• Comic Strip Field Post 3

    For this third comic strip, I focused on the last observation I did. The design of this comic follows the others, I tried to reflect the classroom environment and the way the children position themselves to do school work. They typically choose the ground, and work with each other to help understand the material, and as the two students helped each other communicate I examined and encouraged them to help better understand me and the material. Last Friday I went there, they had a new student in class. He and a few other students in different grades and classes all just moved from Japan and were being integrated into the classroom for the remainder of the school year. During their group activity work, I went to talk to him and the girl who he was sitting with who was also Japanese but has always lived in America. As I began approaching I noticed the two were speaking to each other in Japanese, so I asked if he spoke English, and he did. I then asked him some questions about himself and he answered some in English and some in Japanese, and when we had encountered language barriers, the other student was able to help us. I then spoke to the teacher about the ability for him to be able to speak his native language in the classroom, and she told me that about half of the students were bilingual, some trilingual, and that she allowed and encouraged them to speak in and teach other students their different languages. I thought this was really unique and special how she encouraged students to speak in their native languages, especially for the new student who was still adjusted to life in this country and how he was able to openly communicate in his native language with another student. This reminded me of the essay “Speak Freely,” by Lynsey Burkins in which she highlights the significance of speaking native languages, and how one of her students was forgetting his native language. She goes on to talk about teaching for social justice and that it is about responding to the students’ needs, and poses a question that I believe this classroom recognizes. “If we want students to bring their whole selves into the classrooms, why would we have a system that does not welcome and encourage all languages?” (Burkins 107).

  • Comic Strip Field Post 2

    For this comic strip, I focused on how the teacher focuses on student inclusion. The way I designed it reflects small portions of the diversity in the classroom, and the understanding of respect in likeliness of students being able to sit on the floor so they feel like they are in less of a pressured learning environment and feel excited to learn and connect with each other. The first grade classroom I shadowed was extremely diverse and many of the students were from different religions and cultures, and the teacher made sure to make every student feel as though they are important to the classroom. The instance I highlighted in my comic came from the Indian celebration of Holi, and two students in the classroom celebrated, but most did not know what the holiday was. I left the classroom that day with new knowledge on this holiday and culture. The teacher asked everyone to sit at the front of the room and we watched a video highlighting the background and traditions of Holi, and then students were able to ask questions about the holiday and the students who celebrated stood at the front of the room and explained how they celebrated. This stood out to me because in growing up in catholic schools we typically never learned about other religions and cultures holidays, and it was nice to see her making such an effort to teach the other students about the holidays their peers celebrate, and why they matter. In relating it back to the material we learned, I thought about the various chapters that highlight student inclusion and environment and acknowledging and celebrating the differences between students’ identities. Specifically I want to connect this comic to the essay “A Message from a Black Mom to Her Son,” by Dyan Watson because she talks about how she wants her son to be represented in the curriculum, and how she wants his peers and teachers to want to learn who he is and see him for who he is. One quote that stood out to me in relation to this comic is “I hope they will strive to know you when they think they already know you. I hope your teachers will approach you with humility and stay curious about who you are” (Watson 17). This stands out to me because she is telling her son that she hopes her teachers make an effort to learn about him, his talents, traditions, family, and all that encompass what makes him himself, and within my comic and my experiences, the teacher does just that with her students. She makes an effort to help the students learn about each other and make one another feel important and welcome, and that felt like a significant part of her classroom that I wanted to highlight. 

  • Comic Strip Field Post 1

    For this comic strip, I focused on the zone of proximal development and the application within the classroom that I have experienced. The way I designed this comic strip simply reflected the environment I was in and the scene to my best ability shows the welcoming classroom and comfortability the students and I had. The instance I based the comic strip on followed my work in the classroom in which I have a very hands-on role in a first grade classroom. I started this day with helping a student practice adjectives, and so we moved to an area of the room in which she felt productive and ready to work, and then we found a tool to help her understand the use of adjectives. I helped her come up with a sentence so she could switch out descriptive words and find if it makes sense. We used the sentence “the – desk,” and put words such as big, small, blue, and dog into the sentence and figured if they described the noun in a sensible way. We practiced this a few times over and once I was able to move away from her table she kept using sentences like these to finish her adjective activity. This is not only a connection and example of the zone of proximal development, but it is a reflection of what we have been learning in this class. It can connect to the essays that cover classroom environments in which failing is not scary for the student, teacher student relations, and overall classroom atmosphere that promotes student learning. Specifically one essay I wanted to connect this to was the essay “12 Suggestions for New Teachers,” by Larry Miller. This essay in particular stuck out to me because going into this area of learning takes so much more than just someone helping you, but it takes a whole environment of feeling safe and unafraid to fail in order to be at peak learning. This essay highlights important lessons on classroom management that all correlate to student learning, some include respect, basing curriculum on social justice, learning about your students, having engaging activities and lessons, taking the curriculum beyond the classroom, and especially “building students’ confidence in their intelligence and creativity.” In doing this, you are creating a community of support for the students, and allowing them to find how they learn best, while offering them the support they need to best understand what they learn.

  • Learning Experience 3 (4.26.22)

    For this learning experience, my group was assigned pages 249 to 272, including essays “Moving Beyond the Classroom,” by Stan Karp, “Q/A: As a new educator, why should I be concerned about school privatization?” “School Funding Basics,” by Stan Karp, “Why Teacher Unions Matter,” by Bob Peterson, and New Teachers Energize Their Union.”

