Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Safer Schools

The scenarios presented in class a while ago certainly opened my eyes to the different problems that we could potentially encounter in our own careers as future educators.  We need to keep in mind that students need a safe learning environment in order to succeed in the classroom, but in order to achieve that safety, both teachers and students need to show respect and tolerance for each other.  Often times, students feel out of place in school, which could be a result of bullying or harassment.  As teachers, we need to take note of the scenario so that we could help the student overcome their issues. Aside from that, we need to ignite an awareness in the classroom concerning different situations, because the sooner the students become aware of the issue, the less likely someone will get hurt or bullied because of it.  
As a future professional educator, I want to create a safe and respectful learning environment for my students by communicating not only with my students, but also with other faculty members and parents.  I think that communication is one of the most important tools that teachers have at their disposal because it can help them bridge different gaps.  We saw this in scenario 1, where communication plays an important role in the inclusion of an autistic student in the general education class.  The response generated in class for this scenario was eye opening because it showed how communication and collaboration could potentially solve the problem without taking drastic measures.  Aside from that, scenario 1 gives us a perfect example of the rights and responsibilities that students have in the classroom.  Students have the right to be included in the classroom, but it is also their responsibility (and their teachers’, both general education and special education) to act accordingly.  In scenario 2 and scenario 4 where harassment and bullying were occurring, we also see the importance of open communication, and how we can use this to create respect and tolerance in the classroom.  The response for this issue was great as well, because it pleas for other teachers to get involved and monitor in and out of classroom behavior closer. 
Although communication is an important aspect of creating a safer learning environment in the classroom, I believe that it is also the one that requires the most balance.  Teachers need to promote understanding in the classroom as a way to open up the floor to better communication with students, but they need to remember that they are still required by law to report something unseemly even if a student says to not say anything.  Aside from that, teachers also need to remember that most schools have counselors, and they are always there to help with situations like these.  I am certainly grateful for the RAFT activity because it made me more aware of the different stances that people can take in different situations.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert L. Fulghum

           I wanted to share this excerpt because it reminded me of the "noise" that we have been talking about in our classes.  This excerpt is a great reminder for teachers that although they are paid to teach students about subject matter, the students are learning about life and how to live as good citizens in school as well.  

On the Fence: Looking at Both Sides

            People are entitled to their own opinions, but sometimes, some people forget that there are other opinions because of how strongly they feel about their own.  In order for people to become well-balanced individuals, they need to be able to at least understand both sides of an issue, even if they have a preference.  This way, they can better comprehend the issue itself.  If people are looking at an issue from one point of view, they are not in a position to debate about it because chances are, they probably will not have a full understanding of the issue.  People who look at both sides, on the other hand, are in fact more open-minded because they do not simply deny that the other opinion exists, but instead, they use that information to fuel their knowledge about an issue.  After considering my own experiences, I realized that I am the type of person who likes to sit on the fence when it comes to deciding on sides for a certain issue.  I think that it gives me a huge advantage to see both sides of an issue first, because it gives me a chance to reflect and consider my own feelings about the issue before making a final decision.
            During our debate, I was grateful for my teammates because we discussed both sides of the issue, which was state testing.  I had preconceived notions before discussing this issue with my teammates, but after discussing the positive aspects of state testing, I felt like I went away with a better understanding of the problems and advantages of state testing.  Aside from that, it prepared us as a team for the debate because it gave us a chance to talk about counter arguments that we could potentially use if the group brought up a valid argument.  During the debate, I found myself nodding in agreement with the other group’s points because it made sense and they were valid arguments.  In the end, I felt like I learned more about state testing because I was able to see both sides of the spectrum.
            In teaching students from different backgrounds, it is important to remember that most likely, the students will come in the classroom with opinions based on their family’s values or culture.  Teachers need to learn to respect that instead of drilling what they believe to be correct in their students’ minds.  By addressing the issue in a way that the students can see both ends of the issue, they will be able to grasp the concept more, which can help them make their own decision about the issue.  Aside from that, teachers need to remember that because of the diversities in the classrooms, the parents of the students have different goals for their children as well.  We need to keep in mind that in the end, parents want the “best” education possible for their children, so it is good to be well informed about the different issues in education because it is likely for them to ask the teacher for more information about it.  By looking at the bigger picture and understanding the different issues in great depth, teachers and parents alike will be able to deal with issues more efficiently.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"The Class"

