Okay. I think this might have been the hardest reading to get through by far that we have read this semester. Not only was it incredibly long, but Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick J. Finn was so dry and factual that it was just so hard to get through. However, that being said, once I actually got through the article, I thought it was a phenomenal read. From the very beginning of the reading, the first thing that struck me was that he actually referenced authors and readings that we read for this class and made some of the same observations and connections that we did. It was surprising to me, but at the same time, I thought it was really cool. In the very first chapter, Finn makes reference to Kozol's first book and how he drew heavily on Kozol as an influence for writing his own book. The next reference he made didn't stand out to me at first, until I read it over a few times for it to finally sink in:
"I was schooling these children, not to take charge of their lives, but to take orders...I had assignments on the board when the students entered the classroom, and so there wasn't a moment when they didn't have anything to do. I didn't say to an errant student, 'what are you doing?' I said 'Stop that and get to work.' No discussion. No openings for an argument." - This definitely reminds me of Delpit, and in fact, she had the same discussion in "The Silenced Dialogue" in which she says that students were more likely to understand and respond to a direct order, rather than an instruction formed as a question. It definitely relates to the culture of power, because by doing that, he was giving them the tools they needed to survive and flourish in the culture of power.
One thing I liked, in the beginning of the reading, is where he is talking about how he ran his classroom. I agree with him, and also think it is important to balance out the actual curriculum work that is tedious and hard, with some lighter fun activities. I immediately connected this to my service learning because the teacher I am with always spends the first 5-10 minutes of class joking around with the students and talking about random things giving them a chance to unwind and get more comfortable in the classroom, and it also gives them a break because he is the only teacher who does that for them. By doing that, he says that their performance in class always goes up and that when that "fun time" is over, they know that they need to stop messing around and get to work - and they do.
When Finn talks about his experience when he was going to graduate school - and connecting it to him now teaching at graduate school, particularly when he talks about "How would this work in my classroom?" I thought it was a brilliant thing to think about and how to judge and rate lectures. To a certain extent, i'm sure each and every one of us studying to be future teachers do the same thing. We all have had bad teachers, whether they are in high school, middle school, or even here in college where we think to ourselves "wow, I would not be this kind of teacher" or we've had great teachers and think "wow, I like this teachers approach" or any kind of thought like that. I think that kind of thinking is crucial to being a teacher, because you should know, or have some idea, what kind of teacher you do want to be (or what kind of teacher you don't want to be).
"...knowledge was presented as fragmented facts isolated from wider bodies of meaning and from the lives and experiences of the students...work was often evaluated in terms of whether the steps were followed rather than whether it was right or wrong...When a girl realized what they were making, she raised her hand and said she had a faster way, the teacher replied "No you don't. You don't even know what I'm making yet. Do it this way or it's wrong...in one working-class school, one teacher commented that she skipped pages dealing with math reasoning because they were too hard, while another said that those kinds of pages are for creativity and that they are extra." - This reminded me a lot of Ullucci, because the whole argument in that reading was the vast difference in education of students of poor backgrounds versus wealthy backgrounds and how students are taught very differently and treated differently because of that background. Students in poor backgrounds are often thought of as dumber and that they can't handle the same amount of work or the same material as wealthier students.
One thing that really bothered me when reading this was the discussion about why the fifth grade teachers do the things that they do, and why they teach certain ways. When they replied with "the students are too lazy" or "they don't know anything so you cant teach them much" I couldn't help but be angry. That is exactly what a teachers job is: to teach students what they don't know, and to help and reinforce the things that they do know so they have a deeper understanding. I've said this in previous blog posts but it seems to keep coming back: A student is a student, no matter what. Just because they come from a lower socio-economic background, doesn't mean you should teach them at a lower level. Another point that I found very intriguing was the varying definitions of "work" in each of the schools visited. It was something I never thought of before.
"President Kennedy once said that he hoped a person's chance of becoming president was not determined on the day he became baptized" -I thought this was a really interesting quote to have put in the article. I never would have thought to compare a Catholic becoming president to Children's expectations being determined for them the minute they got into kindergarten, but it is completely true. Just as someone's religion has no effect on whether they should become president or not, someones background should have no effect on how they are taught in schools or what kind of schools they should go to.
Towards the very end of the reading, there is some in depth connections with Christensen. Finn is talking about how Christensen had her classes try and observe what goes on in their classes and identify the relationships between the students and the teacher. the result? boys were treated smarter than girls. The boys were given more in depth explanations, while the girls were given simple answers; The boys were told to do most of the work by themselves, while the girls had the help of the teachers. I think that this definitely relates to the Christensen article that we read a few weeks ago, about gender roles and stereotypes.
Talking Point: what did everyone else think of this article? even though it was extremely long, I thought it was my favorite to actually read out of all of the ones we have read so far.