Blog Post 5: Can the elite population help to save their world?: Aditi Narayan

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Aditi Narayan

It is important for these children to learn about the good and the bad aspects of the place where they live. This gives them the opportunity to learn about the problems that people in their world face and create solutions to help the people that need it.

Hello Interwebbers!

One thing that I have learned and witnessed over the course of my stay here in Peru, is that there is an unequal society, where the wealthy have more money than the poor combined and the poor have to struggle greatly to make ends meet. There are people here in Lima alone that, technically and legally, do not own the land that they are living on. In regions like El Agustino and Pamplona Alta, people decades ago set up their homes there in the hope of eventually owning their own land so that they can move out of the impoverished area. Living in these hills where they don’t have running water and very little means of sufficient help for medical emergencies was always supposed to be a temporary plan. There are schools, like Colegio Roosevelt, which teaches children that come from very rich families. It is important for these children to learn about the good and the bad aspects of the place where they live. This gives them the opportunity to learn about the problems that people in their world face and create solutions to help the people that need it.

Hooks wrote in his book that, “To educate as a way of practice is a way of teaching that everyone can learn…a classroom [is] diminished if students and professors regarded one another as “whole” human beings, striving not just for knowledge in books, but knowledge about how to live in the world” (pages 1–3). Every school should, ideally, teach the students using this holistic approach to education. It is important for students to understand right from a young age that, despite our differences, we have a responsibility to do what we can to create and implement solutions to problems in their community, society and world. It does seem easy, when living in a more privileged environment, to simply forget about the world outside the bubble around you and your elite community. However, with the right education, with conversations about the more tricky and controversial subjects, and with discussions on how to solve the problems in our world, the privileged students in schools are able to use their abundance of resources to create a better world for themselves and for those around them.

“Faced with the facts of economic inequality, the wealthy are confronted with a particular set of moral, social, and political questions, not least of which is the question of how to preserve a sense of being a “good” human being. … being good and having moral standing is a social outcome that is premised on the unequally distributed ability to do certain things, to enact certain roles, and to mobilize particular discourses. … the complicated ways in which privileged students understand what it means to have a commitment to social justice, … the possibility of as well as the potential for educating students with economic privilege toward social justice commitments… the important symbolic role that economically disadvantaged groups play in the imaginary of students who attend elite private schools and what this illustrates about the ways in which they are complicit in sustaining social inequality” (Fernandez, Abstract). Fernandez describes the economic inequality on a general level.

From the view as a student studying abroad here in Peru, I have been able to see how there is a general disparity between the various educational systems in the different economic levels. I spoke to my host mother’s granddaughter who is in the fifth grade at a school in Miraflores. She talked to me about her English education at the school(s) that she has been attending since Pre-Kinder. She was telling me about how students start their english education from Pre-Kinder and continue through their schooling. They learn British english, as the rest of the world does, and they study english in a very formal level with various grammatical patterns and plenty of vocabulary to make anyone’s head spin. In comparison to what I have seen, the students in Las Casitas did not know English, as far as I could tell. The main priority is to teach them the various subjects that they need to know in order to help them get good jobs in the Spanish-speaking Peru. The las Casitas program, along with the other partnering programs in the El Agustino area teach various ideals that will help build up their faith and hope in life. The students from elite districts can help create ideas to help the various physical problems happening in the environment: Building new roads, new ways to have running water, raise money for a bus service to pick up the students for school, etc. There are so many ways that we can help each other. We just need to look within ourselves and understand the world around us.

Until Next Time,
Aditi Narayan

More money, still a lot of problems: Mary McQuillen

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Mary McQuillen

End of the day, the amount of privilege that someone is born into does not define the kind of person they will become. Through education, there is an ability to intervene and show students the path towards a better future.

