Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

Taken from the words of Freire, Kliewer argues that, "Humility is central to democracy.  'How can I dialogue,' Freire asks, 'if I always project ignorance onto others and never perceive my own?  How can I dialogue if I regard myself as a case apart from others-mere 'its' in whom I cannot recognize other 'I's'?"  I think this remark is powerfully essential because it speaks to every human being in its attempt to put all people on equal playing fields.  I should not feel superior to someone because my IQ is higher than his/hers, nor should I feel special because I was born with the correct number of chromosomes.  Humility means being able to look at our own flaws and and to be cognizant of the fact that we are not perfect.  In this acknowledgment of imperfection, we become able to fully appreciate the differences of others and a "willingness to see people as they are-different perhaps in their minds and in their bodies, but not different in their spirits or in their willingness and ability to contribute to the mosaic of society" (Snow 12).   I believe this 'humility' lays the foundation for everything else Kliewer argues for in "Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome."

Based on my own experience teaching at Cranston West, inclusion works and is highly successful. We have many team-taught inclusion classes and a thriving Unified Volleyball team with its own Cheerleading squad.  We have a few Down Syndrome students, and they are accepted and many times extremely popular.  Kind of like Becky from Glee...  Students with IEP's are always involved in transition meetings and often help write their own goals and accommodations.  This highly differs from the situation Kliewer describes with a student Anne and her misplacement working as a pre-school aide.  "Anne had been left out of her high school transition planning conference"(78).  In this case, Anne was left out of the decision-making because no one wanted to hear what she had to say.  Anne was not able to communicate her desires because someone (probably a well-intentioned individual nonetheless) though he/she would do a better job of it.  This goes back to the idea of humility.  If the person making Anne's decision for her valued Anne as a human being worthy of making decisions about her own life, the bad decision would never have been made in the first place.  If Anne's case worker had begun with "the simple act of listening,"(78) she would have yielded far better results for and with Anne.

I think we are moving in the right direction with the policies and realities of inclusion.  Things are completely different than they were 30 (ugh?!) years ago when I was in elementary school and special education students were completely segregated from the rest of the school.  However, I think we have work to do.  I'm completely dumbfounded at the fact that the Special Education Department is the largest department at Cranston West and serves the smallest number of students.  I am confused by the sheer number of students with IEP's.  Something doesn't sit well with me on those particular fronts.  Just food for thought...

This is a video of my sweet cousin Elizabeth who lives in Florida :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Multicultural Children

     Virginia Collier writes that "language is enchanting, powerful, magical, useful, personal, natural, all-important"(235) and this description instantly reminded me of the Spanish language Richard Rodriguez's family and he used before learning to speak the "public language" of English.  Rodriguez writes about the somewhat private and special Spanish language he spoke at home before teachers suggested that his parents speak to him exclusively in English. "But I had no place to escape with Spanish.  (The spell was broken.)  My brother and sisters were speaking English in another part of the house...But the special feeling of closeness at home was diminished by then.  Gone was the desperate, urgent, intense feeling of being at home; rare was the experience of feeling myself individualized by family intimates.  We remained a loving family, but one greatly changed.  No longer so close; no longer bound tight by the pleasing and troubling knowledge of our public separateness.  Neither my older brother nor sister rushed home from school anymore.  Nor did I.  When I arrived home there would often be neighborhood kids in the house.  Or the house would be empty of sounds"(36). Rodriguez's teachers (nuns) were trying to drill the English language into his mind by removing the Spanish language from his home; however, in doing so they took away the very essence of what made Rodriguez's house a home.  The nuns inadvertently took away the sense of family closeness that had been sewn together with the thread of a common family language.

See Richard Rodriguez speak to the issue of language and culture in this speech from 1999.  In the first 10 minutes, he addresses the same story he does in "Aria."

