Thursday, April 14, 2016


Empowering Education
By: Ira Shor


This piece was definitely a good last reading for the semester. It touched upon almost everything that we have talked about or read about from the other authors. It was also a good piece to gain some insight from for being a teacher. The word pedagogy was used a billion times, and I was really confused until I looked it up.

1. “A curriculum that does not challenge the standard syllabus and conditions in society informs students that knowledge and the world are fixed and are fine the way they are, with no role for students to play in transforming them, and no need for change” (page 12).
In this quote Shor is expressing how schools need to challenge students because when they are not challenged, they are not growing in any way. Students need to be shown that their education, and their life, can mean something. If the curriculum presented to them doesn’t allow for any creativity or thought, then they are most likely not going to develop their own thoughts and opinions. This quote reminded me of Johnson’s reading. Johnson argued that in order for there to be any change in the world, people had to first acknowledge the problem and “say the words”. Students need to be given the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and ideas, and they shouldn’t be taught that there is no need for change.

2. “Students learn that education is something to put up with, to tolerate as best they can, to obey, or to resist” (page 26).
In this quote Shor is explaining that when students are taught with no participation from them, they begin to see education as something they just have to get through. Often times, they start to resist the education. This relates to Finn’s reading and Anyon’s study of the different social classes. In the working class schools, where there was no collaboration from the students, the dominant theme was resistance. The students would be violent, there would be vandalism, and behaviors would get out of control. Shor argues that students need to be able to work with their teachers in order to get the most out of their education instead of seeing as “something to put up with”.

3. “In traditional classrooms, teachers routinely begin by defining the subject matter and the proper feeling to have about the material rather than by asking students to define their sense of it and feeling about it, and building from there” (page 29).
In this quote Shor explains how students are often told how they should feel about a subject. The teacher introduces a topic by explaining whether it is good or bad, or how the students should think or feel about the topic. This Shor argues that this doesn’t allow for any critical thinking or creativity in students. They should be given the opportunity and the chances to form their own thoughts and opinions on topics. I liked the examples Shor gave in the reading of when he would introduce a topic to his students and then have them write about it before he went into detail. This gave the students a chance to put together what they were thinking, form an opinion, and then gain knowledge from their teacher about the subject.

Point to Share:

Since our class focuses a lot on social justice issues, I liked how this was also brought up in the reading. A teacher that Shor quoted from said, “Children often can be heard saying ‘But that’s not fair.’ They understand the importance of dealing equitably with each other” (page 45). This is so true. I probably hear kids saying that at work every day. They really do understand when things aren’t right. Whether someone got more crackers than them or someone got to play with a toy longer, children will always call them out. I think adults need to do this more often. As Johnson would suggest, and I think Shor would agree, we need to bring up the problems, and find a way to change them.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome
By: Christopher Kliewer


Once I got a few pages into this reading, I really enjoyed it. It has only been since this semester that I have given much thought to special education. Being in an inclusive classroom for service learning has even made me consider wanting to teach special education. I think the issues that Kliewer talks about are very important. Not all people with Down syndrome are the same, just like how not all people without disabilities are the same. Some students would very well benefit from being in a general education classroom rather than being secluded in a special education classroom. They would learn so much more and be at their greatest potential.

I thought all of the examples/stories that Kliewer used really showed how individuals with disabilities can succeed without being thought of as less than others. Specifically, the story of Christine switching to general education classes at a public high school was very inspiring. When she first started at the school, she brought with her so many negative labels about what she couldn’t do. By the time even just one year was over, she had improved in every category. If students with disabilities were given the chances and opportunities to succeed, then they would. In my service learning classroom there are 7 students with IEPs. I have been in the classroom now for over seven weeks, and in that short period of time I have seen so much growth in all of those students. One girl is on her way to taking steps without her walker, and another is counting to 12 when his IEP goal is only to count to 8 by June. Seeing these students succeed really emphasizes for me why I want to be a teacher.

The main focus of this chapter was citizenship in schools. I thought Kliewer definitely brought his point across using the various stories. No one deserves to be excluded from something, especially from an education. Kliewer said, “The movement to merge the education of children with and without disabilities is based on the belief that to enter the dialogue of citizenship does not require spoken, or indeed outspoken, language. Rather, communication is built on one’s ability to listen deeply to others” (Page 73). I think this quote is a good representation of Kliewer’s argument.

