Saturday, June 22, 2013

Community versus Conformity

This week I spent three days at the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice (FB page). I'm still trying to process everything and decide what I can share.

The first session I attended was taught by the amazing Artnelson Concordia at Balboa High School in San Francisco. One of the things I learned about was his use of the unity clap and isang bagsak.

The UFW originated when the mostly Latin@ NFWA merged with the mostly Filipin@ AWOC. Meetings would start with unity clap to help bridge the language differences. Artnelson begins each of his classes with the unity clap.

Slides used with Artnelson's permission:

Isang bagsak literally means "one down." Someone shouts isang bagsak and everyone claps once simultaneously. Dalawang bagsak gets two claps. This started with the non-violent revolution in the Philippines to overthrow the Marcos regime and the idea is that if one falls, all of us fall.

Now compare Art's class to this Teaching Channel video on attention getters. If you click through the video is embedded, otherwise here's a direct link.

Listen to the words Nick Romagnolo uses. He talks about catching kids to see who is listening and of "programming" them.

If I walked into Art's class and the Nick's class these two practices would look identical. In both cases students are clapping and the end result is student attention. Despite that, these two practices could not be more different.

Related: In Skills Practice, Christopher Danielson contrasted two videos of math teaching. A lot of the defense of the EDI video were comments about how the strategies themselves were good. My question is not about the strategies themselves but the intention of those strategies. Are they intended to honor the thinking of students? To create community? Or are they intended to ensure duplication?


  1. Jason, great topic! I didn't get the connection you are trying to make or break between Art's and Nick's class. The video clearly shows Nick using EDI which is repugnant to me, but I know works. When I see it in action, I get a little throw up in my math. It does not indicate learning...only repetition as in "repeat after me, the quadratic formula is:" I don't know enough (though want to) about the cultural norms that make a one clap a sign of respect. If attention getting is your goal, it seems to better than screeching, "okay class." Is 50 and white too old to try?

    1. Sorry I wasn't clear. What I was trying to get at is the act itself (or strategy) is largely irrelevant. Both systems are clapping and the end result is attention of the class. But I think with Art he's using the clapping as a form of solidarity and community. In Nick's case, he's looking to catch who is not paying attention. So when I hear something like EDI defended as "well the strategies are good" that's not important to me. The strategies of EDI are being used to ensure that students can successfully recite back what the teacher has already told them.