Monday, April 28, 2014

Here's a link to our final service learning project.
Sarah Whiston and Mariah Caldwell

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Unified Starts with U"- Event Blog


         On April 15, 2013 I attended an event at my high school in Tiverton. As two students senior projects, they put together a unified basketball game. The unified teams already existed, and our school has always been very supportive of them. A unified basketball team for those of you who don't know, is a team composed of "typical students" along with those who have a disability. They play together as a team against other teams from different schools. This particular game was even more special than the others. 

          Their goal for this game was to fill the stands. They were incredibly successful and it was an amazing experience to be a part of. The amount of support that these teams got was incredible. While the teams are from "rival" towns, it did not matter; each team got the same amount of praise as the other. The photo to the left shows just one of the four bleachers of that size, which were also filled. Admission was free and the first 250 to come got a free t-shirt that said "Unified Starts With You". These two senior applied for a grant to Special Olympics Rhode Island and received a grant for these t-shirts to promote "unified high school sports".
          Kliewer's article was one that I was able to connect this event to the most. Kliewer's main point was to not let students with a disability be silenced and segregated from the rest of the school. They have just as much of a right as the other students to learn in a typical classroom. The more that students with disabilities are integrated into schools, the less "different" they will seem to other students who have never met or interacted with someone with a disability. This unified team is a way to involve those students with disabilities with typical students to play a sport that everyone can enjoy. This particular event was a great way for the high school and community as a whole to show their support for this team. Kliewer would have approved of this event, the students are able to interact and gain experience in the community and not have to feel different anymore. This game had more people in it than any other sporting event at this school. Which just goes to show how SCWAMMP is becoming less relevant and the community accepts those who are different. There was chanting and singing and cheering, and it was such an uplifting experience. This allowed the students with disabilities to show everyone that they are much more than disabled. They are incredible people, smart, athletic, friendly, and they fit in with the rest of the school. 
          There act of inclusion are just what these kids need as well as the community. It was amazing to see this community brought together to support the unified basketball game. This event also reminded me of the video we watched in class called "Ir a la Escuela". This video talked about the struggles that those with disabilities have with advocating for themselves, and being able to get integrated into the "regular" classrooms. It also reminded me of a particular part where they were speaking about how their special education department had own hallway and no one went down it. They were segregated from the rest of the school, and this event shows have integration is beneficial. It also showed how many people were supportive of it from filling the stands completely. It also supports the point that was made in the movie that community involvement is almost or even more important than a strictly academic education. By making this opportunity available and gaining this much support, just goes to show the importance of integration. It might take some work, because some of the member of the team needed a little extra help, but it is worth it for them to be a part of the community and have the support they need to stay involved. 

           Another connection I was able to make from this event was with the article "Safe Spaces" by Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy. This event was able to showcase that being different is okay. It is even supported and praised. This was a very safe space, and the discrimination that once might have been evident, was completely gone. Although this event was not about LGBTQ, it still had a similar message. Which was that it is important to teach people about things they are unfamiliar with, while allowing schools to be a safe place for anybody, no matter what. The happiness on everyone's faces was incredible, from the athlete to the onlookers. It was incredible to be a part of it, and see a community come together and praise those with disabilities, and give them some time in the spotlight.
          There was even a gold medal winning Olympic athlete that attended. Michelle Kwan was taking pictures in the stands, and tweeted about it. Tiverton is not a very well known school; people normally think Tiverton is just a street. The fact that a celebrity came and supported this team was an amazing thing, making it even more special.

          I really hope that things like this are happening at more schools to raise awareness and advocate for the unification of schools every, not just a team. It is so much bigger than that. During this even, connections from article we have read were going through my head, and not just because it's a requirement, but because these issues we have been discussing in FNED are extremely relevant to our daily lives. This event was even put in the Newport Daily News. This was overall an incredible experience, and a great event. It was so amazing to see the amount of support and enthusiasm that was coming from this high school gym for this unified basketball game!!

