A few weeks ago, Dr. Kay was talking about the importance of teachers addressing the diversity of students in their classroom. In class I realized she made a valid point, but never thought of it again. However, last week I saw an article on People.com about Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy addressing the lack of diversity in Hollywood. This made me think back to what Dr. Kay had said in class just a few days before. I also began to think about what the effect would be on the world outside of the classroom if we, teachers, spoke up when our classrooms were not diverse in gender and/or race. We really do have more power than we credit ourselves for sometimes. We can make big impressions on the little minds we are privileged to shape. We need to make sure that we are taking advantage of this to make a positive impact in the world, that will one day go beyond just us. As teachers we can not only teach our students about diversity and the importance of diversity, but we can also model diversity for our students. To model, we can be inclusive in the images we use, examples we give, and the words we speak towards others. Our students will one day be the ones in Hollywood and the ones shaping the workforce. When they are in these positions of power, we want them to be the ones speaking up for diversity in the workplace, because they saw how beautiful diversity is in their elementary classroom. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have something unique to contribute. We as teachers, need to be the ones who see and value the unique characteristics of every student.
This week I was flipping through my sketchbook and came across where I had written about the design process of: propose, critique, iteration. While we as learners have been engaged in this process throughout the semester, I was thinking about how I could incorporate this into my curriculum design. I thought that way I could do this would be to use this process to help students create their own propaganda posters. While I may not use this language for students, I could ask students to propose an idea for their posters, then go back and critique what they have proposed in order to produce a poster that fits today’s issues. For the iteration piece I would ask students to iterate the poster in a different way, like writing, that would allow students to explain their poster and iterate what they have created. This would allow students to not only create a meaningful piece, but also reflect on the process and explain the images in their own words. Not only is the design process beneficial for students, but it also meets Mississippi ELA state standards. In the 3rd grade standards under writing a form of the design process is indicated in W.3.10: “Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.” This same standard can be found in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. This standard is the design process, it is not a set of steps, but rather a process that builds upon itself so that students are able to create or write content that is meaningful and fully developed.
This week I attended the faculty book talk, White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America. I attended this event out of curiosity about what exactly this was going to be about because I am a white kid that grew up with privileges and because I feel we mostly hear about African American kids or other minority kids growing up in a racially divided country. While the presentation was very relatable to my own life and convicting on many levels, the one statement that stood out to me the most was something to the extent of, the privileged white can remove themselves from issues, especially race-based issues. I had never really thought of that, if I really wanted to, I could live in a “white-washed” world and never have to face an issue of race. Yet, minorities cannot and there are places that do foster this type of living. If I were to teacher in a community such as this, I would want to make sure that I was teaching different perspectives and using history to teach students about cultures that they may not interact with. It is important to me that white students do not see themselves as a “savior” or “better” just because they live in a homogenous community. I believe that it is our jobs as educators to help add dimension and a cultural-viewpoints to their lives. The author also said that she is tired of people saying that students and children are the future when they are currently here– they are the present. I really liked this. While students are the future, they are also the present. Students today have the ability to make large impacts on the world because of their access to social media and the internet. The world is large and the students can be connected to someone on the other side of the world in a second if they wanted to. Thus, we must act like students are our present so that they are able to start making positive impacts on the world now. The world cannot wait for when these students are adults. We must empower students with what is right so that they can use their global connections to make an impact today.
This week when I was working with my student, something hit me that has never really hit me before. Will this student learn where all of the states are if he is not taught this in school and if I do not teach it to him? When thinking about this, I am not sure he would learn this. But why? Why would he never learn it? I think that it goes to socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status has been found to be a predictor of student achievement. If I had never learned the geography of the US in school, I am almost 99.9% sure I would have learned this at home, due to travel and my parents exposing me to maps. However, this student did not know where his own home state was and the only place he told me he has been was Texas, where one of his brothers lives, but he did not know where Texas was either. I looked up the Mississippi social studies standards and found that in Kindergarten is when a student is expected to know where Mississippi is on a map (G.K.3), as well as in, 2nd grade (G.2.3). I found it very interesting that no where in the K-5 standards did it state that a student should know where all of the states are. So, how are we addressing this discrepancy in schools? Many times what students learn at schools will be their only access to this information, Will they learn it if we don’t teach it in schools? We as teachers must teach the standards, but also go beyond the standards in order to help close the achievement gap. We would not be promoting an equitable classroom if we are not teaching students the things they need to know in real-life, especially if they will not learn this outside of the classroom if we do not teach it. We have the ability to make a real impact, even with things that seem little such as the geography of America.
