Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November... (Promising Practices)

I really enjoy going to professional developments. I actually try to attend at least one a month (and I’ve been successful since my second year of teaching). I’ve been to some really good PDs and some pretty boring PDs. I must say, today’s seminar at Rhode Island College was overall organized and informative.

Clarke Science 106 – Using Visual Images to Promote Inclusivity and Reduce Bias
I am a visual learner. The vast majority of my students are visual learners. Therefore, it made sense to me to attend a breakout session focused on my other love besides teaching – photography. I absolutely adore taking photographs. In fact, the majority of my PowerPoints that I make for my classroom contain photographs that I have taken. I show my kids places I’ve been to if it relates to a historical topic; this comes fairly easy for my colonial American history units seeing I focus almost completely on Rhode Island history from Native Americans to the Industrial Revolution. Kathy, Shannon, and I were in attendance at Workshop C early this morning:

Workshop One: Analyzing the Inclusivity of School Environment Through Photographs
Marissa Weiss and Rita Nerny were the presenters for this workshop. They discussed with a group of roughly 25 participants the study of visual anthropology which, according to Collier, is the ability of a person to “remove façade from organizations and look directly at the contents of the culture.” I interpreted this study as a detailed analysis of photographs where the viewer looks for messages.

Weiss and Nerny gave the participants a “Photograph Classifications in Taxonomy for Equity Climate” rubric. This rubric dissects the picture into four categories:
1. Type of Artifact (sign, graffiti, architecture, art)
2. Equity Parameters (gender, socio-economic status, religion, race, physical, sexual orientation, ethnicity)
3. Message Content (roles, safety, belonging, equality)
4. Equity Approach (transformational/social action, contributions/additive, negative, null)

We had the opportunity to analyze photographs as well as view the pictures taken in a campus ecology (analysis through physical attributes of a campus) study. Nerny took us through her photographic study of Rhode Island College. Most interesting, she took a picture of a cubicle in the library where the phrase “welcome to one of the many places on campus I masturbate” was written (URI’s library had an issue with “glory holes” when I was there, so I guess the library is the cool place to get it on...)

Like I said, I love taking pictures and I think I have a pretty good eye for photography. I have always wanted to assign a photo narration project where my students had to buy a scrapbook and take pictures of street signs, items, buildings, or whatever it may be that reminds them of what we have studied in class and write paragraph captions describing the significance. For example, I live on Smith Street; a student could take a picture of that street sign and write a caption about John Smith (founder of Jamestown colony) or Venture Smith (an African prince brought to America as a slave). I just always thought it would be so cool for the students to see how much history is in this little state (actually, 25% of EVERYTHING on the national historical registry is located in Rhode Island!)

The background of my blog is a picture I took of the ceiling at the Bellagio in Vegas. Here is some more pictures from my photo narrative (just for fun):

Workshop Two: Building Confidence in Islamic Students
Mary Bell Hawkins was the presenter for my second breakout session. I’ll be honest, I had NO idea how the topic of this workshop was going to fit into my classroom. However, the majority of what I learned can be easily implemented into my Western Civilization course. Hawkins started out the presentation by debunking popular myths about people from the Middle East such as being “oppressive to women”, “oil rich”, “terrorists”, “living in the Middle Ages”, and “taking multiple wives.” So, when studying Mesopotamia, if my students were to bring up current day issues in the Middle East, I now have some solid background on how to combat issues of stereotypes, whereas before I may have been inclined to simply ignore the question or move on.

Halos are Turkish origin
School of Athens -Raphael Sanzio
I also learned about the extreme cultural and scientific revolutions that were made in the Arab world, even BEFORE the Italian Renaissance that Europeans hold so dear. I learned that Arab people were the first to invent checks, separate courses in meals, the process of courtship, algebra, chemistry, batteries, astronomy, pharmacy, and cures for STDs. Even Renaissance art has influences from the Islamic world. For example, the halos found around Mary and Jesus in paintings are Turkish influence. There is something called “Kuffic script” that is found inside the halos that are found on Turkish trays. In Renaissance art, there are people wearing Turkish costumes, there are Persian/Turkish ornamental rugs, and there are Turkish tents found throughout a majority of paintings. In Raphael’s famous piece of art, The School of Athens, there are numerous Greek and Roman philosophers and great thinkers. Included in this painting is a man named Averroes, an Arabic “great thinker.” I honestly did not know how influential Arab people were to the Europeans, except that we use Arabic numbers, not Roman numerals.

Teen Empowerment
Lastly, I was able to meet up with my entire SED552 class as we all went to Gaige Hall to listen to a group of young people talk about their experiences with Teen Empowerment: an after school group set in Boston that focuses on three key points:
1. Youth have the ability to make real and meaningful change in their schools and in their communities.
2. To make real change, youth need access to adequate resources to implement their ideas – need to ACT, not just SPEAK!
3. Most effective forms of youth and adult leadership are facilitative rather than command in nature – youth are naturally rebellious; don’t just tell youths, you need to show them, build experiences, and make them feel responsible.

I really enjoyed the icebreaker games (and I cringe at icebreaker games yet make my kids do them) like “Stand Up and Move”, “Bean Bag Toss” (great for vocabulary review!), and “Where the Wind Blows” (great for topic discussion and analysis.) What else really impressed me was the maturity and eloquence in which these kids spoke. I mean, they were all from rough neighborhoods and got into trouble, yet they understood how a teacher who makes connections with his/her students can be all the difference in a child’s life.


  1. Your photos are awesome. The reindeer at RIC looks as though it is on the tundra somewhere. I also learned about Arabic history and influence I had no idea about-informative session but more time was needed for discussion, I think.

  2. I totally forgot it was Guy Fawkes Day! We should have shown up with our Guy Fawkes masks and unleashed some V for Vendetta vengeance on the closed minded.

    On a less vengeful note, thanks for sharing the "Photograph Classifications in Taxonomy for Equity Climate." I find that my students are so ego-centric it is difficult for them to see the world from another's perspective. This seems like a good strategy to get kids to think about bias.

  3. I loved the Photos also. The picture with the window looking out was interesting. I almost felt trapped because it seemed I was looking out of a small space... very cool but scary effect. I thought the Teen empowerment presenters were well spoken too, but don't forget, only one of them was really still a kid.

  4. Tina, I am so inspired by your energy! I am also impressed with your commitment to professional development. And finally, love your pics!