Onto New Heights!

After my time in Peru, I really wanted dive into public education. Because between budget cuts and private or charter schools, there is a lot of change going on. Obviously with the Trump’s administration things are also changing. I think that I underestimated just how politically charged this issue is.

I was thinking about urban schools when I was in Lima. Many of the public schools that are struggling find support from groups like the Jesuits. This made me wonder about how schools that have limited resources in the United States are able to find support. I found so many cases where churches were denied funds because of the separation of church and state. I did find some articles about how California is now providing funding to Pre-K programs. An article from US News brought up a question that I was actually thinking myself “what will the quality be and who will have access?”.

I was doing some more research about funding public schools and some articles criticized raising state property taxes to help public schools. It is a complicated battle because even though the Common Core requires assessing schools nationwide, most of the funding is actually coming from state taxes. I don’t quite understand why the national government will implement assessment without giving the tools to help students be successful. It seems like our current system is punishing the struggling schools and not offering the support needed.

I really enjoyed the time I spent in Peru, watching the community come together to better the school. I read a lot about the divide that takes place between parents and teachers due to a lack of understanding and or ethnic differences. It is hard because in many the schools that I saw in Peru, the teachers were often from the same neighborhoods as their students. That’s not to say that teachers cannot teach students of a different race. But in such a large country, why is it that we have such a teacher shortage?

Many classes that were axed during the Great Recession are being brought back – think more PE, art, music etc. And going back to budgets, many public schools can’t afford to pay teachers very well. The shortage of teachers is leading to increased class sizes. This can make teachers burn out much faster and those inquiry based activities more challenging to manage. The focus has often been on how to attract more teachers but it is equally as important to keep the teachers in the profession satisfied. So here is yet another reason to use parents as partners. Together we can support the kids in public schools.

I’ve quite recently discovered that you can literally get lost in the politics of education. In public schools, there are a lot of voices to consider, including the State and Federal Governments. It is important to keep a level head and to stay current on the issues BUT I think that by far, it is important to stay tuned to what is relevant for your students and their families. I don’t want to be that pessimistic teacher that thinks there is absolutely nothing that I can do about the social and political climate we’re in because that’s just not true. I don’t ever want to think that way and definitely don’t want my students to think that way. In a public school I may not be able to hand my students all of the monetary resources but I am in control of my most priceless resource: my time. In my research (and observations in Peru) about being a teacher in a public school setting, that is actually the most valuable thing to give students and their families.

Making It Relevant

I write to you from the comfort of my new home in Truckee, California. I have a few things to discuss in light of some reading I’ve done.

First I read Carter’s “‘Black Cultural Capital, Status Positioning, and Schooling Conflicts for Low-Income African American Youth”. I found that this article made a lot of great points relating to the Andean youth in Cusco. Many students are expected to learn Spanish and are measured up to standards with money and social status. The young children from the mountains who speak Quechua who decide to go to the city of Lima face discrimination and are often in very poor neighborhoods. The discrimination that exists is not unlike that in the United States. Carter talks about how we often force African Americans to “act white” in order to gain social, economic and political power. We have built an education system to celebrates the dominant social group’s culture over others. In school it is evident that there are differences in achievement among children of different races. This has to end. In Carter’s research, they found that African American students struggle because they see that their teachers expect very little from them. Now can I fix all of the social and structural inequalities that my African American students face in the world? Probably not (I wish). BUT, I can expect the world from them. I can have high expectations for all of my students and push each and every one to new heights. Because being a teacher is such an important thing. Especially being a white teacher. I could be one of the first authority figures in my students life. I feel it is my moral obligation to build up my students and treat them and their families with respect. I saw that the teachers who brought love and respect in their classroom in Cusco had little communities. And as I’ve said before, even though it may look like a classroom, it is always a community in the making.

Next, as I read “The Costs of Brown: Black Teachers and School Integration” by Adam Fairclough, something changed in me. I know in some of my recent posts I may have sounded a little pessimistic and I said that money seems to buy education. I loved reading this article because it challenged that belief. He wrote about a contradiction to Jim Crow and how desegregation had negative affects on the African American community. Pre-Jim Crow, teachers worked harder because they had to make up for the lack of materials and tools for their students. Furlough discussed the importance of what is more valuable than money in education – passion. When passionate people get together, barriers come down and people defy the odds.

