Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thank You Letter

Dear Ms. Parmelee, Ms. Stern and Ms. Moore

Your presentation was excellent!  I liked how you engaged the whole audience in the discussion.  Each and every one of us had the opportunity to engage in the conversation about motivating girls into STEM fields.  Although the statistics has improved regarding girls in STEM programs, there is a lot of work to be done.

During the presentation, we discussed the rise in STEM related fields and the unequal access to STEM related classes related to STEM.  There are increases of girls interest in STEM related fields however; there is not a similar rise in girls entering STEM fields.   The disconnect may be due to adults discouraging girls into these fields because of the gender biased that exists.

There was a lot of discussion during the presentation on ways to motivate girls who excel in math and science to pursue these types of careers.  Creating after school programs and informing parents about the opportunities and getting the community involved in the discussion were some of the great ideas during the discussion.  Also, we discussed the need to present good role models for girls who are interested.

I would love to continue this conversation and it was a pleasure meeting with you to discuss this important topic. Thank you very much.

unequal access to challenging classes in math and science as well as

 ways to engage girls into stem including creating after school programs, engaging families, and providing excellent role models.  We also discussed the increase in STEM related fields and the need for



  • Summary of session attended
  • How it is connected to the Promising Practice theme
  • Why this session sticks out

  • Continuing the conversation
  • Depth from the presenter

Critical Reflection:

  • Evidence of Deeper Understanding
  • Connection to authors context

Mechanics / Professionalism

  • Engaging conversation
  • Proofread
  • Evidence of professional identity

Title: Hands On Learning
Presenter:Helaine Hager

Participants in this workshop will create models of Earth systems that explain ocean currents and other Density driven earth processes.  In this presentation, AMS (American Meteorological Society) pressure blocks are used to model how pressure affects ocean currents, demonstrating that science concepts can be learned through activity that can effectively engage different learning styles.

Culturally responsive

Assumptions in understanding
If money was no option what resources would you use
Transient population
Working in labs
no prerequisites
lack of understanding prior to entering the class

STEM literacy

Careers are on the rise in STEM fields

Unequal access to challenging classes

Exploring the Landscape: Women and Girls in STEM

Positive aspects and challenges

Girls and Boys in Math and Science

Girl scout research Institute
Girls are really confident in their abilities

Interested but do not choose career paths that are not STEM related

girls are interested in STEM jobs

culture of the boys clubs

Address real an dpercei ed barriers and steotypes about gender, race, and disability with yoiur students
Engage familes and the community in your students learning experience
provide a range of STEm role models for your students.
Define STEM broadly
Build your students’ confidence by recognizing the ways in which they practice STEM every day
develop an environmnett in which everyone’s voice and ideas are respected.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Racial Identity Development

I cannot say without question that I am an expert when it comes to race.  My experience is quite limited and therefore; I would not feel comfortable with these topics nor would I feel comfortable with teaching others on these topics.   As the author suggests "race is a social construction" and therefore it is very difficult to express concepts that really do not exist.  However, they do exist in the daily lives of students and it would not make sense to turn a blind eye and pretend that it does not. I recognize that it would be difficult to argue that one is not a racist when a student believes that you are. It s quite possible that once a teacher is stigmatized by a specific student it would be difficult to change their mind once it is made up. It may come a time when the teacher has to solicit support from another teacher who has gain the respect and admiration from that student.  I believe it is important to get out in front of the situations in order to establish respect and rapport of all students regardless of their race.

Since this topic is part of our reading and conversation, I feel need to express that the word "whiteness" or "blackness" as well as the term "white male power" is not nor will it ever be part of my vocabulary.  I would connect this to every derogatory name for any race or ethnicity.

I do believe that teachers should have their own "toolkit" in order to "best address injustice in their daily practice" (Nakkula and Toshalis p.119).


"Examining the developmental significance of racial pride and multicultural literacy, we present the ethical imperative of specifically attending to racial and ethic identity issues with a focus on how school-based professionals can best address injustice in their daily practice" (Nakkula and Toshalis p.119).

