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!

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