Following Furlough, I read Duncan-Andrade’s “Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete”. This article was critical of being overly optimistic, which I think by now you have probably gathered that I am not. I think I have a little bit of optimism, realism and skepticism (and clearly I’m a bit indecisive but who’s counting??). I found that his discussion of Obama’s campaign to be super interesting. I think a lot of naïve people thought “Look we aren’t a racist country! We have a black president!” when Obama was in office. We know that this is not the case and that as a society we have so much room to grow. He almost predicted the failures we would soon face in claiming to be a “colorblind society”. But I liked when he talked about what teachers can do for their students, particularly in a society that profiles, limits and challenges them. By giving students choice and freedom in the classroom, they can begin to feel motivated and passionate. And when teachers bring in issues in their lives, ones that truly matter, students can use their voice and discuss change in a space that is safe. In order for students to feel truly loved by their teachers, Duncan-Andrade argues that teachers must show that they are willing to make sacrifices too. And that all links to relationship building. And creating a space that will help relationship building will come from a community that is designed with my student’s and their values in mind. It makes me frustrated with the schooling strategy to suspend and expel students from school. How can shut students out of the community that they desperately need to learn how to be apart of? It is the easy way out to say “I don’t want to deal with trying to help you so YOU change or get out.”. But what if its not the students that need to change but our school communities? Are they going to learn proper coping mechanisms and social skills at home alone?? Probably not.

Finally I read “The Opportunity if not the Right to See” by Augustine Romero. This really spelled out how to make education meaningful for students and inspire social action. It is important to acknowledge the challenges and lack of opportunities that are the reality for many minorities. It is important for teachers to give choice and power back to their students so that education is something that they want to be apart of.

Adios Peru

Hello again! We have moved out of our charming Jesuit retreat house in Andahuaylas and have stayed at a handful of hotels. Machu Picchu was indeed gorgeous and our guide taught us more than I would have wanted to know about life in the 15th century. It was really quite amazing how organized their system of government was There were no taxes because they were not paid for their labor. In return, similar to radical communism, the government gave them everything they needed. Protection, food, materials for shelter, everything. It is hard to imagine such simple times when there was almost no crime because everyone had what they needed.

I think that culture and power are closely linked to money. Whichever culture allows you to get the most money in a society seems to bring power. Thinking about my last post, it seems that money can buy an education that will get you power. It is frightening that opportunity often comes to those with money. Even education. Is there any society these days that has a leveled playing field? Culture in the United States is usually referring to outside cultures. There is less of an emphasis on the status quo that is Anglo-Saxon cultural norms, especially of the upper middle class. I think that schools can be a place to learn about all people’s culture, including that of the white middle class. Because no culture is more rich than another.

As I near my time here in Peru, I am interested to see what sticks out to me in the United States. Soon July 4th will come and I will celebrate by going to a parade, enjoying a hot dog and watching the fireworks with my family. It seems kind of lame compared to the processions that I saw in Peru but it is my tradition. As an educator, I want to explore the different ways that other cultures celebrate and what links us all. I saw a lot of families all together in Peru, enjoying time with one another. I think it is important to talk more about the cultures that all come together in the United States. Yes we have St. Patrick’s Day and even Cinco De Mayo which are holidays created to try to celebrate other cultures (which is kind of a sad notion if you think about it – Americans creating fake holidays to “celebrate” groups that we have previously oppressed) but we have to do better. It gives power to other cultures when we want to learn how other people actually live. What sort of traditions and festivities are actually celebrated in Ireland or Mexico? I guarantee it looks nothing like the Americanized version we have.

Going to another country has instilled in me a desire for the authentic. Authentic traditions, authentic teaching and authentic being. My journey to being more authentic is just beginning but I am very excited for all that I have left to learn…

P.S. This is my last post in Peru (I can’t believe it).  So stay tuned for just a couple more posts when I get back to the US! Hasta pronto!!

