Response: Lessons from Teachers and How Stinky Beat M I T

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Response

Lessons from Teachers (Alpin, n.d.) illustrates the difficulty many teachers find when approaching their duties in schools comprised of minority students who come from families with little or no educational background. Teachers, according to Alpin, are distressed, tired, and discouraged. But throughout the reading, the author/teacher demonstrates that through challenging students to work above their expectations, children’s attitudes change and they believe that achievement is not beyond their capabilities. This lesson was exemplified in “Stinky Beats M I T” a heartwarming story of undocumented high school students from Phoenix, Arizona whose teachers challenged them by creating a robotics club in which the students surpassed their own expectations as well as the engineering community through their persistence, talent, and the innate faith their teachers had in these young students. By believing in and challenging young people, regardless of their economic and social limitations, these teachers gave new meaning to the lives of their students. The caveat, as always, lay with the politicos who refused to bend in their persistence to denude these youngsters of opportunities in the United States merely because their parents came illegally to this country. In spite of the fact that they worked at menial jobs, paid taxes, and were contributing members of society, politicians refused to offer these young people the chance at further education.

With the example of the robot club and the Stinky success, the article about whether or not teachers and students are mirrors reflecting the way students are viewed as excellent manifestations of envisioning classroom attitudes. Also, the readings, as well as the video, illustrate the initiative it takes to establish positive environments for students on the verge of failure or those who have no place to turn other than a teacher’s interest in their futures. In the Stinky video, two teachers reached across ethnic boundaries to engage the interest and talents of young undocumented Mexican students to work on engineering/science projects. The results put these boys in the national limelight and though they feared this exposure due to their undocumented status, the unexpected success of their work inspired them to work hard to find the means to continue their education. In the article on mirrors, Michie (2014) postulates that school curricula are “windows out into the experiences of others, as well as mirrors of the student’s own reality” (para 2). Therefore, the windows of robotics after-school program, or a young girl Nelda, who used the window of her history curriculum to create her own reality of heritage and culture as she became further inspired to investigate the Chicana in her heritage (Valenzuala, n.d.). Color, heritage, and ethnicity provide the backdrop for enrichment rather than narrowing and excluding students merely because they do not fit the pattern of a typical American student.

Questions to consider:

1. Considering the extraordinary talent exhibited by the young people in the “Stinky” video juxtaposed against the attitudes of politicians firmly set against these undocumented students, what steps can be taken to ensure that political policies open doorways to embracing students who have the initiative, drive, and talent to succeed after high school?

2. Does color matter in the classroom between teachers and students? If it does, then what steps can white teachers take to ensure that the cultural backgrounds of their students do not become subsumed in learning to take the test (standardized) and instead receive a useful and real education? 

3. Not every teacher is a qualified engineer to create a robotics club, so what other types of teacher-created activities would bring similar results enhancing the way minority students feel about themselves and their future within the American dream?