Right before school started, edublogger Jersey Jazzman, posted a video of a lesson being taught from Success Academy meant to be used for teacher training.
The response from his readers was scathing, as it involved a couple of typical methods of teaching favored by no-excuses charters (but loathed by child-centered educators). The video is no longer public (SURPRISE!) so you can’t see it, but I’m going to talk about something that struck me as I was watching it.
The students participated, but I noticed a lot of them stuttering over their words. The teacher is constantly talking over and interrupting them when they are incorrect. The young white teachers are in a class full of black students. A really excellent example of a “Becky”moment.
I wanted to share a story that it reminded me of when I first saw it, but before that, some background…
My husband is black and grew up in San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s. His parents spoke AAVE/Black English/Ebonics reflecting their Southern background. My husband speaks standard English, and always has, but he once shared a story of another boy in his neighborhood, who struggled with standard English.
He was the son of a cop, which would means he was probably one of the earliest black SFPD officers. Dad was adamant that his son would speak “proper English”. Physical punishment was involved. My husband described how he would flinch as he spoke sometimes, self-conscious, as though waiting for blows to fall.
The students in this video, while not under physical threat, have that same self-conscious look, as though fearing the verbal “slap” (correction) that is sure to come when the inevitable slip is made. While they may not be in danger of a beating, they are in danger of losing many things are important, their sense of self, their culture, their pride.
The price they pay is this, we say, “Sure, you can be a scholar, but only if you give up your “culture”.
Image credit: Sad Boy
While there is much talk about increases in diagnoses of psychological maladies around attention issues and autism among school age students, I’m experiencing a bubble of depression problems in my classroom, that is starting to be troubling. I’m going to stick to generalities so as not to breach privacy, etc. What I will say is that when I first brought it up to a co-worker, they posited something about entitlement and expectations, and I had to share some of the very real stressors these kids are experiencing; a family death, a family health crisis, and a case with hints of family violence in the history. How serious is this? Serious enough that I’ve had concerns about physical safety, and I’ll leave it at that.
But given the high levels of family stress, poverty, etc. that so many of our children live in at this time, I really can’t be surprised. The scary part is that I’m not even in a high poverty school. We have a school psychologist and nurse in one day a week, solely to do assessments related to special education. There is no counselor, social worker, etc. to work with the over 500 students in my school. Lord knows, we could use it.
Image credit: Depression on Flickr
As you know I blog about politics because my attitude is that you can ignore politics as a teacher, but that does not mean politics will ignore you. In the classroom, I try to use culturally relevant materials and to approach lessons from that point of view.
Normally, teaching fifth grade in an “open” presidential election year would be great. We learn about U.S. history, we’ve just finished the Revolutionary War period, and are into the founding of our nation. I haven’t even tried to talk about the current election with the kids yet. Instead, I’m trying to build a base in a couple of areas.
1. The fundamental ideas that the nation was built on, but;
Not turning that into a “worship” of the documents;
2. Things that didn’t work out, and didn’t get worked out until later and then MUCH later;
3. Spending some time with Franklin’s statements about the Constitution and it’s various imperfections. Read the rest of this entry »
Howdy, long time, no write. I apologize, but life has been happening and that leads to less writing. Can you tell I’ve been teaching cause and effect lately? I’m doing Colonial American history with the class, and that will be the topic of this post. Read the rest of this entry »