 

Education In The Andes

On Friday we traveled to Cusco early in the morning. I woke up with a terrible cold, making the change in altitude feel worse that I could have possibly imagined. However we were in a large Jesuit retreat house, which was a white cabin with blue doors in the mountains. The fresh air and vacation from the terrible pollution in Lima was a special treat. Our place in Andahuaylas was actually the complete opposite in Lima. Not only was the air cleaner, sun was brighter (I know sun!). We were surrounded by mountains and everywhere we looked was covered in green. I have never stayed anywhere more beautiful.

I notice that the children are often with their parents in the markets and we saw beautiful churches that reflect the hybridization of Catholicism and their Andean, polytheistic culture. Their culture reflects a trilogy of a Godly place, mother earth (or Pachamama) and the underworld. The culture celebrates the 14 Incan rulers who were seen as godlike as well. When the Spaniards came to steal all of their gold and silver, many of their symbols were changed to reflect a more Catholic view (with saints and virgins). During Incan times, gold represented the sun, silver the moon and mirrors the water. None of these things had economic value because the relics were offerings to the gods.

As I finish the final leg of this journey, I want to keep an open mind. I was surprised by the way people here live when we went and visited the sustainable house. They used cow manure to produce gas that powered their stove and heated their water. It was amazing to hear how proud they were. Just last year they were in a tiny, dark kitchen and with the help of the Jesuit school Fe Y Alegria, they were able to make innovations to improve their daily life. It was clear that the students worked with the people living in the house because they are energized by the improvements made. I wonder how schooling will be different here in the Andes. Many people in the mountains still speak Quechua and I wonder if they are allowed to speak their home language at school or if there is a push to speak Spanish. I also wonder what kind of government support there is for public schools. I learned that the public school system competes with private schools in Lima. Many parents that have the funds will choose to send their children to private schools. I wonder if there is a way to help get resources to public schools and who they may work with if the government does not give the funding that they need.

I have found that my pre-departure readings are very relevant here in the Andes. I am well-versed in the benefits that the United States often rave about. Reading another perspective to the Columbus story, one that shines light on the total takeover that is actually celebrated.   I think that it is important to see how Catholicism has shaped their community and see which parts of the original religious practices remain. I wonder how educators can help students who may want to learn more about Spanish language or Catholic practices, especially if this doesn’t match their parents’ views. How can teachers both celebrate their culture and teach new ideas?

I think that it is important to balance these two things. All students have a right to share their ideas and their background. I have to believe that without equity and justice in education, we will continue to see an unequal and unjust society. From what I saw in the communities especially in Cusco, students are practicing behavior to take back to their community and to their homes. They learn to share ideas, support each other, and make the best of their circumstances. The teachers that encourage their students to see a better way to work in their classroom hopefully will transfer into their adulthood as they see solutions to problems in their community. I think that these values must guide education because no one group deserves a better education that another. Saying one is more deserving is to treat education like a good to be bought and sold. Why should some get to buy their education? What makes their education worth more than a public education?

High Quality Education for ALL

Welcome back! I am rejuvenated by a great FaceTime call with my parents! I also have had the company of the girls on my trip to share in our homesickness. Today I had a quick cold shower but I am nonetheless clean.

Both yesterday and today I saw two very different schools. First we visited a school called Colegio De La Inmaculada, a Jesuit school here in Lima. This school’s administration compared itself to Colegio Roosevelt and proclaimed its important piece to service that includes revisiting the same group time and time again. I think that La Inmaculada may have compared themselves to Roosevelt because they are indeed actually quite similar in their service mission, Roosevelt has only began working on really launching their service learning and are eager to grow this program. I also noticed the obvious difference in teaching style for both schools I observed. Roosevelt had a very American approach to keeping the teacher-student relationship more formal. From the very short time that I observed a class at La Inmaculada, I noticed the teacher having a very gentle demenour with the students and how his students were freely engaging in discussion, with little limit to volume. Even when it got noisy and even though the classroom size was large, I never felt like things were out of control. This Jesuit school services a majority of Class B children (A being highest E being lowest here in Peru). I saw that this campus had more Peruvian students than what I saw at Roosevelt.

La Inmaculada also has a small zoo on its campus and a large water filtration system on their school grounds. The campus is bordered by a 15ft wall that separates it from their less fortunate neighbors. It is clear that they intend to help the neighboring community but at the same time it was somewhat chilling seeing such a large source of freshwater and beautiful green grass next to a community that looked so different. I hope that their students really are seeing what is on the other side of the wall that surrounds their beautiful campus.