So I just spent a week at one of the nicest elementary schools I have ever seen. It was beautiful, they had everything that a school should have for their students including top of the line technology, quality teachers, and resources galore. There were multiple soccer fields of astro-turf for the children to run around on, computer labs for intercambios, and just about every kind of program that a child could dream of. It is a little scary that this isn’t even considered to be one of the top 10 most expensive schools in Peru, its 32nd! I have to admit it was awesome to work there, all of the students seemed to be excelling beyond their ages academically. They were a joy to work with, had fantastic manners, and made teaching easy. The only real issue that I bore witness to in the classroom was the constant chatter in the background, which isn’t bad for 5 year olds. A well rounded education requires students to be more than just intellectually fit. In my Jesuit high school, we had to fulfill RIPLOC in order to graduate. This meant we had to be religious, intellectually competent, physically fit, loving, open to growth and committed to doing justice. I think that a privileged school has a responsibility to the world that has been so kind to them. In the article response by Ruben A. Gaztambide-Fernández and Adam Howard they state, “It may seem counterintuitive that economically advantaged individuals would be concerned with and committed to social and economic justice, since they are the ones who benefit most from inequality” (P2). In saying this, the author is identifying the irony of educating students who have privilege how the system benefits them and hurts others. Underneath that irony, there is a goal of wanting to help make the world a better place, does that mean that people who have more should give away all of their extra money to people who have less? Not necessarily.

End of the day, the amount of privilege that someone is born into does not define the kind of person they will become. Through education, there is an ability to intervene and show students the path towards a better future. It teaches them valuable moral lessons that will help them to become wonderful people down the line. Although it may seem ironic at first, underneath it all I believe that people want to be good. To do good they have to be shown, especially if they are not exposed first hand to the issues of the world around us. People are always saying that the first step is to educate on the issues because most of the time people have no idea what is going on in the world. I went out to the club on Saturday, and I probably shouldn’t be telling you that I did that, but it’s a fact. Anyway, while at the club I was talking about my time here, which consisted of a number of visits to el Augustino. I told this to someone, and the guy literally looked at me with shock and was like “YOU WENT TO THE GHETTO!?”. Me being the person that I am, I got up in his face about Patty, my little friends at the casitas, and how they are going to be better people that this rich douche will ever be. He clearly didn’t get a just education that pushed him to be better, do better, and strive to eliminate some of the inequality in this world. A lot of people won’t have teachers or a school community that challenges them to look outside of their lush lifestyle and learn how to use their privilege as a platform to appeal to more people for justice.

To have an education that focuses on expectations of becoming a person responsible for their choices in the world and understanding what the consequences are is beneficial for the entire world. It is the goal of many teachers because “any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process.” (Engaged Pedagody, 21). Most teachers want their students to succeed in becoming well rounded people, because that means that they have succeeded as teachers. This means that they have to provide opportunities for learning that goes deep down into the mysteries of the world. They won’t always have the right answers but they need to be open to challenging questions about the norms of society, critiques about different systems, and constant confusion about why the world is the way it is.

For the most part, we will have had to grapple with some of the hard concepts along with our students. We will learn so much from all of their different opinions, beliefs, and background knowledge that they bring into our classroom. They will push us to find answers in different places and inspire us to try to be the change that we wish to see in the world. We will have to lead by example and that is not always an easy task. It means that we need to be genuine, honest, and transparent with our students at all times. I hope that I will be able to do this with my students the way some of my teachers have done so with me. Every time a teacher answered my question with a question instead of turning me away, I was engaged. Every time I was pushed to look deeper, criticize harder, and think more I took steps in the right direction, helping me to become who I am today. Not that I’m the best person in the world, but I have good intentions and an open heart and I hope that I will remember that when a student comes to me with difficult questions about poverty, crime, evil, and pain.

So educating the social elite means that we challenge them to be more than just intellectually competent, and rise so much higher to be well rounded citizens of the world.

Let’s Talk About Sleep

This post originally appeared on Dr. Karisse Callender’s blog Islander Journey on June 25, 2018.


By Karisse Callender

I recently attended a presentation on sleep and what lack of sleep does to your body. We got a magazine with information on sleep, a bath bomb, and a lavender roll-on! (jackpot!)

