Initially, I thought about feminism across different geographic locations as global feminism, as a feminism rooted in nations, defined and given flavor by the nation as a whole. That is, thinking about American feminism and Indian feminism and Ghanaian feminism and French Feminism. But then, that is SO American-centric of me. When I try to think of a certain American feminism, it’s impossible. Just to think of Bryn Mawr feminism strikes me as impossible. And I’m not trying to suggest that we’re all special feminist snowflakes, or that there is not sense of shared feminist thought or identity. But our shorthand, our labeling of feminisms as rooted in some national identity/location/region can have the possibility of flattening and erasing nuance from how feminists express themselves in a variety of contexts.
Best of luck to you all in Ghana! My due date is this weekend ... but I will tune in whenver I can to the new Ghana trip blog. And then... "see" you all online for the rest of the semester!
There's a timely feature on the NPR website coinciding with your trip... Check out this recent Black History Month spot on a trip back to the ancestral home in Ghana from Tell Me More:
The topic I keep returning to and reflecting on is World Travel. More specifically I was thinking about World Sharing and how amazing and beneficial it could be for students to be able to share things with other students in different countries. I took Japanese my first year at Bryn Mawr and towards the end of the class we would make video files of us speaking in Japanese and English and send them to "buddies" we had in a university in Japan. They would then send us videos of them speaking in English and Japanese. We would all also type what we said in the language we were learning and then the native student speaker would correct it and write a reply in the language they were trying to learn. This was an amazing experience and obviously we were all nervous at first but you ended up really connecting with your buddy because you'd see them laughing when they knew they got something wrong or pulling their friend into the video. Obviously this requires technology and money but I just think it is such a unique way to share the experience of learning across the world.
I was in the group that presented on language diversity in Ghana. I was talking specifically about language within the school system, and how English is currently the accepted language of Ghanaian education. It isn't until Senior Secondary School that Ghanaian students are explicitly taught Ghanaian language. This policy makes me feel sad and a little angry, the same way that it does in American schools. Last semester in Empowering Learners, I defined agency as "the learner’s decision to take ownership of the world in which he/she lives and to apply his/her skills to shape that world." This definition was very much attached to language. I see literacy as a crucial skill for shaping the world. When a school system denies a student access to literacy in their native language, the system is taking away some of that student's agency. Waiting to provide this fundamental access to students who make it into schools that have stringent academic requirements is completely in opposition to what I think needs to happen. Language skils should be built upon, not limited. It's sad that this can be influenced by politics or ideology.
Going back to my notes on that reading - there was a heavy focus on alienation. Adults may be alienated by being illiterate, but then, forcing them to learn could also be alienating.
I’ve been thinking about all these things because I’ve been reflecting on my internship from last summer, trying to find a connection between that experience and the 360/Educ 250. I worked in the Education department at Nationalities Service Center, especially in classrooms in which immigrants and refugees are learning to speak English. This experience had a huge impact on my academics last semester - I applied that passion to classes on bilingual education, cultural tensions/fusions, and immigration. After that internship, I found connections between the experience and courses about Language, Culture, and Policy. However (and thank you to Alice again, for helping me flesh this out), I wasn’t thinking about the fundamentals. - Fundamentals being, I think, Literacy. So of course there is a connection between my tutoring adults and the class I am taking now.
I remember the first time I read a novel that had characters that talked like me. It completely changed my attitude towards reading. I began to read one book a week starting in junior high because I loved reading about protagonists that also students who struggled through social problems.
This reminds me of the Gee reading because of the discussion on discourse. At the beginning of the semester, I did not have a firm grasp on the meaning of discourse. However, now it seems that I do understand it more, or I am at least more comfortable with the vocabulary. One thing that the Gee reading reminds me is the importance for people, especially youth, to see their discourse in other areas of life. Being able to read about people who went through similar issues and reading phrases and words that I experienced on a daily basis was in some way a source of empowerment. It made my middle school self feel less alone in the world to know that there are other people who are similar to me and talk the same way.
Having A come in this week was a great “reality check” for me. It also made me think harder about all of the literacies I have gained this semester and year in my field placement. My placement is in a very vocabulary-y school--there are catchphrases for everything, from “catch a bubble” for not talking to “X is off the team, but working hard to turn it around.” When I first started there last semester, I was constantly overwhelmed by the vocabulary. I could usually understand it in context, but I was unable to apply most of it independently. Now, I’ve led a small group lesson, I regularly work with individuals, and I’m preparing to teach a writing lesson to the whole class on Friday. I’m also going to get a pull-out small group for word study.
When I started thinking about this post, word study was really the connection. I recognized so much of what A was talking about--digraphs, blends, welded sounds, the idea of a picture representing every sound. I also learned that my school uses a balanced literacy program. It fits with my experience in the classroom, and it was great to hear a different teacher talk about the same curriculum. I really have developed an understanding of what’s going on in the classroom, and I no longer need (although obviously I still appreciate) my mentor teacher’s input on vocabulary when I’m moving throughout the classroom and working with individuals.
As I thought about this past week's speakers and read through people's posts (i.e. Amanda's reflections on the speakers, and Lucy's thoughts about using music to inspire learning), the main question that kept coming up in my head was: How do we make learning more fun and interesting for kids?
This past summer my internship centered around improving educational disparities in China. Moreover, my focus was on teaching English because that is the subject that separates the rural students from the urban students on the college entrance exam. The main problems surrounding teaching English in China were the teachers' lack of experience, and students' lack of interest, which in turn affected teachers' motivation to teach English. Many students did not see the use in learning English; they said they were never going to use it. And teachers, believing the harsh reality that many of their students would never get the chance to even leave their villages to ever use English, cannot convince students otherwise and easily lose motivation to teach English. In addition, as mentioned before, teachers are inexperienced in English, rarely using it themselves, even with their fellow English teachers. Classrooms also already lack resources in general, let alone any effective English teaching materials. Thus all these factors combined, including many more, discourage (English) learning in China.
I really enjoyed Tuesday’s lecture in class by Amy because I found the information on the traditional literacy process very interesting. Furthermore, it reminded me why I do not desire to be a traditional educator. If I could achieve her level of knowledge on reading and the reading process, I would consider being a teacher, but I over analyze too much to be able to be a good teacher in action. Being able to think about Tuesday’s lecture in comparison to Thursday’s lecture, I think about learning in a classroom versus learning a new type of capital that the women in Zimbabwe acquired through the women relatives in their lives.
Last week's keyword for me was, "Disconnect." Although I appreciated the guest lecturers, I found myself either not paying attention at all or zoning in and out. When the first woman, I forgot her name, came in to speak, initially I was intrigued by the handouts -- I liked that they had practical teaching methods for reading. I also payed attention when she explained how the iPad was used in the classroom as a tool for gathering data and as a tool for visual communication between parents and teachers. However, I'm not going to lie, I barely listened to her speaking for most of the lecture and the same thing happened when Mary came in to speak about the Zimbabwean (?) women and their role in the trade markets.
The fact that I paid very little attention to the guest lectures bothered me. So, I began to wonder, is it me or is it what was being said? I think it was a combination of both.
The more we talk about literacy, the more I realize about myself as a learner. I know now that I get completely lost when a connection between what is being taught and the overall "picture" is not made. Take for instance Mary's lecture, it would have never occurred to me that the women of Zimbabwe had become literate in a different setting, the market, if Mia had not made that connection for me. And I find myself experiencing similar disconnects in Pim's and Rob's class during discussions.