it can also be in terms of promoting or bullying a certain race or sexual orientation, etc.  One of the many ways it very much reminds me of Johnson, is how he brought up the point that we need to "say the words".  In this sense, I feel it is important in this day to "say the words", and talk about what many educators avoid with our youth, which is situations and words relevant to LGBTQ.   Furthermore related to this idea of Johnson's, the authors reference a PBS television in which the children have two moms, where the children just simply state that they love them both very much, but do not ever address sexual orientation; the words "gay" or "lesbian" are never used.  So, just as Johnson argued, avoiding using these terms and beating around the bush as educators or simply avoiding the topic altogether, creates a sort of discrimination: "such a decision kept LGBT people outside the walls of our classrooms and, by extension, outside the canons of polite society" (87).
The authors describe a way a Kindergarten teacher had incorporated such family structures in his lesson on families.  This reminded me of a reading class I took here last year at RIC, and our professor was a strong supporter of the LGBT community.  When she asked us to incorporate LGBT families into a lesson with our early childhood children, many of the others in my class felt very uncomfortable doing so.  While I feel comfortable briefly addressing these topics in my own classroom, and making it known to children that two dads, etc is a completely acceptable family, the other students in class voiced that they felt uncomfortable doing this because of how their students families would react.  Many of them felt that the parents of some of the children would feel upset that they would bring this topic into the classroom at such a young age, and that the parents themselves should be the ones addressing and educating these topics to their children.  Others felt that their children did not discriminate or bully LGBT children/families, because they either did not know about it or did not think it was abnormal, and did not want the possibility of creating the issue.  Again, while I did not mind bringing such books into my classroom (as long as they were developmentally appropriate), I could also somewhat understand where they were coming from, since they worked in some private schools, etc.  This reading made me think of that, and made me curious where some of you would stand in this position, and how you feel on the subject of introducing LGBT to your children.  The reading also addressed that their educators had these same concerns, and the possible arguments that they could present to concerned parents or those who complain about them introducing the topic.
I liked this reading a lot, because I felt it pointed out a lot of possible situations that could arise, and also a variety of strategies in putting out such situations amongst children, and how educators can ensure that they create a safe and welcoming space for these students.  I think this reading is very useful for educators with all types of experience, as many of these subjects are new to the children they are working with.


GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
I LOVE this website! This is a great resource for educators, and really anyone at that.  I love that it has so many resources available for educators to learn about this, how to act on it, how to teach it, and how to provide an inclusive program for youth.  The website offers professional development opportunities, support, events, etc in relevance to LGBT.  This is definitely a website I will be storing somewhere for future use!  I did a little more research on the website, and found an interesting interview with the founder of GLSEN, and the barriers that teachers still face.  It's a good read as well if you get a minute :)