“I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.”
After all my weekly reading, one thing stuck out the most and it was THAT. What a statement. I strongly connect with the issues of race and socioeconomic factors.
A huge take-away so far in this class has been the importance of getting students connected. In the article, “Confronting Challenges of the Participatory Culture,” I was reminded of the many ways that students are getting connected. Yet the more I look at my school, the more I see those one or two kids who, due to race, will never “feel” connected to the other kids.
The main goal of connection is to generate an appreciation and platform for kids to broaden their education. We want all students to benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life. Looking around our society proves that technology and many lucrative careers go hand-in-hand.
Currently, I am taking classes towards my STEM certificate. One thing we learned in class is that an important value of informal environments for learning science is accessibility to all. Socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, historical, and systemic factors all influence the type of access and opportunities available to learners. Challenges come with engaging nondominent groups in science. Inadequate science instruction exists in most elementary schools, especially those serving children from low-income and rural areas. Also, girls often do not identify strongly with science or science careers. Students from nondominant groups perform lower on standardized measures of science achievement than their peers. Few individuals with disabilities pursue academic careers. Also, learning science can be especially challenged for all learners because of the specialized language involved, and even more so to ELL students. These issues go far beyond Science education, and is true across all areas. In order to provide equitable experiences to children, we must provide more for those who need it. Our schools must provide Learning Support to students who require it, amongst other enriching opportunities so that every single student profits from their education.
One of the most fundamental issues of connected learning deals with engaging young people in ways that are relevant to them. The topic of engagement is so important in schools. The low expectations set for students attending schools on socioeconomic edges are hindering their engagement. Kids aren’t motivated by skill and drill exercises that are so common in schools. As a result, dropout rates are more than 50% in certain low-income areas. Connected learning has the potential to reverse these dropout trends by creating a very different environment and providing diverse set of opportunities to engage students. How?!
Create! Innovate! Collaborate! It is our job, as motivators, to encourage kids who face inequity in the school system and in their community and reverse it. This brings me to my next issue, which is “good teachers.”
Equity means that every child has enough resources to succeed. In order to succeed, students need GOOD TEACHERS. From our article, “The conversation I’m tired of NOT having,” the author states, “Our most needy students need our best teachers, yet our highest need schools have the least experienced teachers, the most turnover and are becoming burnout factories for those who remain. All the existing structural incentives for effective educators push them toward work in suburban schools, where they’ll be better supported and the workload is sustainable. Nobody wants to talk about this.”
What is the solution to this? Racial inequity reminds us that we must include, involve, and support students of color. My district provides equitable experiences for kids of color. We have an after school club called, RARE. In R.A.R.E, our students and their teachers talk about contributions, culture, and inspiration as well as encouragement to help our African-American students to strive for excellence.
When thinking about equity in education and inequity, the inequity that resonates the most with me is racial injustice. Although I work on the mainline of Philadelphia, in a predominantly white school, race is always an issue my district spends a lot of time discussing. Unfortunately, with racial injustice comes the idea of low socioeconomic status. The inequity here is that the students who come from low-income families, often do not have the means to “get connected,” the same way everyone else does. In addition, these students often go to schools which do not have the funding to give kids access to technology. Equity means that every child has enough resources to succeed in today’s society, and that the more the child is in-need, the more resources we invest in the child. This week’s articles show proof of investing in racial groups to assist them towards profitable education. #SlaverWithaSmile points out that Twitter has the ability to bring stories to light from around the country which sparks social and political dialogue. The idea here is that getting connected assists minorities with issues. The example in the article was about a book that Scholastic sold being banned from publication, primarily due to the Twitter campaign which brought to light the dismay about the book’s portrayal of slavery as benevolent. Luckily for social groups facing injustice, social media can help educate.
Three years ago in my class I had ONE black student. One. This particular young lady had a very difficult year, as she had trouble assimilating to her environment. The inequity that she faced was that she did not have enough resources around her to feel successful. When my other students were going about their normal chatter, she sat alone. When my fourth graders were talking about how confusing chapter 4 of their reading was the previous night, bouncing ideas off of each other and collaborating, she sat. She sat quietly, alone, and afraid. Feeling different than her peers. Although my district works to assimilate students from diverse backgrounds, there certainly were moments where I felt that this child needed more. Now that I have been exposed to the benefits of Connected Learning, I wonder if there are things I could have done to help her feel connected through technology. Connecting through technology could take the face-to-face interaction away, ridding the racial barrier. Our article this week, “Teaching Tolerance” gave me some ideas of how to bring equity to racial injustice. Since race often comes with socioeconomic status, my minority of Black or Latino students often shy away from participating because they face literacy challenges. The Interactive Whiteboard discussed in the article could be very beneficial in allowing students to verbally articulate understanding of concepts rather than doing so through writing. In addition, the article talked about a technology tool, “Padlet” which allows for rapid online brainstorming where every voice in the class was heard, captured, and visible. This could bridge the gap between the “high,” “low,” “literate, or illiterate” students. In order to provide equitable experiences, we must find a common ground.
Part of our job as educators is to bring social equity into the room by educating the students. Discuss the injustice, and bring awareness to the issues happening in society. In the younger grades this may seem harder, but bringing literature into the classroom can be a perfect way to integrate black history into the classroom. It is our job as educators to read books where the main characters are those of color. It is also our job to make sure every math problem isn’t about “Sarah, or Sally.”
With the idea of an “unequal society,” I found the articles about Girls of Color to be incredibly powerful. The 11-year-old Jersey girl who collected books in the name of social action was a reminder that things can be done to make our diverse learners feel powerful. In order to be successful students, kids of ALL backgrounds and races need to feel valued and heard. The Code Camp for Girls of Color was another opportunity to provide equity for diverse learners. Keisha Richardson, a software engineer and entrepreneur, leads a summer camp for Black girls to bring more people into the pipeline. These equitable opportunities are opening doors for Black students.
A teacher from the readings this week stated, “I want to see tech as a tool- not the end, but a bridge.” This bridge referred to in the quote can be thought of as the bridge that provides Equity to ALL learners, even those facing racial injustice. As a middle class white girl, I never had to feel the injustice that many people in this world feel. For that, I am grateful. I am not saying that my life is “better,” than anybody out there, but in many aspects I do know that my life is “easier.” In our article, “Disrupting Tech’s Diversity Problem,” our author includes that girls of color in America are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls and are often subject to harsher and more frequent discipline than their white peers. This is so wrong, in so many ways. I feel grateful to be exposed to all this information from #ED677, which opens my eyes and reminds me to continue to bring equitable experiences into my classroom.