Autoethnography: A Critical View of Roles, Diversity and Assimilation Culture in First-Generation Students

Introduction

Upon reflecting where my place in the education system is, I found it is nearly impossible to separate my place in society from this place in education. According to Winship, C., & Mandel, M. (1983)., a person’s role in society classifies their position across social networks as well as being a large component of a person’s position in society. Furthermore, our roles in society are essential to where we place ourselves in that relative position. In my lifetime, I have had the role of being a female, daughter, sister, friend, student, teacher, worker and many more. It is these roles in which I am able to establish myself in the current position of being a first-generation college student.  

As a first-generation college student, my experiences may be vastly different from those whose family members had attended college and have a firm foundation of this lived experience. Having family who have been in similar roles and positions in education not only helps to build community, but allows for guidance when roles irrevocably change. Being the only person in a family to have graduated from the standard four year college and continue higher education at the graduate level sounds incredible, and it is a commendable accomplishment.  Duffin, E. (2021) reports as of 2016, that roughly 20% of college students identified as first-generation female students. Being a first-generation college student is one of my many roles, but not the only one. I am composed of many special roles and characteristics that have all molded me into the person I am today. I am opposed to surrendering my identity to one role, so who am I? How have I been able to explore myself and my role in society?

Self- Exploration 

As a member of the community of first-generation students, where to find your role and identity can be a turning point in life. While being a student is a large component to many individual’s identities, it is more deeply rooted than that label. I find the key to exploring who someone is and their comfort in finding new roles likely stems from family dynamic. After all, family structure is the building foundation for any individual’s life outcomes and often our role in family structures directly translates to societal role. Being the only female in my family has always brought about challenges and expectations placed on me. I am not only the sole girl, but I am the oldest child in my family as well. If anyone has a similar family structure, the level of responsibility often placed on the first born is likely resonating with them.  Voo , J. (n.d.), in the article titled “Birth Order Traits: Your Guide to Sibling Personality Differences” explains first born children are typically given vast amounts of responsibilities and are often pegged as “mini-adults”. Additionally, Michelle P. Maidenberg, Ph.D., a child and family therapist in White Plains, New York states, “They’re typically inflexible—they don’t like change and are hesitant to step out of their comfort zone,“. When I had started to reflect upon who I am, truly at my core, the birth order concept was one that seemed to enable my first roles in life. Growing up, many likely felt the weight of the responsibility of being the oldest child. It goes without saying that a child’s role in their family can directly influence their role in all other aspects of their lives. It was always my role to be the responsible, reliable and structured one in the family; the one my siblings looked to. Naturally, this responsibility has molded me into someone who values structure and is hesitant to change. Being hesitant to change in an ever-evolving environment is simply not the key to a fulfilling and productive life. If this is all I have ever been exposed to, how could I ever know differently? How could the family structure and role in the community impact a first-generation student?

Life Changes

Enduring any life changes can bring about feelings of anxiety but can also be exhilarating. Wanting more for oneself, such as a higher education, is an exponentially large turning point in life. No one in my family had explored the idea of higher education, nor did my small town particularly encourage it. The town I had grown up in was relatively small and not diverse in any sense of the word. According to City Data in the year 2019, the town of North Ridgeville that I grew up in was inhabited by 88.6% of white individuals. In addition to a primarily white community, only 10% of the population enrolled into Undergraduate Studies and further only roughly 2-3% enrolling in Graduate Studies. Being in an environment that did not necessarily lend itself to diversity, openness and education can have various implications. I recall a time clearly when I was openingly talking to my guidance counselor about college. She had said that most people here do not go to college, but they just stick around the area and find local jobs. When I heard her say that, my initial reaction was to agree with her, because it was simply the truth given the statistics. But the issue with her statement was the complacency of the cycle in which this town was exhibiting. Due to the demographic of the town being primarily white and not necessarily educated, I remember being surprised that the education system in place was not encouraging their students to pursue more; to move away and experience life and education outside of the city lines.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay within city lines indefinitely, that is not the problematic portion of the lived experience I endured. Alternatively, it is the notion that no effort for diversity was made. Often, individuals think that diversity is solely a matter of race and that is the extent to it. Diversity however is all inclusive, such as a variety of races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, religions, sexual orientations, lived experiences, and the primary focus from my lived-experience; education. When the city’s education system is not one that encourages, let alone converses exploring diversity, it can make the individuals living there experience negative implications later on in life. The world is far and wide, densely populated with every sort of person one could possibly imagine. School’s not making an effort for diversity and being complacent with the nature of the system is doing a disservice to all the student’s present and future endeavors. The argument for what the purpose of school is has been a longstanding debate. Is the education system responsible for teaching and encouraging diversity? Is it the responsibility of the school to teach students the importance of embracing diversity, or is it the work of the family and community? Drexel University School of Education notes the importance of diversity and cultural awareness in the classroom. Student’s who are exposed to education systems that make it a priority to include diversity give them the ability to gain a better understanding of lessons and others. When the school system in place teaches the students about diversity and how it is needed, it allows for the opportunity of open-mindedness. Specifically, “By exposing students to a diverse range of opinions, thoughts, and cultural backgrounds, you’re encouraging them to be more open-minded later in life. This will make them open to new ideas, roles and be able to attain a greater comprehension on a topic by taking in different points of view.” In addition to these notable qualities, it was stated that students who are competent in diversity feel more confident and safe later on in life. Making diversity a priority allows for students to interact with a variety of different social groups and individuals, in turn allowing them to feel more comfortable with these interactions throughout their lives. Discomfort or feelings of confusion and animosity stem from not being educated on the topic of diversity. For first-generation students like me who came from towns that did not even breach the topic of diversity are at a drastic disadvantage when trying to find their place and role in higher education. When faced with this disadvantage, it can be easy to forgo your own role and position from your family and community, and assimilate into another one entirely.

Assimilation Culture 

Up until this point, I have challenged myself to think critically about how my lived experiences have influenced my role in education and society. I have noted my upbringing, community and diversity exposure as being the driving factors behind my understanding of self in a broad social context. These lived experiences are similar to many individuals who leave their hometowns in pursuit of discovering more and exploring what the life of higher education has in store for them.

The notion of moving from a small town to a large college can be both daunting and thrilling. Often the overarching question that clouds an individual’s thoughts are where their role in this new setting will be. College has options that are seemingly endless; clubs, sports, classes, relationships, culture, diversity, and much more. Going from being hesitant to change, minimal exposure to diversity and education to being thrown into a world of possibilities, it can be the ultimate shock. While my experience is explicitly mine, many others experience similar states of shock when leaving their home towns to gain a sense of self and belonging amongst higher education.

An interesting phenomenon is assimilation culture within college education. Working off of the assimilationist approach for the purpose of this paper, scholar Antony, J. S. (2002)  states “These theories begin with a normative assumption that the new student needs to internalize the disciplinary norms and be congruent with the values of the field in order to be successful in any given field. Similarly, we see a pattern in this body of literature that frames first-generation college students as the ones who need remediation by comparing their backgrounds, preferences, and outcomes with those of their continuing-generation peers who are viewed as the “norm” in higher education”. Essentially, first-generation students feel the need to assimilate to the culture of whichever institution they are attending. According to this approach, college students take it upon themselves to internalize and assimilate to the norms and values they see not only in their institutions but possibly in their future intended career. These students who do not have the same lived experiences as others who are not first-generation students, feel as though they need to change themselves fundamentally in order to adapt successfully. 