     Ironically, Rodriguez ultimately gives credit to his teachers for forcing him to speak only English at home because at the time he thought that English was exclusively a "public language" and Spanish exclusively a "private language."  He didn't understand at the time that a language could be both.  "Because I wrongly imagined that English was intrinsically a public language and Spanish an intrinsically private one, I easily noted the difference between classroom language and the language of home"(34).  I understand that Rodriguez probably learned to be a better English speaker due to his experience, but I ask myself at what cost??  Rodriguez's family completely changed, his home life was never the same intimate experience it had been in the past, and his father became a introvert unless able to express himself in Spanish.  The "enchanting, powerful, magical, useful, personal, natural, all-important" Spanish language was taken away from Rodriguez's family and as a result, his family was never the same.
     After reading both pieces, I immediately thought about Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street.  It is a series of vignettes which chronicle the protagonist Esperanza's journey to womanhood.  One thing I specifically remember from the novel was Esperanza's special time at home with her family.  Their family was built around a shared language and there was a certain intimacy in this inclusion.  The opening lines read, "In English my name means hope.  In Spanish it means too many letters.  It means sadness, it means waiting."  In this case, the Spanish meaning has some pain and heartache involved in it, but it has an essential meaning nevertheless.  It has a purpose.  Her family's closeness is further explained when Esperanza speaks about her mother.  "But my mother's hair, my mother's hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and papa snoring." I think that Cisneros and Rodriguez would both agree that the Spanish language was an essential part of what bonded their families together.  They had something that no one else had and they could communicate in a way that was special to them.  This communicative power was taken away from Rodriguez when his family stopped speaking Spanish at home.  I think Collier takes this one step further.  She understands the need for a private family language.  She would also suggest that there is a necessity for this primary language to be spoken and taught at home and at school for students to be able to learn a second language well without sacrificing culture and family communication at home.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

When Silence Just Isn't Enough

In Chapter 5 of Safe Spaces-Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGTB Youth, Vaccaro, August and Kennedy argue that we as educators must be vigilant in making sure LGTB students have access to a school atmosphere that is safe both in the curriculum it presents and the communication it fosters. The authors argue that most educators do not fully acknowledge the LGTB community nor do they make a serious effort to discourage derogatory remarks and ideas in the classroom.  "Good intentions are not enough.  Being a fair-minded individual is not enough.  We argue that educators must publicly commit to creating classroom climates of inclusivity and respect with the pledged cooperation of all students"(99).  This statement really got me thinking about my own teaching practice in a way I never have before.  I consider myself to be someone who is completely comfortable with the LGTB community.  I have several gay family members with all sorts of family configurations, so one would assume that I'd feel completely comfortable talking about and choosing literature that covers and embraces these topics.  However, for some reason, homosexuality/transgender topics do not come up all that often in my classroom.  Now I'm asking myself if I am one of those educators who, "shrinks from challenging dominant social patterns and expectations, especially in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity"(86).  The authors, in answer to that dilemma, contend that we are so inundated with ingrained social messages pertaining to traditional sexual roles, that we sometimes (without even being consciously aware of it) ascribe to these notions; as a result, it comes out in our teaching.  "Powerful social messages are responsible (at least in part) for this noncritical allegiance to traditional perspectives"(86).  It's as though we aren't even aware of the fact that we are contributing to the problem.  Now, however, I'm cognizant of the fact that I'm doing it, and I maybe even understand why I'm doing it.  The most important thing I've realized, however, is that I need to figure out a way change.

I think one reason that it's difficult to introduce LGTB topics in the classroom is because of pressure from parents.  When talking about a Postcards From Buster animated series which featured a lesbian couple in one of its episodes, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings expressed opposition to the program by stating, "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode"(86).  Similarly, in this New York Times article, many parents were up in arms when a California school tried to implement curriculum which included various depictions of same sex families beginning in elementary schools.
In the article, Shih argues that parents in the Vallejo district feel as though they should have control over what their children are exposed to in the classroom.  However, I think in the word "exposure" lies the real root of the problem.  These families obviously think that there is something "wrong" with same-sex families; consequently, they don't feel as though their children should be "exposed" to a type of family that goes outside of what they deem "normal."  We, as educators, therefore, need to act as 'outcubators'(84).  "Teachers and peers usher children from the relative protection and insulation of family life into the classroom, where (perhaps for the first time) children encounter cultural and ethnic norms different from those of their family.  If our homes are incubators, keeping our children safe as they grow into the patterns of family life, schools are 'outcubators'-places that introduce new ways of thinking and behaving"(84). It is a school's responsibility to introduce students to many different types of people and to champion diversity as an essential component to a rich life.  I think that from now on in my own practice, I need to act as a vessel of "outcubation."  In other words, I need to introduce LGTB topics, ideas and families as part of my classroom practice.  I can't be afraid to do so because I need to ensure that students who are homosexual or transgender or come from nontraditional families feel included, validated, and most importantly represented in my classroom. It is my responsibility to do so and I think Vaccaro, August and Kennedy would agree.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cloudy with a Chance of Some Fog