"When a student enters your school, classroom, or office, she brings with her the layers of historical and cultural experiences that have shaped the identity she inhabits" (Nakkula and Toshalis p.120).

"As with students, our identities shift as we move from setting to setting, and our behavior and decisions shift with them" (Nakkula and Toshalis p.120).

"If we are to accompany youth as they attempt to construct healthy identities and resist oppressive contexts that limit their potential, we must learn to recognize and confront the ways in which injurious racial categorizations play out in their lives" (Nakkula and Toshalis p.124).

"race is a social construction" (Nakkula and Toshalis p.124)

"Regardless of its lack of basis in Scientific fact, "race" functions as a segragating marker of power in nearly all societies on earth"(Nakkula and Toshalis p.124).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Going Underground vs Safe Places

“By early adolescence, according to  the archetype, exuberant self expression gives away to insecurity and self silencing” (Nukkula and Toshalis p.103).  According to the Nukkula and Toshalis, young adolescent girls who typically are very assertive and expressive may find themselves socially rejected because of their resistance to the feminine stereotypes.  They further suggest that the pre prescribed and expected roles of females makes it difficult for young adolescent girls to find the courage to look beyond that what is expected of them.  As a Technology Education Teacher I have always heard that there is a great need for woman to enter the engineering and technology fields. However, recent information from the National Girls Collaborative Project Website suggest that there is an increase of girls taking precalculus and actually surpasses boys by approximately three percent and in other math fields the percentages are neck and neck. These numbers leads me to believe that there are changes in these areas.  I believe this is due to the fact that there has been great strides in promoting girls to become engineers.  The self silencing as the author suggests comes from the gender stereotypes that makes it difficult for girls to choose careers outside the gender norms.

Carol Gilligan, a relational theorist as identified by the author describes the sociopolitical reality that the world is dominated by males .  In this social order according the Gilligan, “women and girls become objectified and socially limited due to their assumed capacity for care, relationship building, and intuition” (Nukkula and Toshalis p.103) .  The story about Lorena proved to be a contradiction to Gilligan's theory of woman who are quiet and objectified. Her strength allowed her to move beyond the female stereotype and her strength could make her a role model to women everywhere.  However, there were case studies described in the book that supported her theories. For example, the story of Lisa Prescott as she grew into adolescence and transformed herself from an articulate, well prepared, charismatic 12 year old. As described by the author as someone who went “underground”, her characteristics were no longer well accepted because of her gender. She became more concerned with being accepted that she hid her true talents from her peers.  

Boys have similar experiences when it comes to gender stereotypes.  The story of a boy named Steve Chang who before was in the orchestra and focused more on his education than socialization.  As he grew into a young adolescent boy, his need to be socially accepted trumped his true talents. He was also described as a boy who has gone underground.  The male stereotypes of being cool and physically pronounced were overpowering to him. These cases as described by the author suggests that it is difficult to escape gender stereotypes because of the need for young adolescents to be socially accepted. "Going underground" is a term used to describe what happens when adolescents realize what is socially accepted and what is not is hidden from their peers. Steve Chang felt the need to be socially accepted and therefore began to do things that were more accepted of a boy his age. He began to do things that he would not normally do and hide the things that he was skilled at and he enjoyed. There is an opportunity cost here because he may never become what he dreamed he could be because of the need to be socially accepted.
The two concepts that resonated with me from my reading of this book are "going underground" and "safe place". "Safe place" is the inverse because the concept considers and alternate reality of creating a place where the students can express themselves without feeling the need for social acceptance. It is described by Erickson in this book as "an alternate moratorium". I am disheartened that students have a greater need to be accepted than to be comfortable with themselves enough to seek how whatever makes them feel happy. I think of the opportunity cost of students not reaching the goals that they dreamed of before they reach an age where they feel the need to be accepted. I can only imagine how many students went underground because the safe places that schools needed to create did not exist. I think of the absence of after school programs because of lack of funding that would have created these safe places. I would like to thin that it does not matter however, we do live in their world.

