Saturday, December 6, 2008

Last blog: Influences

Parents are a child’s teacher first and for the most amount of time. Therefore, parents are the greatest influence on children.
Every choice a parent makes affects a child’s development. These choices range from what television show they watch, the decision to place a kid in private school and the type of neighborhood a child is raised in.
Parents create a trickle down affect on a child’s development. Every other influence, from community to media, follows from a parent.
Likewise, a parent’s absence stimulates a strong influence. Just look at Lafayette from There Are No Children Here. In the final chapters of the book, he enters into an altercation with his dad because of Paul’s absence and negative influence in his life.
Before children can speak or think maturely, parents are making decisions that affect their futures. As we read time and time again in the textbook, families are the main social agents for children, they provide stability and they create a democratic system for kids to model.
To further assert that parents are the number one influence on a child’s development, think about a child, teen or young adult you know. For each person, think about their main successes and their main challenges they’ve encountered. Can you link any of these back to their upbringing? Mostly, the answer is probably yes.
Since parents are the number one influence on kids, it’s important to give parents support and resources to make their jobs less challenging. This is where communities, media, schools, macrosystems and peers come into play. By providing resources, values and opportunities that enhance parenting, all of the systems link and create, diverse, successful children.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Children and Media

As I've said before, there are two specific issues regarding kids and the media. One, they watch/use too much of it and two, they're not using it in the right way.
The amount of T.V., video games and internet time kids are using are attributing to a myriad of problems in our society; laziness, higher child obesity rates and less focus on the family.
In addition, the breadth of technology in the current society should be able to create well-informed, intellectual kids and instead it's doing something quite the opposite.
Kids should have access to the benefits of modern technology. I see nothing wrong with the internet, T.V. and games when it's supervised and in moderation.
The idea of parents watching their kids intake is important, but naive because a lot of kids, especially as they get older, learn how to work around parental guidelines: no MTV allowed in the house? Kids will wait until their parents are gone. Another example: kids need to know adult trust them. they need to be allowed to talk to their friends on myspace without feeling like their mom is watching their every move. (Let's remember this season of Desperate Housewives; if you watch it that is.)
I do not have a specific limit on these "toys", but there are some general parameters that should be followed. First, media should not interfere with school and other extracurriculars. If a kid's homework suffers because they're playing video games or if they are too tired for baseball practice because they've been on myspace all night, that's an issue. Families need to learn to leave the media out of certain times of the day: dinner should be a media free zone- no Blackberry, iPods, video games or T.V. If kids see the habits of their parents and build similar habits young, the issues surrounding the media and kid will drastically decrease.
Practical application: think about a T.V. show, game or website you did not have access to as a kid. Did you miss out because of it/ Did it change the way people looked at you? Your adult personality? Are you less because of it? Most likely, the answer is no. My parents did not let us have a video game system when we were kids. (We were thrilled when we got a computer and were allowed to play Putt-Putt). In fact, I don't ever remember being mad at my parents about the no video game rule because that was the way it always was; there was nothing for me to miss out on.
I'm all about kids keeping up with modern media- they must in order to compete in the dog eat dog education and corporate world, but media should not follow kids around like a puppy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

School Days

I’ve had immense fortune in the good teacher department; my 5th grade teacher, 7th grade Science teacher, high school English teacher and a favorite Education professor in college, just to name a few.

On the other hand, I’ve only had two teachers who I truly believe should have checked a different box when their college applications what their intended careers were.

Nevertheless, each of these exceptionally great or terrible teachers affected me in some way. (Maybe the bad ones more than the good ones in some cases- as my fellow classmates pointed out in last week’s discussion board.)

These teachers, along with inventive ways to make learning exciting and challenging, have left me with a slew of vivid memories I carry.

As I said last week on the discussion board, my 7th grade Science teacher impacted me in a huge way. She was not the most beloved teacher, but, the amount of admiration I have for her made up for any lack other students showed. After the worst school year I ever had (see the next paragraph) this teacher taught me that I could love school again. She ignited the fire that was smothered the previous year. The confidence, happiness and hunger for learning that I once had returned even bigger and is a huge reason I am a teacher and that I still love learning, about anything, more than most people.

My worst teacher could probably win an award for her utter lack of compassion, respect and human decency; that’s how horrible she was as a teacher. In fact, several of my 6th grade classmates left the school because of her incessant criticism, verbal abuse and even discrimination. Almost every day I would wake up and be sick because of the fear I had about her class. Students should never feel this way, especially in elementary school. Many classmates and I knew that we were stupid, not worthy of a good education and as she would often put, “incapable of amounting to anything.” Of course, she had her favorites and they knew they were gold; what a dream it would have been to be them. But, I made have received a false sense of hard work and dignity if that was the case. At any rate, my parents and I debated about sending me to another school to finish out my last year of elementary school, but I stuck it out. Many students didn’t and I am thankful that I had my parents as support because the school’s hands were tied. What can you do about a tenured teacher?

