Saturday, September 27, 2014

Queering Schools Reading

Queering Schools  by the editors of Rethinking Schools

Last week while trying to pick a week to lead discussion there were two topics that I was very interested in.  I was interested in the Nov. 5th topic Seeing Queerly and the Nov. 19th topic The Politics of Inclusion.  Both these topics are something that I feel passionate about.  We have talked so much about the power of privilege and these two groups are at the bottom of the power pyramid in todays culture, but I can see the growth that they have had in my lifetime.  We have talked about the campaign "Spread the Word to End the Word" and I have heard about "To B GLAD" day (Transgender, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Awareness Day).  In the end I chose the topic The Politics of Inclusion, but I still wanted to do more research on Queering Schools.  So whomever did pic the topic here is a jumping off point for you. 

Currently, I work in a Catholic school, I am not Catholic, nor was I raised Catholic, or any religion in particular, though my family celebrated Christian traditions, I do not personally consider myself a Christian.  As I began to read the article I continued to think how would this conversation/lesson go at my school.  Would it even be allowed? (Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Roman Catholic Church)  Though I may not push the boundaries at this school in my first month as a teacher there, I still think that the LGBTQ community needs a voice in our schools.  Just like the racial issues we've been discussing in class, this subject also needs to be bought up and discussed with students.  The article Queering Schools was about ways that we as teachers can begin to bring the topic of LGBTQ issues into our schools.  The editors quoted and excerpt from From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, by Jacqueline Woodson, “Transsexuals, Teaching Your Children” (spring 2010), 

"What about enlarging a study of the Harlem Renaissance to explore the lives and impact of such LGBTQ poets, authors, and musicians as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Angelina Weld Grimk√©, Ethel Waters, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Josephine Baker? What about including the Lavender Scare in the study of the McCarthy era? Or the Stonewall Riots as part of the political foment of the late ’60s? Or considering implications of the campaign for LGBTQ acceptance in the military in the context of questioning current U.S. military strategy?"

The next quote reminded me so much of our discussion in class, and especially last weeks article by Armstrong and Wildman.  Again, these authors urge us to not sweep the issues under the rug, but find ways that we can openly talk about them.  

"This means a school filled with adults who are prepared to talk and listen to children talk about gender and sexuality, as well as other controversial and sensitive topics—adults who are willing to learn from youth as well as lead them. Community is built by working through differences, not sweeping them under the rug." 

I greatly enjoyed looking through the articles on ReThinkingSchools, and I cannot wait to see what each of us choose to read about.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Color Insight

Colorblindness is the New Racism- Armstrong and Wildman and the Ferguson Syllabus

1) The Ferguson Syllabus:
As I read through the 8 articles on the Ferguson Syllabus, I though about what each of them implicated and what affect they had on my view of the interaction in Ferguson this summer.  I think of my self as someone who is aware of what is happening in the world.  I try to keep up with world and US news. So this summer when Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth was shot by a white police officer, I thought it would be another event like Trayvon Martin.  But this time I think it is different.  This time their have been riots and protests bigger then anything since the Rodney King riots of 1992.  I reviewed a few articles but I returned to the first article by Victor Rios, "Stealing a bag of Potato Chips and other Crimes of Resistance."  As I read this article I thought about Delpit and Johnson. Were the two boys in this article trying to find umbrellas to make it in the culture of power, were they trying to break the culture of power, or were they just trying to get by?  Rios says "In feeling excluded from a network of positive credentials, education, and employment opportunities, young people develop creative responses that provide them with the necessary tools to survive in an environment where they have been left behind and where they are consistently criminalized." (pg 50) These boys don't even have access to the lowest rungs in the culture of power.  

"The boys had grown up in an environment which had deprived them of the social and cultural capital they needed to progress in school and the labor market.  Therefore, they developed their own alternative social and cultural capital, which they used to survive poverty, persist in a violent and punitive social ecology, prevent violence, avoid incarceration, and attempt to fit into mainstream institutions." (pg 49)

2) Armstong and Wildman- Colorblindness
pg. 68 "Color insight recognizes that a racial status quo exists in which society attributes race to each member.  Whereas colorblindness urges us not to notice race, color insight says, "do not be afraid; notice your race and the race of others around you; racism and privilege still do affect peoples' lives, learn more about the racial dynamic."  

I think that this quote really embodies what I got from this article.  I think that if we are ever to improve the disparity with in  the culture of power then we need to put the issue on the table and discusses it opening with all parties involved.  I really enjoyed how this article actually had some concrete ways to bring these issues into the classroom and how to start the conversation.  pg 68 The Racial Observation Exercise.  I went in search of other people who had messages that went along with this theme of color insight.  Mellody Hobson is an American businesswoman who is the current Chairman of Dreamworks Animation, and she is black.  She spoke in March of 2014 on the topic of Color blind or Color Brave.  I really enjoyed how she backed up her position with valid points of personal experience but also true statistics in this current day.  

A Linguistic Celebrations - a great Spoken Word by Jamila Lyiscott about the 3 languages she speaks.  This more ties into last week but I enjoyed it, and thought I would share.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Check one please: Skills or Process

The Silenced Dialogue - Delpit

In this article I believe that Delpit chose the process of writing and the teaching of writing to start a conversation on how we educate children.  At the beginning of the article I disagreed with a lot of what Delpit said, I also believed that the teacher using the process approach to teaching was just lazy. It is in my experience that both approaches are needed.

As a read on I began to really understand that it wasn't just the writing process that Delpit was talking about.  On page 31 she says "students ultimately find themselves held accountable for knowing a set of rules about which no one has ever directly informed them."  I felt the same way, I felt that she was not directly informing her reader what she was trying to get at.  As I read on, I began to understand more that it was that she wanted students to be "taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life...they must also be helped to learn about the arbitrariness of those codes and about the power relationships they represent." (pg 45).

