Childrens Books

Today’s discussion about culture and defining excatly what is American culture was very interesting, because we rarely take a step back and try to look at our own culture from an outsider’s perspective. I had read the article about the Nacirema several years ago in my Anthropology class, but it was fun to reread and pick up some of the subtle things I didn’t catch the first time. The other random thought I had today when we were thinking up a definition of American culture, and also yesterday when creating our cohort name, how privledged I am to have grown up in this country with English as my first language. Not to say that English is in any way superior, its just that I realized the changes we were making to the definition were so subtle. I tried to think about having to do the same activity in Spanish (which I have studied for over 8 years), and realized I probably would not be able to. I just think that’s something we should keep in mind when teaching kids from different linguistic backgrounds-even though they may be able to read, write, and speak fairly well, it is still difficult to understand very technical language, such as the language used on standardized tests.

“The Experts”

I really enjoyed our field trip to the school today. I haven’t been around kids for a few years now and it reminded me how funny they are. The little girl I was paired with was so sweet-she wants to be a chef, and we had a nice little conversation about how Rachel Ray is the best Food Network Chef because she’s more animated, and that grandma’s are the best cooks : ) She was also very quick to tell me all of her likes and dislikes about teachers…they need to be nice but not too nice, cause then the kids won’t listen to them, and they should listen to the kids and never ignore them. I was thinking about the things she was saying, and realized yet again how much simple wisdom comes out of kids mouths. I was also touched by all of the big dreams kids have at that age for their futures. I mean, why shouldn’t they aspire to be both an NFL player and a doctor? I think that as kids get older and hit with reality they often lose sight of those dreams…I hope that as a teacher I can inspire students to pursue those dreams throughout their entire lives. I am really looking forward to starting this summer program in a few weeks.

So, anyone else EXHAUSTED from the children’s books…Whew! ; )

Cradle to Prison

I had a lot on my mind with today’s discussion about the “cradle to prison” problem. Although you always hear that poverty leads to prison, I thought the articles we read and the discussion we had really helped me connect the dots as to how that happens. Having worked at a clinic with low-income prenatal patients, women who came to us because they had been turned away so many other places for prenatal care because they couldn’t pay, many of them coming in for their first appointment 35 weeks pregnant, it was obvious to me the disadvantage these children start with in life. Also, thinking about our patients, many of the women were recently arrived from Mexico and did not speak English-people who are new to this country, in particular, cannot realistically teach their kids what they are expected to know before entering school, because they don’t know themselves. It seems, though, like if a kid gets behind the 8 ball in the first year of school, they are potentially going to be stuck there for the rest of school. I was very disturbed about the prison statistics and seeing how obvious it is that our society expects certain groups of people to fail.

Tracking

Can I just begin my blog by saying how much I was cracking up when one of the groups listed “snack kids” as a high school clique today. I had never heard of that before but I have a friend like that who always has a pack of reeses or some chips coming out of his pockets or bookbag and it totally made me think of him….anyhoo, to my real blog…

I had never really thought about tracking or its potential impact on student’s lives before reading this weekend’s article. Looking back on my own life, I can remember as far back as first grade being divided into two reading groups and feeling so good because I knew I was part of the “smarter” group. After seeing that study today, it made me so angry to see the things teachers sometimes base those groups on (ie the children’s clothing, cuteness, smell, parents appearance). It’s like our schools write off half of the students as failures before the age of six, since that early tracking can affect the next twelve years of their schooling (or beyond). I dont understand how people can expect failure from little kids who have barely begun their lives and have all the potential in the world.

King Center

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”  -Martin Luther King Jr.

On Friday’s visit to the King Center, I think the thing that stuck out to me the most was how much Dr. King tried to make the fight about not just African-Americans, but about all oppressed peoples around the world. This stuck me because I think often our human tendancy is to focus on ourselves and maybe those close to us, and not worry about anyone else. The fact that Dr. King could look beyond his immense personal struggles and the struggles of his people and see the struggles of others testifies to the unselfish nature of himself and the movement. He did not demand rights just for himself and his immediate community, but recognized the need to fight for an even bigger cause.

The other thing that really struck me at the center was when I read the laws that existed in Georgia just a few decades ago regarding interracial marriage. It is abusrd to me that the government could regulate who a person could choose to love and have a family with. That really touched me personally, because I realized that not too long ago my relationship with my boyfriend, the person I love most in this world, could not have existed and would have resulted in prison or worse. I am so greatful to those who have paved the way for us.