It's been a crazy busy week for me!  On Monday, I had a professional development meeting until 4 followed by my son Zach's football game in Barrington. After that, I headed to trivia at Chelo's where our team scored pretty well until the last question and it was all downhill from there...but I digress... Yesterday, it was my daughter Gwen's birthday, so after my department meeting, we trekked up to Boston to celebrate.  Needless to say, we got lost and ended up stuck in tons of traffic. And today, I was trying to catch up on both my own school stuff (grades are due soon, etc) and making sure I was able to read and comment on everyone's blogs.  So, with all of that being mind is cloudy and my head seems to be in a fog.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Conversation, Connection and Anti-Teaching

Sherry Turkle in the New York Times article "The Flight From Conversation" makes a paradoxical yet strikingly true statement. "We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating.  And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection."  I couldn't agree more.  We think we are connecting with others when we put up our latest Facebook post or Instagram photo; however, what we are actually doing is nothing more than connecting on a very shallow and superbly-crafted level.  This level of irony can best be explained in my own personal social media experiences.  For example, when I see one of my Facebook friends out out in public, I hesitate to even acknowledge them, let alone think about striking up a conversation with them.  That'd just be absurd!  But...I ask myself...when and how did I become so phony and inauthentic??  I mean...I have a life...and I have real experiences and real relationships, but none of those have anything to do with my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter posts.
Turke alludes to Shakespeare in her attempt to describe how absolutely obsessed we are with social media and how fast-paced these interactions are.  "Shakespeare might have said, 'We are consum'd with that which we were nourish'd by.'"  In other words, we are completely consumed with being connected at all times.  We can't go ten minutes without insanely scrolling through all of our various news feeds. We ponder when the most opportune time is to post a picture to Instagram to ensure the highest possible number of likes.  We actually sometimes sleep with our phones in our hands lest we miss anything going on at 3 AM.  We are consumed with the lives of people we barely know and regurgitate our own Facebook worthy moments back to them.  We, according to Turkle, have lost the ability to reflect.  "These days, social media continually asks us what's 'on our mind,' but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective.  Self-reflection in conversation requires trust." It's as though we are scared to ever be alone.  The notions of solitude and introspection frighten us to the point where we can't sit alone at a restaurant or stand alone at a bus stop without taking out our phones within 30 seconds.  Thoreau would be completely horrified by us.  And rightfully so.

     This brings me to the Wesch and his notions of questioning and insight as integral parts of learning.  He stresses the importance of student...not necessarily teacher...questioning.  "Oftentimes the answer to a good question is irrelevant-the question is an insight in itself."  I am often dumbfounded when a student asks me a really insightful question.  It shows me that they are invested enough in the actual learning process to be able to think and come up with a real question.  Sadly, those types of questions are few and far between.  Wesch believes that we as teachers needs to focus on "inspiring good questions" and we need "to start by getting students to ask better questions."  I agree.  I have a couple of strategies in my classroom to guide students in their questioning, but ultimately it is only through solitude and self-reflection that students might be able to truly ask those insightful questions.  And I'm pretty sure having over 1,000 Twitter followers is not going to help them do that.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reflections on Facilitating...The Nature of Class is Unique

     Facilitating a graduate level college course is certainly something I've never had the experience of doing before.  I knew that I already had some ideas that I wanted to focus on in our discussion.  I was also intrigued by the notion of class and the differences in education based on one's socioeconomic class status.  As I was thinking about last night's discussion, I  kept coming back to Delpit's idea of rules.  "I tell them that their language and cultural style is unique and wonderful but that there is a political power game that is also being played, and if they want to be in on that game there are certain games that they too must play"(40).  Delpit suggests that we can't really change the game itself but we can at least learn how to play by those rules instituted by people people in positions of power.  Then I started thinking about Finn and what he would say in response to Delpit.  I think Finn would disagree.  "Roles and rules can be transformed so that there is greater justice and equity"(xi).  At this point I really started thinking about where I stand on the issue.  I've decided that I tend to side with Delpit.  I don't think the rules of the game or the status quo are changing at all.  I think we are still very much entrenched in a class system that feels somewhat out of our control.  I am pretty sure that I could never break into the "executive elite" class no matter how hard I tried.  It is just not an option.  The culture of the "elite" is not a culture that I understand how to be a part of.  And I'm pretty sure I don't want to be a part of that culture.  But should I want to be a part of their world?  What would an "executive elite" say in response to that question?  I don't know because I don't know any of them to ask.  Haha...maybe that's the point...maybe the rules are in place so that I'll never know. 

