Sunday, October 30, 2016

What is a Family?

Safe Spaces - Vaccaro, August, Kennedy

The last few readings have been more difficult for me to get through, but this one felt a little easier.  (Maybe it was just because my husband took the kids out for the day though.) I don't really know what about it made it easier - I don't personally identify as LGBT nor does anyone in my family.  However, for some reason, I found a lot of the examples, relatable in some way.

The chapter starts off by talking about our classrooms, "The walls are permeable: students (and teachers) bring their personal experiences into the classroom and carry their classroom experiences with them when they leave." (83)  I think I have mentioned this before but I find this to be especially true being a language teacher.  In my classroom, there is so much room to get to know the students and for me to share information about myself with the students.  Just the other day, I wrote a little blurb about my daily routine as an example for their writing assignment - which was to write about their daily routine and incorporate their new vocab and grammar concepts.  Just from that one assignment I could get a peek into what their day is like.  Some of my students don't eat breakfast, some of my students have to make their own breakfast (and it usually consists of cereal or a rice crispy treat), some of my students have a plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs waiting for them in the kitchen before they leave for school and others not only have to get themselves ready, but also a younger sibling ready.  In that same assignment, I learn who plays sports after school, who is involved in theater, who goes to the cafeteria to get HW done (because it's possibly better than going home to an empty house or because they don't have a ride), who goes off to practices for outside activities, who goes to work, who goes home to take care of siblings...the list goes on and on.  The hard part for me sometimes is to determine whether what the student is saying is accurate or if it is a vocab/grammar error.  For example, I have had students say they slept in their "coches" (cars)...but do they mean that...or do they mean "camas" (beds)????

In the next paragraph the authors talk about the relief that comes when you know a friend is saving your seat in a class and how that cuts down the anxiety of entering a new classroom.  (83) When I was reading this, 2 similar memories came rushing back to me.  The first was when I was a freshman in high school and was called up to play varsity a little ways into the season.  While I was obviously thrilled at this opportunity, I was completely panic stricken about who would be my catch partner! I mean, not only was I young and new...but the season had started, everyone had established a catch partner already! I was anxious about it all day!  Luckily at the start of practice, one of the senior captains asked if I wanted to join her and her partner to warm up.  That small gesture made me feel so much more at ease.  Similarly, my freshman year of college, I was in the same situation.  I was all moved in and classes had started.  I was looking forward to the start of pre-season but that same panic took over me.  What if there were an odd number of new players and I was the odd one out?! One night before the season started, our RA held a "get to know you" meeting for our floor and I discovered that another girl on my floor was also going to play softball.  After the meeting we went running towards one another and you could tell we were both thinking the same thing.  At almost the exact same time we looked at each other and blurted out, "do you want to play catch together tomorrow?!" We met each other in the hallway, and confidently walked to the field together.  To this day her and I joke around about what a relief it was to know we had a catch buddy before we got to the field!

Curriculum
The authors start off this section referencing how those who identify as LGBT don't ever see themselves portrayed in everyday life...not in movies, books, tv shows etc.  I of course, immediately thought of SCWAAMP! Furthermore, most times when the topic comes up in the classroom setting, the teacher either just skims over the topic and brushes it aside or may even speak openly against it.  It was shocking to me to learn that some states "specifically prohibit the affirmation of same-sex relationships." (88)

That being said, the curriculum is definitely SCWAAMPy! It is safe so say that there are no activities, readings, or listenings, or videos, where the family's used are neither divorced, nor same-sex, nor adoptive or any other possible variation that a family be consist of.  I have mentioned before that when the book presents the vocab on family, it is the "traditional" (I hate that term) family members that are given.  The text book doesn't even teach step-siblings until halfway through Spanish II, so I hope no students in Spanish I have a step parent or step/half sibling!  When we get to the family unit (in Spanish I) I give them supplemental vocab and make up a crazy family tree that includes both half and step-siblings.  In an ideal world, this year, I would include a same-sex couple with an adopted child in the mix....but I would not be allowed to do that in my Catholic school.  

On page 89 of the text, there are few points for reflection that I would like to answer:

The messages I received in school:
When I was in high school, there was little, if any, mention of the LGBT community.  Towards the end of my high school career, I can vaguely remember a support group of some sort being formed, but other than that I don't recall anything ever being mentioned.

