Sunday, December 8, 2013

Final Project Overview- Latinos in the USA


For my final project I decided to work in some class discussion and reflection time about stereotypes and Latinos in the USA. We started off in a very basic way, by introducing the word stereotype itself. Many of my seventh grade students were unaware of the what the word meant, so this was a good starting point. We added the term to our classroom and unit vocabulary. The unit I designed is entitled "Latinos in the USA." I tried to attach the vocabulary, essential questions and some of the documents I've used, but don't have a way of sharing these using Adobe, so I will bring them to class with me.

The essential question and unit vocabulary were discussed and broken down in class on Monday. On Tuesday I provided students with an organizer outlining various groups or "categories" of people in our country. The organizer listed about 7 or 8 groups and had blank bullet points underneath each, a framework for discussion. Students were asked to work with their groups and list the stereotypes we associate with each group provided. After about 20-30 minutes of group discussion we came together as a class and created a class list. I asked the students to think about why I had them do this and I emphasized that we would be talking more specifically about Latinos (on group on their list). In addition to this, we discussed why stereotyping limits our understanding of the world around us, and the ways in which media and TV contribute to our opinions and categorizations of people.

In addition to the vocabulary and overview discussion of stereotypes, we watched two more specific video clips (found on YouTube). This was done on the third day of the unit (Wednesday). These two video clips deal with stereotyping and Latinos. It seems that one was filmed by a teacher, the other creator isn't easy to determine. Both videos feature teens who are of Latino descent. The teenagers ask watchers to consider their first hand experience with stereotypes. One of the videos is simply entitled "Hispanic Stereotypes." The other is really wonderfully entitled "We Would Like You To Know." Both videos provide the star students with a voice, something that we have discussed in class. I think the featured students really feel heard. Also, I think having my students, some of whom have never really had any real life experience with someone who is Latino, found these videos meaningful.

Hispanic Stereotypes:

I let the students watch the videos, we discussed them briefly, and they completed a journal entry with a few guiding questions to answer.To wrap up this portion of the unit I asked the students to think about ways that we can fight stereotypes. I encouraged them to think about this on a personal level, not in a broad sense. One student said "think twice, speak once." I thought this was an excellent way to transition into the next piece of the unit, which deals with immigration.

We Would Like You To Know:

I'm not going to go into detail about immigration or illegal immigration here. However, what I think is important to note is that the discussion and work we did prior to getting into the unit further, is the emphasis on empathy. One more piece of the discussion prior to immigration was a day devoted to a documentary called "Which Way Home?" This video is about teens and children, along with many adults from Central America, who ride on the tops of trains in order to get to the U.S./Mexican border. These are people who are incredibly desperate and need to earn money for their families. I've included a trailer below. I think this video, along with the discussion of stereotypes worked as fantastic precursors to the very confusing and challenging topic of illegal immigration. Ultimately I will be providing students with a number of resources which look at multiple stories and ideas about how to solve this problem. I will ask students to take a side and we will set up a classroom debate as part of our final assessment for the unit.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace (Trailer, 1972, USA)

I couldn't get the link to work below, so I decided to share it separately.

Full Inclusion: A Response to Christopher Kliewer's "Schooling Children With Down Syndrome"


In his book "Schooling Children With Down Syndrome," Christopher Kliewer writes passionately about the responsibility schools have to include all children in mainstream classrooms, regardless of their ability or inability to function "normally" within the classroom environment. Kliewer quotes Pablo Freire, saying "democracy can only occur when no person's voice is deterministically silenced." Truly democratic classrooms include all learners and utilize Gardner's multiple intelligences as a framework for inclusion. Just because a student can't pass a written test or sit still and listen to a story being read aloud, this doesn't mean that they are  unable to become invaluable members of the classroom community. Just because a student's IQ is not at an age appropriate level, doesn't mean they are not intelligent. If we only measure intellect by a number on a scoring sheet, how can we possibly see the world around us as inclusive?

From Past to Present:

American society has come a long way in the past fifty years. About two years ago I had the experience of working with students in a group home who attended a specialized school. These students came from various towns across Massachusetts. They lived in a residential neighborhood and rode in a school owned van to their specialized school. My job was to arrive at their group home at 5:30 a.m. I helped make breakfast, bathe and feed the children. Once everyone was ready for school we took a van to the school, where we would stay for the next six hours or so. Although the van ride was only about twenty minutes long, it was usually the longest twenty minutes of the day. Students would pull hair, bite and have meltdowns on the way to and from school each day. These behaviors were typical of all students in this school, this is why they were sent here, rather than their home town's public school. Employees were taught methods of restraint and were exposed to a world that many people forget or neglect to acknowledge exists. I only worked in this setting for six months. Actually, most employees were only able to stay for a year or so before being completely burned out and disillusioned.

My point in sharing this story is that we went through about two weeks of intense training before working with the students in this school. One piece of the training incorporated a video documentary entitled, "Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace." This documentary was recorded in 1972, with Giraldo Rivera anchoring. It documents the way that special needs children were once treated in this country, the reality of institutionalization. Institutionalization doesn't really exist today, but it is a disgusting part of America's history of "handling" children who are disabled. I use the word handling because this is really a large part of the legacy that continues to pervade our school systems and society today. Older methods of handling disabled students are disgraceful and almost too painful to watch. It's really difficult to believe what these institutions got away with. (for some reason the embedding link won't work for this...just copy and paste I guess)

So, we have come a long way from our past treatment of special needs students, to where we are today. This doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to reevaluate and re-investigate new ways to help all students become part of the classroom community. Kliewer pushes teachers to continue to "listen deeply" and develop innovative and creative ways to include all students in the learning environment. He also wants teachers to realize that learning looks different from child to child. Blanket assessments and goals are not the way of the future, and they are not the way of democracy or authentic community. Additionally, Kliewer suggests that students who have been held back and kept separate from others will flourish and see a huge turnaround when encouraged to work with their peers. He provides examples of students who were once excluded from the mainstream classroom environment, but with some effort and creative thinking became fully valued members of new communities that were more accepting of their differences.

