I really appreciated the Paris and Kirkland article "Urban Literacies." Their discussion of alternate forms of literacy as well as alternate froms of English resonated with me because of the students in my Praxis. The majority of them are African-American, and they speak a form of AAL, as described in the article. There is major difference between the way they speak and the way they are expected to write. Little respect is given for the home English that they speak.
I liked the idea of using books written in AAL to show students that their language is valid and that literacy does not always have to be in standard English. However, my students are in third grade and the texts mentioned are much too advanced for them. I wish there were children's books written in AAL that could be used in elementary schools. I think this would help students bridge the divide between the language they speak and the language that they read in school. I also think using projects that involve alternate forms of literacy- for example, writing a story that inlcludes a text message conversation or doing a project using twitter, would open students eyes to what literacy and literature can be and would encourage them to "learn from vernacular literacies to push against the oral/written and digital/embodied dichotimies in ways that contemporary writing expects and demands" (190).
I'm going to be completely frank here (and probably expose myself as a bit of an emotional mess) but I teared up multiple times while reading Delpit's "Multiplication is for White People." I felt so inspired and so empowered by her highlighting of good teachers – "warm demanders" – and it brought back memories of teachers who did that very work for me. I'm also having a really meta moment: recognizing that I'm pushing myself to stay awake now to post this instead of going to sleep and doing it in the morning out of my respect for Jody as a professor (still coming in late –– but hoping my presense at both the Race and Diversity Town Hall and Toni Morrison's talk at Swarthmore this evening act as a reasonable excuses!). In the same way that students in Delpit's writing were willing to be pushed and to push themselves, I've found myself voluntarily doing more work and spending more time in courses where I know my professor or teacher really cared about my learning and my identity as a whole person. And I appreciate this meta-cognitive moment for my learning.
Whenever the weather finally became warm enough to stay outdoors, when the winds died down and the rains more or less stopped for the year giving way to sun, someone always asked the question: "Can we have class outside?" Something about being free from the four walls of the classroom always felt better to me and those classes outside are the ones I remember most. Even when I truly enjoy what I'm learning, classrooms sometimes start to make me feel a little claustrophobic after spending several hours a day five days a week within their confines, so those classes outside give me a chance to breathe some fresh air and get some vitamin D (I actually had a Spanish teacher in 8th grade who would take our class outside on what she called "vitamin D breaks").
I think when it comes to creating a platform for conversation, there are many aspects to remain mindful of to ensure some sort productive dialogue. However, even that phrase, “productive dialogue”, I feel can have a layered meaning. Sometimes, even an incredibly problematic, unproductive, skewed, or even downright absurd dialogue in regards to any topic, not just meat-eaters vs. vegetarianism, can have so much value. I find value in knowing how I don’t want certain conversations to go. I find value in having experiences that make me realize what I think isn’t right, or productive, or problematic. For example, I read the The Lives of Animals with Jenna, and whenever we would get to a part the either shocked us, bothered us, intrigued us, etc, we would show one another and discuss it. Through trying to follow Elizabeth’s argument and point of view, and disagreeing and feeling frustrated at points with the strange deadlock dichotomy between vegetarianism and meat-eaters, I was able to gather and form my own ideas in where I could perhaps place myself on this spectrum of this debate. I agree with Kelsey’s sentiments of perhaps we place too much emphasis on dialogue sometimes, and perhaps in a way where the emphasis is more so on the end result of the dialogue, rather than the experience itself. Simply reading this excerpt, “However, there are still animals we hate. Rats, for instance. Rats haven’t surrendered. They fight back.
Based on our readings I feel that allowing student input in what they learn is really important. “Dropping” or placing kids into an environment and see what they do and see what they pick up from the environment. If we drop the kids into Harriton house will they focus on the animals? The sounds of the machines? The smell of burning metal? Or if you take a group of fifth graders to the Shonibare exhibit, what connections will they make? If you have a strict curriculum for students, at some point they will want to break free and explore their own interests. I think it’s important to allow kids to explore on their own and then start asking questions in the classroom. Teaching shouldn't follow a strict schedule, teachers should be open to having a fluid classrooms.
