Fighting back from the Global South: Education reform, teacher’s rights, and social media resistance in Mexico

Today’s blogger is David Ramírez Plascencia, a professor and researcher at the University of Guadalajara–SUV, whose recently published article “Education Reform, Teacher Resistance, and Social Media Activism in Mexico, 2013–2016” appears in the special issue of The Educational Forum on educator activism in politically polarized times. In that article, he relates how Mexican teachers use information technologies to engage in the fight against new regulations that affect their labor rights.

In recent decades, education systems in developed and poor countries have been impacted by neoliberalism tendencies that emphasis cost-benefit factors to the detriment of social access and equity. Public education in Mexico has not been an exception. In 2012, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the establishment of an educational reform. Teachers unions claimed the reform’s lack of legitimacy because they were never consulted; and since 2013, there have been several offline and online protests.

In general terms, most of the dissatisfaction concerning this reform centers on the fact that it tends to blame teachers for Mexico’s low-quality levels of education and standing among countries internationally. In addition, the amendment fails to offer appropriate instruments to improve education quality and applies a standard evaluation system that puts teachers under the microscope without consideration of important economic, administrative, infrastructural, and cultural differences among local education systems.

In this work, I focus not only on describing social media activism in education, both pro- and anti-reform, but I also consider how these virtual spaces have strengthened as an alternative media for teachers to fight back against governmental policies.

Meme example. An indigenous lady with a kerchief and the phrase in Spanish “We all are Oaxaca.” This slogan supports teachers’ actions in that state. This visual element is used frequently online to protest Mexico’s education reform.

My article stands mainly on two concepts. The first is “digital discourse,” which encompasses all sequences of interconnected ideas that span across digital media—audio, video, or even “meme” (see illustration). All these media consolidate to create dissidence with which to combat government actions. In other words, they are “weapons of the weak,” which is the second concept, referring to a particular form of resistance in which the oppressed use alternative and hidden strategies, aside from military hostility, to confront authority (J. C. Scott, 1987). What is remarkable in this context is how Mexican teachers use a dissident strategy of diverse multimedia elements as weapons against the educational reform.

In the end, the purpose of my contribution to this issue of The Educational Forum is to emphasize how cases like the teachers unions’ use of social media to support protests in Mexico provide substantial examples that might be replicated. This kind of media encourages movements and communities to have a voice to advocate for their demands, in spite of the government-controlled traditional media like the press or television. However, what is important to recall is that in order to improve education in Mexico, it is important to promote social assets like equality and justice, not only inside the government, and to modernize teachers’ unions as well, to open elections to a clear and democratic process, and to set strong transparent policies regarding usage of members’ dues. We must remember that providing quality education is a challenging task that can be addressed only with the collaborative efforts of all.

I hope you enjoy reading about this issue!

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through July 31, 2018.

Important Announcement from KDP

Dear KDP Member,

As an ardent believer in the power of education to effect positive change in the world, having a job that allows me to serve teachers—those who make that change possible—is a dream come true.

However, after 17 wonderful years, the time has come for me to step aside. I will be relinquishing my position as Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi at the end of December 2018.

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such dedicated and hard-working staff, volunteers, and board members who share my belief that there is no profession as important as teaching. In our role of serving and supporting you—members of the KDP community—we celebrate your successes and share your concerns and challenges.

Over the years, I developed many special and supportive friendships for which I am most grateful. It is because of so many of you who have served as volunteers and leaders, who have taken on projects and so generously shared your expertise, that KDP and I have been successful in serving educators and contributing to the teaching profession.

As I reflect on my tenure with the Society, I’m pleased that we have been able to offer financial support to our practicing professionals through our Classroom Teacher Grants; have grown internationally, which has served to enrich the KDP community; have become an NGO of the United Nations, which has allowed KDP to be a leader in sustainable education; and have increased our professional support of all educators, including a soon-to-be-announced professional development program. None of these things would have happened without the commitment and hard work of so many people, both members and staff.

Some of you may be familiar with my “Faye-isms,” which have become part of the Headquarters culture. These are phrases I frequently use in discussions about members and the development of resources and services. I would like to conclude this note with a few as a reminder of what drives the work we do.

“People join people, not organizations.”
This has been true from the day Kappa Delta Pi was founded in 1911. In one way or another, people want to connect with others and for professionals, it is the best way to improve our practice.