2018-05-22 09.44.09It wasn’t the first time I heard this information, and yet I found myself feeling surprised while the presenter shared the information from the National Sleep Foundation. How come? There’s so much information about the importance of sleep, how much we should get, and developing good sleep hygiene. So why was this information so surprising to me? I think it’s because I take this for granted and just go about my day without thinking about the quality of my sleep unless I feel tired during the day.

Since I attended that presentation, I’ve been thinking about my sleep habits and how I prepare for bedtime. So, random but not random, when I got home from the presentation I cleaned up my night table and put up tips for preparing for bed in a nice frame. I diffused oils, changed the sheets and was excited to get into bed. I could not sleep! I did everything we talked about and just couldn’t sleep! Ha! How ironic, right? Anyways…let’s get back to this sleep talk.

I also experience sleep difficulties on and off. So I decided to pay closer attention to my sleep habits and decided to track my sleep. I also kept a log/journal to track what happened in my day/my mood/food/activities (I know…i’m a little extra). Here’s a look at my sleep chart for one week. I think I may continue keeping a sleep log.

fullsizeoutput_a29It is quite helpful to observe and notice how much I sleep as I can also make connections between the number of hours of sleep and other things that happen in my day.

So, although you may know this information already, I want to share some tips I learned to help with getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom as comfortably cool as possible (it’s also a good excuse to have lots of cozy blankets and pillows on the bed!)
  • Try to sleep in a dark room (even the light from clocks can disturb your sleep. You can always try using an eye mask or cover the clock, or get room darkening drapes)
  • Avoid eating and exercise at least 2 hours before bed
  • Limit your use of technology (yes, put your phone down and get off social media!) at least 1 hour before bed.
  • Limit liquid intake before bedtime (mostly to avoid getting up several times per night to go to the bathroom).

It’s also a good idea to develop a routine for bedtime – that way you create a habit with activities that pretty much sets you up for classical conditioning. In other words, when you have a consistent routine, once you begin that process your body gets the hint that you are winding down to sleep. Depending on your job or family life, it may be difficult to have an exact bedtime; however, your routine to prepare for bed should be as consistent as possible. When I was completing my master’s degree I had a lot going on especially in the last year of the program. It was difficult for me to have a consistent bedtime (and awake time), mostly because I did overnight shifts. I struggled to get to sleep on the nights I did not work and my body was constantly confused. What I realized was that it was more important for me to have consistency with the routine, and not so much the time. Actually, on those mornings when I came off my shift, if I started the routine I did at night, my body began to relax and I could get to sleep (most times).

My sleep routine has been consistent (mostly), although there are nights when I just cannot sleep and I’ve learned to accept that. Here are some of the things I do to prepare for bed (in no specific order):

  • I meditate. I usually begin and end my day with some kind of meditation, whether it’s a guided meditation with a theme or practicing vipassana (insight meditation). I aim to do this daily but there are days when it doesn’t happen.
  • drink a cup of tea (no caffeine). Ideally, I would drink this tea while doing nothing else. Other times, I drink the tea while watching the news or reading.
  • take a shower. This helps me to relax, especially because I use lavender or mint shower gel. Those scents help me to unwind.
  • diffuse essential oils. My bedtime blend is usually a combination of lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and a protective blend to keep things healthy 🙂
  • I cream my hands when I get into bed with anything that has eucalyptus and or lavender in it (sounds weird….I know ha!)
  • Once I’m settled in bed, I put on an eye mask (most times)

The great thing is that you can make your bedtime routine whatever you would like it to be. The important thing is that it creates a relaxing environment and allows you to unwind.

Do you have a bedtime routine? If not, think about some simple ways that you can begin to create one that is unique to your needs.

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die.
And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Educating the Elite: Kelsie Lam

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Kelsie Lamb

Privileged children do not have to deal with the everyday realities of inequality and systematic oppression; therefore, educating them so that they care about their less fortunate neighbors can be difficult.

