Thinking About Diversity
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: collaborative computer work
Date: 2003-07-26 11:57:04
Message Id: 6185
It was a delight for Kim, Doug and me to watch you guys collaborating so enthusiastically during our last session on Friday afternoon. Seeing your engagement with one another--so different from earlier Institutes, in which much of the web work was done individually--reminded me of a discussion held this spring, at a conference on "Gender and Technology" sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium. During a conversation with our keynote speaker, Mary Bryson, comparisons were made between "the male norm" of working individually when working with computers and the common request of female students for a computer space where they could work in groups. The group discussed whether this was a case of female students' insecurity, of their conforming to stereotypical gender expectations, of different learning styles, and/or of the possibility of learning to learn differently. Similar questions were asked during a BMC Brown Bag led by Doug this winter on
Teaching Across the Genders. What do you think?
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: Tuesday morning scenario
Date: 2003-07-28 14:25:16
Message Id: 6197
We had a good, rich session of sharing on Monday morning, as each of us described what our neighborhoods are like, and how we came to live (and stay, or move from) there. (Note that many of us made those decisions based on what schooling was available for our children.)
We turned next to explore various versions of the "Racial Segregation" model of Netlogo .
This enabled us to see how unexpected outcomes arise out of decisions like the ones we have been making in our own lives: Experiential stories and decision-making on the "small, local," individual level get translated into unexpected patterns on the city or "global" level. We talked at length about the ways in which decisions based on preference (for neighbors like ourselves, for teachers who could recognize our children's potential) could end up creating fixed patterns of racism (in which people refuse to recognize the worth of people different from themselves).
On Tuesday morning, we will apply these insights to our experiences in school. Our "head homework" for Monday night is to think about scenarios in our teaching lives where race, identity or diversity has been an issue in our school (in the classroom, or in interactions among teachers).
When you arrive Tuesday morning, please post in the forum area a description of ONE of these scenes...
which we'll be enacting, and revising, in the morning session.
Subject: diversity issues
Date: 2003-07-28 15:16:49
Message Id: 6199
For many years at Christmastime Santa would visit the school and talk to the children. One year the school received a complaint from a parent that students were being (unlawfully?) subjected to religion/Christianity/whatever. We no longer have Santa.
Date: 2003-07-28 23:09:24
Message Id: 6202
I teach at Wilson Middle School. When I arrived there, thirteen years ago, the neighborhood was predominantly Caucasian with some Korean families. It was a deseg school, so we had many African American students who took Septa from other neighborhoods. Inside the school the staff and students were justifiably proud of the way the kids of different ethnic groups got along.
Our ESOL population began to grow and, at Wilson, we began to experience influxes of kids from former Soviet countries, then India and Pakistan, then Brazil and other Latin American countries.I ran the school video news program and the emerging multicultural makeup of the school was reflected in our coverage and in the faces on camera. I was one of two eighth grade English teachers, so all eighth graders had a fifty percent chance of being on TV at Wilson.
When our school was mandated by David Hornbeck to go to SLCs, one proposal that was accepted was supposed to be a multicultural community. But two things happened. First, a group of African American teachers created the multicultural community and, second, another community recruited the two ESOL teachers. I applied to the multicultural community but they already had two of the best English teachers in the school and I had to teach English in order to do the video program. So I went to the community that had ESOL.
When we advertised the SLCs, the multicultural community got an overwhelming number of applications from African American families. At the same time all incoming students from other countries came to one SLC--the one with the ESOL teachers.
With good, or at least benign intentions, the staff at Wilson managed to separate two pools of diverse students from each other and the rest of the school. My TV program was never the same.
Subject: Racial Collisions
Date: 2003-07-29 08:42:54
Message Id: 6203
There are many episodes in my professional life that I could draw an experience of racial inequity. This one that follows is from my first year teaching in Philadelphia.
I was on special assignment as the teacher of an introductory algebra class. Math is a passion of mine. I just love learning new ways to solve problems. Anyway, I had been teaching all eighth grade classes, who 'til this point, had used this period as 'social hour'. In the beginning, a vast majority of these children, had it in their minds to run another teacher out in order to extend their free time. Well, it took almost an entire month to bring the children around to treating this subject with open eyes. They were volunteering to workout and discuss solutions, raising their hands to ask and respond to questions, and not walking out of class.
As graduation time approached, along with the many class trips, so did the behavior falter. Then I was told by many of the students in a particular class, that they were told by their teacher that it wasn't neccessary to do the work in this class because it wasn't needed for graduation. I was floored!!! It seemed as if a mac truck had hit me. I spoke to my lead teacher in order to see how to best approach this teacher.