I know little to nothing about the gay rights movement as a specific "movement."  I mean, I am aware that certain changes have occurred over the years, but I do not know the history of these changes by any means.

Sadly, I do not directly address the youth in my life about the LGBT community.  My hands are somewhat tied as far as the youth I deal with in my school because of the fact that I teach in a Catholic school and we are not allowed to enforce anything that is against Catholic teaching.  However, I think of this question more as a parent.  The answer is still no...but I would love to!  I struggle very much with this as a parent.  It's difficult to start these conversations, especially since my kids are so young.  I mean, with Laura, it sometimes comes up...but she always makes it awkward because her curiosity causes her to ask questions as sometimes inappropriate times.  We were at a family function one time and I have a cousin who I am honestly not sure how she identifies, it's really never been discussed.  We have never met neither a boyfriend nor a girlfriend and I really don't know how she identifies internally, her outward appearance is that she is "manly."  While at dinner Laura asked me if she was a boy or girl.  The ironic part is that she somehow knew enough to come ask me that in ear very quietly.  I pulled her aside and told her that she was a girl and she asked why she looked the way she does and I tried as best I could to explain that everyone is different etc. But if she didn't ask me that question, what would she have thought? And did I answer her question well enough?  How did she know to ask me quietly?

Zeke Lerner - Integration & Interpretation:

I love the idea of the integration and interpretation.  I like the idea that things are brought up naturally through various contexts versus "okay class, today we are going to talk about same-sex relationships." In this way, it's presented as it should be...something normal and natural...not different or out of the ordinary.

Now that my daughter is very much into reading (thank you to her Kindergarten teacher!), I am going to make it a goal of mine to start to integrate these books to her.  I found this list of children's books that I will look into for her to add to her library!  She is very inquisitive and it often comes up at inappropriate times because of my "color blindness" to many differences.  Just the other night we dropped something off at her friends house and she noticed that her friend's neighborhood was different than ours.  She didn't really say much but just asked "How does Adrianah and her family and all their stuff fit in this small house?" (it was an apartment.)  Thankfully, she did not ask when the other family was around...but I just explained to her that everyone lives different lives and lives in different places.  Some people have big houses with a lot of stuff and can go on vacation a lot and some have little houses and less stuff and travel less.  I tried to explain that none of that matters nearly as much as the person they are and that size and amount of things are all relative.  We may be a little more fortunate than her friend but we have several other friends/family who are far more fortunate than us.  I reminded her of a graduation party of one of my students that we attended last year.  When we pulled up to the (very large) house...she asked why the party was at a hotel! And when I explained that it was just their house, she was amazed.  So I compared that house to ours and their "stuff" to ours.

Just to wrap things up...I started this blog unsure of why this reading/blog was an easier one for me and I think throughout the blog I got my own answer...my kids.  My kids are 5 and 2...I have no idea who they will fall in love with in the future and I guess I want them to know that I don't care who they love as long as the person treats them well!  I hope that one day when you google "family" something more than this comes up, because "family" is defined by so much more than what is portrayed in these images!   #sappymoment #imayneedcarbs

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tech Savvy or Just Social Media Savvy????

Marc Prensky
This reading reminded me of the million conversations I have had with my mom trying to help her with her phone at various times....and every time I help her I remind her of the conversations she used to have with my Nana. My Nana used to somehow always mess up the clock on her VCR (yes, I said VCR) and she would call my mother frantic because the clock wouldn't stop flashing and it was driving her nuts. My mom would always walk her through the steps of resetting the time on the VCR and would always start or end with something like "If iI've told you once, I've told you a million times...." Technology in some form has been around forever and those who grew up with that technology tend to be more comfortable with it than those who are introduced to it as adults. Back in the day, the technology that my mom had grown up with was the VCR so that was "native" to her....with her iPhone.... she is very much a digital immigrant. And the iPhone is the least of her problems...her computer seems to do things "on its own" (according to her), that I've never seen befroe!


