Remove Zero Tolerance and Give a Chance

The Skiba article addresses the idea that zero tolerance is a failed policy. While mainly talking about the USA, Skiba notes that schools need not get rid of strategies for dealing with unruly students, but need to find better tools. One tool that he brings up in the article is the conflict circle. I see this as very similar to sentencing circles that are used in the First Nation’s communities here in Canada. He also makes mention that schools who have gotten rid of the zero tolerance school have actually done better in an academic standing.

While many educators are on the side of zero tolerance, I have always been a very forgiving and accepting person. There is room to give students another chance at education, but with some proper tools as Skiba said. There is more than just the curriculum that needs to be learned at school; there is a need to help students become socially responsible and engaged citizens. While these skills can be acquired outside the school, inside offers a safer environment where they can fail without penalty.

The article focuses on students who may have been involved in violence (fights) or bullying. The author also lists some things that could help integrate these students back in and not send them into the “school-to-prison pipeline”. It was said that minorities were more at risk for expulsion and thus are also over represented in American prisons. By removing the zero tolerance policy, we make the school more equal for everyone. Everyone has some right to education and if students are acting out, then the school needs to adjust the strategies it is using. This will create a more anti-oppressive environment. One thing that resonated with me was this idea of talking to the student about the harm their behavior has caused rather than slapping the rule book down in front of them. This allows them to see the pain and damage their act has caused and removes some of that authoritative tension. Interestingly, he also mentions giving these students specific formative feedback about their behaviors and social skills. Having students hear and see this feedback can help them take ownership in the changing process, in the same way that doing this in the classroom helps students.

One large idea I took away from this article was getting to know your students’ lives outside of school. An educator that I talk to on occasion always mentions that the “bad students” really get along with her. She takes the time to talk to those students and get to know their stories and that obviously means something to them if they keep coming back to her. This sort of care is something I want to give in my classroom. It doesn’t take too much time from your day to speak with the students and ask them about their life, goals, and interests. Having someone care can go a long way for someone. Keep students in the classroom!

Part 3

            I have been a bit passive in my ECS 210 education and really tried to search for some answers about my teaching identity. I found it very hard to respond in large lecture spaces, but easy to post my comments online. My hope was that I could have an engaging conversation with my peers, but the blogs turned into a reflection space with little comment. At the beginning of semester, I tried my best to leave some words on blog posts. On one post about the three teacher images I commented:

“I have always been a bit curious to connect with a student from another teacher program. I want to know how it differs from ours and what learning is the same. I also feel strongly that most of my learning has come from practical experience. However, this doesn’t always mean being in an actual classroom. In drama education we get to try out new techniques on our classmates and see how possible scenarios might play out. I am not sure I agree entirely that the majority of my learning has come from practical experience. I would award it half of my knowledge, but I also learn best from reading or seeing others teach.”

            This comment prompted a response from the blog owner about furthering my thoughts on the subject. I enjoyed exploring other people’s assignments and collecting bits of technology information that I can utilize in my classroom someday. I perused that creative response to The New Teacher Book blog responses and made this comment:

“I want to thank you for sharing this new technology to the class. I had never heard of a voicethread before. I noticed that you need to have an account for this online software and permission to view it. I will probably explore it further and perhaps put it in my future classroom toolkit. It would make a fun drama or English lesson.”

            While the blogs didn’t exactly form into a place I could have an active conversation, I did try my hand at joining in the Twitter universe. I recently signed up for Twitter after the repetitive mention of #useful in the classroom. I am still in the learning stages of creating an education community here, but I still used it as an opportunity to engage with my classmates. There are some kinks in my Twitter process. It took me a while to understand how the concept of tagging a person in the tweet so they could view it or even how to jump into a conversation. During the art gallery viewing of the ‘100 Years of Loss’ exhibit, I made two tweets that I wanted to reach the Twitter world. I never received any comments back, but I am also lacking in followers at this point.

“Staring at the faces of the children at the ‘hundred years of loss’ exhibit brings on some overwhelming emotions and guilt”

            I felt a strong connection to the exhibit when I volunteered there for a few hours. I felt the comments Mike made about being a racist really sinking in during that reflection period. At one point Mike came into the gallery, and it was nice to share my experience with him. I had the opportunity to watch an elementary school class interact with the display. It was frustrating for me, and Mike helped me clear my mind on the issue of pulling students away from their learning for discipline. I have a second tweet that goes along with the final ceremony after the survivor walk. My hope was to catch the attention of those who weren’t able to attend. Again, I received no comment, but I felt the statement was important. I really enjoyed spending time with those that were at the beautiful ceremony, and I think there was a silent connection that was made between all of us.

