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Random Family Reflection

My spin on the book from an educational, "professional development day" perspective.

Kristen Mueller

on 3 October 2012

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Transcript of Random Family Reflection

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx Reflection Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Kristen Mueller
Professor Stivers
28 September 2012 The book Random Family provides the reader with a detailed and intimate look into the everyday lives of people from poor sections of the Bronx. There are many implications of living in low socioeconomic and ethnically diverse areas on student performance in the classroom.
In this Prezi, I will present information about Random Family and its impact on education in the form of a mock Professional Development Day topic that I will be presenting to fellow teachers. I will discuss the possible reasons behind the low performance of some students from disadvantaged areas, and most importantly, what teachers can do to help. Examples of the challenges characters from Random Family face will supplement the presentation. First, let's focus on the possible sources of the problems What are students living in low socioeconomic areas really facing? 1). Complicated family relationships Since, according to this book, some of your students' parents may be in jail, this may confuse some children about who their parents really are. This can be seen in the book as, ”even her (Jessica's) children’s love lived elsewhere; when they visited, Brittany and Stephanie cried for Milagros while Little Star cried for Lourdes” (52). 2). Growing up too quickly The demanding life puts great strain on the mothers, and as a result, larger responsibility has to fall on the oldest born. ”Mercedes was a lot like Little Star had been, and although Coco had been the same way, she wanted Mercedes to be a child while she was a child” (198). Mercedes described as a “watchdog daughter” making sure that Coco did what was right (294). ”Fear organized whole seasons of Mercedes’s experience, and she was probably still frightened: she just didn’t show it anymore” (374). 3). Parents in Jail Imagine how distracting it must be for your students whose parents are in jail- the psychological problems are extensive. Also, with one less parent at home, it will be even more difficult for children to get to school. In the book, no one could walk Serena to school, so she missed more than 2 months of school and failed 1st grade. Coco's daughter Mercedes was having many discipline problems, especially in school, but Coco knew exactly what was going on with Mercedes: “I know what the answer is- Cesar… Everything is just missing him” (376). 3). Social Skills: Can reflect some of their difficult home lives Different environments and cultures have competing views of obedience and how to get along with others. Random Family made this made clear with the idea that ”bad was encouraged in small children” (242). As a result, it is not surprising that it is difficult for children to realize this idea shifts later in life. They are forced to learn this by “excruciating trial & error” (242). Similarly, there are 2 worlds that children growing up in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas must face. Assertiveness is needed in the outside world, but it often gets children in trouble when displayed in school (379). Mercedes could not get along with her teachers or classmates, and at home, where the “battles were more familiar” she lost them as well (338). 5). Poor places to raise children Lack of services available ”Day care” for Nikki were mornings with an anxious lady in a dark apartment in front of the TV (152). Compare this type of "daycare" to what many consider the typical daycare experience: activities, crafts, and social interaction. These students are at a disadvantage even before they come to school. Coco believed that Mercedes’ problems at school started at home and thought Frankie, her live-in boyfriend, was a major part of the problem, as Mercedes did not like him (336). 6). Lack of attention payed to children Just like the parents in the popular children's show, Rugrats, weren't bad parents, the parents of children living in socioeconomically disadvantaged places are not bad parents- many of them just don't have the same time or resources to devote to their children. (Many are just trying to get by) Mercedes learned a new song in preschool that she wanted to share with Coco, but Coco was preoccupied with finding out about another of Cesar’s daughters so she told her to just watch tv (158). Another of Mercedes' children, Pearl, was always eager for someone to read for her. When someone finally was able to, she was so excited and screamed, "again!" for a third reading in a row (340). 7). Lack of Nutrition/Care The foods children eat and the care they receive at home can impact their functioning at school. Coco let her daughters eat candy a lot (185) This, of course, leads to quick spurts of energy, but then a post-sugar crash: a definite problem for school. Mercedes’ reluctance to go to school was thought of as attitude, but really she was physically exhausted from staying up late (287). 8). Clashing community values People valued school in theory, but unfortunately, many of the adults, (the role models), did not stick it out. Even Boy George encouraged Cesar to go to school: “You’re not a stupid kid, Augustus. Go to school, go to school, go to school!” (62). You can imagine that this advice greatly confused Cesar, as Boy George appeared to be making a great living by selling drugs in the street, something that Cesar could do already and not even need to go to school for. Lourdes warns Serena, “A girl has to be smart now. Study. Be somebody” (388), but like Boy George, she does not explain how going to school can drastically change her life. Many of Serena's role models haven't finished school, so she figures, why should she? There are also great misconceptions between school and virginity. ”Virginity and school were discussed as though they were inextricably linked; the loss of one seemed to guarantee the abandonment of the other” (170). This quote from Random Family succinctly describes the problem: Not only does this great misconception exist in the minds of many teenage (and even older) women, but the "girls were surrounded by women who ignored the contradictions between what they said & what they did" (322). It is understood in the world of education that unfortunately many of the problems that children are experiencing at home travel with them to school. Therefore, it is up to us as teachers to do what we can and do our part in the education of our students. What can I, as only ONE teacher, do to help?? A student's teacher has a great impact on the life of his/her student. When a teacher makes a connection with a student, it really can change the way a student views school. Random Family describes Mercedes' experiences with two different teachers (and teaching styles) that will serve as great case studies. Mercedes loved her 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cormier, who took the time to get to understand Mercedes and why she has behavior problems. Mrs. Cormier realized that Mercedes has many responsibilities at home, which caused her to grow up more quickly. So, Mrs. Cormier chose to give Mercedes more jobs in class and ignore her bids for negative attention (355). Unfortunately, with the new school year, the treatment Mercedes received changed. In 5th grade, Mercedes' teacher used a “traditional classroom approach” which is a style that gives much control to the teacher. As may be expected, “Mercedes bucked against Mrs. Hutchins’s authority” (368). Please see the second part of this Prezi to see more ways teachers can help students from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes (the file size would be too large to keep it all on one Prezi). Convoluted family tree
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