Over Spring break, I “externed” at a private school in Rhode Island where I attended a meeting for all faculty and administration on mindfulness. Mindfulness at this school is regarded as a tool for strengthening the mind by introducing calmness and control, and strengthening the heart by building acceptance and compassion. With these experiences still fresh in my mind, I was struck by the mindfulness embodied by third-grade teacher Alina Bossbaly in “Improbable Scholars.”
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The article “Culture, Literacy, and Learning: Taking Bloom in the Midst of the Whirlwind” by Carol D. Lee discusses Cultural Modeling within a classroom. This is to reinforce teaching core curriculum while incorporation culture within it. The article uses rap and R&B lyrics as a way to reinforce innate reasoning the students have before they discuss the primary text discussed in class, Beloved. This tactic seemed to be very helpful for the students—they were able to explain the meaning of the lyrics and unravel the symbolisms within them. The one question I want to ask is how do teachers create a lesson plan using Cultural Modeling without holding on to assumptions and stereotypes?
While reading “Tough Fronts” by L. Janelle Dance I was a bit upset and taken back by the terminology used to identify intercity students— “street-savvy youths” and “at-risk students”—not because it doesn’t provide the reader with an adequate understanding of these students but because it continues to classify—and in a way accept—this terminology as a label for intercity kids. The author also reiterates gang and drug activities as a street issue students need to avoid while teachers need to acknowledge and educate in a way that does not belittle or undermine the “students’ needs to survive the street” (83).
Like we’ve continuously read in class readings, student success is so often determined by how closely a student fits with, or can adapt to, the dominant social culture. This often means that the success of students from minority cultures is pre-determined for them, although that seems not to be the case in classroom like those discussed by Dance in Tough Fronts.
I greatly appreciated Bondy et al.'s article about culturally responsive classroom management, especially its focus on resilience. However, I found it difficult to fully comprehend the importance of CRCM because I think I have always been in classrooms where either the teacher practices this style of management or the classroom is mostly white and the teacher and students share a similar cultural background. The main problem I have with this article is that this is framed as a specific pedagogical style that works especially well for African American students.
Referring to the “social contract” that offers quality education in exchange for unquestioned obedience, Noguera writes, “The repeated violations suggest that the students understand completely that the social contract underlying their education has been broken. By their actions, it appears they have decided to make the lives of adults and other students miserable as a way of obtaining retribution for a failed education” (117). In reading this passage, I was compelled by two terms in particular: broken, and retribution. On my first reading, I wasn’t sure who Noguera meant to imply as the “breaker” of the contract - the students, or the school system.
Although we’ve touched on the topic, our conversations so far haven’t focused on the role of teachers within urban schools. Today’s readings made me consider two aspects of this topic: the responsibilities that teachers should be held accountable for, and how (or not) they are limited in their abilities to take on those responsibilities.
Last class we got into dicussion about the place of the education system inside of a much larger, interwoven set of systems that govern the way we live as human beings in society, and that for true reform, there needs to be a total ideological overhaul of sorts. In light of this, I found Stan Karp's essay exceptionally intriguing (and apalling) in which he outlines the structure of NCLB act and it's consectutive steps of addressing reform for schools that fails to meet the stipulated standards. I the act, privitazation seems to be lauded as a 'solution' to 'failing' urban schools, almost like a secret prize, but not called so, which seems to be simplified into channeling money into the school.
"The most common explanation for the problem that beset urban schools is that they have too many lazy students and uncaring parents" (Ayers et al., 141). Coming from public education my whole life, I am strongly against this statement. In my experience, I have seen every student start school (in elementary school), before they are aware of injustices and gang activity, in an eager manner. As the years progress, this is where a student either becomes a "lazy" student or one of those rare public education students that were able to rise above the injustice and make it. Children begin to fall behind in class and stop understanding the material for various reasons-- unknown disability, students home responsibilities, and unprepared teachers.
I found Erwin Chemerinsky’s article to be quite thought-provoking, and it raised one main question for me. He very clearly explains how the various levels of courts have repeatedly contributed to the segregation of American schools, however he does not expand on why segregated schools are so flawed. This was not the focus of his article so I am not criticizing him too strongly for not including this, but I think it is worth a thought. Is there really no such thing as “separate but equal”? What if a school was specifically targeted at students who are Black and Latin@, and its curriculum and school policies reflected that focus? Couldn’t this school be better than a school directed at white students and essentially ignores its non-white students?