My Personal Experience with Inclusion:

I shared a little bit of my experience with special education students in the above segment. My experience at the "separate school" was definitely a time of learning and reflecting for me. It is honestly a time that I would never want to return to. Each day was so chaotic and stressful that if I stuck around any longer I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. I want you to know that I don't have thin skin. I don't cry or become emotional easily. Living that reality made me appreciate every little thing I'm able to do in life. It made me appreciate the job I have now. It made me realize that there are some people in the world that are beyond amazing because they are able to be hospitalized from violent incidents which occur at work, and still return a few days or weeks later. I'd encourage anyone who doesn't have some experience working with students who are severely and profoundly disabled to spend one day or even one hour observing in that type of environment.

Today I work with inclusion students who are not as severely or profoundly disabled. My school supports the co-teaching model, a newer model (for us) which has been adopted in the past couple of years. Prior to this, the special education teacher would come in and assist with students with special needs in the room. And prior to the special education teacher as assistant model, all special ed. students were kept separate (we are talking about twenty years back).

My personal experience with this has been somewhat tumultuous as well. I've had several different people in and out of my room in the 2.25 years I've now been teaching inclusion (because of retirement, reassignment, etc.). I've also had very little training on co-teaching, which sounds like a simple enough premise, but is actually quite difficult in terms of logistics. I do have some students who come into my room from a separate program within the school. They are supported by a paraprofessional, but the special education teacher is unable to come in at this time. Also, the special education teachers and myself don't have the ability to meet extensively before and after school. Additionally, I have over 100 other kids I'm responsible for, kids who also have a variety of needs. So it sounds really nice to be able to find creative and innovative ways to work with each student and each type of learner, but I've found that logistics often get in the way. I do try to differentiate and teach in a way that incorporates the multiple intelligences and different types of learning styles, but it's very challenging to do this en masse. Differentiation should not be a method used to teach a different lesson to every kid every day. I think about differentiation as adding room for movement and flexibility within the classroom, both literally and figuratively. This is what all of us should be focused on in all classrooms, not just inclusion.

Ultimately I agree with much of what Kliewer writes about, but I'm also all about reality. I think its unrealistic, and actually insulting to ask teachers to develop several different plans and spend hours before and after school planning and toiling away working on accommodations (as in the example of Shayne and Isaac). I think this may be a better example for elementary teachers, as they are only working with 20-30 kids each day. One final point I think needs to be brought up is that we should not constantly be asking non-special education students to function as assistants to those who need extra help. I've found that many of the struggling kids get paired up with students who are most patient and accommodating. This is a great example of the reciprocity that Kliewer talks about, each student benefits in some way, but it often requires a tremendous amount of patience for non-struggling students. This setup often ends up happening in each class throughout the day. For example, one student I know of was asked to work with a challenging student in ELA, science and in my class. Is this fair for either child in the scenario?

In summary, inclusion can be wonderful in working to build the confidence and participation levels of those who struggle with learning. It can also be wonderful to witness the reciprocal relationships built between "regular" education students and "special" education students. However, inclusion cannot and should not be taken lightly. It is not a field full of pretty flowers and holding hands where everyone gets along and is at peace with each other. It is real, hard work and planning that requires a lot of time, dedication and consistency to make things work effectively. Consequently, there will always be more work to be done. 

GoldieBlox Rube Goldberg Machine 'Girls' Commercial

Interesting video relating to gender roles in media...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Welcome to the Machine: A Response to Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us

It's difficult to consider or envision a starting point and end point for this post. I say this because I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of advertising and marketing, literally drenched in logos, makeup, branding and expectations. We all are. We are part of a massive machine which consists of what seems like an infinite number of gears constantly churning and being oiled. When you really stop and consider the ways in which your life and psyche are impacted by marketing, it's paralyzing. Everything from the clothing you wear, right down to the way you walk and talk, is impacted by somebody else. Most habits you think to be "normal" were at some point contrived by someone somewhere along the line in history. We drink eight glasses of water because that's what "they" say you should do. Poland Spring loves that this has caught on. We shower daily because that's what "they" say you should do. Meanwhile Johnson and Johnson are benefiting. You brush your hair and your teeth. Suave, Colgate and the mega companies that own these companies are happy.You eat particular foods to try to be healthy. Nabisco and General Mills laugh all the way to the bank as you crunch down on your over priced hundred calorie pack. You watch football and baseball and golf, all multi-billion dollar industries. You go to the movies. You go out shopping for shoes. Everywhere you turn you are being hit by marketing ploys and gimmicks. 

As if the gimmicks and marketing were not enough, you are also being told what to think, how to behave and what to believe about yourself and others. This is the heart of what Linda Chistensen gets to in "Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us." Christensen describes a secret education that we all receive. This secret education begins at a very early age. Picture little girls in princess costumes. Boys dressed as super heroes. Think about all of your favorite Disney Movies and the expectations for the characters in the movies. People of color are servants. Overweight people are slobs and "buffoons." People with blonde hair are beautiful and get to live "happily ever after." These are the lessons we learn, lessons that many adults have no problem allowing their children to listen to and internalize. 

It's ironic that so many people are OK with the political agenda of Disney, but outraged by the accused "liberal" agenda in movies that attempt to break the mold. There are literally people who have a problem with the movie "The Lorax" because it teaches kids to care about the environment, it pushes a "liberal agenda."

Christensen offers some wonderful examples of how to teach students about media awareness and stereotyping. Students explore cartoons and videos that send subliminal (and not so-subliminal) messages about what an ideal society looks like. Her students put what they have learned into practice and create pamphlets to be distributed in the community. The writing is meant to help readers make informed decisions about what types of material they allow their children to watch and consume.

This is all great work, but Christensen really just gets to the tip of the iceberg with her students. She plants a seed of skepticism that will hopefully flourish and continue to grow strong roots as the students move into adulthood. Her work is excellent and a great example of how to get kids to critically analyze their surroundings, a necessary 21st century skill. 

There is a need to dig deeper with this though. The foundation for this type of thinking needs to be set at a much earlier age. Christensen's work needs to be a call to parents. This type of work starts with children as young as 12 months old. It starts with less toys. Less games. Less television. As babies grow into toddlers and elementary school children, they lack what Christensen refers to as "intellectual armor." Parents must arm their children. 