    The first essay, “Moving Beyond the Classroom,” by Stan Karp comes from the perspective of wanting to reinforce educational conditions for teachers. He speaks about how there is a lack of adequate resources and teachers, that the class sizes are too large with not enough support, and that in communities of despair, there needs to be a vision of social change. In making restorative changes, he says that “none of this can be won without activism and advocacy beyond the classroom walls.” He then touches on the idea of reconstructing school life and that in order to make educational change, there needs to be better lines of communication between parents, teachers, and communities, and completing this will lead to more democratic institutions within the walls of schools. He also touches on the political landscape teachers face and the impact that school privatization has and the way activism can influence where there school stands. He essentially wants to establish that these connections between society, the community, and the school system are what will make restorative changes towards “multicultural democracy upon which our future depends.

    The second essay, “Q/A: As a new educator, why should I be concerned about school privatization?” presents the idea that privatization “threatens the very existence of public education and its role as a foundation of our democracy.” This perspective and way of thinking helps teachers and administrators acknowledge and understand how damaging privatization is to the public school system, and how it takes away from others’ education. The essay then goes to establish voucher schools as “private schools that enroll students receiving publicly funded ‘vouchers’ that pay partial or full tuition.” These school’s do not have the same obligations to serve all children despite any personal needs that public schools uphold, but they operate with minimal transparency to its communities. Then charter schools are introduced. These are often defined as public schools due to the source of funding, but are typically run privately. They do not teach religion or charge tuition, but can limit their enrollment and are exempted from many traditional governing regulations. The essay then shifts focus to how privatization can be stopped, and essentially says that in order to do so teachers need to “work in alliance with parents, community groups, and students need to build broad alliances, coalitions, adn social movements that are politically strong enough to shift policy.”

    The third essay, my focus of the learning experience, “School Funding Basics,” by Stan Karp, focuses on the injustices of fund distribution among public and private schools. He addresses this topic in response to facing these issues firsthand, and develops his writing so that readers are able to understand and face sparks of activism to act against these injustices. I focused on how Karp touches on the politics behind money and resource distribution, and the basis that “schools don’t get enough money, and the money they do get is not distributed fairly.” Essentially he explains that the money school’s eventually get is not distributed adequately, depriving school’s of funds and resources they need to provide successful and effective educational growth programs. The politics surrounding school funding are used to deplete and push out underperforming schools, and to raise those performing well. Underserved and poorer communities especially are targeted through this money distribution as their standardized test scores are lower than others, and suffer from larger class sizes, a decline in program quality, and funds being transferred to back privatization. He states that “state and local sources provide about 90 percent of school funding. Federal funding provides only about 10 percent of the total,” and in this format of resource distribution, underserved communities do not get nearly enough funding to support their schools. He also touches on legal action against this inadequate funding, and the two main suits consist of equity suits that confront “disparities in quality of education and resources between urban and rural schools,” and adequacy suits that address “resources received are not enough to meet the needs or mandated levels of performance.” In addressing these funding concerns, students and faculty may have a better chance at gaining equal resources and opportunities. 

    The fourth essay, “Why Teacher Unions Matter,” by Bob Peterson illustrates the importance and effect that teacher unions can have on careers and working conditions. It highlights the significance and necessity of unions and how new teacher involvement and leadership are critical to union success. Peterson then talks about the history of unions and then explains their purpose. He says, “membership in these organizations help protect workers in education from the arbitrary whims of administrators, false accusations, and even unfair layoff or termination… protecting the rights of educators, defending public education, and providing a democratic voice in the formation of public policy.” Essentially, unions strengthen the voice of educators and protect them from unfair working conditions as well as promote the addressing of broader issues within their communities and inside their schools. 

    The fifth and last essay of our section, “New Teachers Energize Their Union,” the significance of having leadership representation for people of color is emphasized. This story is told by Gabriel Tanglao, and he speaks about his experience watching his mother’s passion in her union, adn once he joined one, he was not feeling or seeing that same passion. He speaks about moving from a place where he and his coworkers hadn’t even read their contracts, to going to union meetings in which they did not have a voice. This sparked activism within his community and he and his coworkers realized that the board was all older white men who held themselves on pedestals of power and denied anyone else to question their authority. This did not sit well with them, and so they decided to campaign against their current board members with the theme that there needed to be better representation of different ages, genders, and races, and that there needed to be better communication between all. They won their respective roles on the board and reshaped their local “to be more intergenerational and inclusive for educators, students, and families or color.” He emphasized the importance of activism and community as he worked to reshape the way their union held itself so it could become successful in supporting its teachers, as well as making connections with the community. 

    In our design of the learning experience, my group and I created a Google slides presentation where we highlighted key points of our designated essays and engaged the class in discussion. For my section I chose to do an activity involving distribution of ‘school funding’ where I broke the class in half to represent two different school districts that came from either a top performing private school or a low performing public school. I then had my group represent the two main funding sources and we distributed money so that they could meet specific criteria to keep their school running, we also made the point that the lower performing school had a portion of their funding removed and given to the private school to emphasize the injustices they face in relation to funding. In the end, the public school did not have enough funds to support their school whereas the private school had an abundance of resources, and I explained that doing this activity helped them understand the reality that schools like the ones they represented face, and that there is a vast amount of politics that goes into fund distribution. I was also responsible for my respective slides of the School Funding Basics as well as my learning objective that represents my section. Our references consisted of the New Teacher Book and our Google Slides presentation. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/16PUNTsdAxxswbBgaxJ9VP7hnZFOGuKXR-mA8ToBUl5Q/edit?usp=sharing

  • Current Connections 3 (4.7.22)

    For this week’s current connection, my group focused on pages 207 to 228, which included essays titled “Time to Get Off the Testing Train” by Stan Karp, “Authentic Assessment for Learning,” “Fourteen Days SBAC Took Away” by Moé Yonamine, and “Testing Assumptions” by Claudierre McKay, Aaron Regunberg, and Tim Shea. 

