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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Free Response Number Ten: Social Influence

I found our last class topic very intriguing. It brought me back to my old high school days, oddly enough. I felt I could relate to some degree the types of peer pressure and social influence that most teenagers experience. However, my perception was a bit altered because I had a parent who was very sick and underwent surgery before I entered high school. As such, I had to grow up pretty fast in a lot of ways. By the time I enrolled in high school, all the drama that went on was not relevant to me. Now as an adult and seeing how teenagers develop, I can understand why they behave a certain way. It is just that when I was in that experience it did not make as much sense to me.

I liked how one social group was the popular type, which could apply to the nice popular kid that most people like. My high school was a small school, so most people in my class at least knew who everyone was. Granted, there were popular kids that people disliked, but then there were a few that multiple types of groups could relate to and wanted to be friends with. I liked those kids. I think that growing up, to me the term "popular" equated a status of power, not always positive, but enough to where that person could get away with a lot of stuff. Personally, I was a good kid overall. I was a bit quiet, but I got along with my teachers well and had a good group of friends. We were the smart kids, the good kids. I liked the friends I had in high school. I think because I was a bit more shy I did not try to branch out as much. As an adult, I do not care what people generally think of me and will try things if I find them interesting or moving to my personality. I wish I could have been more of a rebellious type or an artist. I was so envious of those kids because they had this freedom to express themselves in ways I felt I could not because of my inhibition. I think that when I have children I will encourage them more to develop into their own person. Sure, they should work hard and try their best in all they do, but I do not want them to feel like they always have to perform or become a cookie cutter student. I want them to develop their own distinct personalities.

I was intrigued by Jonah's take on "Freedom Writers." I personally love that movie and thought that Erin Gruwell portrayed a positive image of what a good teacher should be. However, I do understand his thoughts on the whole Savior Complex. Being a subject of racial opposition myself, I do not appreciate nor do I think it healthy to buy into this belief that a white person is God and can make everything better. I think that the movie alone may be an overrepresentation. However, I think that the real story is more realistic and perhaps more palatable for many people who felt that same way. I have done a little bit of research on the real story of the freedom writers and on Erin Gruwell. From what I have seen in interviews and testimonies, Erin Gruwell did come in as this perky, I-can-change-world figure, but from what she recounts her students hated her at the very beginning. They saw her as a symbol of white oppression and wanted nothing to do with her, so the struggle with race and racial authority seemed to ring true for these students. However, she helped over one hundred kids earn a diploma, and many of them enrolled in college and obtained degrees afterward. So maybe she is an exception or was just someone with a really good heart who would not give up until she had gotten through to her kids. At the end of the day, I will take the movie and the true story with a grain of salt and judge for myself.

The final topic I wanted to post on was gangs. I am familiar with the concept of gangs and am aware of their portrayal in the media. I have never had any experience with gangs, but I can understand how it can pervade school culture. As a teacher, I am intrigued about learning more about gangs. But, more importantly, I want to look outside of that gangster exterior and try to see my student for who he/she really is.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Free Response Number Nine: Child Abuse

This past session had a very heavy topic, perhaps one we do not always want to discuss, but should be brought to light regardless of our comfort zones. The statistics were very informative and a bit shocking at times too. I knew that child abuse was rampant, but I guess seeing the numbers made the reality of it very concrete. I am glad that our class has an instructor who is familiar with the protocol. Otherwise, I am not sure if I would know what to do. It was a good thing to know that for interns you should not confide in your mentor teacher. It does make sense though, to preserve objectivity within the situation, but it upsets me a bit to know that I cannot even tell my closest superior. It makes me sad to know that this is the type of world we live in.

Growing up, I had a friend with whom I was very close. We were best friends in grade school for a few years. During the weekends, I would usually have sleepovers with my close group of friends. I remember during one particular sleepover an unusual occurrence took place. Years later, I suspected that she may have been abused because she ended up acting out on me that night. We were both very young, and I did not know how to react to the situation, so I just tried to forget about it. My friend ended up moving out of state a year or two later and I did not see her again until college. The funny thing is that when I saw her years later that encounter was the first thing that came to my mind. Since then, I have allowed myself to let go of the past and do not beat myself up about it. I should have told my mom, but when you are seven years old those things are not the thoughts going through your head. I know now that I must report these things. I mean, I have a legal obligation to do so, but if I can help a child who is hurting get out of a bad situation then I will try my best to do that.

Transitioning to lighter matters, I thought all the groups did well with their presentations. The LGBT discussion was moving, and it really made me reflect on my own beliefs and treatment towards unique groups and individuals. As educators, we preach fairness and equality, but it really can be hard to be completely objective. At the end of the day, we will still have our own biases, but I think if we look at each student as a person rather than focusing on their label or other identifying factor then that can help us a lot.