This is an intriguing link to a comprehensive report on class in the United States.{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A17%22}   

     I really enjoyed facilitating the discussion last night.  I think it went pretty well and I definitely appreciate the feedback from my classmates.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the discussions and how my ideas might be further challenged and transformed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Education Is Politics

     Ira Shor in what looks to be the first chapter of Empowering Education argues that we need to "question the status quo" of educational practices and policies.  He speaks against lecture and rote learning and suggests that "the learning process is negotiated, requiring leadership by the teacher and mutual teacher-student authority"(16).  He also promotes student questioning as a fundamental component of good education.  "In a curriculum that encourages student questioning, the teacher avoids a unilateral transfer of knowledge.  She or he helps students develop their intellectual and emotional powers to examine their learning in school, their everyday experience, and the conditions in society"(12).  My response to Shor's proposal is...duh?!?!  Haven't we been teaching like this anyways?  Doesn't this idea go back to Socrates and his method of inquiry?  I agree wholeheartedly with Shor's philosophy, but I think most of what he says and strategies that he mentions we as modern educators do in our classrooms already.  For example, when he talks about "key interdisciplinary themes,"(22) I know exactly what this looks like in the classroom because I have worked with them before.  Also, his example of students defining "The American Dream"(28) as a starting point seems pretty standard in terms of best classroom practice.
     Also in terms of practice, I agree that Shor's questioning method is the absolute best way to foster real learning and meaningful dialogue between students in the classroom.  "The participatory classroom is a "free speech" classroom in the best sense, because it invites all expressions from all the students.  An empowering class thrives on a lively exchange of thoughts and feelings.  The way students speak, feel, and think about any subject is the starting point for a critical study of themselves, their society, and their academic subjects"(22).  I regularly use the Socratic Seminar/Accountable Talk method in my classroom.  I present students with a thematic focus question, a text, and ask them to prepare a double-sided journal with textual evidence and personal responses.  They are also asked to come to the discussion with five questions (different types) to pose to the group.  Students are then placed in an inner and outer circle and are given a set amount of time to work through the text.  In my experience, this type of discussion yields unbelievable results.  Students are able to work with each other and develop a type of internal understanding that I would never be able to lecture to them.  Questioning as a methodology WORKS...IT JUST DOES.  Thank you Socrates.


     On a side note, I don't agree with Shor's suggestions about Hirsch's Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.  He sees the volume as "material selected by those with the power to set standards"(32). Someone gave me this volume as a gift and I see it more as a helpful reference in the English classroom.  To truly understand literature, the reader has to be made aware of the references and allusions in the literature.  If a student can't look up the reference, much of the meaning behind the work can be lost on the student.  I think he is making this volume too important.  Shor is suggesting that the dictionary is "exclusionary rather then inclusive"(32).  I see it as just another tool in my literature toolbox, not the be all end all reference book for all time!  Who uses dictionaries now anyways??

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Of Mice and Marginalization

Michelle Kinney in her article "Of Mice and Marginalization" talks about her decision to teach Steinbeck's classic Of Mice and Men to her 10th grade ELA class.  Similarly, I am in the midst of teaching the novel to my 9th grade students, so I was excited to get her perspectives on the book and her unit.  As I continued to read Kinney's article, I began to become aware of some of our other similarities.  She also teaches in a middle/upper middle class high school where many parents are educated and invested in their children's educations.  Kinney explains, "Like many of the parents at Madison's Back to School Night, Meredith's mother was white, middle class, and well educated. Back at Marshall, where many parents were bogged down by making ends meet and other obligations, we were lucky to see a handful of parents show up at Back to School Night. At Madison the room was packed. I wasn't used to this kind of crowd."  She then goes on to discuss the fact that she was "persuaded" by  parents to stop teaching A Long Way Gone, a memoir of a boy's experience as a child slave during the civil war in Sierra Leone, because it was "too violent."  This type of parental pressure is all too common in schools.  Many times we as teachers feel pressured by parents to change grades/curriculum/practices and many times the administration backs these parents.  While most parents have good intentions and their children's best interests at heart; occasionally, there are parents who don't value teachers nor trust them to do the job they've been trained to do. 

