EDUC 7718 Critical Literacy Praxis fall 2014
Week Four- Blogture and Discussion Response Assignment
How operational and meaningful is visual profiling in education settings? Is there anything you could or should do to change any negative aspects of this? Many people say that one important purpose of public schooling in this country is to enculturate children into what it means to be an American. What does it mean to be American? Do we require that some children take on another identity to be American?
In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, J Elliot wrote, “There will be time, there will be time/To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” The quote describes how we prepare our interactions with premeditated personalities. Depending on our crowd we are meeting allows us the feeling of necessity to “play the part”. Is it the same for appearance? Do we act a certain way based on the crowd we are with and do we think differently based on someone’s appearance. What are the importance of first impressions?
When starting this paper, I started to play with the idea of judgments in teaching. It was always a concept I was aware of but never one I looked particularly closely at. It is my belief as a teacher, I should “look professional”. In my profession that meant khaki shorts (knee length) and a tucked in collared shirt. At Springfield College part of my grade was based on my appearance. Did I have a belt on? Did my pants touch the ground? Was my shirt tucked in even when I lifted my arms? It never occurred to me these strict rules were in place because students found me more credible subconsciously because I was dressed the part. In the first video, Dana was a well-dressed man. He was clean shaven and spoke to the students in a monotone voice. The students were engaged in his lesson and sat quietly as he talked. Was this because he was dressed a certain way or was it because he was sitting in a chair while his students were on the ground? In contrast, Rick was not clean shaven and had an earring in his ear. Even before I started to play the video I started to think how cool it would have been to have a teacher like that teach reading. I remember my reading classes very strict and “hard work”. They were professional and had a structured planned out day. My first thought about Rick was he seems like a laid back, fun teacher. Even though both teachers looked very different, by watching the videos, both teachers had a fun and engaging way to interact with their students.
When I was younger my parents always told me no I would not be able to get a tattoo and piercings other than one in my ear was not acceptable. In my eyes, (a know it all teenager) they were holding me back from my true identity. But now I am a teacher, mom, and role model. I can now see what my parents were saying. Although my appearance was not the only reason I was hired I do believe I may not have gotten my physical education job right after college had I dressed differently. By differently I mean jeans and a bed head hair do. My parents always taught me to try “look the part”. But is the way we look truly the most important thing? It didn’t hit me until about three days ago when I was thinking about this assignment and my daughter came to me dressed in gym shorts and a baggy t-shirt to wear to school. I told her she needed to change into an outfit more appropriate for school. She looked at me and said, “It isn’t about the way you look mom”. I got to think, does it really matter what she wears to school? Does it make her more ready to learn because she is dressed in a dress? I thought about it a lot because it bothered me. I decided it was about being ready to learn. In my eyes, dressing “cleanly” shows a certain amount of respect for yourself and therefore portray the same message to others. As I discussed with Dana and Rick as teachers, just by looking at the two teachers Dana seems to hold their students more accountable than Rick. Could I be wrong, absolutely; however, I think there are many things in my past that have brought me up to believe one way.
When it comes to appearance, I think it deals with trust. The more people “look like” you the more you trust them and feel comfort. Once someone looks different than you there is always a layer of discomfort. I look at my students. I don't look like them, act like them, or have the same background as them. Trust is expected but would they do better with a Hispanic teacher? One of my students does better with males than females, another can only be with a bilingual teacher not because of the language barrier but because of comfort level.
In the video, substitute teacher, the actor was a teacher in the inner city. He then came into a wealthy school with mostly white students. His speech and demeanor was very different then what the students were used to; however, you put him back in an urban setting he would be seen as a “cool” teacher. In the video the students seemed distraught at the way the teacher was acting; however, in an urban setting would the students show more respect? So can teachers be credible role models if they do not look like the children they teach? I believe they can be credible if there is a common understanding of each other. Take race for example. Unfortunately, there has always been a distinction between black and white but isn’t everyone supposed to be equal? Aren’t we all supposed to walk into a room free of judgments? Unfortunately, it still happens no matter where we are in the world. But that isn’t always the case. In some cases students do connect more with teachers who have similar backgrounds as themselves. For example, take “What Would You Do”. The video shows a clip of a white male walking into an urban store looking to buy urban clothes. Unable to get past the idea of “not looking the part” the black employee told him he shouldn’t be wearing the clothes. In another clip, the video shows white males vandalizing a car. In the second video black males vandalize the car. The video shows how prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination are still be a problem. Is it worse today because we just don't see it? So many people cover their tracks. You would hear, “you didn’t get that job because there was someone more qualified” when truthfully the real reason was because she was a female. Or when a coach at my school was told they needed to keep the freshman coach despite his lack of knowledge and professionalism with the students. He was required to keep his job because he was black and there are no black coaches.
When teachers work with parents around difficult issues it appears to be a difference in morals and priorities rather than appearance and background. In fact, at our school we are trying to promote parent involvement to connect with all the parents. We host technology events, workshops, walks, and meetings. Unfortunately the parents who do show up are the ones already involved in their child’s education. How do we get more than? Are they not coming to the events because they don't care and therefore don't want to? Or are they not coming because they are working third shift in their second job just to pay the bills? I decided to ask one of my students what affect her learning. She is a student who is usually looking for trouble. When you look at her on the outside you think a disruptive student who I cannot connect with; however, when you look closer you see a scared, timid little girl, in and out of foster homes because she is deemed as the “bad one” her sister still lives at home with her mom. If that doesn't seem like a slap in the face then having to take 7 shots a day since she was 7 months old due to diabetes. I decided to ask her what her thoughts were about teachers and what teachers she “gets along better with and why. I also asked her why she believes students aren’t as engaged with school. Is it because most of our staff is made up of middle aged white teachers or are there bigger issues at hand? More specifically, I wanted to know what type of message we are sending to our students. In our district is learning the more important part or developing healthy relationships and role models to get out of what they know. We talked for almost an hour about the topic. She stated it wasn’t because of the way teachers looked or what experience they had. She said, “I want a teacher to be real with me. I want them to care about me and what I am going through. There are very little teachers in this school who understand my situation but even a fewer amount of those willing to try and understand it.” It broke my heart to listen to her talk but it also made me realize it may not be solely about appearance. To her, she wanted someone who actually tried to put themselves in her shoes rather than telling her how she should be acting in school. Our talk earned me her trust. The next day she confided in me not because of my race, age, or gender. But because I took the time to show her that I care. I gave her respect and demanded it back. Day in and day out is still a struggle for her, but when a girl who used to cut my class on a daily basis comes up to me to say, “You’re the only teacher I trust in here, I need some advice.” can I really say I am not credible because I haven’t been in her shoes. I beg to differ. I am credible to her because I cared.
Are mentors more credible because they have “been there” themselves? How much of a professional face do you prepare to meet the faces that you meet in the various aspects of your job? If your job were entirely virtual, what would your avatar presence look like?
I do believe mentors are more credible when they have been in the same situations but just because they have not been in the situation doesn’t make them less credible. The biggest reason why I believe that because they deal with feelings. Whenever you deal with feelings there is a connection between the two people. This is the main reason why I find displeasure in all jobs going virtual. I feel personal connection and relationships are the most valuable thing we can give our students in my urban setting. Sometimes a student just needs a hug. But isn't it sad that we as teachers now have to ask if it is ok? Gee talks about gap between human and machine. “It is as though I needed the robot to seem to have emotions in order to understand it.” (Gee, pg. 136) Can robots feel emotions? Gee then writes, “How different are our emotions from those of a machine.” (Gee, pg 137). I believe we are in fact extremely different. The power of free will is predisposed in humans and cannot be duplicated in machines such as robots. Can we then have robots as teachers? “With sociable robots we are alone but receive the signals that tell us we are together.”
So what is normal? What is underprivileged? In my school both meanings are different then a school say Glastonbury. Normal to my students are of Hispanic descent, tattoos, and a single parent household. Underprivileged to my students, are not seen as the students who requires state assistance but someone who pays for their own lunch but does not have a cell phone. A skewed way of thinking? Yes, I believe so; however, it was the way they were brought up. Cell phones prepare a common ground for many students. For example, there have been many times in Mr. Raucher’s class I was dressed in my pajamas. Why? Because no one could see my waist down. Did that make my learning any less credible? No, not at all. Gee talks about a conversation being deemed as pauseable. So when dealing with appearance, do teachers start the listening process by expecting to remediate and demanding less? Unfortunately, most teaches in my school expect less or students who do not have a great home life. Not because they cannot do the work but because there is a break in importance from the home life regarding school. The support at home has fallen short and therefore is not deemed as important to some teachers. How do we change the thoughts we grew up with? How can you change the thoughts our society instils in us? I unfortunately do not think I know the answer to any of these questions. It is a major issue that requires not only parents, teachers, and students to be on board but it also needs to be a place of society changes.
These questions are extremely loaded. In this country, our public schools are starting to blend itself. American to me is having freedom of speech and an expression of oneself. Was columbine an expression of one student? In my opinion the answer is absolutely no. In another example, ABC aired a movie called “Cyberbullying”. In the movie a mother went to a father of a girl who was bullying her daughter online. The father said she was expressing her opinion and it was her freedom of speech to do so. Is that American? Does being an American mean you have to speak English? I believe the answer is slowly turning into no. I believe our once thought of as American the tall English speaking white male in a suit with a 9-5 job, a wife, two kids, dog and a white picket fence has changed. American in the public schools is now seen as a melting pot for many different cultures and races. I believe it makes our country an excellent platform for collaboration and rich diverse background.
Once again I chose to do a written response. I felt it was the best way to convey my thoughts into a coherent piece. It was also a great way for me to share a response when interviewing a students of mine. I talked with my husband and hoped I would get out of my comfort zone of writing papers but part of my still believes a paper shows a fluid demonstration of thoughts. I guess this is one of the concerns with teaching technology in the classrooms. How can we change from comfortable to in most case the unknown? It takes time and patience and to be honest, with a seven year old, a full varsity squad, full time job and my sixth year. Comfort seems the most reasonable. I hope in my future response I can crawl out of my comfort hole and try to respond in a more creative way.
1. Gee, James Paul (2012) – Social Linguistics and Literacies. London and New York: Routledge; Fourth Edition.