Stereotype Threat Connection

After reading The Whistling Vivaldi, I was intrigued and interested by this idea of “Stereotype Threat” and how it has played out in my life and in others around me.

I picked up a book I read two summers ago by Laurie Olsen called Made In America. Laurie Olsen’s research within her book is extremely important in relation to the “Stereotype Threat” and incorporates the idea of becoming “Americanized”  through discrimination. Schools can be sites of social reproduction of inequality through the nature of teaching because cultural values are reproduced in schools. If the teachers don’t acknowledge cultural differences and incorporate a new pedagogy when changes in population occur, there will be a continuation of negative racialization and resistance, gaps in achievement, and discrimination will grow within the school environment. Minority students seemed to be experiencing the “Stereotype Threat” and were viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype. Students feared of doing anything that would confirm their culture’s stereotype in school. There was an example in the book where a girl got annoyed by her relative who would constantly speak Mandarin to her and she wanted to avoid the family member so she wouldn’t be seen as a different ethnicity other than white. Also, the idea of clothing was a large issue to fit in and become “Americanized.” Their clothing styles would create laughter from the American students and this would make the newcomers feel judged and different than the white students. The idea that whites in the school racialize their peers through racial identifier.

There were tracks offered within the school and the teachers would mostly reinforce stereotypes by how they treated each student academically. There was an academic hierarchy within the school and the white and Asians were mostly in the college prep classes. When the white students began to analyze how they were racialized, the white students did not see themselves as having a privilege and they pointed out that things “are not fair” because black students get into college easier. It was also an interesting point to realize that the whiteness of the students is invisible and it does not negatively affect their ability to learn in school. The newcomers felt like the whites were telling them to “stay out of our way” and this led to even more divisions and unwelcome feelings of the newcomers. The division of the newcomers made it hard for them to be exposed to the English language and also made the day-to-day tasks of fitting in and conforming to the “American” way more difficult. The newcomers don’t have the ability to interact and have the experience to learn English with an “American friend.” This is impossible to find an “American friend” because most of the white students are mean to the newcomers. The ways of non-cooperation or rage that American students feel towards the newcomers impact the relationship with the different ethnic groups.

How can we as a country stop this “Stereotype Threat” in schools. As teachers and educators, we can teach the next generation to combat this. If our schools are places where stereotypes are created and fueled, we are failing.

This especially needs to be viewed through the lenses of Obama’s new plans regarding deportation increase the number of diverse cultures within schools (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/us/obama-immigration.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0)

Just a thought and connection of new and old learning on this Saturday afternoon 🙂

Hands on Learning-High Tech High

I was reading about High Tech High during my job search for after graduation and it took me back to a few thoughts on readings about education I have done in the past. John Dewey’s ideas tie into charter schools like High Tech High because they are very focused on learning in hands on and in independent ways. I can only imagine what a great experience it would be to learn how to use technology so applicably to all parts of education and teach in such a new way. The project based learning focus within the school is such a positive idea and it could be used in our nations schools to help students in their learning process and equip them for the future. By providing students with hands on learning, I fell that it is a way to put knowledge into practical use. From my experience, I participated in a program called “Destination Imagination, ” (DI) which was an academic program that uses different ways of presenting a topic that we would be given to learn. When my DI team had to learn about technology and computers, the only way that turned out to really be productive in teaching us about the subject was to actually USE computers and become comfortable with the topics through active learning. High Tech High is using this idea to teach students a certain skill of learning how to have effective use of technology and also learning other curriculum through their base of knowledge of technology. It seems like a great idea and a great way to become proficient in a certain area of passion, while still learning many other academic areas simultaneously.

If anyone has any experience with High Tech High, I’d love to hear!!

What I told a struggling first year TFA teacher…

I got a ding in my Facebook messages the other day from a TFA corps member at my old school. They said this…

“Hey Amanda! I hope you are doing well. I am currently in week 5 of the corps and I really feel like I am coming to a breaking point. I hear great things about what you did here and I just wanted to see if you have any advice/wisdom/thoughts/etc… Hope Boston is treating you well.”

Thinking back to my first 5 weeks of teaching and being thrown into a classroom, I have a few tips for any teacher who is about to “give up.” I wanted to share this to offer my struggles and true thoughts about who hard teaching is and what it takes.

