In my methods 1 observations last semester, I had the chance to spend time in a classroom at Columbus Middle School. Thinking about equity reminded of this because I remember a little over 90% of the students there were African American. This is a one-to-one school, so there were plenty of laptops and iPads for the students to use and their teachers were good about leaving enough time during class for the students to get their online work done in case they didn’t have internet access at home. I thought this was awesome and am glad that students with little access to technology outside of school got the chance to finish their work. But what if those students didn’t go to a one-to-one school with plenty of computers to get their work done on? I think it’s very important to consider the students’ access to technology outside of the classroom, especially when you are teaching at a school that is not one-to-one. Giving a lot of online work can be an issue when working at a school with students living in poverty. As educators, we need to seriously consider the students’ opportunities outside of the classroom and try our best to help them work through any obstacles they may face, like giving them extra time in class to finish their online work.
I had a conversation about sign language today, and it made me think of my little cousins. They have autism and both have delayed speech development, so they use some sign language to communicate their needs. I know social justice is usually spoken of in a race context, but what about diversity outside of race? I have had classes about special needs students and how they should be handled and treated in the school, but I don’t think we ever really talked about different aspects of autism. Delayed speech development is a large one, and I think it could be one of the easier aspects to manage in a classroom. I think it would be great if elementary education teachers had to learn ASL and secondary education teachers were encouraged to learn it. The idea was never brought up to me and now I wish I had learned it. This could be so beneficial for both the teacher and the student. The students already have enough obstacles in their lives, and communicating with their teacher shouldn’t be one of them.
I come from a very small town here in Mississippi, and it has its pros and cons. Southern small towns can be some of the most warm, inviting, and hospitable places- or at least some of them to most people. I’m not sure why it took me so long to notice this, but one of the towns I have lived within 15 miles of for 15+ years of my life is filled with a lot of hatred. Growing up around those people, I suppose I grew desensitized to the small somewhat racist things they say. Being in this class about diversity and looking back, I have no clue how I never realized it. I think it is important to call attention to a toxic environment in our communities and actually do something about it. The microaggressions spewed by the few hateful people in a town could cause an entire community to break off and take sides, causing more hate. This is all preventable by us, the ones learning about the importance of social justice and how to promote it.
I began thinking about the three hours I spent at a local middle school judge a reading fair, and I still can’t believe how difficult it was to do. Some of those children put so much work into those boards, but it was easy to tell which of those had help from their parents. Some of the boards were done solely because they got extra credit for turning one. I had a feeling that some of those lesser boards belonged to students with little support at home, and part of me wanted to give them a blue ribbon just for turning something in. These students are capable of so much more. How do we help them achieve that? I think the first step is understanding exactly what kind of homes these children are coming from and how it effects those children. A call home might could get the parents to push their child a little more. There are so many other possible solutions, but the most important thing is first noticing the obstacles a student may be facing that is holding them back at school.
Looking at the personality wheel, I find self reflection a little difficult. Writing about myself can become a bit biased when I know that it could be shared with a group of people. It’s easy to want to portray yourself in the best way possible, even if that means embellishing the truth a tad. However, it’s very important to be honest with yourself during self reflection. If you aren’t honest with yourself, how can you better yourself? This is very important for teachers, as we need to be able to really look at ourselves and how we conduct ourselves in the classroom. We also need to be able to critically look at the way we teach and whether or not it is working. Being set in our ways will not make for productive classrooms.
I recently got to have dinner with a friend (who is African American) that I’ve had since middle school, and at one point she was complaining about something and then she looked at me and said, “But not you! You’re like one of my black friends.” I felt honored, but she has always referred to me as one of her black friends even though I’m quite obviously white. I’ve always been proud of this, but I’m not sure why? It’s obviously meant to be a compliment, but I’m not exactly sure what it means and I felt weird about asking. Do the white people she’s usually around make her feel out of place? Or do I change the way I act when I’m around her? I’m glad she’s always felt that comfortable around me, but it really made me think about interactions I have with African American peers and how they feel about themselves after those interactions. Looking back on “Multiplication is for White People” by Lisa Delpit, it really taught me how important it is for African American people to feel valid and how much impact microaggressions can have on how they see themselves. Reading through that book, I realized how easy it is to make statements that seem innocent but can chip away at the ego of an African American person. I highly recommend reading the book and considering how you speak to peers of other races or ethnicities.
I think SBL is a student-centered classroom environment. It calls for routines and procedures like a regular classroom, but students have more say about structure, content, etc. It’s more of a Socratic method based classroom. I think it has its pros and cons. As a teacher, I would prefer full control over my class, but I understand the need for students to have a voice and to feel significant in a classroom. The use of the propose, critique, and iterate process helps students to better process and refine their thoughts, just like we do with these blog posts. It could really get the students to think critically about the information they receive in class and how they feel about it.