Friday, September 27, 2013

EDUC 7718 Week 4

Reflective Commentary:  This is on my blog because it is a record of my coursework.  The questions are answered on Google Presentation because the we are discussing appearance, and appearance is visual.

1.         How operational and meaningful is visual profiling in education settings?   Please consider this personally from your own experience, but include commentary about the way it plays out among adults as well as among learners.  Is there anything you could or should do to change any negative aspects of this?
2.        Many people say that one important purpose of public schooling in this country is to enculturate children into what it means to be an American.   What does it mean to be American?
Don’t forget to include commentary about why you choose the response medium you did.   Have fun!

Google Presentation:

     I had fun with this topic. I asked many staff members how they thought a teacher should dress and why. I was surprised when I got similar answers.  Most felt the students were better behaved around adults who take care of their appearance. The instructors in one shop always wear ties, and they swear the student behavior is better than it was before ties.
     On the flip side, I asked students which teachers they feel like they respect.  The first teacher one student chose is a regular substitute.  She is young, dresses casually and "relates well with the kids."  The other two teachers the students picked always look very professional. (You'll see them in the presentation.)
     I showed an older teacher friend a clip of Rick Kleine's teaching demonstration. She said she didn't doubt his skill as a teacher, but she would have a few nervous moments at parent-teacher night.  Her children often wanted to imitate their teachers, and his appearance was different from the way her family dresses.  
     In two other conversations, colleagues stressed the importance of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.  They both gave examples.

PS:     Upon final review of the Presentation, I realized the final photo with the National Honor Society was with the words "The most successful become acculturated to our community."  NHS is made up of a real cross section of cultures.... but these aren't the only successful kids in the school!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

EDUC 7718 Week 3

EDUC 7718 - Week 3

How many master myths/cultural models/ figured worlds  are at work in your school situation?  How do they conflict or agree with each other?  If there are too many, choose just a few to describe in depth.    Pay attention to the indicators of voice and words in these various cultural models .  

    Henry Abbott Tech is one of Connecticut's State Technical High Schools and is located in Danbury. Students rotate between academic classes and trades in two week "cycles."  They wear uniforms in both academics and shop. Half of our students come from the City of Danbury, a third of the remainder come from rural New Milford, and the rest come from predominantly white Fairfield County suburbs. Danbury has many South American immigrants who choose to send their children to Abbott. There are visibly more boys than girls in our building.  All but four of the trade instructors are men.  Three of the four women teach hairdressing.

    "The various cultural models that a particular social group....uses often share certain basic assumptions.  These assumptions form master myths of the social group." (Gee, 111.)

    I have worked as the librarian at Abbott Tech for twelve years.  Prior to working here, I thought of Abbott as a school for kids who are "good with their hands." As an insider, it is hard to step outside and recognize the schoolwide assumptions because they are "normal... commonsense." (Gee,111)  I had to back into one of Abbott's master myths by focusing on some of our school's basic assumptions.

- "Sports rule."  This is common in high schools. Until we started a football program, it was less obvious.
- "Abbott Tech is family."  Many of the students who could not wait to graduate return to tell teachers how much they miss Abbott.  Trade teachers become mentors or parent figures to many of our students.  
- "Shop rules are more lenient."  We have school uniforms, and some of the trade teachers are lax about enforcing the rules. There are also breaks. This bothers the academic teachers.
- "Abbott Tech is a school for students who do not plan to go on to college."  Middle school guidance counselors in our white suburban sending districts encourage students that are not college-bound to apply.
-"Kids don't stay after school for clubs. They don't have transportation." For many years, we have had no after-school clubs.  This is changing. We now have four.
-"Hairdressing is for girls."  There a exceptions, but traditionally male fields, (auto shops, construction trades) attract one or two girls. In this order, girls gravitate to hairdressing, culinary arts, CADD and graphics. Boys willingly try all trades but hairdressing. (They must try it for two days.)
-"I don't have to be smart to get into Abbott Tech."  Although they have to pass their eighth grade CMT's or a basic entrance test, students know they do not have to be top students to attend Abbott.

    Upon reading chapter 6 of Gee's Social Linguistics and Literacies, I noticed that revealing a master myth or  a cultural model can be jarring to people who haven't thought in those terms.  Jane is surprised at her word choices in two situations (91).  The working class men in Rhode Island were disappointed in their own "success" as determined by the American work ethic cultural model (109).  I was pleasantly surprised when I recognized one of Abbott Tech's master myths.

"Students can be successful at Abbott Tech even if they weren't successful at their last school."
     Abbott Tech offers trade technologies which require different skills than traditional academic courses. Many of our students are pleased and surprised when they get on the honor roll for the first time in their academic lives. Our National Honor Society members would not be invited to apply to NHS at other schools. This is because we do not have a "top tier" of Ivy League bound students. We do not offer AP classes. Most of our college-bound students get sizeable scholarships. Some of them had never considered college until they found success at Abbott. .

I heard a new substitute teacher comment on the fact that (Abbott) "students do the bare minimum work for classes."  There are exceptions, but that is mostly true.  Any LEA teacher would agree, though, that this describes the majority of high school students. As part of a state-wide district, our students are required to participate in Accelerated Reader (mostly used in elementary/middle schools) and Math Lab (self-paced math support.) This works well for struggling students.

For many students, success in the trades makes a huge difference in their lives and their self-esteem. Trade instructors place qualified students in area businesses.  At Senior Awards at the end of the school year, there are cash awards for shop performance.    

With No Child Left Behind and the CT Common Core, there is a strong focus on academic success.  At Abbott Tech, we are able to help our students find other ways to be successful during the school day.

