Friday, February 22, 2008

My reaction to article

I hope everyone is enjoying their break and getting as much done as you can! I have been remodeling my kitchen and expanding my bedroom, so needless to say MY HOUSE IS A MESS! But anyhow, it is so nice to feel reconnected with you guys! 

I too would like to thank you Lesley for such a light, easy to read article. My reactions are as follows:
1. I find Sonia Nieto's ideas inspiring and perhaps even necessary when it comes to designing curriculum. I spent two weeks last summer reshaping the curriculum for our Spanish level 4 classes and would have to say that I am as guilty as charge! We did think about standards, expectations, current issues, inclusion of technology, etc. However, the idea of finding ways to make it a reflection of what "our students" need never crossed my mind. That will be something I will try to focus more instead of what needs to be covered by the end of the semester.

2. I also enjoyed reading Severian's ideas. I truly believe in the importance of clear expectations and make students accountable for their learning. Students need to know why they are learning the material and what they can do with it. It is also important for teachers to bring the students to reach the expectations instead of lower them. Students can see what we really think of them, even when we "flower" our talk or make a big deal when something simple is done. I see it as an insult when teachers praise everything, even when there is no evidence of reaching an academic or personal goal. My comment on that: "Let's keep it genuine and real people!"

3. Overall, the article reaffirmed what we have read from Johnson, Bartolome and my favorite Delpit. It is extremely important to celebrate cultural differences in our classroom by genuinely including different aspects of these cultures in our teaching. As a teacher, I find a bit unrealistic visiting families due to our time restrictions, although as a parent I must admit that I love the suggestion. And finally, I think the main idea of this article is very simple - genuine respect - when you genuinely respect your students, you want to know more about them, help them and assist them in becoming respectful productive citizens.  

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Hello everyone:

The "Culturally Responsive Teaching" article is well constructed in terms of pointing to relevant research and providing a rationale for each characteristic of culturally responsive teaching. Based on our conversations in class, many of us are already engaging in at least some of these practices. While it may not be realistic for teachers to fully engage in all apects of culturally responsive teaching (Dave, I agree with you about house visits), it is important to have the conversation (as Johnson would say) and do as much as possible to benefit all of our students. Raising an awareness and understanding of the characteristics is essential, but putting the suggested characterstics into practice will take some time. Both Johnson and Bartolome would support culturally mediated instruction (#5), particularly the point about conferring with educators who come from the same cultural background as students about effective ways to teach these students. However, I agree with Deanna that we do not always have easy access to these educators in terms of teaching in the same school. Delpit would support using resources other than textbooks for study under Reshaping the Curriculum (#6) and many of us do this as well (even with my prescribed curriculum, I find ways to be creative). I will revisit the blog on Thursday when I return to town. I hope everyone is having a restful vacation.

Ann Siachos

February 19, 2008 3:55 PM


Assessment Classes

Hey all. Dr. Tiskus got back to me about the first two classes. He said that March 6th from 4-7 and March 20th from 4-7 are fine with him. He will stop by our class to tell us a location as soon as he knows. Let me know if you want me to tell him anything else. Enjoy the last few days of your vacations!!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hello fellow classmates:
I hope everyone is relaxing this week. I definitely am! Lesley: thank you for providing us with a light, straightforward article to read during vacation week. Here are some thoughts that I had while reading it:

  • I agree with what Jen said about the tone of this article. The tone was matter-of-fact, calm and unemotional… the antithesis of the tones emanating from the articles written by Johnson, Bartolome, and Delpit. Interestingly enough, I was not alienated by this article; however, I wasn’t moved to think like I was by the other authors. I was not pushed out of my comfort zone, a “place” I need to be in order to enact change.

  • Positive Perspectives on Parents and Families:
    This segment of the article reinforced many of the things that my team has implemented this year. We have made multiple attempts to contact the families of our students (the “1 million words or less” essay asks the parents to show us their children from their perspectives, open house, quarterly newsletters, phone calls, emails and numerous conferences). I do agree with Dave’s point about visiting a parent’s home (sounds like an invasion of privacy) or even sending a newsletter in the parent’s first language (our first newsletter will hopefully go out early to mid-August when our knowledge of first languages will be nil). I do like the idea of family night; it is feasible at the junior high age. Researching the cultural backgrounds of my students was probably the most valuable thing I did because I realized why some of my students were not responding to my teaching.

  • Communications of High Expectations:
    Intrinsic motivation is so elusive; I always wondered how people come by it. I like the author’s take on it though… “Effective and consistent communication of high expectations… provides the structure for intrinsic motivation…” Johnson, Bartolome, and Delpit don’t necessarily focus on intrinsic motivation; they seem to concentrate on the extrinsic “rewards” a student will receive (being successful in mainstream society). Being explicit about one’s expectations echoes what Delpit stresses in her article.

  • Learning Within the Context of Culture:
    Sounds like differentiated instruction that takes into account the culture of the children and not just their ability to learn. Metaphorically speaking,

Branches represent the different ways to teach the children
Trunk represents the children
Roots represent the cultures of the

I tried to add a picture of a tree...hopefully I was successful. I will finish writing later. I have to make supper!