Now, does this mean that we all stay stuck in a place of paralysis? No. Does this mean that we all move to a hippie commune and live off the land? Probably not. It does mean that we learn to think about what we are thinking, and we teach our own children and students to do the same, all of that great metacognition stuff. Why do I want this game? Why am I afraid to walk through south Providence? Why am I dieting? Why do I feel so terrible about myself? Why am I comparing myself to others? Why don't I care more about slavery in the world today? This is an arduous task, especially with the new world of social media and reality television, both of which are incredibly distracting and contributing to the machine of marketing and skewed social norms. I don't even know if I want to go there, but you probably get the picture. To learn more about metacognition and teaching, check out this link. Shameless plug, I know.

What I'm getting at is that we are part of a machine whether we like it or not. Will we ever be able to unplug the machine? Probably not. But it is at the very least possible to throw a monkey wrench or two into it by simply learning to question and critically analyze your own actions as well as the actions of others.

"Welcome To The Machine"

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been.
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time,
provided with toys and Scouting for Boys.
You bought a guitar to punish your ma,
And you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool,
So welcome to the machine.
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream.
You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar,
He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
So welcome to the machine. 

-Pink Floyd 

*I would consider posting clips to ridiculous shows such as "Toddler in Tiaras" or "Jersey Shore," but I'm hesitant to give any of these shows any kind of fan-fare through the much coveted "share" function.*


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Education


"Aria" by Richard Rodriguez tells a bittersweet story of a boy caught between two worlds. Ricardo, is one of a handful of Latino students attending a Catholic school in California. While at school as a young child, Ricardo is hesitant to speak or contribute to the classroom community. He feels as though he doesn't have a voice, he "couldn't believe that the English language was (his) to use." Rodriguez writes about how as a child he felt that there were two types of language, a public language and a private language. English was the language he was supposed to use in public, a language he disliked, saying that it sounded harsh and rough. Spanish was the warm, tender language he used in private, in the presence of family. It was a language he loved so much that he would run home after school to the safety of this warm environment, a place where he could really be himself and be comfortable.

Rodriguez writes about the ways in which this dual world perspective was harming him and holding him back, without him even realizing it at the time. At school he refused to answer questions, he was seen as a slow learner, timid and shy. His teachers were concerned about his lack of progress. But all of this changes with a specific turning point, a point when a "clash of two worlds" turns life as he knows it upside down. A point where Ricardo really becomes Richard. With a quick home visit from a couple of well-intentioned nuns, Ricardo's family is changed forever. The two visiting nuns ask Ricardo's parents if they could practice speaking English at home. This public language now becomes a private language as well, and "in an instant, they (Ricardo's parents) agreed to give up the language that had revealed and accentuated the family's closeness."

As a new version of this family is born, Richard feels tremendous sadness and despair. He becomes angry and cannot understand his parent's willingness to leave a piece of themselves behind. As time goes on though, Richard accepts this new fate and decides that he must really, for the first time, learn classroom English. Weeks and months after his family undergoes this metamorphosis, Richard "becomes" an American citizen both inside and out. He is begrudgingly, yet fully assimilated.

Rodriguez's voice throughout this memoir is somber, but also positive. As an adult he is able to reflect on the sadness and struggles of his "golden age" of youth and actually argues that the difficult transformation he was forced to undergo was worthwhile, a testament to assimilation. His writing reminded me a lot of Lisa Delpit's metaphor of a "picnic" vs. a "banquet," where native language is seen as good and fulfilling, but also meant for a specific time and place. Public language is meant to be used in and is necessary in formal situations.  I think Delpit would be less than thrilled with the complete transformation Rodriguez's family underwent, and I think I'd agree. I don't believe that the nuns in the story were asking the family to give up their native tongue, but were simply asking Richard's parents to "practice" using English at home. Richard's parents took this to the extreme and really felt it necessary to give up their language for their "children's well-being." Their reaction reminded me of  Booker T. Washington during the Reconstruction Era following the American Civil War. He was an African American who was widely criticized and scorned for telling other African Americans to "cast down (their) buckets where they (were)," basically saying "be happy for what you've got" (despite the fact that Blacks after the Civil War were just as worse of as they were prior to the war). Don't fight back. You've already been given enough. A sort of give in and give up attitude.

So what about today?


So how does this look today? What is the right answer? Is bilingual education the best way to prepare students for a successful future in America? What if Rodriguez was never forced to learn English? There are a lot of what if's surrounding this issue, and the data is interesting to look at. According to a recent Gallup poll, most Blacks and Hispanics believe that bilingual education is best, whereas only slightly more than half of whites favor bilingual education. The questions you really need to ask yourself though, is who has the most power here? Who has the most cultural capital to begin with? 

I really feel that Lisa Delpit is an appropriate scholar to turn to here. I think that children should be taught the "rules and codes" of power. They should know that their native tongue is beautiful and should be celebrated, something Rodriguez's family failed to do. However, teachers and schools that do not prepare students for such a harsh world are really doing their kids a disservice. It is nice and warm and comfortable in schools where 90% of students are Latino and/or speak Spanish. Any kind, caring, open-minded individual would say that the best way to teach kids is through the use of a language they already know. The tough reality is that when students exit that warm, caring environment, they will find a very cold world.

Additionally, much of the research points to bilingual education being ineffective and often inadequately implemented. There are some schools that have managed to implement successful bilingual programs, but most are ill-equiped and underfunded and therefore unable to provide a successful bilingual education. Christine Rossell wrote this insightful and revealing article, The Near End of Bilingual Education. In her research she interviewed teachers from various school districts in California. She found that overall, most teachers found bilingual programs to be unsuccessful. She states:

"In the fall of 2001, I asked several former bilingual-education teachers who were now teaching in sheltered English-immersion classrooms whether they would ever go back to bilingual education. Not a single teacher said yes. All preferred sheltered English immersion, even though they thought it was harder work for them as teachers. A recurring theme was that 'bilingual education was a good theory, but in practice it just didn’t work very well.”

Rodriguez did not enjoy having to learn English. He did not enjoy being transformed. But he recognizes the fact that it was a necessary evil. If he hadn't learned English when he did, his life would look very different today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Oops...I guess I should be sticking with LGBT, not LGBTQ...apologies...

