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Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

Mark Mara #MU2151 Do Not Recreate the Past, Change the Future. Schooling is not easy for everyone. Some people get treated differently for who they are, what they look like, or who they are attracted to. The success of these students can come from anything, whether it be money, a computer, or a helpful push from a teacher. What is really needed is a safe environment where students can all learn in peace without fear of being who they truly are. It is up to the teachers to create such an environment and to give those helpful pushes towards greatness. I have always had a pretty easy time in school. I would get good grades on tests without ever really having to study or even try. I could understand lessons and key points with no problem at all. The few times that I did not fully understand a lesson on the first day I would just ask the teacher to clarify certain points that I was confused on and that would be enough for me to understand it. The one obstacle I had was that I did not do homework. I would get told every day to do homework by teachers and think nothing of it. When my parents told me to do homework I felt that I just should not do it, I guess I was a pretty rebellious kid when it came to that. In high school I learned to do homework before each class instead of at home. It was not difficult because it came easy to me. I started actually doing homework in high school because my parents were able to check my grades and see if I was missing any assignments. I did not want to get punished and I absolutely hated, and still hate, to be yelled at and lectured.

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

I never was really discriminated against or at least I did not recognize I was and I never really saw anyone being treated differently. This could be because of the fact that I grew up in a mostly white middle class to upper-middle class neighborhood. Every student is capable of achieving something great in my opinion and Kohl expresses it when he said, We must refuse to perceive anyone, including ourselves, as failures, (Kohl p.75-76). I do not think I have ever witnessed a teacher give up on a student because she/he thought they were incapable of learning. If anything, I have seen teachers pay more attention to those students and try different styles of teaching to get through to the student. I know that a lot of my friends dropped down to slower paced classes, not because they not could learn the material, but because they did not want to try. We were able to start choosing what classes we took in middle school. I kind of feel like this doomed some students because in middle school students want to do the least amount of work as possible. Some of the teachers that affected me the most I met in high school. The one teacher that actually made me want to go into the teaching profession I had in middle school. He was my seventh grade math teacher. The way I felt he taught by was by fear. There were rumors before I even had his class that he would just explode with anger and break things in front of the whole class. This made me not want to act up or even talk when we had nothing to do. This worked very well with me because he made math a lot easier and a lot more likeable for me. He would walk around the classroom with a baseball bat (he was a baseball coach for the school) and that scared a lot of people; I know it terrified me. He did this to get respect from us as students. He did not punish someone unless he had no other choice and he would take any opportunity to tell someone that they did a good job. He would have students work with other students if there was any confusion over what we were learning. Maybe he did this to eliminate any intimidation that a

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

student might get from asking a teacher for help or maybe it was so that the student could talk and explain to their classmate in a way that they would better understand. It really spoke to me when kohl said, That one moment when she revealed that she saw something in me worth honoring and respecting was the highlight of my elementary career, (Kohl p. 82), because he had me basically become the class tutor, and it made me feel great. He saw how much I cared for the subject and how hard I worked to understand the material and he acted on it. Maybe he was hoping that the other students would see what I had accomplished and work to get better, that I will never know. I will always be grateful to this man for helping me choose my path through life. I had a long term substitute teacher my sophomore year that I absolutely adored. This man somehow made learning geometry fun for an entire class. He was actually able to keep us all under control while still being fun which I feel does not happen very often! What worked the best to get us to all learn was that he really got to know all of us and did not judge us from what we told him. He used what he learned from us and about us to make the activities more fun and engaging. Looking back at my school experience thus far I am realizing that I do not remember much about many of my teachers other than my math teachers. This is because I really did not care for any classes other than math classes. They all just kind of blur together. My chemistry teacher that I had my senior year was a lot of fun. He was very outgoing and acted as he wanted without being afraid of how students thought about him. He had a confidence about him that was almost contagious. He always encouraged us to ask if we had any questions at all. He would make times to meet with students having problems before, during, and after school. This showed us that he really did care about us and made us all feel a lot more comfortable in his class. The