College students want to succeed academically, even if that means assimilating unquestionably to the culture of the institution. Arguably first-generation students feel even higher amounts of pressure in order to achieve the success that their family may have not had the opportunity to. Ladson-Billings (1995) notes that socializing first-generation college students into the normative culture of higher education and their discipline is important for academic success in all realms. In addition to this socialization aspect, it is imperative to consider the relationship between the exposure to diversity growing up and assimilation culture in relation to socialization. As I had noted previously, students who have experienced diversity in their education system, whether through experience or conversations are at an advantage. Students who have this advantage are more likely to be open-minded and much more comfortable when these differences in diversity occur. Specifically, larger institutions typically have vast amounts of diversity and adapting is a vital part of fully embracing the college culture and experience. In order to adapt and thrive in college where the culture, norms and experiences are essentially endless, it is important to recognize where you came from and where you want to be. 

Keeping in the spirit of self- discovery as a first-generation college student, I resonated strongly with the assimilation culture present in the higher education system. When I arrived at my Undergraduate College, I immediately felt out of my depth in terms of diversity and culture. When an individual goes to college, they can reinvent themselves and decide ultimately who they are and who they want to become. The question posed earlier about what my role in higher education would be was immediately challenged. I had to decide, as all college students do, what I valued, what I was passionate about and being willing to meet changes head on. With having little exposure and lived experience with diversity, I remember feeling as though I had to assimilate with the people I resonated with the most around me. Adopting norms and values of the groups of people surrounding me helped me exponentially feel more comfortable in this otherwise foreign environment. It is this feeling of being able to explore what I felt was a fundamental part of me and sharing that likeness with my peers. 

While assimilating can be helpful by allowing a student to feel more comfortable, it can also be problematic in nature. If the culture of the institution is not one that is inclusive or accepting for example, adopting that culture is not of best interest. It is essential at this stage that being educated on diversity and feeling comfortable with that and the socialization component proposed by Ladson-Billings is needed. It is being educated on diversity and socialization that allows students to think critically about their roles in education and the norms they are adopting.  Assimilation culture in higher education is exceedingly common, even if it is done without intention. It can be argued that it is human nature to feel the need to assimilate oneself to the norms and culture of the community in order to find a role and excel within that role. Assimilation is not inherently negative, but when done without regard or intention can lead to first-generation students feeling more at a loss than beforehand. 

It is at this point that I challenge those in the education system to critically examine their upbringing and community. Did you have assigned roles at home? Was the education system in place calling for your community to enact diversity and inclusion? When upbringing embeds particular ideas or ideologies within a person, those can become jumbled when life inevitably changes. Life changing decisions, such as attending college, can show the true impact of an individual’s upbringing and community. As noted previously, assimilation without regard and intention can bring about consequences. In my own lived experience, I went from being in a role of responsibility with minimal exposure to diversity to being thrown into a world of possibilities with vast diversity. It is this change that allows an individual to determine if they want to continue their position and norms they grew up in or create their own. In order to take role changes in stride, one must decide if they are going to assimilate or adapt in other ways. Arguably, education in diversity and where an individual’s place in society is can allow them to find their own identity. First-generation students are treading uncharted waters when they are examining their family structure and community in relation to their place in high education. Being mindful of the working conditions that feed into assimilation in all aspects of life will allow for first-generation students to decide what is important to them and who they want to ultimately become.

References

Antony, J. S. (2002). Reexamining doctoral student socialization and professional development: Moving beyond the congruence and assimilation orientation. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 349–380). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-0245-5_8

 Duffin, E. (2021, February 17). First-generation students, by gender and ethnicity U.S. 2016. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/708379/first-generation-students-by-gender-and-ethnicity-us/#:~:text=As%20of%202016%2C%20about%2020,down%20by%20gender%2C%20were%20female.

Drexel University School of Education. (n.d.). The Importance of Diversity in the Classroom. SchoolofEducation.https://drexel.edu/soe/resources/student-teaching/advice/importance-of-cultural-diversity-in-classroom/#:~:text=When%20working%20and%20learning%20with,in%20a%20diverse%20working%20environment. 

Ives, J., & Castillo-Montoya, M. (2020). First-Generation College Students as Academic Learners: A Systematic Review. Review of Educational Research, 90(2), 139–178. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654319899707

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028 312032003465

North Ridgeville, Ohio. North Ridgeville, Ohio (OH 44039) profile: population, maps, real estate, averages, homes, statistics, relocation, travel, jobs, hospitals, schools, crime, moving, houses, news, sex offenders. (2019). http://www.city-data.com/city/North-Ridgeville-Ohio.html.

Voo , J. (n.d.). Birth Order Traits: Your Guide to Sibling Personality Differences. Parents. https://www.parents.com/baby/development/social/birth-order-and-personality/. Winship, C., & Mandel, M. (1983). Roles and Positions: A Critique and Extension of the Blockmodeling Approach. Sociological Methodology, 14, 314. https://doi.org/10.2307/270911

Learning Experience 4

This week’s lesson was based on the article titled “Wide Awakeness and the Moral Life” by Maxine Greene. This article explores the concept of wide- awakeness, moral life and what these entail for each individual. Before expanding on the main ideas noted in the article, it is imperative to have a working definition of what wide-awakeness is. Alfred Schutz states that “Wide-Awakeness is: An achievement, a type of awareness, a plane of consciousness of highest tension originating in an attitude of full attention to life and its requirements.”

The author presents a variety of components that reside along wide-awakeness. First of all, Greene notes that wide-awakeness is a process, not a product. It is starting this process that is often challenging for individuals. One of her main points to further this was the idea of living a mechanical life and how truly problematic this is. The article notes that living a mechanical life is essentially going with the motions of everyday life. Mechanical living is easy for each person to engage in, especially without questioning the concept of “why”. Such as, why am I living this way? Why are these injustices happening? Why am I so complacent without question? Falling into a mechanical life as noted in the article does not allow an individual to actually gain perceptions and clarity about their lives and the community around them. Greene really drives home this main point that it is an absolute necessity to move away from a mechanical life in order to start the process of being wide-awake.

Another main point as noted in the article is the concept of moral education. Moral education guides students in acquiring a set of beliefs and values that establish what is right and wrong. These beliefs help develop and guide a student’s intention, attitudes, and behaviors towards others and the world around them. Greene notes specifically “The problem is not to tell them what to do, but to help them attain some kind of clarity about how to choose, how to decide what to do.” Moral education coincides with the idea of wide-awakeness due to the aspect of teachers needing to be “wide awake” in order to inspire their students to reciprocate that notion. Greene drives her point home by noting that it is essential for teachers to be clear about where they ground their values and their concepts of the good and the possible.

Greene uses a variety of evidence in order to support her ideological perspectives. The ideology presented in the article is rather existential, which can make it a hefty concept in order to fully grasp. Greene uses the work of various philosophers in order to support the idea of wide-awakeness. As I had previously noted, a social philosopher by the name of Alfred Schutz was used as a point of support for Greene. Additionally, Greene furthers her narrative by using “moral presentations” as she calls them. For example, Greene noted the works of Hamlet, Antigone and the Plague in order to demonstrate different moral situations and outcomes. It is this evidence that supports Greene point for the necessity of moral education as stated in the previous paragraph.

Based on the main ideas and supporting elements from Maxine Greene, I found her article to be extremely enlightening. In my lived experiences, I had not questioned very many things up until the point of my higher education. Growing up, I absolutely lived a mechanical life and had no idea what being “wide awake” entailed. To be honest, I am still living a fairly mechanical life in the sense that my days typically follow the same schedule with the same end goals in mind. It was not until this article that I took some time for self reflection to ask the important questions of why. Why am I living my life the same way? Why am I not questioning more aspects of the world around me? Why am I learning the material I am in classes? While my lived experience up until this point consisted mainly of doing what was asked of me with little question, schooling included, I am hoping to shift directions. I had just touched on the aspect that I am living a rather mechanical life. However, I think that acknowledging this and being willing to move into an awakening is the first step in this wide-awake process. I found that my experience was fairly similar to those in my LC group, which we decided to touch base on in our lesson.