During the past two weeks in Peru, we have visited two privileged private schools, Colegio Roosevelt and Colegio de La Inmaculada. I was impressed by the schools’ resources (which included 3D printers and an actual zoo), but I also felt a bit uneasy knowing that these schools have so much while those in the surrounding areas must make do with so little. In the case of La Inmaculada, a wall separates them from the impoverished people living on the other side of the hill. This trend of “walls of shame” is common throughout Lima, as highlighted in this piece by Belen Desmaison. When we visited one of the neighborhoods that has been sectioned off by walls, Pamplona Alta, my classmates and I talked about what a fair and just education would look like for students who struggle to have their basic needs met. Grappling with these ideas was not easy, but now that we have spent a week in one of the schools on the wealthy side of the fence, I have started to realize that crafting a curriculum that promotes social justice and equality within elite schools comes with its own set of challenges. Privileged children do not have to deal with the everyday realities of inequality and systematic oppression; therefore, educating them so that they care about their less fortunate neighbors can be difficult. With my experience at La Inmaculada in mind, I can start to think about a just education for the elite and the roles of privileged schools in an unequal society.

As mentioned, one of the challenges in educating privileged students is their ignorance of inequality. As Ruben Gaztambide-Fernandez and Adam Howard write in their piece “Social Justice, Deferred Complicity, and the Moral Plight of the Wealthy,” “individuals with economic privilege have little awareness of economic oppression and sometimes deny that it even exists.” Because of this, a just education for the global elite should include first-hand encounters with widespread economic and educational disparities, bringing students face-to-face with the realities that are radically different from their own. La Inmaculada and Colegio Roosevelt both try to do this in various ways. For example, Colegio Roosevelt has monthly events that bring together their students with the children of their support staff; and La Inmaculada participates in “student exchanges” in which they come together with students from Pamplona Alta’s Fe y Alegria school for a day of activities and friendship building. Of course, simply making students aware of widespread inequality is not enough. It is also important for educators to teach students about why many people do not have equal access to resources. Much of the world’s privileged population believes that poverty is the fault of the poor. A truly just curriculum, especially in elite private schools, would explore how social and economic disparity is the result of hundreds of years of oppression and inequality. This is obviously a difficult topic to discuss with children, but student-friendly resources can help teachers facilitate this conversation, such as Susan Gage’s illustrated textbook Colonialism in the Americas: A Critical Look, which explores how some modern-day issues are the consequences of colonialism. I believe it is important for educators of the elite to expose their students to the causes and realities of modern-day poverty and injustice.

Once students are made aware of widespread disparities, it is also important for educators of privileged youth to use this knowledge productively. Often, when exposed to the realities of oppression, the privileged “may feel inadequate, powerless, overwhelmed, or hopeless to bring about change,” as Gaztambide-Fernandez and Howard describe. To avoid this, educators should foster students’ desire to work toward social justice. One of the ways this can be done is through the promotion of diversity and inclusion. In the piece “Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings,” Maxine Greene writes that as students of various backgrounds are brought into contact with another, sharing their experiences and stories, “It is at moments like these that persons begin to recognize each other and, in the experience of recognition, feel the need to take responsibility for one another.” La Inmaculada’s “student exchanges” are a good way to bring students and teachers of various backgrounds together in a collaborative, meaningful way. Another way to help motivate students to work towards justice is by giving examples of people and programs that are helping the impoverished communities. For example, El Agustino’s Casitas Social Project has a variety of arts and sports related extra-curricular activities for students living in the hillside communities. My classmates and I were able to spend a few Saturdays and afternoons at various Casitas sites and witnessed the important developmental and social work that Casitas is doing. In addition, many of the older students from La Inmaculada work with Casitas, organizing activities and volunteering. Casitas’ relationship with the students of La Inmaculada is a good example of how students can be not only aware of social issues, but also actively work towards providing solutions.

