Since I forgot to post about Tuesday's reading Interrupting Hate before Monday at 5, I've decided to instead reflect on my in-class conversation and reflection. In our small groups, I talked with Natalie about the differences between talking with boys and girls about LGBTQQ topics/themes/issues. Our conversation raised a lot of questions about cultural hegemonic gender norms and whether or not the "gay man" is somehow more threatening to boys than the "lesbian woman" might be to a girl. Is the stereotypical effeminate gay man more threatening to hegemonic masculine traits than a butch woman, or whatever the stereotype might be to women or girls? How might young girl figures like the tom-boy figure in to this?
I think these questions connect well to many of the other quotes I saw posted around the room. For example, one quote discussed when/at what age it would be appropriate to expose childrent to relevant literature,these topics, etc. Natalie's and my conversation about gender stereotypes and how these relate to people's willingness to engage in such conversations seems to connect to this--specifically, I think if broader gender stereotypes and heterosexist stereotypes were combatted from an earlier age (without getting into the details of sex ed specificall), it might help boys be less threatened by these conversations.
Inquiry Project: Using Teacher Practitioner Research to Promote Multicultural Educational Values and Practices
Research and Practice: How Teacher Practitioner Research can promote Culturally-Relevant Teaching
I am eager to engage in teacher practitioner research in my future classroom because the practice beautifully fuses my interests in applied education research and teaching. For many years, my entry-point into the field of education has been through academic, ethnographic research and then, later, applied education research. I love collecting peoples’ stories, expressed in a variety of mediums, and synthesizing them. For a long time, I thought I wanted to do this outside of the classroom.
But this past fall, when I was enrolled in the “Curriculum and Pedagogy Seminar” and a “Sociology of Education” course, I began to develop a newfound understanding of and appreciation for where and how educational change is created and sustained. As I read about top-down reforms that adjusted class size or the number of hours in the school day, I began to realize that these tweaks to the system matter little if they do not fundamentally inform classroom practice. This realization in conjunction with my growing knowledge of curriculum design and pedagogical practices prompted my newfound interest in becoming a teacher.
I always love reading Lisa Delpit because I find that her writing challenges me and my conceptions of myself as a future teacher very directly. In this week’s reading, she wrote about the importance of pairing high expectations for students with “social support.” She called this the “warm demander.” What struck me most in this reading, though, was what this warm, though tough, support looks like. Delpit discusses how often for African American children high expectations are manifest in tough (and sometimes harsh) language. For example, Delpit writes that her great niece DeMya turned to her once and said, “When people’s mamas yell at them, it just means they love them.” After reading this and other passages with similar messages, I had to re-acknowledge (its something I’ve known and gappled with for a while) that this type of language and way of expressing oneself is not a practice this a part of my culture. I am not used to love and support being expressed in this way.
The 9th grade African American history students I work with have been working on their “Semester of Service” for almost two months now. This particular class wants to write children books about African American history in Philadelphia, which they will share with 3rd graders at a neighboring elementary school. For the last few weeks, however, the students who have been tasked with creating the stories and drawings for the picture books have been in a tough spot—they have struggled to agree on what they want produce, how many books, what types of stories, etc. Their lack of group vision has caused many of the students to grow frustrated, as it hasn’t felt like they are making progress.
But last week, something changed. My placement teacher invited a local artist who works extensively with children to visit class. She showed the children the books she creates with young kids, many of which incorporated not only stories and art but also unique structures—like cool pop-ups, cut-outs, and unique fabrics and other materials. After sharing these examples with the class, this artist began posing a lot of logistical questions regarding how many different books the students wanted to create, did they want duplicates of the stories, how big did they want the books to be, how long were the stories, etc.?
I enjoyed Sleeter’s “Students as Curriculum” chapter quite a bit. I hope to teach high school history next year and one of my primary goals is to teach history in a relevant and meaningful way for high school students. Too often, I think, history courses get bogged down in dates, names, and events. I’m much more interested in the broader narratives that connect these events to each other and to our lived experiences. But in order to teach history in this connected, thematic way, I need to first understand my students and the experiences, assumptions, beliefs, etc. that they bring into the classroom and, then, I need to use this information to create my lesson plans and unit plans, etc. Sleeter writes that it is the “teacher’s responsibility to find out, become familiar with, and respect knowledge students bring to school, and to organize curriculum and learning activities in such a way that students are able to activate and use that knowledge” (p. 106). I agree whole-heartedly with this statement. I want my students’ knowledge to be the foundation of our lessons in history, particularly because topics like historical perspective and power are so central to the discipline.