The themes discussed in the lesson were one in the same to the main points Greene touched on her in article. My group and I focused on defining wide-awakeness and how it related to living a mechanical life. We furthered this point by noting the implications for not ending the mechanical life and beginning the wide-awake process. Additionally, we outlined what it means to live a moral life and how this is applicable to the education setting. We felt that all of these points were essential to cover in order for our colleagues to be able to recognize how important it is to be conscious of the world around you and in turn how educators can implement these morals and principles within their classrooms. This topic is one that is rather challenging, but very important to discuss. It was our objective to have our students to be able to not only define wide-awakeness, but be able to cultivate a life of being wide-awake.

A large majority of our lesson included discussion, both full class as well as paired sharing. We felt in order to grasp this concept, we needed to have everyone talk about not only what being wide-awake is, but where this concept belongs in the education system. Personally, my favorite discussion question was “How do we teach students how to question their lives and form a “moral life” without giving away our discrete views or jeopardizing our careers?” The discussion that ensued went from being able to have an open conversation with students to the dilemma on if it is our role as an educator to tell students what we believe in. It was apparent that there is no “correct” way to handle this aspect of moral education, such as each individual has a different comfort level with displaying their morals and guiding principles. Interestingly though, the students who shared did note that they felt as though displaying acts or modeling their morals and guiding principles was the best way to go about moral education. Green had noted a similar concept in the article stating that teachers must identify themselves as moral beings, concerned with defining their own life purposes which will encourage students to do the same. This was a great ending point to the conversation we had earlier about how the problem is not to tell students what to do, but to help them attain some clarity about how to choose and how to decide what to do. I think we accomplished the objective set out at the beginning of the lesson.

My contributions to the lesson included annotating the article, helping prepare the lesson materials, as well as engaging in conversation throughout the lesson. As I noted earlier, my LC group and I really wanted to ensure our students were able to grasp the concept of wide-awakeness, mechanical life and moral education. I made sure to include the working definitions of wide-awakeness and how this related to the living of mechanical live. It was an imperative contribution to first directly state what concepts we were going to be expanding on before we dove into the more theoretical aspects of the lesson. My responsibilities during teaching the lesson were reflective of my contributions I had just noted. I was responsible for ensuring the information I presented was correct as well as engaging and asking questions that may have been difficult to consider. I wanted to ensure that the conversations had in the lesson were meaningful and reflective of lived experiences. Due to the fact that the class includes individuals in different career paths, ages, life points, etc., it was important to allow each person to answer questions that they may have never considered previously. I would say this was my largest responsibility during this weeks lesson. In all, I feel as though this weeks lesson my LC presented was not only meaningful, but executed well. It is my hope the students will continue their process in being wide-awake and use those points of clarity to their everyday lives.

Greene, M. 1978. Wide-awakeness and the moral life. In A. R. Sadovnik, P. W. Cookson Jr., S. F. Semel, & R. W. Coughlan (Eds.), Exploring education: An introduction to the foundations of education (5th ed., pp. 218-224). New York, NY: Routledge.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1FiBgO3LnFMmyx9z5vc4spcHf1wIkK51qyq9-85Q7pgc/edit?ts=6085b45e#slide=id.p

Current Connection 4

This week’s article is titled “ Urban School Reform, Family Support, and Student Achievement” by Kiersten Greene and Jean Anyon. This article does an incredible job of encompassing the true disconnect between Urban Schools and the economic obstacles individuals face. These authors want to shift the focus away from reforms that solely focus on buying schools new books, computers, etc., and focus on the political and economic reforms. As noted in the title of the article, achievement is a driving force behind what this article is attempting to accomplish. If achievement is the overarching goal, it begs the question; If a student is low-achieving due to economic and political factors, how can we improve these as a society? 

Greene and Anyon purpose a variety of solutions to the question I just posed, all of which are evidence supported by research. Many points made throughout the article are done in regards to the disproportionate number of students in Urban areas that are low performing in terms of academic achievement. A statement from the authors of this article note, “What the authors are suggesting is that research on the achievement of low income students must begin to more explicitly acknowledge the power of socioeconomic status (SES) to trump education policy and the efforts of teachers and administrators in urban schools and classrooms.” So while it is imperative to not downplay the role of pedagogy and curriculum on student achievement, it truly starts at home and in the community.

The authors of this article further support the overarching issue of SES being the largest component that affects a student’s achievement by providing us a cultural perspective throughout the reading. It is through this cultural lens the authors are able to paint a picture of the struggles that are associated with living in an Urban area and what those implications may be. What struck me upon reading more into the affects SES has on achievement is the fact that bottom live, poverty severely limits educational opportunities and access. Not only does poverty force individuals into exhausting situations, but it also has detrimental effects to children’s mental health. A question I was grappling with was if children have to help pay bills, why would they ever be concerned about school? How could achievement be a priority of theirs when they are struggling to meet basic needs?

Research was given that supports the stance of paying into the community and increasing financial resources for families in need to help not only raise achievement of poor children, but help them in all aspects of academics. The article provides us with various studies that found improving family incoming reduced negative social behavior of children as well as improved their school behavior and performance. In addition to this research, other programs were noted as improving children’s achievement by providing wage supplements and subsidized child care as well as other necessary family support. Hearing about these various research studies and programs had me thinking about the old saying “It takes a village”, and just how true that is. If Urban areas are going to succeed, society must improve the lives of the families who live there. School reform is not to be diminished, but paying into the community and giving everyone the tools to succeed is what will truly reform Urban education. 

The current connection article I chose was written by the NY Times author Keith Schneider titled,“How Lebron James Uses His Influence to Improve Community Development” (2021). This article is talking about all of the positive social changes Lebron is making in the urban community he grew up in, as well as various ones across the country. 

Lebron throughout the article is using his worldwide notoriety in order to elicit positive changes in otherwise forgotten communities. He has funded multiple projects across the country that include new schools, residential buildings, sports and entertainment facilities, and even office spaces. While many individuals are advocating for school reform, Lebron focuses his effort as stated in the article by endorsing Socially Responsible Development. As quoted in the article, “The term was initially defined by advances in design like energy efficiency, environmental safety and affordability. Developers now construct buildings and neighborhoods that make those assets and others — health care, recreation, good schools, safe streets — accessible to residents in neglected communities.” 

Lebron’s efforts are noted as being different from other stars because of his shift from capital to embracing social goals and building projects and programs to enhance those goals. One of the driving factors behind Socially Responsible Development is to develop projects that curb family disorder and instill lifelong learning and skills that allow underprivileged children a chance at being successful in school and in life. I found the statement about family disorder to be especially striking because family dynamic places a crucial role in student achievement. This is something all educators need to be aware of when their students come into school each day. Often, school can be a safe space for children, but it can also be grueling when their home life is not a safe or healthy one. It is also noted in the article that this model Lebron follows is promising for community redevelopment at a whole level. Which as noted in the Urban School Reform article is the key to allowing children to succeed if we first address the issues in the community. 

The current connection article was truly able to enact the founding idea that the Urban School Reform article presented. Such as if we expected children to perform well in school with high levels of achievement, we needed to first address the community in which they lived. Lebron is doing incredible work in Urban areas by giving the community resources to succeed in which they could not have attained otherwise, everything from work training to community centers. By Lebron engaging in Socially Responsible Development, he is paying into Urban communities and improving many families SES, which was shown to be the driving force affecting student achievement.