I personally, counted this as an attack against my community, the african-american children and families I serve. All I could think about was, " If these children had looked like this teacher (european-american), this teacher wouldn't have dared make this statement.
I did go and inquire what was said to the students about the 'value' of the class. At first she denied it then, two students overheard the conversation and interjected that she had indeed made this statement. I told her that I didn't appreciate what she said, because our children need all the free education they can get. I also told her that if I heard statements of this kind again, that I wouldn't hesitate to inform the administration and all other stakeholders.
Subject: Racial Diversity
Date: 2003-07-29 09:24:23
Message Id: 6204
The only time I have experienced racial diversity in a classroom setting was when I was teaching Chemistry at Chester High School. This school is predominately black and hispanic and the students felt they were not getting the best education because of their race. They felt that the "richer white students" got all of the good teachers and only the "poorer minorities" got the worst teachers. We got into a discussion about this and they believed that the only way for them to succeed was to get out of Chester!
I tried to encourage them to make a difference in their own community first. This scenerio was interesting to me because this was my first year at Chester High School and many people warned me about the "kids" and their behaviors. I felt that they were concerned about how they were supposed to be educated. I felt it was my duty to make them change their minds about the teachers of Chester, especially this one, and I gave them 125% of me so that they could be the best class ever. I would have done this anyway.
Subject: Tuesday reflections
Date: 2003-07-29 09:27:55
Message Id: 6205
For eight years I taught at Central East Middle School, which had a diverse student population. One year a student was placed in my room mainly due to his behavior. This student definitely had emotional problems, and the principal arranged a meeting with the mother. When the mother came in she told me that she knew "how Latinos think". I explain to her that I was not Latino. The mother apparently believed that I had a problem with her son because I was Latino and he wasn't.
Subject: Race and the Work Place
Date: 2003-07-29 09:33:18
Message Id: 6206
When I taught at the Bridesburg school there were very few African American
students in the school (1 family). In my fourth grade class I had one of the little girls. On one occassion when she was absent, the principal
received a call that I had given the rest of the children more homework
than ususal because the only black child in the class was absent!
Name: Randal Holly
Subject: Poor Design
Date: 2003-07-29 09:36:12
Message Id: 6207
I have often wondered why many feel more secure in the company of those who tend to view the world ideally in the same manner as opposed to others who possess some arbitrary, inherent differences. It is this notion that leads many to believe that grouping in this way is most ideal for a productive citizenry. As a result, the idea in the educational arena sometimes becomes students should be taught by teachers who are just like them. Perhaps, this is best when combating narrow mindedness or ethnocentric attitudes that have handcuffed true learning. However, I hold and will always maintain the view that true educators are a breed apart. We flourish in a more diverse arena, and in fact are able to develop programs of study that capitalize on these inherent differences that people bring to the table.
To be continued .......
Name: Gerry Brown
Subject: Wake Up Call:
Date: 2003-07-29 09:38:19
Message Id: 6208
In the beginning of the year, I usually try to learn a little about each of my students by doing various activities. Last year I was'nt as thourough as I usually am because when the Christmas Holiday began to approach I had the students Journal write about how they celebrate Christmas.
I had one student in my room who was Muslim that I was unaware of and he was pouting because he did'nt celebrate Christmas. i did'nt find this out until i went over to his desk and asked him why he was'nt writing. When he told me about his religion I apologized and told him to write about his religion.
This was a wake up call for me because you can't judge a book by it's cover. In my eyes at that particular instance because he did'nt have on what I considered muslim attire,I was wrong. I pre-judged him. From now on in the beginning of the school year I will be a little more thourough and sensitive when dealing with the different cultures and religions. We have similarities and differencesb but that does'nt always make us the same.
Name: Sheila Michael
Date: 2003-07-29 09:40:51
Message Id: 6209
Tolerance and acceptance is the social norm. Diversity is not a new concept, but it should include not only race, but gender, learning ability, age and economic status. Many children in the public school system are not exposed to many elements of culture,or have many experience outside of their neighborhood, but they are exposed to different races with the comfort zone of their communities. Many may never experience overt racism until high school or college. Children are resilent and can adapt to the social and cultural norms.
Subject: One little Caucasian girl . . .
