Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

“If the only prayer you said was thank
you, that would be enough.”
–Meister Eckhart


Have a happy, safe Thanksgiving break COEDers!

The Impact of Service Learning on White Attitudes

Untitled-1logoBy Nick Rocha – Service learning programs have been a growing trend among institutes of higher education.  Many universities and colleges provide week-long or semester-long programs that are designed to encourage students to interact with other students and communities.  “The general philosophy is to encourage a mutually beneficial partnership between students and a community group, with students providing needed services to a community that in turn provides rich professional and personal learning opportunities for students” (National and Community Service Trust Act, 1993).  How might service-learning, specifically multicultural service-learning, affect the racial attitudes of White, middle-class students?

There has been a great deal of research that highlights the value of multicultural service-learning.  According to Guilfoile and Ryan of the Education Commission of the States, “a growing body of research shows that students engaged in high-quality service-learning learn to collaborate, think critically, and problem solve” (2013).  In addition, service-learning can challenge stereotypes, reducing student ignorance, intolerance, prejudice and modern racism.  In contrast, “critics have expressed skepticism about bringing White middle-class students to low-income communities of color, especially when benefits to the community are unclear” (Reardon, 1998).  White students often benefit from feelings of self-worth, but they often view themselves as the “advantaged providing a service to the disadvantaged [and] this may perpetuate students’ negative stereotypes of community members” (Hess, Lanig, and Vaughan 2007).  This deficit-oriented approach “may contribute little to their intellectual and practical understanding of social justice and racial inequality” (Reardon, 1994).  What aspects of service-learning influence whether or not White, middle-class students’ attitudes perpetuate negative stereotypes or strengthen a higher intercultural sensitivity towards other communities?

Multicultural service-learning programs often consist of five themes: Investigation, Preparation, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration (Kaye and Connolly 2010).  The investigation involves the collection of student interests and a social analysis of the issue being addressed.  Preparation involves the continuation of knowledge of the issue and the organization of the service-learning objectives.  The Investigation and Preparation stages are critical for the development of White student attitudes regarding disadvantaged communities and racial stereotypes.  Even though White middle-class students are reluctant to talk about race for fear of appearing racist, discussing structural racism and White privilege prior to the Action stage of service-learning helps to make power relations visible and critical reflection on racial attitudes possible (Green, 2003).  Additional research will needed to be conducted regarding student multicultural learning outcomes through service-learning, but it would seem that service-learning on its own merit does not positively influence White students’ racial attitudes (Houshmand et.al 2014).  Service-learning should provide a significant amount of background knowledge regarding power relations, White privilege, and racial colorblindness in order to encourage students to critically reflect on their service experience and their social status.

Who’s in Charge Here?

Slovak_referendum,_2015,_portable_ballot_boxBy Peggy Wuenstel – There is a piece of proposed legislation making its way through the Wisconsin state house that every free-thinking Wisconsinite should be aware of. Bill 355 seeks to put significant limits on the ways in which local school districts can ask for financial assistance from their taxpayers through referenda. It is a drastic move away from the traditional local control of schools to the state government assuming the authority to determine what kinds of schools our children attend. Why should the lack of local control of Wisconsin schools concern you?