As I posed the question earlier about how could achievement be a priority of children when they are struggling to meet basic needs, this article helped me to gain clarity. When I was reading about this innovative development of forgotten or otherwise neglected communities, it made me realize that the Urban School Reform article was correct in saying that it all truly starts in the community. The education system in that particle Urban setting is an integral part of the neighborhood and the community. If the neighborhood and the community as a whole as struggling, how will anything ever improve? Lebron in this article is proving to the community that there is nothing wrong with Urban settings, nor should they be forgotten or neglected. Instead, people who are in a position to help should allow for members of the community to have access to resources to assist them in succeeding in all aspects of their lives. If we are willing to pay into the community and truly focus on the root of the problem, we will be able to improve not only student achievement, but the community as a whole.

Greene, K. & Anyon, J. 2010 Urban School Reform, Family Support, and Student Achievement, Reading & Writing Quarterly, 26:3, 223-236.

Schneider, K. (2021, March 9). How LeBron James Uses His Influence to Improve Community Development. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/09/business/lebron-james-community-development.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Learning Experience 3

This weeks learning experience was on the reading titled “Native Americans: Deculturalization, Schooling, Globalization and Inequality” by Joel Spring. As seen by the title, the article covered the vast history and injustices that the Native American’s went through at the hands of Europeans. The author, Spring, did a wonderful job of bringing forth the challenging history of Native American’s as well as highlighting the terrible hardships they went through at the hands of white Europeans. Spring began the article by acknowledging the deculturization that many indigenous people have been subjected to at the hands of conquerors. I want to note an important quote the author states while he brings about the main idea that this deculturalization had terrible implications. Spring states “These destructive actions are based on a belief that some cultures and languages are superior to others. This resulted in many cases in inequality of educational opportunity. Additionally, being forced to undergo extreme cultural change resulted in many becoming socially and psychologically dysfunctional“. This quote alone really captures multiple main ideas that the author stated throughout this reading. Such as deculturalization was the root of Native American’s inequalities in all aspects of their lives. The author uses history as evidence to further this political and cultural ideology presented in the reading. Multiple timelines were presented through the article that explain a variety of acts that were passed for Native American’s removal, citizenships, boarding school, etc. All of these acts or movements were presented to support the points Spring made about the injustices committed against Native Americans. I also find it important to note that this ideology is driven by cultural, or lack thereof due to the deculturalization the Native Americans experienced. These main points were prevalent throughout the reading and were immensely important to touch base on during the lesson.

I want to preface the lesson by noting that I was truly saddened to read about the injustices the Native American’s were put through. Admittedly, I was not as educated on this topic as I should have been. Upon reading the article, I immediately thought about the implications of deculturalization not just in the past but now. I was struck with the thought that this article was the complete opposite of Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy as presented by the brilliant Gloria Ladson-Billings. After reading her pedagogy, I am a firm believer in being culturally relevant in the classroom and making that a necessity. Due to my belief in being open and accepting of student’s cultures, I found the treatment of the Native American’s to be devastating. While we still have a long way to go in order to make amends for the injustices that are unfortunately still happening in education, it is my hope that being educated on the matter will allow us to make changes in the lives of our students. If school cannot be a place for students to embrace themselves, culture included, then how can we expect them to grow as an individual? Due to the lack of lived experiences in relation to these main ideas, I was looking forward to see if my peers were more connected to this topic.

Since the article included immense amounts of history and injustice, my LC decided to focus our efforts on a handful of main points. The agenda we noted included what deculturalization is, a brief history of Native American relations, Native American education and treatment, Common School Movement, and finally connecting these ideas to present time. Additionally, our objective was for our students to be able to understand the history of deculturalization and how this particularly impacted education. My group was also wanting our students to be able to understand how the policies we outlined shaped what we know of education today and how they continue to impact cultural groups.

To begin, we gave our students a working definition of what deculturalization is due to the amount we touched on this during the article. Native American’s culture was essentially forced away from them by the dominant culture of that time, the white Protestant. It was the ideologies of this dominant culture that led us through the lesson on Native American relations. We noted the Native American Citizenship timeline and touched base on the important acts within the timeline. It was also very important to us to place a large emphasis on Native American Boarding Schools and the treatment of children there. We wanted to keep all the history in the lesson because the author used this evidence as a way to present ideas and the implications along with those. Along with using history to support our points, we also challenged our students to think about the underlying issues from these acts. Such as why Europeans used education as a form of control, instead of actually educating Native American’s in their own language and culture? Why was the European population forcing Native American’s to replace their culture with the White Protestant culture? Where did these racist agendas stem from? After we gave our students a lesson on deculturalization and Native American history, we posed the question: “What does deculturalization look like in schools and communities today?”. It was then we touched base on what this looks like in present times.

The conversation that followed this question was my favorite part of the lesson. My LC noted a handful of aspects we noted in present times where we noticed these ideologies in present day education. These examples were the use of “standard English”, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Holidays. We asked our students if they had any personal experiences with these examples, or if they had any in their own lived experiences. What I found to be very interesting was the comment that a student made about the fact that we Pledge Allegiance almost “blindly”, such as we do something just because that is what we were told to. It was also noted how problematic the statement, “One Nation Under God” was, considering how many Gods a variety of cultures follow. It was this part of the lesson in which I felt my group and I were able to really drive the point home that deculturalization is still present and we have to be mindful of it and challenge it.

My contributions to the lesson included annotating the article, helping prepare the lesson materials, as well as engaging in conversation throughout the lesson. As I noted earlier, my LC group and I really wanted to ensure our students were able to grasp the policies and history and the current implications. I felt as though through my contributions as well as my members, we were able to get our main points across. My responsibilities during teaching the lesson were reflective of my contributions I had just noted. I was responsible for ensuring the information I presented was correct as well as engaging. After all, teachers want to ensure their students are engaged in the lesson and finding the information to be relevant to them. In all, I feel proud of my presentation and contributions to the lesson and it is my hope that my students took something away from it.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/16EvbFuGl-L1dPiF_9EhLEYbGq4DIs2HrK_r6Vkqy2Rs/edit?ts=606724b7#slide=id.gce4fcb20d2_1_20

Spring, Joel 2013. Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality. Chapter 2: Native Americans: Deculturalization. Schooling, and Globalization. New York: McGraw Hill.pp. 21-40.

Atlas Field Observations 1-5

Atlas Case #66: Making Good Decisions When You Are Mad

https://atlas.nbpts.org/cases/66/

When I read the title on Atlas called “Making Good Decisions When You Are Mad” (Case No. 66), I immediately had the question of what teachers can do in order to help a child with their temperament. It is no surprise that children can be overwhelmed in class with all of the stimulation they experience. Before watching this, I thought to myself, what could I potentially learn from this? How can I help my students make good decisions in the face of their anger or overstimulation? 

Before delving into the observations, I want to note the description of this observation; this case shows a teacher reading to students and asking questions about appropriate choices of behavior when they are mad and students looking at different choices and deciding if they are appropriate or not. Upon watching the video, I noted that the teacher was open and is speaking really clearly. She is using the children’s names and is actively having them engage in the questions she’s asking. Such as “Nick what is something that makes you mad? Makes you sad?”. Additionally, she validates their feelings, “That would make me upset too”. I really appreciated this teacher putting herself in a position where she was equal with her students and acknowledging it is okay to be upset about something- but it is what we do with that emotion that is truly important. 

