Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Empowerment: abridged version

The original idea of a wellness council has taken a different yet important detour through a practical vetting system. So, instead of having a general wellness council where students would be able to do more of the guiding of the agenda from food prep and strategies for reform, I would be implementing small groups sessions only within the framework of cafeteria tastings. As much as I would like to be able to facilitate a conversation about empowerment/leadership with students hoping to take on more of a leadership role, combining the lunch period and experimental tastings with the abridged version of empowerment and leadership that would be given to volunteers might be the best of all worlds.

Condensing the lessons of food processing and making time for a cafeteria tasting would work to make only the most important lessons of organizing for reform and food processing the focus and ruling out nonessential material.

So, if this works out I will be implementing a cafeteria tasting program that will be lead and processed by and for students (of course I would be doing all the logistical work). Putting a few students in those positions of leadership should get them thinking about health, nutrition, food, and leadership in a new way.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Community Works Projects Fall to Bickering

Communities fall. Devastation spreads and corrupts minds. We no longer have each others best interests in mind.

On the surface everyone seems healthy and happy.
but behind the eyes machines are
gearing up to stab and claw like humans for clean leadership.
Pushing up like angry and insane tears communities fall.

The only protection against this is not innovation or
investment diversification.
The only protection is a genuine relationship between community members where they see and feel their mutual responsibility for
shutting the corrupting machines off
before they occupy any potential room for community.

Look for the voluntary cooperatives--living communities
Holding the key to freedom and peace
No back stabbing or happy eyes hiding shame
Take a moment for composure. There is no telling when we can sit down together and tell each other the truth.
And to be honest you might not change even after that.

Communication promises progress only with a leader demanding a commitment to shared interests.

Student Wellness Council

Implementing a student health council is an idea designed to incorporate students into the curriculum-creation process and empower them to change what they believe to not work. It is my understanding after having seen these students in action that they have many complaints regarding the system of the facility or school they learn in (including cafeteria and food options), but no recourse besides complaining. Therefore, I believe it is critical to teach them to turn annoying teenage complaining into a concerted effort to organize and reform a system characterized by patterns of industrialism and/or neglect for a curriculum that interests and engages them. I will proceed with plans to discuss a Wellness council with some staff and present the idea to students to see what if they believe a council as such would accomplish for them.

Learning more food preparation skills is critical to young people, who to this point have no food knowledge. During a typical nutrition session if the class is having a conversation about alternatives to the foods they eat, and we have real ideas for what can be an alternative but they have no skills to actually make those dishes then the lesson quickly turns from solution-oriented to problem-oriented. Therefore, it is valuable and engaging for them to have opportunities to learn to prepare those alternative healthy dishes we discuss.

As mentioned before, these students need strategy sessions to learn how to recognize gaffs in the system and work to apply the right kind of pressure to change and reform those gaps. Allowing time for comments on wellness-related problems and solutions, we could work to transform those times of despair to times of empowerment and engagement. One student complains about the food in the cafeteria, okay, well how do you think we should fix that problem? Perhaps sitting down with the people in charge of food policy at the school and discussing the ill affects of the problem and the potential benefits to fixing the problem. Focusing on potential benefits that would also alleviate problems they are looking to solve would be wise strategy. This is what I imagine would help students to become engaged in solution-oriented work (recognizing problems but transcending the initial despair and working to find and implement a solution). Such a mentality is instrumental in raising the standards of residential facilities throughout Pennsylvania.

This wellness council would then be a combination of accruing food preparation skills, reviewing nutrition activities, and wellness strategy sessions. With the goal of empowering students to the point where the council will sustain itself with minimal activity from me, this heightened participation on the part of students will hopefully encourage a new culture of idealism and activism from the students.

Summer School Students cry for more better School

Don't believe students are interested in hands-on work? Don't believe critical thinking skills would aid students in their journey to an actualized education (education pursued due to it's relevance and applicability to life inside and outside of school)? A few students over the past few days have proven those doubts wrong. All students learning in an "oppressive" environment require the skills to demand properly and in an organized manner, and they require hands-on experience learning subject material. If these requirements are not met, students will resort to explicit spoken resistance and blatant physical resistance. Therefore, by creating opportunities for either direct hands-on experience or teaching skills of properly planning and demanding change, teachers can demonstrate principles of liberatory education and hope.

Practically speaking, students need to be taught these skills in a context of long-term action. In order to teach the action theme I could take issues they are having and show them how to resolve them in a cogent manner, which will increase the probability of resolution and change. For instance, if they were trying to convince me to do lessons differently how would they do it? They could resist physically by expressing their boredom through body language (head down, no eye contact, etc.) or they could think strategically and convince of the need to change and demand more student input (perhaps in the form of a student health council). Without understanding the techniques for attaining change they will resort to whatever they have to to relieve themselves of the burden of their oppressive education.

Hands-On experience, on the other hand, turns the whole banking system of education on it's head (especially if there are consistent reflection sessions where students can voice their opinions on the work of the group). Today I told students at a public school in North Philadelphia that we would not be using volunteers in the garden during the month of August to help maintain the vegetables or flower beds. Every class I told was disappointed. At least thirty percent of students had wanted to help and upon hearing they couldn't demanded to know why. The immediate uproar of a student body in summer school, that complains before and during most class work, indicated how upset it was that they couldn't come to the school grounds during the only month they have for vacation to do hands-on work. We need to remember something like that as an amazing compliment and testament to the success of the garden and all hands-on learning. Incorporating hands-on experience into the curriculum must be thoroughly investigated.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Teams Work

As of now I have had a great deal of experience working with teams of peers. Whether in school, work, or recreation, I can say with too much evidence to back my assertion that work cannot be done well if the team is not capable of working together. Now the question is: what is working together? How must we relate to one another to be considered working together? I would say the answer to these and many other questions of team cohesion can only be answered by the team members themselves. If any of them feel unable to address group issues of respect, integrity, critique, etc. with the group you have a problem of cohesion.

The consequences of a group without cohesion may seem slight at first but as it progresses into more and more tension through the process of passive aggression, the group will have larger and more emotional obstacles. A team is not a team if it cannot relate to one another in a personable and respectful manner. Support and inspiration are the advantages of team work, tension and destructive competition are the disadvantages. Which of these outcomes the group invests in is up to the management, but rest assured, if management does nothing, the group will decide for it's self.