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Because you don’t want something to be as it is ~ does not make it not be as it is. Telling your son that he is equal to everybody else does not make him dismiss reality. He is very aware that he is spoken to/at differently. That their smiles hold a wariness, or a “Poor kid – you know it’s got to be hard for him living there…” You son is fully aware that he is perceived as “less than, wounded, need to keep an eye on, a B is probably the best he can do…” And stop quibbling on language. Don’t get angry about it. Anger does not change reality. But please, do not deny reality. Pretentious blindness does nothing to change reality…and it surely does not help him navigate those waters. If you want your son to look beyond race ~ then say that. Tell him: “Don’t let it be a block,” “Don’t let it define you,” “Climb over it,” “Show yourself what you’re made of”… Use all those wonderfully supportive phrases – and back them up! But never ever tell him that race does not matter. Because he knows differently. Because he is going to look at you as the biggest liar in the whole world. Because he trusted you to protect and guide him. Be kindly – but truthful. “RACE DOES NOT MATTER” is a lie. Don’t ever lie to your son – definitely not about that!!

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file://localhost/Users/alfelice2/Desktop/What%20is%20an%20Exemplary%20Teacher.docx

What is an Exemplary Teacher?

I was recently reading an article titled “What Happens to Bad Teachers?”  The article suggested that “getting rid of problem educators is a lot easier in theory than in practice.”  This got me to thinking, (a) Who hired them in the first place, and (b) What constitutes an exemplary teacher?  My wife has been in the teaching business for the past sixteen (16) years, the last four as a middle-school principal.  Identified as a Title 1 school with over 50% poverty (53.4), she has guided that school to the School of Promise award for three of the four years, and Exemplary School status for 2009.  That level of achievement, over the past four years, with only four years at the helm, in any school – far more a Title 1 school, suggested to me that she may know a bit about teachers and teaching.  So rather than talk about “bad” teachers whom, it is suggested in the article, are hard to dismiss, I elected to focus on the attributes of an exemplary teacher.  My simple question to her was; “What is an exemplary teacher?”

Her response:  “Willing to remove any barrier in the way of that child’s learning – willing to teach that child coping skills to deal with barriers affecting learning.  A teacher who would give up lunch, come in early, or make a home visit at the drop of a hat.”

That got me thinking.  I have no answers to my questions.  I just have a whole lot of questions for you.

  1. How is an exemplary teacher developed?
  2. How is an exemplary teacher nurtured?
  3. How early should “child barrier removal” be initiated?
  4. What are these potential barriers?
  5. Are teachers trained in barrier recognition?
  6. Are teachers trained in barrier removal?
  7. What if a child does not have control over barriers?
  8. Are environmental barriers different from biological or neurological barriers?
  9. Do they require different learning and training?
  10. What is the nurture/nature relationship with barriers and barrier development?
  11. Are barriers more evidenced in certain populations that in others?
  12. Are barriers different relative to social land/or ethnic differences of the populations being served?
  13. If “yes” do we have specialized teacher training in barrier recognition and removal?
  14. Is there remuneration for training specialization?
  15. What schools/colleges/universities are particularly good at training for barrier recognition and removal?

It seems to me that it would do us well to go backward and recognize universities that consistently produce exemplary teachers, and highlight those that do not.

Bad teachers come from somewhere.  Exemplary teachers come from somewhere.  Identify the farm.  Identify the farmer.   Don’t wait until you buy crappy fruit and then blame the fruit.  That just means that you suck at selecting good fruit.

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Dear Dr. Al

How can teachers help students who may have difficult
home lives become successful?