I also was able to observe the way this teacher was able to ask scenario based questions and allowed her students to answer them. For example, she asked her students, “If someone steals your toys, what do you do?”. She not only gave them scenarios, but allowed them to work through what this may look like and how to appropriately react even when it may be difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this observation because it is something I am likely going to use during my time as a School Psychologist. It is hard for some children to regulate their emotions and reactions, but teaching them these emotions are acceptable and how to cope is so important. This teacher did a great job keeping her students engaged and correcting her students when they were engaging in unacceptable behavior and allowed them to correct themselves. 

Case #1155: Analyzing Social Interaction to Develop Perspectives about Changes in Society

https://atlas.nbpts.org/cases/1155/

When I was browsing through Atlas and read the title above, I was immediately intrigued by what this lesson was going to entail. As we have been discussing in recent classes, our society is constantly changing and we have to learn to adapt with it. Therefore, when I read this title I was excited to see how we can teach our students how to in a way critically think and facilitate a conversation around these changes. The question I asked myself before delving into this observation was; “How can we facilitate a productive and genuine conversation about societal change? Especially with keeping emotions and feelings in a good place?”. 

To preface, this observation was done in a tenth grade classroom, where the teacher engages students in a discussion about Protest Movements and in turn the students engaged in an activity to respond to questions and develop a thesis statement about social interactions in history. I noticed the teacher was asking them about different spans of time and what the social issue at that time was and what was done in order to enact change. I also noted that she furthered the conversation by asking her students what they would personally be willing to do in order to enact the change they were discussing. This allowed the students to really dig into their personal beliefs and apply them to the issues they were reading about. 

I enjoyed watching this teacher work with her students and engage with them in their thoughts and opinions. She allowed her students to work in small groups to bounce ideas off one another and she walked around to talk to each student as well. I noticed she was able to build great rapport with each of her students and it allowed them to feel comfortable to openly talk about the social changes and protest prompt she gave them. Additionally, she not only gave them compliments on their thoughts and ideas, but she asked relevant questions to expand on them. The main aspect I took away from this observation was that students need to feel comfortable in order to have conversations about societal issues. We touched base in class a couple of weeks ago about “cancel culture” and the negative impacts it brings about to conversions we need to be having. I think this teacher did a great job in this lesson of establishing an environment that was respectful and receptive to the conversation and truly allowed her students to express their thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Case #1154: Examining How Intelligence Testing Bias Contributes to Ethnic and Racial Stereotypes.

https://atlas.nbpts.org/cases/1154/

Upon seeing this video on Atlas I was immediately excited to observe the conversation between the teacher and his students about how Intelligence Testing not only can be biased, but also contribute to stereotypes. I found myself excited to observe this because I will be working with intelligence tests daily in my profession as a School Psychologist. I thought to myself after seeing the title; “How will this teacher bring relevant examples to the conversation?”. Testing is an aspect of school that is often redundant and truthfully dreaded by those in the education system. So I was curious to see how this teacher would engage the students and allow them to think deeply about the issue he presented to them. 

During the observation, I was able to see that he was very engaging with his students. He called on them to think not only broadly, but specifically on what aspects lead to these biases and stereotypes. What struck me was that he brought up the aspect of geographical location and prior knowledge- specifically where this school was located and how this impacts these tests. I also observed the teacher going around to different groups of students and asking them their varying opinions on if a test can truly exist without bias, and if so, why? The teacher did a great job of building rapport with his students and allowed them to bring real life examples into their arguments. For example, one student noted how he was an avid sports player and fan. If the test in question included questions that had to do with sports, he would likely do well. Whereas someone with limited knowledge in sports would be at a disadvantage, noting how the test would be biased towards the sports player and fan. 

I found this observation to be a great tool I could possibly use in the future. When individuals hear the word testing, especially Intelligence Testing, it comes with a lot of negative connotations. After observing the way this teacher allowed his students to think deeply about the components in the test as well as question them, it led me to believe that holding a meaningful conversation may be a good way to alleviate some of the negativity behind testing. While I still hold the belief that testing is not always beneficial nor necessary, addressing testing and the negative implications is an important conversation to have.

Case #586: Building Classroom Community Through the Study of Chinese Art and Culture

https://atlas.nbpts.org/cases/586/

As seen in the previous observations I had done on Atlas, I was immediately interested in how this teacher was able to build a classroom community through Chinese art and culture. To think back on previous experiences, I cannot recall a time in which my school had done any sort activity in which we emerged in a different culture than the dominant one. The question I went into this observation with was “Did children seem receptive to learning and emerging into the Chinese culture? Did this activity help in building the classroom community?”. 

This specific video was recorded in a second grade classroom in which the teacher was helping the students work through different stations that included various Chinese art and culture activities. I noticed immediately upon observation that the children were indeed very receptive to the Chinese art and culture activities given to them. One specific comment a student made was “Wow! That is so neat.” I was joyed to see the children were not only curious about the culture and asked questions, but they were so appreciative of the culture they were learning about. The teacher I noticed was also very encouraging of the student’s comments and their excitement. The teacher additionally did a wonderful job of allowing the students to express themselves and thoroughly enjoy the stations without attempting to reign in a lot of control. It can be challenging for a teacher to maintain a functional classroom when there are various stations, but the teacher did a good job of this. 

After I had watched the observation, the first thought I had after was the article we had read in class fairly recently with regard to Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy by Gloria Ladson-Billings. I had thought of this after the fact because the teacher was allowing other cultures (besides the majority) to be actively represented and encouraged during class. While this class is young and was just exploring Chinese art and culture instead of truly critically thinking or challenging it, I still found this pedagogy to be present in this classroom. I overall was very happy to see that teachers are actively including other cultures into their classrooms and are allowing their students to really delve into them. I was able to deduce that the students truly seemed to build a sense of community in the classroom through learning about other cultures and how fascinating they found them, even how similar some aspects were to their own culture.

Case #1256: Creating Academic Goals and Organizational Strategies

https://atlas.nbpts.org/cases/1256/

To end my observations, I was intrigued when I saw this title because I am sure it’s an aspect of teaching and counseling that may not be given much attention. Personally speaking, I remember early on in my education when I did not truly understand how to be organized and what that may entail. When I read this, my immediate question was “Will this counselor in the video be teaching her student organization skills? Also, are these skills actually doable?”. Keeping these two questions in mind, I went into my observation hoping to have these two questions answered. 

The video begins with the counselor asking the child, with ADHD in this case, why his science grade is poor when he is in fact good at science. The student is very self aware when he states that he is not organized, he forgot to take notes and it seems as though he just was in a state of disarray. While the student was self aware in the matter, I noticed the counselor was doing her best to encourage the student by noting that he is in fact good at science, and he is capable of managing his materials as well as increasing his organizational skills. I was also happy to see that she had the student write down his strengths in order to see that he is capable and already good at a variety of things. Additionally, he was able to see where some of his weaknesses were and how he could fix those. Such as getting a folder in order to organize his papers without losing them, paying close attention to how focused he is as well as turning in all assignments. 

After watching the entire video, I was able to observe that the counselor did not explicitly tell her student how to fix his disorganization, but rather she helped him set goals. I actually found this to be a better technique than explicitly teaching him some skills that may not even work for him. In a counseling class I am currently taking, we actually were taught to guide students through making their own goals instead of telling them what to do. If we take away a students autonomy, it may lead to the student not being willing to make those necessary adjustments. Keeping that aspect in mind, the counselor did a great job of asking relevant questions such as, “What does this goal look like? How could you hold yourself accountable?”. The counselor allowed her student to think of solutions to his own problems and what may work well for him, since it is not one solution fits all. In all, this observation allowed me to get a glimpse into what a goal setting meeting looks like and how to conduct one. I feel fortunate to have the chance to see a session play out with a student and what questions seem to work well so I am able to apply this to my profession in the future. 