    The focus of my current connection came from the first section “Time to get off the testing train” by Stan Karp on pages 207 to 211. He focused on how purposeful education is being replaced by “standardized, scripted curriculum,” meaning that the intent of the curriculum is to get a high set of data from testing, rather than focusing on each student’s individual and academic growth. He emphasizes that within the ‘new’ curriculum, the classroom ignores societal issues and social justice and instead focuses on “building data walls” to contribute to their school’s standing. Within this umbrella of testing, he examines the impact of the No Child Left Behind Law and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The National Assessment of Educational Progress  is commonly referred to as the “nation’s report card” as it measures long term grades and results of testing per state. The frequency of this testing includes every other year for sets of 4th and 8th graders and every 4 years to 12th graders. The NAEP uses statistical sampling and attempts to identify subgroups of students such as gender, race, location, and ethnicity. This sampling is anonymous so it provides “comparative results about student performance and trends without labeling or ranking individual students or schools.” These comparative results are used to compare states and regions with their results and levels of proficiency. Within these results, even the highest scoring states do not reach “proficient levels,” they merely reach basic or below basic levels, creating unfair and unattainable goals for students, schools, and states to reach. He then moved to the “No Child Left Behind” act. This frequency is every year through grades 3 through 8, and once again in high school. When this law was passed, these test scores became even more important and valuable for schools and their attempt in raising them. The tests impacted by NCLB created a narrative of failure aimed at students, and especially students in marginalized communities. For schools already underserved, their scores do not reach the levels deemed proficient, this results in school closings, privatized education, and a poor image and engagement of public schools. Opposed to the anonymous testing in NAEP, this testing “aims to tattoo a score every year on every student’s forehead and every school’s data wall as a basis for making high-stakes decisions about school practice and policy,” meaning that students are essentially identified and treated by their ability to fill out standardized tests. With standardized testing, students’ intelligence is being measured in an unfair and biased way that shoots down student confidence and wastes schools, teachers, and students time in the classroom. 

    In the section Authentic Assessment for Learning, pages 213 to 216, they focus on alternatives to standardized testing and how each different pathway, there is a goal to meet common principles within assessment. These include: supporting improved learning, helping teachers improve instruction, seamless integration with the curriculum and instruction, being classroom based, using a variety of measure, the idea that a good assessment practices provide flexibility and don’t constrict or dominate the curriculum, being free of cultural, racial, class, or language bias, not stealing time from teaching and learning, and involving educators, parents, and the broader community. The next focus is on a list of different models of authentic assessment. To start, portfolio based assessments and learning records are introduced for teachers to create a portfolio of students’ work to measure progress and achievement in a specific class or area of education. Next is performance assessment, which is simply basing a students progress on their work and their success on their ability to perform a task such as essays, presentations, and projects, and in turn promotes professional development. Exhibitions as a way to promote authentic assessment provides motivation for students to produce their best work as it could be displayed for other students, faculty, and parents who can provide feedback and praise for the student and their success. Then, student-led parent teacher conferences are introduced where teachers “help students prepare presentations of their work, reflect on progress, and describe their learning goals and accomplishments to their parents or guardians.” Finally, they focus on school wide assessments that address school wide issues to help create a better learning environment for students, which is critical for student success. These recommendations need to be shared with and acted upon by both teachers and parents for these to be effective. These different goals and assessments are more beneficial for students and teachers, and promote a better understanding of the student’s motivations, intelligence, and individual self.

    The next section “14 Days SBAC Took Away,” by Moe Yonamine, focuses on how in her class she struggles with administering their standardized tests. SHe talks about the difficulties her students face taking them, and how they ruin the drive and confidence in the classroom. These tests take away valuable class time that could be used finishing out units and celebrating each other and their accomplishments at the end of the year, instead they are used for test prep and taking the exams. In this section she tells the story of her administering the test to her students and how they were all disheartened by having to take it, and that during the test, they had a hard time focusing and being motivated. She tells of one student who was under the impression that she had been opted out of the test, but is sat through and told to take the test anyways and then is unable to control her anger and frustration and lashes out. Another student cannot focus and messes around at his desk and with his chair, one student begins to cry as he is having a hard time out of school and this pressure and intensity is the last thing he needed to face. She also tells of another student who has a hard time with english and writing, who repeats to himself that he is stupid and cannot do it, and on the second day he took it had the same mentality and began banging his head on his wrist and saying he can’t do it. He was then made to give up even more class time until he finished the testing. Moe explained that she struggled looking at the students take the test and think about the better things they could be doing with these 14 days, and feels guilty because she had opted her own daughter out of the exams, yet had to make her students take them, saying that she “hated that [she] was forced to do something that brought so much harm, something that [she] would not allow for [her] own child.” 

    In the next section, “Testing Assumptions” by Cauldierre mcKay, Aaron Regunberg, and Tim Shea, the focus lies on a protest of standardized testing. Students in the Providence Student Union (PSU) organized a protest against the Rhode Island Department of Education and their implementation of standardized testing. In their district, in order to graduate highschool you need to pass their tedious test. If students are not on track to pass they will be pulled out of class and put into ‘boot camps’ to help them prepare and study to raise their scores by a few points. Their protest began by dressing up as zombies and going to the RIDE center where they protested that this test is having “zombifying effects” on students, and when this event gained traction, they went into another one. This included having 50 well educated adults take one of these NECAP tests, of course none of the people they were protesting against would agree to take the test, so they administered the test to other smart and successful individuals as a way to say that this test measures whether we will be successful or not, so we will have successful people take it and examine their scores. When results came back, 60% of the participants failed the test. Due to these protests and their results, the school board changed the requirement for the test to not needing it for graduation, as these students proved that it was an arbitrary way to measure possible future success. 