While teaching Of Mice and Men, Kinney found that many of the Latino and black students in her class had "checked out" due to stereotypical roles portrayed in the novel.  After reflecting on her experience in caving under parental pressure and teaching a novel she wasn't necessarily 100% comfortable with, Kinney asks, "Do I teach books that a narrow but vocal segment of the community promotes, or do I return to teaching equally challenging novels, plays, poems, and nonfiction works that speak to all students in terms of the themes and characters they introduce? I began the year prepared to have conversations about the suitability of the literature some parents expect to see on my syllabus. I decided to trust myself, my education, and my own experiences when making critical decisions about what will work for everyone in our increasingly diverse school, not just those whose parents are able to show up for Back to School Night."  Essentially, Kinney decides to stand up to parents and trust her own experience and expertise.  I think it is vitally important that we do this as educators.  As long as we are coming from a place of sincerity and preparedness, we should never simply teach or do what parents "suggest" we do.  WE are the educators.  WE are the experts in our fields.  I would never think of telling a doctor how to perform surgery or what test to give to a patient, nor would I expect anyone to tell me how to differentiate instruction or manage a class.  I think sometimes people have the mentality that...Oh, she's just a teacher...I could do that job. I resoundingly answer...NO! You could not do my job without the necessary skill, training and (hopefully) passion that I have!  We educators need to stand up for ourselves and our fellow colleagues and not let certain (and it's not a ton of people but definitely a few) individuals dictate what we teach or don't teach in the classroom.

**Interesting link to an article about the sometimes difficult "dicey" relationship between teachers and parents.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Colorblindness vs. Color Insight

In their piece “Colorblindness is the New Racism,” Armstrong and Wildman make a case that the term “colorblind” in regards to a cultural “touchstone in race discourse” (64) is in fact hindering the idea it sets forth.  In other words, the authors are suggesting that the colorblind mentality (not paying any attention to color or racial differences) is not working and actually… ironically…has worked against its fundamental components.  OK…I get the idea…I get the term…however, I don’t think in reality anyone could ever really believe that “it”….colorblindness…could ever exist in the real world. We all well aware of race and color and in denying that fact we are simply pretending.  What the authors are suggesting is that we create a new term and thus a new mentality in “color insight” (65). Color insight involves four steps with the ultimate goal of understanding both race as an underlying context and the systems of power and privilege.  However, it also asks us to come to a deeper understanding about individuals (the “me”) as people with distinct histories and perspectives and not simply a color or a label. 
Armstrong and Wildman argue that whites in general do not really think too much about their own race.  The authors see this unawareness as privilege playing out in many scenarios.  “Whites tend not to notice that they too have a race and their own race carries social meaning and generally positive presumptions” (66).  I tend to agree with this idea; I think that most whites take for granted that their race allows them a certain power and privilege in most aspects of life.  I thought it was particularly interesting to read excerpts from students who were asked to notice race in their worlds for a 24 hour period.  It was only in this acute awareness and self reflection that they became more aware of how their “whiteness” gave them certain advantages and how others’ “non-whiteness” worked against them.  I think, as the authors suggest, that it is extremely important to be aware of privilege in our own lives but also not limit our perspective to race…or color…or gender… or class.  We need to be able to delve a bit deeper and see individuals as first and foremost people; color insight allows for that.
In addition to the Armstrong/Wildman piece, I also read “stealing a bag of chips and other crimes of resistance” by Victor Rios.  Rios did a study in which he follows a group of underprivileged boys and tries to get to the root of their “bad” behavior.  Rios suggests that many of these boys find that the only way they earn power and respect is by committing crimes.  He feels as though many of these boys have felt left out of a system which fosters and rewards “good behavior.”  “Feelings of exclusion from a network of positive credentials, education, and employment opportunities led to resistance identities”(50).  He further suggests that, paradoxically, these boys commit crimes in response to their criminalization.  “Many of the young men self-consciously ‘acted stupid’ as a strategy to discredit the significance of a system which had excluded and punished them”(53).  They are, sadly, using the only method they know how to use to fight against a system that has excluded them.  I think this idea is true and, in addition, I don’t think it’s changing.  There is a certain culture that values crime as a way to earn power and respect.  Unfortunately, events such as what happened in Ferguson, Missouri only add fuel to the fire by continuing to foster a sense of exclusion for blacks and power, control and authority for whites.
In this youtube clip, a man speaks to the culture of crime in regards to the Ferguson riots.  He has also received a great deal of backlash from the black community in response to his for thought...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Silenced Dialogue

“We must keep the perspective that people are experts on their own lives.”           

