Saturday, November 8, 2008

Discussion on education...

November 7 & 8

Discussions between teachers were always shared with the students. This opened up discussions that continued to build their interest in their collaborating classmates.

I have just uploaded some photos of our bulletin board at our Orkut. Please have a look at it. There you will see our blog photos; the Orkut ones, etc. I put their photos of your conference as Parque School was involved in the process. I think it is very beautiful.

When I told you that our education system didn't allow black people to go to college is in the sense that our public schools, in general, are not attractive to our students. When we have tech labs there, it is very common that they are not used by the teachers. Teachers get small salaries so they have to work at several schools to make some money as I do. By doing so, of course, we don’t have enough time to be as good as we can...In addition, government doesn't give textbooks to high school students, and this is another reason for the lack of quality of our public school. In general, at least here in Bahia, it is very common not to find high school Chemistry and Physics teachers as they don’t want to get small salaries.

On the other hand, private schools are the best ones and only middle class or rich people study in such schools. In general, these people are white. So, they are the ones that are going to be doctors, politicians, engineers, etc. Public schools here in Brazil are for the poor and the black, unfortunately. I have an impression that things are much better for the afro-descendents in the US, am I right? For instance, your students have told mine that they want to be doctors. I have an impression that if they can, they find better conditions to do so and to be what they want. --Tyrone

Tyrone, Your bulletin board is awesome. You did a beautiful job. I will print pictures of your board, and put on our board for the visitors to see. We are also having a Global Connections Showcase next Friday. We will be showing parents, community leaders, and school board what we are doing with you in our class. Then there will be a welcome reception on Monday the 17th for our Brazilian visitors to showcase our project.

It is common to have teachers that are reluctant to try new things. Technology is kind of scary to the older crowd -- even at my age -- but I love a challenge. I work with the other teachers to help them when they have problems. Experts here tell us that you have to expect it to take 3-5 years before everyone is comfortable with technology and some will never be. They call the younger teachers and our students "digital natives" as they have always grown up with technology. One expert calls the kids "screenagers" because if you put it on a screen they are motivated to try it. They call us old folks that did not grow up with technology "digital immigrants" because it is a whole new way of life -- and we may never be as good as the younger ones. There is some truth to that -- but we must keep in mind that some immigrants assimilate faster into a culture than others. I like to think of myself as somewhere rising closer to the top of the immigrants. I still have a lot to learn. Fortunately, we get a lot of professional development in technology with small stipends for attending.

As for pay and the school districts, here it varies according to the district you work in. I have always loved working with kids who need someone to care just a little extra and to encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities available. Many of our US students get caught up in the drug culture and never go past high school and live in government housing the rest of their lives. We are seeing some changes, and I rejoice with each one who goes to college and tries to break the poverty cycle.

The government pays for poverty students to go to college if they are accepted. Community colleges are a good place for many of our students to start. They go to them for two years, and then they transfer to a four year college to finish up. Some do start at four year colleges and do well, but others drop out. Some wait a couple of years before attending community colleges. They can get an associate’s degree and go straight into the work force as medical assistants, veterinary assistants, billing clerks, some accounting jobs, some computer fields. We also have technical colleges where they train to be a plumber, an electrician, a car repairman, etc.

This is sometimes a problem. Some kids don't want to leave their families to go off to school, and their families don't want to lose them.

Even though they may improve in their reading and writing and math, many times it is not enough to make it in college. So they start with classes that help them get to the college level. Some get discouraged and quit. Others do very well. If their grades are not good enough, the government quits paying their way, and they drop out. This is very common.

This is my 6th year at Lovejoy. My first group that I taught for four years graduated in 2007. Of 12 students, one started at a large university and is still there and doing very well. I am so proud of him. Three other boys went to a smaller university. Two are still there. Four will get their associate degrees in May and will go on to a four year school to finish with a bachelors degree. Most of these receive at least some government funds to go to school.

Because this is such a small community and school, I teach all of the students because English is required four years; and they come back to visit. Some decide after a few years that they want to go on to college.

If they have a felony, the government will not pay until after three years out of jail. Some of the students want to be doctors and lawyers. It is very possible, but it is a long grueling education process. If they work really hard, they can make it.

I worked with Southwestern Illinois College to get some college credit for a couple of classes. They can graduate with 4 semester hours in college from the Career and Life Skills class. It counts as a college elective. This is the first year that I have not taught that class. I am proud to help make that happen for our school. This year the seniors took the college entrance exam and three of them qualify for college English. They will graduate with 3 semester hours of college English credit for a total of 7 semester hours. There is no charge for them to take the college classes. I do not get any additional pay to do this. I just want the kids to have the opportunity to do this.

I talked a lot to say, yes, they have great opportunity. One of them said to me the other day after the election, "I guess we can't say anymore that we are from Brooklyn and can't succeed because we are black, can we?" I agreed. I've been telling them this for three years.

My junior class is working with a technology instruction consultant who has recently come from a visit to China. He talked with many educators there. I found it interesting because we always hear how smart their students are and how much more rigorous their course of study is. Jim said that they told him what they admire the US for is its creative thinking. They are so stressed to perform well, to get into the best college, to succeed at everything they do. It is required that they get the results that they set out to get scientifically or educationally, that they are only interested in the end result. They are not encouraged to think creatively as they go through the process. --Cathy

Cathy, Thank you very much for your explanation! Congratulations for your job! As a matter of fact, You are so beloved by your students that some of them couldn't help hiding it. One of your students told mine, via blog, how much she liked you. I would make a surprise for you telling that afterward, but I couldn't help telling it now! Congratulations!

On Nov 17, I would be attending a course on Adult and the young education. It is a course that deals with how to teach students that haven’t studied for a long period of time and have returned. But, as we say here in Brasil: "Seu desejo é uma ordem!". Your wish is an order! I will tell the principal about the meeting and I think will use data show in this morning so that my students and other people can see you. I hope everything is fine with the net on this day!

Sometimes your students can't find answers to their comments at our blog. This occurs because sometimes either my students don't go to school or the net is not available. Brandi, for instance, has complained about that. Please tell her to be patient because I have been attentive to such answers.

I’ll take some more pictures of the bulletin board. The next ones will be taken more closely so that your students can see themselves on the photos and Brazilian visitors can see how "closest friends" we have been. (Just kidding!)

PS.: I asked the principal last Thursday to send you the original newspaper article. I didn’t have the chance to talk to them after that. I’ll ask him about that next Monday. By the way, if he hasn’t mailed the newspaper yet, could you please confirm the address to which I should mail the newspaper?

Have a nice weekend! Ask Rae to see our bulletin board at Orkut, ok? --Tyrone

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