    The article I chose to connect the first essay to was “Students Protest Standardized Testing” by the Public School Review, published on February 5th 2022. This article talked about how teachers across the nation are organizing boycotts to standardized testing and emphasizes that they are a waste of time and resources to the school, on top of being inaccurate judges of student and teacher performance. They focused on two particular protests, one in Oregon and the other in Seattle. In Oregon, “the state mandates testing for students every year from third grade through eighth grade. The state also tests students in 11th grade, and scores from those exams are used to test student proficiency for graduation from high school,” which to the students and those involved in the protest have been deemed unfair gauges of intelligence and readiness to move on. In response, members of the Portland Student Union organized an opt-out campaign for a district wide boycott to standard testing. Other members and students have been encouraging other students to opt out on test days as a way to emphasize the insignificance of these tests and their results. The focus of the article was then shifted to the Seattle protest. For this protest, teachers announced that they would not administer the district mandated Measure of Academic Progress tests. These tests are administered a few times throughout the year for teachers to be able to measure their students’ progress, and although they are not state mandated, the teachers can receive serious disciplinary action from their school district because of this boycott. These tests have been voted unanimously as “the tests are wasting valuable class time, as well as staffing resources and money,” on top of being inaccurate measurements of student success. This article and these boycotts are just a few of the examples of the effect standardized testing has on students and teachers, and the opt-outs further enhance how education has been formed to benefit the government as opposed to the student. 


  • Learning Experience 2 (3.22.22)

    For this weeks learning experience, my group focused on pages 165 to 188, which included the essays “How do I stay in a profession that is trying to push me out?”, “Dear White Teacher,” “Restorative Justice in the Classroom,” “What are restorative practices and why are they important?” and “Girls Against Dress Codes.” 

    Starting with the first essay, “How do I stay in a profession that is trying to push me out?” by John Terry, he discusses a ‘backpack of survival tools’ that he found helpful in surviving teaching. He speaks from a place of a teacher who found difficulty in staying passionate about his profession and his purpose in writing this was to help other teachers who also felt this lack of passion. He begins to talk about how he wanted to stray away from the typical materials he is given and rely on his passion and experience of teaching. In his searching for new material, he found himself inspiring others and creating new relationships among colleagues, and in doing so he found his occupation becoming his vocation. His goal was to create ways for human rights to be incorporated into classes, across all grades, and through this process he became involved in many organizations outside of the school. Some of these included his local union, joining a Legislative Action Team to speak at countywide meetings, phone drives, and other ways that could help make changes in policies from the state level, and in doing so he “came to learn that opportunities existed for [him] to fight for [his] own growth as a professional.” He then talked about the importance of advocacy and how relationships with those in similar positions can help one another feel supported and in creating these relationships Terry developed his backpack of survival tools. They follow: 

    1. “Making a conscious decision to make the goal of creating a better society a central part of my curriculum and teaching strategies.
    2. Reaching out to a core group of other teachers in my school and surrounding districts as a regular part of my ongoing professional and personal development. 
    3. Exploring the possibilities of broader education activism beyond my classroom in my union, state, and local politics.”

    In the next essay, “Dear White Teacher,” by Chrysanthius Lathan, she tells about how as a black female teacher in a predominantly white school, she receives black students from other classrooms who misbehave, and she emphasizes that teachers such as those she tells about need to examine how they can improve their teaching practice to better handle situations they deem uncomfortable. She starts her essay by explaining how she would always be asked to handle black students who were being ‘difficult’, or to handle phone calls home for the black students. Following this, she decided to create a focus group of the students she so frequently received to discipline, and she asked them why they kept coming to her for time out. The students responded with a variety of answers; “you’re not scared,” “they send us here when they get tired of us,” “you talk to us like our mom’s and aunt’s; you expect us to do right, and if we don’t, you make us tell our parents what we’re not doing,” and “it’s because you’re black”. She goes into depth about the fear white teachers have when disciplining students of color, and she emphasizes how teachers freeze when they are presented with students not doing their work or acting out because they fear they will be called racist if they discipline a student of color. She asks if this fear justifies sending that student to someone else so that they don’t have to step out of their comfort zone to help a student grow. The answer is no. In an effort to help teachers who will not get uncomfortable for their student, she provides guidelines for calls home to students, and addresses the issue she has when teachers simply say they are giving the student a role model of color when they are sent to her room. This turns into showing your students that you care, and in response to this she says, “you must confront your discomfort at all costs. Find out why you really don’t want to call home, hold the child after school, tell him to sit down, or tell her to finish that essay.” She closes her essay by explaining the significance of self reflection on teaching practices, and by doing so you can repair holes in your classroom that prevent students from feeling like they have no power or control, and in doing so you can create a better environment for the students. 

