Bullying in the Classroom

By Sydney Carlucci

This week a child in my class absolutely broke my heart. The students are doing a project on bullying. There is one student in my class who is bullied often, and often by the same couple of kids. So I’m sitting at a table with this student, we’ll call him Bob. One of the bullies, we’ll call Fred, and two other students are working on this project. Bob starts going on about getting a petition signed to make bullying illegal. Fred interrupts him mid rant and just goes, “Sit down, that’s dumb.” So, dumbfounded, I said, “Fred, that wasn’t very nice, let Bob talk.” Then Bob goes, “We are doing a bullying project and you are bullying me right now.” At this point my host teacher got involved and took Fred outside to have a discussion about what was going on. I took Bob, who was visibly upset, off to the side to see if he was okay, and he proceeded to tell me that he gets bullied every day of his life and goes home every day and cries. It took a lot for me to not start crying with him or to give him a big hug. After having a little chat and after he calmed down, we went back to work. Fred apologized, and he actually seemed sincere, and my group got their work done. I do not know what my host teacher said to Fred, but I haven’t seen him be mean to Bob, or anyone for that matter, since the incident.

I learned a lot that day about how cruel kids can be to each other, but also how much they can care for each other. There were more than a few kids who came over to see if Bob was okay, and even Fred was upset that he had been so harsh. Bullying is a big issue in our schools, I only hope that when I teach, I handle as well as my host teacher does.

School to Prison Pipeline

By Madeline Egan

On Friday, November 7th, 2014, SU Professor Anthony J. Nocella II gave a presentation entitled, “Is Special Education the New Eugenics? Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline and the Rise of Hip Hop and Disability Justice.” (According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “The School to Prison Pipeline is a nationwide system of local, state and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system.”) It was both informative and honest, giving feedback, especially future teachers, on how to achieve “education before incarceration” for their students.

Something that struck me was his interest in life skills. Sometimes teachers have this idea of sticking strictly to curriculum, because they feel this pressure of test standards and preparation, but engaging in life skills is crucial to the success of all students. As a teacher, you are not just educating your students on how to answer a math problem, but you are also there to set an example to show how people are suppose to succeed in this so called “real world.” Therefore teaching ethics, morality, and empathy are all key.  Developing a relationship with a student is so important because you want your students to be able to trust you, otherwise you are just another person of authority telling them what to do, which usually involves limiting creativity. One way to develop a relationship is to show your students that you are interested in what they love. For example, a teaching strategy that has been praised for teaching students with Asperger Syndrome is incorporating their specialized interest into the lesson plan.

Another life-skills goal that Nocella mentioned was the need to figure out how to get your students to navigate through their anger and violence, which includes creating nonviolent strategies. Nocella II contributed to the development of the idea of school to prison pipeline by stating that some schools look like a prison; therefore students become caught up in everyday routine of the same walls and same types teachers and same lessons, that eventually they lose their creativity. Therefore, curricula need to ignite the creative mind. So how do we do this? Nocella II made it clear that we need add the positive to our lessons about how people became successful. We become so caught up in the horrific events of history that we forget to talk about the accomplishments that have been made. Slavery becomes such a major part of the history curriculum, but what about successful people like Madam CJ Walker, who invented hair products and was the “America’s first self-made female millionaire” (Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises).

The most intriguing concept Nocella II proposed was the achievement gap. He explained that the only way to eliminate an achievement gap is to eliminate racism. He argued that the idea of an achievement gap, in part, is part, misleading:  African American children are the ones achieving the most. They do everything Whites do, but have it harder. They go to the same school; only it takes them five buses to get there. Their parents forget to pay the electricity, but they are still getting through school without the lights on. I thought this was the most moving statements of his presentation. He showed that some people have it worse, but still have perseverance and grit.

Nocella explained that students are going to relate better to teachers who share a common state. For example, if you are a black male living in the projects, the best way for you to get through school is to have a black teacher who grew up in the same neighborhood. His other example was if you have a disability, you could relate to a teacher who has a disability; this applies the idea of empathy. Unfortunately, a student-teacher relationship like the ones mentioned above are hard to find. So what do you do? Well, solutions include smaller classrooms, coteaching, diverse student body, conflict transformation courses and trainings, therapies.

Above all the biggest solution is to BE RELEVANT; which means developing relationships with your students, knowing what they like, hate, love, do after school, who they hang out with etc. By knowing all these factors you can incorporate it in lesson plans and connect better socially and emotionally with your students.

More than Just A Service . . .