Within this discussion of a just education for the global elite comes some ideas about the role of privileged school communities in an unequal society. While school trips to build houses or playgrounds in impoverished areas may seem like a good way to get students active and promote justice, this type of service is not always enough, as described by Jacob Kushner in his article “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma.” I believe it is important for privileged schools to do more than occasional charity work, and instead focus on promoting justice. Schools should frame their curriculum and philosophy around a mission or vision that promotes social justice. As a Jesuit school, La Inmaculada’s pedagogy is guided by the Jesuit ideals of “men and women for others” and “agents for change.” Colegio Roosevelt is not a religious school, but their mission statement calls for their students to “lead lives of integrity and create socially responsible solutions.” Having these socially-oriented goals is important to creating a just education for the elite. Privileged schools should go beyond activities and programs that provide short-term solutions for their surrounding communities; they should also embrace a justice-oriented curriculum that will (hopefully) produce socially-aware students who can think critically, problem-solve, and create sustainable solutions to promote equality.

Challenging the System: Emily Chang

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Emily Chang

In general, I noticed that students in all the classes were very respectful towards their teachers, were engaged with the material they were working with, and seemed to prefer collaborative learning. They were all about learning together and interdependence where the mentality seemed to be that they understand or fail together.

As we our week at La Inmaculada comes to an end, I have had the opportunity to experience a variety of teaching styles for various subjects, and from teachers with different backgrounds. It has been interesting to see the diversity and I have learned more about the students’ roles in the classrooms as well. My days in the English classrooms have been engaging as I could be the most helpful in this area and had the chance to observe 3 types of teachers: one from America, one from New Zealand, and one who was not a native English speaker. They all had similar goals in what they wanted their students to achieve, but the delivery of their content was different.

The American teacher, Matthew, had a collaborative approach to teaching with groups reading an article about economics together in English then working together to summarize using specific forms of the past and future tense. He had a friendly relationship with his students and they were not afraid to ask him questions or for revisions. Johanna, the teacher from New Zealand actually mentioned to me that she did not have a teaching license but just a TOEFL certification instead. She structured her lessons as more towards a lecture in the beginning focusing on the writing process, and then had students create a guided outline before starting an essay. The class also went to an English language lab which was super interesting to be a part of since students had headsets and practiced their speaking and conversational skills with other students in the class over a certain theme/topic. This is something that I had wished was incorporated into my Spanish classes when I was in high school as our practice with speaking abilities was very structured/limited and less like in a natural or normal environment with other students. Maia, the other teacher was not a native English speaker and was Japanese. She was pretty strict in the way she taught and focused a lot of their learning through the use of their laptops and less emphasis on interaction. I personally was not a huge fan of her teaching style since students didn’t seem to be engaged with one another, but they were still eager to learn and frequently asked questions for clarifications.

In general, I noticed that students in all the classes were very respectful towards their teachers, were engaged with the material they were working with, and seemed to prefer collaborative learning. They were all about learning together and interdependence where the mentality seemed to be that they understand or fail together. In my math class, one boy was confused with something in the problem and I noticed that another boy came over and began to help him while the lesson was still going on; and the teacher didn’t seem to mind at all! What was unique about this placement vs. my placement in the U.S. were that students were very friendly and not afraid to go out of their way to ask me questions if they needed help. A lot of times in the schools I’m at in the U.S., the students don’t reach out as often or try to get to know me too well since I am not the main teacher. It is a lot more effort on my part to get students to talk with me. But here, students in my English classes reached out to me even during their breaks to ask me questions for their homework or schoolwork. It was also appreciating to see when they tried to practice their English or spoke in Spanish with me as well to get to know me.

Being at a school like La Inmaculada has brought me to ponder our discussion question which is what is or should be the role of privileged school communities in an unequal society. It also focused on what it would take to educate the global elite. Looking at our meeting with the Jesuit director of the school, he mentioned starting with instilling important and humanizing values and creating an atmosphere of inclusivity. This is definitely important to think about and referring back to our readings, I think about the importance on being open to revision and reconstruction as well to respond to the constant changes and inequality that exist in the contemporary world. By confronting inequality along with educating and valuing diversity, those who are privileged could increase their ways of looking at the world from different points of view (Greene). Changing from a stage of denial to the goal of integration where people begin to include diversity as a definition of their own identity may give awareness and a more active role in how they can change such a rigid system. There is also the importance of educating the privileged and elite about not just knowledge from their books, but also knowledge of the world around them, the community that they live in, and the process of self-actualization (Hooks). By addressing these factors, teachers can hopefully inspire and educate students on the inequality that exists within society to encourage them to make changes and challenge reinforced systems of superiority and divide.