  • Here's a link to the Special Olympics Unified Sports page!
  • Here is just one more link to 92 proFM page, the Tiverton Unified team was able to talk on the radio because they got Team of the Week!
  • This is just a short video that explains what Unified sports are! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Connections to "Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change", by Ira Shor

          I know a lot of people will be doing a connections blog post this week, but I also think it is a great way to sum up our semester."Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change", by Ira Shor was a very informative article. I was constantly thinking about and connecting back to a few past texts while reading this article. Christensen, Kohn, and Johnson were some of the major connections I was able to make. Additionally, my service learning experience was another way for me to relate to this article. It was good to have some experience to relate back to, and really bring Shor's words to life.
          Shor had a great way of pulling the reader in with a great point that really related to Christensen, and how she believes that students need to find real ways to talk back and express their critiques; and teachers need to encourage this, and realize it is beneficial. Shor says that "not encouraging students to question knowledge, society, and experiences tacitly endorses and supports the status quo." This further imply's the fact that students need to be able to have a voice, and have confidence that can help them succeed in other things in the classroom. By just following the curriculum and giving no leeway, this gives the impression to students that the "world are fix and line the way they are, with no role for the student to play in transforming them, and no need for change." It is important for a student to be able to question the curriculum and school in general; and for the teacher to encourage their students to question school. This method can gives the students a better learning experience, while allowing them talk explicitly about things regarding privilege, power, and differences. Johnson would agree with this idea by Shor, because now the teacher is not seen as the only intellectual in the room; the power dynamic does not shine the light solely on the teacher. Students are made important, intelligent, opinionated, and motivated to learn.
          Another important point that was discussed, is about things regarding how "this competitive orientation leads to isolation and alienation". This is a reason to worry in  Kohn's "What to look for in a Classroom". Shor goes on to discuss the harmfulness of having things like star charts, the best project on the walls, the neatest handwriting displayed. This method of encouraging those who are successful, simply discourages those who are not rewarded (in many cases, the" minority and female students"). This is definitely something that I can relate to from my service learning assignment, my classroom is full of these reasons to worry. The walls are covered with "excellent explainers", "terrific tests", star charts, and a reward bucket.
          Another important point regarding was regarding inequality in school based on the economy. They spoke about how education should be democratic, when really schools are designed with the "small elite destined for the top and a large mass destined for the middle and bottom". This is again another Johnson moment, but this time anti-Johnson. The privilege and power difference is clearly evident, and it is become of wealth. The learning experiences an opportunities as a result differ.
          This article is so informative, and extremely relatable. It is also full of great tips regarding how a teacher should conduct their classroom. The importance of giving students a voice and an option to speak out is highly enforced in their article. It is a good thing for your students to question why they are in school, question the curriculum, and have their own opinions. Also there was a point about how student learn from doing and thinking about their own experiences. This gives the students something other than just simply academics and note taking and feeling as if they can learn the same things if they didn't go to school, and simply read a textbook at home. I certainty feel like that in some of my classes, even here at RIC. The teachers who strive to get their students involved, and interested are the ones who are most successful.

          I can't believe this is the last blog post of the semester, time has certainly flown by! I have learned so much from all of these articles, and I think this was a great one to use for the last article. These articles and FINED 346 has made me even more excited to become a teacher, and given me the proper tools I need to know how to have a successful classroom. Maybe we can talk in class about how this article was about sum up all of the other articles we have read so far, and about different connections people were able to make.

This is just a short video where students are speaking about how they want to learn to their their teacher, some of the points are really good, but the video is set up a little weird but it still get the point across.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Schooling Children with Down Syndrome, Christopher Kliewer



       I really enjoyed reading this article, the beginning required a bit of rereading, but the topics discussed were really eye opening, and the stories incorporated in it made the situations Kliewer researched come to life and be even more effective. This particular article was especially important to me because this relates directly to my major. It is important to incorporate people of all abilities into the classroom, and use all different methods to target the way that they learn best. I especially found the examples from Shayne's classroom to affect me the most, and I love how they created a school that has a main goal of inclusion.
A main topic in this article was about democracy in the classroom. An important quote was "democracy can only be achieved when not one person's voice is deterministically silenced". A phrase used to describe schools in a derogatory and discriminatory way was as "cultural sorting machines". This method is detrimental to society and discriminatory. his article also aims to end was is was once historically and culturally valued (SWAAMP). Especially what is viewed as able-bodied.  It also bothered me when they categorized all children with down syndrome as being "happy". Every child is different, and I like how Shayne spoke about how each has a different personality and  way of communicating. Kliemer's article spoke about not only the importance of inclusion in the classroom to better education, but also to prepare them for real life in communities.

