Cycle 3: The Relationship Between Schools and Home Cultures

One of the greatest challenges I find about working in the education system is the importance of exterior appearances. As our society has grown and developed, our ability to connect and communicate across great lengths has increased at rapid speed. This allows us to bring the walls in a little closer to the vastness of our world; otherwise I probably would not be able to be in this course, writing this blog, right? And it is a beautiful, extraordinary thing, but has created some demons as well. Being abroad alongside co-workers with no teacher training can be a bit frustrating while trying to collaborate lesson ideas, classroom management tips etc. Therefore, I am very grateful to websites such as Teacherspayteachers, Pinterest, and, for when I am feeling particularly lazy, straight up Google. However, the more I bag, borrow or steal these ideas online, the worse I feel about education as an institution. While I believe that you cannot judge someone until you know their story, I am judging their teacher websites. It is not to check their teaching pedagogy, or critique their classroom effectiveness, but to answer the question, why so over the top? Having these blogs, posts, and websites has made teaching become trendy and cutesy, the elaborate design often makes question if these teachers do it for the sake of their students or for the sake of a repost or friendly comment. These articles reminded me of this as the next, new innovating things might not actually be helping our kids at all.

The Schoolhome article was an interesting read as it peaked the same underlying theme while raising a new issue, where are the connections between what we are teaching our students and real life application? The line that hit me hardest was, “just how many students of those students in Chris Zajak’s and Jessica Siegel’s schools are unable to establish rapport with a curriculum that does not reach out to them no one really knows” (p. 54). Just as I stated about that technological advancements are changing teachers’ perspectives on education, it is also changing what our curriculum should be based upon. We live in a world today where the ability to memorize will soon become obsolete. There is actually no necessary reason to teach our students facts without application. At any point during my day I can look up almost any answer to any question I have. Again, this is a beautiful thing, but it changes the dynamic of what we are to be teaching our students. For example, the workbooks used for the English Program at my current school are ridiculous; they are jam-packed full of vocabulary with vague fill-in-the-blank spaces and unnecessary repetition. Language learning is not about mimicking sounds, and copying letters, but about communication. If I need to know a word in Thai really fast, I have an app for that; however, the context in when to use variations of that word is not something good ol’ Siri can tell me – that’s where education comes into play. Just as the students in this article were only given various pieces of actual truth, by only granting education in the context seen fit to the educator and their generational view, students will not be able to evolve and thrive in their new society.

One aspect about Jane Addam’s chapter eighteen was her attentiveness to the importance of student connection to classroom content. Even as a learner now I find this to be true – I search for what peaks my interest, I suppose we all do. Students must find value in what they are learning; however the basis of that value does not necessarily have to be a deep, personal connection. During my internship year I was able to see this carried out in many of my kids. My mentor teacher never asked students what they “wanted to be when they grew up”, but “what were they going to do to earn money?” At first in hearing this, I thought it was a little harsh for third graders, but once I understood the students and their community and was able to comprehend the effectiveness of talking so maturely about their future. Understanding that sometimes the cards are stacked up against our students and that education is their only way out was one of my biggest lessons that year. Students did not have to necessarily initially care about education for the sake of learning, but understand its importance as a means to create a better life for themselves.

Overall I believe there are contextualized elements that create various dynamics between home and school cultures, as there should be. However, in order to look home versus school cultures on a broader perspective, as educators, we must look through a lens that indicates where the blends of these two will take our society in the future.

Relating article: Sir Ken Robinson on What’s the School of Your Dreams

“A really great school would be a mix of what you would find in your community”

http://blog.ted.com/2012/04/29/video-sir-ken-robinson-whats-in-the-school-of-your-dreams/

Cycle 2: Cultural Assimilation & Social Mobility

The story of Richard Rodriquez’s education in Hunger of Memory resonated with me on several aspects in various levels. His writing provoked me to contemplate the role of ethnicity in my education, gave me a refreshing perspective in my current position as a farang, and insight into the standards I wish to hold myself by in my future teaching.

As a biracial Hispanic living in the United States I always felt as if I had something to prove in order to deem myself an “authentic Mexican”. More times than not I feel this works as compensation for my inability to speak Spanish. My mother is white and by the time my Mexican father was born, my grandparents immigrated to Michigan prior to his birth, his siblings had begun to assimilate into American culture, this including language. In reading this article I found Rodriquez’s stance on public versus private space very interesting, “I’d wait to hear her voice return to soft-sounding Spanish, which assured me, as surely did the clicking tongue of the lock on the door, that the stranger was gone” (p. 16). The comfort children find in the privacy of their home is not cultural, it is simply an aspect of childhood; however, having language resonate that strongly with such a young child will inevitably cause an effect on their education. Within the realms of education, teachers have been taught the importance of building a classroom community and a place for discussion to flourish. But when our classrooms are as diverse in their language as they are in their individuals, how can create such an environment? Rodriquez is right in understanding the differentiation between private and public space, but as an educator, it is my hope that school is a different category entirely. School is one of those rare places where public and private spheres are mixed, a different type of community is created. For a young Rodriquez to place school in the category of public only proves his personal needs were not being met in education.