Today we visited a public school called Cesar Vallejo Escuela. This school was a pretty typical public school that caters to Class C & Class D families. I notice now that I am already saying family. There is a large community presence on campus, in fact most of the work done on campus is funded and produced by families. I got to spend some time in a classroom of 5 year olds and was immediately welcomed by hugs and kisses. There is a warmth honesty that is felt by each child, something that is not as encouraged in many schools that I have seen in the US. The focus on building almost a pride in their school community, in their space was amazing. I sat next to one student who, without being asked, just got up and threw out his scraps when he was finished cutting out his paper. The responsibility is on them and they have the physical and emotional love and support from their teacher and peers.

As I start to think about what a quality education is, I have to believe it is different for each student. I saw that even in three different schools in the same city even are teaching differently. The teachers have to know the context of their students before they can get anywhere. Maybe some schools have to teach more because the children’s parents don’t have the opportunity to pre-teach or help on homework. I disagree with the way that our school system in the United States views education. By giving test and messuring outputs, it takes away attention from a child’s journey. I feel that as a teacher it is more important to look at a child’s growth, individually. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter where a child ranks among their peers because it goes against the individualistic view we have on education. If we continue to test, shouldn’t we be comparing a child’s progress to himself or herself? Why does it matter to that student’s growth what their classmate scores? That is if we were to keep this testing regiment. To be completely honest, I think they encourage students (and teachers) to solve problems one way, according to the steps, based on memorized definitions. And frankly I think that that’s what computers are for. Teaching students to ask challenging questions and find their strengths in a safe environment is more important to me than if they can memorize the quadratic formula.

High quality education is going to look differently for each child, it has to. It all comes back to context. Certain content will fit some students better than others. Certain topics are going to be more challenging. A high quality education is one that enriches a students social and civic skills and challenges their way of thinking. I think every child is capable of achieving beyond what they even thought possible, with a gentle push from a teacher who will introduce them to different ways of viewing the world, no matter what their social class is. It doesn’t matter if you are the richest student or the poorest, everyone can benefit from a new way of thinking. Everyone will come into class with different strengths and different areas to improve on and it is our job as teachers to help our students use both to their advantage.

Politics & Ethics

Hello again! I am officially halfway through my time here in Peru. It has been great but the homesickness is kicking in. I am not unfamiliar with missing home but I think that missing my sister’s birthday has made it more emotionally taxing than usual… But, I have had a fantastic weekend of relaxation to help distract me from all of this and for that I am grateful.

On Friday we got to sleep in and go to seminar at Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (or UARM for short). We discovered a really cute café near the school that has swings for seats. I will clue you in on a little secret – the coffee here has not disappointed. It’s funny though, everywhere we go, it takes about three times as long to get the food or drink that we ordered. Luckily, the wait is always worth it. After we visited the Pachacamac Sacred City ruins of Lima. It was very beautiful. On Friday night we went to Brisas de Titicaca, a live band and dance show that played many Peruvian songs. It was full of tourists like me who wanted a taste of Peruvian culture and loved to dance.

Our weekend of leisure was just what the doctor ordered. I think I’ve mentioned about 18 times about how exhausted I am. But amidst or delicious lunches and shopping trips, so much was going on in the news this weekend. With the rise of terrorist attacks, particularly since I have been here (including the Arianna Grande concert and now attack on the London bridge), I grow weary of teaching. It has taken this distance to see our issues in a new light, a very worldly view. So much of the narrative is about our president’s reaction and I think that this is wrong. No offense, but can we talk about anyone else’s opinion?

I really liked reading Brighouse and how she outlined the various different views of education. The United States prefers a level of proficiency in all students. She calls this “adequacy”. I can see that this is mirrored in other parts of our country as well outside of education. It seems that all of the economic plans and social plans all look toward a plan for the future but the way I see it, we need a plan for students right now. I would agree with Dewey in that changing the lives of students today would be the role of a teacher.