A

 

Dear A,

The easy answer is to do as much in school as can be
done in school.  Relieve the children of
as much of the additional stress, on top of the already highly unfair and
stressful home life, as you possibly can.
No homework.  Keep schools within
the neighborhood…comfortable, safe, walk-to-school distance.  Establish after-school social, academic, and
integrative opportunities.  Provide pre-
and post-school meals.  Conduct home
visits: teacher, social worker, school psychologist, principal.  Anything that takes the additional burden off
the kids would help.  I have been in
houses, right here in Madison, where there are no tables, no chairs, no lamps,
no clear space designated for academic pursuit.
I have been in houses, right here in Madison, where the living room
floor and couch double as mattresses…mattresses that have to be given up when
family from Chicago come to visit.  I
have been in homes, right here in Madison, where the eldest male or female
child is the parent, picking up his/her younger siblings after school and
caring for them.  I have had the
experience, right here in Madison, where a child refused to come to school
because her mother was on dialysis – and she was not going to take the chance
to come home to a dead parent.  I have
seen, right here in Madison, where a child had to carry the emotional burden of
walking past his mother everyday on the street on his way to school.  Not one of these examples is made-up, and
they are all very current.

Who knows?  Mummy
may have to work, or mummy may simply not be available to that challenge.

As much additional stress as you can take off that
child’s slender frame, to help it from bending so dangerously close to
breaking, would be supportive and highly appreciated.

 

Thank you for your question.

Dr. Al

 

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Dear Dr .Al,

When our class met with the mayor he talked about the
possibility of forming an academy for African Americans.  Do you think this would be advantageous for
the improvement of cultural learning, or do you think this could be detrimental
due to the segregation that would be created between Caucasian and African
American students?

Student.

 

Dear S,

What you’re asking here is about the relationship
between “cultural learning” and academic success…and by extension, if “cultural
learning“ is best delivered within the context of an Afro-centric environment –
within an Afro-centric curriculum. There is enough data to suggest that there
is tremendous social and academic benefit to holding a positive historical
cultural self identity (HiCSI), and home cultural self-identity (HoCSI).  HiCSI has to deal with learning one’s
history, foods, music, the story of one’s beginnings, language, traditions,
etc. and viewing it as a strength. This is what the Turtle school in Green Bay
is based on.  HiCSI deals with positive
strong messages delivered within the context of the home.  So in this case, your parents are delivering
the messages of who you are and how you represent yourself, your family, your
culture.  This is what many immigrants
do.  They teach their children what it means
to be African, Latino, Asian, etc.  The
children may not be taught the history, per say, but they are bathed in the
language, the music, the foods, clothing, etc.
This is central to a student’s success as it represents both the base or
launching-pad for ethnic minority students…as well as a place of strength and
safety (a home) to retreat to when emotionally challenged.  Now, let’s take this to your question.

If we accept that this “learning”  is integral to a student’s academic success,
and that this “learning” needs to be secured early during a child’s formative
years, (particularly since you have competing messages) then either the child
gets this in the home or in the school…or is defined and defines himself
through the messages in the environment.
If these “learnings” are not being delivered
adequately/appropriately/satisfactorily in the current school environment; and
if its not being delivered adequately/appropriately/satisfactorily in the
current home environment, and we acknowledge its importance to academic
success…then we simply find an environment that would do it.  This is the basis of the argument for many of
the charter schools.

Relative to the segregation part of your question “segregation that would be created between
Caucasian and African American students
,” (a) I do not see how different
that is than what we have today, and (b) maintaining a weakened posture has
done nothing to enhance or advance the process of integration.

 

Thank you for your question.

Dr. Al

 

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This blog challenges you guys to really think about all that we’ve done and worked on to this moment – issues of diversity, race, the effect of media on self-identity, the disparity in incarceration rates, readings from The House on Mongo Street, and difficulties that the mentally and physically challenged face on a daily basis – and mix it into what’s going on at this very moment at our State Capitol…then place it in the context of Locus of Control. 

Take what you’ve learned, take what you’ve read, throw in what’s going on right now at the Capitol – – – and frame it within the context of Locus of Control.

Now, I’ll explain the concept “Locus of Control.”