    The third essay, which was my focus for this learning experience, “Restorative Justice in the Classroom, by Camila Arze Torres Goitia, followed a teacher who wanted to reframe discipline from reactive to proactive in her school. She talked about the importance and challenge of implementing restorative justice in the classroom and how it starts with focusing on the root behind acting out rather than “focusing on blame and punishment.” SHe explains that typically kids act out when they are “ scared, uncomfortable, unseen, or not served by systems,” and that by addressing the root of the issue before handing out unrelated punishments can help build a more positive community and environment. She wanted to build relationships and a community within her classroom and found fun and easy ways to empower students with a safe space, and spoke about the power of relationships within that community and how there would not be an appropriate learning environment in a space that had weak relationships between the students and with the teachers. In focusing on building this community, she implemented the first steps towards restorative justice in her classroom. She established the sharing of common values that become ‘centerpieces’ for the classroom environment for the year that the students can reflect on when having a hard time, creating a sense of home in the classroom, which could be done by creating special nicknames, sharing favorite song connections with other students, pair share work, and poems about fellow classmates that empowered each other. This significance she holds on the classroom environment can be explained through a question she asks; “How can we expect our students to be vulnerable, to put their thoughts and ideas out there, to learn if they feel unsafe?” She then talks about restorative justice and its role in the curriculum. She explains her practice of collaborative discussion and how after learning about a topic or completing a related activity, the students sit in a circle and reflect and empathize, focusing on successful collaboration where the whole room has a chance to share and contribute while enriching the conversation and understanding of the lesson. In her community building efforts, she has circles where students interact and connect with each other, and she translates these conversations into learning by making it a safe space where students feel comfortable addressing hard topics. She implements these circles for students to feel seen and heard in the classroom, and they open up with silly questions like who would play them in a movie, whether a hot dog is a sandwich, if water is wet, and many other topics like those to create relationships within the classroom and transform the classroom into a safe space. Ending her essay, she talks about the importance of restorative justice in the classroom and its role in growing and learning, and how it is necessary for a classroom environment to be welcoming and supportive of all its students. She puts such a heavy focus on connection because it is necessary, and she explains that “we do this because we desire connection. We do this because it helps us see each other. We do this because it helps us build a foundation to talk about the hard… We do this because learning won’t happen if we don’t.” and through this essay she gives hope and encouragement to other teachers to implement practices like these to help repair the school disciplinary system. 

    In the fourth essay, “What are restorative practices and why are they important?” by Bob Peterson, he presents a Q/A style essay that addresses the goals of restorative justice. He starts with addressing discipline and these practices and that with class sizes and disruptive behaviors, most teachers fall to the “cycle of threats, suspensions, and expulsions,” and how these approaches are used all over the world, and are rooted from Indigenous communities. He touches on how these practices are used in prison systems, and how they use it as an alternative to mass incarceration, while focusing on the goal of self improvement and conflict resolution. He then goes back to schooling systems and emphasizes how these approaches help build community and relationships and proactive classrooms, and that attempts to repair harm can reiterate the community of the classroom. When integrated firmly, “educators can create safe and supportive classroom and school environments for all.” His approach to this essay helped reiterate the previous, and addressed and emphasized its usefulness in hopes other teachers will work to implement it in their classrooms. 

    The last essay in our section was “Girls Against Dress Codes,” by Lyn Mikel Brown, and focused on the story of a 15 year old girl, and essentially talked about the sexism and inappropriateness of dress codes in schools. She begins by introducing Izzy, the 15 year old girl who wrote blogs in middle school about dress codes, and she would comet on how “girls’ bodies become objects of adult interest and surveillance,” and how she got inspiration from the activist group of the SPARK movement. Izzy began a feminist club and began to combat the schools dress code after being shot down by administration, which lead to putting up posters around school that said “instead of publicly shaming girls for wearing shorts on an 80 degree day, you should teach teachers and male students to not overly sexualize a normal body part to the point where they apparently can’t function in daily life.” This message spread, and more girls began to stick up against their dress codes. Another girl named Molly created a trending hashtag, #iammorethanadistraction, in an attempt to challenge her dress code and the implications it holds. Brown states that ‘dress codes are a stand-in for all the ways girls feel objectified, [and] sexualized…” and that they have underlying roots of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia that are designed to strike down and sexualize students from a young age. Most girls challenging their dress codes aren’t looking for them  to be abolished entirely, but to be applied fairly. “They simply want policies that are relevant to their lives, policies that account for changes in clothing styles, that value identity development, gender expression, and cultural diversity. And they want and expect to be consulted.” She then gives a list of things she believes make a good dress code policy, including “there are no gender specific rules, no double standards.” In relation to that, she says “a dress code can do more than prohibit, but it can protect those who are already vulnerable,” and especially that a lot of curvier girls are targeted for their clothes and essentially targeted for their body. Another piece of the list says that “girls want school dress codes to make it very clear that they are not responsible for how boys view them and that their clothing choices are not responsible for boys’ inability to focus or learn,” and  that dress codes are examples of compliance before learning in schools and that in order for girls to not feel as though they are responsible for other people views, especially that of adults, they need to feel respected at school. She ends her essay by saying how girls who stick up for this are simply advocating for their right to be treated fairly and equally, and that they will not be treated as if they are not equal. 

    In our learning experience, we designed a slideshow with engaging and thought provoking questions related to the readings as a way to help students reflect on their experiences and their thoughts while reading these essays. We included a list of goals for the students at the beginning of the slides as a way to help them think of key concepts we focused on in the presentation as well as ones that were present in the readings, and we then engaged in thoughtful discussion in small groups before discussing as a class about the questions. In our learning experience, I was responsible for and designed the sections related to restorative justice in the classroom, as well as the bulk of the learning goals. I also contributed and helped lead small group discussions for my slides as well as my classmates. We mainly focused on our New Teacher book for material in our learning experience, and also used one another to help generate ideas and formulate questions in respect to our group members slides. 


  • Current Connections 2 (3.3.22)

    For this current connection, our group was assigned pages (119-140), which included essays “The Read-Around – A Reading and Writing Strategy,” by Linda Christensen, “Role Plays: Show Don’t Tell,” by Bill Bigelow, “From Theme and Evidence Wall into Essay,” by Linda Christensen, and “Resources From Rethinking Schools.” 