By Crissana Christie

In life we come across many different people in service. There are people who complete service for recognition, people who complete service as a requirement, and people who do it to build connections with their community. I remember when I was a freshman as a SUNY Cortland student; I was enrolled in a class called CPN 102: Writing Studies in the Community I. The class was a 4-credit-hour course in which service-learning was incorporated into our learning curriculum. Also as a requirement of this class, all students were each required to-do 30 hours of community service.

Initially coming into my writing studies, my whole attitude was that of a person who just needed to complete service as a requirement. I thought of it as me just completing my hours and saying so-long to my placement site. But I remember the first day, I went to my volunteer site Randall Elementary. I had so much fun interacting with the kids, and I was able to see how much those kids really enjoyed having someone to talk to, play with, and have fun with. It was that moment that I realized that this is more than just a requirement for me.

This is my responsibility.

Over the next 3 semesters, I volunteered at Randall Elementary until this current Fall 2014 semester. Initially I decided to take off from Randall this semester being that I am registered for 20 credits and I wouldn’t have the time. But having built connections with the children at Randall for over 2 years, not being there this semester not only made me feel like something was missing, but I also missed being there. Then I remembered for me this is more than a service but now, it’s a part of who I am as a person, student, and future physician.

Managing Classroom Behavior

By Sydney Carlucci

Service learning has been such a crucial part of my education. Most of what I have learned about teaching and classroom management I have learned from being in the classroom with the kids and observing the teachers in action.

The past couple weeks I have learned a lot from my host teacher about dealing with behavior in the classroom. The kids like to talk and they like to talk lot. My host teacher constantly has to wait for them. But, even on the worst days, he does not blow up at them; he waits patiently and asks them to be quiet. This usually gets them on task for a while. At my last placement, the teacher would yell at the kids and the kids wouldn’t respond. I’m finding that the respect has to be mutual for there to be any at all.

If a student is having a behavior problem, my current host teacher does not handle the problem in front of the class, he pulls the kids aside and handles the problem just between him and the student. He never embarrasses anyone. For instance, last week one student was refusing to do his silent reading and kept ignoring both the teacher’s pleas and my pleas for him to start reading. The student then threw his book on the table and crossed his arms in defiance. Instead of blowing up at him like I was trying my hardest not to, my host teacher calmly and quietly asked him to step outside for a moment and they talked it out together. His patience is more than impressive at times. This is something I hope to adopt in my own classroom.

Besides the hands-on experience I get in my field placement, service learning is also great because of the good it does for the community. The teachers love having extra adults in the classroom to help with management, and having the ability to split the class into small groups. While the SUNY Cortland students are getting invaluable experience from the host teachers and students, the class is also getting extra help it wouldn’t otherwise have. It is nice to feel helpful while I’m there and to learn so much.

Socio-Economic Docu-Drama Workshop Helps Facilitate Cultural Understanding

By Madeline Egan

On October 13th, I attended the “Socio-Economic Docu-Drama,” a workshop intended for students in Professor Cathy Sinnott’s Health Problems of the Underserved (HLH 201) course.  Even though this workshop was for a health course, it was beneficial for any teaching major – like me. The goal of the docu-drama was for participants to identify health-related challenges that low-income people face. This event was a great visual for students in the education field because they could experience situations that may come up in the classroom or their field. Even though this was a health driven workshop and the dialogue included medical based scenarios, as a special education major, it was simple for me to connect all the material to the classroom.

In the drama’s hospital scene (captioned “culture-based expectations”), a patient was given an injury-care pamphlet written in Spanish. The doctor assumed that, because the patient was from Mexico, he spoke Spanish, but the patient actually spoke Meztik, an indigenous language in Mexico. It is important to know your patients and not assume based on race or ethnicity. In the classroom, it is important that you know the cultural background of all your students, so that you can apply culturally relevant teaching. This workshop acted as a reinforcement that showed multiple examples of why culturally relevant teaching is important in the classroom.

During my field placement at Dr. King Elementary, in Syracuse, it was common to have a classroom with a student who was from a different country. As the school’s principal told the SUNY Cortland service-learning volunteers, Syracuse is among the biggest refugee centers in America; of the students who attend Dr. King Elementary School, an estimated 37% are refugees. In my classroom specifically there was one student from Somalia. She wore traditional Somalia clothing, including a guntiino and a scarf or wrap covering her head.

I realized that the children’s classmates should also be aware of the background of their peers. If my students understand and accept what the scarf and guntiino is and why it is a tradition in the Somalia culture, they can better connect with their classmate. Accepting cultural backgrounds establishes trust and community in the classroom.