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

reason I did so well in the class was because I knew absolutely no one in the class and did not even attempt to make friends. I was in there to learn, do my work, and leave. He had us do a lot of partner work because he was a strong believer of the saying Two heads are better than one. He encouraged us to be social because he felt that a student would ask another student for help before they would ask a teacher for help. A bad teacher can hinder a students ability. My German teacher in high school was not a very effective teacher. She would get side tracked very easily and start talk about her life or talking about someone else instead of staying on track with the lesson. She rarely disciplined students no matter how much they deserved it. The few times she tried to do anything disciplinary, the students would just say no or she would forget about it the next day. She tried to be too nice and the students walked all over her for it. She praised any student that did not act up in class, even if they did nothing at all in the class or slept during class. I can understand why she was being nice, it was to try to get us to be excited to learn German, and she just never knew how to turn off the nice. Sometimes all a student needs is hope And we must remember and affirm what we often tell our students: that we can become the people we would like to be, that it is necessary to live with hope, and that it is possible to create a decent life and a decent world, ( Kohl p. 153). My senior year I had the same math teacher for both of my math classes. One day I told him that I wanted to be a math teacher and he just laughed and basically said good luck with that. He made it seem like either I would not want this career or that I would not be able to get into the career field. This teacher had made a math class that seniors take just for an easy A extremely fun; we played with Legos on our first day for goodness sakes! He would joke around with us in class just as long as we got out work done and if he felt we knew the material. He would give us days

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

off if he felt we were overwhelmed. He would stay on a topic until everyone understood what it meant and how to use it properly. He made us figure things out for ourselves though which really taught us that sometimes you just have to push yourself to understand or achieve something. He is the kind of teacher that I want to be. I want to be able to be silly and joke around with my students but be serious and get stuff done at the same time. He would tell us about himself which he did so that we could feel like we could trust him more. I had a teacher that did something similar to what Herbert Kohl did with Lenny, encourage creativity. Kohl let Lenny use his love for saxophone in his studies and basically built a curriculum for him based on his creativity. She was a language arts teacher who just started to teach language arts 12. She told us the very first day that she would rather grade a project that is on a poster, painted, or sculpted rather than it just being typed out. She even told us that she would most likely be more lenient on the work if we put in the effort to be more creative. I took every opportunity because I know my chances of getting a good grade were greater that way. I had no idea that it would stay with me into college. She wanted us to be more creative and to think in different ways, I feel, to get us ready for the outside world. A world away from a classroom where we will not have someone to tell us if we got something wrong along the way. I am living proof that it worked. I plan to encourage creativity in any way I can, whether it be art, band, choir, writing, reading, or even sports. The lives and achievements of every person depend on so many factors. Some they may be aware of such as outer appearance or their social class. Others they may not be so aware of such as when they were born or even their heritage. All of these things will either work for or against these people; their lives will become easier or much more difficult based on these factors.

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

After seeing the different types of education as described by James Banks, I would say that my school could be described as Heroes and Holidays. I say this because we did learn about the history of other races and cultures but we primarily learned about white history, and white male history for that matter. The only time we really learned of anyone else other than white men was when there was some event that changed the world forever. I never even knew that there were different ways to teach culture and race so I never really paid attention or thought any differently. I have become much more aware of how our books, which were assigned to us by the schools, never really covered or went into much depth with anyone other than white males. After hearing about the big ordeal going on in Arizona with the attempt in banning culture classes in schools I truly became disgusted. I personally do not understand why this ban is even getting any kind of support. Students should be given the opportunity to learn, in depth, about other cultures. Again that is just my opinion on the subject. I still do not think that during my schooling that students of a different race, gender, or sexual orientation were treated any differently. When I say this I mean the full time staff because there was an event with a substitute, who was an older gentleman, that had made racial comments about a few students of Middle Eastern descent. To my knowledge he is no longer a substitute at my former school. This man was from another time where it was more socially acceptable to make those comment aloud. He would tell us how he was in WWII and we all loved it but after that event I know that my opinion about him drastically changed. I lost a lot of respect for him when I heard of what he had said. The students he had made the comments about were a cousin and family friend of my best friend. I became offended by the comments because I was friends with these two guys and they did not deserve to be talked to like that.