Current Connection 3

This weeks article is titled “But I’m Not Gay: What Straight Teachers Need to Know About Queer Theory” by Elizabeth J. Meyer. This article delves into what queer theory truly entails and how imperative it is to employ in an education system that is always evolving. It is important to note the reconstructed definition of what the term “queer” has been expanded to include in the education setting. The author of this text denotes queer theory as exploring normalized categories beyond classic binaries, questioning assumptions and gaining new understanding by teaching students new ways to view the world. It is through this lens that teachers can create classrooms that are inclusive and allow for students to express themselves and challenge inequalities.

There are a few themes presented in this article I would like to emphasize. The main point that struck me was the authors statement about how attention is brought to violence and bullying in the schools, but challenging the underlying social forces that are the cause of bullying are rarely addressed. Additionally, this bullying is seen as acts of teasing and violence, rather than a form of enforcing the norms of our society and culture. I found this to be a profound idea due to the fact that we so often hear about “anti-bullying” campaigns, but it is hardly ever questions WHY student’s are being bullied and ridiculed and the ideologies behind the violence. In order to truly address these behaviors, the mainstream identities and behaviors need to be assessed and questioned.

The next point I would like to emphasize is the function of traditional heterosexual gender roles and the implications of these. Queer theory allows for both teachers and students to acknowledge the harmful power dynamics and understand truly how much these shape daily thoughts and behaviors. It is important to note we are all taught as children both implicitly and explicitly, what it means to be traditionally “female” and “male”. If a student challenges these norms, they are often a target for harassment or unwanted attention. In essence, if an individual does not conform to the dominant culture and norms, it is considered to be “normal” to be harassed or ostracized for it. I question, why must conformity dictate life quality? Why must we punish those who are courageous enough to express themselves as they are?

The last point I would like to touch base on is the miscommunication we have with our students or children. It is essential we emphasize the difference between biological sex and gender expression. The author states “Choices are informed by codes that are explicitly and implicitly taught to children”, these codes are fundamental to enforcing these assigned roles. These codes can include the misogynistic cultural stereotypes that are often ascribed to women. I often resort back to the example that a man can be a leader, but if a woman displays the same quality it is often depicted in a negative light, such as her being “bossy”. It is imperative we teach our students that there may be biological differences between the sexes, but gender is solely a product of culture and what the dominant culture says is normal. It is these ever present restraints and labels that are placed on individuals that contribute to the seemingly never-ending cycle of enforcing norms and punishing anything “queer”.

The author displays evidence of references throughout the article. Meyer uses multiple other research articles as well as queer theory leaders to expand the perspectives given in the reading. For example, she includes a leader in queer theory, Kumashiro, and his conceptual and cultural resources as a mean to rethink educational practices. Meyer uses an abundance of outside resources in order to explain queer theory and what this ideological perspective entails. Specifically, this pedagogy includes aspects of political and cultural perspectives. In order to make true changes and challenge the norms and labels placed on us, there has to be changes both politically and culturally in order to enact this pedagogy. We see changes politically happening with the passing of same-sex marriage and other laws pertaining to rights of those who are non-binary. Additionally, culturally there is a shift to be more accepting and willing to challenge the system. It is the combination of these that are large components of this pedagogy.

The current connection I found was an article written on a website called “The Conversation”. It is titled “Beyond the Binary: How Teaching Children About Gender Could Reduce Sexism” by Dr. Pani Farvid in 2019. This article is addressing gender inequality, specifically in New Zealand.

The article begins by stating that inequality spans gender-based violence, women’s participation in public life, women’s representation in leadership roles, the gender pay gap and the deteriorating position of minority and immigrant women. As we see, gender inequality affects essentially all aspects of someone’s life, therefore this inequality has to be confronted. Research was shown in the article which indicates that gender inequality exists primarily because of the idea that there are only two different genders, there is no such thing as a non-binary gender, nor is it seen as a continuum. The underlying issue that is presented with this view is that men and women are thought to have different skill sets, therefore society treats them completely differently. 

However, gender is not biological nor is it naturally assigned or tied to our bodies. The article really drives home the point that gender is the product of culture. Since we are products of our culture and we typically learn what is considered “dominant” the article notes the necessity of teaching our children about gender as early as possible as a means of preventing sexism before it becomes ingrained into our children. An interesting aspect this article touches on that often accompanies the sex vs gender argument, is how men and women are similar and different. The article says “Multiple reviews and meta-analyses of psychological literature have consistently found men and women are more similar than they are different when it comes to a host of psychological traits and mental functioning. These include cognitive performance, mathematical abilities, personality traits, social behaviors, emotions, aggression and leadership.” Additionally, biologically the only true differences between men and women are pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. It is noted that while these biological differences are apparent, men and women are both equally equipped for parenting and caregiving. This research allows us to shift focus from women being the caregiver to changing the nature of gender roles and how immensely they affect our lives. Men can be softer, women do not have to be the caregivers, etc. We must question this covert and overt sexisms that are leading to gender inequality and educate individuals on how harmful this truly is.

With the background information given from this article, it all circles back around to teaching this prior information to our children. The article notes that children should be taught the history and nature of gender inequality and sexism. While teaching is important, it is imperative to provide students the tools to dismantle gender binaries, sexism, and to offer them open expression and freedom. This article really drives home the points made in Meyer’s article, that note the importance of gender equality in education and teaching our children can reduce sexism and inequality. Educating is key to prevent gender-based violence that was prominent in Meyer’s article as well as addressing the underlying social forces that enable this bullying and violence. The author of this current connection makes some recommendations to help educators get the ball rolling on implementing these ideas. Some of these include:

  • Training of teachers needs to incorporate gender theory and gender equality training.
  • Students need to be seen as more than the sum of their gender, but as complex people
  • The school curriculum needs to include lessons on the social production of gender, gender roles and gender categories.
  • Schools need to incorporate curricula on global citizenship, which includes an awareness and acceptance of diversity and the promotion of equality for all individuals.
  • The education system needs to identify and interrupt hetero-normative, hetero-sexist, and patriarchal practices that are part of society and, at times, part of school culture.

In all, using queer pedagogy allows educators to question how they teach and reinforce gender practices in school, how they support traditional notions of heterosexuality and how culturally specific information is presented in the classroom. This weeks assigned reading in combination with my current connection gives me immense hope in our future generation and allowing society to challenge these harmful traditional assigned norms. I am looking forward to seeing how I can eventually implement changes in my place in education and hopefully create an open and expressive environment for my students.

Farvid , D. P. (2020, May 2). Beyond the binary: how teaching children about gender could help reduce sexism. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/beyond-the-binary-how-teaching-children-about-gender-could-help-reduce-sexism-113140.

Meyer, E. 2007. “But I’m Not Gay”: What Straight Teachers Need to Know about Queer Theory. In N. Rodriquez & W. Pinar (Eds.), Queering Straight Teachers: Discourse and Identity in Education. (pp. 15-32). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Comic Strip 3

This weeks comic strip is based off of Ayer’s “About Becoming a Teacher” Chapter 8. This chapter addresses the topic of how we as educators can work not only with parents, but with our colleagues and administrators as well. Before delving into the comic strip, I want to mention Ayer’s ideological perspective depicted in the chapter. Ayer uses personal experiences throughout the chapter in order to express his perspective of how essential working with parent’s is in an educational setting. One specific lived experience he notes is when he adopted his youngest son, whom was pegged a “challenging child”. Given this experience, he and his wife were dreading parent teacher conferences and what the teacher would presumably say about their child. Ayer’s notes he was astonished when the teacher listened attentively and asked smart questions. This was a turning point for Ayer’s, and admittedly changed his perspective on parent-teacher conferences.