          This is a great video that really speaks and gives a voice from someone with Down Syndrome about how they think they should be taught in the classroom. The video is called "Don't Limit Me!", and Megan Bomgaars is an extremely successful person who was a cheerleader, a model, and even planner, and is learning how to become a public speaker. She wants everyone to know that she should not be limited to opportunities because she has disabilities. This woman Megan Bomgaars is an incredible person, and she wanted to be taught important skills for life like power, passion, love, and independence; things beyond the classroom. Megan was able to succeed in a "normal classroom" with an aide that helped her in the classroom. A quote that really stuck to be was "don't limit me, by teaching me to depend on others". She wished to be treated equally to those in the classroom and held to the same expectations so she can one day live independently. She made a statement about setting expectations that are high, but not impossible. This is similar to Kliewer's article when he talked about Shayne's classroom and how she set a realistic goal for her co working with down syndrome to work in a movie store rather than working in Hollywood. It is important for realistic goals to be set. Another important point that Megan made was that good teachers are able to teach and learn from their students. This video was extremely inspirational and goes hand in hand with this article, but from a different perspective that makes the points in the article even more clear.


          Spread the word to end the word campaign has a goal to eliminate the R-Word, and as Johnson would say, just say the words! They aim to eliminate the word retard(ed) from everyday vocabulary. They are having people pledge through twitter, through sending a text message, through writing it on their website, or doing it as a school. This word has the ability to hurt, categorize, stereotype, and it is overall just offensive and derogatory. I believe Kliewer would agree that this campaign is beneficial to ending separated classrooms, and it gives people a small amount of knowledge about how offensive that one word can be. By pledging the campaign asks people "to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect actions". What I especially appreciate about this campaign is that they are aware that it is only a very small step towards ending people's view on those who have a disability. They are so much more than just disabled. In the article it spoke about how stereotypical that it is too only define them as disabled, there are so many other ways to show intelligence and capability. This campaign is also an amazing way to get raise awareness, I know this from experience. My school took part in this campaign, and as a whole our school is very supportive of those with disabilities and down syndrome. We have built lasting friendships with them and been able to see them for their unique, interesting, and intelligent people that they are.

          After reading this article, it is clear that it is important to focus on the abilities that those with down syndrome have that are beneficial to their learning as a student and in society. Instead of dwelling on the difficult things like inability to understand speech, awkwardness, sporadic movement, or frustration; it is important to utilize things such as their communicative skills or cognitive skills and highlight them. By doing this and taking the time to work with and get to know each student, it will be easier to find a teaching method that works for them. You should never just give up and deem them "uneducable", like in John's situation. He was labeled this in school, but was able to succeed later in life by being in an inclusive community that did not put a label on him. The National Down Syndrome Society is an organization that "advocates for the value, acceptance, and inclusion" for those with Down Syndrome. They hope that one day those with Down Syndrome will have better lives and become widely accepted member of the community. They have a "buddy walk" every year that "promotes inclusion between friends of every ability". This website also includes things like preferred language of people with down syndrome, inspiring stories, inclusion from an early age in community and education. This website is a great place to learn about Down Syndrome in general, and also learn about ways to create more inclusive environments. This society has been around since 1979!

        I have been involved in a lot of acts of inclusion in my school and in the community. I have been involved in Special Olympics and this gives children with all sorts of disabilities, including Down Syndrome to be able to participate in sports and work with people without disabilities. This program has been able to form lasting relationships in not only my life, but all of the other Buddy's lives as well. Also, my school was a huge supporter of our unified basketball team. This was a basketball team for those with disabilities and those without. We had certain time slots every so often, when our entire school would go watch a unified basketball game and cheer them on. These acts of inclusion are small steps to creating a well integrated and more aware society for those with disabilities, like Down Syndrome. You will never know how to make a situation better for a disabled person, without asking them directly. These websites and links were great way for me to connect to the article in different ways. I was able to research things from outside sources that directly related to the article by Kliewer. And I hope to talk about other peoples experiences with inclusion and Down Syndrome in class.