The idea of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants is so interesting to me. I think at first glance many people would easily define these two terms as our students today who “seem” to be so tech savvy and then our parents and grandparents who can’t figure out how to send a text message or a photo to us. I think it is very easy for adults today to just assume this technological education is just innate in every child  and young adult, but this is huge misconception. I do it myself with my own children. I’m amazed on a daily basis how much my almost 3 year old and 5 year old can do when given any kind of device. However, just because they can swipe right and are able to get on youtube, does not mean they are digitally literate; it just means they are Digital Natives.


Marc Prensky coined the terms Digital Native and Digital Immigrant. He says that the youth of today are Digital Natives because “they are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. Digital Immigrants are simply “those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some point later in our lives, become fascinated by and  adopted many or most aspects of the new technology”(179). These terms have become problematic for some reasons.
1. Many people assume untrue things about what kids know and do not know about technology.
2. What happens when there is  a digital divide between the privileged students who develop more skills than  underprivileged students who attend schools with limited technology?
3. Are teachers just assuming their students know how to do certain things and not teaching them to become digitally literate?


Our reading stated that the idea of the digital native “presents an inaccurate portrait of young people as uniformly prepared for the digital era and ignores the assumed level of privilege required to be native. The 3 problems I listed above are played out everyday in the high school that I teach in. Some teachers assume kids can do all sorts of things related to technology. Then when they cannot do something, the teacher will blame the child or a previous teacher. I see the digital divide between students every single day. More privileged students, who have had access to more technology, know more about how to navigate through the internet and how to find worthwhile information. While some of my students do not have internet at home and cannot even print their homework. I also see students who are thought to be tech savvy because they can navigate around the blocked sites at school, like snapchat and twitter, but in reality, they wouldn’t be able to find an article from a database to save themselves. 
In June of 2015, CNBC posted and article titled, Millennials Aren't as Tech Savvy as People Think. The article reenforces what Marc Prensky explains. There is a big difference between being able to navigate on social media sites and being able to use technology as a whole; not just social media. The article includes this date chart below which I find to be so interesting! Less than half of fhe students actually know how to appropriately use email!
Tech Proficiency LevelWhat Activity InvolvesPercentage of Millennials
Below Level 1Using one function within a generic interface19
Level 1 Sorting e-mails into pre-existing folders39
Level 2Locating information in a spreadsheet and emailing it 34
Level 3Using a reservation system to book a meeting room 8


All teachers need to start at ground zero with every student. They need to make a “list of what they expect a student to be able to do in this networking world” and then take the steps necessary to get all students in the same place.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Literacy With an Attitude - Finn

For my blog this week, I want to focus on Jean Anyon's study of the 5 public elementary schools.  This part of the reading stuck with me the most because I felt it related to Johnson, Delpit, SCWAAMP, and many of our class discussions on achievement vs opportunity gap.

But before I get into that, there were 2 things from the first chapter that struck me:

"There had been numerous literacy campaigns earlier in Brazil, motivated by the desire to make the poor better workers, better citizens and better Christians." (p.2)  There is our SCWAAMP model in action.  Clear as day, being a better Christian is being grouped into what it means to be a better worker and better citizen.  This statement implies that if you are not a good Christian, you cannot be a good worker/citizen.  Someone's religious practices/beliefs should not have anything to do with how they are viewed as a worker!

"I was from the working class and I knew how working-class and poor kids related to authority.
They expected people in authority to be authoritarian, and I gave them what they expected," (p. 3).  Paulo Freire said this about his time working in a school in a black neighborhood in Chicago.  In this instance, because he is aware of what these students expect in regard to authority, he is able to deliver that to them.  Lisa Delpit would "high five" Freire for his ability to communicate with these kids in the way that is normal/natural for them.  

In the working class schools, Anyon says the dominant theme among the students was "resistance." That only seems logical given the way the students are treated.  In these schools, the teachers did not even really aim to teach them.  Their goal was to simply keep control...if the students actually learned anything it was counted as a "bonus" for the teacher.

The low expectations set for these students sends the message to them that they are incapable breaking the cycle they are living in.  Mathematical reasoning pages in the textbook were not even attempted because the teachers believed those problems to be too challenging for the students.  Wow! Talk about an opportunity gap...How are these students going to compare to the students from other schools who have been working on these problems all year when it comes time for state testing?!  Those students are going to score much lower and continue to feel inadequate and less intelligent than other students.  And the cycle will continue.  How can we call this an achievement gap for those students when they were never even given the opportunity to learn the material?!