  • There is a reason that local governing bodies that direct the policies and funding of schools are called school boards or boards of education and not boards of tax control. The charge of these bodies is to determine the needs of local students and their families and the willingness of the community to meet those needs. While some members seek office with the intent of reducing tax burdens, the majority are motivated by their desire to direct and support education within their political, social, and personal point of view. The service of these individuals is often direct democracy at its best, with these public servants attending meetings, making decisions and meeting directly with constituents in ways that far outpace other representative bodies.
  • School expenses continue to rise as costs of materials, insurance, energy, security, and staffing to meet expanding student needs grow. There are state and federal mandates which much be met. Even after exploring supplemental funding sources like grants, charitable donations, naming rights, and expanded student fees, the gaps remain between what it costs and what state and federal governments provide.
  • State funding has been slashed in Wisconsin over the last few budget cycles. With rising costs, and shrinking state support, local districts are forced to go to property owners to make up the difference. The overall cost of educating children does not go down, the responsibility just shifts from one level to another. Property taxes are often a very unfair way to apportion support for schools.
  • Wisconsin schools are diverse and proudly so. While a common set of standards drives the curriculum and content of instruction, local needs, strengths, and preferences vary widely. Areas of the state have different priorities. Some districts highlight athletic programs. Others demonstrate patronage for the arts. Agricultural programs might meet local community needs and closely bond schools, industry and community governments. The varied cultural and socio-economic needs of home districts require local control to understand, direct, and make these visions reality. Some districts are large and urban in nature serving tens of thousands of students. Some boards of education govern a single school. Wisconsin education has historically been the antithesis of one size fits all.
  • Schools are often the heart of a community, its social life, and its hope for the future. Leadership in government, civic, church, and are connected, nurtured and directed by schools and school personnel. Our buildings, staff, facilities, and initiatives are rich resources for cities, towns, and villages all over Wisconsin. They deserve, and thankfully often receive, community support.
  • The Wisconsin system for financing schools contributes to significant inequities between districts. Property rich districts are well-funded and offer superior facilities and outstanding educators due to the ability to attract and retain employees with salary, benefit, and continuing education packages that support professionals in their work with children. Rural and revenue-challenged districts face the dual challenges of smaller labor pools and limited tax bases. Providing quality education statewide should be the goal of every parent, local community leader, and school official regardless of where they live.

The current proposal before the legislature seeks to reduce how often, what time of year, and how frequently school boards ask their communities for support. It seems to be another example of fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. The ability to ask at a local level for support for education gives that say to voters, not state senators who want to centralize control of Wisconsin schools. One has to wonder if this attempt to limit “the ask” of local school boards is a reaction to a recent up-tick in positive outcomes of local referenda.  An administration that hangs its political hat on the promise of tax reduction might find it hard to convince citizens that shifting responsibility to local school boards from state tax revenues saves anything except politicians’ reputations as being tough on tax increases or as advocates for centralized, depersonalized education for Wisconsin’s children.

In my three decade career I have trained and worked in large districts and small. My own children have attended urban and rural schools. I have had the opportunity to compare per pupil spending, student to teacher ratios, course offerings and extracurricular offerings, all before the expanded school choice system. I have been employed by districts that never passed referenda, and those who have graciously supported the schools every time they were asked. I hope we continue to live in a state where the ask as well as the answer remain local decisions.

L’École, Xuéxiào, La Escuela

images (1)By Noel Hincha – School is school is school. Education is education is education. From the cavemen, since the Greeks, and to modern day, learning proves to be important – if not essential – to developing decent human beings and cultivating intellectual advancement. However, not all schools or educations are equal, and so vary from city to city and country to country.

It’s no secret America does not place considerably high in education rankings; when compared to the rest of the world our system is not the best, but it is not the worst. On a global scale, countries simply possess different educational systems that produce different educational outcomes.

Here is a mirror and pair of glasses:

  1. Freedom: Perhaps the basis of Americanism, but some students find the very aspect a major – no pun intended – difficulty in college when figuring out the meaning of their life endeavors at the ripe age of 18, especially within liberal arts. Almost incomprehensible to the American mind, other countries allow their students to choose a career pathway from as early as middle school age. France, in high school for example, sorts students into social studies, literature, or science concentrations where they consequently focus on their desired path. A system like the French may decrease “undecided-major-young-adult-crisis” stress. But what is better: depth or breadth?
  2. Language: Arguably, the most integral aspect of culture and a vital factor in an increasingly interconnected world. Of course, immersion and bilingual schools exist throughout America; however, numerous countries normally and absolutely require the learning of English as well as another foreign language. Some schools in France require two languages at a minimum: English and Russian, English and Spanish, English and Italian, English and Chinese – the list continues indefinitely. Then, in China and many Asian countries, English is a rigorous requirement. So, back to the mirror: most American high schools require only two years of a foreign language, and Marquette only requires a minimum of foreign language up to the intermediate level depending on one’s major.
  3. Price: In a most informal manner, all I’m saying is that Marquette’s collegiate expenses are about the equivalent of the America’s median household income while Germany’s tuition costs an acceptance or rejection letter – free; I’ll just leave this here, ponder the politics.
  4. Time: The allocation of time varies from culture to culture across the world, and the educational system feels the impact. In China, students take a noon nap to rejuvenate lost energy. In France, students take an hour to two hour long lunch break to appreciate cuisine and socialize. In Niger, students walk miles and miles to find water and bring it back to their home before school. In Israel, students attend school from Sunday to Friday. In America, students spend hours before, during, and after school working on extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. Schedules vary from sunrise to sunset. Priorities differ and a war between interest and requirement evolves, but in summary: every culture aptly uses their time.
  5. Tests: Sometimes grades cannot be the highest priority; sometimes grades are the only factor. In an ideal world, students are not their test scores and GPA; however, the world is less than ideal in this regard. An indefinite, ever-growing means of quantifying human intelligence persist throughout the international scene. In consequence, the stress and well-being related to such means persists. A question up to the leaders of education: what is better? Testing students consistently to adjust curriculums, stimulate competition, and conduct analytics? Making one test’s grade determine the future of a student’s career, socioeconomic position, and honor? Or, something in between?