I just looked up whether or not I should be taking on the "Q" piece to my blog or others' blog posts, as this is what I've heard in the past. Through a little bit of quick research, I realized that the use of "Q" may no longer be appropriate. I'll need to be careful to use the correct terminology in the future. Live and learn and research everything :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil: A Response to Safe Spaces

The title of this post, See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no evil, addresses the much too familiar status quo regarding sexual orientation in the classroom, and in our society as a whole. This "don't ask, don't tell" mentality continues to fog up and pervade the daily lives of most heterosexual individuals and traditional families today. As part of our (heterosexual individuals) privilege within the culture of power, we don't have to think about or be conscious of LGBTQ issues on a daily basis. Often we go about our daily lives and routines without giving the words "gay" or "lesbian" a second thought. Its a "political" topic of controversy, often placed on the back burner of minds. We get soundbites from the media about foolish politicians rallying against gay rights. We hear our friends or family members use the word "gay" to describe something that's not OK. Many Americans remain "open minded" and think that gay marriage should be legalized across the United States. But do we really think about our day to day actions, and conversations and the message that we send about sexual orientation through these interactions? Authors Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, and Megan S. Kennedy would argue that we should all take a step back and reexamine our daily lives and interactions to find blind spots where we may unintentionally be marginalizing those who identify as LGBTQ individuals.

In their book, Safe Spaces, Vaccaro, August, and  Kennedy write about why we all (adults, teachers, parents, children...) need to start to wake up and take an activist approach within an invisible civil rights movement that is happening as we speak. The authors don't ask their readers to make protest signs, or design entire units just for those who are gay, but they do encourage readers to think about ways, particularly in the classroom setting, that we can create safer, more accepting and open environments for gay students to be welcomed into. According to the authors, often those who are doing the marginalizing aren't aware of the fact that they are the marginalizers. To marginalize literally means to push someone or something outside of the main story. When writing a story, or when writing the history of a given era, for example, those "things" that aren't considered as important or were afterthoughts, end up outside of the text in the margins. In this case, the "things" are living breathing people who have not been given a voice. When a teacher neglects to include books or resources which incorporate the stories of LGBTQ individuals, they are the marginalizer. When a teacher forces students to identify as either "boy" or "girl" without room for those in between, they are the marginalizer. When a teacher looks the other way, or joins in as a boy is scoffed at for wearing a skirt or dress, they the marginilizer.

Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy ask a number of very important and critical questions in this piece. They also offer great practical, "do now" advice for teachers. As I was reading this article, the piece about silence really clicked for me. In my school the topic of sexual orientation is swept completely under the rug. Even the teachers are hesitant to talk about this topic amongst each other. We have a couple of "suspected" gay teachers in the building. I've hear teachers say about students, "I think so and so is going to be gay when he grows up." It's amazing how hushed this particular topic is within schools. I hesitate to even call it a "topic," because these are people we are talking about. Last year there was a girl who the students targeted for possibly being a lesbian. There were rumors about her and another girl possibly "liking" each other. The rumors and ostracization got so bad that the entire seventh grade were brought to the library to meet with the school psychologist. The psychologist spoke in a very broad way, not naming names, and not using words like gay or lesbian. She spoke so broadly about the topic that I'm not even sure the students knew what she was talking about. This was something the teachers were not supposed to discuss in class. Reflecting on the "handing" of this situation, I realize that it was such a ridiculous way to approach the topic, that I'm wondering what a better path would have been. I wonder how the students felt. I wonder why we as a school have not reevaluated or readdressed the ways in which we should go about creating a safer environment for gay students.

As I was reading this piece, I was reminded of a documentary called "Bully" that was made about a year ago. The video follows a few students from all over the country that are the victims of bullying. These kids have very intentionally been targeted, a couple of them for being gay. This is different from the discrete, quieter form of marginalization practiced within the classroom, but is still a very real and loud piece of the exclusionary puzzle. I watched "Bully" a few weeks ago and thought about trying to find a way to bring it into the school, or into my classroom. I wanted to show it in October, because October is bullying awareness month. October has since come and gone, and I failed to follow through. After reading and reflecting on Safe Spaces, I think I will need to return to trying to find a way to share and reflect on this video with students. It would make a good starting point.

Here's the trailer for "Bully":


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Significant Conversations: Two reflections for Two Important Crises Facing Children Today

Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance

This is probably my favorite piece we've read so far. I enjoyed every bit of the short, but comprehensive piece written by Michael Wesch. Reading Wesch's article this weekend really resonated with me because of some things that came up this past week at school. Here's the story:

Part of the content I'm required to teach includes the physical geography of the regions we study. Within the physical geography is the topic of natural resources, something I have found to be one of the most boring and difficult topics to connect to students' lives. This was the case up until last week... 

As we are covering the region of Latin America we got into a discussion of fossil fuels and the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources. So we talked about how things like petroleum and coal are not renewable, and then moved into a conversation of resources that are renewable, like sunlight and wind energy. This triggered some really meaningful and significant conversation about what students can do to conserve resources in their daily lives, where they may have seen solar panels or wind turbines. Many of the students hadn't made those connections until this very conversation. I also shared a story that came out a few months ago about a young man who invented floor tiles that used kinetic energy to produce electricity for a school. The kids were really into this, and wanted to try to come up with their own ideas about how to harness different types of energy to power homes, etc. On Friday I brought in an article about a professor who is going to live in a dumpster. He's retrofitting a dumpster to make it into a sustainable home and he's requiring his students to do the same. The kids really connected to this article and it generated some wonderful dialogue about why on earth he would choose to live in a dumpster. 

Almost all of the students participated in the class discussions of these topics. I was able to encourage students to continue to think about ways we can use different types of energy, and let them know that this is something they could even pursue as a career when they are older (or they could get started now!). The look in many of their eyes was one of excitement and motivation. One boy said he now wanted to join STEM club to try to come up with some of his own inventions. 

All of this stemmed from the boring topic of natural resources. This has been a dreaded topic for me in the past, but is now something I can use as a hook for engagement in the future. The power of significance has brought this topic to life. At the end of the day on Friday we ironically lost all electrical power. The school went dark and we had to evacuate. The school next door went dark. Half of the town lost power. As we were standing outside in the soccer field, a few of my students turned to me and said "I bet this wouldn't have happened if we were using a different source of power..."

