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Inquiry Project: Teaching English Abroad as a Person of Color

            One of my post-undergrad dreams is to find a way back to France, a country in which I had the opportunity to study abroad junior year. I figured that teaching English would be a way to gain experience in a classroom, keep myself immersed in French culture, and have the chance to explore other parts of Europe as well. Gaining an understanding about the White-Savior Industrial Complex, though, had me questioning my initial desires of wanting to teach English abroad. Did I want to teach abroad with the mentality of “helping” and “making a difference”? Did I subconsciously crave this opportunity as a way to please my ego? How might my own privileges as an American impact my pedagogy in the classroom, and relationship with the community? How would they differ if I were not a woman of color? These kinds of questions inspired my inquiry project into the implications and experiences of Americans teaching abroad.

BlackinAsia and English as a Tool of Imposition

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Bridging the Gap

One question that came up in previous class discussions was how to connect the services and work provided by youth centers to schools. The Speakers Bureau offers a response to how programs can bridge that gap and be better integrated into teachers' and students' understanding, the cirriculum, etc. The Speakers Bureau gave youth an opportunity to engage in outreach and share their experiences as members of the LGBTQ community, as well as opportunities to work directly with teachers, exploring how literature can be used to question heteronormativity. It would be interesting to see how this outreach model could be modified for other topics like race, class and privilege. Connecting it back to last Thursday's conversation, I wonder how far a partnership between a community organization and a school could go in changing the canon of a school's cirriculum.

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Classroom Management

Sleeter's piece on Unstandardizing Cirriculum included some really engaging ways to incorporate students' personal experiences into the classroom as materials for cirriculum. The passage about how the teacher organized a classroom courtroom kind of relates to a challenge I'd noticed at my own Praxis: behavioral management. Angela wanted to incorporate group work and hands-on learning into her curriculum, but many times it would result in losing control of the classroom and taking away time from the lesson. Even if a teacher has a really interactive and well-planned lesson, if she cannot keep the students' attention focused, then she won't be able to facilitate the lesson in the way she wants to. Angela's courtroom simulation brought structure to the classroom by assigning each student with a specific role, and an interesting activity.

There are several students at my placement who, when upset, refuse to participate in activities and keep to themselves in silence or they might find very loud ways to direct the other students' attention towards them. It is not okay to just let the students who consistently act out keep on sitting out from activities. But it's also not okay for the teacher to spend too much time trying to get these students to participate, when the majority of the classroom is paying attention. In many cases, she just continues the lesson while avoiding the students who are trying to bring attention to themselves. I wonder what other ways incorporation of the students' experiences might make classroom management easier.

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Inquiry - Bilingual, ESL programs

For my inquiry project, I'm interested in researching bilingual education programs and ESL programs. Through externships and Praxis placements, I've been able to observe different classrooms that revolved around a bilingual classroom system. One was in second grade classroom where the students' native language was Spanish and the teacher (who was Latina American and could identify with her students' backgrounds) actively used Spanish in her lessons. Another was in a middle school classroom where the students were primarily Haitian immigrants, and the teacher (of a Caucasian Jewish American background) had knowledge of French but didn't really use it in the classroom, and there appeared to be a large disconnect between her and the students. 

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Praxis Post

My placement is at Sunnyside Elementary in Philly. I'm in a third grade class with Ms. Williams (African-American), who's been teaching at this school for several years. She has 22 students: primarily black, and with several hispanic students; there are more boys than girls in the classroom, and they're all about 8-9 years old. Ms. Williams has a classroom aide, Ms. Blue (African-American and Muslim), and one of the students has a therapeutic aid, Ms. Green (white). Their schedule includes a morning activity, a block of reading, and a block of math. The students' desks are organized into small groups of 4-5 around the classroom. As for student leadership, some students are assigned to be team captains, and messengers, and these roles rotate weekly.

The classroom itself is very bright and colorful with lots of different and nicely designed materials on the walls revolved around different subjects like spelling, grammar, and literature themes. They have specific places to leave their coats and backpacks, writing utensils, a writing corner, a space in the front with the smartboard and a rug, and another space in the back with a rug. One of the behavior tools in the classroom is hanging on a door in the classroom, with clothespins labeled with each student's name. Throughout the day, the students might move their pin up and down the sign to reflect their behavior, e.g. “good day, ready to learn, think about it”.

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A theme among the two readings that has resonated with me is empowerment.

Freire makes the argument that empowerment is not an individual feeling but a social act, and that “if you are not able to use your recent freedom to help others to be free by transforming the totality of society, then you are exercising only an individualist attitude towards empowerment or freedom”. My peers and I constantly throw around the word empowerment as more of an individualist feeling than an actual social act, especially in terms of online videos like the ones on Upworthy. One of the downsides of Upworthy videos is that they can make you feel extremely inspired, empowered, hope for change, and make you feel really good, and then you can just walk away from the video and continue on with your day without doing anything with those feelings... or just waiting until the next Upworthy video shows up on the dashboard. Upworthy can most definitely be a tool for Freire's definition of empowerment as it can spread messages virally. How can we get all these people who have been inspired to come together and act for change?

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Race + Romance

I was eating with Girl A and Girl B (both from South Asian American backgrounds) at the reception of a recent culture show. A group of people walked by--- two South Asian American girls in arms linked with their boyfriends, surrounded by some of their other friends. Girl A looked up and waved at the girls with boyfriends, and after the group had left the room, Girl A turned to Girl B and said, "I wish I had a white boyfriend!" Girl B nodded in agreement and said, "Mhhm!" In that moment I didn't think to ask Girl A to elaborate on her remark, but looking back on it, I really wonder what she would have said if I asked why. What makes white boyfriends more desirable than any other kind of boyfriend? Her remark surprised me, but I can't really explain why it gave me a weird/funny/unsettling(?) feeling. 

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Week 2 Post

 Last year I did an externship at a diverse surburban middle school. I observed two classrooms that were covering the same concept, yet had two completely different classroom environments.

 For one period I observed Ms. A's "mainstream" classroom of 18 6th grade students. (Mainstream, meaning the students had been in the American school system all their lives.) I was impressed at how smoothly the class ran. The kids were extremely well-behaved, engaged, and Ms. A also had them playing educational games that kept their attention. She had a very caring attitude, listened, and somehow maintained a motherly yet playful relationship with her students. In my notebook I wrote, "This class was amazing."

 For another period I observed Mr. B's classroom of 14 6th grade ESL students. In my notebook, I wrote, "Why does he just let them talk? This teacher looks sad and defeated. Students talking back to the teacher... :( This makes me wanna cry." Mr. B's students were all ESL students; primarily Haitian, and with one Chinese student as well. There were several Haitian students sitting together who would frequently talk to each other in Creole, while the teacher was trying to explain something. Some students talked back to the teacher and gave him an attitude. Half of the class was very well-behaved, but Mr. B spent more time trying to get the other half of the class to cooperate, than actually successfully completing an activity.

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