Date: 2003-07-29 09:50:32
Message Id: 6210
My classroom started out racially imbalanced with 23 out of 32 students being African-American. By the end of the year, it was even more racially imbalanced with 20 out of 26 students being African-American and only 1 Caucasian. That's who I want to talk about my one little girl of caucasian skin tone and African- American attitude. At the beginning of the year when I had a few more caucasian students she was quiet and worked hard at her work and only had attitude after school in the predominantly African-American neighborhood that she lived in. Due to circumstances, the other caucasian students were switched to another classroom, leaving her the only one in the class. Her attitude in class changed. One other student started calling her "honky" and "whitey" and she started calling him "nigger". Because he was in the majority the students began siding with him and the girls began having problems with her "blackish attitude". In less than a week of her being the only caucasian in the room, I was dealing with racial tension and arguments and after school fights and threats. So, we had a class meeting about the situation and put all the cards on the table. We talked about differences and similarities and it was decided that the girl was acting like she always had acted(being raised in the neighborhood around African-Americans). The students realized that they didn't like her familiarity with African-American gestures and vocabulary because she wasn't. After many class discussions the students were able to let her simply be who she was and not try to lock her in to the stereotypes of how they felt she was suppose to act.
Subject: Morning Response
Date: 2003-07-29 09:51:23
Message Id: 6211
When my parents had come in for conferences was when I discovered that race was an issue with them as well as age. One of my parent's felt confidence that her son would not be giving me ant problems because I was Black (the student was black also), and that he hadnot given the white teacher any.Also, many of my colleques was confident that because I black, older, and had classroom mangerment skills, that I would be successful with our mixed population of both Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians. That enable to take notice that the majority of our staff was Caucasians,and young.
Later I was to come to understand the relief look on my principal's face when interveiwing me for the position I was assigned to in a 2/3 split class.
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: Teaching Scenarios
Date: 2003-07-29 17:59:16
Message Id: 6215
I realize that I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but this morning's discussion was AMAZING. Thank you, Jody and Cynthia, for designing these sessions, and thank you, EVERY one, for all your stories, and all your understanding of the stories you have to tell.
Here are (one woman's) highlights of what was said-and-learned today, as we pulled out the themes, then enacted, then revised, teaching scenarios in which identity was an issue:
How do our values come in to play in these scenarios about our students' identities?
- preconceived ideas about Caucasian children by African-Americans, and vice-versa
- importance of socio-economics in racial identity
- isolation of ESOL students
- students respond to tensions about racial identity by trying to assimilate and imitate; they will do anything to be seen as part of the larger population
- students resist the expectations of their (immigrant) parents, by trying to become Americanized
- the identity they choose is often fear-based: they hang w/ a group for protection
We then divided into groups w/ instructions to perform one scenario apiece. These were "stop action" performances, in which the audience was encouraged to
- What language (for instance) is appropriate in the classroom?
- Who can say it?
- Who can understand?
- Professional langauge is appropriate in the classroom, which is a work place.
- But: we need to know what they are saying.
- Are we increasing opportunities for our students, by insisting that they learn to use proper English?
- Or are we narrowing their options?
- Are we asking them to forget who they are?
- What do we want these children to do?
- Whose language are we talking about, anyway?
- Whose English is it?
- Who owns the culture?
- Who makes the culture?
- Does American society have a standard so deeply forged that you can't be successful if you don't line youself up in accord w/ it??
- Is there a gender difference among teachers, w/ women insisting on the need for proper English to make the transition to success, and men being more comfortable w/ allowing slang in their classrooms?
We only used the second of these options, but we used it exuberantly!
The scenarios included
- change direction: take on the role of the one of the actors and revise the action by entering it, picking up a role, "cutting in on the dance"
- be the cloud, the bubble: stand behind the characters and say what's going on in their heads
- freeze the action, so we can discuss it.
Our performances highlighted the themes of emergence:
- a kid who always has the answers shutting down and refusing to let the others ride on what he knows
- a teacher being punched, and called a racial slur, by a student of a different ethnicity, who passes her in the hallway
- a non-English speaking student appearing suddenly in a second-grade classroom where there are other children w/ needs and demands
- an interview being conducted for a job @ Hip Hop Record Company: which language is most successful?
We ended with a charged discussion about
how a very small local intervention can matter very much and make a big difference in the classroom;
- how we work on instinct in difficult situations, often knowing what to do on an intuitive level, even as we are forgetting all the techniques we are taught.
True education proves a wide range of opportunies for kids to explore; there are a variety of ways to make this happen, but we all want them to have choices.
- whether our students NEED to be taught what they need to be successful, in the ways they want to be successful, or
- whether they can see themselves what is required, and acquire it as needed.
Date: 2003-07-30 09:48:08
Message Id: 6226
Yesterday was interesting, and also thought provoking. It was refreshing to realize that classroom dynamics are the "stuff" for teaching moments. Preconceived opinions cuts across the entire spectrum of society.
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