National Girls Collaborative Project

This video is a great representation of children who already have an understanding of the stereotypes of boys and girls,

Works Cited

"Gender Roles-Interviews with Kids." YouTube. YouTube. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <>.

Nakkula, Michael J., and Eric Toshalis. Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education, 2006. Print.

"Statistics." National Girls Collaborative Project |. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <>.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Understanding Youth by Michael J. Nakkula and Eric ToshalisChapter 4 and 5

In everything I read, it tells me that students respond better when teachers treat students like “real people”.  Even in my interview, the student that I interviewed described the characteristics of an excellent teacher as “one who listens to her and knows her as a person”.  In the book called Understanding Youth by Michael J. Nakkula and Eric Toshalis, the author describes two young ladies named Lorena and Janine who have similar experiences of falling behind in school and their feeling that they are so far beyond that their vision of success is replaced by a feeling that failure is inevitable.  The author believes that these girls were continuously promoted because of the No Child Left Behind legislation and it did not prepare them for high stake testing that does not take into account the students strengths.  In Lorena’s situation, her academic deficiencies were focused on and her behavior escalated most probably due to her frustration with her progress and her problems at home. It took two teachers and her Principal to get together and focus on her strengths and develop a plan of action. I was amazed to read about the story of Lorena because its successful outcome.  It was her teachers that believed in her and treated her like a “real person”.
In chapter four of Nakula’s book the author suggests that it is difficult for teachers and administration to shift from focusing on the students deficiencies and less on the students abilities.  The diagnostic tools that we used typically identifies the students deficiencies but does not supply the teachers and the students the tools necessary to overcome these deficiencies.  As the gap between students becomes greater, the student with these deficiencies often becomes frustrated and overwhelmed. In the authors case study, Lorena became aggressive and non compliant because her belief that, “her teachers were more intent on exposing her poor writing skills and sending her the office than helping her improve”.  This may have not been the case however; her view of herself and the world around her is very powerful and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The cinderella story began when a school counselor who believed in her provided her with an opportunity that enabled her to use her talents successfully.  The suggestion alone to participate in rowing was not enough to make her successful. However, the fact that it allowed her to use her skills, motivate her to work with a team and remove her from opportunities to get into trouble.  
According to the author, success in one area or subject does not guarantee the success in another. It does create a positive experience that could lead to students challenging themselves in other areas.  For example, Mrs. Peterson said to Lorena, “you could convince a fish to buy water with your verbal skills, and if you put into your writing what you put into your rowing, you’d be a hekuva writer too”.  Mrs. Peterson attempts to use her success in rowing as a way to motivate her to challenge her writing skills.  Nakula describes this as focusing the possibility lens rather than focusing on deficiencies or areas where the student is weak.
The pressure that a classroom teacher faces each and every day to ensure that the student does well on their tests. It forces them to look more at their deficiencies than to concentrate on the students strengths. As the student falls farther and farther behind it is not hard to imagine the frustration that a student feels when they face these deficiencies. From a students point of view, I can see why they get angry and act out not to mention if they find the class boring or not challenging. The inspirational story of Lorena and how she was encouraged to take part in an activity that not only challenged her but made her feel good about herself. The teachers and administrators looked at Lorena as a person rather than a statistic.
In chapter 5, the author points out Sullivan's belief that the school environment is the an important factor in the healthy development of adolescents. It is my personal belief that the stronger the school community is the better the outcome in student development. This is my first year at Joseph L. McCourt Middle School and I have found that the administration and the teachers care a lot about the students and the positive school environment is due to their hard work and dedication. Even if the home environment of these adolescents is unhealthy the school community could provide opportunities for the adolescents regardless.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Understanding Youth by Michael J. Nakkula and Eric Toshalis

Chapter 2 Identity in Context

"In fact, much of what adolescents choose to do, whom they relate to, and how they spend their time is contingent upon the self they are seeking to create, test, and revise". nakkula and Toshalis

