I was really happy I chose the Storytelling theme for my group project. The research was somewhat difficult as it was challenging to find reliable sources that provided information from a Ghanaian perspective or at least from a non-biased or skewed perspective. The Storytelling presentation inspired me and it is really exciting to use the knowledge I gained from the project to create curriculum for the 4th graders I teach art to. On Friday when we taught the 4th graders we actually used the same Anansi book for their lesson. We then made “storysticks” where students drew pictures to represent a story on a cardstock piece of paper and we then folded it to make a cylinder or stick with their unique story on it. We then made spiders and students got to paint Adinkra symbols on the backs of their Anansi spiders. This project was very rewarding and the students loved it so I am thankful to have been provided information through the class and the project to share with my students. It also felt very rewarding to see how everyone engaged with our Storytelling lesson on Tuesday. I was really impressed with everyone’s stories and presentations even though there wasn’t too much time for the activity. We were able to see the many different modes stories can be told through- using drawings, words, technology, photographs. There is so much possibility and potential in telling stories.
I was overall intrigued and impressed by our presenters this past week and the perspectives and information varied greatly, though related to various forms of literacy. I am interested in the way literacy regarding the written word intersects with literacy in textiles and other art forms. In this sense does literacy mean proficiency in a certain area? The ability to decode and recreate material in that code?
For our presentation on Storytelling this Tuesday we will have students break up into groups to write their own fables on a topic of their choice. Although we will have limited time and limited art supplies we are interested in providing students options to convey their fable through oral and written word as well as illustrations, physical art such as masks and props, and using the body to act out the message.
I really enjoyed the field trip and the high school students’ incites and reactions to the Imagine Africa Exhibit. The pre-field trip activity was really engaging and I was so impressed by what the high school students had to say in my “Changing” group and in all the groups. It was great to work with the three students in the Changing group because a couple of them have recently come to the Student Success Center where I tutor and have worked with us. I got to get to know the high school students on an intellectual and a social level- some of the things the girls were saying were hilarious and Mia and I enjoyed ourselves talking to them on the bus. The Imagine Africa exhibit was very interesting. It was engaging and I liked a lot of the self-guided area- especially the Healing section. Some positive things that were said in the focus/feedback group is that being able to touch and interact with the exhibit was a plus. Being able to watch clips and listen to people talking about their own current practices added depth to the exhibit. I liked being able to create my own collage with the photos and listening to music. We were a little confused though whether the exhibit was meant to portray historic or current Africa because some of the concepts were current yet the artifacts were historic. I thought that the juxtaposed media was very interesting with the Disney representations of Africa like the Lion King, yet there was no signage asking us to be critical of these representations or to think about stereotypes and representation.
When Freire discusses how learning becomes “techniques, naively considered to be neutral, by means of which the educational process is standardized in a sterile and bureaucratic operation” I step back to analyze what goals public education has and how these goals have been sterilized. I question what the intent is for public education today. Pressure to perform on standardized tests are causing the classroom to be centered around the test. But what are the goals of the test? One could argue, such as myself, that tests funnel students into reproduction of socio-economic class status. Tests do seek to also gauge whether a student has mastered certain material. To use standardized tests to judge whether a student knows how to read then makes literacy a standardized and sterile activity. Centering a classroom around the assessment tool does not provide in-depth experiential education on a topic. As educators I believe we should focus on the goals of the tests not on the tests themselves. How can we shift the focus off high-stakes testing when salaries, school funding, and schools remaining open depends on test results? How can our students be successful on tests without us teaching to the test?
I was thinking last class about the necessity of literacy in the language of power (the language that those in power speak). The examples of Haitian history and of Native American control over land came to mind. "Haitian history" was originally written and claimed by the French colonizers and written in the French language that many Haitians were not literate in. Through the power of the written word, colonizers wrote the history of people, and ignored the ugliness of slavery and slaughter of native Haitians. Haitian history was not for the Haitian people and did not represent the Haitian people but rather it was for and represented the elite.
Discussing language use particularly in the public education setting, I never feel fully comfortable with how I speak and my interaction with language within the classroom. This is relevant both for my method of speech in the classroom in college and also how I speak to students in the public school classrooms I work in. We all code-switch, speaking differently at work than to our friends than in the classroom. We learn in the classroom, as Lemke discusses, Standard English or “correct” or “proper” English as dictated by the dominant group in power and their normal speech patterns. Lemke pushes this concept to say that Standard English could be called Corporate English because not many if any people actually use this specific form of English in day to day life. In school students speak a variety of dialects of English, but are told that only is correct and are even graded on their ability to master Standard English. I struggle with speaking in a less formal way to students, which is something that I think puts myself and my students at ease, yet I worry about setting a “bad example” for later moments in which they are scrutinized over their method of speech. Working in almost 100% working-class African-American public schools, I constantly think about language and the way students use and interact with language in the classroom. I hear teachers make fun of and imitate students’ method of speech and constantly correct their students. I also see and feel the trust and respect students give to me when I speak in a form of English they feel more comfortable with.