The Flight From Conversation

In her article for the New York Times, author Sherry Turkle writes about the declining sense of community we experience in our day to day lives. Turkle argues that we can attribute this cultural shift to the increasing popularity of technology in the digital age. She says that we have moved into an age where people have checked out of real relationships both physically and emotionally. We "hide from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another." Turkle argues that this "technological universe" is destroying life as we know it. We "dumb down conversations" and "present the self we want to be."

Despite going through the doomsday laundry list of ways our society is falling apart at the seems, Turkle offers no real suggestions about how to stop this technological disaster from happening. The reader is left with visions of robots and humans walking down the street hand in hand, lovingly gazing into one another's eyes. I think this painted picture has some validity, but Turkle's piece is a bit sensationalist and incomplete, she fails to take this topic the few necessary steps farther, steps which will be addressed in this post.

I will say that this is an extremely interesting topic to me. I've expressed similar complaints regarding technology and social media. I think that people spend way too much time on phones and in front of computers, kids especially. I have friends who post to Facebook multiple times per day. I probably scan through Facebook 2-3 times per day. To be completely honesty, I've scaled back my Facebook time tremendously because I found myself becoming one of the statistics that Turkle mentions. More time social networking does lead to a greater feeling of loneliness and depression.

Now on the flip side, what I think Turkle fails to address is the fact that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to the internet and social media and technology in general. I think that social media and the internet can be incredibly useful in terms of helping people find others to share community with. I know it sounds crazy, how do you have community on the internet?....Well, I read a couple of blogs that have helped me through some dark times of depression, uncertainty, and negativity. I've found bloggers who write about real gritty and dark topics. These are not people concerned with putting on a pretty face and sharing only a portion of themselves with people from all over the world. These are people who put everything out there, honestly. In many ways, I think it's sometimes possible to find more "real" people online than in person. I've had "relationships" with "real people" that still made me feel incredibly lonely. I don't enjoy polite conversation. I don't enjoy discussing hair, nails and makeup. It's difficult to meet people, especially women, who aren't just interested in surface level conversation. I have a few close friends who I would consider to be "real" friends and I'm not sure that I need a large community of people to share my "real" self with. I feel like I could keep writing and trying to address the pros and cons of the internet and technology, as there are plenty of both, but I don't think that would be meaningful or useful. I guess in summary I would just ask Turkle to consider the fact that not all technology is harming our society. There is hope for the future, there will always be surface level relationships both on and offline. It's up to the individual to maintain an awareness and balance of healthy relationships in their own lives, to concern themselves about the world around them and to seek out real living breathing community.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Linked Up

Hi everyone, here are the links to the two videos worth watching. Both of these videos would have made for great discussion in class tonight, but we just didn't have the time.

-The American Dream at Groton (this is an older video, check out some of the new info on their current website

- People Like Us (this is just the "opening tease" clip, if you would like to watch the full video you have to watch it in parts on YouTube)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ira Shor Would love this post by the Oatmeal

This is a fantastic link to what we were just discussing in class. It would make for a great student centered project- maybe with the question of "should we celebrate Columbus Day?" Take a look, I think I'm going to use some of the material in class on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Questioning Answers: A Response to Empowering Education

About the Reading:

Many researchers, doctors, philosophers and scholars have tried to solve the age old problem of student disengagement and academic under-performance in the public school system. Ira Shor writes about these struggles in his book, Empowering Education. In chapter one, "Education Is Politics: An Agenda for Empowerment," Shor cites many causes for students' lack of educational success. He states that the root of the problem, though, lies in undemocratically functioning classroom settings, saying that "many students do not like the knowledge, process, or roles set out for them in class. In reaction, they drop out or withdraw into passivity or silence in the classroom." According to Shor, in far too many classrooms students view their teachers as autocratic figures and see themselves as having no role in makings of the classroom syllabi. Shor continues the chapter by reiterating this point again and again, asserting that teachers and schools need to undergo a paradigm shift. The author is fully convinced that if teachers would just open up the classroom as a free space where students feel they have some control, power and choice within their education, that we would see a massive change in the number of students actively participating and learning within schools. Furthermore, Shor believes that teachers should throw out their multiple choice tests. Get rid of rote memorization and skills based lessons, and begin to ask more questions. There should be an emphasis on process based learning, or what we may now call inquiry based learning. Students should stop and think about why they are in school, they should be taught to "question answers" rather than "answer questions." The teacher in this model of excellence is thought of as a facilitator or a coach, rather than an enforcer or knowledge depositor.

Why Shor is right...

As I was reading this text I kept flip flopping between underling words, phrases and quotes with extreme excitement and intrigue, and highlighting words, phrases and quotes with a strong sense of disagreement. I think in many ways Shor really hits the nail on the head. Students need to think about what they are learning and why they are learning it. Metacognition is an important piece of becoming a life long learner. This is why many teachers have students take the multiple intelligences test, to help them learn about the ways in which they learn best. With all of the research about ways in which students learn differently, teachers have been told to differentiate instruction. This is my fourth year teaching and I can honestly say that most of the teachers I've observed and had the fortune to work with do differentiate. Most teachers offer different ways for students to show what they know, they encourage participation and questioning. I've worked differentiation into my classroom and tried to be more of a facilitator for learning rather than an enforcer of knowledge. Throughout the school year my seventh grade students have the opportunity to complete various creative assignments, use technology, participate in debates, and incorporate as much of their own life experience into the classroom as possible.

And why he's wrong...

I was with Shor until he started arguing that students should partake in the making of the classroom syllabus. I think this is a step too far, and that this idea is a bit naive and unreasonable.The twelve year olds that come into my room can't remember to bring a pencil.  How would they know how to draw up a syllabus? Never mind elementary school students. I think students need a set of parameters to function within. They need direction, guidance, and someone to oversee the activities they are engaged in. Does this mean that I should refuse to be flexible? No. Most definitely not. I think teachers need to be flexible and accommodating, but not to the point where they hand over all control to students. Shor seems to recognize this struggle when he cites a conversation from a 1930s labor workshop. One of the men involved says "No matter where this kind of educator works, the great difficulty is how to make education something which, in being serious, rigorous, methodical, and having a process, also creates happiness and joy." It's VERY difficult for students to self-monitor and function in an environment that is too open and breezy. I've tried it. Kids need some sense of routine. They need the teacher to provide them with some expectations and guidelines. As much as I wish this utopia of open-minded, free thinking and engagement existed, it does not. I think Shor could have written more about how to create a structured and rigorous environment that is simultaneously democratic. Our formerly studied authors, Delpit and Johnson would probably agree. Many students come from unstructured and disorganized homes and crave teacher authority and leadership.