“Remember the Tupperware when you attend a ceremony or you’ll be feeling the berries slosh around in your tummy #useful #FNUC #beautifulfood

            I feel strongly about the idea of sharing articles and videos of interest with my peers. I will note two examples that I shared with my Twitter community. The first is an article from Korean pop singer, PSY, discussing how his popularity has helped influenced people around the world to want to learn English.

“Your time to shine Korea! “@psy_oppa: #NICE!! Psy draws a crowd in the classroom | Inside Higher Ed http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/11/psy-draws-crowd-classroom#.UoG6vNilaXN.twitter …

            The second tweet was an off the internet connection I made with two of the people I sit with in lecture. I found a video titled Love is all you need on Youtube. It takes a look at a world where heterosexuality is viewed as queer. I am using this video in an ELNG unit plan and thought it would benefit other teachers. Tori showed me how to properly format that tweet on Facebook.

“Challenge heternormativity and gender roles! Fantastic 20-minute video: http://tinyurl.com/mdewmjq . Thanks, @edufishschool! @JonSoroka #ecs210

            My strongest learning transfer occurred off the World Wide Web. I enjoyed discussing lecture topics with my educator peer group. It was always nice for us to debate opinions outside the large lecture. There is a certain comfort level I feel when I discuss my thoughts with smaller groups over even one on one. The discussion that sticks out the most in my mind was a one on one where I talked about standardized testing with another peer. We had opposing ideas on the topic. The person involved was convinced of their idea, and I struggled to have them look at standardized testing as more con-based. We had a group lecture on the topic at another date. This really helped prove some of the points that I had made, and that person started to view the negative side of ranking students and handing them standardized tests.

            My contributions to the narrative our class is developing could have been stronger. I struggled to make connections with many different students in our large lecture and even the unfamiliar ones in my seminar. The format that I engage the best with is having less than twenty students together and being forced to interact with them all in some form. However, in my own small peer group, I feel like my discussions have made their presence known in lecture. We have some more vocal participants among my peers. They are willing to share our thoughts to the larger group. While I do not directly participate in that act, I have had some influence on it. All the small discussions, one on one or in groups, have been beneficial to construct this expanded narrative of our ECS experience. We have all been growing and enjoying that growing process together as a whole.

Standardized Testing and My Thoughts

If our classrooms were set up like the ones that Katia mentioned in lecture, I would be considered one of those ‘good’ students who should take a standardized test. It is not hard to memorize facts to a beat and recite them back during a test. If I am given the format beforehand, I can deliver top results. However, this is an awful way to assess students or even schools for that matter. There is no need to rank people. By doing this, we are only enforcing hierarchical behavior as a society. If there is a call for equality, standardized tests are not the answer. The implementation of standardized tests forced one narrative onto the masses and blurs out any other cultural influence on our lives. We will inevitably receive a test based on the test makers cultural ties and single narrative knowledge. Sure there may be people who fit into that narrative, but how fair is that to those who do not? The New Teacher Book article really stresses the idea that multicultural classrooms are lost when we focus heavily on one story. There is no learning that goes on when you teach to a test. There is no deeper understanding that can be found and applied. I gag at the thought of having a standardized test in an English Language Arts classroom. ELA is meant to be interpretive and influenced by experiences. A standardized test would mean that only one interpretation of a text was right. That very thought goes against everything I am learning in ELNG. As English teachers, we need to guide students to critically responding to texts and forming their own ideas. It is very frustrating to think that Saskatchewan wants to implement these tests. I see this province regressing if this happens in the future.

New curriculum definition and addressing crisis within it

Curriculum is everything that goes on inside the classroom and outside the classroom. It starts as a document provided by the government that is influenced by the teacher’s background and where the students are coming from. The curriculum can easily become teachable moments that are seized in the classroom environment and not swept under the rug. Student’s thoughts and opinions should be listened to and analyzed. While the curriculum should focus on a variety of learning’s, it should also be the foundational area for students to address controversial topics and start to form opinions on these topics are seeing both sides. The curriculum and teacher should be challenging students to become critical readers and learners in the classroom. They should be carefully examining texts that they are given and addressing social justice in society to become participatory citizens.