“Never assume you know what members need.”
There is a lot of talk in the media and in politics about what teachers want and need in order to be successful; and often education reforms fail because actual teachers were never consulted. We strive to keep educators involved in all decisions made regarding membership benefits, events, and programs.

“When it comes to service, kill them with kindness.”
It’s 2018. The reality is that our lives are over-programmed; we are all busier than we ever imagined. We have made it a priority to design positive experiences from the first day of KDP membership.

While it will be difficult to leave, I deeply appreciate having had the honor and privilege to serve you—you who make the difference in the lives of our youth every single day. I will miss you, but I am excited about KDP’s future and the many new opportunities that are on the horizon. I look forward to seeing a new leader advancing KDP’s important mission to the next level.

Sincerely,

Faye Snodgress
Executive Director

Kappa Delta Pi and CourseNetworking Team Up to Support New Teachers

(INDIANAPOLIS)—Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, is partnering with CourseNetworking (CN), an innovative Indianapolis-based technology company in education, to draw on the Society’s rich legacy of high standards and excellence to support the professional growth and retention of new teachers.

Beginning teachers have high turnover rates that cost schools billions of dollars each year. One effective way to combat the revolving door of teachers and its negative effects on schools and students is to offer new teachers professional development. Dr. Richard Ingersoll, a prominent researcher and member of KDP’s esteemed Laureate Chapter, shared, “Somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those that go into teaching are gone within 5 years.” KDP is perfectly positioned to address the needs of beginning teachers, as the organization has a presence on the campuses of more than 650 institutions nationwide, helping to graduate nearly 10,000 education students into the profession each year.

Beginning in fall 2018, KDP will offer new opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and skills through online learning as well as to establish a permanent eportfolio. A selection of courses, which will be both affordable and convenient, will help teachers develop competencies that can be applied immediately in their classrooms. After successfully proving their competencies in each course, teachers will earn micro-credentials in the form of official badges, and have an opportunity to earn certificates they can use as proof of their skills, as continuing education, and as evidence of these accomplishments on their eportfolio. Among the initial topics for P–12 teachers will be areas that KDP research has identified to be the most challenging for new teachers. The majority of the course offerings will be asynchronous, with learner engagement both independently and within an online community.

“CN is very excited to work with KDP in implementing the most advanced new-age learning environment, the CN Learning Suite,” shared Dr. Ali Jafari, CN Chairman and CEO. “The CN LMS provides easy access to new KDP certification and badge-based courses while the CN Social Network connects KDP members globally to network and collaborate. The CN ePortfolio offers a lifelong professional cyber image for all KDP members. With this collaboration, we can change the way scholarly societies network and conduct continued professional development.”

KDP President-Elect Dr. Victoria Tusken, who has worked in education for 30 years—including 4 as a Secondary Curriculum Coordinator in Illinois—believes that KDP has an opportunity to be at the forefront of ongoing professional growth for teachers. “To think about micro-credentialing in terms of steps toward mastering specific skills is just good professional development,” said Tusken. “The typical professional development never sticks. Practitioners need ownership of their professional development, and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ format often pushed down from districts proves to be viewed by practitioners as a waste of their time. But, to provide short courses around specific topics and competencies has a deep impact and a lasting value for practitioners.”

Though the initial offerings will be geared toward practicing P–12 educators, KDP plans to leverage its innovative model to address all three major focus areas of the Society’s current strategic vision, which are to (1) Recruit qualified candidates into the profession, (2) Support and enhance quality preparation of teachers, and (3) Retain effective teachers—particularly in high needs areas.

The projected timeline will make the courses and eportfolio available to KDP members and other educators prior to the Society’s 52nd Convocation, to be held in Indianapolis, IN from Wednesday, October 31 through Saturday, November 3, 2018. This year’s Convocation, themed ”Designing the Future,” will feature a cutting-edge experience where all attendees of all generations and experience levels not only gain knowledge and strategies, but also collaborate to design a future that is sustainable, equitable, and promising for ALL learners.

For more information about the eportfolio, please visit http://www.thecn.com/eportfolio, and for more information about KDP, please visit http://www.kdp.org. You can view the official press release here.