Another place where my highlighter and pencil marks lit up the page was the part in which Shor said "education is more than facts and skills." Education most definitely is more than these two old school practices. It is more than lecturing and note taking. However, skills based learning has its place, again, I think Delpit would agree. Students need to practice adding without a calculator. They should memorize their times tables. Students should easily be able to find Asia on a map and point out the state in which they live. Should these facts and skills be taught all day every day? Should these facts be the center of all curriculum? Again, definitely not. But they have their place. How can a teacher expect students to work independently or in groups to complete cooperative projects without some kind of foundational knowledge? What ends up happening in this scenario is that kids form great opinions and answer great questions, but have no basic understanding of the places they are discussing. So, again I found myself disagreeing with Shor.

Final Thoughts:

In summary, I think Shor is a great writer and philosopher, but I don't think his writing is quite practical and applicable enough for the real living, breathing classroom teacher. He speaks a lot of truth, and I agree with him that many teachers (myself included) need to remember that student engagement is the key to success. But how does this play out in real life? How do you get teenagers to stop being self focused and become curious about learning? How do you have twelve year olds set up a syllabus? How do you allow students to work in cooperative groups without a basic set of facts? Also, how does this look in a classroom where a predetermined scope and sequence has been laid out? Shor raises many wonderful points, but leaves us with far too many unanswered questions.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Response to "Beyond Pink and Blue"


For this week's assigned reading we were asked by Dr. Bogad to search around and subscribe to As I was looking through various archived issues of this publication, I came across an interesting article entitled "Beyond Pink and Blue," written by a fourth grade teacher named Robin Cooley back in 2003. Ms. Cooley and her class are from a prominent town called Newton, in the state of Massachusetts. This is a town that has been ranked as a "top city to live in" in years past, according to their Wikipedia page. This is an affluent town, a place where we see the evidence of the "rules and codes of power" have played out for decades. What's interesting though, is that according to the author, "Newton Public Schools is actively working to create an anti-bias/anti-racist school environment." As a result of this district wide goal, Cooley and her fourth grade class delve into some pretty deep and rich content which directly addresses many of the stereotypes we see in our society.

Cooley starts off by discussing the first part of the school year. In the beginning of the year her classes worked on addressing gender stereotypes. This was done through a series of readings and picture books, as well as class discussions which asked students to think critically. One story is entitled William's Doll. In this story students learn about a boy who liked to play with dolls. His father disapproves of his dolls, and tells him it's not allowed. It turns out that William has an ally though, his grandmother. Grandmother talks to the father and persuades him that it's OK for boys to play with dolls. After reading the book, students are asked if they have had similar experiences. Student's are also asked to identify who the ally was in the story, and are asked if it's possible for all of us to be allies? Cooley's strategy and questioning are spot on and age appropriate. This is a wonderful way to make lofty ideas and questions relevant and applicable to a fourth grader's life.

Cooley goes on to discuss other books read in fall, the emphasis being placed on gender stereotypes. By the time winter rolls around, the students have moved into a series of readings and questioning that deals with family stereotypes. They read books like Heather Has Two Mommies and King and King, a book that "does not have a typical Disney ending." Students discuss different types of family structures and what these family structures may look like in our world today.

Cooley doesn't mention any specific material her class works with on racial stereotypes. This doesn't mean that she never covered these materials with her class, but just maybe failed to mention it. Going with the sequential order of things, maybe this was the topic in spring? This isn't clarified. She does, however, continue her article with a wonderful story and example of how she says the classes"work on stereotypes was sinking in." The story goes like this: a girl from the class came in one morning upset about the color pink. She was examining the latest issue of "Pottery Barn Kids." Everything in the girls section was pink. "I HATE the color pink," she told Ms. Cooley.  From here we learn about a sequence of events that are seemingly unbelievable...

Other kids in the class felt the same as the girl. Boys were upset that they were often portrayed according to gender stereotypes as well. Boys felt underrepresented and offended by the "Pottery Barn Kids" flyer. As a class they decided to write letters to Pottery Barn's corporate office. One student stated in their letter "I do not like the way you put together your catalogs because it reinforces too many stereotypes about boys and girls." Each student goes on to provide specific examples of the stereotypes they found in the catalog. What an amazing example of an answer to the question of "do now?" Ms. Cooley took her class to a level many fourth graders, or grown adults for that matter, never achieve. This became a real living and breathing entity and thought process. It roared in the face of avoidance. It went beyond story time.

In the end Pottery Barn did write back. The company apologized for offending the kids and promised to work on "incorporating (the) feedback in the propping and staging of future catalogs." This is a great example of both ends of the power spectrum working together for change. People at the top, a major corporation, promised to work on improvements for the future (whether or not they will follow through is up for debate). At the bottom, a group of kids made a difference and a personal connection. Somewhere in between was an excellent teacher encouraging us all to carefully reexamine our world view as well as our teaching practices.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Deconstructing Armstrong and Wildman. A Response to "Deconstructing Privilege: Teaching and Learning as Allies in the Classroom."


In chapter five of the book Deconstructing Privilege, authors Margalynne Armstrong and Stephanie Wildman address a modern racial dilemma, a term and practice known as "colorblindness." They argue that colorblindness, our warm and fuzzy friend, and nice friendly alternative to direct and outward in-your-face racism is really not so warm and fuzzy. Armstrong and Wildman say that despite all of our best efforts to see everyone as equal and support diversity and a utopian multicultural society, racism is still alive and kicking. The authors refer to racism as pervasive, and insidious, and say that striving for a world full of colorblindness is absolutely the wrong way to address these very real  issues.

