On November 1st 2014 I was fortunate enough to attend Rhode Island College’s 17th Annual Promising Practices; Culturally Responsive Curricula in STEM. At first I admit I was not exactly thrilled to attend this conference bright and early on a Saturday morning and I was a bit nervous this would be workshops that were not that interesting. The two workshops that I attended were Girls Gone Wired and Creating Bully Free Classrooms. I chose both of these workshops because I felt that they would help in my journey of becoming a youth worker.
My first workshop that I attended was Girls Gone Wired; Encouraging Computer Programming Exploration in Young Women. The instructor for this workshop was Hannah Tessitore who is the owner of SplatypusWeb Design Studio. In this workshop she discussed about her journey in the world or programming and how it began at a young age. Hannah Tessitore main goal in life is to encourage women into the technology field. She began her discussion with reminiscing on her childhood and how she noticed that everything in her house had parts that were made that item work. Her home had a computer in it and during her high school career she would make websites for her friends who had created their own bands. She really enjoyed working with technology and being able to find out how certain things worked. The idea of critical thinking and the skills involved with it are key when it comes to technology and how to create certain things. Tessitore then began discussing how being a women in the field of technology comes with many different aspects. These include a demanding atmosphere, sexual harassment and having very few women in the field. She told us how more women over the past few years have joined the computer science field, but there is male culture dominance. When talking about her company she states that “Customers feel that males would understand business concepts more”, more male customers just assume that because she is a female that she cannot understand or have the answer to the question. She discusses how a male versus a female is expected to dress in this field. With a male they are able to wear a casual outfit, jeans, button down, sweater, etc. With a female they are expected to wear business attire, a dress, skirt, nice shirt, dress shoes, etc. The idea of aggression is present when it comes to the male and female roles in this field. Tessitore tells us how she felt that she could not be herself in this field and how it was overly aggressive. She then discussed how toys are being gender based, such as making tinker toys pink that way a little girl would want to play with them, simply because the color is “girly”. Legos is another brand that was discussed and how there are gender neutral Legos and then there are Legos for girls. The gender neutral are for building and engineering whereas the girl ones are for “social play”, meaning they can play with friends and they are only made with one room to build. She discussed with us the “imposter syndrome” which is the fear of always being behind, the “oh I’m not qualified” feeling. She supports humanizing; creating a program that speaks to the person not as a female, and not as a techie, simply speaking to them as a human. She spoke about equalizing and creating a community or teams were everyone wins. She ended her lecture with saying that “it all begins with taking apart your home”. I really enjoyed this workshop and the concepts that were discussed. I am a huge fan of media and building something through technology and hearing Hannah Tessitore give her personal experiences helped to better understand the hidden facts of girls inside of computer programming.
My second workshop that I attended was Creating Bully Free Classrooms. The instructor of this workshop was Elizabeth Rowell who is from Rhode Island College. In this workshop Rowell discussed how in the U.S. and other countries show that children from the ages of three to eight years old are involved in hurtful bullying that can escalate through the years. She showed us a slide show about bullying. Bullying can include more than one thing, students can be picked on their appearance, their disability, gender related, family structure or schoolwork. Bullying is based on looking, dressing or acting differently. Bullying is becoming a growing national health and life problem. It creates a hostile and fearful school environment. Rowell continues to discuss how bullying creates problems for the students such as psychological scars, anxiety and depression. Because of the running late of the time it was difficult really get much done in this workshop. She passed out papers that talked about the background information on Antibias/Anitbullying Education for young children. She also gave us poems to read about bullying some of which were named “Remember Me?” along with “My Walk to School”. Overall this workshop was very interesting and a lot of the facts that were presented were new to me. Bullying is never an option and no one should have to feel that they are different from everyone else. Elizabeth Rowell was a great speaker and had a very interesting workshop planned for us, even though we did not get to do everything, we got to read the poems together.
After both of the workshop we returned to Donovan where we were to listen to our keynote speaker. The keynote speaker was Chris Edmin, who is an associate professor in the STEM department at Columbia University. Throughout his speech he discussed how the students and teachers should be able to relate to each other. He kept all of the audience intrigued in what he was saying and never had a dull moment. The main point that I gathered from this keynote speaker was that when being in a classroom, as a teacher, it is beneficial to keep the students involved especially when it is something that they would like doing. When you have a classroom and the students are doing something that they don’t want to really do they are not going to succeed. Chris Edmin helped me to open my eyes that children deserve to learn in more than one way than just the basic sit down classroom where the teacher is talking at them not were there is a full on teacher to classroom discussion. These are some of the many things I want to take throughout my college and youth worker career. I really enjoyed Promising Practices a lot more than I thought I would have.