I really liked the excerpt on the Alaskan native teacher who taught the students the value in both language sets, Heritage Language and Formal English.  I think it is teachers like this one and the teacher that interviewed the Southern black high school student who are helping to move the pedagogy of educating students of diverse backgrounds ahead.  I like how this teacher in particular challenged Joey to determine if Black English is bad or good. This teacher really had his/her student thinking about language and the differences in language and how it is used.

It was hard as a white-middle class person to really understand/identify with some of these issues, but the real life interviews and examples really put it into perspective that I could understand.  If you look at the statistics, School teachers by race, I do not think I am alone in this.  Out of the almost 4 million teachers in the US, 83.5% of these teachers are white, non-hispanic.  Over all I have learned that it is important to always keep the lines of communication open, and really listen to what people have to say because we all have different life experiences.

Here is just another little article about educating black students and how government reform has helped or hindered. Dream Deferred

Sunday, September 7, 2014

So what can we do about it?

Reading: Privilege, Power and Difference- Dr. Allan Johnson

As I read this article I agreed with most, questioned some and needed clarification on other parts.  I feel like I have read, thought about, or discussed this topic many times before.  Dr. Johnson was upfront with who he was and what privileges were afford to him for being a white, male, heterosexual.  He gave examples to how privileges do exist for whites vs. non-whites, males vs. females, and hetro-sexuals vs. non-hertosexulas.  What I wonder now, as I have before: 

What can we do about it?  

What can I as a white, female, hetro-sexual, middle-class person.  How can we "all just get along?"  I believe as Dr. Johnson said "Understanding how to bring dominant groups into the conversation and the solution is the best challenge we face." (pg 11).  How do we start this conversation with our students, how do we address the facts?  I found an article that has more to do with how to address races with your own children, but I think we can apply it here with our students as well.  Raising Racially Conscious Kids.  The article talks about six different things we can do to raise racially conscious kids, you may agree, disagree, or question how, but as long as we are thinking about it and discussing how to alter this "powerful force" then I feel like we are moving in the right direction.

1. Recognize that children experience race and that they need help to understand and contextualize it.

2. Make a conscious effort to share books, movies, and other media with your children that present diverse viewpoints and story lines.

3. Take advantage of every opportunity to talk about race in America.

4. Address your privilege and the ways you benefit from institutionalized racism, but also the ways it can allow you to challenge the system.

5. Teach your children to be “up-standers” to their peers.

6. Be careful not to paint people of color as lost and persecuted souls looking for a White Knight!

Personal Connection: When I first started working as a teacher I worked in a predominately white, middle to upper class school.  My second job was in a school that was much more diverse.  I did not think anything of my race or gender or background going into my first job, but as I started my second job at a school for low-income students of diverse backgrounds.  I thought how will they see me, a white, middle class woman coming into their school, their neighborhood and trying to educate them.  I had to be conscious of my self, more so then I had ever been before.  This school was one of the first places where I was not surrounded by people like me, who had similar up bringing,  similar categories on the "Diversity Wheel."  In the future I would love to have more tools on how to approach this situation.  I want to "change how we think so that we can change how we act, and by changing how we participate in the world, become part of the complex dynamic through which the world itself will change." (pg. viii)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Beginnings

Hello All,
My name is Jenny Henderson.  I am currently a 7th and 8th grade accelerated math teacher at Cluny School in Newport, RI.  When I was growing up I was one of the lucky ones that already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to be, a teacher.  I started off at College of Charleston, where my first advisor tried to talk me out of being a teacher because I am dyslexic, so excuse my spelling, I'm trying my best.  I thought this was a very negative thing to tell me and I would not take no for an answer.  Later, I moved onto Roger Williams University, where the staff were supportive of me and my pursuit of teaching.  I received my first certification in Elementary Education.  But at that point I was tired of school and wanted to travel the world, my other passion in life. So I started working on yachts, and I'm talking those big ones that come in and out of Newport, RI each summer.  I traveled up and down the east coast to Maine, Nova Scotia, Maryland, Florida, then to Central America: Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and the west coast to California, Washington, Vancouver, and Alaska  When I moved back to Rhode Island I started the long journey of finding a teaching job.  I found this to be quite discouraging, but just as before I did not let this get me down.  I finally received a call on the second day of school in fall 2009 to be a long term substitute in a 6th grade humanities class, I loved it, just as I knew I would.  This position led me to Rhode Island College, to earn my middle school math certification.  With this new certification in hand, I once again was on the hunt.  This time my hunt took me to New Bedford, a community with a rich and diverse history.  New Bedford and my family also have a long history.  My family once made sails for whaling ships.  I was excited to learn more about this community and really explore New Bedford's history.  I became the 7 and 8th grade math and science teacher at Our Sisters' School.  I spent two years at OSS, where I became the Math and Science Department Head, Advisory Coordinator, Schedule Coordinator and so much more.  I loved OSS and I learned so much from my time at OSS, but at the end of the school year in June of 2014 I decided to conquer my next mountain, graduate school.  I have always loved school and it had been too long and I needed to make it a priory in my life.  I left New Bedford and journey back to "the island," aka Aquidneck Island.  

Being back home has made very happy and I know this is where I want to be.  I love the water and need to see it every day.  You can often find my down at the beach, in the water or sailing my sunfish.  
(*This picture is not on my sunfish, don't have a picture, it's a wet boat, no place for a camera!)

I am very excited to be back in school, it has always been a place where I thrive.  Now I just need to find a few more jobs to support my habit of school and teaching.  

Cheers, Jenny