Old News

In many ways these authors sound a lot like their predecessors, people were writing about this same stuff over ten years ago. Armstrong and Wildman sound a lot like Allan Johnson and Lisa Delpit, authors we have carefully examined in class. Johnson's key phrase was to "name it." He asked citizens and educators to put the terms racism, oppression and power on the table. Johnson also included a graphic wheel that illustrated the ways in which we step into and outside of the culture of power. Armstrong and Wildman do much of the same in this chapter of their book. They include a Power Line chart which looks an awful lot like the SCWAMP activity designed years ago. The voice of Lisa Delpit comes through in their writing as well. The authors toss around terms like "white-privilege," "perspectivelessness," and "systemic power" saying that white people often don't realize that they hold the power within society, similar to Delpit's "Culture of Power."Delpit also argued that "good intentions" often resulted in further problems in the realm of race. Colorblindness is a perfect example of good intentions gone awry. By pretending that we are all the same, we are in fact making matters worse. These are not new concepts or realizations in the academic world. They are also not new realizations in the day to day world and life of anyone who has ever read or learned through experience about race issues in the United States.

New Food For Thought  

Armstrong and Wildman do bring a couple of fresh ideas to the table. One particularlly interesting quote was used in regard to President Obama, "commentators describe U.S. society as 'post-racial,' as if the election of a Black man to the nation's highest office meant no more conversation about race was needed." This statement really struck a chord with me. I think that the topic of a Black president is an important one to address. People do tend to use Obama as a cure-all piece of evidence that whites in the U.S. are finally done being racist. However, when the media is carefully examined, our president is often painted in a negative light, not just because of his politics, but often because of his race and potential religious background. People continue to argue about whether or not he is truly a citizen. His middle name, Hussein, is often used in a derogatory way. Think about the number of times you have hear him called "Barack Hussein Obama" rather than Barack H. Obama. George W. Bush was NEVER referred to as George William Bush. One individual I know refers to President Obama as the "Commander in Thug." The President is a prime example of the ways in which our society still demonizes those who are "other."

 Obama-Jimmy-Carter-in-thug.jpg image by itsforthechildren

One final piece of the text that I appreciated were the example educator lessons provided. These lessons were pertinent and thoughtful, and really seem like great ways to engage students in the thought process necessary to understand why our society is not O.K. I like the idea of having students observe the world around them for a 24 hour period. To take note of all of the small ways in which white people are given privilege. Privilege in today's world doesn't look like separate bathrooms and restaurants, but "white hands on the fasten seat-belt sign." It looks like white people working on computers in the airport, and people of color cleaning the bathrooms and working behind the scenes. I don't know that the provided lessons would be appropriate for seventh graders, but I think they are applicable to our every day lives and the world around us. Armstrong and Wildman encourage readers to look carefully below the surface, to scratch the exterior, because the more we become aware of the ways in which the world around us functions, the more we will see that this is still a white man's world.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lost in Translation: My Reaction to "The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children"


Culture is a funny thing. Many Americans will tell you that they have "no culture." They are American for god sakes...what do you mean culture? The term itself seems to be affiliated and associated with the term "other." Other countries have culture. Ethnic people have culture. Us Americans, we aren't used to thinking about our own culture and subcultures. Lisa Delpit, the author of The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children, says that American Culture definitely exists. That there are in fact a wide variety of cultures practiced in the USA. Despite such a fantastic diversity of cultures in America, though, Delpit argues that there is a "culture of power." This culture of power comes with a set of very specific rules to be followed, and is like an exclusive country club riddled with systemic racism caused by good intentions. The culture of power is one created, practiced and easily accessed by those who are white, middle and upper class individuals. If you think you don't have a culture, you probably are part of this group. Delpit argues that those within the culture of power often don't realize they are participants and practitioners of this particular culture, insiders often don't recognize their role as insiders.

So what does this culture of power look like and why does it even matter?

This culture is not dissimilar to any other culture. It affects the way you speak and dress, the types of questions you ask and the way you see yourself and others. The use of "Formal English" is emphasized and considered more acceptable than "Black English," or "Native American English." Authority figures are seen as authority figures because they are hired for a particular role in society. A teacher, for example, has the authority in the culture of power simply because he or she is a teacher. A parent is considered a good parent if they don't yell at, or seem overly commanding of their children. Good parents in the culture of power speak softly and make suggestions for their children.

Contrastingly, those outside of this cultural sphere have a hard time looking in and acting appropriately. According to Delpit, these are often people who grew up with a lower socioeconomic status, or are part of a minority group with its own "sub" culture. Delpit uses many examples of people outside of the culture of power in her writing. She explains that each time they are forced to participate in a culture which is not their own, they feel as though they are in a foreign country and don't understand the language or the lingo. It feels unnatural and forced and leads to tremendous amounts of anger and miscommunication. Often times children don't realize that they are not part of the culture of power, and find themselves getting into trouble or being labeled by school districts as slower learners. Those who grow up outside of the culture of power have many specific disadvantages according to Delpit. Things tend to get lost in translation, and this is why it's important to be aware of the systems that are in place which support such an exclusive culture.

How should teachers react to Delpit's explanation of the culture of power?

This is the biggest part of the puzzle for Delpit. It's also the piece that people, namely teachers, so often get wrong. Recognizing differences in white and black, high and low income culture is the first step, but the following steps we take are the most critical. Delpit says that teachers need to consider who they are teaching. We should realize that some children will benefit tremendously from clear and direct instruction. For example: instead of saying "what do you think you should be doing?", teachers should say "you need to do X."  This type of advice reminds me of Lee Canter's book Assertive Discipline. In addition to rephrasing the ways in which we say things, Delpit argues that teachers should make sure to set high standards for their students. Treating those outside of the culture of power with lesser expectations has created a perfect storm scenario where teachers are unintentionally setting kids up for failure. Finally, Delpit says that we should teach children about the multiple expressions of culture in our society. Recognizing that there are certain ways to behave and speak around certain people, depending upon the circumstances, is a huge step in the right direction. Teachers shouldn't teach children that their culture is "wrong," but that it has a time and a place to be practiced.

My response

This was an interesting read for me. I think that Delpit makes some excellent points in the ways she says we should address children. I think that her ideas, however, expand beyond the classrooms of urban schools, and actually beyond classrooms altogether. I teach in a suburban school district after spending a couple of years teaching at Woonsocket Middle School. At WMS I learned to be an authoritarian, and considered my role much like acting on stage. I am a naturally easy going, non-demanding individual. I learned quickly that in order to communicate clearly with my students and run a classroom smoothly, that I couldn't be wishy washy. The skills I learned in the city have transferred over to the suburbs with me. I still run my classroom as an actress. Every day I'm on stage directing kids and coming in with a strong leadership mindset. I think even beyond the classroom that more parents need to practice assertive discipline. Many families are completely run by the children. They dictate what foods everyone will eat, the schedule of the family and the overall culture of the family. Many parents have lost control and need to find a way to gain it back.

