Saturday, September 16, 2017

Debriefing DACA in the Writing Class

When given a chance, students testify to their desire for meaningful lessons. As one student wrote in an exit ticket, “Teachers can help us learn . . . about real life.” In an online discussion, students agreed they want to know how to deal with issues they encounter in their lives. They want relevant lessons that apply to their lived realities. That and the fact that our campus is located in Chula Vista, a stone's throw from the border, compelled me to discuss the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA). As a college professor, I have a duty to address an issue that affects so many in our community. I am also obligated to show students how a critical thinkers might approach these kind of issues.

Inspired by a blog entry from the good people at Facing History and Ourselves, I hacked a reliable schema building exercise for just that purpose: the KWL table. This activity calls for students to generate three different lists on a topic. The first column, "K," stand for what we KNOW about the topic. The "W" column is for what we WONDER. The "L" lists what we learned about the topic, the post-lesson reflection.

I decided that instead of using "K" for Know, we would consider "What we THINK we know about DACA and its Repeal." Using "what we think we know" allows for students to be wrong and to identify misconceptions we would need to clear up should we explore further.

What you think you know about DACA
Before diving into listing, students composed a solo free-write responding to this question: “What thoughts and feelings come up for when you confronted with news of the DACA repeal?" I told students that this was "sloppy copy" writing - not meant to be collected nor shared but to generate and clarify their thinking. I did not collect nor ask anyone to share these “sloppy copies."

Students next met in pairs, putting aside their sloppy copies. Dyads brainstormed what they thought they knew about DACA and it's repeal and what they wondered about the issue. They had a few minutes before we went around the room and contributed ideas and questions on the board.

After discussing both lists, I used the next few minutes to amplify how what we just did is a mini-version of what researchers do. Scholars and thinkers inventory what they think they know and generate questions. Next, we would investigate our beliefs to verify, correct, and clarify our preconceptions. And seek out what others might say.When I asked students how they met inquire for more information, they quickly responded that they could use the internet great formative assessment for me!). Since this is their first semester at college, I introduced the idea that they could ask their professors. New and first-generation college students need organic reason for speaking with someone they might not know how to approach. This is what I hoped I could provide - something that fit into the learning objectives of a course meant to introduce students to academic discourse and practices.
What you wonder about DACA

The other outcome had more to do with the interpersonal and relational aspect of being in a learning community. The answers students came up with, regardless of their position on the DACA repeal, indicated more than an intellectual concern but one about the human aspect of the ruling. Students saw that we could have a difficult conversation about real issues, building trust with each other, and themselves for being courageous enough to share opinions - privately, in pairs, and in the whole group. And hopefully, the activity affirmed their belief that college is an important place to explore meaningful issues. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Experiments with Digital Annotation

I wanted to help students comprehend assigned readings. So I felt excited to give, an online shared annotating/note taking program, a try. I’m still getting acquainted with the program and all its functions. But I can already attest to the value of digital annotating. Students can highlight as they would on actual paper, and they can jot down notes, or add links and images. Since everyone in class can see and comment upon everyone else's digital notes, students can start discussion threads anchored to readings.

The big goal here isn't to learn to highlight for the sake of highlighting nor to use digital tools out of a commitment to technology. Instead, I wanted to provide students a way to engage in meaningful reading and dialogue to develop content for their essays.

So I uploaded readings them onto, “seeding” them with highlighted notes about content and structure. I introduced the texts to students. And I demonstrated in class, devoting laboratory time for students to sign up and practice.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Chopping Up" Pinoy Psychology: AXES Illustration Paragraphs

The above clip features psychology Professor Kevin Nadal (he also does stand-up - talk about renaissance man). I like how Nadal illustrates Filipino American psychological phenomena using humor. I use his text book Filipino American Psychology in a composition class I teach. Why? For one, the class is part of a Filipino American Learning Community, so the subject matter is right on time. Secondly, the book features rhetorical modes typically found in college textbooks. And one of the big lessons I hope to teach is how to recognize and replicate those types of writing.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

P.O.W.E.R. & Thriving: Formulas for Success

We’ve been studying various ways to explain growth - leaning on traditional models of student development like Perry and Kohlberg. We also examined racial identity development models (see beverly Daniel Tatum's "Talking About Race, Learning about Racism"), another crucial area of growth. Movement through developmental models (ethical, moral, racial) can lead to an overall state of flourishing. 

