Eng 310 Comments


















To echo my 310 post I just wanted to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this class. Even this blog, which was the mild bain of my existence at the beginning, grew on me throughout the semester. I’ve really enjoyed being able to read on current events involving schools, this has helped me feel more prepared to enter the teaching world. I am more aware of the climate in schools and definitely more aware of current laws surrounding schools. This is especially true since my topic was relating to NCLB. I learned a lot more about what the law actually means and how it is implemented in schools. (I read a lot about school closings and students being forced to move to other schools). I also learned not to judge the law too harshly because there are some glimmers of hope in it. One thing I might suggest to change about this project is the requirement of a blog topic. I understand its purpose, but it was very hard to for me to zone in on just aspect of schools to write about. Espeically being so new to the world of teaching (I haven’t even entered it yet). There were a lot of articles that I wished I could write about but that didn’t fit into my topic. However, I know that there is a lack of grace to a blog that follows no pattern and goes all ove the place in what it talks about, especially if it needs to be graded.

The RSS technology had the same effect on me as the blog as a whole did. I found it pretty difficult to get my blog and my google reader account set up, but after I had accomplished that I found everything else pretty easy. What this ecnounter with technology has taught me most is to not be afraid of it. There is very little chance that you will do something irreversible, so it’s alright to experiement and play around until you get what you are looking for.

I can honestly say that Eng 310 and 311 have been two of my favorite classes that I have taken so far at Grand Valley. This post, however will only deal with 310. For this blog my topic was, very broadly, diversity in schools. This expanded and contracted and ended up dealing with those students who do not get a strong voice, however they may appear. This included economically disadvantaged, socially ostracized and others.

This RSS Notebook has been a wonderful experience for me. The articles I read for this blog were amazing and I probably would not have gotten the chance to read them had I not been required to. From this blog I learned how fearful many in schools are of those who are different. Also, and probably most importantly, I learned how legislation often works against the best interest of the student (if they don’t have money or power). This has made me more determined than ever to seek a job in an urban setting. I don’t think that I can swoop in and save these kids, I’m not even saying they need saving, but I do think that they need someone fighting for them. That, above all is what this blogging process has taught me. There are grave inequalities in our schools that need to recognized and rectified. I think that teaching students about the power of writing is an excellent way to accomplish this.

As far as the technology goes, I have learned a lot there as well. I am not a very tech-savvy person, but I feel much more comfortable with this form of technology than I did at the beginning of the semester. I would now feel at ease setting up my own blog outside of class or implementing one into my own classroom when I am a teacher. The technology is easy to understand and its a great way to incorporate technology into the classroom. My only complaint is that I would have likes a little more guidance at the beginning. I struggled a lot in getting my blog set up. Now that I’ve done it I feel I could easily do it again, but for the first time I sort of needed my hand held. Learning about how to use Google Reader was also great. This is a wonderful resourece that I’m sure I’ll use in the future. It’s also a great way to incorporate current events into the classroom. Again, I would recommend this project to future classes.

Bright Ideas Conference

I really enjoyed the Bright Ideas conferecne. I felt that I learned a lot in a short amount of time…and for a small price. It was nice that the presenters were people who were in the field or practicing to be in the field. This made it a little less intimidating, and more effective, than if it was a collection of scholars who had little experience in the field of teaching. I felt I could connect with what they were saying and trust their advice.

I thought the key-note speaker was very entertaining. I liked the fact that she read from her books so we could get a feel for her writing style. This made it easier to connect with the stories she told. I also thought it was good to have this start out the conference because it would have been easy to leave the literature out of an event like this, and jus focus on teaching styles. But, opening the conference this way helped me to remember that I am an English teacher, and the content I am teaching shouldn’t get lost in how I teach it.

The first break out session I went to started out on a weak note, but ended strong (at least in my opinion). It was about incorporating mass media into the English curriculum. There were three speakers total in this session. The first two speakers did a tag-team approach and talked about using wikis and “youtube” to help illustrate points in the lesson. To be honest I thought the talk was little too technical for the amount of time they had, I really didn’t understand a lot of what they were saying. They went too fast and didn’t make strong enough connections to implementation for me. The third speaker however I found very interesting. She talked about using concepts and principles from journalism and using them to teach English. She talked abut her CRAP’D philosophy which stands for: Contrast, Repetition, (I cannot remember P, and I lost my folder, sorry!) Allignment and Dominance. She illustrated these points well with visual examples and an interactive activity. She also made strong, clear connections as to how these principles could relate to paper writing. I found her point of view very intriguing and very practical.

The final break out session that I attended was on teaching in urban settings. The session started out wiht a digital tour of one of the speakers’ life. She was a student in an urban setting who was very unsatisfied with how she was being taught. She then became a teacher and when she went back to the same district found that little had changed since she attended classes there. From there the session was another tag-team approach that focused on how to break the cycles of “busy work” for urban students. They talked about approaches to use, how to approach the principal (or whoever) with a new idea for teaching without getting shot down. They also brought in a lot of sociological studies on class differences and language differences. I found all of this extremely helpful and it got me excited to get into the classroom and do my best to make a difference. I felt more prepared for teaching after this session because it came from people in the field and they gave extremely practical methods of how to implement these ideas into an urban classroom. It tasted strongly of critical pedagogy and Jeannie Oakes.