I understood JD's feelings towards feeling out of element with his presentation. I am not really one for lots of structure, so I think I would struggle with abiding by pure expository style. The one thing that stuck with me the most from Andy and JD's presentation was, of course, the video. I was extremely disappointed to hear that Genie's special ed teacher ended up using her for fame and glory. This is the worst example of what a teacher should be. Hopefully before then, you can sit back and self-evaluate your practices and motives. It was horrible to hear that she was placed in a state institute and remained silent. These stories just break my heart. This is not how children should be treated. The fact that children are the ones being mistreated and abused is the worst, because children have not developed a voice for themselves yet, so they need someone who can advocate for them.

I absolutely loved MaryEvelyn's presentation. I thought it was very interactive. The timeline was creative, and I wish I had thought of that. Although I believe in Erikson's theory for the most part, I do have to wonder about the discussion we had about being stuck in a crisis and that if you do not resolve it you remain stuck. That would mean that many people are then "stuck." It definitely gives me something to think about. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Free Response Number Eight: Bronfenbrenner, Piaget and Vygotsky

A lot of the information covered in class concerning Bronfenbrenner, Piaget, and Vygotsky made sense to me. Of course, I already know quite a bit about Piaget and Vygotsky, so I guess the lecture was re-emphasizing what I already knew. I found Bronfenbremmer's theory extremely interesting. For me, I believe that the areas of family, community, and area do play a big influence on a child's development. It reminds me of the saying "It takes a village." Really, it is not quite anywhere near Bronfenbrenner's beliefs. In some way though, I feel that the individuals who are involved--family members, peers, teachers, authority figures, can shape a child's learning and experiences.

I really enjoyed Audrey and Georganna's presentation and I thought they did a good job of making me think. Although I am a critical thinker, it takes me a while to formulate my thoughts. I will collaborate as much as you need me to, but I may not always be the first one to voice out ideas or come up with a solution to the problem. Their lesson did have a good point though. Even if we have crystallized intelligence, it does not mean we cannot learn any more than we have already had. I think that in many situations people must tap into both their fluid and crystallized intelligence.

I enjoyed hearing about Piaget again. Like I had mentioned, I took a development course during my undergrad career, specifically a human developmental psychology class. I loved that class and found that information that I learned extremely interesting. Maybe the fact that it dealt with human development was what interested me the most out of all the psychology classes I have taken. Granted, I have learned quite a bit from this class and believe it will help me in my teaching career, but human development just seems the most interesting and applicable overall. At the end of the day though, all aspects of psychology have a role to play. I enjoyed the group activity in which each of us had to role-play in order to convey a certain aspect or theme of one of Piaget's developmental stages. It actually helped me to internalize things more because I had to analyze it, think about it, and act it out. I do agree with most critics concerning the appropriate pacing of when a child reaches each developmental stage. I feel like some twelve or thirteen year-olds do not enter the formal operations stage until later on in life. But then again, like what was mentioned in class, there are those who advance early on. When I was in Thailand, I had a family of neighbors with whom I was very close. They had a son who was eleven at the time. At only eleven years old, my neighbor could already tell that he could reason just a little bit more deeply than most of his peers. It was very neat to see.

As far as cultural relevance goes, I do believe that Piaget could have adapted his theories in a way that made use of a more universal application. But then again, the man focused on using his children for experimentation. I really do not know if he thought to make his findings more universal. In any case, he did provide us good guidelines in which to follow and track childhood development. In terms of Vygotsky, I keep thinking back to my own constructivist views and the extent to which I can really a lot of relevant theory from this man. His applications seem so relevant to me--mediated learning experiences, guided participation. This is all great stuff for me to use because they are at the core of my teaching philosophy. Maybe I will incorporate some of these elements into the final draft of my paper.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Group Differences Reflection: ELL/Immigration

