Promising Practices was a great experience! When I first arrived in Donovan, I picked up my folder containing information on Promising Practices and the workshops I would be attending. About four hundred people were expected to attend the fair. These people included RIC students, teachers, and many others. Many of the students attended as a requirement of FNED 346, teachers attended to get CEU’s, and others attended just to go to the workshops or to hear Trisha Rose speak. Regardless, it was an awesome experience and I’m glad I attended it, because now I will be sure to attend other events like this.
There were a number of stands set up along the edge of the room; this was the Curriculum Fair. Each table had different materials that would be useful to teachers or future teachers. These materials included information on different subjects, such as science and math, booklets containing educational materials for classrooms that could be ordered, magazines, and information on courses that can be taken at RIC, such as ESL and special education. I liked walking around and looking at the information on each of the tables. Most stands had free booklets that we could take. I was very excited to see that there was a stand set up for ESL or English language learner teachers. I have been trying to find out information on how to become certified as an ESL teacher. I asked my advisor when I met with him to speak about the classes I would take this semester, but he said he was unsure. When I saw the ESL stand, I went over and spoke to the woman there. She told me a lot about the profession and gave me the e-mail address of the head coordinator of the ESL department. I felt very reassured after speaking to her.
After spending time in Donovan, we were dismissed to go to our first workshop. The first workshop that I attended was “Media Made Me Do It”. The speaker was Marco McWilliams, an African-American man who is an alumnus of RIC. He spoke about the effect that the media has on society. He used a PowerPoint to guide the discussion. He asked us to interact with him. He explained that media messages are organized to gain profit and power and the United States is maintained mostly because of the media. It is a way for ideas to travel out of our country. He said that the media tries to relate to us through representation; it has no real connection to reality and it is just a construction of images, which are often edited. We looked at the role of women in the media, the role of men, the role of different races, and Karl and Engels. Marco McWilliams explained how women are often reduced to objects. He showed photos and videos to back up what he was saying and often had us analyze the photos. I found his workshop very interesting and I liked analyzing the photos to see the true meaning behind them.
The other workshop that I attended was “Nonis and Borges: Celebrating our World”. The speakers were a kindergarten a first grade teacher. They both teach at Henry Barnard. They explained the importance of integrating social studies in the classroom. They showed us a PowerPoint and handed out thick packets which contained useful information such as projects, homework, and in-class assignments. They had examples of books that they read to children. Also, they explained that a big part of their curriculum is to study different countries and at the end of each unit to celebrate by playing games, eating foods, and dressing like people from that specific country. I noticed that in all the pictures in the PowerPoint the children had smiles on their faces. I think that this is a great way of applying the cultures around the world to the student’s lives. For the remainder of the workshop, we were able to create crafts from a variety of different cultures; there were packets that went along with each craft explaining what country it is and how to create it in case we wanted to use the idea in the future.
After attending the workshops, we headed back to Donovan for lunch. Lunch was buffet style; there was pasta, salad, bread, and drinks. We had about an hour to eat and chat with friends. After this it was finally time to hear Dr. Tricia Rose speak. The air was filled with anticipation and when she finally came to the podium she was greeted by loud claps from the audience. Dr. Tricia Rose is an African American woman who was raised in New York City. She graduated from Yale University and is now a professor at Brown University. She is a professor of Africana Studies. She is well-known for her books on the emerging culture of hip- hop. The topic that she spoke about at Promising Practices was “Pain, Passion, and Possibility: Inspired Teaching and Difficult Subjects”. She said that it is important to understand the origins of multiculturalism. She wanted to educate the audience on teaching difficult subjects, meaning students with different identities than ourselves. She began by explaining that we should not expect direct results from our interactions with students. She gave us advice on what to do when encountering teaching difficult subjects. First, we must be honest. She stressed the importance of facing reality and being honest even if it is painful. She gave an example of a class she teaches in which there are students who are homosexual. One day, one of the girls in the classroom was working on her computer, which would not work. She proceeded by saying, “This computer is so gay”, only to receive uncomfortable and angry stares from her gay classmates. Tricia Rose explained that the term gay is often used to mean dysfunctional. I often use the word gay in that context. I never really thought about it before because I was so used to it. She said that if a moment such as this does arise in the classroom; take it as a learning moment.
The next piece of advice that she gave was that students should be seen as both individuals and part of a group. Every person has two identities; however we often assess people using only their group identity. Group identity affects the lives of everyone. For example, if a person is colored, they would be more likely to be associated with stealing than if the person was white. Regardless of race, language, religion, etc., every student should be considered equal. Especially as teachers, we should not base assumptions on a student’s group identity, and this goes for all people in general as well. After that, Tricia Rose spoke about structural oppression and resistance to it. She said that we should try to teach historical inequity and solutions. This goes for all individuals, not just political figures. Again, she spoke about the importance of distinguishing the group of from the individual. Another thing she spoke about was the fact that many people want to participate in other cultures without being a part of it. For example, many white people listen to hip-hop music, dress like hip-hop artists, and dance to their music. However, hip-hop is still considered “black culture”.
I think that Tricia Rose seems like a wonderful person. She is very passionate about her work. She stated, “I am happy to teach everybody”. She wants to spread her knowledge. She looks at everyone as individuals and does not put anyone down. She has many stories to tell, which made her speech so interesting. She says that we should not feel guilty for the bad things that happen to others. She had us take a pledge. We all put our right hand up and were to repeat after her. We stated our name, and repeated statements regarding our inability to control what has happened in the world and the unfairness that people face. We said that we are free to make our own choices and will try our best to help others from now on. Dr. Tricia Rose told us that we should try to find ways to bring diversity into the curriculum, whether we are teaching elementary or secondary. Tricia Rose is a great speaker. She inspired me to the fullest, and I would not miss a chance to see her speak again,