Monday, March 24, 2014

Our Differences Become Deficits

I hear this at least once a week.

"She tries really hard but just doesn't have family support."
"Our XYZ students struggle because so many come from broken homes."
"There's not much you can do when he doesn't have a father at home."

When I was growing up I had many Uncles and Aunties. This Uncle was my dad's friend and this Auntie was really my mom's cousin and I'm not really sure how we knew that Auntie. Some of them were brothers and sisters of my parents. Some were cousins. Some were my parents' friends who were adults. All of them were family.

In the United States, when we think of family, we think of a father, a mother, and 2.5 kids.

When we look at our students, we see a missing father and think this kid doesn't have a family. We think a house with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents is a sign of poverty. We look down on a mom with eight children and pity her assumed lack of education. We discount the woman who has taken care of all of the neighborhood kids.

Shift your lens for a moment. Imagine we valued an expanded view of family. The old woman who brings over food. The household full of noise and life and love. The neighbor who picks up all of the kids from school. Everyone becomes family. Now who has the deficit? The girl in this household who lacks a father but has the entire community? Or the boy with one sister, two parents, and doesn't know his neighbors?

We assign deficit to our students. There will always be a gap when we allow the ideal to be constructed using dominant norms.

Yes. The systems that imprison and deport the parents of our students need to be dismantled. I agree. But we make the problem worse.

That perceived deficit ends up having real-world consequences. We assume our student is misbehaving because he doesn't have a mother so we ignore it. We never call home because there's no father to call. We accept low scores because his mom has to work and isn't around to help.

We do nothing. We lower our expectations. We don't teach. Our students don't learn. A gap is created. It's not because your student doesn't have a father. It's because we missed the family he does have. To us, it just didn't look like family.

This doesn't stop with just schools and teachers. Invoking Patricia Hill-Collins, we can look at how transfer of wealth, loans, and taxation operate on an ideal of family that is centered on the dominant norm. We can look at our country built around freeways and the conveyances that fit a 2-partner, 2.5-child family so nicely. We can look at who can be a dependent on our health care and can visit us in prisons and hospitals. Even now, folks are becoming less comfortable with deporting a mother but are still fine with deporting the aunt who is the primary wage-earner in the household. Benefits accrue over time for those who fit the dominant norm of family, the system perpetuates itself, and gaps get wider. These systems stretch across our society yet are completely invisible.

We make the mistake of thinking we see deficits when we're really seeing differences. It is our obligation as teachers to de-center ourselves and see the strengths that are already in our students and our communities. Until this happens, we are part of the problem.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Panel on Supporting Students of Color

Rafranz Davis, Max Ray, and Anne Schwartz and I will be speaking at the Global Math Department on Tuesday, March 25 at 6 p.m. PDT.

Here's the link.

It's an open Q&A session so the better the questions the better the panel.

Submit anonymous questions here and we'll try to get to them.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

No. Where are you in our edreform debates?

(sigh. I'm not going to go into the very problematic nature of the post itself. )

Here's what I see when I wade into your edreform debates:
(edit: The link is redirecting strangely. It goes to a story about a building collapse in Shanghai)






You use our faces. You use our pain. You use our history.

You expect our silence.

We can perform but we can't be recognized.

We are not your weapon. We are not your shield. We are not to be talked about without ever being talked with. Why do you only see White men in edreform debates? Maybe you're taking part in the wrong debates.

We are on twitter. We are on television. We are speaking. You're. Just. Not. Listening.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Updates to Get Me Going Again

As you can tell, I tend to forget about this blog. This is my chance to get back in the groove. In the future, I'd like to write about my experiences teaching the NGSS this year so you'll have to remind me.

1. The Fourth Annual Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice is accepting applications until April 1. Gloria Ladson-Billings(!!!!) is keynoting. I went last year and loved it. I applied again. We shall see. Here's the writeup that was sent to me:
2014 Keynote Speakers
Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dr. Dolores Delgado Bernal, University of Utah
Candice Rose Valenzuela, Castlemont High School; Oakland Unified School District

The Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice is an annual three-day conference to support the growth, success and retention of teachers of color who work in schools serving students of color.  A unique collaboration between the College of Education and Ethnic Studies at San José State University (SJSU), this conference draws teachers from various school districts across the nation to San José, California each summer for racial justice professional development.  Using a Critical Race Theory framework, the Institute is intended as a community building, professional development space for teachersof color to explore the racial climate of their schools, receive training to navigate these realities, and strategize how to create racially transformative classrooms and schools.

The institute seeks applications from teachers of color who:
•  Are committed to racial justice
•  Work at schools serving a significant population of students of color
•  Want to build a like-minded community

 2. I'll be at ASCD in Los Angeles this weekend, March 15-17. I'll be doing the media thing that I did a few years ago so hopefully blogging and tweeting a few sessions.

3. Finally, there's this:


Assuming Cindy can get a job in the area, we'll be packing the cars and the kids and moving out in the summer. I don't know how much anyone cares about the grad school application process so I'll leave it out for now unless requested. I would title it, "How Twitter Got Me into Grad School." I need to thank current Boulder grad students Raymond, Henry, Ken, and Jessica for their support. Also Anne and Grace for application feedback and editing and Dan for general grad school advice.  


If you're in San Jose for the ITCCRJ conference or LA for the ASCD conference say hello. I'm moderately friendly and have good hygiene. 

If you're in the Boulder Valley School District (or in a reasonable commuting distance) and need or know someone who needs a kindergarten or first-grade teacher, I would be eternally grateful.