The author suggests that adolescents continue to create, test and revise themselves.  As they grow older their identities continue to evolve and change.  Nakkula and Toshalis provides and example of two kids Antwon and Julian who started out best friends in elementary school.  They both had a love for sports and were inseparable in their early years.  However, as they got older Antwon struggled with academics and Julian distinguished himself academically especially in Math and Science and moved away from participating in sports. Antwon and Julian developed their own identities and as a result their friendship began to fade.  The author suggests that this did not happen immediately but over a period of time. In this time, the adolescents are continuously in a state of identity experimentation whereas Antwon and Julian are "struggling to find a balance" between individuation and their social connections.
      According to Erikson and quoted by the author, there are two things happening here.  Erikson described this stage as Identity  vs. role confusion.  The situation the author describes whereas Julian acts differently when he is with Antwon and when he is not.  Julian was having a difficult time breaking away from his earlier identity even though he has changed.  We see this as educators when students who act differently when they are with their friends than when they are alone with adults.  I have personally had encounters with students who were very polite when I speak to them and when they are with their friends they may act up and act inappropriately.

 The model above depicts the relationship  between James Marcia's commitment and Erikson's Crisis.  According to the author there is not always a crisis and the adolescent is either committed or he/she is not. In the example provided by the author, Julian faced a crisis on whether or not he was going to do something inappropriately or explain to Antwon that he was not going to follow him.  In this situation, Julian decided to follow Antwon and therefore he was not committed to his own identity. This is called Identity Moratorium whereas there was a crisis and he was not committed.  If he told Antwon that he was not going to follow him and moved away from the friendship then it may have been referred to as Identity Achievement provided that he was considered in crisis. A crisis occurred if there was a struggle to make a decision.  If there was no struggle or commitment it is called Identity Diffusion and if there was no struggle to make a decision and Julian committed to a life direction and had no difficulty with making the right decision and simply move away from Antwon's bad choices it would be referred to as Identity Foreclosure.
Looking back at the quote in the beginning, it makes sense to me that the adolescents we work with everyday are continuing to create, test and revise their identity. There are students who we would describe as awesome, pleasure to work with and very intelligent. These students are always doing the right thing and are focused with a goal. Then, there are students who typically are good students however; when they are with their friends they tend to act inappropriately. Then, there are students who act inappropriately most of the time and are not academically gifted. Finally, there are those students who fall between the adolescents I previously described. Regardless, these students are all forming their own identities.

Chapter 3 Risk Taking and Creativity

"Drawing on the work of eminent adolescent researchers and theorists, we show how much of adolscent risk taking is an effort toward creative expression, an effort to create an interesting and unique self".

 At first, I was wondering why they spent a lot of time in this chapter on adolescents who were engaged in risky behavior and making unhealthy spontaneous decisions. Then, I reexamined my thinking in terms of the importance of getting to know the student. I always believed the it is important to not only get to know the student as a learner but as a person as well.  Most adolescents are spending a lot of time determining their identity and therefore are making both good decisions and bad decisions on a daily basis.  However, there are many teachers who have a different perspective on what is considered good behavior and what is bad behavior.  The author suggests that risk taking is a process that adolescents use to develop their identity.  
There are all kinds of risk taking including healthy and unhealthy and it is important to understand the difference.  Students who describe their classroom experience as boring are most probably unchallenged by the shared curriculum or the classroom activity.  The author states in the chapter, "understanding adolescents as theoreticians and examining risk taking as meaning-making activity helps us see beyond the rhetoric of "at risk" youth".  Furthermore, the author suggests that it is not as simple as just stating it is a bad risk or a good risk.   In absence of the appropriate guidance from their parents, teachers, and fellow students adolescents seek to challenge their selves in many different types of risk behavior.  The author suggests that teachers have a real opportunity to substitute unhealthy risky and spontaneous behavior with healthy risk that challenges the adolescents cognitive development and create activities that are challenging and fun.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Questions for Adolescent Middle School Students

What is the size of the student?
How tall is the student?
Was the student loud or quiet?
Was the student shy or outgoing?
Does the student like school?
What was the students behavior like?
Does the student have difficulty reading and writing?
Does the student have a disability?
What new experiences at home affect the student positively or negatively?
What stories does the student convey?
Is the student honest?
Does the student have manners or is he/she often rude?
How does the students homelife affect him/her in the classroom?
Does the student misbehave often in the classroom?