A Recipe for Culturally Responsive Teaching

Hello all, this is also my first time blogging, I feel confused and excited all at once. I thought the Brown article was quick and easy to read. It was quick and to the point almost like a recipe for teaching diverse classes. If you add this to your teaching this is what will happen. It was the why's and hows of culturally responsive teaching. Though it was an easy read I didn't enjoy it as much as the Johnson or Delpit article. There was no heart, or evidence in the article. It was just: this is what you need to do and this is how you do it. There was no examples of classroom experience, or student comments, teacher struggles. It was just the author stating what needs to be done. As I said before, a recipe for teaching. Perhaps that is why as I read other blogs everyone has the same comments, no one really trusts Brown because he has nothing to back up his statements.
To comment on what he actually said in the article I believe it is along the lines of the other articles we read except that there is no evidence. I think of this article as an outline of the points that have been brought up in the other readings. The very first point on including parents on student learning I saw was a heated debate for some. I agree it is very important to have parent involvement. This is something I struggle with in my classrooms. What is the easiest way to get in touch with 125 parents. I try sending home letters through the students and 25% are left behind in the classroom, I find another 25% strewn in the halls, I probably get a response from a few and the rest are never heard from. They are not reaching the homes I need them to reach. Getting student information from guidance isn't always an easy chore either. It just seems we have to jump through hoops to get in touch with parents. Our school has one night for parent teacher conferences and that is it. I wish they had an open house at the beginning of the year to introduce parents to the teachers. It would be so much easier to set up communication right off the back. I'm sorry I am sort of rambling. Anyway, I do believe what the others said about having the time to do this. It seems that the state wants to continue to add time onto our jobs to teach more but we have so little time to prep and do everything else.
I agree with Brown and Delpit and the others that we have to be more aware of the cultural background of our students. The only tool Brown offered was to ask other teachers with that background and as Deanna said, our teachers are predominately white. How come we never have any professional development on this type of stuff. I know next year I want to start off finding out more about how my students learn but I want to know the correct way to do this. What I think would be helpful in this class is if perhaps we worked together to write up a questionnaire or survey we could give to our students that would reflect back to us what kind of instruction they need, student-centered, direct, cooperative learning etc. I know my teaching is a mix of everything because I feel every student learns differently and if I do a little bit of everything then everyone will have a chance to do well in my class.
As I said in the beginning I feel Brown has a lot of good points but I wish he had something to back it up. I hope everyone has a great vacation. Is there a word for a person who rambles in their blogs because that's me. Jen

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hello All!

This is my first blogging experience but already I am thinking that this would be a great tool to use in my own classroom. Hope your vacations have been as restful and relaxing as mine has been. I am heading to Boston in the morning and already made the trip to Western Mass to visit my family.

So back to the blogging...

First, I agree with Dave's point about the "all the time in world argument." I found myself writing comments like when and how do I fit this in too? The constant parent communication has been easier this year for me as I've strived to obtain an open-line with my online gradebook and email system. This connection helps b/c parents can see the expectations I have and why their child is or is not living up to them but at the same time, I tend to get the "Why did Johnny miss this one homework?" and not the "Why hasn't Jenny done a single assignment all quarter?" emails. The suggestions that the Brown article suggests such as sending weekly letters or going to parents' home don't seem too realistic for a high school teacher with 5 different classes and at least 125 students.

In addition, the point Deanna made with her comment regarding student centered vs. direct instruction also kept popping up in my comments. As I've now read Delpit, Bartolome and now this article, I agree with Deanna's opinion that we should strive to do both. I am not sure if Delpit would agree but I think that she would state that we should provide the most culturally appropriate education. I think this article elludes to that same notion that Delpit has.... that "people from different cultures learn in different ways." I think that when teachings classes like I teach at NPHS, I need to appeal to all types of learners and with this differentiation is key! You can't teach to one type of learner (kinestethic, visual, auditory) just like you can't teach to one type of student (white, black, middle class, lower class) because I find that most of my students blur so many of these defined lines with their cultures and learning styles!

Finally, I like the point in the section entitled, "Culturally Mediated Instruction" that stated students need to understand that there is more then one way to interpret a statement, event, or question." One of my favorite books as a history teacher is a book on the What If's in history. I love having students write their own what if's as well as writing historical narratives. When they think outside the box historically, they begin to get out of their cultural comfort zone. My ultimate goal then is to move to the point made for number 7: teacher as facilitator. I hope that reading these articles means I am learning and exploring how to do just that effectively for all of my students!

Enjoy the rest of your week off!!!


Virtual Visits!

So nice to see you here! Hope break is going well.

Just a reminder to check out the COMMENTS under each post. You can leave direct responses to one another, or read what others have said.

Also don't forget that this is a digital environment. That means that it is more than just a place to store your typed up responses. You can put up links to anything and everything. So, for example, if you make a reference to concerns about inequitable tracking practices, just highlight it and then click the button above that looks like a chain (next to the big T with the colors under it). That allows you to type in a web address and it will make the link for you!

Have fun with it.

Talk soon,
LB :)