One formula that measures how students flourish is what education professor Laura Schreiner calls the “thriving quotient.” Her formula accounts for the kind of growth we’d like students (and ourselves, as life-long learners!) to achieve. Schreiner breaks up her formula into five common sense factors: Social Connectedness, Positive Perspectives, Academic Determination, Valuing of Diverse Citizenry, and Engaged Learning.

She describes those ingredients in her essay, "The Thriving Quotient.” Social Connections speaks to fostering social capital and “soft skills” we need for collaborative work. Positive Perspective refers to positive psychology theories like Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit.” Academic Determination has to do goals, attitudes, and skills for growth. Value for Diverse Citizenry isn’t only about the ability to work well with different kinds of people. It’s about hope and the spirit of optimism that intergroup collaboration makes a difference. Engaged Learning accounts for actively participating in one’s learning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Podcasts & Classroom Conversations

As is my habit, as I drove home from work, I was listening to a podcast, Slate’s Audio Book Club. Because we are in the middle of studying Ta-Nehisi Coate’s recent book Between the World and Me, I wanted to supplement my reading with the opinions of Slate journalists that I respect: Jamelle Bouie, chief political correspondent, Katy Waldman, a staff writer, and Meghan O'Rourke who writes about culture, and she has recently published a memoir about her mother’s death Their podcast conversation was smart. Erudite. Insightful. The journalists manifested a breadth and depth of knowledge that added so much to my reading of Coates’ epistolary memoir. 

Listening to them reminded me of being in graduate school seminar, where we tested our ideas, took (and changed!) tentative positions about an author’s content, and sought to find the significance of the texts before us. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

End of Semester: Minor Victories!

Finals start today. And I’m feeling, well, pretty good. Usually this time of year, I’m out of sorts. And that’s putting it mildly. It’s the season of recriminations and regrets: “I didn’t finish everything I had planned! Students won’t be ready for their next English class. How did I fall so far behind? Someone’s gonna figure out I’m a fake.” The chorus in my head should be working overtime. 

But it’s not. I’m almost feeling . . . optimistic, uncharacteristically calm.  Is this denial? Have I drunk so much coffee and eaten so much junk food (stress eater!) that I’ve numbed myself out so completely, immunized against my inner critic? 

For certain, there are kernels of truth in my Greek chorus’ remorseful refrain. I could have more effectively prepared student. I could have used my time more wisely. And I’m definitely a master of “acting as if.” But for some reason, my self-recriminations aren’t piercing my so deeply. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Courageous Conversations at Southwestern College

My colleagues and I organized a Courageous Conversations dialogue program recently for all three of the multicultural learning communities here on our campus: Bayan, the Filipina/o American focused learning community; Puente, the Latina/o learning community: and Umoja, the learning community focused on African and African American students and issues. 

We, along with the professional development office  on our campus, wanted to create a space for dialogue about human relations issues that our students face - race, gender, criminal justice issues, internalized racism, colorism, and class to name a few. And we wanted to broaden the circle of safety that naturally develops in a learning community to a wider circle.

We used as our inspiration the book Courageous Conversations About Race by Glen Singleton and Curtis Wallace and a version of a discussion protocol called “conver-stations” from the Cult of Pedagogy website. In addition, I was inspired by a workshop I attended in Spring presented by the San Diego Area Writing Project, revising their program for a student audience. I'm grateful to all our sources for their intellectual generosity! 

Participants at the SDAWP workshop ( K- 16 teachers, professors, and administrators) rotated through three rounds of conversations ranging from sexual orientation and diversity to social justice activism to institutional racism. Each conversation took place at a table with about ten (10) people and a facilitator. After the workshop leader welcomed participants and reviewed communication agreements, facilitators at each table asked participants to introduce themselves and to briefly (ever so briefly!) state their investment in the issues. Then, each facilitator took a brief moment to either share short readings or share a set of provocative questions to get the conversation going.