Justice for All: Grace Chambers

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Grace Chambers

Nearly every student stands up and repeats the words “justice for all” morning after morning. But what are our schools doing to make it true?

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic, for which it stands. One nation, under God. Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” I was able to type this from memory because every morning before school starts, I stood with my class and repeated these words with my right hand over my heart, facing the American flag. Nearly every student across the United States does the same every morning. Nearly every student stands up and repeats the words “justice for all” morning after morning. But what are our schools doing to make it true? So often in conversations about educational injustice, we focus on areas where resources are not, and fail to consider where the resources are. Much like a large majority of Peru’s elite class has money pouring into Colegio Roosevelt, there is a tremendous amount of income tax going into public schools in wealthy areas, and private money going into private schools. One of the age-old questions of education is how to distribute resources among schools in a way that is just.

The simple solution to educational injustice would be to divide up all of the nation’s educational wealth and resources and split it all up between public schools. Then everybody would be equal, right? This one step solution -in addition to receiving backlash from parents who pay more money so their children can have the best education- embraces the idea of equality and ignores the concept of equity. Different schools have different needs based on the community income level, student’s race/ethnicity, varying ability levels, class size, etc. So now we gather up all the resources again, look at schools’ geographic location, socioeconomic status, student demographics, and dozens of other statistics to determine how the resources should be split up. Once each and every school is given an equitable amount, we’re done right? Problem solved? Not quite. Because this equitable utopia doesn’t address how such great disparities in the world of education occurred in the first place. As a student studying education at the university level, I know how so much of this unequal practice began, however, when I was in my suburb of Chicago, mostly white, middle to upper-middle class public school, I had no idea. I just knew that some schools had more money than others. So, it seems that the answer does not lie in taking resources from wealthy students at all. But as a school in a privileged community, it should be the job of the teachers to educate students to use those resources to examine injustice in society. It is those with privilege who have the greatest power, and a just model of education of privileged students should emphasize the importance of using privilege to advocate for just causes.

This model of education closely follows Jesuit practice, however, educating for justice is not something that is or should be unique to Jesuit institutions. Colegio Immaculada, a privileged Jesuit school in Lima, has demonstrated ways in which to enact this practice as school-wide pedagogy. At the school, there is an emphasis on being a man or woman for others, an important pillar in Jesuit practice. There is a sense of equality among students, teachers, and administrators, and other school staff. Is can be seen in the trust teachers have in their students, the kindness students show to frequently forgotten staff members (such as janitors, cafeteria workers, etc.), or the flexibility within administrative staff. Creating an environment of trust and respect allows women and men (and non-binary folks) to work for others. This is an environment that could be reflected in elite and upper-class schools in the United States. It is not uncommon for “the best schools” to pride themselves on strict policies and enforced disciplinary measures, however, creating a community of equality and mutual respect will both reduce negative behavior and provide a space in which students recognize their potential to do good. In order to provide a just education to the global elite, there needs to be a recognition of the importance of the search for justice. The following are some examples of what this would look like in the United States:

In classrooms in Milwaukee -and around the united states- it should not only be schools in low-income areas with many students of color who are receiving increasingly diverse texts. There is a huge (and completely rational) push for teachers to diversify their texts so students are able to recognize people who they can identify with in their academic work. However, it is also important for privileged students to see people academia who do not look like them. Schools in the U.S. who educate primarily white, upper/middle class individuals should also receive texts featuring diverse sets of authors, illustrators, characters, scientists, researchers, activists, etc. Diverse text sets provide a foundation for focus on justice, as students are able to educate themselves on the challenges faced by marginalized groups in the U.S. This foundation needs to be followed up by independent research and exploration. Students should work in primarily inquiry models to learn about the world outside of their own privilege. Students can use this knowledge to create their own ideas for service, as opposed to schools creating and (sometimes) mandating service work. Students who have the opportunity to brainstorm ways to fight injustice will be more passionately engaged in the work, and the passion will carry through to student’s lives post-graduation.

