Profiles in Community Engaged Learning- Nicola McClung

Nicola was asked, what inspires you to integrate service-learning or community-engaged pedagogies into your courses?

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Nicola McClung

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco- School of Education

Excerpt from the August 2016 Profiles in Community Engaged Learning. Professor McClung teaches Early Literacy.

I was first inspired to integrate community-engaged pedagogy into my course when looking for books for my daughter. She is a beginning reader, and I had difficulty finding books I wanted her to read.

Although multicultural children’s literature clearly makes an important contribution to the pursuit of equity and justice for all, it continues to be limited in several ways. Enter any classroom, home, or pediatrician’s office where an effort is being made to include diverse perspectives, and one will typically find books about able-bodied heteronormative white children living “normal” lives: a new puppy; bedtime; mom, dad, and baby; expressing emotions; going to school. In the same room, recent titles reflecting diversity might include: Heather has Two Mommies; Don’t Call Me Special; Black, White, Just Right; It’s Okay To Be Different; I Love My Hair; Day of the Dead, The Skin You Live In, Some Kids are Deaf, or Everybody Cooks Rice.  That is, few books include characters that come from diverse backgrounds in which their social markers (e.g., the disability, being black, having gay parents) are not the focus of the book. Furthermore, when diversity is reflected, many authors fail to write in such a way that allows for independent reading and maximally supports children’s literacy skills. For example, although there are some picture books that contain anti-oppressive themes (e.g., African American History) they are almost always books that must be read aloud to children.

I also draw from my experiences as a teacher in San Francisco schools, including at Rosa Parks Elementary in the Western Addition.  The project is based on the assumption that having access to texts that reflect diverse perspectives is motivating; in addition to high quality multicultural literature, we need books that contain universal themes depicting minority characters living everyday lives—e.g., a scientist who is a black female, a school principal who is multilingual, a soccer player with a disability, a mailperson who is trans, or kids simply having fun! These types of books are greatly needed for children from minority backgrounds to identify as readers and to see themselves as valued members of society. At the same time, such books allow students who identify with the dominant culture to come to see their minority counterparts as central to a well-functioning society (Dean-Meyers, 2014).

At the end of the summer, seeing the Prince Hall students excited about being authors, and seeing themselves in the books, inspires me to continue to the project and sustain the community partnership. Likewise, knowing that we are in some small way closing the cultural/linguistic distance between teachers in training and students in urban schools provides a purpose to the work that is important to sustain.

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Bringing Home into School

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Ofelia Bello

     Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs ’17

Contrary to what I thought growing up, one of the biggest struggles in graduate school – and there are many – is not the rigorous coursework as much as it is the pressure that comes along with being a first-generation student. That pressure manifests in different ways on a daily basis. However, being a first-generation student also means I get to draw from an inexhaustible source of knowledge, strength, and wisdom every day.

Throughout my educational career, my parents have expressed to me, at various points, feeling guilty and frustrated about not being able to help me with my academics through school. Before migrating to the Bay Area my mother was never allowed to go to school in Mexico and my father only attended up until elementary. Although I could have never articulated this as a young girl, I know now that my parents came to a country where it was engrained in them that the knowledge and wisdom they have is not valuable – because they certainly do not lack it. As a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate, I feel more confident now than ever asserting the fact that my parents are by far the best teachers I’ve ever had. They thoroughly excelled at humanizing me before I ever stepped foot in a classroom. I cared about the world before I knew what the world was – before I knew what my place in the world might be.

A couple weeks ago in my seminar Urban Education Reform, my professor Dr. Dave Donahue posed a question that has stuck with me since. He asked, “Why is it that we often talk about bringing school into the home, but we don’t necessarily talk about bringing home into the school?” There it was! The question I always had but didn’t know I had. Every college course I’ve taken has, in one way or another, reaffirmed values that my parents practiced in our home and in our community. Urban Education Reform has provided space for me where I can explicitly interrogate why we place value on certain kinds of knowledge over others and what that means for improving our education system. Given that schools are a critical part of both the physical and social fabric that makes up our cities, I think my professor’s inquiry beckons the follow up question: why can’t we bring the home out into the city?

I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program with the fervent desire to learn about the complexities cities’ face and what concrete ways we can make them more equitable. I know I am in the right program because it is made explicit in the classroom that we do not enter as isolated beings. Every time I step into a seminar, I bring my parents and my community in with me and our knowledge is honored. So ultimately, although the daily struggles that come with being a first-generation student can be difficult, those struggles look dim in the shadow of the brilliant parents and community I come from and continue to learn from, in conjunction with my academic coursework.

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Seeing LGBTQ Struggles Through Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s Eyes

Master of Arts in Urban Affairs

Chris Bardales
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate 2016

Having the opportunity as a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs student, to take part in a 2-day seminar with the iconic former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano was nothing short of extraordinary. To be in the presence of a legendary progressive activist like Tom was something I will never forget.

Tom AmmianoIn the first part of our session we watched the award winning documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, with special commentary from Tom. Although having seen the documentary a handful of times, I am always moved to tears and never grow tired of re-learning about the historic struggles that the LGBTQ community had to endure in order for me to enjoy the privilege of rights I have today.

On the second day of our workshop, we were able to have an intimate Q&A with Tom on a variety of topics ranging from Harvey Milk, legislative policy and the gentrification of displaced communities in San Francisco’s history. With a breadth of knowledge on the history of San Francisco and an impressive resume of political achievements, it was an honor to receive such great advice from Tom. Although only lasting about three hours, I found myself thinking that I could have spent the whole day engaging in conversation with such a legend.

As part of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, I take pride in continuing to fight for the progressive values that Harvey would be surely fighting for if he were with us today. Although our community has come along way in the past 40 years, there is still much work that needs to be done in order for all marginalized individuals to attain basic civil rights.

Tom gave me the motivation to continue fighting for the rights of all oppressed people. Thank you Tom for being a great leader, a great role model and an aspiration to us all!

Tom Ammiano