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TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH

Take a Learner to Lunch Luke A. Meuler Alverno College

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Abstract A positive impact for mindset theory to be able to overcome the challenges of bi-cultural education in early childhood is proposed. The method for examining the relationship between the positive thinking and cultural identity is an interview with a young student at the age of ten in the fifth grade. The study is limited because of a variety of unknown factors related to the students experiences living in multiple homes and a lack of direct access to the school and its methods. The student is also young and the questions regarding culture may not be developmentally appropriate. The results of the interview do suggest a correlation between positive thinking and success as a learner given some challenges that may be presented in terms of cultural identity.

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Take a Learner to Lunch Learners are able to overcome challenges with positive thinking. One challenge that young students face is regarding identity, especially as this relates to ethnicity and culture. Young people whose physical appearance cannot be changed that are placed in an environment where they are in a minority may unfortunately be taught that their identity is detrimental to their ability to achieve. This runs counter to what many people in a majority group experience as their identity is positively reinforced as an asset to their growth and learning. Essential to the young students ability to be successful in academics is the presence of an educator who provides a positive environment reinforced through individual feedback to the student. Rationale for Selection of Interviewee The interviewee for this study was selected because he is a fifth grade student whose mother is European-American and his father is an immigrant from Mexico. The students primary residence is in Brookfield, Wisconsin with his mother where he has received his education from kindergarten through the current school year in a predominantly white, suburban, public school. The student did live with his fathers family in Chicago, Illinois until he was five and still spends some time in Chicago visiting his fathers family. The student is achieving at a high level in a school where his ethnic identity is in the minority in the student population. Mindset Theory and the Bi-Cultural Student The interview was conducted to consider the impact of a positive mindset for overcoming challenges of bi-cultural learning. Dr. Carol Dweck argues that people develop a mindset, through their known and unknown beliefs, that will impact their ability to achieve in personal, academic, and professional settings (Dweck, 2008). Dr. Ruby Payne asserts that students who are bi-cultural are challenged to learn in multiple environments that may not have consistent

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH rules, both those that may be commonly known and those that may be assumed (Payne, 2005). A positive mindset can overcome the challenges that may be presented through a bi-cultural educational experience. The questions selected for this interview were designed to determine how the student feels about school and learning and then explore how his cultural identity may influence his experience. The questions about the students feelings about school are designed to establish the students mindset. The questions about culture and identity are designed to determine if the student has positive or negative feelings about his culture and identity based on his experiences in school. Analysis of Interview Questions The interview suggests that there is a correlation between positive mindset and achievement in school for a young student. The interviewee articulated several times that he likes school and that he receives positive reinforcement from his teachers. This student is also able to describe that he appreciates school and is achieving success in a number of different areas, including the classroom, specials, and unstructured time at recess. His answers to questions about classes at school refer more to how the student feels about school, instead of specifically what grades he is receiving. The student did not disregard academic scores and achievement, but instead indicated that a positive and encouraging environment led to motivation to engage learning. This evidence confirms the assertion that, The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way that you lead your life (Dweck, 2008, 6). The application of Dwecks theory can be understood through this fifth grade student who communicates positively about school and suggests that this contributes to greater success.

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH The students emphasis on games as a part of his education also reinforces Dwecks theory regarding positive mindset. Dweck suggests that it is important to use positive thinking to avoid emphasizing losing or failure and instead see opportunities to learn (Dweck, 2008). The students description of social learning activities illustrates that if the purpose of the games is to learn, and the game is well organized, then the students are motivated to cooperate and even work together. The student enjoys cooperating with other students and is empowered to make mistakes and learn from them. The students description does include a certain level of competition among students, but it seems to be directed at learning a lesson. Students are encouraged to support each other in a positive and healthy environment that allows for growth and learning. Creating a positive and healthy learning environment may be challenged by issues associated with bi-cultural identity. Dr. Ruby Payne asserts that children who have both an identity and experiences outside of the unwritten white middle-class rules of the United States may learn at a young age that there are multiple environments to learn in. The lack of reinforcement between multiple environments may present young students with a double consciousness that is detrimental to education because it is challenging to reinforce a consistent message (Payne, 2005). The student interviewed clearly recognizes that his identity is not in a majority, but does not seem affected regarding either experiences or achievement. The student describes a school environment that is at the least not threatening to his identity, if not affirming. The questions on culture present an inherent challenge on the topic. In addition, the questions on culture were not properly designed to be age appropriate. The student was not able to articulate ideas about how culture and identity could be explored through the curriculum. The student did communicate some awareness of his cultural identity as unique in his learning