Although I traveled to Thailand as a teacher, I find myself more in the shoes of a learner. There have been so many moments where I found myself empathetic thinking about the previous foreign exchange students I observed in college. Just as Rodriquez found himself surrounded by speakers of Spanish and away from gringos, I find myself venturing to locations where I know their will be speakers of English. I was also curious about the large population of Asian students at Michigan State are what appeared to be their concerning need to only spend time with one another. But as I find myself in a similar situation I realize the importance of familiarity. As much as I wish to immerse myself in different culture, sometimes, at the end of a long day all I want to do is go somewhere with English speakers and eat western food; it is just easier that way. So too I feel this is the case with not only Rodriquez, foreign exchange students in the United States and myself, but with the world of language. It is less complicated to communicate when language isn’t an issue. How do we learn to create an environment in this world, much less the education system, that is inclusive for language and culture, which is invariably the same thing?

The education experience, as well as my teaching experiences, are just that, experiences to be learned from so that I may become a better teacher with new perspective. The standard to which I hold myself to in the classroom should not waiver due to my teaching location, but should be adapted based on the context of the classroom. Again, Rodriquez not only differentiated his language experience based off of private and public spheres, but on the expression and meaning behind the language being used, “I easily noted the difference between classroom language and the language of home. At school, words were directed to a general audience of listeners. (Boys and girls) Words were meaningfully order. And the point was not self-expression alone but to make oneself understood by many others” (p. 19). This type of distinction is an indication of where our emphasis in education, is it more important for students to be assimilated into the culture of school and following orders, or to be thinkers of the world? My hope is the latter, but if we want to change the language of the classroom, as teachers we have to look at just how we are speaking within the classroom. 

Cycle 1: The Culture of Childhood

The common theme I found most apparent across these three, various texts was the notion of an ongoing power struggle between adolescents and adults. Whether these relationships took place in the form of parents and children, or teachers and students, there appeared to be a hierarchy when discussing these interpersonal relationships across contexts: parental involvement, discipline in schools and exterior identification.

Rosin’s, Hey Parents Leave Those Kids Alone, addressed the ever-popular topic of parental involvement, specifically within the United States. I find that it is basic American culture to be fearful for our children, as if we are giving out parenting awards for the amount of hours one lies awake pondering the dangers of the world for their off-spring, but why must this be? Surely there must be more to this child-rearing thing than consistently being paralyzed by fear. In comparing this idea with a more global perspective, I feel as though, through my own personal interactions and experiences, being a helicopter parent is a luxury in and of itself. Fathers, mothers, and guardians that have the time and leisure to obsess over ever bump, scrape and bruise are more likely than not, ones of higher class via the United States. Of course this is not a one-size fits all, however I feel some parents do not have the privilege of being over-bearing, that their parenting tactics are “hands-off” by necessity. When Rosin ponders, “failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent”, what demographic is she speaking of and more importantly, to? The issue of power comes in to place when there is an assumption that parent presence is essential for a child’s survival via the playground. It is to assume that without this authoritative figure overseeing the child’s every move, the will be unable to engage in playtime without serious injury. By making adult supervision essential you are taking away the power the child has to assert his or her own independence and sense making. Now I’m not saying we should let toddlers push their own stroller to the playground each day, but there’s got to be some moderation here…

Discipline will always be a hot topic when balancing relationship powers between children and adults. On the one hand, adults need to step in when safety is concerned, but on the other, children need to develop their own reasoning skills during challenging situations. I loved the bit where Tobin touches on the maturity aspect of the children’s behaviors during the course of the observation, “In these physical tussles the girls are not so much out of control as they are acting like four-year-old children, children who are not so much misbehaving as behaving pro-socially, but in an immature, kudono-rasbi way” (pg. 108). The topic raised is one typically forgotten, they are kids, not little adults, immaturity is part of the process. In reading this I immediate thought about Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalk on, How to escape education’s death valley, as he discusses, in his compelling humorous way, why students are acting out in immature ways, “Children are not, for the most part, suffering from a psychological condition. They’re suffering from childhood”. Which is exactly it! The writing topic centered around preschool-aged children, which I find interesting because this group of students is assimilating into two different cultures. Firstly, they are discovering what it means to be a student in the academic world and the responsibilities it carries, discipline and “acting appropriately” being a main factor in this. Secondly, they are assimilating to what it means to be a human being and the interaction it takes to do so. It is animalistic nature to want to hit someone/thing that took something from you, even if it is a teddy bear, we are wired to protect what is hard. Given that and the fact that these children are still learning these social norms, of course the issue of maturity and discipline are going to arise.

And finally Aries’, Century of Childhood, really made me dig deeper into a curiosity I have been battling against since my teaching abroad, how are we identifying students and what do these distinctions mean for their development academically and socially? Both teaching experiences, in non-American cultures, rely very heavily on dress to assert authority over the students. I found this specifically in the sense of student uniforms and lavish teaching get-ups. The ideology that students appear more respectful, and “polite”, a term I have grown to detest, is as important, if not more, than the students’ actual actions in being polite. Aries makes a great point as the distinction actually widens the gap between the two age groups, “these customs distinguishing between children and adults clothing reveal a new desire to put children on one side, to separate them by a sort of uniform” (pg. 55). In making a visual distinction I feel as though students are seen as a sea of similar types without distinction, while adults have the power or freedom to dress individually, hence, asserting their authority once more.
My biggest concern when discussing these issues is the message it is sending our children. By enforcing harsh norms in their daily lives I feel as though any type of curiosity against the norm is seen as defiance, but what is education if not manic curiosity?

Sharing

Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalk on How to escape education’s death valley

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc