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Thinking locally about global issues

I’m taking a wonderful class offered by Peace University. Here’s a recent assignment, in which we thought about how the Earth Charter intersected with our everyday lives:

There are several schools in my city that are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. To get from one end of the high school to the other, one sometimes has to go outside. And it some climates, that may not matter, but we often have below freezing weather in Vermont.

For the elementary and middle schools, the solution the city has adopted is to send students with disabilities to other schools that are ADA compliant. But there is only one public high school. It has ramps that are too steep, as well as buildings with no way to get from one floor to the next.

We now are instituting restorative practices districtwide, but up until very recently, students of color and students qualifying for special education services were suspended at a higher rate than white students and students without disabilities. Many decisions on educational services for students are based on whether it’s convenient to provide them. We don’t have enough para-professionals hired, so students who should have 1:1 help oftentimes don’t get the help they are by law supposed to get. And unless there is some oversight from the state, it will not happen.

In this political climate, where more emphasis is placed on the bottom line instead of what is best for students, the oversight is not happening.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no person shall be denied a nationality. The majority of the students I teach are Nepali-speaking Bhutanese. And although this is not happening in my region, the fallout from what has happened in Bhutan has resulted in hundreds of people being resettled in Vermont because they have, in effect, no nationality. If these teens make decisions that pit them against the law for any reason, they could potentially be deported. Some of the cultures my students bring with them are in direct violation of U.S. law, and because these communities are separate from the mainstream, issues are not recognized, and so little is done to stop practices such as female genital mutilation, forced arranged marriages or polygamy.

There are also many hidden ways that people are discriminated against, ways that often are not in public view, such as sexual discrimination (#metoo movement), hiring and rental decisions and more. In the video, there were examples of inequality in racism (Muslim ban), war, marriage equality, environmental devastation and more. People are rising up and protesting.

In Vermont, people are very politically active. They march in protest. The city has decided to be listed as a sanctuary city, despite national threats to funding sources. The state is working on phosphorus and clean water issues despite the trend for deregulation at the national level. Our state long has been focused on issues of drug addiction and abuse. And we’re beginning to realize more fully the issues facing elders. And still, there is more to be done.

Inequalities disrupt peace because it’s difficult to find happiness when the state is not supporting equality for everyone. The issue I deal most directly with is poverty, which then leads to a host of other maladies. My students’ parents work in jobs with no sick leave, and so taking a day off of work could potentially put their income levels at risk, making it impossible to pay rent or get food. Drugs and alcohol potentially dull the pain of dealing with money issues or unresolved post-traumatic stress syndrome. Anger can lead to fights; loss of income can trigger thefts. And that could lead to deportation. And this level of unease spreads to the children, raising their defenses, making it less likely that they will do well in school.

So can there be peace with no justice? My answer is a resounding “no”. The ripple effect makes life difficult for everyone surrounding the person facing difficulties. And then we all pay the price.

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Acting locally…

What are the #globalgoals? The full list is here.  http://tinyurl.com/nwo6s5o

I’m taking a class on sustainablity @UPeace with the support of @KappaDeltaPi. And it’s what I DON’T think about that is gnawing at my brain this week.

There are so many ways that the things we do locally have a global impact. And we don’t think about that when we’re going through life, dealing with our day-to-day stress…

sdg-banner

The above diagram looks at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals through the lens of the World Health Organization. One of my colleagues in my class shared this, and I thought it was so amazing, I just needed to share it.

One of our assignments last week was to think of one way that we could help society progress toward these sustainable development goals.

My answer:

I believe I am fighting poverty every day (goal 1). By moving my students toward graduation, I am helping them reach a higher income bracket. At school, we feed (goal 2) and clothe students who don’t have the resources to do so themselves. I just gave out five pairs of gloves and more than a dozen pairs of warm socks just last week. I strive to get my students to see themselves as scholars, worthy of every privilege their native-English-speaking colleagues have (education, goal 4). I also advocate for them on many levels, inside and outside the school, including in court (goal 16) and in finding work (goal 8).

But in taking a class like this, it makes me wonder what more I could do. And what could I build into my lessons. How can I make the world a better place?

All signed up and ready to go!

Just completed my registration tonight!

Got approval for reimbursement for K-12 day!

I’m ready to go #Tesol18 #Mytesol18

Hitting the gritty wall…

So I shared with my student teacher’s mentor that I’m working on grit and self advocacy in the classroom. I found these lovely videos that talk about grit and self advocacy. You can see them below (skip on past these videos if you already know the concepts…).

This was my whole lesson. Telling them that I was going to be serious about grades. Serious about deadlines. Serious about learning. I was going to make them into responsible students even if it killed me.

What is grit? Tell your neighbor!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FTheMightySite%2Fvideos%2F703631616451255%2F&show_text=0&width=560

What did the students want to tell their teachers?Tell a partner!

And then Suzy, my partner teacher from years and years Suzy, tells me that grit is crap.

That’s not what I want to hear just after I deliver this lesson. She sent me this article, which brings the idea of trauma into the mix. The writer talks about seeing a talk by Tyrone C. Howard in which he brings up the challenges facing students in a world where grit and resiliency have become buzz words but few are facing the issues keeping students from being successful. (You can see a video of part of that talk below. And the slides to go with it here: 2015-11-11-motivation-howard)

 

Among the most salient quotes:

“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them,” he said. It can be irresponsible and unfair to talk about grit without talking about structural challenges, he said, referring to the recent interest in interventions tied to the concepts of grit and perseverance.

 

My students are facing myriad challenges. According to the article, Howard says in an average U.S. classroom, one can assume this:

  • 7 out of 30 live in poverty;
  • 11 out of 30 are non-white;
  • 6 out of 30 do not speak English as a first language;
  • 6 out of 30 are not reared by their biological parents;
  • 1 out of 30 are homeless;
  • 6 out of 30 are victims of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse before turning 18.