    Starting with the essay “The Read Around” by Linda Christensen, she writes from a place where she emphasizes the importance of classroom community and writes how with a safe space students are more likely to share their work and their writing with the class. She wants to create this safe space for students to feel encouraged and appreciated in sharing their writing and work, and feels the importance of confidence in the classroom. She gives a list of steps to build confidence and encourage students to share their writing. This starts with the students sitting in a circle so that the attention is focused on the reader, next each student writes a compliment to the reader in which they write the name of the reader which helps establish learning each other’s names. She has the students respond with a positive comment while absorbing the reader’s  methods so the audience will be able to ‘steal’ what works in the reader’s writing. Next, she has each student sign their compliment and will ask for volunteers to share their compliments to the reader, and while doing so they are supposed to look the writer in the eyes to make a more personal connection between them. At the end of this, the students exchange their compliment strips to one another so that they will have these compliments in an attempt to keep students encouraged in their sharing of work. 

    In the second essay of this section, the basis of my current connection, Bill Bigelow wrote “Roley Plays: Show Don’t Tell,” where he comes from a place where his students would be bored in his class and he did not know how to navigate that and revitalize his classroom, then he began implementing role plays as a way for students to be more engaged and able to learn the material with the support of a good classroom environment, and then be able to retain and apply the information in future settings. He started his essay by explaining how “lectures have their place- but only when directly linked to activities that draw students into the intimacy of social dynamics,” and how much more effective teaching is when the students are engaged and excited to learn. He stressed the importance and effectiveness of role playing in the classroom, by allowing the students to essentially ‘become’ the material and interact with their classmates in a meaningful way and understand the lesson from the inside out. Bigelow states that “amidst the dealmaking, arguing, and oratory, students absorb a tremendous amount of information. But they absorb it in a way that reveals underlying social conflict and solidarity, so they can make sense of that information,” essentially reiterating how role playing in the classroom engages students in learning and the environment they are learning in will help create a better understanding and a lasting memory of the material. He goes into the different styles of role play, and begins with the controversial question style. This begins with a controversial contemporary or historical problem, and then the class divides into their respective roles and encapsulates what happened, or should have happened, and how it did. He follows this by saying that the “vitality of a role play depends on ensuring that actual social conflicts come to life in the classroom.” This style is dependent on passion and social justice within the classroom and being engaged with the material. Another style of role plays is the mixer role play. This gives multiple different perspectives on one issue or topic and students encapsulate information of their role and share key information with each other. Bigelow says that “mixer role plays may include as many as 20 or more roles, and allow students to recognize that there are not just two sides to a story,” further enforcing the idea that students need to learn with an open mind and the idea that there is many more perspectives to just one story they are told. Finally, he introduces trial role play, which starts with a crime in which students need to develop roles representing different ethical and social issues each individual character would be presented with. These use the format of a trial, and “provide students with information on the circumstances in different social groups’ lives – circumstances that would contribute to shaping these groups attitudes in a given issue,” which can increase empathy of the students, and furthermore establish the information presented in the role play. 

    In the third article, written by Linda Christensen, “From Theme and Evidence Wall into Essay,” she focused on highlighting her student’s work and writing and displaying it on the walls, in doing so she was looking for a way to generate classroom dialogue to keep students passionate and open about their writing. She created a wall where students could post poetry, narrative, and essay excerpts, and a classroom dialogue for students to express their ideas derived from classroom texts. She uses this wall to generate important discussions about social justice and also about the deeper questions presented in the literature they’re assigned. She “sets the stage with initial questions, typically about power and inequality, about who benefits and who is harmed in any situation,” and in doing so she helps students rework their literacy and form it into tools of social change. She also allows the students to focus on their own interests and passions of themes from the wall and are then encouraged to follow that thread in creating their essays. In addition to the academics, she encourages students to write connections they have with notes on the wall and bring in personal stories and experiences to help students relate to the material. She wants “students to care about their writing and see the relevance of our classroom work in their lives, [she] explicitly gives time to add evidence from their lives as well as evidence from their readings,” and she uses these connections and these notes to help students pick a topic for their final essay, and insert themselves personally into their curriculum. 

    The fourth and final essay of our assigned readings encapsulated a variety of resources for building community. This section gives overviews and short summaries of many different resources and essays in order to help inspire other teachers with stories of activism, social justice, and reflection on the kind of teacher we want to be. Some of the resources given include: A People’s Curriculum for the Earth, Rethinking Early Childhood Education, Open Minds to Equality, A People’s History for the Classroom, and so many more to generate discussion and awareness that can stem from the classroom. 

    In relation to the understanding behind the environment of role plays, there are two theories that can be of explanation: state of flow, and zone of proximal development. The flow state, proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, focuses on an individual whose skills are balanced with challenges, creating someone to enter “the zone” while working, studying, learning, etc. This is beneficial to students as it elicits a time of focus and can help them learn without easy distraction, this “flow occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand are equal,” meaning that there is no set flow for a general group, it is specified to each individual and will present itself as being different for each person’s work ethic (Oppland 2021). Being in a state of flow elicits more than just scholarly benefits, according to his research, Csikszentmihalyi found that people had a drastic increase in not only productivity, but also creativity, and even happiness.  Moving to the zone of proximal development, Vygotsky theorized that this zone enhances a social aspect to learning and adapts their ability to learn concepts from external support and apply in an individual setting. In other words, “the zone of proximal development refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner,” which relates back to education as the student gravitates from learning and performing an understanding with the teacher to applying it and working through problems on their own (McLeod 2019). In guiding students through this state of flow and the zone of proximal development, teachers can learn the best environment to stimulate each, and in turn be more successful in helping students learn and digest material, rather than just regurgitating it without understanding. In reflecting on flow state and zone of proximal development in the context of Bill Bigelow’s essay “Role Plays: Show Don’t Tell,” I was able to find connections between role plays and learning under these conditions. Bill Bigelow explained how role plays in a classroom offer extra support and better conditions for students to learn and how he offers a crutch for them to get started and then encourages the students to do their own research and find ways to apply the material to themselves, and in turn they are moving out of the stage in that they need guidance and are beginning to enter the stage in which students can understand and apply the material on their own. He expresses flow state through the research portions of his assignments, and in stressing the importance of fully understanding their role, students express a great deal of focus in truly understanding their role and what they can do to benefit their learning  as well as their classmates, and as this expanded learning environment where students better retain their material is a result of proximal development and flow state within the classroom.