In “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,” Lisa Delpit explores the idea that people of color operate under different cultural norms and expectations than those of whites.  She argues that because of these differences along with students’ unawareness of the embedded “culture of power,” (24) students of color are less likely than whites to succeed in the classroom.  Further, she argues that students of color are not able to pick up on communicative clues when commands and directions are stated indirectly by white teachers.  According to Delpit, students of color need clear and direct instructions in the classroom.  “If such explicitness is not provided to students, what it feels like to people who are old enough to judge is that there are secrets being kept, that time is being wasted, and that the teacher is abdicating his or her duty to teach”(31).  Delpit suggests that differences in cultural norms run so deep and are so embedded in both black and white culture that many students of color are not able to come to the playing field even ready to play.  Furthermore, in some ways, these students are not even sure what game they are playing or what the rules of the game are.  I find Delpit’s suggestions intriguing and the implications of what she argues are mind boggling.

After reading Delpit’s article and thinking about her perspective on educating students of color, I was drawn to the notion that for students to succeed in school, they need definite support and structure at home.  Delpit argues that students are already at a disadvantage when they do not come to school with the necessary “culture of power” norms and routines.  “This meant that the child who did not come to school already primed with what was presented would be labeled as needing “remedial” instruction from day one; indeed, this determination would be made before he or she was ever taught”(30).  Students of color are well behind the proverbial eight ball before they even start school.  This idea instantly reminded me of an excerpt from a Colin Powell speech in which he talks about the need for structure both at home and in the classroom. 

**As a side note, I use the Powell speech and an excerpt from Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life to discuss different teaching methods and ways for students to learn---which Delpit feels needs to be discussed and developed in every classroom for every student to succeed. 

Powell, like Delpit, feels as though students of color are placed at a disadvantage right off the bat, not because of intellectual capability, but because they haven’t been given the tools of structure they need to succeed at home.  After contemplating this idea, I agree wholeheartedly.  I think about my own children and the emphasis I placed on reading to them at home and how well this one habit has served them in school.  Imagine if my home was one in which my children were not read to frequently and at an early age?  I’m sure if that was the case, they would not have succeeded as well as they have in school.  I never even thought about this before…and that’s probably because I am part of the “culture of power” Deplit keeps coming back to.  However, I know that I am…and I know that some aren’t…and knowing is half the battle.  The other half is figuring out a way to work with that knowledge in my classroom and my life.    


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Privilege, Power, and Difference...

Interestingly enough, a majority of the ideas Allan Johnson mentions in his article "Privilege, Power, and Difference" have been swirling around in my mind for most of my adult life.  As a woman especially, it is easy to see how male privilege plays a role in my everyday existence. Whether males are being quickly being promoted or I am constantly scrutinized on my appearance, I know what it feels like to feel "Oppressed."  Obviously, I fall under the upper middle class/white category as well so I know how it feels to be "privileged."  I think the most important fact that Johnson mentions is that we can only imagine what it feels like to be oppressed.  We can sympathize (and maybe empathize...); however, we can never truly experience what others have experienced as an oppressed group. (Not to mention fathom all the history behind their oppression.)  The mentality that some of us hold that "Everything is ok...or Racism doesn't exist" is something that everyone in our American society needs to challenge.  Everything is not ok; in fact, racism...and sexism...and homophobia...and a slew of other injustices still occur everyday, everywhere.  It is not just being aware of their existence however; it is making a personal call to action to change whatever we can in our own...sometimes small but significant lives.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


My name is Melissa Colando.  I am currently an English teacher at Cranston High School West where I have been teaching for the past seven years.  In addition, I have previously taught English at the New England Laborers Construction Career Academy which is a charter school also located in Cranston.  I decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Secondary Education because I feel as though education is my passion and I am hoping to extend and deepen my knowledge and experience in the field.  I will have been married to my husband Jon for fifteen years this coming December.  I have a daughter, Gwendolyn, who started college at Emmanuel this fall and a son, Zachary, who is a Sophomore ar Cranston West.  I enjoy reading, cooking, running, and yoga.  I am looking forward to a great semester...and improving my technology skills in the process!