Friday, January 21, 2011

Book #2 - Other People's Children

Reading books like this makes me glad that my education forces me to pick up books I wouldn't even know existed otherwise. The Harvard Education Review says that "Other People's Children provides an important, yet typically avoided, discussion of how power imbalances in the larger U.S. society reverberate in classrooms." And how!

Other People's Children is a collection of essays written by Lisa Delpit, a black scholar dedicated to improving the treatment of children of color in classrooms. One thing to be said for Delpit is that she doesn't beat around the bush--she's quick to identify the problems in today's mono-cultural educational approach, using personal interviews, educational research, and statistics as just a few of the pieces of evidence that the U.S. educational system is in need of an overhaul. And she's a good point. Several of them, actually. For example, in the U.S. public school system, "minority" children (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) currently make up about 40-45% of school's populations. It is projected that within 10-20 years, white children will become the minority in schools. Therefore, Delpit draws the valid conclusion that with so much of the school-age population being unjustly underserved, something must be done.

While Other People's Children does a fine job explicating the problem, I found that few concrete solutions were offered; much of the book felt like killing a dead cat nine times more. But, I have to give this book a high rating, because it will forever change the way I view education and the type of educator I want to be. Delpit's frank style made me view my own upbringing in a dominantly white, middle-class community in a new light; I recognized aspects of my culture that I had never noticed before. For example, in typical white, middle-class culture, children are taught from a young age to "verbally mediate any action [because] the action itself is not evidence of its existence--it must be put into words" (99). As an example of the above principle, Delpit stated a videotaped example of a child falling down and crying; in response, one of the parents said, "Aw-aw, poor kid...What tripped you, did you see what tripped you?" (100). Delpit stated that this teaches kids that crying or any other reaction is "inappropriate unless it is accompanied by a verbal explanation" (100). Considering the society I grew up in, I assumed that this wasn't too bad of a skill--it just means that we're adept at verbally putting into words our reactions and our views of the world around us. However, Delpit points out that this kind of thinking means that an adequate performance on a task is not enough; she says that it creates the idea that unless someone can verbally explain how they solved a problem or completed a task, the performance doesn't count. Ultimately, she argues that this leads to decontextualization, which means learning to just see words and ignoring context. It also leads us to trust more in textual "authority sources" instead of trusting in ourselves and in our own instincts, such as is taught in Native Alaskan communities.

There's a whole lot more I could say about this book, but I've come to the conclusion that every educator--regardless of color--should read this book to gain further insight into different cultures and healthier ways of teaching children of color in the classroom. I also recommend it for any white, middle-class person who needs humbling...

My Rating: 4.5 stars (I would have given it 5 if it had included more suggestions on how to actually treat the existing problems)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photo Walk - Beauty in January? Why Yes!

Monday being a holiday (and a nice, sunny one at that), Matt and I decided to take a walk around Logan to force ourselves to get out of our apartments and get some fresh air. To make it a little more fun, we took my camera and gave ourselves the challenge of finding 10 beautiful things. Who knew that January could be so unexpectedly lovely?

Look closely to see the water dripping!

Matt thought these little balls looked like raw brains, but I liked 'em!

I thought it was cute that Matt counted me as one of the beautiful things on the walk!

And Matt being Matt is always beautiful to me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Semester

After last semester's disastrous attempt at giving me a good education (5 Distance Education classes is never a good idea), I was as ready as an overdue baby for some major changes. So far, this semester hasn't disappointed. For starters, I have real, live teachers in front of me in all of my classes, which is way more than I can say for 85% of my classes last semester (boy did I hate watching other people pick their noses on screen while I listened to a professor several counties over drone in monotone from the textbook). In addition, I felt my classes last semester were all far too easy and didn't teach me many new skills at all. I think I've learned more in the three days of class I've had so far this week than I learned all last semester. Pretty great, eh?

So Spring 2011 will be universes different from Fall 2010. This is my first semester in the STEP program (Secondary Education program), so most of my classes involve teaching classroom management and lesson-planning skills, which I'm not nearly as familiar with as, let's say, writing analytical papers. I'm also starting clinicals, which means that I get to go to Logan High School for six hours every week and observe and help teach in actual high school classrooms (intimidating, but exciting!). Oh, and did I mention the best part about this semester? My fiancee Matt is finally living up here in Logan!! Last semester was a bit of a mess with one of us having to drive back and forth every weekend, but I'm sure enjoying having him be so close to me (he lives just two floors down, in the same apartment building). I just feel so spoiled having him so close :)

Oh, and I also am getting extra hours at both of my jobs, which is helping me out a lot to ease the stress to having a lot of wedding/living costs coming up real soon. It's going to be a great semester!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book #1 - The Kite Runner

My first book read in 2011, and I couldn't be more pleased! I got my copy of The Kite Runner for about 50 cents at a library sale (gotta love cheap, used books!!), and then didn't see it for the first couple weeks as my roommate and bff Kayla had taken it hostage for awhile. After her rave review, I decided to put off finishing Love in the Time of Cholera (which I've been munching on for about 5 months now) and picked up this haunting tale by Khaled Hosseini.

The Kite Runner follows protagonist Amir jan as he grapples with the tragic consequences of his own failure to act bravely for his best friend on a cold night in 1975. Amir jan and Hassan grew up the best of friends, but with a big difference in their status: Amir was part of the elite upper-class, with all the glory of family name and situation on his side. Hassan was the same-age servant who worked in Amir's family home, where the two grew up almost as brothers. When Amir silently watches Hassan get raped and beaten up that frigid night in '75, he is haunted by his failure to act and carries the guilt with him far into adulthood. However, after moving to America and being happily married for several years, Amir receives a phone call that could change his life forever...because it could mean setting things right.

Interested yet? Well you should be. I often find it difficult to find a book where I love both the plot and the writing style, and I found both in this work of 371 pages. Although the novel is crippling in its sadness, the end offers just enough hope to make the whole read worth it. The main characters are well-fleshed-out and believable and the plot heart-wrenching and intricate (had I not been around people for the bulk of the time I spent reading this, I probably would have sobbed out loud, something that I haven't done since reading the last Harry Potter). I barely even noticed how many pages the book had because I found myself flying through it, eager to read more. Now I know why Kayla had such a hard time finding a book to read after this--most anything else would seem trite and uninspiring after this provocative book of friendship and forgiveness.

My Rating: 5 Stars

50 Book Challenge

I've been a proud member of shelfari since 2007, which is how I came across the idea of "The 50 Book Challenge." This year I grew a bit tired at the idea of setting a million resolutions that I usually just forgot about anyway, so I decided to have a little bit of fun this year when it came to goal-setting. According to an article by msnbc, 25-50% of Americans read zero books within a year. The average reported number read was 4. Now, I've always been a book enthusiast (that's probably a bit of an understatement), and as a pre-teen, I set goals to read 200 books within the year (and almost met it). However, as a busy college student, I've found that my time to read is more and more limited, with homework and tutoring and writing and my fiance and my friends taking up the bulk of my time.

So, in an effort not to completely ditch the idea of doing the typical NYRs (New Year's Resolutions), I have decided to take up Shelfari's 50 Book Challenge. The 50-Book Challenge is basically just what it sounds like--the challenge to read 50 books within one year, which means finishing about one a week. To keep myself motivated, I'm going to review each one of the 50 books I read here on blogger. As I heard so much on my mission, when goals are written and also reported, the results accelerate. So I'm going to do both here--write and report. Here's to my best year yet!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Rundown in 20 Words or Less

Hard to believe that I went from there to here and then to that in just one year.

01 09 10