With a capitalistic mindset, it is easy to make education a competition; with a stubborn attitude, it is easy for education systems to consequently lag behind others. There is not a simple answer as to what makes one country’s schools better than another’s; there is not a simple plan detailing how to advance American education. Infinite factors exist that contribute to the advancement or decline of a country’s educational system. What works in one country might not work in another without severe political and socioeconomic changes. So, where does one plant their roots or take a leap of faith?

My Experience with High School Theater…from the Other Side of the Curtain

12639509004_c686e4f962By Kelly Koreck – “Romeo, oh Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name…”

I could keep going if you wanted me to – through the rest of the balcony scene, through the deaths and Tybalt and Mercutio, and all the way until the Prince utters his final words of the show. It is only natural that I can recite these scenes almost in their entirety after living in the world of Verona for the last two months.

One of my main goals for student teaching was to get involved in some way with the theatre department at whatever school I ended up at. Theatre was such an important part of my own high school experience that I wanted to have the chance to provide that same experience for my students. Therefore I was thrilled when I learned that my school was putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet this semester and that I would have the chance to take on an assistant director role. It has been such a valuable experience, and I have been able to get so much out of the work I have done over the last two months.

I’ve learned that you can never underestimate the power a group of people can have when they put their minds together and focus on a common goal. I would be lying if I said that there was never a time that the director and I worried about whether or not there was going to be show for opening night. But every time we began to have of these doubts, our cast came right back and showed us what they could do. They put their time and their dedication into this show, and it is not an easy show to begin with.

Shakespeare in itself is a difficult text to work with, but that challenge can be multiplied two-fold when it is taken on by students like mine. The cast of this show is made up of students who came into high school reading at a low grade level and many whose first language is not English. To see them take on the challenge of Shakespeare and be as successful as they are makes my heart swell. They are the first to bring a production of Shakespeare to my school and they could not be doing a better job stepping up to that challenge.

I have also learned how important it is to get involved at the school you are teaching at because it gives you the chance to connect with your students in a way that simply cannot happen if you only see them in the classroom. One of the great things about theatre is that you spend so much time with the same group of people that you cannot help but develop a relationship with them. Now the kids in the cast see me not just as the teacher who stands up in the front of the room to lecture on trig identities, but also as someone who they can feel comfortable coming to talk to if they need to. Without the play, none of those connections would have been made, and I would have lost out on the chance of getting to know all of these great kids the way I do now.

Sure, it would have been a lot easier to just focus on student teaching – after all, that is a full time job in itself. But I would not trade the long nights, exhausting tech week, or missed home cooked meals for anything in the world. My kids put their all into this show, and I could not be prouder of the production that they are bringing to the community this weekend. It’s wonderful to see what happens when so many people come together to create something like this – it’s the magic of theatre.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Rosary01By Aubrey Murtha – I found this stellar prayer of Thanksgiving for all teachers while I was surfing the web.  Check it out this holiday season!