About Kappa Delta Pi
Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, was founded in 1911 at the University of Illinois to foster excellence in education and promote fellowship among those dedicated to teaching. As a professional membership association and international honor society in education, KDP provides programs, services, and resources to its member educators to support and enhance their professional growth—all in an effort to advance quality education for all and to inspire teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges. With more than 650 active chapters and nearly 40,000 active members, the organization has seen great accomplishments and milestones in its 107-year history and is looking forward to a future where all children receive a quality education.

About CourseNetworking, LLC
CourseNetworking (CN) has a unique, next-generation technology solution for the education Industry supported by many years of thinking and research invested prior to the commercialization of the product. Built on a global education platform, the CN Suite offers a comprehensive Learning Management System (LMS), Social Portfolio, Global Academic Social Network, and Badging, as well as other social collaboration functionalities to transform teaching and learning. The CN was built to ensure that teaching and learning opportunities are available for everyone, anywhere in the world, at any time, through the web or the mobile app. The CN also provides a full turnkey solution for system implementation in institutions. The CN is the fourth major research and entrepreneurial project of the IUPUI CyberLab. The CourseNetworking LLC was created by a capital investment from Indiana University and Ali Jafari in 2011.

Moving Beyond Figuring It Out on Your Own: Preparing and Developing Linguistically Responsive Teachers

Today’s blogger is Meghan Bratkovich, Doctoral Candidate in Teacher Education and Teacher Development at Montclair State University, a contributor to the special issue of The Educational Forum on linguistically diverse students. See this month’s free article from that issue of The Educational Forum.

“How did you learn how to do this?” 

I had just observed a high school math teacher, highly effective by about every formal and informal measure, teaching a lesson to a class of English language learners (ELLs). Due to a shortage of credentialed bilingual teachers, Mr. Erickson, a self-described monolingual, had been identified to teach a section of bilingual geometry. As much Spanish as English rattled around the classroom as students excitedly reasoned through the differences between lines and line segments, actively debating their way through the classwork.

Though little in his prior education or experience had prepared him for this task, Mr. Erickson was managing to teach geometry under these constraints, and teach it well.

“I don’t know, I guess I just figured it out on my own,” Mr. Erickson said, breathing a heavy sigh. “I don’t even know if it’s what I should be doing.”

“What if you hadn’t agreed to teach this class?” I asked.

“They’d probably be sitting at the back of some mainstream classroom, not understanding anything,” he replied.

Every school has its “Mr. Erickson” among the teachers who are willing to go above and beyond, the ones who will work with students with whom they can only imperfectly communicate—the teachers who always seem to make it work. We also probably know the other teachers—those Mr. Erickson referenced—who are so unsure of how to help a struggling ELL sitting at the back of their class that they do nothing, which is exactly what they’ve been or feel prepared to do. The teaching of ELLs is too important to fall solely on the shoulders of good teachers who feel un- or underprepared.

Teachers looking to build or improve their teaching of ELLs can see this special issue of The Educational Forum as their invitation into an established community of inquiry seeking to make sense of the complexity of teaching ELLs and strengthen teaching practices. The community shares knowledge and research geared toward helping teachers feel as prepared to respond to the needs of their language learner students as they feel to teach their content. Collectively, the reviews, studies, and commentaries in this issue point to the need for linguistically responsive teachers—those who can teach academic content in ways that are comprehensible while simultaneously attending to and furthering the development of students’ language skills.

Teachers beginning their journeys into teaching ELLs might be drawn to Athanases and Wong (2018), who offer evidence that can help teachers to tailor their practitioner inquiry, systematically study their students, and develop an asset-based orientation that fosters inclusive practice. Individuals seeking research-based ELL writing programs can look to Haas, Goldman, and Faltis (2018), who provide a deep dive into transdisciplinary best practices for writing at middle and high school levels.

Those looking to better understand the broad landscape of research on how teachers learn to teach ELLs can look to literature reviews from Villegas, SaizdeLaMora, Martin, and Mills (2018) and Lucas, Strom, Bratkovich, and Wnuk (2018). These reviews provide readers with a succinct synthesis of research studies conducted to date, condensing decades of research and helping to situate, contextualize, and explain the anecdotal experiences that teachers like Mr. Erickson live every day in their classrooms.