“First off, I am ALWAYS here in the future if you need anything and am SO glad you reached out. To be honest, I literally felt the same way around this time of the year…teaching is the HARDEST job in the world and the amount of tasks you have to do NEVER end!!! I remember one weekend calling my Dad and crying because I felt like I didn’t have a life and no matter how hard I worked I couldn’t get ahead of my work load. Part of this is our charter school district’s high expectations…you won’t find a network that has so many tasks for teachers (which is good and bad…) That being said, IT GETS BETTER!!! These are some of the things I found helped me during that time…

1. Ask for support and/or prayers from people you are close with!! Prayers for perseverance, hard work ethic, focus, and energy. Even if you aren’t religious, support from family and little text messages can help to cheer you up during the low times. If people don’t know you are struggling, how can they help? 

2. Look at this year as an investment in your development and goals. Once I started thinking about what I was going to learn and what skill sets I would come out with, it all helped! You have no clue how much you will grow if you don’t worry about the day to day tasks as much as how those day to day tasks affect your end goal

3. Prioritize tasks…if you can’t get them all done, don’t kill yourself…talk to your principal! Just make sure you have great lessons and materials that day and do your best!

4. Sleep. On weekends if you feel pressured to go out, don’t worry…just stay in…you have the rest of your life to go out and missing a couple weekend parties isn’t going to cut you out of your friend group…

5. Have fun with the work. Once I started doing lesson planning and teaching in ways I thought were fun (like finding fun videos/activities/topics/examples) it got a lot better and I wasn’t seeing it as work, but more as a way I can be creative and optimistic with all the work

6. Enjoy the kids—believe it or not they look up to you for SO much and you have such an impact on their lives. I found I enjoyed therapy sessions with them and loved to help them with their problems. They may be crazy during class, but they will make your life and work so much better if they know you care about them as people.

7. Once you get caught up with work, find something you enjoy and do it as much as possible! I love movies so I would always have a movie up when I was planning and I also love baking so I would put something in the oven, lesson plan, then take a break when it was done and enjoy it haha

I hope those few things will help…but I am ALWAYS here to talk/bounce ideas off of so PLEASE reach out if you need anything! If you have any questions, just let me know! I hope that didn’t overwhelm you but I’ll be praying for you also and have complete faith you will make it through with shining colors!!!”

I hope this message can help another first year corps member! Keep up the great work!! Stay strong and work for “one day” when all students have an equal educational opportunity.

Why this blog??

I am a teacher who believes that every student can defy the odds and reach any goal they set. Teachers not only teach, but juggle the roles of parent, counselor, coach, and primary support system for their students. I am writing this blog to give tips to teachers of what I have found as successful classroom interventions and mindsets.

In my time teaching middle school science in downtown Dallas at a low-income school, my belief is, nothing is impossible for students, and they will succeed as long as we don’t fail them. I have been able to see firsthand the reality of the research that only three years of effective teaching will catapult students in the lowest quartile into the third or even fourth quartile (Haycoock, 2003) My students have paved the way for me to pursue my dreams and without them, I would not fully understand that educators may be the students only pathway to opportunity and success.

My success in the classroom can be attributed to my focus on inspiring and motivating others through authentic self-awareness, optimism, and trust. By providing consistency in a classroom and in an overall school culture, students and teachers find success through the simplicity and stability of the learning environment. I have found that an effective teacher-leader needs to be willing to learn and fully invest in the schools they serve. Every situation is different and requires dedication and relentless pursuit of results in order to make an impact.Since beginning my journey as an educator, I have worked in many diverse school districts, urban and suburban. As an undergraduate, I received my minor in Education at Cornell University, followed by experiences as a teaching assistant, a 3rd grade teaching volunteer in upstate New York, a teacher aide in downtown Minneapolis serving a high school of entirely English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Additionally, I served as an employee at schools for Teach For America in Chicago and Houston and an aide in a cognitively disabled high school classroom in Wisconsin. I currently am attending Harvard Graduate School of Education to learn more through new experiences here.

I believe that no matter what school you are in, students want structure, they want to learn, and they want to be equipped for life. From the first day I walked into the classroom, I knew my growth-mindset and dedication towards results were the most important qualities I provided. By the end of the first week of school, I realized that my 110 seventh graders were not the only ones I was in charge of. I was a community based teacher and needed to be involved in everything from counseling scholars on emotional, social, and behavioral issues such as abuse, rape, disabilities, and gang violence. I needed to create after school clubs and activities for students so I started a Science Olympiad team, a robotics team, and a science fair club. In these settings, I was able to independently reflect on necessary bottom up changes in order to enhance the outcomes my students would achieve. Every one of us needs to lead. If done well, students are inspired and teachers are willing to ask openly and honestly the question: how are we doing? This simple question requires data and, at times, adjusting our approach to respond to our school district needs and give teachers a voice.

This blog will be about my thoughts on education, things I have done in my classroom to see success, and concepts I am currently learning here at Harvard.