I believe that teaching will always be an ethical and political activity.  In a public school setting, there are so many pressures on a teacher.  The pressure to perform well on standardized tests, pressure to get good grades, pressure to attend meetings, listen to parents, listen to other teachers, principles and superintendents. No matter what you feel about the law as a teacher, it is an obligation to follow the law.  But at what cost?  After reading about the Atlanta cheating scandal, it really opened my eyes to how fragile a system we are apart of.  I grew up feeling the pressure to perform and sometimes it was tempting to google answers to hard math problems in order to get all of the points.  That is where ethics come in.  As a teacher it is important to live out strong values because it can feel very stressful at times.  As a preservice teacher I hope to learn more about how to navigate these challenges.  There is such an emphasis in my schooling to learn how to manage a class and teach to a curriculum.  This is important but I also don’t want to get in an professional grind where all I see are lesson plans and my students.  There is so much more going on than what is just in my physical classroom.

Happy Endings

Hello my followers! It’s been a while! I have many great things to update you on:
On Wednesday I taught my lesson about combining like terms to the sixth graders. It was very fun working with them. They were very willing to participate even when it was challenging. I think I was surprised at how confused they got but when I think about it, math is actually very confusing. I like that we were able unpack why x and x squared are not like terms, going back to the definition of terms having to be separated by addition or subtraction helped. But, I can remember learning things and when I would have questions and my teachers would say that it was a rule and that’s just the way it is. I enjoyed practicing the way I like to teach because the Roosevelt students are encouraged to ask those hard questions. As a teacher I felt like it made me feel like I was really getting them to understand and that is a huge accomplishment.

Yesterday was my last day at Roosevelt. I was actually much more sad than I thought I’d be. I feel like I was just getting to know the school and the students but I am so grateful to have been able to work with the students. After saying my goodbyes we were off to El Augustino again. This time, we were split up to work in little classrooms where students came for afterschool activities. The children were all under seven and were very sweet.

One girl and I played with a small oven and I somehow was reading her Snow White. She would point to things and tell me what they were and it was probably the cutest thing to ever happen to me. She was asking lots of questions and I wish I knew exactly what she was saying because five year olds are so fascinating.

During the program, their teacher leads them in various team building activities. One of them was with a group of eight kids and everyone held hands. Without letting go, each group member has to step through a large looped string and pass it to the next person. This is way harder than it sounds. They also played a game where the teacher played a drum and the kids had to move around the room but only stepping to the beat of the drum. My favorite part of all was at the very end of all of these activities, the students gathered together and talked about ways that they were successful that day. The teacher used a talking stick to make sure students were listening to each other and so that they could feel heard. I really appreciated this because she made it her role to teach them to be active listeners. I think that it is not only important to provide great team building experiences but to take it further. Students can use reflection to connect what they are doing to how they are feeling. The teacher also provided two very different ways for students to let out their feelings. Some students would prefer the more kinesthetic learning while others would probably enjoy to sit calmly and do breathing exercises. Whatever the case may be, teachers must show students how to make their experiences meaningful.

Well I’m off to a Peruvian dance show! I will share more about today (Friday) when I post on Sunday! Adios!

When Will My Reflection Show Who I Am Insiiiiiiide??

Welcome back! I hope to find you readers in good spirits! Sorry if you have Reflection from Mulan stuck in your head now. As a reader of my blog, you will learn so much as I reveal my most inner thoughts (which are 99% of the time in song form, sorry). You should know that as I write this I am in the cutest little café with beef empanadas aka my new happy place. I was able to take a nice (freezing but nice) shower and am feeling very grateful to be clean. This afternoon we ran around and played soccer with some older elementary aged boys. It was like an actual soccer practice with drills and team building which was really cool. I loved how willing the boys were to have us as guests and even play alongside us during some scrimmages. So now you know, I worked for my empanada (the second for two days in a row). My favorite phrase has quickly become “tengo hambre” or “I’m hungry”.

 

Anyway….aside from eating and soccer, today was very busy for me. First thing I did when I got to Colegio Roosevelt was go to the library. I spent the morning planning my lesson for tomorrow’s sixth grade algebra unit. It was kind of surreal being in Peru and lesson planning just like I have been doing in the United States. I admitted to my cooperating teacher how much of a difference it makes for me to have her to help me plan. Typically I would be writing my own lesson plan and feeling unsure about flow.  I would feel so nervous that things may not make sense. I feel 10 times as confident going in to tomorrow because usually around this time, my stomach is in knots. It made the world of a difference to be able to bounce ideas off of her.

