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Re: Re: Re: Re: response from field-tested Payne materials

Posted By: Marc Lonoff on July 3, 2009
One has to begin somewhere. I have learned that sarcasm is poison, and try not to indulge in condescension especially towards my colleagues.

There are two education systems in America. Suburban schools attended by striving middle class students with parents who are attentive and who attend school functions are one system. Inner city schools populated with students who are largely poor and being raised by parents or related family under difficult economic pressure are the other system. That is an oversimplification, but it works for me.

Perhaps this is so obvious it is not worth stating. Teachers, especially at the high school level, come prepared with content knowledge and a pedagogy tool kit that is designed for the first system.

Teaching in inner city schools requires a different set of teacher skills and sensitivities. My expectations coming in were very high as I assume are most novice teachers'. Reality assaulted my expectations. Without indulging in stereotypes, I found many students did not understand why they were in school. Students were not prepared, were late, were absent, and fell asleep in class. Students were inured to failure by the time I met them in ninth grade.

The question about visiting an interesting place was part of a questionnaire in which I asked students about their interests, families, and career inclinations. The surveys were optional. Most students completed them. The surveys were my own idea, pre-Payne. I did not create the survey to reproduce Payne's framework. The example I quoted was the simplest example. Other questions revealed other examples of differences in activity, outlook, and aspiration.

The responses were more or less consistent with Payne, but also with common sense.

My own tentative conclusion is that aspiration and a vision of life as it might be is necessary to give students the ability to delay gratification and do effective work in school.

I am not sure what Ms. Rice is thinking in her second paragraph beginning "Payne's reductionist representation..." To me, the idea of generational poverty is concrete. Previous generations pass along less wealth and less cumulated education and diversity of work experience. They have lower current incomes. They have poorer nutrition and medical care. These are stubborn facts.

Children in middle class environments hear more words and are stimulated more than children in poverty environments. Children in middle class environments have parents who are more likely to have graduated from high school and college. Middle class children have had more travel and entertainment experiences, have visited more zoos, and science museums, have been on boat trips in the Chicago River and on Lake Michigan...
This is fact.

I do not view the middle class as utopia. I view middle class values as sensible and I view a strong educated middle class as essential citizens in a representative democracy. As for citizens in other countries, I wish them no harm through my actions.

Perhaps I am not bought in entirely into Payne. Perhaps there is some pernicious part of Payne that Ms. Rice understands that I do not.

Children from generational poverty are different from middle class kids. They have less money, fewer role models, less cognitive stimulation as infants, poorer nutrition,...
Payne emphasizes the pragmatism and skill sets developed to deal with poverty. My recollection of Payne was that she advocated emphasizing two skill sets and two languages: skills in school versus skills on the street; language in school (formal) versus language in the street... This would be to help deepen students adaptive skills in the formal school and work environments.

My job is defined by the school system as teaching specific content. I do my best to make the content meaningful and interesting. I emphasize things I think are most useful. I push the students to think for themselves and to solve problems following a tradition of math pedagogy (understand the problem, plan a strategy, execute, reflect on the success and effectiveness of the strategy).

So, I must confess that I do not get Ms. Rice's criticism of Payne and of my efforts.
Here is one charitable interpretation:
Ms. Rice is well schooled in the sociological and linguistic research of the last fifty years. She cannot understand how the simplistic views of Payne (chapter one, descriptive of stubborn facts, a throwback to the sociology of the 1950's) would not be coherently known to all teachers. I must confess to not having thought much about obvious differences. Students in poverty: had to work at McDonalds to help support their family, had adapted skills to survive in a difficult environment, and (metaphorically) did not have parents helping them with their homework. So Payne helped me think about these basic facts. That was what I called empathy. Maybe it should be demoted to "sympathy". Still, I do not think Payne or anything I said precludes seeing "their commonality and potentials for learning."

I will examine the web sites Ms. Rice has suggested as I await her further thoughts.

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 response from field-tested Payne materials by Jan Lewis on January 2, 2007
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