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

To my knowledge I have not personally witnessed any event of that nature and I cannot recall a time where a student talked down to or treated a student because of their outer appearance. This could be because I did not come from a very diverse school and I was, and still am, very introverted so I did not focus on others much. I was busy with sports, work, and band to really have much of a social life so I mainly just focused on school work when I was in class. During my observation hours last semester I experienced a little bit of a culture shock. I was placed at Northside Elementary School and I was placed in a fifth grade math class. This class was separated in two by achievement level (which I do not really agree with but that is a discussion for a later date). I would say that about half of each class was close to fifty percent white and fifty percent black. I had never been in an environment like this before and I feel like my corresponding teacher could sense this because the first few times I was there she had me just sit back and watch the class. As far as I could tell she treated every student the same amount of respect that they treated her with. These kids were amazing, they mostly all liked each other and did not seem to treat each other differently based on appearances. I had the honor and opportunity to work with a small group of students that were struggling to grasp certain concepts or they just needed a little more practice with some of the material. This group was also split fifty fifty. There was one girl in particular who made my whole experience feel so incredibly rewarding. This little girl did not really speak much in class. She was struggling with things she had learned, or was supposed to have learned, a few years prior. I was told to basically tutor her. I slowly got to know more about her and she started to come out of her shell. I was able to find out that she did not have much of a support system at home. Her creative abilities were also greatly suppressed, Kohl would have been ashamed. She was a very gifted writer but never really

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

had a good outlet to really let it shine. Since she was always told to stop writing she lost a lot of confidence and would shut down if she got anything wrong. This girl was very intelligent she just needed someone to be there to keep her in good spirits. I showed her ways that she could use her skill in writing to help her in math. She was very sad when I had my last day in the classroom and I broke my heart. There was another girl who was not doing well in the class because she made it seem as though her parents did not care whether she did her school work or not so she just stopped doing it all together. She actively not- learned the material and never paid attention in class. I was able to get her to start learning by taking time to help her one on one and held mini competitions with her and the other students I was tutoring. Her work scores started improving almost immediately. What I got out of reading Outliers was that for people to truly excel, they must be given opportunities in life. There was C-Cubed and the payroll stuff we did, then TRW all those things came together. I had a better exposure to software development at a young age than I think anyone did in that period of time, and all because of an incredibly lucky series of events (Gladwell pg. 55). I brought up those two students to show that this is true. Whether that opportunity is having someone there by your side supporting you, or mini competitions, they really started to shine. These students do not have the opportunities I had growing up. It is like Chris Langan and Oppenheimer, I come from a middle class family so I know how to talk to adults and I got to do a lot of after school activities because my family could afford it so I would be Oppenheimer whereas the class I observed would be more like Langan because they do not necessarily have the money to do after school activities and may not be able to talk to people of power. The poor

Do Not Recreate The Past, Change The Future

parents by contrast, are intimidated by authority. They react passively and stay in the background (Gladwell pg. 104). I am like these students because I was never brought up to challenge authority; I was brought up to do as I was told. Gender never really seemed like a problem to me during my K-12 schooling. This could be due to that fact that I am part of the majority since I am a male. It could also be due to the fact that while in school I really did not pay attention or think about things that did not directly affect me. I do not really know a life without some kind of privilege, whether that privilege came from where I lived, who I was, or who my family was. I cannot think of a time where I was treated better than another person just because I am a white male, but that may not be saying much because, as I said earlier, I never really paid attention to those kinds of things. I was lectured and punished like other students in my classes, and I was also praised like other students in my classes. There was one time though when I was the direct object of someones comment when it came to gender. I do not remember exactly what was said but I was in gym one day talking to the teacher before class started. We got on the subject of my brother and how good of an athlete he is. My teacher then said something I could not believe. He said that my brother should play a real mans sport instead of soccer. I got really upset by this comment because my brother is a much better athlete than a lot of the football players in my school. I also took offense to this because at that time I too played soccer. I told him this and instead of apologizing he just restated his previous statement but said it to me. I then told him how I played football for three years and baseball for one year. He did not seem to care. Then I told him how physically demanding the sport was and that it can be just as physical as a sport like football. Nothing would get him to change his opinion. I never looked at that teacher the same way after that one class.

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I feel like Landsman really states how it feels to be treated differently and what it is like to have something terrible happen to them when she says, I bring this body, with both these memories, into my classroom each day. And so do my students bring theirs. We encompass all the sorrowful stories from our lives: my silence after I was raped and my scar, the small one on my right hand where he cut me as a warning, as a way of silencing me (Landsman pg. 7). Although that example is not nearly to the extreme as when Landsman wrote about getting sexually assaulted, it still changed me and really made me want to challenge some social norms. I wore more feminine colors like pink and purple, wore tighter clothing, and before the school year ended last year I got my ears pierced. Although many men do these exact same things it makes me feel as though I am helping to bring some equality between genders by showing that there is nothing wrong with doing things that were thought to be only for females for so many years. I have not always been right in the way I treat people. In elementary school I stopped hanging out with one kid who lived on my block because I had heard that he played with Bratz, those dolls with the huge heads. At this time I was somehow one of the cool kids and did not want people to judge me or think of me any differently because I hung out with a kid that played with what was known to be a toy for girls. I was young and very impressionable and I honestly regret ever acting the way I did. In high school I became friends with him because of my girlfriend at the time. He opened up about being gay a year or so ago and it did not faze me at all. Its funny how a persons thinking can change so much in just a few years. I now have a few friends that just so happen to like people of the same sex and I have no problem with it at all no matter what anyone says. I owe this to my cousin. My cousin has a life partner and really showed me that she and her life partner are no different than anyone else. My