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH environment. The student did not identify any negative responses from teachers or peers regarding his cultural identity. The students teachers and peers combine to create an environment where the young student is comfortable and does not feel singled out or different. The students most important indication of the effect of a positive mindset in bi-cultural learning is his interest in higher education. The student appreciates learning and sees future possibilities for success. The positive mindset of the school environment provides affirmation for the individual students identity which supports his ability to engage learning as a process. The interview is limited in this regard because there needs to be data gathered at the school to see what the deliberate practices are and also to distinguish what may be the result of the students home life. It is clear the student sees his identity as distinct from the majority of his peers in school, but it does not seem to diminish his feelings or achievement. In answering questions about the price of popular electronics the student responded by saying that we all know to confirm that he feels a part of an identity in his educational environment. The overall positive mindset of his environment is inclusive and provides an opportunity to learn. Cultural identity may not shape the interviewees view of school, but there were several references that the student made to gender roles at school. The students experiences are primarily with female teachers. The students interaction with female peers is through planned classroom learning activities. When the students are given unstructured time at lunch and recess they self-select to separate by gender. An important extension of this interview study would include a look at the ecology of human development. The ecology of human development is the scientific study of the progressive, mutual accommodation, throughout the lifespan, between a growing human organism and the changing immediate environments in which it lives, as this process is affected by relations obtaining within and between these immediate settings, as well as

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH the larger social contexts, both formal and informal, in which the settings are embedded (Bronfenbrenner, 1977, 514). The further study would include a look at how the relationships to different family members are either reinforced or contradicted by the relationship to teachers and peers. The role in particular of females in the family may influence behavior at school. This would also have to be extended to the families of other students to see if there is a consistent message about the role of gender and relationships. The positive mindset theory could also be tested in terms of developing healthy relationships among male and female peers in the learning environment. Conclusion The interview reinforced Dwecks mindset theory as having a positive impact on learning for a bi-cultural student. Activities that reinforce learning as an objective and create opportunities for cooperation and socialization provide a positive learning environment. The interview method provided a valuable experience for a teacher to hear a student communicating a message about his identity and experiences in school. A positive mindset can contribute to successful engagement of the learning process.

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Appendix: Interview Questions for Take a Leaner to Lunch Interviewer: What are your general feelings about school? Interviewee: I like school because I like to spend time with my friends. Interviewer: What is your favorite subject in school? Interviewee: Gym. Interviewer: Why do you like Gym? Interviewee: I like to be very active and play games. Interviewer: Besides Gym class, what would you say is your next favorite class? Interviewee: Probably Math and Reading. Interviewer: Why do you like Math and Reading? Interviewee: I like Math because Im good at it and we play a lot of games in class. I like Reading because I like to talk about characters in books. Interviewer: What kind of games do you play in Math class? Interviewee: You know, games that students race to get an answer or sometimes games where you figure something out by using math, but you dont really know youre doing math. Interviewer: Are there winners and losers in the game? Interviewee: Well, we kind of work together. Sometimes theres a prize for a group or the whole class. Interviewer: Do you get to choose your teammates for these games? Interviewee: The teacher does for us because she says wed just pick our friends and not mix boys and girls. Interviewer: What is your favorite book? Interviewee: I like the Percy Jackson books. Theyre cool. Interviewer: What makes Percy Jackson cool?

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Interviewee: Hes a kid and hes brave and saves the world. Interviewer: Have you read any books where the main character is a girl? Interviewee: There are girls in the story. I like Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. Interviewer: Does your teacher talk to you one-on-one about books? Interviewee: Sometimes. She knows a lot about books and asks me questions. Interviewer: You said that your teacher is a woman. Have you had teachers in the past who are men? Interviewee: My classroom teachers are all women, but I have a man for a gym teacher. Interviewer: What do you like best about your classroom teacher? Interviewee: Shes nice and makes school fun by playing games. Interviewer: What do you like best about your gym teacher? Interviewee: I saw him at the park once and he came to talk to me about my soccer game. Interviewer: What class would you like to have more of during the course of the week? Interviewee: I like the specials, mostly gym, but music and art too. Interviewer: You mentioned that you like being with your friends in school, do you get to sit with your friends at lunch and play with them at recess? Interviewee: Yes. Interviewer: What do you like to play at recess? Interviewee: Soccer and football, but sometimes the teams are unfair. Interviewer: What makes them unfair? Interviewee: Sometimes the kids from a club team all play together against everyone else so its impossible to win if youre not on a club team. Interviewer: By club team do you mean a team that isnt organized by the school?

TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Interviewee: Yes, like not a school team. Interviewer: Do any girls play soccer and football with you at recess? Interviewee: No. Interviewer: What do the girls do at recess? Interviewee: I dont know. Interviewer: Do the girls ever watch your football or soccer games? Interviewee: Why would they do that? Interviewer: Maybe they would want to see who wins. Interviewee: There is a cheerleading team. Interviewer: Are there any boys on the cheerleading team? Interviewee: Why would they do that? Interviewer: Maybe a boy is in gymnastics and wants to be a cheerleader. Interviewee: Not that I know of. Interviewer: What does the word culture mean to you? Interviewee: Whats that? Interviewer: Culture is something that influences your identity. So for example, some people identify themselves by the country they are from or perhaps what they might call their race. Some people think that their religion influences their culture. Lots of things could determine someones culture. Interviewee: Do you mean like Im part Mexican? Interviewer: Yes. Thats a good example. Do you ever hear teachers or students talking about Mexicans at school? Interviewee: No.

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TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Interviewer: Do your classes ever discuss identity or cultural issues? Interviewee: Not that I can think of. Interviewer: Do your teachers or classmates ever refer to the President Obama by the color of his skin? Interviewee: I dont think so. Interviewer: Do you learn about the history of immigration in school? Interviewee: Like people coming here from Mexico? Interviewer: Yes. Interviewee: I dont think so, but my parents talk about it. Interviewer: Do teachers or students at your school ever talk about who they would vote for in any of the elections? Interviewee: I dont think so. Interviewer: Do you ever talk about being Mexican with your friends at school? Interviewee: Yes. Interviewer: When has that ever come up? Interviewee: Sometimes when I tell them how to pronounce my name. Interviewer: Could you give me an example? Interviewee: Most white people call me (name deleted), but my name sounds like (name deleted). Interviewer: How does that make you feel? Interviewee: Its ok, its kind of like having two names. Interviewer: Do kids at school ever talk about how much their clothes or electronic devices cost?

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TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Interviewee: Sometimes, but we all know how much it costs. Interviewer: Could you give an example? Interviewee: Well everyone knows how much Nintendo 3DS and games cost. Interviewer: Do you like playing Nintendo 3DS? Interviewee: Yes. Interviewer: Do you know who has the most 3DS games at school? Interviewee: Probably (name deleted). Interviewer: Do you plan to go to college. Interviewee: My mama says I have to, but Ill probably get a masters or something better like that.

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TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH References Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist. July 513-531. Retrieved August 2005. E-Reserve: http://topcat.switchinc.org/search/rMSN+611/rmsn+611/1,1,1,B/1962@info~1722778&F F=rmsn+611&1,0,,3243,0,0 http://tinyurl.com/8dx5o Dweck, C. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books. Payne, Ruby (2005). A framework for understanding poverty (4th ed.). Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc.

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TAKE A LEARNER TO LUNCH Self-Assessment of Take a Learner to Lunch __X__ There is a clear context for the interview, which includes my rationale for why I chose the particular learner that I did.

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__X__ I have provided rationale for why I chose the questions I did.

__X__ I have included an analysis of the interview.

__X__ My analysis reflects my understanding of the learner whom I interviewed and the ways that his responses reflected and informed the theoretical areas that I chose to explore.

__X__ I have provided a conclusion that considers future theoretical issues that have arisen as a result of my interview findings.

__X__ I have made conscious connections with my audience.

__X__ I have used APA citation and referencing format.

A particular strength that I demonstrate in this paper is my ability to provide logical analysis of information gathered from the brief interview. The assertions and connections to theory are simple but clear. The analysis and conclusion also appropriately recognize the limitations of the study.

I can see that I still need to work on extending educational theory to the specific examples provided in the analysis. The references are brief and vague and do not present a thorough understanding of the topics. I also need to work on the details of APA.