Instead of my usual placement this week I was treated to a special morning. This week, the middle schoolers get to choose to participate in a three-day enriching seminar-style learning experience. The topics vary but I was able to observe the basketball option (“Hoops and Dreams”) as that’s what my supervising teacher was assisting with. The girls (all in different grades) were able to come to school in out of uniform, athletic clothes since they would be playing basketball every afternoon in addition to watching basketball films and documentaries and games every morning. When we got down to the court and the girls began to take off their heavier sweatshirts and sweatpants (in favor of their tank-top style shirts and shorter shorts) I was immediately blown away by how there seemed to be three distinct discourses of clothing. One group of girls who congregated together all wore Lululemon shorts, headbands, and tanks. They weren’t all the same style, but they were all the same brand, and the girls, even though they weren’t all friends and were in different grades, automatically congregated together as the coach divided them up into teams. Another group of girls that congregated together were the girls that were all on the middle school varsity basketball team. These girls (from diverse backgrounds, some of whom were students of color) wore basketball-specific athletica clothing (longer, mesh shorts and tanks). A third group of girls that congregated together wore miscellaneous “athletic” outfits.
"I talk to my student teachers about failure all the time because they don’t need my help with success. Success is actually a naturally occurring phenomenon. If something’s not going well, you know it and roll with it. You need preparation for failure, not success.” (North, 26)
I just realized I forgot to post my Journal 5 entry... Sorry! But it's all for the best because something more compelling happened in class today which I'd rather get everyone's opinions on/explore in more detail.
The sixth graders were almost all wearing orange ribbons in their hair today in honor of a boy at a nearby middle school who's recently been diagnosed with leukemia.
Natalie and Allison were talking and being very silly and playful and Natalie was jokingly forcing her ribbon on Allison who was jokingly refusing it. ”No! Really! Take it! It’s yours,” Natalie said and threw it at Allison. It landed on the floor where I was standing (right next to them.) I picked it up (Natalie, to Allison: ”SEE?? Now you made Miss Emma pick it up!!!!”) and in the span of a split second felt torn about how to react.
In my mind (and heart?) this is what I wanted to say: "Girls, if we’re wearing these ribbons to support a boy who’s feeling very sick, is this really the way we should be treating these ribbons?" But I didn’t say that. Instead I smiled and placed the ribbon on the table and started a new conversation.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how, to me, literacy felt more integral to a universal "childhood" than any other label imaginable, since literacy, to me, so far, is about learning to communicate, express ideas, and _participate_ in society. I've combined personal thoughts, class readings, and class discussions to (for the time being) produce one definition of literacy: "literacy is the ability to communicate and participate in a given social order with either inherent or experiential fluency.”
At my field placement the 8th grade girls have been spending each class working in the same group on a series of projects. It wasn't until this placement, however, that I realized the projects were all interrelated and revolved around the same core. The girls chose their own groups and decided on a research topic that interested them, then together conducted empirical research by surveying their group of subjects (i.e. classmates.) The girls first entered this data into Excel and then designed it into an aesthetic graph/visual representation. At my most recent placement, they used the "green room" in the back of the computer lab to record and present their findings.
Some data projects included: favorite Starbucks drinks; favorite vacation spot; which eyeshadow goes best with which complexion; favorite Broadway show. There's obviously a lot of socioeconomic dynamics at play here (i.e. the assumption that everyone in their sample group will have seen enough Broadway shows to have a favorite) and part of me just instinctively cringed a little when I saw these bright, developing girls with so many incredible resources at their disposal choose to talk about eyeshadow.
I originally wasn't sure how I felt about the value of teaching these girls Excel, etc, but now that I see it all fits in with a theme for the larger trimester it's easier to justify the excel unit.
Rather than write a reflection on the entire class period, I wanted to share a small vingette I noticed as I was settling in.
The class was supposed to be finishing their Scratch projects (we've talked about that software before; it's sort of a game for middle schoolers to learn the principles of computer programming while still producing a cartoon) but two girls couldn't access their group file because it was saved on another student's harddrive and that student was absent.
As they waited for their teacher to give them new directions, the two girls started looking through their harddrives. They opened up different files and tugged at each other's sleeves with excitement.
"____, guess what I just found!"
"Ooooh, look! We made this in first grade!"
"We totally had the best project."
With one double click they were transported back in time, to work they submitted in the first, second, fourth grade. Their sense of nostalgia and pride was palpable. Sitting there, looking through an unorganized Finder window in the middle of a computer class, they might as well have been sitting in their bedrooms, looking through old scrapbooks--that's how sweet and moving it was to watch their excitement.
Once I finally began to get the hang of Minecraft, I was shocked by how demanding it really is! The players on Youtube make the game seem incredibly easy, and I knew that young kids used the game in class, so I figured it couldn't be to hard. But I was wrong. I think it demands a lot of logic and lateral thinking from the player. You need to manage time, use resources, and manipulate those resources in logical and practical ways.
Prof. Lesnick, I know what you mean when you say, "when I "achieved" learning to make my first pickaxe in MC, I felt I'd accomplished something, learned how to do something." When I was able to make a "house" (i.e. shelter) for the first time and survive the night, I, too, felt like I had accomplished something and was proud of myself, even though I knew other players had achieved much more, and even though I knew it was "just" a game.
I observe two middle school technology classes at an all-girl's private school on the Main Line. I've had three or four placements there so far, and I've been continually impressed by the teacher's patience as well as the inter-personal relationships between the girls themselves. (From what I've seen, there aren't any "queen bees" or "mean girls"--they really all do act very sweetly with eachother, which has been so heartwarming to experience.)
While the students at my school are lucky enough to have a new, well-equipped technology suite, there are still a number of overarching questions to contend with. For example, however beautiful their new machines are, it seems like every class begins with 50% of the girls not being able to log onto their accounts, the teacher calling the IT department, and the girls spinning around on the chairs as they wait for the IT department to log them in. Furthermore, there are always little technology hiccups and confusions that interrupt the class, and the teacher has to spend her time dealing with little maintinace issues (i.e. email passwords, log-on issues, etc) rather than teaching to the "entire" class. To top this all off, the students apparently aren't allowed to get homework for their computer class since the rest of their classes are so demanding.
Towards the end of our last class we watched a TED video in which the speaker suggests that we reevaluate the way we think about technology, computers, and scientific "advancement." He suggested that, rather than think of technology as something we're losing control over or as something that's growing more powerful than we are, that we consider it as a kind of new partnership. I found this theory simple--so simple, in fact, that it seems obvious--but also deep and multileveled.