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grandma did not see this though because she was a very religious woman. She would tolerate it when my cousin and her girlfriend would go to her house but it was easy to tell that my grandma was a little uncomfortable with it. I never really understood this until after my grandma passed, which was just four years ago. Schooling is very biased when it comes to what is taught in the classroom. My schools would rarely ever learn about female leaders and even when we did we never really went into depth about what they did or their impact on American culture. It was even like that last year when I took a civil rights class. We spent very little time on womens suffrage or even the important role that women played in attempting to gain equality between races. Society is extremely biased too. Men get paid more. Men tend to have more positions of power. One thing that can be negative for a woman could be a positive for a man. Little has been done to try to correct this. This needs to change if we as a country ever have hopes to be fully unified and equal. People need to look past stereotypes and prejudices and accept other for who they truly are. Being different is not a bad thing. Landsman explains this when she says, I sometimes feel that the simplest lesson in all this might be an acceptance of the intricacy and complexity of each one of us, that to generalize about anyone is unfair and destructive (Landsman pg. 21). If everyone were to treat people differently for every little thing about their lives, whether they are black, white, male, female, gay, or bisexual, we would have a very segregated world if you want to call it a world. There would be little sense of belonging and there would be total chaos. This is an exaggeration but it really brings out the point that people are people, no matter what they look

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like or what they may be interested in. We have to be accepting of people regardless unless given a reason to that they are not worth accepting. No one wants to feel like they are all by themselves. I try to include anyone that appears to feel as though they are not being included in activities. Landsman said I am afraid of being surrounded by men, the only woman: being the only. (Landsman pg.3). I have included students when I taught my first lesson last semester. I wanted to get everybodys input on if they were learning the material or not. I would call on students that did not raise their hands; especially the ones that I knew had trouble in the class. It did not matter to me what they looked like or what gender they were, to me they were students. They were kids looking to me to help educate them, to help better their futures. I feel that Landsman really hits the nail on the head when she said, It is the most multicultural, inclusive education I know: to make the students voices the center of the classroom (Landsman pg. 49). I wanted to know that I was giving everyone the same opportunities and that no one was different from anyone else in the room. Students need a teacher that will be there for them no matter what and no matter who they are. Teachers want to help the youth of America and a way to do that is to listen to students and help them as much as the student wants. Landsman said that one of her students said, We need teachers who be down for us, no matter what (Landsman pg. 120). We really need to accept the students; we need to educate ourselves so we can know how to help them or to try to understand what they are going through. If we cannot do this, we might as well be teaching monkeys to write. The kids will not trust us and because of that they will not pay as close attention and really try their hardest to know what is being said to them.

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I have a few ideas on how to possibly fix class rooms, and if all else fails, just my classroom. I want to have a more direct approach in changing how students treat other students. I want to sit them down and tell them why it is not ok to say or do something to someone just because they are different. If I learned anything from our service learning project, it is that a person has no idea what someone else is going through that may be making that person act a certain way, say a certain thing, or do a certain thing. A person should get to know what a person is going through, what they are all about, before they make an assumption, or do something that they will regret later on down the road. I want to let my students know that my classroom is a safe classroom where they can be themselves without fear of being treated like a lesser person. That is one thing I have always hated when it happened to me. When I would be treated like a lesser person, like I am the lowest life form ever seen in existence, it caused me to act in a negative way and made me act while being in an impaired state of mind. It has caused me to punch my big brother in the stomach, to scream at him at the top of my lungs during a social event, and to quit a sport that I love to play. There is no worse feeling, in my opinion, when someone feels that a person cannot be as good as someone else. Or even to make a person do something that they should not do. To fix this problem I will repeatedly praise my students whenever they do well. I will push them to show their true potential. I will bring up opportunities that maybe that student did not know existed and insist that they take that opportunity. As it is said by Gladwell over and over again, what makes a person successful is the opportunities given to them through their life. If I hear a student say something hurtful that is directed to another students I plan to keep both students after class to talk things out. But first I would move the students to opposite sides of the classroom to keep them from being distracted and to keep the whole classes attention on