Overall I thougt requiring the conference was a bright idea. It made me feel connected to the teaching community and gave me some good tips for preparing to become a teacher. I strongly reccommend continuing this practice for future classes.

Dividing Communities

Schools are often talked about as pillars of communities. They are seen as a way to keep children and families together, and to keep people interacting with one another. This, however, is not the case with one East Harlem school.

Ms. Velasquez and the other parents of almost 200 students in the school’s[St. Francis de Sales] eight grades were abruptly told in early March that the school would close in June. But officials at the Archdiocese of New York, as well as other parents and clergy familiar with recent events, said they expected that the school would reopen in a year, possibly as a more expensive private academy or preschool.

“They just want us out to make room for the new and improved people,” Ms. Velasquez said. “There is a plan for this neighborhood. I mean, look at First Avenue. They got doormen! It’s all connected. Look at Second Avenue. Why do they want to finish the subway now? These are not different issues. It’s all connected.”(Gonzales, 4-10-07)

I find this appauling and immensely confusing at the same time. First, it is appauling that people who live in the school’s neighborhood, attend it, and are patrons of the chruch with which it is associated would be forced out for newer “better” people. This simply shoud not happen, not even in an imperfect world. People should be allowed to live in their own community and attend those schools without getting shoved around by those with more money. Schools are a place to learn, and are supposed to help prepare children for life. How can this be done if they are never allowed to stay in the same school? It can’t and it won’t unless something is done about it. If not, then the cycle of povert and inequality in our country will continue unobstructed.

However, I did say that I also found this situation confusing. That is because I’m not sure what the altenative should be. If a school is losing money something has to be done t save it, or it will be put down. Yet, I still don’t think that closing the doors to one group of people and re-opening it for another is the right way to accomplish this. The article didn’t talk much about previous attempts to save the school. The principal had been replaced and the new principal seemed to make no attempt to rectify the situation. He claims the only option he saw was to close it down. Firt, I find it odd that the school wouldn’t see this coming. There must have been some kind of warning sign. The situation does seem to point uneasily to an attempt to rid the school of its working class families for a higher economic class of people.

Is there anything that can be done to save our schools in situations like this? I think so, and I also think that if the administration of this school had given it a little more thought they could have avoided the dillemma.

“In East Harlem School Closing, Talk of Class Divide”

New York Times, Apr 10, 2007 by David Gonzalez

link to full article

I have written before about the admission process for high schools and how closely it resembled that of college. Well, the Chicago Tribune recently published another article outlining the process for applying to private schools at any age. The same feeling overwhelmed me while reading this article as the previous one. The feeling that these kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore and that their learning is only a tool to advance them in the professional world. I think this is incredibly sad.
Then some new feelings and thoughts popped into my head. The first got me thinking about “teacihng to the test”. These private schools put students through a rigorous process of admittance, so once they are in both the school and the students (and their families) want them to be successful. Well, what measures success? Getting good grades and scoring well on standardized tests right? According to this article and these schools that is exactly right. So, how are teachers supposed to introduce new or vangaurd ideas if they are confined to the test? My guess is that most students are not going to want their hard work getting into the school to go to waste by not learning what will be on the SATs.
The second and stronger feeling that surfaced while reading was that these private schools are attempting to create a perfect student population, where the weak, offbeat or quirky are thrown out. Only the most perfect specimens will do. Of course, it is not this severe, but their process strikes some alarming tones.

The panel is impressed by the high entrance exam scores of a 6th-grade applicant but troubled by a record of behavior problems that would likely require a special-needs study plan. He is rejected.

“We wouldn’t help him very much and only add to his anxiety,” Gillinger said. “He would be better somewhere where there is special training to deal with that.”

A 5th-grade candidate appears strong on all counts but also has a record at his current school of being late for classes. He is recommended for admittance — and required to take the school bus to ensure he arrives on time. (Rivera, 4/1/07: Tribune Newspapers: LA Times)

Perhaps this is just my overreacting, but that doesn’t seem right to me. Of course, they are a private school so they can do this, but should they? This is eliminating all diversity from the classroom, with the exception of racial. Students will get no interaction with other studetns whose learning styles may differ from their own. This is exactly like the tracking debate we had in class, only on a larger scale. Would these students be held down by “slower learners”? Or would they gain a new perspective and new experiences from it? This is academic snobbery at its earliest and finest. We are ridding our students (our children) of valuable experiences if we keep them from those who are different, whether that be cultrually, racially or academically.

“Privat Schools’ admissions a lesson in pressure, politics”

Tribune Newspapers: LA Times- Apr 1, 2007

By: Carla Rivera

link to full article