Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pecha Kucha

Thursday, December 1, 2016

In The Service Of What? The Politics of Service Learning

                                                         Charity or Change?
        In the article "In The Service Of What? The Politics of Service Learning" by Kahne and Westheimer the authors describe in tremendous detail, two accounts of service learning projects.  The first project, "Serving Those in Need" was done by a 12th grade U.S. Government class. The second project "Homelessness Here and Elsewhere" was done by a seventh-grade class at Lexington Middle School . Although both are Service Learning Projects, they are both greatly different. Service learning can have a tremendous impact on a classroom Kahne and Westeimer bring up the argument of Charity vs. Change. From the two examples we can see how much of a difference there is between charity and change, and the impact both have.

Charity: the voluntary giving help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.
    In the 12th grade classroom, the focus of study was democracy and citizenship. The students had the freedom to chose which ever activities they wanted for their service learning projects. Some examples of these were, working in a center for babies whose mothers had high levels of crack cocaine in their bloodstreams during pregnancy, working in a hospital running errands for doctors and helping patients locate the sites of appointments, and preparing and distributing survival kits for the homeless. The teacher wanted his student to reach the outcome that "Students would interact with those less fortunate than themselves and would experience the excitement and joy of learning while using the community as a classroom." When looking at this concept it originally comes off as a great learning experience and opportunity for personal growth. I bet the students had a very humbling experience volunteering, but how did their volunteer work help their specific communities? When a student helped volunteer in a center for babies whose mothers had high levels of crack cocaine they probably had a great impact on the people they worked with, but they only contributed temporarily.  The student who created survival kits for the homeless definitely helped those struggling to survive on the street, but it did not help end the cycle of homelessness. Those survival kits were temporary aids for a select few, that helped contribute to the cause, but did not fix homelessness. After they were done volunteering, that was probably the last involvement they had with the organizations they helped.

Change: to make or become different.
     In the seventh grade classroom Ms. Adams took an entirely different approach with her students. By working with her class Ms. Adams identified issues of common concern, and then democratically voted on one subject. The subject they picked was homelessness, and the unit of their service learning project was "Homelessness Here and Elsewhere". Ms. Adams focused and examined several different aspects of homelessness such as social, economic, legal land political characteristics that can be classified under homelessness. The class as a whole researched and familiarized themselves with the knowledge of the topic by reading articles and listening to guest speakers. Then after being educated on the topic, the class created action plans to aid relief and started raising money for two local advocacy groups. These two groups were also democratically decided by vote. During this service learning project Ms. Adams also had her students reflecting on what they had learned. She had her students reflect through writing, group and class discussions. Not only were they reflecting on what they had learned but also their own personal experiences.

     So whats the difference? Both projects are extremely different, the 12th grade class focuses on the individual. The focus was for students to experience the excitement and joy of learning while using the community as a classroom. This to me is were both projects become very different. In the 12th grade class the service learning project is exactly as it reads. Students go out in the community and give service to others in hopes of personal growth. In the 7th grade class Ms. Adams focuses on the group as a whole though. This is where I tie in some outside thinking. One person can't make a great deal of change (or at least the average person), they may be able to come up with great ideas, but ultimately they are just helping a cause. But when you have a community of people who all have a common issue, now you have the "power and potential to change". Yes, Ms. Adams students did help  the community, but they didn't just answer calls at a desk, or run errands. Instead they planted the foundation for change.  One common analogy I kept thinking of was temporary tattoos vs real ones. When you get a temporary tattoo it doesn't take much time to set it up and put it on your arm, and after it is printed it eventually fades away, leaving the skin exactly as it was. This is the 12th grade class, there service learning projects were temporary, not taking much effort to create and eventually fading away. When getting a real tattoo though it takes a lot of time effort to create it, and then it has to be tattooed on the skin. But when its all done it does not fade away. This is the 7th grade class. Even though this is a very vague analogy really think about the difference in time, and effort the two tattoos require. That's how I picture the differences between charity and change.
    After reading these two experiences of service learning projects it really has opened my eyes to my experience in the classroom. At first I saw it as sacrifice of my own time to help a teacher in an inner-city classroom. But after my personal experience and reflection I have realized it is a lot more than just me taking a group of students to do literacy work. When I show up I can either go in with the mindset "alright lets get these required hours done and maybe I can learn some teaching strategies along the way" or "I hope I can influence and impact these students so that both the teacher and the students have a better learning environment and both myself and the students can learn in that environment". This article did open my eyes, and it makes me value my influence more as an educator in my service learning project.

I know this Ted Talk is really long, I watched  majority of it and found it a rather interesting argument on charity vs. change in a social environment.

Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change

"You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school. For example, it's very important to begin the school year with a discussion of why we go to school. Why does the government force us to go to school" - Bettelheim

       This quote immediately jumped out to me after I read it. Right away I thought of my eighth grade English Class. On the first day of class the teacher, Mr. Desaulniers introduced the class with the question "Why?". For the first week of class he focused on the idea of us questioning everything we do. He asked us questions like, "Why do we go school?" and  "Why did we cover this subject to help us learn about _____?" and he always challenged our questions and reasoning. Bettelhiem argues that it is important to establish a classroom like this because it shows the students that you trust their intellectual ability enough to form their own ideas and answers. Which creates a safe and inviting academic environment.  She ends her reasoning with "A school year that begins by questioning school could be remarkably democratic and a critical learning experience for students". This quote means that Bettelhiem believes; that by creating an environment that challenges even the foundation of education, it will create a better learning experience for students.  I completely agree with this approach, Mr. Desaulniers established a classroom built around the idea of questioning, and from this it created a very social environment. He refused desks, and  all of the students sat at big tables around the room. I remember in class one time he read an article about the Salem Witch Trials, and three factors that could have created the hysteria in the town. He asked us to think, and he wanted us to challenge all three ideas in our mind and share which one we thought and why. From his class I remember "Eureka" moments, times were that light bulb would go off. And me always being so excited to share my opinions in class. By being in a classroom that allowed us students to question and form our own conclusions, we were inspired and excited to share our findings. He created educational discussions and reflections between students.  Since I have had other classrooms also set up like this, I believe our FNED class could fall under the same catogry. These classes are always my favorite, and I find them most engaging. 
"To Educate is to adapt the child to an adult social environment... The child is called upon to receive from outside the already perfected products of adult knowledge and morality...From such a point of view, even the most individual kinds of tasks performed by students (writing an essay, making a translation, solving a problem) partake less of the genuine activity of spontaneous and individual research...The students' inmost morality remains fundamentally directed towards obedience rather than autonomy" - Piaget
      I apologize in advance for my lack of professionalism, but I chose this quote for two reasons. The first because it is the counterargument for this article, and second because it kind of pissed me off. Piaget's ideas of adapting children to an adult social environment is almost exactly opposite of Bettelhiem's. Piaget believes that in order to help students to successfully adapt to this environment teachers must practice "restraint and imposition in the socializing function of schools". Piaget's classroom takes away the opportunity for students to have the "Eureka" moment I talked about in the last paragraph. Piaget's classroom, to me, reflects the idea of "monkey see, monkey do". In order to try to better understand the ideologies I tried to imagine myself as a student in two classrooms based off both perspectives. I feel that in a classroom taught by Piaget I would pass, but it would be tough. I feel that I would bullshit my way through assignments. I would find the classroom environment  very uninviting, and boring. I feel that in a classroom like that I would not actually learn and grasp greater concepts. To me that classroom is no better than copying and pasting. After reading Piaget's perspective it reminds me of the classic book "1984", where people are dehumanized and obedient. Their emotions are controlled and they taught not to challenge institution. And well... we know how that ends. We see that Piaget's limits potential and personal growth. I think Piaget believes this because he was taught in a "Pro-SCWAAMP" environment. Piaget wrote this in 1979, meaning he grew up in an American society that looked down on "out of the box thinking", and feared it, because it was different. And that could mean change.

"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. Empowered students make meaning and act from reflection, instead of memorizing facts and values handed to them." - Shor
       This quote strongly argues that Bettelhiem's system of teaching creates a better learning experience and allows more opportunity, rather than one that emphasizes the "restraint and imposition in the socializing function of schools". I chose this as my final quote because it challenges Piaget's point of view and almost concludes the argument simply and supported.  It directly tells us that by creating an  environment that questions learning, it allows students to develop more intellectually and socially. She explains that by having a learning environment that encourages students to question their experience in school, they become empowered learners. I can personally tell you that I learn more classes I am empowered to think in. Teachers do not sit down and pick between these two styles of teaching when making a lesson plan. And they do not all start class with the "Why?". Instead I feel that these questioning moments that Bettelhiem explains are moments in the classroom where the teacher allows the students to have the opportunity to have time to think, create,  discuss and share their own intellectual conclusions.

       So I realized that all three of my quotes were from the beginning of the text, and this wasn't because I was being lazy. I felt that Shor established her argument early on in the text very directly, and used the rest of the chapter as her reasoning. When I read the articles for class, I try and think of a simple big takeaway from the text. And from this text I feel that take away is: That by allowing questioning in the classroom you create better learning opportunities for students. But after thinking outside the box a little bit more I think ultimately that Shor is supporting the idea we discussed in class about Oakes and Finn. A class that is socially structured (examples: class wide discussions, group work, etc.) is a far better learning environment than a class that does fill in the blank worksheets every class.
      For anyone who actually got my outside of the box reasoning, I'm attaching the trailer to the movie "Pleasantville". I feel that Piaget's style of teaching is represented as "the black and white" way of life. And that Bettelhiem's system is represented as "the color" in the film. It's a little out there, but really think about that for minute....