Locus of Control is a psychological concept that “refers to an individual’s (or group’s) generalized expectation concerning where control over subsequent (life) events reside. In other words, who or what is responsible for what happens (to me).”   

Do I believe that I ultimately have control over my life – or – can a cop, judge, district attorney, professor, politician, priest decide my future?  That future may be arguing a grade (fairness), going to jail (freedom), getting in to a building (Delta just got fined 2.4 million), shooting me without regard or consequence (life), taking away my job and/or health care and/or benefits (future), or deciding who is more worthy than whom. 

Locus of Control may be internal (I have control over my own future) or external (I can yell as loudly as I want – they will do with me as they wish).

Let’s see some deep thoughtful discussion about this.  Please respond to and add to each other’s comments.

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What our brain takes in is very much determined by our environment.  The smells that we find favorable and unfavorable are determined by our environment.  The foods we find acceptable and flavorful, unacceptable and gross are very much determined by our environment.  Friend, foe, safe, unsafe…are taught to each of us by our environment. The cerebellum, to the hippocampus, to the cingulated cortex.  It gets locked in.  

What people don’t acknowledge is that this is all of us.  These learnings affect all of us.  It’s just what’s put in front of our plates and how it’s introduced to each of us. 

An example:  I was brought in a cultural environment where dogs are for protection…not for petting, and certainly not to be in your house!  Family and friends who visit are quite put-off, initially, when they see a beagle greet them at the front door.  The discomfort, the fear, the anxiety are palpable.  By the end of their 2-week visit, they are petting my dog.  They understand that this beagle is part of my family structure.  Do not, for one moment, think that they are going back home with a newly discovered urge to see dogs differently!  They are not.  But they are more open to the concept of a different way to see dogs.  There are different realities – and more so, these different realities exist in certain environments.  What does that mean?  It means that if they come to America and visit your home, they will ask you if your dog is friendly.  If they never had the experience of difference, they will never know difference.

Now let’s go back to our discussion.     

So let’s see – – – What have we been collectively taught about this population that we call Blacks?  What are these popular images? Do remember that these are images that bathe all of us!!!  No one is immune.

  1. We have the Black athlete.
  2. We have the Black as comedic relief…the fool…the jester.
  3. We have the Black as the over-do…the one that helps us to amplify and laugh at his own.
  4. Black as the pimp…the overly sexual Black.  The well-hung.  
  5. The Black as the entertainer.
  6. Oh!  How can we forget the Black as the criminal.
  7. The Black as the slave. 
  8. The Black as the distressed, the poor, the destitute.
  9. The Black as the thug.
  10. The Black as the lazy, can’t read, doesn’t read.
  11. And finally, there is the Black as the buffoon…the Black that, because he needs to be friends with Whites to be accepted, will play the buffoon.
  12. One more ~ the Black as the Brown Egg! 

The intellectual, the academic, the scientist, the entrepreneur, the tender, the engaging, the CEO – are rarely seen. 

What’s sad is that, many times, these roles (1 – 11) become the roles of ascendancy. 

You want to get ahead in life?  Play this role. 

You want to get paid?  Play this role. 

You want to be part of my social group?  Play this role.

You want to feed your family or live in this fancy house?  Play this role. 

Discuss this blog in light of everything we’ve seen and experienced and interpreted in our limited lives to this point.  

Let’s have a wonderful discussion.

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There are lies and exaggerations to what we have learned about Blacks.  But that also means, that there are truths.  How do we decipher the one from the other? What if we are wrong?  How do we get a more rounded, even-handed picture?
There are lies and exaggerations to what we have learned about Whites.  But that also means that there are truths.  How do we decipher the one from the other?  What if we are wrong?  How de we get a more rounded even-handed picture?
What happens if only one group gets to tell all the stories???   Then they decide what’s right, what’s wrong, who’s right, who’s wrong, what stories to tell, and what stories not to tell.  Interesting?  NO?????

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