This piece definitely relates to August’s idea of safe spaces. Students with disabilities need to feel like they are accepted and that they belong. One of the students that Kliewer talked about, John, moved from one city in California to another where he was more accepted. John’s sibling said, “It’s safe – what he calls a ‘safe space’. Like a lot of people in Mendocino, he’s accepted for what he is, not what he isn’t. And he can concentrate on what he can do, instead of being shown or being told what he can’t do” (Page 86). John was able to succeed in a place where he felt he belonged, in a place where he was safe.

Point to Share:

I think it’s important for people to focus on strengths rather than the things someone can’t do. Just because someone has been labeled with a disability, doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. I liked a quote from the girl Christine that Kliewer talks about, “I have Down syndrome, but I am not handicapped” (page 93).

Monday, April 4, 2016

Social Justice Event

Transforming the Teaching Profession: Learning from Teachers of Diverse Populations
Dr. Sonia Nieto

For my social justice event I attended a talk by Dr. Sonia Nieto. The talk was called “Transforming the Teaching Profession: Learning from Teachers of Diverse Populations”. The event took place Monday April 4th in the Student Union Ballroom, and there were probably about a hundred people there. This was a really great talk, and I’m glad I chose this as my event to attend. The event was a 20th anniversary lecture since Dr. Nieto spoke on diversity at RIC 20 years ago. At the beginning of the presentation, a video was shown of her lecture 20 years ago. The topic then was also about social justice in education, and the topic today was about how social justice in education has changed since then. Dr. Nieto discussed social justice in education is “a set of beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors about teaching and learning and about students.” Social justice in education is needed now more than ever in schools, but it is hard to accomplish and it takes commitment. Dr. Nieto said there are three barriers of social political context of schools and society. These include, societal barriers, school-based barriers, and ideological barriers. I agree with her because without these barriers, there would be a much greater chance at social justice in education. From the readings we have done in class and from my service learning experiences, it is obvious that these barriers exist. Dr. Nieto talked about two of her books, “Why We Teach” (2005) and “Why We Teach Now” (2015). In both of these books, she had various teachers write essays about why they teach. The responses ranged from teaching to define identity to teaching and fighting back. The responses and the teachers that Dr. Nieto talked about were interesting to see how social justice in education has changed over the years. One of the teachers that Dr. Nieto spoke about was Mary Ginley. Many of the comments that Mary Ginley made really stood out to me. Specifically she wrote about her experiences with a fifth grade boy who told her he was going to be a good dad because he had her as a teacher, after his own dad had been physically abusive to his mom and verbally abusive to him. Mary Ginley recounted this as a reason that she teaches. She said, “There are kids who need good teachers.” These kinds of stories also help me realize why I want to be a teacher.

Dr. Nieto talked about what is the same and what is different in education since her first lecture 20 years ago, and I found it really interesting.
What's the same:
- A sense of mission
- Empathy for students
- Courage to question conventional wisdom
- Improvisation
- Passion for social justice
What's different:
- High stakes testing frenzy
- A changing vocabulary
- Blaming
- Privatization
- Quick teacher prep
- Abandonment of public education

So I could probably relate this lecture to every author we have read this semester, but I’m going to focus on Finn, Johnson, and Kozol. When Dr. Nieto talked about school-based barriers, she mentioned how resources in schools are not based on need. Those schools that have the opportunity to attain resources do, and those who don’t have those opportunities don’t have the resources. In Finn’s article he talks about the differences in social classes in schools. Obviously, the working class schools don’t get as many resources as the AP or EE schools, when sometimes the working class schools are the ones who need the resources the most. At the end of the lecture, Dr. Nieto talked about how future teachers cannot go in with “rose colored glasses”. They need to know what they are getting into. I related this to Johnson. Topics of diversity and social justice are ones that need to be talked about in order for any change to be made. Johnson would argue that we need to “say the words” and talk about the issues if we want to see positive changes around them. When Dr. Nieto discussed ideological barriers to sociopolitical context of schools and society, she mentioned that they are both individual and institutional. Kozol talked about both the individual and institutional problems in education. Dr. Nieto and Kozol would agree that these include biases and stereotypes about race, ethnicity, culture, social class, and ability. Dr. Nieto discussed how there is an idea that intelligence is fixed and unchanging. They would also both agree that this is an idea that needs to be changed.

This is a link to Dr. Sonia Nieto’s website where she has information about herself, information on her books, and educational resources.

This article is about how teachers can be advocates for social justice in the classroom, while still engaging in best practices in teaching core subjects to their students.

This is a clip of a talk that Dr. Nieto gave a few years ago on diversity and thriving in schools. Seeing her in person, I think she was a great speaker, and I’d be interested to hear another lecture from her.