I am just going to come right out and say I am a talker. Let’s just say that since I was little, talking was NEVER an issue. I find that my primary form of reflection is to have conversation – and I would honestly do it with anyone that will listen. I believe that this is so important because without talking about my experiences, how will I learn or grow? Doing this blog has brought me out of my comfort zone. I speak more freely out loud than I do in my writing. But regardless of the means, practicing reflection is very important.

Without critical reflection, people are just doing things almost thoughtlessly. Dewey shares his critique about the underlying issues of our education system producing a sameness in its students.  Even with the push to infuse trendy words like “innovation” and “creativity”, it still seems like much about American education has lacked changed. I have struggled to see creative ways of practicing math.  It’s a hard thing because for example there is only one way to add 3+2.  I have seen some great practices that emphasize different learning styles but we still have standardized tests.  These tests don’t care how you get an answer or what a students thought process is, only if a student is correct and efficient. I guess I wonder what American school would be doing without standardized tests.  Are we afraid to change?  I am afraid that the one-size-fits-all model of education isn’t working anymore.  BUT, I don’t really have an answer for you readers about an alternative.  I have great frustration and I still have to think about some possible alternatives – I promise I will get back to you!

What I do know is simple. It would feel wrong, to my core, not to expose my students to contemporary issues. I agree with Dewey that it is my student’s right not only to know the facts but to feel the safety in my classroom to develop passionate views toward current events. Everyone who wants to be a part of any political, social, religious, etc. conversation has a right to be heard. There is so much going on in the world and I think it’s worth bringing politics back into this because I view politics as I do religion. I strongly believe that everyone has a right to believe in something. No, you can’t believe in everything, so there is going to be conflict. But exploring controversial topics is vital for kids of all ages. It is an underrated skill to disagree agreeably, ask questions and look to debate in order to gain understanding. Note that I didn’t say a winner.

I think it starts with allowing kids to say things like “that’s not fair”. Yes, there are so many things in this world that are unfair but I don’t think that it is enough to say “oh that’s just life”.  That response is a bandaid, telling people to deal with it. Change will never come if we continue to teach children to accept the terrible things in life or worse, try to ignore it. I don’t think that what no one could figure out how to fly that the Wright Brother’s said “well I guess we should just accept that no one will ever fly then”. No.  They were determined to make it happen and they DID.  I think to myself, what if all children, no matter what gender identify, race, religious belief or socioeconomic status, were encouraged to see what could be? I honestly couldn’t imagine the possibilities.  I hope that change is coming to our world and I will be looking to my students to lead the way.

So I know that was a lot and it started as a really pleasant post but I am honestly glad to have been learning so much about myself and becoming apart of the education conversation. At times I am apprehensive about saying things on this blog but I don’t want to be anymore. I want to remind all of you reading that this is for me. Here I am reflecting on MY experience as honestly as possible because it is going to help me grow and be a better person for it. But it is just my experience. I will be able to share this feeling  of discomfort with my students when I ask them to share and reflect on their life. I am also that much more motivated to push them out of their comfort zone and I will continue to do the same for myself.  Stay tuned!

I Teach Therefore I Learn:A Saga

Tonight marks the completion of my second weekend in Lima. On Saturday morning we left for El Augustino, the same community where we played street soccer last week. We celebrated the “Day of Play”. It was essentially a large festival and a field day combined for children and their families. I had a ton of fun playing with the kids, spinning a jump rope, pushing kids on the swing set, and playing tag. The kids were all so sweet and I was able to hold a little more of a conversation (but honestly I still have a lot of work to do in the Spanish department).

As I was interacting with the kids, I couldn’t help but I felt like I had so much to learn from them. They told me about where they live and what they like to do with their friends. The students shared dances and taught me songs for jumping rope. They had experiences that are all different from mine.  They asked me a million questions (including a four year old who literally asked me “por que eres blanca?” or “why are you white?”).  Their curiosity made our conversations fun and exciting and they showed great patience when I asked them to repeat themselves.  I know now what it is like to feel self conscious about just trying to articulate yourself.  I also know that games are a great way to get comfortable speaking a new language and would use that in any ELL class back in the US.