    In this reflection on ZPD and flow state in the educational context and within role plays, it is evident that even unaware, teachers find ways to implement the base principles of these theories into their teaching and their lessons because it has been tried and proved that this is essential in truly learning and absorbing material to one’s best capabilities. Bigelow presented similar if not the same values as Vygotsky and Csikszentmihalyi, and in looking at the success of his efforts as a teacher, it is evident that state of flow and zone of proximal development are some of the most beneficial a teacher can put emphasis on within the classroom. 


    The New Teacher Book



  • Current Connection 1 (2.17.22)

    For the current connection, my chapters covered Uncovering the Lessons of Classroom Furniture, Getting Your Classroom Together, 12 Suggestions for New Teachers, and How I Survived My First Year. My focus came from the section Getting Your Classroom Together, which included many tips for creating and organizing a functional classroom. The author, Bob Peterson, told about different tips about learning from others, being able to ask hard questions, communication, and the politics of bulletin boards. The quote I pulled and focused on for my current connection was as follows, “I wanted my students to see themselves on the walls, both literally- the walls have pictures of the students and their work- and figuratively, so the people the students see reflect the nationalities of the classroom and the broader world” (page 35). This quote made me think about student inclusion and its importance and the impact it has on identity. The way a student feels in a classroom is dependent on their success and their learning, and can even meet needs they do not have met in other areas of their lives. Reflection on a classroom by a teacher can lead to profound growth and opportunities to create a positive community in the classroom, and this environment is critical in learning. Teaching has little to no impact if you can’t create a bond with the students. If there is no connection between the teacher and students, or even students among each other, then the class will not be a significant source of growth for the student, so ensuring that each student feels welcomed and included in the classroom is essential.

    Basing my current connection off of this theme, I found two articles, one explaining the psychology behind this theme, and one connecting a current situation of student inclusion to this quote. The first article, Making the Most of Adolescence Harnessing the Search for Identity to Understand Classroom Belonging, provides evidence of a positive relationship between student identity and its correlation to student achievements. The article goes on to say “Students’ sense of connection and engagement in their classroom was supported while they participated in activities designed to encourage curricular connections with their identity and culture,” and this shows that the need for control, self esteem, and belonging, not only in the real world but also in the classroom can provide benefits for students as they move up in their education. Research shows that there is a positive school effect, like belonging, supports students’ motivation, engagement, and achievement and stems from students’ basic needs being met. It proves that “the need for belonging is so prevalent and far-reaching, that it dominates an individual’s emotion, cognition, behavior, and health,” and essentially proved the effectiveness and importance of feeling like you belong in your educational environment.

    For the article I found to relate to the readings and that research article, it encapsulates the effect exclusion can have. The article, “Intellectually Disabled Students Petitioning UCCS for Full Inclusion in Graduation Ceremonies,” by Debbie Kelley, explains the roadblocks that intellectually disabled students face. Students with Down Syndrome at UCCS are calling for allowing students with intellectual disabilities who earn certificates to walk with students who earn degrees at commencement ceremonies. The university has prevented these students from walking across the stage with their class simply because they are involved in a program designed for students with this disability as an alternative to the typical 4 year degree. “Sixteen intellectually disabled students are participating at UCCS. From the time the program formed three years ago as a way for intellectually disabled students to obtain higher education, students thought they would be able to walk in the school’s graduation ceremony,” but the school has decided that their accomplishments and accommodations do not account the same as the other students. The faculty has further isolated them and diminished their accomplishments by not allowing them to walk with their graduating class because they “have technically completed something other than the 120 credit program.” The university released a statement saying “For a lot of certificate programs, we hold a separate ceremony,” Verner said. “Because these students are doing something very unique and special, we’ve got a year to figure out what to do for them.” However, I do not believe that this is a sufficient response or way to handle this program’s achievements. They  were pushing off their decision because the university did not want to make exceptions to their curriculum and their way of doing things, so they tried to push it off as a way to isolate them even more. They have had at least 3 full years of their education to figure out how to allow these students to celebrate their accomplishments in a way that makes them feel wanted and accepted by other students, faculty, and society, but they failed to adequately address this issue. A student spoke out and stated, “A separate ceremony is not acceptable,” she said. “If this was another minority, this community would be in an uproar. The only thing the intellectually disabled students can earn is a certificate, and they are asking to participate like all the other students.” Which in my opinion is completely correct, and that there really shouldn’t be that much of a discussion for the university, all they are accomplishing is ostracizing a group that has already encountered so much isolation and discrimination, and further implying that their presence and their accommodations are not worth the university’s time. They should simply find ways to celebrate each student’s success at the same level, and not make others feel unworthy of their higher education. The quote from the reading encapsulates the values that should be held by every educator, that everyone should be able to see themselves in society, that they should be able to see their accomplishments appreciated just the same as all others who achieved the same, that everyone should and deserves to be treated equally. 

  • Learning Experience 1 (2.15.22)

    The readings we focused on for this first learning experience came from pages 73-93 of the New Teacher Book. This section’s reading followed 3 main themes: selective tradition, the question of what was untold in the curriculum, and understanding how to incorporate tough lessons into the classroom.