 

FaRa…

I really enjoyed todays activity with the alphas and betas, because I think it painted such a good picture of how it feels to be an outsider to another group. It was interesting that even though we were allowed to speak English when visiting the Aplhas, we were still so clueless to how their society worked. Also, I think those of us in the beta group were so focused on winning and learning the rules of our own game that we expected to go into the other group and find them doing similar activities. Rather than taking the time to observe their behaviors and learn their way of doing things, we tried to jump right in and figure out their game and how to win it as fast as possible. What hit me the most was how when others came into our group and I knew we could not really explain the game to them beause they didnt know the language, I began to see that I could easily take their cards and get ahead in my own game. Equating this experience to real life, I unfortunately saw this taking advantage of cultural outsiders a lot during my time working at the clinic. Many of the women I worked with would share stories about bosses, landlords, etc. who would take their money, deny them their paychecks, etc. because they knew they could get away with it.

Glass Ceiling?

Today’s discussion about gender and women’s rights made me think about myself and my own experiences as a woman. I have to be honest, whenever discussions about women’s rights issues and the glass ceiling come up, I generally roll my eyes and think “oh gosh, not this again, aren’t we past this?” I guess of the four groups/theories that Dr. Williams mentioned I would fall under the “Pollyanna” category, that I feel women’s rights issues are a thing of the past. This is probably a selfish view for me-I know that women often earn less money at the same jobs and are underrepresented in certain career fields. But as for me personally, I can’t say that I have ever felt marganialized as a woman because I was a woman. Maybe it’s because I was never really involved or interested in sports, and haven’t had the interest in pursuing math, science, political, etc. type fields where women are not as fairly represented. I do feel like growing up I always knew that I had equal rights to men and that I had the option to pursue whatever career I wanted If anything, I felt marganilized in the other direction, in that if a woman in the culture I grew up in choose to stay home with her children, she was categorized as “just a mom/housewife” and looked down upon. To this day I think if I were ever to have kids, I would actually feel guilty about staying home with them because that idea was so ingrained in my head. I just think that part of gender equality is allowing women and men to choose how they want to balance their work/family lives, and not be looked down upon for those decisions.

What Doesn’t Kill You. . .

In today’s discussion about white privilege the idea was brought up that this “privledge” that white people in our society have may not actually be beneficial in some ways, mainly in that it can limit personal growth and understanding. When the comment was made by Dr. Williams I don’t think I really got what she was talking about. Then we watched the video about Jane Elliott and and her experiment, which led me to my “aha” moment. In the video, the point was made that because people of color are constantly belittled, talked down to, criticized, stereotyped, etc, from the time they are children in school, they must learn to become hardened towards these comments as a mode of survival and self-preservation. The video also showed a white woman being talked down to by Ms. Elliott and as soon as she felt put down she began to cry and really didnt know how to handle the criticism. Putting myself in that same situation, as much as I hate to admit it, I imagine that I would probably react like that white woman. As terrible as it is that many children of color have those experiences in their daily lives, it does create a certain toughness and thick skin that I really envy and wish that I could learn for myself. Obviously I do not envy the pain and heartache it must take to get to that point, but it is definitely a quality that I respect and admire in others.

Who’s History are You Learning?

I found todays discussion about the schools we attended and how much their presentation of historical information differed to be very interesting. Having grown up in a rural school in Pennsylvania with VERY undiverse population, I have realized over the past few years how one sided the history I learned really was. It actually kind of angers me that I can probably count on one hand the number of times African Americans and other cultural groups were even talked about in history in my entire precollege education. I feel like I was lied to about the real history and have been trying to read on my own and make up for lost time since coming to that realization. I dont know if my school taught this way because the students and teachers all came from similar backgrounds and therefore didnt feel the need to present other points of view, or if our teachers really did believe everything in the textbooks. Either way, I never once remember a teacher presenting a different perspective or encouraging us to think about historical events from the eyes of someone else. Honestly, the whole thing makes me sad…but at the same time motivates me to educate myself and learn from others about the real history of our country, so as to not deprive my students the knowledge that I was oblivious to for so long.

Serenbe

I just wanted to type a few thoughts about our retreat at Serenbe.  First of all I want to say that I really enjoyed having time and activities to better get to know everyone.  Y’all are a really fun group and I think it’s going to be a good year. It was also really nice getting to spend some time with the professors…I think I know most of our instructors better now after a week than I did throughout my entire undergrad! The place was so pretty and it was nice to get outside for a while (although I felt soo bad for all of you suffering from allergies!)  Of all the activities I think I enjoyed the color personality test the most. I’ve taken different tests before but never that particular one, and it is always interesting to get to know who people are and what makes them tick.  Other than getting incredibly lost leaving Serenbe and somehow ending up back at the front gate a very enjoyable and thought-provoking two days 🙂