Monday, April 14

Mental Health Patients

For my Community Experience, I interviewed a staff member that works with the girls' youth unit at a mental health facility. This was an enlightening conversation for me, because although I have a slight history of depression and anxiety in my family, I have never interacted with the mentally insane on a daily basis.  I also was able to relate topics from Multicultural Education class discussions such as privilege and social capital to what I learned about the young women.

There are twenty young women in this facility as patients for their mental illness.  Basic demographics about them are not encouraging.  Most of them come from abusive or neglected homes, with high poverty rates and a strong history of mental illness in their family.  Many have found better homes, through adoption and usually grandparents, but the scars from the abuse linger and have profound effects on their mental health.  These circumstances can almost be seen as a negative sort of privilege, where their social class and history of abuse make them more susceptible to a whole host of other stressors, including mental illness.

Sunday, April 13

What Have I Learned: Becoming a Multicultural Teacher

So if you have been following my blog, this semester I have been blogging class assignments from Multicultural Education.  This is my final post specifically for that class, and for it I need to answer the question:

What have I learned from Multicultural Education?

I have learned so much, and yet, I have learned that I truly know nothing about teaching.  I learned what some of my most important teaching values are, but I don't know how they will be played out in my classroom yet. I don't know which values will bias my teaching and disrupt my ability to relate to my students.  I learned that it is important to find out what my pedagogical philosophy is, but I am still studying it out.  I have learned that it is important for me to continue to self-reflect on my biases, values, teaching philosophies and approaches to my classroom. Throughout the class, as my portfolio and this post will attest, I have had new experiences and thought about interactions in new ways.  I have met new people and learned about their culture and my own.  Throughout it all, I have come face to face with some important philosophical questions that have essential real-world applications.

Monday, April 7

And Still We Rise...

And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-City Students 
by Miles Corwin

This is the book that I read for our Book Club discussions. And it was so difficult to read.  I had to stop twice for a few days and wept for hours at the tragedies and trials in these students' lives.  Both because the things they had endured were horrific, and because I was helpless to fix it, or assist them at all.  I also wept because I had survivor's remorse, that I was privileged and succeeded where many of the students did not. Throughout my reading of the book my eyes have been opened to issues that I haven't really thought about before, such as affirmative action, and if a literature teacher is responsible to bring cultural diversity into the classroom.  Corwin also effortlessly addresses subjects that I have been pondering and studying about all semester through my class on multicultural education. Topics of social and cultural capital, the truth of meritocracies, the benefits of privilege and inheritance, and the devastation of racism, discrimination and prejudice.

The basic premise of the book follows an AP English class in a gifted magnet program in a South-Central Los Angeles high school.  The author chronicles the lives of the students in the class and of the teachers and administrators that counsel them, detailing, like the title claims, their trials and triumphs.  He gives their backstories, how the students have worked so hard in school and in life to get so far already, and the obstacles they have faced.  I am not a good enough writer to try and replicate what he does in a summarized version here, but let it stand that the accounts pull at your heart and help you know the students. You can connect with them and want them to succeed.  These aren't your typical inner-city students either.  All of them have been classified as gifted, and through their efforts in school, are qualified to attend college and university after graduation.  They are taking honors and AP classes, scoring high on the SAT and passing AP exams. They are atypical in their school success and abilities, but they are typical in the obstacles, family life, and work schedules they maintain.