Rewind back to August and I thought I knew a lot about social justice and how to have a classroom that promotes social justice. As I reflect on the semester so far I now know that there is a lot I did not know. My biggest take away so far this semester is that a student should walk in your classroom and feel known, loved, valued, and affirmed. Obviously making students feel loved is not something new that I have learned, but what I have learned is different ways to make a student feel valued and affirmed. I now think that when a student walks into a classroom they should not have to worry about the inequalities that exist outside of the school. Rather, students should walk into a classroom and know that the grades they obtain are because they earned those grades and that when they are being reprimanded it is because they were out of line. One of my new goals as a teacher is to create a classroom that models what we want the world to be. Will the world ever be perfect? No. Will a classroom ever be perfect? Certainly not. However, I can do my best as a teacher to model social justice and foster a classroom environment that promotes social justice, so that when students leave my classroom and are faced with inequalities, they know how to face these in a respectable, civil way and they know that all are created equal and all have value.
This week in class we talked about what social justice really is. When I think of social justice I think of the hot-topics of politics and the injustices of the world today. So, how exactly is social justice played out in the classroom? According to Dr. Brocato, social justice is, “a set of steps we take to bring about more equity over time to meet the needs of more; social justice is closing the gaps between the haves and the have-nots; social justice is leveling the playing field.” After some reflection on this definition I thought of some powerful pictures I was shown in my undergraduate studies and I think they display social justice in the classroom in a great way.
The first image shows equality. Equal is not always fair or what we need. Why we need a classroom that treats students equally, we must also have equity in the classroom. I view equal as Tier 1 of RTI, because all of the students are receiving the same instruction, it is the general education classroom. However, Tier 1 doesn’t meet the needs of all and that’s where equity comes into play. When we have equity, students are receiving what they need. This may be through a small group with the teacher that addresses the similar needs of students. Equity also moves into Tier 3, as the small group may not be enough for a student and the student begins to receive special education services. The action items of the student’s IEP should be equitable and allow the student to do their best, which might just be in a different way from others. In my special education internship I was able to help create equitable lessons and experiences for my students. Its amazing what can be done for students so that they can participate in the general education classroom setting, especially when technology is involved. One way we created an equitable experience for students is by scanning in math workbooks, cropping the pages, adding the pages to a powerpoint slide, then adding a text box over the blanks or answer boxes. By doing this, my students were able to write their own math answers. It is amazing to see what students that have been put into a box as “inadequate” can do when they are given the supports they need.
As teachers, we must do everything in our power to create an equitable classroom. When we do this we are promoting social justice. Not only should we do this because it is the right thing to do, but because it sets an example for our students, who will one day be in a position of either promoting justice or not, and we can hope that our examples points them to promoting justice for all.
The elementary school is an environment that is usually created by white, middle-class women. If you visit the average elementary school, you will find halls full of children and women. If this is the average school, what is the average student? In different areas and schools the average student varies. So, how does the average student, that differs from the average teacher, feel in the classroom that was created with different ideals and values? Elementary schools usually foster the hidden middle-class rules, that middle-class students understand, but students that do not come the middle-class do not understand. This does not foster social justice. How are students supposed to know these hidden rules that are understood by everyone but them? This week I read, “I Need Help!” Social Class and Children’s Help-Seeking in Elementary School by: Jessica McCorory Calarco. This article address one of these hidden rules, the way middle-class students ask for help. I found this hidden rule interesting. The fact that middle-class students feel comfortable asking questions in class and they will go out of their way to get their question asked, while lower-class students will not. How is this fair if the lower-class students do not even know that they can, and should, ask questions? This clearly impacts achievement. As a teacher, I think that a way to get rid of this hidden rule, is to explicitly tell students that they can ask questions and also model for students how to properly ask a question (not interrupting, raising your hand, etc.). We must help create a classroom that is equitable for all, which means getting rid of this hidden middle-class rules.