Is it (as Gee suggests) “the job of the teacher to allow students to grow beyond both the cultural models of their home cultures and those of the mainstream and school culture”???? Should it be more than “allow”, should it be “require”????    How does this play against (or with) the right of every individual to be him or   herself and stay that way?

    Following the Common Core State Standards, all children are expected to be able to perform school-based, higher-order, creative thinking.  This sounds like teachers should "require" students to grow beyond the cultural models of their home cultures and those of the mainstream culture. If "average reading achievement has not changed markedly over the last 20 years" (NAEP, 1997), according to the Standards, no matter their background, children should be able to catch up and surpass their parents' achievement. Students will all be college and career ready. It is the teacher's job to get them there.

Even though it is not all "academics," at Abbott Tech, we allow, and sometimes require, children to grow beyond their home cultures and the mainstream culture. Students have exposure to the technical aspects of work that their families and neighbors may never have encountered. Because we are a melting pot of so many different backgrounds, we can't help but expand our students' knowledge of the greater community.

    The more I read and listen to current research about home and local culture's effect on a child's success in school, especially the interviews with the researchers in the "Children of the Code" readings, the more unattainable our Nation's education goals sound. If it is true that children’s success in school correlates with spoken language at home (Meaningful Differences, Risley) we will need to start public education with babies in order to fulfill today's education expectations.

Reflective commentary:
     For me, "school" means "written," not spoken.  I like to use specific words and I like to reread and change what I write.  I babble on video. This medium worked well. Classmates can read it at their own pace or pick out important pieces to look at.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week 1

EDUC 7718: week 1
a.  (Your own Biker Bar moment) Describe an occasion on which you felt entirely out of your depth, “other” “I do not fit in here” “everybody gets it but me”; what in you and the situation contributed to that feeling?  

      After graduating college in Upstate NY, I went back to visit a friend of mine on campus during the run of one of the musicals.  John, a friend of a cast member, was also on campus that weekend and we seemed to hit it off at a cast party.  John invited me to a graduation party hosted by one of his fellow West Point graduates somewhere in Westchester County.  I agreed to go.
      When John picked me up, he made a joke about his old "Beamer."  It went over my head.  I picked up on the "BMW" label somewhere inside the car after a bit.  I remember swinging by his mother's small house in a rural part of NY then going down to the party.  We pulled into a sweeping curved driveway, lined by an immaculate stone wall.  We parked near the expansive house overlooking the Hudson River.  We walked into a detached structure that housed a hot tub and a throng of young adults holding bottles and glasses filled with a variety of beverages.
      I had worn "nice casual" clothes, which for me was mid-eighties off-brand preppie.  These folks were the real thing.  They looked like they came out of a TV commercial for Ralph Lauren.  I grew up in a one-income teacher's family.  These people were, in my eyes, obviously accustomed to privelege, the school chums of a West Point graduate and their dates.  I was normally OK in new social situations, but this was way outside my comfort zone.  The guests all acted relaxed and friendly, the parents were kind, and I put on my best face and mingled.  I felt so out of place.
     One factor that contributed to my discomfort had to do with my perception of people who come from money.  Another factor was not knowing anything about the situation I was getting into.  My date seemed like a pretty humble guy from a small town in Upstate NY.  I expected maybe volleyball, a little swimming, a couple of beers... not a full-scale cocktail party from a TV show.  The final factor?  I analyze things too much!
     In case you're wondering, I never saw John again.  He was wife-hunting as I percieved all military types to be, and I was 22 and trying to find my way.  (I THINK that was his name!)

b. Consider your learners as they begin the new school year.   How are they negotiating/establishing their own positions in the learning community?   How are you seeing them?  What “data” about them are you reading? and how are they sending it?

     I am the librarian at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury CT.  We teach students from the City of Danbury and 17 sending towns in upper Fairfield, lower Litchfield, and western New Haven counties. Sometimes, towns only send one or two kids. Except for the class of 2015 who had a contingent from the alternative middle school and wore their teachers out by the end of the first week, most ninth graders are like "deer in the headlights" for their first academic cycle.  They are polite.  They wear their uniforms.  They respond when spoken to.  The class of 2017 fits that mold.
     Sometimes it seems like the seniors get together to figure out how they are going to present themselves  before the school year starts.  This senior class has been exceptionally mature so far.  It is refreshing.  They are friendly to staff and seem happy to see us.  This group seems in awe of finally becoming seniors.
     I have only seen the sophomores and juniors briefly while choosing books for Accelerated Reader.  Most of them responded well to me last year and, with a little jesting, respond equally well this year.  They are happy to tell me about their summer experiences and smile and roll their eyes when I ask about summer reading.
     All of us, staff and students, started the year a little anxious because our principal retired last January and we had another principal in June who quit in August.  I can't help but think the students are calmer than previous years, reflecting the staff's anxiety about the new testing, curriculum,  and teacher evaluation systems we will be impementing this year.
     Our NEW new principal arrived at the beginning of this week. It was interesting getting his observation of our staff interaction with students. He was very pleased and excited about our school's atmosphere. We are a cohesive, friendly bunch, and I was proud that it showed.

     I had my "biker moment" because I constructed my meaning of the party from my past experience, or lack thereof, with wealthy, "priveleged" people.  As a grown-up, I recognize people are people, and they are where they are often based on choice and experience.  As a young adult, I was intimidated.
     Students at my school come from a huge variety of experiences.  Our "inner city" Danbury kids are documented and undocumented immigrants, strugglers, high-average achievers, technical types... our suburban kids are blue collar, farmers' kids, Special Ed, outcasts from their priveleged public school, internet savvy, unsure about college, sent by guidance counselors because they are "good with their hands" and bad at test-taking.  All have basic literacy skills.  Most are rather polite. It would be interesting to read the Slug story and see how it is interpreted, especially by our English Language learners!