    Starting with the first essay, Presidents and the people they enslaved, the book talks about the truth behind slavery in times of the early presidency and when that stopped past the abolishment of slavery. The teacher approached this lesson with caution and recognized the curiosity and anger behind his students at the beginning of the lesson, this led him to be able to lead his students into analyzing curriculum and the truth behind selective tradition within the curriculum. Students quickly realized how tough it was to find credible source reporting on the darker side of American history, and the way that the truth is hidden if it does not correlate to the idea of being the greatest nation. Once students discovered that 10 out of the first 18 presidents owned slaves they began to question the integrity of the textbooks and other curricula resources, “ how do we know this is true? Our history books aren’t telling us the truth. Why should we think this does?” (page 76). They then searched in their textbooks for lack of truth, and discovered it was more prevalent than they thought. They realized that terms such as racism and racial discrimination, and they found nothing. This lesson taught students how to be activists in the classroom and also how to decipher what is credible and how to navigate what isn’t.

    From the next essay, my focus for this learning experience, Medical Apartheid, teaching the Tuskegee syphilis study, brought up discriminations within the medical field. Personally, reading this I was shocked because I had never heard of this study before, and it made me ponder what else was left out of my curriculum and what I had been missing from true American history. This section brought up questions of how to approach sensitive topics like this, and the teacher executed it in a way that made students engaged while also prepared. They had built a good relationship with the students, and a good classroom environment that is fitting to discuss topics as such. This teacher taught his students about the Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis, and covered that there were approximately 400 African American men brought into this study without informed consent or prior knowledge that they were even being examined for the disease. They were tested for syphilis but were not told and when results came back positive they were only informed that they had “bad blood,” not that they were sick. This neglect of information was extremely inhumane and was a decision that was made by scientists that these men were not fit to live a healthy life, that they did not deserve the same care that the rest of society could receive. They were intentionally denied care for this disease and were prevented from receiving it from anywhere else, they had been blocked from the military, where they could receive care, and from other physicians to be consulted. Once this story blew up into the media and was brought to Congress, they passed the National Research Act, mandating a code of ethics for research on humans. However, there were not any proper enforcements of this law, and so the men were still unknowingly subjected to this study. Many died as a result of this infection, and were stopped at great lengths from finding out that there were simple cures. The teacher used this lesson to help teach students that oftentimes history is white washed and not fairly represented. He also emphasized the intent behind teaching this was to get the students to “understand the human lives behind the medical facts,” and to recognize injustices they have faced while also understanding the politics behind history. After diligent research and putting themselves in the shoes of these affected families, students concluded that “health and healthcare are a complex mix of choices and circumstance, and that those with more social and economic power have a different level of choice,” which is a profound and necessary realization in order to navigate social justice. They had to question what perspectives of history were ignored or purposely neglected, and they learned how to examine and cope with true history.

    Lastly, the third essay was a Q/A section distinguishing what to do when you do not like your textbook and the material it presents or neglects to include. Essentially this section emphasized the importance of being able to critically analyze your textbook if it is biased, and also explained the significance of utilizing outside material in the classroom. t suggested songs, poetry, news sources, and many other materials that can help a teacher and the students stray away from the textbook while still learning, and possibly being more engaged and motivated to learn the material.

    In my opinion, I believe that each of these essays was designed from the perspective of creating a safe and truthful change in the curriculum. Also a key perspective is through a social justice lens, and how doing so is important for the children to understand real world issues all while signifying how to critically think about big and little situations. We chose to emphasize our main themes because they go beyond just these essays, they are issues and important topics we will all have to face as educators and if we inform ourselves on how to analyze and respond to these dilemmas then we will be able to teach issues as such in a way students will be engaged and respond to. 

    For this learning experience, we explained our learning objectives then created questions to get the students to critically think about the material before going into the lesson. We created a google slides presentation with summaries of each section and we talked about these issues and questions in discussions with the students. We all prioritized student engagement in our lesson planning, and so we based our material on different ways that the students could be actively participating, so we created discussion questions for them to respond to in groups. My individual focus was on the learning objectives and the Tuskegee study, and we all contributed to creating questions and the layout of the learning experience. Our materials and resources came from The New Teacher Book.

    Link to presentation. 


  • Blog 1: Class Survey

    My preferred name is Riley, and my pronouns are she/her. I am from Mentor, Ohio and the grades I am interested in teaching are elementary grades. Some things I am interested in are cereal (cinnamon toast crunch), harry styles, lifting, shopping, driving when it is warm out, and the beach. Something that I am definitely passionate about is working with kids, so before COVID, I would volunteer at Willow Farms, which is a developmental school for children and young adults with autism and other related differences that essentially teaches them how to live in the real world. This experience connects with my passions because it helped me connect to my desire to help others. ( https://www.stepsedgroup.com/willow-farms/ ). I think in order for me to be most comfortable in a classroom, a welcoming and supportive group is necessary, as well as an educator that is passionate for their job and not just trying to pass the class time. A formative memory in my experiences as a student don’t necessarily come from when I was younger, but from my Spanish teacher throughout high school. I took Spanish for the first three years with the same teacher so I grew a connection with her and would spend my free time in her room talking about my day, my friends, and really anything I wanted to. She had a baby during those years and she trusted me enough to babysit, which allowed me to grow a connection with her daughter as well, and during her growing up I was able to help teach her and help her practice things like her colors, numbers, letters, and even help her work on learning English, as my teacher primarily spoke Spanish at home. This was also a key experience that helped me grow to be fond of teaching and helping and also just a good bond to have in life. A question to ask you or the class could be the reasons behind their aspiring career?