In my comic I wanted to depict a conversation between me and a camper’s mom. This strip is going off of a lived experience I had when working as a summer camp counselor as an undergraduate student at Kent State. While I have not had actual educational experience in parent-teacher conferences, I have had the experience of meeting with parents during the summer camp.To give some background information, this camper named Jamie (names have been changed) was struggling to regulate his behaviors during summer camp. He would become disruptive and lash out, especially when he was overwhelmed by something.  Therefore, this strip depicts a conversation with Jamie’s mom when I asked to have a conversation with her to help me better understand Jamie and how to help him. 

One main point I would like to make regarding Ayer’s chapter was the emphasis on building a purposeful relationship with parents. In this case, Jamie’s mom was very happy that I included her in a conversation about how I could help Jamie, without placing blame on him or his upbringing. That section of the comic was my attempt to build this relationship with his mom and what we could do to help him. I found myself referencing Ayer’s comment about how teachers can ask smart questions and listen attentively without upsetting the parent. Ayer’s notes in the chapter that it is an obviously reaction for parents to becoming defensive when their children are in question. Once a combative environment is established, I find it is not conducive to a productive and collaborative learning environment. I was mindful of this when choosing what to say to Jamie’s mom.

Another aspect I would like to touch base on was Ayer’s statement about constructing something productive the child would benefit from, as well as actively listening to a parent’s thoughts and concerns regarding the issue at hand. As you can see in the comic, I asked Jamie’s mom what may help him and we constructed a plan in order to help him. In this case, keeping him in a routine and sending home progress reports and weekly calls to monitor his behavior.  Ayer’s put this perfectly when he said “Construct something productive and mutually advantageous, everyone will win and the main beneficiaries will be the children.”

By the end of the comic, Jamie’s mom and I built the foundation of our relationship and we had a mutual respect and understanding for one another. I find it was really important to update his mom on what was happening, but not attach negative labels or adjectives to Jamie. Parenting can be challenging enough without an outside person having a say, especially a negative one. Since Ayer’s as I touched on earlier really stressed the importance of building a purposeful relationship, I felt as though this comic depicted what ideally a conversation with a parent could include, especially when concerns are involved. 

Learning Experience 2

This weeks learning experience is based off of the article titled “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case For Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” by Gloria Ladson-Billings. The author, Ladson-Billings makes a case to close the bridge between school and culture and how we can make relevant changes to achieve this.

I want to begin by noting how truly incredible Gloria Ladson-Billings point of view on culturally-relevant pedagogy is. Before delving into the intricacies of this pedagogy, I find it is imperative to have a working definition of what culturally-relevant pedagogy is. Ladson-Billings defines culturally-relevant teaching as a pedagogy of opposition, one that places emphasis on collective empowerment. She furthers this definition by using three criteria in order to achieve this pedagogy, these include students experiencing academic success, students developing cultural competence and finally students developing critical consciousness. The author uses these three criteria in order to form her main points regarding how we need to bring education into the world of the student and the implications of doing this.

As previously mentioned, Ladson-Billings overarching main point is to bring education into the world of the student and to ensure our teachers are culturally-relevant. It is interesting to note that a lot of the authors main ideas are often thought of just being a part of “good teaching” as eluded to in the title. However, upon reading more into the article, I was able to find there is not nearly enough culturally-relevant teachings currently happening throughout the education system. The author of this article uses a cultural perspective in order to support her pedagogy. A quote that I find from the author that perfectly sums up her cultural perspective, specifically the importance of culturally relevant teaching is her stating “Culturally relevant teacher utilize the students’ culture as a vehicle for learning.” Ladson-Billings additionally uses a variety of evidence in order to support her pedagogy. This being the lived experiences of the teachers in her study, the parents, as well as the community. Ladson-Billings was able to use the outcome of her study to support her statements that children not only learn better when they have culturally-relevant teachers, but are better able to be successful in the world and make their world a better place.

Upon reflecting after reading this article, I had come to the conclusion that I do not have very much lived experiences in terms of culturally-relevant pedagogy. I had grown up in a city that did not have extensive diversity or major cultural differences, so this may have been a factor. I found it to be very interesting as brought up in the discussion in class that since the predominant culture in my city was Eurocentric, the teachers were teaching to that culture. As I had also mentioned in the discussion, even if the majority of the city or district is one culture, it is a disservice to our students and community to not be using culturally relevant pedagogy. While I do not have a lot of lived experiences in this pedagogy, I find it is essential to bridge the gap between culture and education. A reasoning I gave in the discussion is that oftentimes, a student does not stay in one city for the entirety of their lives. If we only educate them in the city’s dominant culture, what will happen once they leave the city and possibly go to a place much more diverse? Alternatively, what if they never leave the city? Do we want to continue this cycle of only being educated in the majority culture, which is often times the Eurocentric culture?

So while I do not have a lot of lived experiences, I was able to really reflect on how crucial this pedagogy is. I touched on earlier how incredible I think this pedagogy is- but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I find this pedagogy to have a lot of positive implications if they are used in education. Most importantly, I want to note how important I find it for students to feel as though they are the center of their education. If students feel as though their culture and lived experiences are not cared for and validated, how can we ever build a sense of community? How can we make students learn if they are not being represented in anything we are learning? I would like to believe that teachers employed this pedagogy, it would not only validate our students, but also allow us to build an equitable community.

My LC group and I wanted our classmates to be able to define and analyze culturally-relevant pedagogy to apply it to their professions as our objective. In order for this objective to be met, my group focused on presenting the definition of cultural pedagogy through explaining academic success, cultural competence and critical consciousness. As noted earlier, these were the three critical components Ladson-Billings included in her pedagogy. We felt as though going through these critical components would allow our classmates to form a concrete understanding of culturally-relevant pedagogy and how they can actively use these in their lives.

To begin, academic success was incredibly summed up by the author ,”Culturally-relevant teaching requires that teachers attend to students’ academic needs rather than simply make them feel good”. My group really wanted to emphasize that culturally-relevant teachers encourage the class to focus on being academically successful and change the culture of the class toward success and viewing themselves as capable of success. These teachers should give their students the tools to not only be academically successful, but to demand their students to be. Each student is capable of success and teachers should get students to choose academic success. Next, we focused on cultural competence. This aspect of the lesson focused on how school can often be an alien and hostile place for students, especially those who are not the typical white student. It was this slide in which we emphasize that we must mesh experiences at home with experiences at school, achieving cultural synchronization. Some examples we note in the article are bringing in parents and community members into the classroom, demonstrating their skills, values, and worth. These allow for grounding students in their home lives and building rapport with families and culture among the class. Finally, critical consciousness was also a large component of the lesson. In this section we emphasize that critical consciousness is the idea of inviting students into conversation that looks at the power structure of their world, critiquing it and analyzing it to see how it creates inequities or perpetuates them. Having students develop a critical consciousness gives them back their power and allows them to use critical thinking skills in order to make decisions and changes in their community. Using Gloria Ladson-Billings three criteria for culturally-relevant pedagogy, my group and I were able to truly achieve the learning objective set.