People have a hard time accepting things that are different, that is why it is important to establish this understanding right off the bat.

Another crucial scene for me was, “Home:  A Return to Internal Toxins.” In this scene, our main character, 13-year-old Sarah, introduces a new food, zucchini, to her mother. Regarding health, it is important to realize that some families can either not afford healthy food or do not have access to healthy food; therefore obesity is more frequent in families of low-income. From the classroom perspective, you need to know that some students don’t receive proper nutrition, which may hinder their academic success. At Dr. King, free breakfast was offered to close to all of the students. When free meals are offered in a school, you can assume that the families of the students are unable to provide the proper foods in order for their child to succeed. Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, and while observing I have drawn the same conclusion. I noticed that when students had their heads down in the morning or weren’t participating, it was because they didn’t have breakfast. Another concept to take into account is cultural capital.

It is clear that Sarah and her mother lack cultural capital; they lack cultural knowledge, based on the clear fact that they have never heard of the word zucchini. Looking further from the word zucchini, as a future educator or current teacher, you need to realize that your students have a wide range of access to material and knowledge, with some people’s knowledge being more limited than others’. At Dr. King Elementary, lack of cultural capital was a more obvious case. I prepared myself to take into account the troubles my students might face. For example, I never referenced stores or devices that I thought they wouldn’t be able to relate to, and if I did, I explained in detail my reference. You might be accustomed to eating zucchini as a part of your meal, but students living in a low-income community might not have the cultural capital to experience the same level of living you are acquainted with.

Service-Learning: Exploring Opportunities

By Crissana Christie

Service Learning is a form of learning in which students learn by helping others in the community. Most who haven’t experienced service learning would ask, what’s the difference between service learning and plain old community service? Well, service learning expands far beyond what we see on the surface. It is an innovative way of shaping how we learn, how we learn to give, the way we teach, and the way we live our lives.

Trust me, some people may wonder why in the earth a Junior Biomedical Science major striving to become a pediatrician (me) needs to know about service-learning. I’m not going to lie: I wondered that, too. But in my CPN 102 and 103 (service-learning) courses, as I began to explore the different opportunities such as volunteering in schools and becoming a mentor, I saw how it all related. I learned that service learning has no boundaries and that its goal is to teach us through hands-on experiences, how we are able to properly give service, especially in the community.

Because of service-learning, I now know that if I wanted to become an effective and successful pediatrician, I needed to learn how communication well with people from all walks of life, patience, compassion and a will to do good. And being a part of service learning can definitely give you that because you learn these things in the classroom and are able to apply them through your experiences, as compared to regular classrooms without service-learning. Yes, you may learn things, but you aren’t able to actually apply them through experience, so you might forget those skills. With service learning, you make those skills part of who you are.

Reflection on Inclusive Special Education: Make Learning Fun!

By Sydney Carlucci

As part of my Inclusive Special Education program at SUNY Cortland, I am placed in an elementary school in the Cortland Enlarged City School District as a college student there to help and to observe in the classroom. The city of Cortland is known to be a poverty stricken area, and thus there are many challenges in the city’s education system, so walking into one of its elementary schools, I was not expecting it to be so nice. The school building is up to date and clean and the staff and students are welcoming. Coming into an unfamiliar environment, I was a little nervous, but my host teacher and class are great and I already feel like part of the class after only three visits.

I have been placed in a sixth grade class, so the students are at that age where they are just beginning to develop their own personalities and beliefs. They are caught somewhere between children and teenagers and it is remarkable how smart, creative and resourceful they can be.

I did find, however, that many of the students do not get passing grades on a lot of their work. This puzzles me a little because I know they can all pass, they really are smart kids, and I know they understand a lot of what we do in class because when I talk to them they can usually explain it to me, so I don’t really get why they struggle so much to pass what seem to be simple assignments. I found this at my previous placement at an elementary school in the Syracuse City School District. The kids seemed to struggle on relatively simple assignments. They’d get questions wrong about things they had been working on for weeks. Both teachers are great, and the students really seem to like them, but for whatever reason they were and are not getting completely through to them.

I do have a bit of a theory on the subject, though. The students seem to do better on the “fun” assignments or the assignments they like to do. These are the kind of assignments that the kids get excited to do. Content may have a lot to do with their willingness to try.  My host teacher makes the content as interesting as possible, but some stuff just is not fascinating to all the students. Some how the staff needs to figure out how to get them to apply themselves all the time, and not just when they like what they are learning about. Even though it would be nice if they always liked what was being taught.

Overall, my experience thus far as been great and I look forward to going back every Monday.

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