Inquiry Project: Using Teacher Practitioner Research to Promote Multicultural Educational Values and Practices
For my inquiry project, I want to research how teachers are using teacher practitioner research to further explore multiculturalism in their classrooms and to promote multicultural, social justice oriented values. My curiosity in teacher practitioner researc has been developing more broadly for many months now. For a long time, I was extremely passionate about applied education research. I love qualitative research and education but I was more interested in exploring these interests in a non-profit policy-level setting, as opposed to in the classroom. This past school year, particularly after taking the "Curriculum and Pedagogy Seminar," which is the teaching methods course, I developed a much more serious interest in being a classroom teacher. I believe that that teacher practitioner research wonderfully fuses these interests of mine in research, education, and teaching.
In particular, I am interested in reading books and articles about teachers who are using teacher practitioner research to promote multicultural teaching. I want to learn 1) How people are doing/using this research; 2) What they are finding; and 3) Why this matters/how this method is useful for promoting multicultural work.
I’ve been in my placement this entire year at a special admit public high school in Philadelphia, which is great, as it has allowed me to watch and grow with the students in the two classes I work with. The school is highly-regarded, in Philadelphia and beyond, for its progressive, student-centered approach to teaching and learning. Specifically, I’ve been participating in two 9th grade African American history courses that have been covering an enormous amount of interesting material from present-day stereotypes of the African continent to the way cultural perceptions of race influenced and were influenced by laws relating to slavery to ways of making sense in and across societies.
This semester, my mentor teacher is using a special grant that she applied for and received to engage with her students in a special “Semester of Service.” The two classes are both in the process of learning, designing, and carrying out semester long service projects in the Philadelphia community and are striving to tie the work they do to Philadelphia history. I am extremely excited about this project because asset-based, meaningful service-learning is a big interest of mine and a great way, I think, for students to engage in conversations about race, class, privilege, and what it means to “help” people versus “collaborate and co-create” with them.
I’m coming away from reading Friere’s and Shor’s A Pedagogy for Liberation with three central themes I’d like to discuss further:
1) I thought the acknowledgement that “The right to have a small discussion begins as a class privilege” (p. 98) was really interesting, and sadly often true. The authors discussed this reality in terms of resources, ability to have small class sizes, etc. but I think this pedagogical reality is also a function of the false (or what I view to be false) notion that students have to “learn the basics first,” before they can converse and have rich, meaningful dialogues. I’d like to further discuss how this emphasis on promoting dialogue in the classroom can be used draw students in and engage them while also learning content and skills, as opposed to only coming as a privilege, after the fact.
2) I appreciated the concept that dialogue prompts the teacher to also engage in continuous learning: “Dialogue is the sealing together of the teacher and the student in the joint act of knowing and re-knowing the object of study” (p. 100). I agree that through dialogue, the teacher can learn just as much from as they teach to students—if done well. But I do wonder, is this a guarantee? Can a teacher successfully promote dialogue without being open to learning themselves? What are the implications of this?
I had a wonderful, thoughtful conversation with my friend last night—the one my last post referred to, in regards to his class background. I wanted to be upfront with him about the fact that I wrote about him for my class because I felt that, although my post was vague, he had the right to know that his experience was influencing me and was entering my thoughts and conversations. We ended up talking for close to an hour about what I had written and other related topics. Reflecting back on the openness and honesty of our talk, I have one nagging question that I keep asking myself: Why do I not feel comfortable having these same rich and important conversations with my upper middle class white friends?
In the last year or so, I have started to seek out individuals with whom I can talk through some of my immerging understandings of my own identity, background, etc. These friends are, almost without fail, either students of color, students of a different class background than my own, or other students who study education or who I know to be comparably as aware of their cultural identities, as I am. These conversations and the people I have them with stand, in my mind, in direct opposition to my closest friends who I live with. I live in a dorm with twenty other people, some of my closest friends, and I do not feel comfortable talking explicitly about race, class, culture, our identities—the assumptions we carry, etc. with them. (It should be noted that I primarily live with upper middle class white people).
Since the beginning of my sophomore year, I have worked extensively in Haverford’s Office of Admissions. My experience in these various roles and, in particular, my understanding of Haverford’s desire to attract and create a diverse student body—has led me to think much more critically about the types of supports we provide to students who actually enroll at Haverford. It is one thing to attract a diverse student body; it is another to support and cultivate that diversity.
In particular, one thing that really concerns me is Haverford’s lack of explicit support for first-generation college students and students coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Haverford has clear support systems in place for students of color, regardless of class background, including special weekends for prospective students, affinity clubs, etc. But I worry that a comparable system of support is lacking for low-income white students.
This issue first really came to the forefront for me when I learned that one of my friends was a first-generation college student. He and I had been casually playing tennis over the summer, talking about our families, when I first learned about his background and his journey to Haverford. I’m embarrassed to say that because of the way he dressed and acted, I had always just assumed he came from a comparable class background to my own.