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the lesson. The after class I would bring those students back together to talk things out. I want the person that was hurt by the comment to tell the person that made the comment how it made them feel and why it made them feel that way. I want the person who made the comment to say why they said what they said and then say why it was wrong. I feel that if a person sees that what their comments or actions hurt someone, that they will stop doing or saying those things. School is really about more than just teaching a lesson, its about showing students about life. Because of this we must teach instead of lecture. By this I mean that we as teachers have to show students how to act, how to think, and how to work. Christine Sleeter really expresses this when she said If we remember that we are teaching students rather than covering material, we retain the ability to be surprised, thrilled, satisfied, and humbled by our students and the joint enterprise we call school (Sleeter p. 62). If a teacher only covers material then they can only expect their students to know that material and not how it is used in the real world or how the world works with that thought. I am a big fan of the thought that teaching is a two way street, students learn from teachers but teachers also learn from students. Going back to the thought of how I want a safe classroom for my students, I want my students to feel like they can come to me with any problems they are having. I want to help my students in any way possible but I cannot do that if they do not feel safe in my class. This thought was really cemented by this quote from Sleeter, The point is that when you create rapport with your students, they trust you more, and when you deepen the trust students have for you, you also increase the likelihood that theyll take your word for things, like the value of homework and staying out of trouble (Sleeter p. 32).

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One of the biggest problems I have seen through my years of schooling is that some teachers cannot effectively communicate lessons to their students. This makes the students angry because they do not understand the material covered and it makes the teacher angry because they do not know why their students do not understand the material. I had a Spanish teacher that would tell everyone in his classes how irritated he was because not a single student in his classes did well no his tests. At this point he should have realized that it was not the students fault, it was his fault. He was not open minded enough to think that he was the problem so he always blamed the students for not learning the material properly. Communication is key when it comes to being a teacher. As teachers we must relay the information to the students in a way where it is easy for them to understand what is being taught to them. I had not really thought of this until I read If we cannot communicate effectively, effective teaching is impossible, (Sleeter p. 21) This is very true because if a teacher does not given information in a way that students are going to understand it, then they will see a drop in grades, attention, and effort in the classroom. With communication also comes listening. There is a huge difference in hearing someone and really listening to what they are saying. I want students to ask me questions if they do not understand something in class because that can help me later on change the way I give out information so that more students will understand what is being taught. I also plan to ask feedback from students, asking if they feel I could have taught a section better and if so, how could it be taught better. I will ask if they feel that they truly learned the material or if they just stored it in their brains as a temporary memory. This can help me because if I find that they are just storing it as a temporary memory then I can relay the information to them in a better way. In a way where they will actually want to learn it and remember it.

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I would love to be a fun teacher. The kind of teacher that students are excited to see. I want my students to look forward to coming to my class instead of dreading it. To do this I must make the material interesting which could be difficult since I want to teach math. I had a math teacher in high school that had us do an activity where we had to write an algorithm, which is basically a detailed list of instructions so that anyone looking at it can get the same result. The way he made this fun was that he had us write out the algorithm about how to make a Lego car. We then passed around our algorithm to another group to see it they would get the same result that we did using said algorithm. We all had a lot of fun and it was such a unique activity, I feel like everyone that was in that class will always remember it. I want to be able to do those kinds of activities in my classroom to maybe do a lesson in a different way to shed some light on different ways of thinking between students or classes. Another thing I want to have in my classroom is something I read in the book written by Sleeter is that As a teacher, one has the responsibility to allow children the chance to express their thoughts and observations of the world around them, (Sleeter p. 48). To do this I will allow time once a month, maybe once a week, for students to just say how they feel. I want them to really just let everything out. This can only happen once a safe environment is established but I would love if I could do this fairly quickly into the school year.

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Reference Kohl, Herbert R 1994. I won't learn from you: and other thoughts on creative maladjustment. New York, NY. Gladwell, Malcolm. 2008. Outliers. New York, NY Landsman, Julie. 2009. A white teacher talks about race. Lanham, MD. Sleeter, Christine E., and Catherine Cornbleth. Teaching with Vision: Culturally Responsive Teaching in Standards-based Classrooms. New York: Teachers College, 2011. Print.