Lives on the Boundary PART II
OVERVIEW: Students often enjoy the first part of Lives on the Boundary more than the back half where he gets more into the nitty-gritty of what he things will support excellent literacy instruction at every level. But while his personal story is compelling, it is what we learn about what should be happening in the classroom that matters most.
WHAT TO POST: To that end, complimenting what we posted about last week, and having completed Rose, please post your summary of the last chapters of Lives on the Boundary. As you do, please consider what the implications are for what should be happening in a classroom and suggest a possible assignment or way to accomplish an assignment that would be in keeping with what you understand to be a best-practice.
THIS POST RELATES TO THE LAST MAJOR ASSIGNMENT OF THE SUMMER: The Assignment Design assignment asks you to consider what you've learned in class about using writing in an ELA classroom--how to scaffold writing assignments, how to use low-stakes and high stakes writing, how to use group work, how to use presentations, how to use workshops, how to (most importantly) create an assessment process that support good literacy instruction and student learning. Here is a first chance to start to think about what that looks like, what it could look like.
6/8/2021 10:47:44 am
In Chapter 6 Mike Rose describes his experience in the Veteran’s Program. Rose tutored three afternoons a week roughly saw only five to six students a week. Rose tries to think about why these students would join considering all that they have been through. Rose states, “they needed to gain confidence in themselves as systematic inquirers” (Rose 141). Rose recognizes that his students were strangers and that they needed to be immersed in reading, writing, language but also self confidence. If students aren’t confident in themselves and the work that they produce they will not succeed. Rose recognizes that his students needed a different approach and creates that. Rose states, “But give them time. Provide some, context, break them into groups or work with the whole class, involving everyone” (145). Through this program Rose was able to grow up, he became someone and found himself in the midst of others. Rose built a relationship with his students and related to them because he was once in their shoes before. By building connections to students we can understand them better. Penny Kittle’s words echoed in my mind as I was reading this, students want their teachers to talk to them as humans not just their students.
6/8/2021 10:48:10 am
Rose wanted his students to use metacognition in the reading and writing process. Thinking gives life to the classroom and Rose did this by following Aristotle's strategy: summarizing, classifying, comparing and analyzing. Students do not need grammar rules to discover the gist of stories, classify or group similar themes together, and read critically (139-140). These strategies should be happening in any classroom along with students being “immersed in talking, reading and writing” (141). Rose argues that schools and teachers need to allow students to generate meaning and connections collectively in the classroom (145) instead of having anxiety over receiving perfect A grades (176). In the classroom, teachers should use visuals such as drawing maps and flowcharts (160), in addition to conversations, which may be a helpful tool for institutions to consider in their curriculum. These authentic literacy practices complement Rose’ compelling argument that institutions do not truly know student’s backgrounds, culture and level of “creative knowledge.”
6/8/2021 10:51:21 am
Rose wanted to teach a lesson on the Vietnam war to veterans, but it did not feel right. He knew that some would not be comfortable talking about it and just wanted to focus on the future. He “approached their learning carefully, steps by step, systematically” (138). With this, he built a writing curriculum on the four strategies his education helped him to develop: summarizing, classifying, comparing, and analyzing. Rose believes that summarizing is the most important skill as it helps to manage information and allows students to make connections. Classifying helps students to develop awareness of what they are studying. Comparing helps students to make connections to the world around them and develop deeper meaning to their inferences. Analyzing helps students to gain more confidence in their learning, it allows for critical awareness. Rose mentioned how he used to teach grammar and after much time he realized how limiting it really is. It would take away the experience of learning language and writing, it took away the joy. It is important to give students time to read overwhelming pieces of work and provide context. It is also important for students to not work alone. Rose discussed that many students were coming to college with little exposure to different styles of writing. Much of the curriculum that they were learning was not benefiting them and their strengths, just giving them more weaknesses. Rose recognized that the students were trying to figure out a style of writing that they are not ready for so they are falling back to old habits. Students need to be able to recognize their errors in order to learn from them. He states, “Error marks the place where education begins” (188).
Gabriel El Khoury
6/8/2021 10:51:47 am
In the remaining three chapters of Mike Rose’s Lives On the Boundary (1989), Mike guides the reader through a number of defining moments for him as a teacher. This week’s assigned reading begins with Rose’s experience teaching “[s]tudents … enrolled right out of the service—the Marine Corps particularly” (133). Rose quickly learns that, although these veterans “saw the world very differently” (134) from him and were as diverse intellectually as they were culturally, these men were in the classroom for one reason: they “wanted to change their lives” (137). As Rose sees it: “Education held the power [for these men] to equalize things” (137). One theme that constantly resurfaces throughout this week’s assigned reading is the impact of background and social circumstances on student learning. Rose is repeatedly commenting on “the effects of background on schooling” (177), from the “hand-me-down skirts and pants” (177) he sees students wearing, to the inability for certain students to afford lunch (177). Rose acknowledges another challenge boiling beneath the surface of American education: a fundamental crisis of literacy. Students are not only arriving at university “with limited exposure to certain kinds of writing” (187), but demonstrate also a particular difficulty with “critical literary,” which Rose describes as the “framing of an argument or taking someone else’s argument apart” (188). Students are often vastly underprepared for the literacy demands universities place upon them. In the final chapter entitled “Crossing Boundaries,” Rose begins poignantly: “Class and culture erect boundaries that hinder our vision—blind us to the logic of error and the everpresent stirring of language—and encourage the designation of otherness, difference, deficiency” (205). It is in this final chapter that Rose reveals a whole host of failings with English education. He addresses the harmful implications of designating the term “remedial” (209), for remedial implies that someone/something is “substandard [and] inadequate” (209), that this “inadequacy is metaphorically connected to disease and mental defectiveness” (209). Rose’s Lives On the Boundary offers a moving account of a teacher’s successes and failures in the classroom, and throughout Rose challenges many preconceived notions over the nature of educating “the truly illiterate among us” (3), an amorphous mass of students education more often than not leaves behind, instead writing them off as lost causes altogether. Throughout my reading of Rose’s Lives On the Boundary, I was particularly struck by his perseverance, his tireless method of trial-and-error in the classroom, and the example he sets for all aspiring educators to see in each and every student a spark of great academic potential, irrespective of the doubtless many setbacks along the way.