I contributed to the lesson in a variety of ways, such as annotating the article, assisting in the powerpoint and actually teaching the lesson. I find my responsibilities in this lesson to be very reflective of the contributions, such as I was responsible to be knowledgeable in the topic of discussion as well as being responsible for ensuring the students were grasping the topic. I would like to note that the majority of my contribution during the lesson came from facilitating questions and discussion. I find listening to lived experiences of the students to be imperative to making connections to the actual material. Facilitating discussions and asking important questions can be challenging, especially when answers are not always clear cut. I find that being able to challenge the students while teaching a lesson and hearing their thoughts and opinions is one of my favorite aspects of contributing to learning experiences. In all, I think my group did an incredible job of presenting culturally-relevant pedagogy and giving our students the information in order to be informed and (hopefully) practice the pedagogy in their respective professions.

Ladson-Billings, G. 1995. But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. In E. Blair & Y. Medina (Eds.), The social foundations reader: Critical essays on teaching, learning and leading in the 21st century (pp. 285-292). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Cj3My_-U4z-XPaZ4VoyY5N3KXkNuzSx_VKz7PMUVTNg/edit#slide=id.p

Current Connection 2

The article titled “The Radical Supreme Court Decision That America Forgot” by Will Stancil does an impeccable job at narrating the landmark Green v. New Kent County case. As noted in the article, oftentimes it is the Brown v. Board of Education case that is most often talked about when discussing school segregation. However, it was the Green case that took the radical view that the Constitution can require the government to repair the harm of historic racial injustice, even after it stops the explicit discrimination of race. While many districts were bending rules to be within the ruling of Brown, the Green case required much more than a compromise.

I find it is important to recognize that Green’s decision attempted to further investigate the far-reaching and systematic segregation that was plaguing Kent County’s schools. Green sought to recognize the overarching purpose of classifying these students- ultimately, the system targets black students, who have been assigned inferior roles. To be straightforward, Green viewed school desegregation as a reparative process, one that cannot be fixed with the “freedom of choice” plan that was initially implemented. The ideological perspective that shines through in this article is the political push that needs to occur to directly confront the segregation that occurs not only in education, but in our communities as well. The main theme in this article is that while schools may not be integrated without conflict or discomfort, this is a system that needs to be repaired down to the roots. Stancil uses evidence of the history of segregation in the United States in order to prove his point; that the government and the community need to unmake the discriminatory system and must take necessary corrective actions.

The article I found to be a relevant current correction was published by USA Today’s author Stefan Lallinger in 2020. The article is titled “America’s Segregated Schools: We Can’t Live Together Until We Learn Together”. This article begins by approaching the topic of racial divide in our country. I found this article to be compelling due to the topic of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin presented. The question the article presented was “Would George Floyd be alive today if him and Chauvin grew up together and attended the same schools?”. While this is obviously a question that has no clear cut answer, it got me thinking about the implications of the deep-rooted segregation we encounter in this country.

Lallinger includes the relevant quote by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall who in 1974 writes “Unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope our people will ever learn to live together.” This lead me to question further if Floyd and Chauvin grew up in similar neighborhoods and not worlds apart, would this have made a difference? Would there still be negative stereotypes and a systematic divide if we could fully integrate our schools and community? An insightful comment made by Lallinger states “While such sorting often disguises itself as the harmless byproduct of personal choices, simply a result of the free market, neither the causes or impacts of segregation are harmless.” This comment stuck out to me specifically because the Green article touches on this aspect of “freedom of choice” and how it did not successfully integrate schools. I ask myself though, is there a choice? Parents of color and their children had to cross the color line and face many aspects of social stigma and discrimination just to send their child to a better school district. So while they may make these choices, at what cost? Is there ultimately a choice between sending their children to a better funded predominately white school and dealing with stigma and discrimination?

Non-surprisingly, predominately white schools receive $23 billion more in funding when compared to predominately nonwhite school districts. This again shows the clear systematic discrimination and divide in funding alone. Additionally, this article presented research that shows attending a diverse school helps to counter stereotypes and leads students to seek integrated settings later in life. More integrated schools also show statistics including being less likely to drop out and more likely to enroll in a college when compared to non-integrated schools. I find that we as a society need to take into consideration the ramifications of our actions, or lack thereof. If there are multiple points of evidence that point towards the benefits of non-segregated schools, why hasn’t more been done?

As noted by Stancil, the Green decision is a cause for hope to truly integrate schools. Living and learning together will not likely solve all our deep-rooted problems. However, it will provide people of all background with a better understanding of one another. In order for a community to thrive, it is imperative to gain better understanding of how others live and what experiences they face. A shared sense of humanity and purpose will continue to break down the racial and prejudices walls that still plague America to this day. It is our responsibility to demand change and make amends for the damages caused.

Lallinger, S. (2020, June 23). America’s segregated schools: We can’t live together until we learn together. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/06/23/why-segregation-still-plagues-americas-schools-and-how-fix-column/3234499001/

Stancil, William 2018. The Radical Supreme Court Decision That America Forgot. The Atlantic. 29 May 2018.

Comic Strip 2

This comic strip is based off of William Ayer’s book “Becoming A Teacher“, specifically chapter 5 titled: “What Is My Role in Curriculum-Making?“. In the comic above, I depict a hypothetical conversation with my colleague, Leah. In this hypothetical, I reflect upon the intended curriculum my fellow teacher and I are supposed to teach our students. As seen in the comic, I then have a conversation with Leah to gauge what she thinks about what I believed to be a narrow curriculum that does not allow any individualized student learning. Then finally at the end panel, I have a thought to myself that I will do what I can as a teacher to ensure my student’s are meeting the learning standards, but I will do so in a way that my student’s can participate as my equal. It is important to note that I want to encourage my student’s to actively participate in their learning and that they are not just on an education assembly line that does not want their input.

I had a handful of “ah-ha” moments if you will when I was reading this chapter of Ayer’s book. First being that connection between the intended curriculum and the hidden curriculum. As depicted in the comic, I make the connection between what I as a teacher will be explicitly teaching my students, and how the hidden curriculum may communicate to students. Specifically, I note that if my student is not having a say in their education, such as creative input, what does this convey to students? I would say that the student would likely feel as though they are just another body learning what everyone else does, they are a part of the “education assembly line”. It was this metaphor that schools function like factories that really drove home the topic of school learning becoming a commodity. Such as when schools use curriculums that do not support the growth, development and progress of each individual student, labels of winners or losers are placed on students.

I then asked myself after reading this, how can I work to ensure my students are not just another body in the classroom? How can I understand the various curriculums and the impact they have on my students? I find this quote from Ayer’s to be a great starting point when reflecting on the previous questions, “If you begin with an intentional and abiding faith in your students, if you believe in their innate capacity to learn, to create things, to grow and make meaning, if you believe each is capable of both individual and social transformation, curriculum becomes a form of reinventing, re-creating, and re-inscribingof finding voice.” I as a professional in the education system need to ensure the curriculum in my classroom is a process in which my students can participate actively as my equal. I want to use Ayer’s ideological perspective of education being bold, adventurous, creative and illuminating to enhance my student’s learning without putting them into restrictive learning boxes. I feel as though if we as educators can get a well rounded understanding of our curriculums and their consequences (intended or unintended), we will be able to produce a learning environment that is engaging and will allow our students to prosper.

In all, I found this chapter to be very enriching. Prior to reading this chapter, I had not put much thought into what goes into a curriculum and the outcome of that. Personally, the only time I had thought about curriculums in the recent past was when my School Psychology classes were mentioning how we can use IEP’s in the classroom. Additionally, how a student may be struggling with tasks of the curriculum and what that might mean in terms of learning deficits. Upon finishing this chapter, I found myself wanting to dive a little deeper into the hidden curriculum and the notions they give to our students. I am challenging myself to think more critically about the unintended or unconscious consequences of the intended curriculums that are vastly implemented throughout our education system.

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