Instead of raising the bar and helping the students break through the stereotypes and cycles, there was "less resistance to easy work, and so assignments were rarely demanding," (p. 12).  Basically, the teachers and administration just chose to treat the students like animals and just keep them calm and under control.

Surely, one of your undergrad classes discussed Robert Merton's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy theory and these students in working class schools are a true example of this theory.  The students are treated as though they will not amount to anything and therefore, odds are, they will not.

I can relate to this type of school setting from my time teaching in West Palm Beach Florida.  I taught elementary school for my very brief (2 year) stay in Florida.  First off, I had no business even teaching 5th grade - my degree was in Middle & Secondary Spanish, but they were desperate and I had my bachelor's in Education, so they hired me and gave me a year to pass the K-12 FL certification test.  Let's start there....I had no business teaching those kids!  I was not in any way prepared or qualified to teach them math, science, reading, social studies etc.  Most nights I spent teaching myself the lesson I was about to teach them the next day. Would I, or any other unqualified person, have been hired to teach in a more affluent school?  Or was I deemed "acceptable" here because these kids "didn't matter" anyway?!

The students in my school were separated by ability for math class.  I, the new teacher, was given the lowest level class to teach.  Again, mind boggling.  In my opinion, the newest teacher should get the highest level students, as they may need less guidance than struggling students. The craziest part is that majority of the students placed in this lowest level MATH class, were not there because of their math ability at all - most of them barely spoke English, therefore did not do well on the placement test which was filled with word/application problems.  When life gives you lemons...make lemonade, right?  I figured that the least I could do for these kids was give them a little "Spanglish" math.  I taught them words that they needed to know like "perimeter, mean, median," etc in English so they would recognize them - but explained the concept of those words in Spanish to them so that they could associate that English (math) word with an idea rather than just more English words that they don't understand.  Well....my principal was making her rounds one day, and popped into my room and saw me doing this and I was told I could no longer do that for "those kids."  In the school there was an accelerated program called the "dual language program." In this program "advanced students" (mostly white), were taught their core subjects in both English and Spanish on a rotating schedule.  I was not allowed to teach the "low" students in Spanish because it conflicted with the dual language program.  Insert eye roll here!!!!!!

I want to skip to the opposite extreme, and I will later return to the middle schools.  In the executive elite schools the dominant theme was found to be "excellence." These students were preparing to be the best and only the best.  There was no other option for them.  They were given much more responsibility and trust.  They were allowed to get up out of their seats and borrow supplies without asking.  They were allowed to enter classrooms before the bells rang - presumably because they were trusted to not be doing anything wrong if unsupervised.  Going back to that self fulfilling prophecy - these students are treated as though they will be nothing but successful, and therefore they believe it, and they will most likely achieve it.

Going back to the middle class schools...this is where I can most easily relate as I believe my current school fits this category.  I immediately smiled to myself as I was reading that most of the teachers live in/near the neighborhood of the school.  I live less than a mile from my school and I know several of my colleagues also live close by.  Just one "level/class" up from the working class schools, but yet the expectation is seemingly so much more.  The working class schools used books that appeared to be intended for students with severe disabilities, this school used 6th grade books in the 5th grade.  While the students in this school setting were challenged more than the working class schools, Anyon noted that controversial questions were still avoided as to avoid getting complaints from parents.  (p. 14).  As I was reading this - Johnson's "elephant in the room" immediately came to mind, as did Wildman's color blind vs color insight.  In this middle class setting, rather than being given color insight and discussing those difficult/controversial topics (those elephants in the room), the topics are just ignored and the students continue being blind to the world around them.

Anyon also notes that this middle class school is the most patriotic - and that holidays are celebrated here more than in any other school setting.  I immediately connected this to SCWAAMP - being "American" is important to this group of people.  I may be assuming too much here, but I would venture to guess that majority of this school's population fit into more than just that "category" of the SCWAAMP ideals.

This reading, like the others, is yet another example/eye opener of how far we still have to go for
equality to be reached in all areas.  It's important that it start in our schools because an equal education for all is really the key to equal opportunity for all.  We cannot continue to call clear opportunity gaps, achievement gaps.  We cannot continue to blame the students for not performing well, if the full curriculum is never being presented to them!