There is no concrete list designing a curriculum to educate privileged students. There has to be an emphasis on a respectful school community, providing context and space for students to learn about injustice, and learning how to use educational resources to search for the root of injustice in the world. Fostering a commitment to equity in students is a step towards educating for justice for all.

Counselor Book Review – Mockingbird

books-933333_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Near the end of the school year, several of the staff members at my school decided to form a book club. However, we did not pick up the latest adult novel and dive in. Instead, we decided to focus on young adult and children’s literature. We compiled a list of books – some old classics and some newer ones as well – and picked those that we thought would help us gain insight into our students. We also chose books that we thought our students would enjoy reading, since getting students to read is crucial to their academic success. And trust me, there were a lot of books to choose from!

The first book we chose was called Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, and I found myself learning so much from this novel. I’ll start by saying this: I think every educator should read Mockingbird. Anyone who regularly works with kids should buy or borrow a copy. You’ll be so glad you did.

Mockingbird is narrated by ten-year-old Caitlin, who has just lost her brother in a school shooting. What makes Caitlin so incredibly unique as a narrator is that she has Asberger Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Many describe Asberger Syndrome as being part of the higher functioning end of the spectrum. Oftentimes, those with Asberger’s (and autism in general) struggle with social communication. In the book, Caitlin experiences difficulty with understanding people’s emotions based on their facial expressions. She also has very black-or-white thinking; everything is either right or wrong, with no in-between. As you go through the book, you are able to see Caitlin’s thought process for certain events, which had a huge impact on me. It really opened my eyes to how some of my students with autism may be thinking or feeling.

I remember learning a lot about autism during my undergrad years, but you can only learn so much from textbooks. This past year, I started working closely with a student who has autism. Similar to Caitlin, he is high functioning and very intelligent, but struggles with social communication. There are times when he and his teachers — or he and I — don’t see eye to eye, despite all of our best attempts. I remember he and I frequently talked about why he had to complete a certain assignment when he already knew and understood the material. I also remember an incident where he refused to give up his cell phone, even though he was using it in the locker room (where phones are not allowed.) When I explained that we can’t have cell phones in locker rooms for privacy reasons and that people sometimes take inappropriate pictures, he said that he should be allowed to have his phone because he would never do that.

Though Caitlin does not experience the same situations in the book, there are times when I feel like her inner dialogue may explain my own student’s thoughts and feelings. Being able to read how her logic plays out makes me understand my student better. Seeing how Caitlin reacts to situations – and seeing how those situations mirror my student’s situations – really helps me understand what I can do to be a better counselor for my students with autism and Asberger’s. I’ve learned that having a facial expressions chart could be very helpful for my students who struggle labeling their emotions. I can continue to demonstrate and model appropriate social behavior (looking at someone, listening with my whole body, etc.) I can continue to work with parents and outside therapists, which is a huge component to student success. By having everyone on the same page, you are better able to meet the needs of the student and ensure that you are all giving a consistent message. Finally, I learned that patience really is key. If Caitlin’s counselor, father, and teacher were not as patient, I don’t think Caitlin would’ve made the growth she did. It made me feel better to realize that I am not the only one who sometimes struggles with patience, and that I as a counselor am not alone in this.

But this book is not only for adults. I think this book could make a world of difference to a student who has Asberger’s. It shows them that they are not alone. Sometimes, my student believes that he is the only one who experiences what he does, and the only one who has to get through a school day with Asberger’s. This would show him that there are others who go through similar struggles that he does. But it also promotes empathy from other students. Children who read the book will see how Caitlin reacts to various situations. They may then later see a student in their classroom who has a similar reaction. My hope is that they will remember the story Mockingbird and be kinder to others. After all, a little kindness and understanding can go a long way.


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