6/8/2021 10:54:26 am
Rose did in fact decide to work for returning veterans. The overall goal was to regain their reading and writing skills. Most of these students enrolled had dropped out of high school but were all coming from different social backgrounds. Some were young and others had families, but they all had the same goal in mind, to gain education and to get their lives back on track. Rose greatly respected these students and was offered a full-time job very soon into it, which he accepted. These men wanted a change in their lives and were determined to live out the “American dream.” Rose devised his curriculum for the veterans based on four strategies: summarizing, classifying, comparing, and analyzing. Many of the veterans were put into the “remedial level” where they needed to develop skills in critical thinking, reading, writing, and gain confidence. He describes how students who don’t come from privileged education struggle when encountering readings, they don’t understand. Rose credits the Veterans Programs as where he found himself as an educator. Rose also began working at the Suicide Prevention Center and working closely with Arthur, diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was amazed by Arthur’s progress, even through unimaginable misery. He also worked for a program called Learning Line which were courses delivered over the phone for people with circumstances that couldn’t allow them to leave their home.
6/8/2021 10:54:49 am
I sort of already said what I wanted to say about the back half of this memoir/scholarship when I added a number ten to my list of takeaways from the first part of Rose. It has to do with error, the role of failure, and curriculum. In the last chapters of Rose we find him moving back to UCLA in a different role, as an administrator of a support services center--sort of like our Academic Achievement Center but on a mammoth scale. Here Rose allows us to look into his one-on-one relationships with students that he meets there. This section of the text re-emphasizes a lot of the ideas in the text so far: students come with lives to the classroom that can't be and shouldn't be ignored; poverty is a mother-effer that makes getting the kind of white--middle class education that is valued at most universities very difficult (and sometimes not even desirable or useful) and, finally, that a lot of the curricula (the way classes are run, the kinds of assignments and assessments that students are exposed to) really measures how students have learned to be a student more than innate knowledge or intelligence. At the end of the text, Rose turns to ideas about policy on a larger level. Some of these ideas are dated and come out of the culture wars of the 1980s. They also reflect a relationship to technology that simply doesn't look like the landscape of the early 20th century. But, that aside, the most valuable thing that comes out of this section is a relationship to error, to failure: we must make room for these in a classroom if students are going to learn anytrhing. Not for them to perform well on tests. But for them to learn the deep and life changing habits of literacy. This requires that we move away from standardized testing as a way to measure student intelligence and it also requires big change in how we fund schools and education in general (this actually becomes the subject of a much later text called "Why School" written in the early 2000s.For me, this brings together some of the ideas we started in this class: that assignments in classrooms need to not try to "trick" students but rather to give them the chance to authentically read and respond to texts in a variety of ways. And that we develop assessments that reflect those values. This is where I as a teacher start when I'm trying to design as assignment: how can I make it possible for students to risk, to possibly fail, and to recover--spectacularly--and come away feeling powerful, confident, and eager to learn more.
6/8/2021 10:54:51 am
Once his time in the Teacher Corps ends, Rose joins the Veteran’s Program, which helps military veterans' transition from service into the college classroom. They had a desire to learn behind the front the put on for people around them. He tried to teach in a way where the students were not getting overwhelmed but were also being challenged and pushed to the level they needed. He saw that they needed to be immersed in talking, reading and writing and needed to further develop their ability to think critically. Mostly the students needed to gain confidence in themselves as students and let themselves into the academic club. He also goes on to teacher at UCLA, from where he started. This is where he noticed the politics of teaching and being an administer. In the end he addresses two main issues: an overreliance on standardized testing, and the unwillingness to accommodate the outside socioeconomic factors that affect students’ ability to learn. Rose says testing is a way for schools to reduce their students down to numbers and sort them accordingly, and it often serves as justification for shoving underperforming students to the side. But Rose shows readers time and again that a test score fails to reveal remedial students’ true ability. Rose also argues that until schools work to understand, accommodate, and address outside stressors like poverty and social instability, remedial students will continue to struggle.
6/8/2021 10:59:37 am
The last chapters of Rose's novel were very informative. By the end, we learn that Rose's idea was for students to use cognition in their thinking process. He wanted the educators to teach students how to think instead of telling them what to write. Rose disliked the grammar aspect of the writing and reading process. Students shouldn't have to understand that when they thinking critically. Teachers should spend more time getting their students interested in the reading and writing process.
6/8/2021 11:10:47 am
The latter half of Lives on the Boundary was especially inspiring from an educator’s perspective, as Rose offers full detail as to what effective teaching in literacy should look like. Through his experience and research, he found that no matter where he taught--the elementary school in El Monte, the veterans, UCLA students-- all of these students were set up to be underprepared. The narrow view of only focusing on grammar and mechanics leads many students to be written off as illiterate, hindering their future education. Rose found that by using specific strategies, such as breaking down texts, asking critical questions, and using engaging material, the potential of these students will show and improve. This narrow view, fueled by our stratified society, experienced firsthand by Rose, as he recalled UCLA and other institutions criticizing the role that tutors played in college. He mentions the “you don’t belong here” attitude that universities adopt, causing all types of barriers for these underprepared students.
6/14/2021 08:38:07 pm
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