Lastly, de Jong, Naranjo, Li, and Ouzia (2018) provide pathways for teacher educators and teacher leaders to support teachers in building their confidence and competence around their ELL teaching practices. The authors emphasize that transforming education for ELLs necessitates preparing the preparers and inclusively brings teacher educators, administrators, and supervisors into the cultivation of a linguistically responsive approach to education.

It is vital that all teachers feel confident and competent teaching ELLs. However, no teacher should be forced to figure it out on their own, to needlessly reinvent the wheel, or to start from scratch. Students deserve better. Teachers deserve better. This special issue offers multiple entry points into conversations and communities striving for better, practical, and pervasive understandings of linguistically responsive teaching to ground teacher leaders and teacher educators, prepare and support teachers, and ultimately serve students.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2018.

Celebrating the Life and Leadership of Dr. Frank E. Marsh

Faye Snodgress is Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi.

Dr. Frank Marsh

With a very heavy heart, I share news of the death of Dr. Frank E. Marsh, Professor Emeritus of Northeastern University, and a truly outstanding and dedicated leader of Kappa Delta Pi International for nearly 7 decades. Inducted into KDP’s Beta Beta Chapter at The University of New Hampshire in 1949, his service goes back far enough that he had opportunities to meet the founders of KDP and often shared interesting stories about KDP in the early years.

It is fitting at his passing to acknowledge his many significant contributions to the Society. There is no one who matched his sustained effort in leadership excellence. He captured the spirit of KDP in all the work he accomplished in his professional life as a teacher, coach, university professor, and Dean. He personified the ideals of the Society.

When we reflect on his legacy, there are many significant firsts associated with his term as President of the Society (1972–1974), many of which are still in place today, such as offering regional one-day conferences for members, training of new Chapter Counselors at Headquarters, holding student forums at Convocation, and establishing the Educational Foundation, where he served as Board Chair for 18 years. During his tenure as leader, the Foundation raised millions of dollars, resulting in increased scholarships, awards to teachers, national conference sponsorships, and the completion of a fundraising campaign to purchase a new headquarters’ facility in Indianapolis.

Dr. Richard Judd (L) with Dr. Frank Marsh (C)

“Frank was the one who nominated me for President. A true leader in all respects. As Frank’s leaf dies and drops from sight, other substances of his abundant life will take their place. His place remains, and in spirit remains very, very present with us. As theologian Karl Rahner has said, ‘Every person is a person of eternity, and not just noble spirits of memory.’ All who knew Frank knew that we had been invited to a special table of life that was anything but ordinary, if not quite extraordinary. We realize that sharing his life and our participation with Frank came as a gift, not a given. We are all thankful for the opportunity we had to be part of Frank’s life—his world of the mind, family, colleagues, friends, and conviviality.” –Richard Judd, Former KDP President

In addition to his service as the Chair of the Educational Foundation, his leadership benefited the Society through his service as the Academic Editor of the Kappa Delta Pi Record from 1996 through 2001, on multiple Convocation Planning Committees, on the President’s Advisory Committee, and as the founding counselor of the Kappa Zeta Chapter at Northeastern University. A constant in all of his leadership roles was his ability to provide the vision and initiatives for improvements in these organizations.

He always provided steadfast support of the Society, the staff, and all educators in its community. His consistently positive and gracious disposition set him apart and served to make him a special mentor, coach, and beloved leader.

Honoring his significant and longtime contribution of service to Kappa Delta Pi, he was inducted in 2015 as a member of the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter—one of the highest recognitions bestowed by the Society.

In addition to Frank’s sustained service and leadership in KDP, what impressed me most is that every conversation I ever had with Frank, he was always positive and hopeful of the great things that lie ahead. He definitely had a “glass half full” disposition . . . a most gracious and kind man. May he rest in peace.

Hey World, “We’re All Wonders”

Tapping in to Literacy Along With Some Tolerance and Respect

Frequently, books and films in popular culture and Hollywood spill over into the classroom, creating opportunities for conversations that might not otherwise happen. The 2012 book Wonder, written by R. J. Palacio, followed by the 2017 picture book We’re All Wonders, and the 2017 film adaptation are no exception. The story centers on a boy, Auggie, who was born with facial disfigurations from Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS).

