The Promising Practice Conference was different than I thought it was going to be. I had envisioned a more "hands on" approach rather than just lectures.I thought that it would be an opportunity to practice all that we have learned this far.I will say that it was difficult to get up late early considering I worked until 2 am the night before and live an hour away from RIC. With that being said I was quite sleepy during the two hour "debate" that we had to sit through. I found that the 7:30 start time was unnecessary simply because the organizers were not even set up when I got there. There was no one checking tickets to validate who you were or if you had paid. I did however find the table that had my name card which also indicated what conferences I had signed up for; which I found to be incredibly helpful. I did meet up with Cathy and she was very nice to go and get me a muffin ( thank you!), we took our seats and soon discovered our class was making there way in, we relocated so that we could all sit together. I enjoyed being able to attend the conference as a class and we had some great conversations throughout the day!! The morning "debate" was a panel of university presidents and the Mayor of Providence.
Although, the questions that the moderator asked seemed they they were already prepared and the panel had been informed. I felt the the topics that they were debating were relevant to education, yet it seemed more of a "political tone". I say this because I felt that they were all tip toeing around the issues and giving a politically correct answer and not offering up a solid solution for the problems that are occurring within education. They was a chance for the audience to ask questions, and those that did ask very important questions. One students question stands out in my mind and I thought that it was a legitimate one. She was asking about the NECAP exams and how non- English speaking students were expected to achieve the passing scores when the questions were all in English. I thought that it was a legitimate question and I found the panels response to be completely vague and dismissive. The Mayor kept referring to himself and his background and that if "he could do it, then everyone could", such a politician.I found that the answer always referred back to " well, they should know how to read and write in English", This reminded me of Rodriguez and Collier. We as a country, society, and school systems demand that if you live here that you must learn English. I find this to be completely ignorant. Given that our country is diverse and that the demographics have shifted over last few decades, the English language is becoming secondary to that of Spanish and we have tried to maintain that English is the only acceptable language.
Instead of forcing everyone to speak English, has anyone actually thought to themselves, that perhaps they should learn Spanish? Probably not, because the majority of people that speak English are in the position of power and privilege and more specifically white privilege.This is exactly what happened to another student who asked a question. This students question was thoughtful, well researched and immediately shot down the moderator, who was white.This student was not from the culture of power and was dismissed. It is amazing to see the world for what it really is and how your ethnicity plays a very important role in how you are perceived. Although, this class has opened my eyes and forces me to view the world in a different way, I feel that it has also made me a bit cynical. Once you are able to see how the position of power really works, you notice who is not in that same position and how differently they are treated whether intentionally or unintentionally.I digress.
After the two hour debate was over we finally broke up into our individual conferences. I attended the '"Rethinking the Limits of Social Justice" orated by RIC professor of Africana Studies, Dr. Saucier. This conference was amazing. However, some of the concepts were hard to comprehended in the allotted twenty minutes and I find myself constantly trying to make sense of all of it. The major talking point was Social Justice or Morality within Pedagogy...WHAT?!? Apparently, you are either judicious or moral in your teaching, you can not be both. This bothered because I always have viewed myself as both and this left me perplexed as to why and I am still trying to work it out, I think that it is much deeper than it seems to be.
I also went to the " Anti- bullying" conference.This is the one that I was disappointed with. I say this because I was expecting to have a conversation of what bullying is, warning signs of a bully and those that are being bullied, and what to do to help that individual. I want to clarify that what the presenters did in their particular school is AMAZING, and I am grateful for the teachers and students who created this anti-bullying environment within the walls of their school. However, the entire seminar was about what they did, how they did it, their school pride which is fantastic. I think I was just just looking for answers to my " what if" questions. Although, they gave some examples like " a student talks about committing suicide", what do you do ??? Tell a teacher... Okay, lets say I'm the teacher, what do I do? Call the police, call a parent, tell the principal, all of the above??? I felt like there was no direction of how to handle a situation like that. I was expecting, okay step one, step two, step three, etc. Again, I thought it was going to be more hands on, informative and not just a slide show of their school and students.
Finally, it was lunch! I think that we were all starving and excited until we learned that lunch was just soup and salad... During lunch there was a keynote speaking who spoke about doing service learning in Chicago. I tried to pay attention but by this point of the day I was exhausting from listening and just needed silence. I think we all did. Unfortunately,I had to leave after lunch because I had to go to work. I wish that I was able to stay for my last conference, so I feel like I did miss out.
Overall, I thought that it was okay, I just had a different vision of what it was going to be like. Now I know for next year, I would make one suggestion, instead of having a panel of people answering a series of questions, immediately go into individual conferences where you can spend a decent amount of time really exploring your topic. And maybe not having start so early!! :)