Of these, all of my students fall into the first three categories. Some of them fall into the fourth. As far as I know, none are homeless. At least not right now. And I don’t know, though I have my suspicions that most fall into the last one.

And yes.

I know.

But I’ve gotta try, right?

 

Reflecting and starting over

Last semester, I got my feet wet in teaching an introduction to computers for English learners who really didn’t understand the technology they had been given.

In May, I committed to doing classroom research. I’ll be presenting on a panel about my work this March in Chicago at the annual TESOL International Conference.

Research, honestly, is something I do all the time: I try. I fail, I restructure. I try again.

But I’ve been less than great about documenting what I do. This semester, I’ve started over. So I’m planning on being fastidious about comparing my successes/failures/changes and why that happened.

So let’s jump in.

Here is my original proposal:

At BHS, all students receive Chromebooks. In the EL department, most students are newly resettled refugees. Many also would qualify as Students with Limited or Interrupted Schooling (SLIFE). They lack background knowledge and academic behaviors for “doing school” in a Western education system. Additionally, most students never had access to technology before coming to the United States, and parents are unsure of what students are doing on computers at home at all hours.

The school previously offered an intro to computers class, but it was eliminated with budget cuts. To address parent concerns, the school offers mini-workshops. But parents often do not retain information from these sessions. Therefore, I have implemented an action research study to explore these questions:

  • To what extent do one-to-one devices in a newcomer EL class promote learner autonomy and develop academic skills?

  • In what ways do digital artifacts provide teachers, students and parents a tool for tracking progress?

  • What are the students’ and parents’ perceptions about using devices in the classroom and at home?

I have developed a technology-based curriculum in my newcomer class to build student knowledge through devices, self-awareness, and home support. Using a flipped learning approach, students engage with various sites and build an online toolbox to support academic participation and foster vocabulary enrichment.  In addition, parent support will occur through home visits and targeted outreach.

The overarching aim is to build students’ competencies with devices and set them on a trajectory for success in content classes, where they will continue to engage with their devices.  Students will be able to see Chromebooks as tools for learning and will be able to move toward greater autonomy. In addition, parents will have a better understanding of acceptable activities and feel more empowered to set limits on device use at home via an informational campaign.

I am so excited about what I’ve learned and where this is going. It’s been in ways very successful. And in other ways, I feel I am running up against impossible barriers.

I have enrolled myself in an EVO Online course on Classroom Based Research. I am reading listserv posts and listening to podcasts to hone my teaching and webinars to help me find my way.

I’m not done yet.

And I’m excited to see where I end up when I finally report out in March at #TESOL18 #mytesol18

 

New year, new topics

As I’m getting lost in the minutiae of preparing for WIDA ACCESS testing, I am forgetting what I love most: learning. And as I look forward to #TESOL18, I also at this time of year try not to miss signing up for the Electronic Village Online! Registration for this ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS 5-WEEK FREE FREE FREE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT!!! Sign up here!!!

Timeline EVO18 Sessions

In the past, I’ve participated in flipped learning, learning about writing my own e-textbook and Minecraft. I’m still looking

over the offerings now this year.

I’m sure to return to my Minecraft posse… It’s so awesome building and fighting alongside other teachers spread across worldwide time zones. It’s even more awesome as we talk about how to use this platform to get students to chat. There will be a follow-up session at TESOL in Chicago at the Electronic Village. I haven’t stopped by there during the last couple of conventions, but I really want to meet some of my online friends face-to-face there.

Last year I lurked a bit in the QR Codes course. I so much enjoyed reading about how these could be put to use. It’s being offered again this year, too.

But my real interest right now lies in research in the classroom. I’m signing up tonight for The Classroom-based Research EVO 2018.

Won’t you join me? And then we can talk about it live at #TESOL18!

 

 

Waiting for my groove

Man, this has been a tough year. And we’re not even halfway through.395513826

Teachers in my district voted to go on strike. It lasted for four days. And that created a huge work stoppage in my class.

We hadn’t even finished a full week of school when this hit. And I’ve been struggling ever since.

My students are primarily former refugees, who now are trying to make their way in the U.S. school system. The problem is that most were not fully literate in their own languages when they came here. The theory of transfer has a tough time taking hold in our school.

So the secret disguised goal of my introduction to computers class–which I’m teaching for the first time ever to offset the great inequity of a lack of training for late arrivers subjected to a 1:1 program (what Alan November refers to as a “$1000 pencil” initiative)–is to teach what the my department lovingly calls “schooliness.”

Schooliness is the package of behaviors that help students succeed. These skills include:

  • showing up on time and attending regularly.
  • taking notes.
  • using English when possible while still taking risks to expand academic capabilities.
  • relying on first languages to negotiate meaning, then returning to the target language.
  • advocating for themselves in social and academic situations.
  • understanding how to find meanings of unknown words.
  • doing homework.
  • being self-sufficient and self-driven.

And I’ve been working with my little group to do this. Yet when I had to go home sick yesterday, I could tell they, for the most part, had done little to nothing relating to classwork.

So it’s time to put on my hard hat (heart hat) and start handing out invitations to stay after school, because I love them so much and don’t want them to fall behind.

At the end of last year, my colleagues and I talked about handing out heart-shaped detention slips. Not because we want to be punitive, but because we want them to succeed.

I’m to present on my experiment at #TESOL18, on an intersection panel. I wish I had great things to report about upending student apathy. I feel as though I have learned a lot from this experience of taking on this new class and new challenge, I also feel like I’m not quite there…

 

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