Camp Galil (my sleepaway camp where I went 7 summers, and am returning to work this summer) is what I immediately think of when I think of outdoor spaces as sites for learning and education. Our camp is part of a Jewish Labor Zionist Youth Movement called Habonim Dror ("The Builders-Freedom") that has roots in over a dozen countries. At camp, I was taught many ideals of social justice and activism in a very laid-back outdoorsy environment. Every day, we would have 'peulot' (activities) that our counselors planned for us, where we would sit together outside in the grass in a circle having a group discussion. It was a very different kind of classroom. There are so many things to be said about convening with nature together in this way, but I think the 'boundaries' that it gave (or did not give) were very powerful.
The traditional classroom - indoors, white walls, square, windows that you should not be staring out from - give a very particular message as to how to learn, and what to be learning about. To be thinking outside the white square box is to not be present in your learning, and to be disrespectful of your education. It artificially cuts off your mind and body from the outside world.
Last week it hit me that all these discussions about ecological education and literacy and curriculum design are missing (at least) one thing. What happened to Sex. Ed.? Health class? Family Life talks? Self-Care lessons? Sexual education, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of growing up, learning about your place in the grand natural scheme of things, and creating awareness of choices and decisions about your own physical, social, emotional and spiritual body.
When it comes to outdoor spaces as places of learning and education, I immediately think of birds and bees. I never personally encountered this 'talk' as a child, only having heard it referenced in movies, but out of curiosity I researched a bit about the lessons that are teaching sexual reproduction through natural, outdoors creatures and their actions. The fertilization of flowers bees carrying pollen represents males' ability to "pollenate" females, and egg-laying birds represent female's fertility and eggs. Another way to represent the action is that the bee stings the bird and as a result, the bird lays the eggs from which babies hatch (Yikes! Connotations of aggression, much?).
The Ecoliterate readings for this week were incredibly interesting and enlightening, especially when thinking in terms of outdoor spaces are used in this 360 and how they may be used in other schools. Learning about the Gwich'in people and their evolving role and way of life that is at odds with oil drilling practices in Alaska was so fascinating. James's statement was especially striking: "to protect the earth is our way of life. It makes us who we are." The authors then posed the questions: How might you integrate some of these attitudes and behaviors into your own life? How can you nurture them into your own students? We then read about the experiences of students in New Orleans who came together to rethink the schools and to provide recommendations for improving schools. While there was no outdoor classroom space persay, when the oil spill occurred, the students did gain greater awareness of the interconnectedness of oil production and use and reliance, as well as how it affected them. One final part of the reading I enjoyed was the Professor who dealt with water conflicts. "What is useful? What can we apply to the conflict-resolution world? What can we learn from mystical experiene that we can bring into a room of angry people?"
As I write this, I am sitting outside on Batten House’s back porch, looking at our “jungle” and a group of about six deer, comically crunching away at these bare-boned sticks of early spring. I heard there’s a three-legged deer who hangs out in these parts, I watch for her.
Though I feel this chapter from Delpit was extremely impactful as far as what a “warm demander” looks like and acts like, the beginning of this chapter really captivated me. Delpit talks about how important teachers are for students, but makes a distinction between teachers who teach at students from “more privileged backgrounds” vs students “who are not a part of the mainstream” (72). This distinction is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot as a first generation college student.
For me, one of the hardest things about coming to college was the level of academic rigor that was demanded of me. Mostly it was difficult to see myself struggling in these classes (that I had never experienced in the poorly funded high school that I came from) and see students who had been in private schools all their life not struggle. There was a difference and I think Delpit point it out. Both in her story about her daughter’s experience playing softball and her reframing of Gloria Ladson-Bilings words, Delpit says that in comparison to these privileged kids who can “manage to perform well in school in spite of poor teachers”, low income and culturally diverse students “depend upon schools to teach them whatever they need to know to be successful.