UPDATED message from ari rosenberg, urban farmer @ the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden
When reading "The Land and Language of Desire" and thinking of how it would be possible to "collapse the distinction between nature and textuality", I kept reflecting back to my Eco-Artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and the ways in which he weaved language into his art, bringing together two very different disciplines into one object. The art and literature were seamlessly weaved together in such a way it was hard to find any distinction between art/landscape and the language and poetry he used in his work. I also thought about John Dixon Hunt's quote about Finlay's work, specifically that "the ideal gardner is the poet". How can we see post-structuralism and nature/the land as more porous to one another? As Campbell states " what makes one of us care about textuality, where another cares about the land?" (134). Both studies and writing about land and language have inherent value, but should there always be a distinction between them? When should we make them porous to one another? When should they be made to be separate units of study? And who should decide?
Unfortuanately, I was unable to physically be in my classes yesterday, but I found the Judson reading to be very englightening and interesting. I was especially drawn to the way she found imaginative education and ecological education to be somewhat in tension, and felt like in some ways the reading raised more questions than answers for me. Judson asks: Is it possible for students to develop ecological understanding when the teachers may lack this ecological understanding? And I wonder: Is there a standardized type of curriculum that allows teachers with or without the ecological understanding to develop their students' understanding? How can we balance imaginative education and ecological education in fostering students' emotional connection to nature? These are all difficult questions to address given budget constraints, teaching preparation programs, and other logistics, and are even more difficult in some cases, where the outdoors are not an accessible place to create a "classroom." To end on a lighter and more postive note, though, I think Judson expressed the importance of conveying the interdependency between humans and the environment in schools. It won't be easy, but I do think this can be done in a variety of settings, and teachers can foster their students' emotional and personal connection to nature.
1. We are sitting in a circle discussing last week's writing assignment. The assignment is to write about what we wished was taught in schools that maybe isn't. People are sharing their thoughts - a lot of them revolve around "surviving" in the world, practical knowledge, a real and comprehensive sex ed (the idea of a "Rape 101" class comes up) - esentially, things that may have prevented them from being in the current position they are in. While a lot of people agree with each other, one person makes a comment that sparks a heated debate, saying that she doesn't necessarily relate to all the stories being shared (stories of leaving behind families and falling into addiction). Someone comes back with a comment along the lines of "well, we're all here for a reason." This is the first time I've heard someone explicity reference the setting we are in. They discuss how learning from each other's experiences is helpful and useful, and how maybe hearing someone's story can prevent another person from going through the same thing.
I am placed in a preschool for bilingual students. The parents of these students speak mainly Spanish, and very few speak English. The teacher is supposed to be teaching these students English, but seems to speak more Spanish than English. She even speaks to me in Spanish! Although this itself is an implication, I am not going to focus on this. I just wanted to give some context of my placement. I am going to focus one student who is three years old.
This little boy, KJ, is a very bright three-year old. He can do everything that the other students in the class can do; however, the teacher does not treat him this way. There was one time KJ went to the teacher to tell her something and she did not know what he was trying to say. She thought that he was telling her that someone hit him, but he was not. She picked him up, made the class sit down, and told him to point to whoever hit him. KJ did not point to anyone because no one hit him. I thought that this was interesting that she went through all of the trouble to do this, when there were plenty of times that she could not understand what other students in the class were talking about. She did not stop the class to find out what was going on, but instead, she essentially “brushed” them off.
or, 'how much latitude can we allow,' in telling our stories?
Today at my Praxis, the students were still in PSSA mode. The students were going to be sitting for the writing portion of exam on Friday. Mrs. C. explained to me that the students are required to write an essay for the PSSA's writing portion of the exam, but her 8th grade beginning level students had just been introduced to the concept of a paragraph. Mrs. C. was ecstatic that I came to praxis today because I was able to provide one-on-one attention to an extremely low level student. As Mrs. C. addressed the rest of the class, I worked one-on-one with Jamie*.
My praxis is in a third grade classroom. I come in the mornings, which is when they work on literacy. They usually do PSSA reading prep, which entails reading a passage and answering questoions about it. Sometimes they read a book together. The students in the class are at very different reading levels. Most are average, some are behind, and a few are advanced. One of the students who is the most behind in reading is Nick. Nick lives in a homeless shelter with his mother and does not show a huge interest in school. He reads at about a first-grade level, and gets very discourged when he reads, usually choosing to give up and not finish the assignment. Other students sometimes make fun of him when he pronounces words wrong or gets stuck on a word.
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.?