Thursday, September 15, 2016

Good Rebbe

why do you call Me good?

but Rebbe,
You are!

You do not only require
that i reform
my mind

rebuild ruined streets
repair breached walls
renew parched land
resurrect the dead

restore my soul
before You

first responder
total rehabilitator

next year, i begin studies at GSE, home of the Duckworth Lab named for that gritwit who pioneered this particular conversation. i do like her and respect her work but resonate with The Atlantic article below.

how do young humans learn?
what are the assumptions/attitudes underlying linguistic choices?
how does language impact processes of forming/informing?
what needs to change (in what is said and how it is said) for people to change?
how does education create/perpetuate social realities?
who/how does language exclude or embrace?

i will ask these questions of education and its reform. in a new city. Philly like NYC clamors for an answer. broken streets, broken homes (in which homeschooling, of which i'm a fanno numero uno, would be disastrous), broken schools, broken children. broken systems.

nine years ago, the loss of the educational opportunity of my (then) (tiny) dreams landed me in NYC, where i was loved to life. a false hope was shattered by mercy. nine cleansing years to purge those particularly gnarly idolatries.

i am ready for this now, have been readied. to learn. in this way. to undertake what would have killed me back then.

Privilege can blind well-meaning proponents of "grit" to the burden of the Promethean task upon students asked to change their perspective before they reach a minimal baseline to be able to choose a new paradigm.

i have a good and holistic and holy teacher. patient with my pathology. he persistently sets a new way before me, asks if i would be healed. learning is discipleship.

public school, though far from my vision of ideal ways to form the rising civic, provided for me a space of health and healing, a way to integrate (an immigrant impulse), of external reference that was a beginning of rebuilding from a family life that was "chaotic, without consistent routines or caregivers"

"what do you want to do with that degree?" i never know how to answer any person that, not with the career plans they seek to elicit. i submit my proposals, God laughs. i laugh too. i say... "farm in a commune" and walk away. really, though. many options seem possible. mostly, i just want to pose worthy questions, learn and love along the way, and see what i will be.

to hope for educational renewal and labor for it, to repair and improve the machine – let this be my liturgy, let the children live, learn, and lord, do establish the work of my hands.

The Limitations of Teaching ‘Grit’ in the Classroom

“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”

A girl studies on a computer at the shelter where she lives in Los Angeles. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

The first time I heard a preschooler explaining a classmate’s disruptive behavior, I was surprised at how adult her 4-year-old voice sounded.
Her classmate “doesn’t know how to sit still and listen,” she said to me, while I sat at the snack table with them. He couldn’t learn because he couldn’t follow directions, she explained, as if she had recently completed a behavioral assessment on him.
Months before either of these children would start kindergarten, they had formed judgements about who was smart and capable of learning and who was not. They had absorbed ideas on why some students wrote their names neatly, and others broke crayons.
This precocious little girl talked about her classmate matter-of-factly and without any malice in a classroom where the teachers were well trained and supportive of a diverse student body that was racially and economically mixed.
What the little girl didn’t know about her classmate was that his family life was chaotic, without consistent routines or caregivers. He had suffered some traumas at home, which showed in his behavior at school.
This young boy’s ability to learn wasn’t going to be transformed by a change in his mindset. He needed significant changes in his home life.
I was reminded of this conversation during a recent presentation by Tyrone C. Howard on how student culture affects learning. Howard, the associate dean for equity and inclusion at UCLA provided a reality check to the heavy investment in skills such as grit that might help more students succeed.
“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them,” he said. It can be irresponsible and unfair to talk about grit without talking about structural challenges, he said, referring to the recent interest in interventions tied to the concepts of grit and perseverance.
So, what are those challenges? If a hypothetical classroom of 30 children were based on current demographics in the United States, this is how the students in that classroom would live: Seven would live in poverty, 11 would be non-white, six wouldn’t speak English as a first language, six wouldn’t be reared by their biological parents, one would be homeless, and six would be victims of abuse.
Howard said that exposure to trauma has a profound impact on cognitive development and academic outcomes, and schools and teachers are woefully unprepared to contend with these realities. Children dealing with traumatic situations should not been seen as pathological, he argued. Instead, educators need to recognize the resilience they are showing already. The instruments and surveys that have been used to measure social-emotional skills such as persistence and grit have not taken into account these factors, Howard said.

He questioned the tools used to collect data that suggest poor students and students of color do not have as high a degree of grit as middle-class and white peers.
The transformative potential in growth mindsets and social-emotional skills such as grit may be more applicable to students whose basic needs are already met. When asking the question of why some children succeed in school and others don’t, he said the educators and administrators tend to overestimate the power of the person and underestimate the power of the situation.
Howard also provided two ways of considering the distractions that may affect a student’s success in school. Prompts typically used to gauge a student’s persistence or grit include: “New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones,” “I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one,” and “Setbacks don’t discourage me.” Students are often asked to respond to using a four-point scale. But what about the prompts that are more concerned with daily struggles a student may face?  “I always have bus fare to get to school.” “Whenever I get sick, I am able to go to a doctor.” “I have at least one teacher who cares about me.” Howard argues for an academic climate that is as mindful of the prompts in the second category as much as those in the first.
Schools can do a better job of talking about the extent to which student trauma exists, teaching children coping mechanisms, and providing mental-health services.The conversation about growth mindsets has to happen in a social and cultural context, he said, because cultural, institutional, and historical forces have an effect on individuals.
I’ve wondered if the young boy whose preschool classmate dismissed him as unable to learn will encounter elementary school teachers who will be able to convince him otherwise.

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