Overall, I found the Brydolf’s article eye opening. Coming from an Asian American background that does meet the model minority, it forced me to look deeper at different nuances of Asian society and expectations and separate generalizations. In terms of authorship and credibility, I appreciate the fact that a non-Asian American wrote this article, mainly because objectivity would then become that much harder to instill. Hypothetically speaking, if I were to be the author of these findings, or if the author was indeed Asian American I would be struggling with bias a great deal.
            One observation that resonated with me was the setting in which the article took place.
In general, Asian Americans receive a lot of the brunt from societal stereotypes; no doubt, Pacific Islanders are included. However, I felt that the study was more unique in that researchers focused on Asian American Pacific Islanders in California, as aspect I feel deals more directly with the issue of micro-climate. To be fair though, most of the stereotyping does occur in this particular area of the country because most Asian Americans move there. Even so, I would have liked to have seen a broader study done across the nation. At the end of the day, no matter where the statistics surface, the belief or acceptance towards a “model minority solution” will prove a difficult image to erase. I had not fully realized the fact that I fall under the model minority until after I read this article. Growing up, my parents did work hard and strived to achieve more, and my sister and I were expected to do the same. I believe that in many ways we have benefited more from that mentality than suffered from it, but I had never invested in analyzing the meaning behind being Asian American, in comparison to other subgroups. I have not looked at the numbers closely, but I believe they are correct. From what I have seen, Asian groups, both refugee and non-refugee, who lack the basic language skills will continue to immigrate to the United States, and they will need support.
            Although Ormrod addresses English Language Learners, I wish the book would delve into the topic more deeply. One could say I am biased because I am preparing to become an ELL teacher, but I feel that it is a growing need and issue that people are not prepared to handle.
Cultural awareness definitely needs to be incorporated and nurtured. Adequate training and support makes up the other half of the picture. I am glad that the article brings up that perspective as well, which is part of the reason why I struggled so much with this disparity. On the one hand, there exists the bright, hard working Asian American student, and that is challenged by the Asian student who may be equally bright and hard working but cannot communicate. I anticipate continuing struggling with this for a while, both professionally and personally. Yet, I suppose there is hope because as long as I focus on the needs of my students the rest will hopefully somewhat fall by the wayside.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Free Response Number Seven: Intelligence and Group Differences

I enjoyed learning about the different intelligence theories. I think that, although IQ tests are still used as a main measure for performance, our society has become better at looker at other components. I really enjoyed watching the Battle of the Brains video. I thought it was quite intriguing to see how several different masterminds are pitted together. I have never been formally tested for an IQ test, and I am unsure if I would still want to undergo that type of testing. I am somewhat curious to know where I fall on the distribution curve, but my life would still be just fine not knowing it. For some reason, I am really interested in Gardner's Eight Intelligences theory. I had learned about him in a developmental psychology class I took my freshman year of college, and it has stuck with me since then. I think the biggest trait that attracts me to it is the fact that a person can have one or two predominant types of intelligences. They do not simply have to be tested on standard IQ, again something that we as a society focus too much on. While this type of perspective offers a different piece of the puzzle, it does show that everyone is different and has unique skills and traits to offer. To me, going off on a pure IQ test is discounting so many other variables that a person comes with.

I really enjoyed the group differences discussion. I have enjoyed every group differences discussion presented in class. I think that these topics are relevant, hot button issues that challenge us with real, authentic problems that pervade education. The issue of race linked to intelligence prompted me to think deeper about the subject. I believe it to be both unfair and unethical to discount a person's intelligence based on race. I also think that certain races are subject to more prejudice than others. For instance, white people are generally not discriminated against when it comes to intelligence. Asians usually have a more positive association concerning intelligence, although I still believe people stereotype them on the fact that they are Asians. Like JD mentioned during the last class period, I feel like black people are discriminated against the most. I understand his neighbor's rationale for wanting to send his child to a good school; it sounds like a lot of injustice had taken place on his end.

In relation to race, I believe that it is an issue that will continue to shape culture and society for years to come. Even though we as educators try to be objective, we will always form some type of bias. Some may be better at hiding different types of biases from their students. Some teachers may truly believe in racial equality and can circumvent those issues better in their classroom environment. However, this does not mean that they falter in other areas. Reflecting back on the discussion wrap-up, I believe that much of how we handle these conflicts are through self-reflection and evaluation. As long as we continue to engage in these practices, it will help us keep a more objective view on things.

In terms of the workshop, I found it helpful to have a checklist in from of me to see the areas I need to improve on. There are certain components that are lacking, and it helps to have a clear, concrete visual to guide you along. I was surprised at the page length of my CSEL. When I started I thought I would have trouble generating nine to ten pages, but I was able to go beyond that; so the fact that I was able to produce more substance reassured me. Overall, my paper needs to be tighter; I need to tie more theory into it and really establish some ground rules. Once I have that in place, I will be fine. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Free Response Number Six: Constructivism

Because my paper will mostly focus on tying in my teaching beliefs and practices into constructivist theory, I found myself looking forward to this past class session, eager to glean relevant information. While a large part of me is strongly constructivist, I could see how certain aspects appeared very broad. I believe that learners construct their own meanings throughout their lives, but I feel like this approach needs more structure. I know we talked about how children, despite their naive theories, may need more guidance towards the right direction.

Personally, I believe in teaching the structure/rule well before students start to interpret their own meanings towards a task. I know this does not quite align with constructivist views, but I am just saying that I am beginning to see how my "favorite" theory may have its own flaws. For instance, I struggled with writing my intervention strategies for my case study o the CSEL paper. At first, when I read the situation my first response was to implement lots of reinforcement. Classic behaviorist views, very much different from constructivism. I can still see the merit in how a constructivist would approach my situation, through guiding the learner and helping them find and understand their place in the world. I love this belief. I think there is a lot of autonomy in it, but like I said before I feel like I would need something more concrete than just predominantly relying on, what I find to be, a bit more of an abstract theory. In contrast, I enjoy creating an environment of learning and intellectual curiosity. I find it intriguing to watch students construct their own knowledge on a task or skill. I guess I still maintain characteristics of a more hands-off approach. Building upon the belief that learners construct their own meaning of the world around them, I also agree with curbing, or channeling students' thought processes into the proper direction. That is one of my goals as a teacher.