Additionally, while reflecting upon Delpit's article, I feel that she is justified in her conclusion that we need to teach children about the culture of power and how to function within it. I think that in some ways we already do. We say things like "that's not appropriate school behavior" or "do that on your own time." There has to be some agreed upon system by which we all function through. I don't know that I'm ready to argue otherwise, and can't quite imagine what it would look like. I guess the key phrase here is "agreed upon." We need to work on defining societal norms together and recognize their existence as a collective community rather than an exclusive community. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Orange is the New Black: A Follow up to Allan Johnson's "Power, Privilege, and Difference."


Just recently my husband and I have started watching the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. Several friends told us that it was laugh-out-loud funny, and that we had to see it. So we gave it a try. It's hysterical. The show is about a white woman named Piper Chatman who goes to prison for a crime she committed ten years prior to her conviction. I won't get in to the plot too much here, but thought that it would be appropriate to put up a post about how this show connects perfectly to the discussion we have been having in class and online.

One example that Allan Johnson uses to describe privilege in our society is through the statement that "African Americans, (for example), have to pay close attention to whites and white culture and get to know them well enough to avoid displeasing them." There are several great scenes in ONB that illustrate this point perfectly. This particular clip from the show is a spot-on example, it's a bit crude and vulgar, but it's fitting. In prison many of the African American and Latino women talk about how they need to "look" or "act" white when they go to hearings or to trial. They believe that if they do this they may get their prison sentence reduced. It's a perfect example of a cultural connection to the realities that Johnson discusses in his book. Orange is the New Black is funny and it's real. It flat out addresses the many power struggles within our society, in a wonderfully unapologetic way. Good show. Good connection. Good food for thought.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Working Hard and Playing by the Rules: A Response to Allan Johnson's Privilege, Power and Difference

Quoting Relevance:

Allan Johnson is a white, heterosexual, American man. He is the epitome of power and privilege, and he knows it. Despite his fortunate and rather comfortable position in our society, Johnson has chosen to step outside of his comfort zone and investigate, make sense of, and teach others about the social constructs that define and constrict our modern American Society. He offers some challenging and thought provoking material. His writing serves as a warning to those who are in the most privileged circles of our society and may not even realize it, but also as the beginning of a solution to the problems of inequality and inequitably in our society. Here are a few of Johnson's most important points emphasized within his writing:

1. "We are prisoners of something."

Johnson argues that people feel that something is off in our society. We don't like it. We don't want it to be this way, but this "something" or "elephant in the room" seems beyond our control. Like trying to control the weather, it's not possible. According to the author, we easily point fingers or look at parts of a picture and place ourselves on the outside of it, but Johnson would argue that we are inside of this picture, we are the focal point. This "something" that we feel is "closer to our own making than we even realize." We are prisoners of history and a long series of events that have resulted in the "socially constructed society" in which we live today, and whether or not we like it, we are in it heart and soul. No one living in the United States today can separate themselves from the history and "legacy we all inherited."

2. We live in what sociologists might call a "social construction of reality."

So what is this legacy we inherited? This legacy is the ruling force behind the comings and goings of each and every individual and all of the things that happen in between in our day-to-day lives. It is a set of rules that say some people are more trustworthy, important, intelligent, and valuable than others. Men are more important than women. White people are more trustworthy than blacks. Heterosexuals are normal and homosexuals are not. Johnson provides evidence of these norms which can be witnessed within society in the section entitled "What Privilege Looks Like in Everyday Life." For example:"whites can succeed without other people's being surprised," and "men can reasonably expect that if they work hard and play by the rules, they'll get what they deserve." These norms amongst many others are all part of what we have accepted as the product of a "socially constructed idea of reality." The challenge for each of us is to question that reality, acknowledge that it is part of our world and rather than blindly accept it, become part of the solution.

3. Those who are privileged often don't realize it, it is a "legacy we (the privileged) all inherited."

Simply put, you are not exempt. Even though you may not have done anything to offend, harm, or condemn others, you live in the product of a society that has systematically done this for centuries. In order to start solving the problems of segregation and inequality in our country, everyone must realize that they play a role in the solution. 

4. People are not afraid of what they don't know. They are afraid of what they think they know. 

Johnson debunks this myth entirely and really hits the nail on the head. Think about it. Are you really afraid of what you don't know? Or are you afraid of what you think you know about a group or individual?  This is a critical part of Johnson's argument, in that we need to shut down or circumnavigate the conditioned reaction we have developed when meeting new people. As human beings we have the tendency to categorize people and put them in boxes. Each person must be treated as an individual, not as a statistic or representative for the group you may think they belong to.

5."Once you name it, you can think, talk, and write about it."  

In summary, Johnson asks readers to step outside of what is comfortable. Instead of talking about vague terms like "love," etc. We need to confront racism, sexism and homophobia head on. We can't act as if these realities don't exist. We cannot go on living as we have. That "something" needs to be dealt with directly. The sooner we "name it" the better off we all will be.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Just Me

Hello blogging world! My name is Brittany and I am many things. I am a gardener and flower lover. I am a food lover, although I often don't have the time to cook or create the foods I love most. I am a wife to Eddy and a mother to a dog named Sadie. Most of my limited free time is spent outside or on the couch with Sadie and Eddy. I have been teaching for five years now, and as of today I am both a teacher and a student. Four years ago I earned my bachelors degree through Rhode Island College. Within a few months of graduating I was incredibly fortunate to be hired for a position at Woonsocket Middle School. I spent two years working in Woonsocket with ESL students. After being laid off due to budget cuts I decided to work on becoming certified in Massachusetts. Again, I was fortunate to become certified just in time to be hired for a position teaching at Beckwith Middle School. I am now going into my third year teaching at BMS, and although it is an entirely different world than the world of Woonsocket, it has been a great experience. I currently work with seventh graders teaching geography and hope to continue with this position for many years to come!