In seminar this week we read Freire this week and he believed that teachers are to create possibilities for students to further produce knowledge. I think that I can be the best teacher by tackling teaching with the idea that students have control of their learning. I know that I am not the smartest person in the world and I won’t ever have all of the answers for my students.

Freire would encourage teachers to see themselves as equals, with both teacher and student constructing knowledge together. If there is one thing I’ve learned is that every child has a story and a unique way of seeing the world. I have really enjoyed getting to know the students at Roosevelt and hearing all of their stories about travel and questions about the world. I remember one student in particular was writing about The Giver and he explained that he believes that its weird how we use money. He said that its just a piece of paper and that without humans saying so, it would have no value. I thought this was so fascinating and was so cool to hear from a 7th grader. I think that there is a misconception that teachers need to walk their students through exactly what to do and how to do it. Friere criticized this as objectifying students as receptacles to catch information that teachers dump into their brains. Its as if they are empty only to be filled by teachers’ knowledge.

I completely agree with Freire in that children are FASCINATING and bring so much to the table. I liked going to El Augustino to work with children that are less privileged than the ones we’ve been working with at Colegio Roosevelt. I observed that in both settings children were able to teach me something new. I will never approach teaching as planning a lesson in order to give information from a list of standards. It would be unfair to me and my students to treat them as less than fascinating people. Together we will be able to construct meaning and ask really tough questions. I don’t know what the future holds but I look forward to discovering new ways to adapt and grow alongside the people I work with (both young and old). Together I hope that my students and I can defy educational norms and we can forget who is the teacher and who is the student.

Week One COMPLETE!

Hello again!! Happy FriYAY! This week has been absolutely exhausting.  We had 5 full school days with an hour long reflection after school to reflect.  I think that the most challenging part is how all the talk about philosophy can really make my head spin.  I can see that it takes a certain type of teacher to make sure you can think about the big picture but also be detail oriented and plan an exciting lesson.

I am starting to feel very passionate about a certain kind of teaching.  We were able to discuss what it means to oppress learners. From my understanding it is the way contemporary teaching hinders their ability to think outside of the box. I notice that in math we focus a lot of teaching strategies and students being able to apply those strategies when solving new problems. I wonder if the curriculum is oppressing outside of the box thinkers who see things in ways that may be different than the specific chapter that they are learning. It’s a challenge for teachers when they may not necessarily be in control of what text book their school adopts.

I have come to see that the more that teachers can work with their students to construct their own meaning and begin to ask questions, teachers can push them to see our world in imaginative ways. I kind of talked about this before. The fact of the matter is, American schools have such an emphasis on tests and grades. In my experience this week, so many students only ask me “Is this answer right?”. I like to respond “I don’t know is it? How did you solve it”. It seems that all they care about is being right and I hope to continue to encourage them to ask questions like “How do you do this or why does this work?”. We read Freire this week and he talks about how it becomes problematic when teachers treat students like a “bank” where teachers are simply dropping in information.

I have noticed that by the time students for example are in 7th grade that they look to the teacher(and me sometimes) to give the information and give a stamp of approval. If I’m being honest it seems that students and teachers will not be on the same leveled playing field until we structure our grading system differently. Its kind of messed up that teachers can give a student’s ideas a letter or point value. No wonder so many teachers can get a big head about teaching.

I really like the idea of moving away from so many exams and allowing for more projects. It is so important for students as people to find their passion in school, no matter what subject. I wish there was a way to make math geared toward projects as alternative measure of understanding. It seems like the emphasis on standardized tests in the US makes it seem impossible to fit everything in to one year. And maybe without exams in the class, students wouldn’t be prepared for the tests. I don’t know when everything became about scores on a test but I definitely see that in my students. Its hard because it seems like anybody would want to be teaching students to ask questions and make super creative projects… BUT I now have the perspective of an exhausted teacher on a Friday evening and I didn’t even have to lesson plan or grade anything! Even still, there is a moral obligation to do more than produce great test takers and compliant listeners. Students have the right to be actively engaged in every class as it will be great practice as they enter into the real world.