As we go deeper into our material, I am seeing how, although all four theories exhibit great characteristics and strong practices, by themselves they cannot stand alone. I am starting to see how theory works best when all four work together to create a more holistic framework of the student. I think that once this course ends, that will be my biggest take away.

I enjoyed the teaching presentations last night. I felt that we went through them in rapid succession, but sometimes that is what you must deal with during summer term. Even though the first and last teaching projects were expository in style, it did not feel that way. Yes, they included powerpoint presentations and presented a lot of information, but it felt much more interactive, hands-on. I really enjoyed that aspect of last night's class. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the group differences discussion. I have enjoyed all three discussions presented thus far. As far as Fred's discussion went, I too feel that issues of rural education are often overlooked.

Like I mentioned in class, I attended a school that most would consider rural, but had been becoming more suburban each year. There were times when I felt that some people around me acted "country," but I think that was more of a background clash. Before high school, I had not really encountered that type of environment. In terms of academics, I had a lot of good teachers, just as good as any teacher in the urban parts of Knoxville. I also had bad teachers, but I think they exist anywhere you go. In my opinion, I believe that a big part of good teacher attrition is choosing people who want to be there and then providing support for them. The teachers that I had in high school loved their work environment; they wanted to be there, and they were also supportive of each other. I found it sad to hear Jared talk about young, bright teachers who do not stay in rural schools because they feel isolated. I think that the government needs to place more priority in bringing different teachers to the rural areas and help them sustain a desire to work there. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Free Response Number Five: Continuation of Social Cognitivism and Cognitivism

I am finding that the more we learn about the four learning theories the more interested I become. I feel like I am learning so much from these renowned theorists and concepts, much more than I thought I would. I guess I did not think I would enjoy learning about these different theories because I felt they would prove too abstract for me to comprehend. Some aspects may appear more challenging than others, but overall I able to synthesize this information and recognize its application in an academic setting. That is another part of it too; I can see how these concepts could be readily applied inside a normal classroom. I guess I am admitting this now more than I would have liked to before, but I am starting to recognize more of the merit behind educational psychology. I am starting to see why all of this matters because I can come up with concrete examples and have seen how these ideas have played out in real life.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I enjoy learning about social cognitivism and think it can be useful in my own classroom. Unfortunately, I will probably only focus on constructivism, even though I would like to incorporate strands of social cognitivism. But this realization brings up a good point, that all four theories can work together to complement one another rather than educators picking one and solely relying on that particular school of thought. I believe that effective instruction includes a range of styles and ideas, not just  a single one. I think that although one idea or thought process may be good, there will also be flaws present or something lacking from it; you need a little bit of all of them in order to obtain the most holistic picture possible.

I really, really enjoyed Aaron and Fred's long-term retrieval activity. I thought it was innovative and applicable to what we were learning. It made me think back to when I had to retrieve my own long-term thought processes in order to well in my classes. I do agree that meaningful learning is better than rote learning. I never had to do too much rote learning, particularly with memorizing and rehearsal, but I could recall that difficulty in some of my science classes. Even when I had large amounts of information to remember, I would still try to connect some meaning behind the words, otherwise I would not be able to provide an accurate definition or explain the significance behind that particular word. Thinking back to high school, I remember how my French teacher shared stories of how she would remember things. She told my class that when she took biology she made up a song to remember all the parts in the body, much like the example given in the book. Another trick she learned was to perform. She told us how she had to learn "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe in order to recite it in front of her class. What she did was turn the poem into a song, which was easy to do given it was poetry, and turned the recitation into a narrative performance. From what I remember, that technique worked and the event became so memorable that everyone remembered it years later. This ties back to what James had shared in our presentation with how music can help us remember things. If you think about, we learned many, many things through song: the alphabet, body parts, grammar (if you watched Schoolhouse Rock). It is actually quite fascinating how this method works. It makes sense though. Learning becomes more enjoyable and the information sticks.

Even though most of us would agree that meaningful learning is, overall, better than rote, many people still rely on that and can do it well. If you think about people in medical school they have to rely on rote learning most of the times. Also, I am reminded of most, if not all, Asian countries who are very big on rote learning. That is how my mom learned when she went to school in the Philippines, and it is how my friends learned grammar in grade school. Even today, that is still the predominant way to learn. I hope that, with time, they can encourage more creative and meaningful ways to learn so that students can enjoy the learning process more often than not.