            In the movie “The Class,” I believe that the students are constantly learning, but other people might not take into account the type of learning that I could see.  Some people prefer learning to be about something educational, such as math, science, or in the case of the movie, French.  For me, I believe that even though the students were not necessarily learning about subject matter, they were still learning, but in this case, they were learning how to reason and substantiate their arguments.  Throughout the movie, we see the rebellious students arguing with their teacher.  Khoumba, for instance, refuses to read out loud, which she justifies by arguing that there are plenty of other people in the class who are more willing to read than her.  Even though Khoumba does not win this argument, she still learns to support her argument instead of leaving it at “I just don’t want to do it.”  Aside from that, some of the students also learn how to avoid learning in the classroom.  For example, Souleymane refuses to bring his school materials during class, which prevents him from doing any class work.  When the teacher asked him if he could borrow some paper and a pen from his neighbor, he told his teacher that he would do the work at home.  The kids in the class are learning so many different things aside from what they are supposed to be learning that some people can see this as “not-learning.” 
            Throughout the movie, we see lots of constraints on the students’ learning.  The teacher constantly demeans the students by always pointing out what they do not know and insulting them instead of praising what they know.  Aside from that, the teacher puts on airs as if he knows everything, which the students have a hard time believing.  Due to the way that the teacher is acting, the students have a difficult time accepting him as someone that they can trust so they treat him with hostility.  Although the teacher has a rocky relationship with his students, I think that he is able to support them in other ways.  When he was talking to another teacher about the book that they will read for his class, he rejected several books, claiming that those books are too difficult for their level.  Although it may seem that he is degrading their intellect, I think that he just wants them to be able to experience success, which is why he wants to choose an easier book.  Aside from that, his class is pretty democratic because the class mostly controls their own learning.  We saw this when the students were talking about writing their own self-portraits, and how they finally took control by talking about their private lives.  The teacher also supported the students by praising them, like the part when he praised Wei for his self-portrait.  He also supported the students by giving them feedback, like when he gave Souleymane advice on how to further explain his pictures by adding “legends.” 
            The constraints on the students’ learning were also affected by language and culture because of misunderstandings.  One of the major problems that the teacher had was his use of “skank” to mean a girl laughing out of control.  That word is so derogatory that as soon as the students heard “skank,” they spiraled out of control; even though he meant to say they were “acting like skanks,” not “they are skanks,” the students heard what they wanted to hear.  Another case where the students misunderstood his use of language happened when they were at the faculty meeting; he was defending Souleymane, but since he used “limited scholastic ability,” the girls assumed that he was insulting Souleymane.  Aside from that, culture became a constraint as well when the students started having problems with each other’s cultural identities.  Culture and language did not just affect the constraints in the students’ learning, but it affected the support as well.  It was nice to see the teachers in the movie showing sympathy in Wei’s situation, even going as far as collecting money to help gather enough bail money to get his undocumented mother out of jail.  As for language, the praise that the teacher gives Souleymane when he was working on his self-portrait clearly thrilled him; it looked as if he did not hear praise a lot, and when he heard it coming from his teacher, his smile just brightened his whole face. 
            I believe that as future teachers, we can potentially learn from this movie, but that does not make it any less difficult to watch.  I certainly learned a lot of what not to do in the classroom from this movie, but I also learned how to deal with potential troublemakers.  One of the most important things that I learned from this movie is that building a great relationship with the students from the start can definitely change the mood of the entire class.  I imagine that if the teacher was not as condescending as he was in the movie, his students would have been more willing to learn instead of challenging each and every claim that he makes.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Breaking Barriers: Country of the Blind and Education

            H.G. Well’s Country of the Blind deals with the underlying issues of language and culture, and how crucial it is to break down the barrier that separates both worlds.  Nunez, for instance, had different expectations when he first arrived at the Country of the Blind.  Since he had the ability of sight, he thought that he had an advantage over the blind citizens.  Nunez, however, did not expect the blind citizens to have their own ways of dealing with their lack of sight.  Instead, Nunez became a “child” in their eyes, always stumbling and causing problems to others.  Aside from that, the blind citizens did not have the flexibility to accept Nunez because they wanted him to conform to their ways.  They were so narrow-minded that they wanted Nunez to be devoid of his eyes so that his “madness” could end and he can start his new life as a blind citizen like everyone else.  In the end, Nunez was unable to reach out to the blind citizens, which ultimately became his downfall.  If Nunez was able to communicate better with the blind citizens, I believe that it would have completely changed their opinion of him because it would have created a bridge of understanding between the two different cultures. 
             The same thing happens in classrooms, where different languages, cultures, and identities gather.  This is a difficult situation that teachers tackle, especially because of how crucial it is for teachers to accommodate the needs of all their students.  For instance, a teacher who enters a classroom with high expectations can be discouraged by the students’ performance or actions.  In our seminar, we talked about how some students prefer to stay quiet in class and to avoid eye contact.  Teachers need to be aware that in some cultures, it is considered rude to have eye contact with their teachers.  Therefore, teachers need to become more sensitive when it comes to their students’ culture, so that they can better assist them.  Relationships are crucial when it comes to building bridges as well, so teachers need to make sure that they can relate to their students so that they can earn their trust.  Aside from catering to the different cultures in the classroom, it is also important for teachers to be conscious of a language barrier in the classroom.  This can include helping English learners to better understand the material, as well as making sure that students are interpreting directions properly.  Some students can interpret “make it pretty” as “writing neater,” while others can interpret it as “add pretty pictures.”  Also, teachers need to be mindful that communicating with their students is helpful with the development of their students’ knowledge.  If teachers are not supplying their students with enough chances to communicate, then the students can feel insignificant, which can hinder their growth in the classroom.  It is not just teachers that need to oblige to their students, but the students need to adapt to their teachers as well.  As long as teachers and students develop great relationships, they can have a better chance of succeeding in the classroom.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where I'm From

I'm from thousands of islands,
makeshift home garages, shanty houses,
outhouses, and outdoor shower places.
These are venues where I'm from.

I'm from yearly July floods,
death anniversaries,
and burning paper bills for funerals.
These are things to experience where I'm from.

I'm from Tagalog's kumusta,
Mandarin's ni hao,
and English's hello,
These are ways to greet others where I'm from.

I'm from Adobo, Sinigang,
Balut, Lechon,
Unripe mangoes, and dinuguan.
These are delicacies where I'm from.

I'm from a third world country,
corrupt government officials,
and strict, knuckle-rapping teachers.
These can be encountered where I'm from.

I'm from my mom's delicious home cooking,
my dad's demanding hard work,
and my brother's dedication.
This is how I grew up where I'm from.