“A Teacher’s Prayer of Thanksgiving” by Linda Starr

Thank you, God, for I am a teacher. As a teacher, I have the power to educate, to inspire, to challenge, to comfort, to reassure, to ennoble. The scope of my influence is incalculable; each of my students leaves my classroom changed in some way by what I did and said. Through those students, I have the power to change the world.

Thank you for entrusting me with that responsibility. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love. Thank you, too, for providing those things that enabled me to love what I do. Thank you for

  • the administrator who trusted my judgment and supported my decisions — no matter who questioned them.
  • the parents who faithfully showed up for parent-teacher conferences — to listen, to communicate, to cooperate.
  • the surprise assembly that held my students’ interest — and got me off my feet.
  • the substitute who, without complaint, turned sometimes sketchy plans into exciting lessons.
  • the student who struggled but refused to give up.
  • the creative teammate who freely shared her best ideas.
  • the party at which no self-described wit expounded on my “high pay and short hours.”
  • the student who suddenly “got it.”
  • the days with no surprises.
  • the student who knew more about technology than I did.
  • the unexpected absence of my most disruptive student.
  • the specials who provided activities that supported my curriculum.
  • the colleague who covered my class for five minutes so I could run to the restroom.
  • the practical in-service session that held my interest.
  • the competent aide who gave me time to teach.
  • the volunteers who baked cupcakes, chaperoned field trips, and provided enrichment activities.
  • the colleague who swapped recess duty — or cafeteria duty or bus duty — when I absolutely, positively had to have a few minutes to myself.
  • the unexpected holiday.
  • anyone who — at any time, for any reason — remembered to say “Thank you for being a good teacher!”

Find the poem here: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/columnists/starr_points/starr031.shtml


Prayers for Paris

Eiffel Tower glowing red for China - Paris, FranceBy Sabrina Bartels – This past July, my husband and I took a little vacation out to Europe. We spent a perfect week in Paris eating baguettes, taking the metro, and posing for photos in front of historical monuments. As we boarded our flight for the next leg of our trip, Rob and I talked extensively about moving to Paris someday. We loved the sights and sounds of Paris, adored the language, and thought everyone there was so friendly and welcoming to us (and our attempts to speak French.) Never in our dreams for the future did we foresee Paris being torn asunder by the violence and horror that happened last Friday.

This shocked Rob and I for so many reasons. For us, Paris had been the city of love. It is a romantic spot for tourists and natives to fall in love, whether that is with each other or the culture. Even the Eiffel Tower has a sign near the top that claims it is “a great spot to kiss.” Paris is also a beautiful city, filled with old-style Gothic architecture and an immense history. Who would want to destroy this beauty and tranquility? We were also surprised that when we looked on our trusty travel map, three of the attacks took place less than a mile from where we had stayed in July.

The attack on Paris not only shook us, but also made us fear the future. If people could attack this beautiful, loving city, what would happen next?

But it’s not just adults who worry about this. Many of my eighth grade students have been posing questions about Paris and how the United States will respond. See, all of my students are too young to remember some major events in our history. Most of my students were born in 2001, so they have no memory of 9/11. They only vaguely remember bits and pieces about other attacks throughout the world. This is something that, I’m sure, many of them will remember.

It’s interesting how some of my students are processing the attack on Paris. A lot of my students wanted to know what they could do to help the Parisians. Ideas for food drives, donations, and writing letters of support came up. One of my students asked what would happen to the young children in Paris who lost their parents and said she wanted to go over and work with them. The outpouring of ideas and support were very touching to me, especially since so many of them wanted to give something when they themselves have very little.

Another important thing to note is that this situation only aggravated others who already have a traumatic past. I have students at my school who have parents, siblings, and other relatives in the military, many of whom had already done a tour or two in Iraq or Afghanistan. My students had been so excited when they had returned; now, some of them are worried that their loved ones will be sent overseas again. Some of our students from other countries are worried for their family’s safety, and fret about the world they left behind. It’s hard to say that “everything will be okay” when they are thousands of miles away from their relatives.

I invite everyone reading this to take a moment and pray. Or if you aren’t comfortable praying, just think for a moment. Keep the people of Paris in your minds and hearts, and hope that brighter times will come.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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