These two teachers are not the only memories I have of school. Some of my greatest memories include my first day at a new school, being a Safety Patrol Officer, winning a community service award, learning about Civil Rights and the American Revolution through a drama troupe; we got to act out parts and I was Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me Death!” Many of my memories are content based- writing out the Pythagorean theory 100 times, memorizing definitions for the SAT’s, writing poetry for an AP Lit project, but many of memories center around the experiences of that content or of growing up: Making an animation video with Barbie’s for a project, getting to “pan for gold” like in the Gold Rush, falling in love with Amelia Earhart after doing research and being the only 5th grade to recite a 10 minute speech from memory and of course, being totally grossed out during three years of awkward Sex-Ed. These memories and the way I feel about them and the person they shaped me to be is so much a part of the big picture of schooling.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Today's preschools are more than just naps and graham crackers, swing sets and "Baby Beluga".
As a kid I went to a private Christian centered pre-school because my grandmother's best friend worked at the school and I was able to go there for free. I believe the school provided me with social opportunities and a curiosity for religion that has never left me. At the time, my parents had just had one of my younger sisters so going to pre-school was a great way for me to interact with peers and to integrate my outgoing and leader type personality with lots of different kids.
As a college student, I worked at a pre-school during my summers off. I had the chance to work with white and Asian kids who were mostly from a middle socioeconomic background. The school integrated child and teacher centered activities, lots of physical play, and an emphasis on life skills such as cooperation, individuality and specific skills like potty training, tying shoes, reading- through Zoo Phonics, etc.
I do not have children, but I do believe that pre-school is essential to modern society and the growth and success of children, While many types of pre-schools are beneficial for children, schools with a constructivist approach develop independent, curious, social children. Kids need to learn to make decisions and to be confident in who they are. Furthermore, pre-school is one of the only types of school settings that allow kids freedom and choice. I believe that kids need to have these types of opportunities before they enter the more rigorous, behaviorist centered American school system.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

10 Stressors

As if it isn't hard enough to raise a kid or be a kid, modern society creates and influences a lot of stressors that affect the daily upbringing of children:

1. Finances- a financial crisis (or a poor economy, like our current situation) affects children. In fact, the financial status of a family is almost like a domino effect; it works it's way into other stressors of a family.
2. School- The academic importance of our society effects a family: whether or not a child can handle the requirements put on them and how much assistance a parent can provide for their children. In addition, the school is not the only influence that stresses academic importance. Each family holds a different level of significance on the importance of education.
3. Extracurricular Activities- Many American families after school/work time and weekends are filled with soccer practice, ballet class and flute lessons, etc. Just as with school, society and families place an importance on these activities to "build" a child into a successful member of society.
4. Marriage/Divorce- The nature of a marriage and or separation of the caregivers in a family unit greatly affect the daily lives a family. Whether or not there is a two person household, single parent, mom and grandmother, children seeing their parents every other weekend, etc. change the nature of a family and the development of a child.
5. Neighborhood/Community- The location of a family can be an added stressor as well. As it's been seen in the Kotlowitz reading, the neighborhood that the children live in affects how they get to school, the kind of children they hang out with and how they grow up. Whether the neighborhood is one like in There Are No Children Hereor something similar to The Beverly Hills, the pressures to fit into the community become a stressor to a family.
6. Siblings- The relationships between siblings and one another and siblings and their parents is another stressor for families. The pressure siblings sometimes feel to be better than one another or to gain attention from their parents creates stress for a family. These relationships often become a bigger stressor when in coordination with pressure to do well in school, sports, etc.
7. Careers- In our modern society where two parents often both hold careers, a stressor lies in finding after care for children, job transfers and maintaining a strong family relationship.
8. Media- As has been covered in the textbook, the media greatly affects children. The need to be popular, up to date on all the new technology and listening to popular music while wearing the latest fashions affects a family when those items cannot be purchased, or kids are not accepted by their peers without them. A child's need to belong affects the relationships in the family when they are unhappy.
9. Health- When a family is crippled by an illness, accident, or disease many facets of the poor health become a stressor for a family. Whether or not good health care is provided or the worry about whether the family member can get treatment, cures or recovery add stress to every relationship in a family.
10. Finally, another stressor for a family is addiction. This does not affect all families but the addiction of any family member to nicotine, alcohol, drugs, gambling or even lesser addictions like food, a hobby or T.V. alter the relationships husbands and wives have, kids have with their parents and that they have with each other.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A product of the 90's

Despite my sheer love for 70's music, I am a child of the 90's (born in 85.)
I grew up with sitcoms like Home Improvement, Titanic as the favorite movie in junior high and every girl wishing she had front row tickets to an Backstreet Boys concert.
However, unlike the kids that are only a few years younger than me, I can remember years that excluded computers, cell phones and MP3 players and were filled with trips to Kinkos to type reports, 50 cents in my pocket for a phone call and listening to Walkmans like they were going out of style (who knew they really were?!)
With the extreme influx in technology over the past 15 years, I know that every generation has dealt with it differently. While generations before me may see it as shocking and slightly cumbersome, the kids ahead of me see it as a daily part of life. (There are eight year olds with cell phones!) As a product of the 90's I've had the ability to look at technology in a slightly different way. I think I'm slower to take it for granted because I can remember a time when I did not have access to The Deceleration of Independence in cyberspace. On the flip side, I was young enough to learn a lot of the technology quickly and integrate into my life so that I knew how to e-mail, blog and properly research before heading off to college.
All of this technology makes it easy for a kid of the 90's to access her favorite N*Sync tunes while on the treadmill and to stay in touch with friends by "poking" them on facebook. More importantly, as a child of the 90's technology effects the type of leaders the 90's will produce. People my age learn how to stay informed, discuss opinions and build networks that will make us stronger leaders in education, business and politics.
With this mass amount of technology at the new generation's fingertips, I worry about the type of problems it may create. Some may wonder what kind of problems are created for this group of 2000's kids...
All of this technology gives us the mentality that more is better right now. This mindset allows us to cure more diseases, talk to relatives far away and create fuel efficient cars. But what is often glossed over is an underlying issue that connects all these advances- too much too fast. I fear that kids of the 2000's will face this issue more than kids from my decade will. Someday in the not too distant future, these eight year olds will lead the country in all areas of study. They will be faced with steeper climate changes, more landfill waste, less oil, more dependency and fewer natural resources- including food and water. Unless the status quo is adjusted these kids will face these problems with little to no effort from previous decades. Although technology gave us great joys, the children on the current decade will be only seeing technology's unfortunate burdens.