Crisis in the curriculum will come into play when students are met with controversial materials and have their opinions challenged. They can learn through this crisis by using their critical thinking skills and being given both sides of an issue. Students will also learn through crisis when they are prompted to view social justice and how they should begin to apply it outside of the school environment.

How might the changing nature of learning and the increased prevalence of technology be related to social justice and anti-oppressive education? What is made possible/impossible by these tools and this type of learning?

I see learning becoming more interactive and including a whole world of knowledge at our finger tips. However, students can start to lose interpersonal skills when they focus too much time on technology. This can be oppressive in the way that it is taking away valuable skills and not everyone can learn in that way. While the internet has a wealth of knowledge it also is unfiltered and can contain oppressive content that does not promote social justice. This can set back learning and even encourage students to use the language they see online in real time. This language can be so horrendous in some cases and will prompt many uncomfortable conversations. However, these sort of technological tools can assist students in their multiple intelligences and create a fun class atmosphere where everyone is actively engaged with a world wide audience.

Autobiography Comment

After reading my autobiography, I noticed that I addressed two of the topics that are listed as things we did not talk about. My very first line states that “I am a socially awkward girl”. While I didn’t address my gender in a huge way I still made reference to it by talking about how my idea of body images has distorted and how that has had a deep impact on me as a person. Body image is an issue that is very relatable to gender. In my autobiography I also expressed a view about my sexuality. Near the beginning of the piece I mentioned that “at that time I was not interested in the opposite sex” and even came to address it later on in assignment stating at high school age I started to notice boys. I feel men have had a huge impact on my life and that is why it was important to address. My bullies in school were predominantly men and that it why I have a fear of them now. My sexuality has unfortunately caused a rife of pain in my life. On my first page I included a picture of myself. This picture obviously shows that I am a white woman. There is no getting around my race as I will always be “a nice white lady”. I was always oppressively taught that white people should not call attention to their ‘race’ because it is racist. I suppose those words are very ingrained in my head and I wouldn’t want to offend anybody by saying it. In a hidden or subtle way I did address these issues, but would still feel very uncomfortable highlighting them. 

Kumashiro Chapter Two Response

A good student is one who actively engages with the content and lessons that the teacher provides. They behave as if they were a robot and spit back answers in the teacher’s words. When they are forced to find the “closest” interpretation of a book, they model all thoughts based on what the teacher has provided in class. The common sense student will enter the classroom with little knowledge and leave it with an enriched mind that has been constructed by the teacher. In the Kumashiro reading, he describes two students who do not fit this common sense view of the student. He talks about two young people who march to the beat of their own drum. While the “good” student will learn from highly structured lessons, students like M and N learn from a lack of structure and figuring things out themselves. Because of this solid divide create in schools, the students with the model behaviour can either A. be forgotten about because the teacher spends so much time disciplining the others or B. receive all the praise in the classroom and have the other students feeling out of place. I see both types of students being oppressed because of classroom dynamics. It is very hard to cater to all learners without putting in enormous amounts of extra work. Unless a teacher really devotes a good amount of time to the classroom, students will be oppressed the lessons. There needs to be a healthy mix of structured and unstructured lessons during the course of the year. All students need the opportunity to learn equally and have time spent on them.

Learning through crisis is about learning to be uncomfortable in learning and step out of that well-crafted box to see more opinions than just the ones provided by the social norm. A crisis is meant to disorient a student and force them to think about social justice and the implications of oppression in the classroom. Crisis happens when hot button issues are freely discussed in a safe classroom environment. In order to bring my students to crisis and help them guide themselves through their thoughts, I need to have a safe classroom that encourages opinion and thought. I also need to explore reflection and having students produce feelings through action and tableaux. It seems that I am lucky because I have been gaining experience using drama in the classroom. Drama can really help students flesh out controversial issues and give everyone a chance to respond to it in some way. This is where process drama should be a huge part of lesson planning. A process drama can give students a chance to insert themselves into controversial materials and work their way through it at a steady pace. It is never directly stated in the curriculum that you have to address hot topics with your students. Because teachers are not forced to address these issues, they can just glide over them. This creates huge disconnects in learning. If these topics are thrown into that spiral curriculum, students won’t learn any new information or viewpoints. This means that their opinions are still narrowly influenced. I think more teachers need to learn how to deal with play and then help their students use play to talk about controversial things. Play is such a huge helper in a classroom setting.