Friday, March 16, 2007

Change Seekers Manifesto

I believe that the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" was developed in the sixteenth century for the express purpose of the exploitation of people of color by those who inhabited the continent of Europe at that time and that this exploitation continues still--brutally, unapologetically, and with the realization of great wealth. As a person bearing the physical characteristics attributed to Europeans and European-Americans, I accept the responsibility of becoming ever more cognizant of this reality, ever more sensitive to its effects, and ever more committed to changing it. I do not perceive myself as worthy of particular benefits such as are bestowed upon me, often without acknowledgement or even awareness.

I stumbled upon this on a website but now cannot find it again. While i try to stick to actual experiences teaching on this blog I could not help but address this statement in relation to what I have been working on.

One of my favorite things about my community college teaching job is that there is so much more to do besides teaching. Obviously teaching is the root and all other activities lead back to it in some way.

One major project I have been able to work on has been revising General Education Goals. These goals are so important as they are part of the basic building blocks of the classes I teach. The idea is that after any and all gen ed classes there are skill sets that all students will have had exposure to. These are the characteristics of great students who enter the world to be great citizens.

I got involved with this topic when I called into question eurocentric language and priveledge in our newly formed gen ed goals. This is not to pat myself on the back since recognizing my priveledge as a white middle class american is hardly something to stand up and cheer about. Recognitiion does not always mean action. As the Change Seekers Manifesto states that we must be committed to changing this not just being aware of it. Though awareness is not easy and is a very important first step.

In our gen ed goals when it came to critical thinking a definition was given that was "logical" or some might say "common sense" Either way it was giving priviledge to one way of knowing which is not so different from the practice of racism, sexism, classism, and globalism (in its negative lets all be humans and pretend race doesn't matter but it obviously does kind of way).

When it came to the arts gen ed goals the term fine art was used. While the art world is making changes (though some would say at a snails pace) fine art still excludes women and minorities as well as untrained or folk/craft artists.

These terms and definitions were not meant to be harmful and were in fact written for a greater educational purpose. They are also a textual example at the way many times people forget or do not have to consider priviledge.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Hot Seat

A few weeks ago I had a classroom observation done on me. It was not like a pop quiz or anything like that. I even picked the date that I would have my evaluation. After the observation my students took an anonymous survey and today I got the results of both the observation and the survey....

Both were very good and as a new techer it is really great to get such positive feedback. I was even given a few helpful ideas from the observer and the students about slowing down sometimes when I am talking, giving more consistent feedback on a regular basis to build confidence and changing up classroom time from time to time to confront boredom.

For some reason though things like this always get me so depressed. I have never been one to say, If I can just reach one student then my job is done. I know I may never reach them all but I've got to be able to do more than one!

On these surveys the students fill out I was above three on all of them on a scale of 1 to 4, this is great right!?!?! But when I read the breakdown of those numbers at times there were three students saying that I needed much improvement on something depending on the category. I was also given written comments and while most were positive and some were helpful there was one in each section that was just bad.

Now to be honest I have to admit I dont know why that one student would continue to take my class, this is college, you can drop!

And why would I let one unhelpful negative comment destroy what is otherwise very positive feedback with places to improve and some places where I am already doing well??????

It is more than wanting everyone to like me....I genuinely believe that what I teach is necessary to being critical citizens of the world. I realize most nursing or economy majors will say that art history does not make them a better nurse...but I think it does. Ask me anyday when my life is in the hands of a doctor and I can choose between the one that took art history and the one that didn't and I would pick the one that did. The arts help you to observe, they give a way to express ones self and ideas, art can be a window into a cultre or community and often times it is about relationships and critical issues. It is visible thought porcess. I can't think of a single major or life event that is not made better with these skills!

So where do I go from here? Try to make that one student happy (that is probably not possible)!

So I will be commenting more in their weekly journals so that they are getting that constant feeedback and building confidence. I will be trying to think of more interactive assignments to do during group discussion time to keep it all going. The big one for me is going to be framing each lesson so they are not guessing at why we are doing what we are doing. That means sometimes force feeding the connections and then letting them discover other personal connections!

This is harder than it looks!