Behavior questions
Have you ever felt that you were unfairly targeted by a teacher or punished unfairly in the classroom?
Do you often get in trouble in the classroom?
When you are doing group work do you often fool around and not participate with your classmates?
If you often get in to trouble, why do you feel this is happening?
Does the teacher often ask you to stop talking?
Do you typically follow the instructions the teacher provides in class?

Learning questions
Do you think that the homework that you complete helps you for the upcoming test?
How is using the Chromebook in your classes affect the way you learn in the classroom?
Do you have trouble with your Chromebook in such a way that it interferes with your learning?
What type of activity do you like the most and why?  
Do you like to do group work?
What kind of learner are you?  Listening, Viewing, or doing (Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic)
Do you typically do well on assessments?
Do you ask for help from your teacher or do you wait for the teacher to come to you?
What subject do you like the best?  Why?
What subject do you like the least?  Why?

Study habits
When you get home what is the first thing that you do?
Do you play video games?
Would you choose to play a video game first before your homework or your homework before
a video game?
Do you do your homework most of the time?
How long do you need to study for a test?

Do you typically get along with your classmates?
Do you help other students in the class?
Do you ask other students in the classroom for help?
What teachers do you like the most and why?
Do you like to do group work with your classmates?

Monday, September 22, 2014

  "We do not construct our life stories on our own.  We are rather, in a constant state of cocreating who we with the people with whom we are in the closest connection and within those contexts that hold the most meaning for our day-to-day existence". (Nakkula and Toshalis p.6)

As I read the first chapter in the book called Understanding Youth by Michael J. Nakkula and Eric Toshalis, I immediately thought of my students that I taught in the past nine years. There were students that I was able to relate to and students whom I was unable to reach.  I recognize that not all students were going to like me however; I wanted to be viewed as fair and respectful educator.  Since I taught everyone in the school, I recognized that it was difficult to connect with each and everyone of my students.  The students that I had the most difficulty with usually concerned me the most.   My main concern about my inability to connect with a specific student forced me to question myself as an educator and to ask others if they were having the same difficulty as me.  The quote I stated above by Nakkula and Toshalis made so much sense to me.  I look at my relationship with students as a partnership for learning. I recognize there is a lot of things that students can learn from me as well as a lot of things I can learn from my students.  The authors suggest that we as educators can have a huge impact on the students stories. The students are constantly recreating their stories based on their experiences with the world and all of us as educators. We as educators can have a huge impact on the students depending upon our connection with them throughout their learning.
In the situation between Danielle Petersen, World Literature Teacher and the student named Antwon, there was conflict between the two because of a lack of understanding of each other. The author suggests the conflict is due to Antwons’ concern with his own future and how his teacher is going to become  part of his story. Furthermore, Antwon has a need to determine whether or not his teacher will help him succeed or be an obstacle that he feels the need to challenge. From my reading, I believe that it is not as simple as blaming the student for his or her behavior. The educator must question whether or not they have spent enough time getting to know the student as a learner.  In my experience, half the battle is to create a positive environment for learning and establish a relationship with the students. Once you accomplished the first two then it the learning part becomes that much easier.

The irreconcilable relationship between the teacher and the student in this case was due to the students fear of failure and the teachers fear of being out of their comfort zone and their failure to look deeper into the reasons for his bad behavior.  As described in the scenario, the teacher was described as being "out of her comfort zone" and her feelings of having "lack of credibility or culture capital". The most important focus of the teacher is to ensure that she has control of her class and when she felt she was loosing control the focus was on the students and their behavior.

About Michael J. Nukkula