This story, in the tradition of Dr. Seuss stories, engages all ages and therefore is relevant to the K–12 classroom. Given that it illustrates the worst and the best in people, the story provides opportunities for classroom learning and lessons on empathy. Wonder is perfect for counselors, and educators in family literacy, visual art, and reading at all levels.

Here are ways you can leverage the power of Wonder in your classroom.

Set up the message. Before exploring the narrative or the picture book, have students anticipate the story from the title. Talk about the word “wonder” and try to draw a picture of this word. Ask whether it is good to be “a wonder.” Children can discuss what it means to be “ordinary.” Would they choose to be “ordinary” or “different”? During read-aloud time, have students share how they react to insults or even whether they themselves talk about others, make gestures, or use expressions that hurt others’ feelings. Challenge younger children to draw and to talk about or share how they might “escape” being mocked. After the story, ask the children to draw or write a story about how they might “look with kindness … and find wonder.”

Discuss how illustrations can convey emotions. Early childhood teachers can explore how Palacio uses line art and painting to convey the “wonder” status of a “different” Auggie. Full-page illustrations in We’re All Wonders portray snapshots of Auggie’s life, doing ordinary things like riding his bicycle, eating ice cream, and playing ball. Small thumbnail portraits show the other kids who are different from him—and each other. A two-page spread, which features Auggie and his dog Daisy facing the ground because they are devastated by the looks and comments of other kids, conveys Auggie’s emotional pain. Another spread shows Auggie escaping ridicule by putting on his helmet and blasting off to Pluto to chat with other single-eyed beings, and demonstrating ways individuals retreat from insults. The illustrations show the power of imagination to overcome negativity. Palacio’s message, “The Earth is big enough for all kinds of people,” is universally communicated by the illustration of Auggie with his back to the reader gazing at a vast shining Earth from a galaxy perspective.

Focus on Auggie’s just right narrative voice. For early childhood teachers, use story hour to share the picture book illustrating Auggie wearing his helmet. Palacio crafts Auggie’s voice to the appropriate K–3 register. The take-away message is that, despite his youth, Auggie is aware that he is different and that others make fun of his differences. For his taunting peers, the word “wonder” is a negative. Auggie wants them to focus on their own differences. Were they to do that, they would include him as an integral part of their world of differences because everyone is different from others. Palacio has poignantly tapped the rich emotional core of Auggie’s message to the unfeeling universe of so-called normal adults and children.

Explore the concept of genre. For middle school students and beyond, Wonder offers a unique opportunity to reconnect them with a favorite book from their childhood. Challenge students to share a favorite picture book from when they were young and detail how picture books differ from the young adult and juvenile literature they now read. Have students anticipate how Palacio might reframe the story in various genres, including picture books. Once students anticipate the themes and images, have them review the work and compare their ideas with the print story. Explain how Palacio, an illustrator and author, decided to tell her Auggie story through the picture story book genre. Ask students whether they prefer the middle school level book Wonder or the picture book version, and have them explain why. Families and students in class can also sample read-alouds of the work: bit.ly/Wonder-ReadAloud or bit.ly/Wonder-ReadAloud2. These resources can inspire students to create their own read-alouds, including public domain music and special effects.

These are just a few ways you can use Wonder in your classroom. A powerful message with a hero who has fascinated millions of readers—and viewers—can transcend age and genre to touch a larger audience. Palacio has used “wonder” to change the way readers of all ages “picture” the wonders within themselves. Readers of every age can benefit from this recognition and bring a little bit more nice “wonder” into the world. How will you bring “wonder” into your classroom?

Dr. Rose Reissman is a veteran teacher educator who founded the Writing Institute now in 157 elementary schools nationwide. She is coauthor of Project-Based Literacy: Fun Literacy Projects for Powerful Common Core Learning (Information Age Publishing, 2016).

10 Quotes About Teachers to Inspire You This Week

KDP staffers have put together a list of 10 quotes to inspire you this week. Share your favorite quotes in the comments section below!

1. “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry

2. “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops” – Henry Adams

3. “Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.” – Joyce Meyer

4. “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Lily Tomlin

5. “I touch the future. I teach.” – Christa McAuliffe

6. “The duties of a teacher are neither few nor small, but they elevate the mind and give energy to the character” – Dorothea Dix

7. “I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” – John Wooden

8. “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” – C.S. Lewis

9. “Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.” – Sidney Hook

10. “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck