systemstate dump (aka, flushing out my head)

Over the past week or so, I have been reading and searching (is that called researching?). I am a bit overwhelmed and so for the sake of my own sanity, I am going to dump it all right here in a post. I apologize up front if this is in a format that is hard to consume.

Warning: Clicking “read more” may give you a link-heavy wall-of-text.

Economic Gardening: I blogged about this on 8 Dec. This helps to set the stage for where I want community engagement to go; essentially, recognizing the good, improving upon the bad, focusing on real people, finding a good balance between “tradition” and the “bleeding edge”, which means you have to be familiar with both.

We Make the Road by Walking: I have mentioned Paulo Freire in the past; this book was like drinking the most refreshing water from the clearest pool. It is a “spoken book” (a cleaned-up transcript of a live conversation between three people) involving Paulo Freire and Myles Horton (of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee). I love the emphasis on the need to be like children in the aspect of always being curious, always learning, always changing, always growing. I clicked with the ideas of going out into a community and listening to what the residents are saying, walking in their shoes. Too many times we figure out the answer before we even know what the question is. I also appreciate the emphasis placed on the importance of being involved politically – not necessarily involved in Politics, but being involved in decision-making entities that affect communities.

Asset-Based Community Development (aka, ABCD): Not unlike Economic Gardening, ABCD takes a look at the positive things around you and frames any room for improvement in the context of how the local community (the “assets”) can make those changes. I am still crawling through this website, but I find it inspiring that they are based out of Northwestern University, a short hop and a skip from Champaign. I love the idea of igniting engagement by provoking the locals to take ownership and responsibility for positive, “impactful” changes. I also admire their attempts to create an online gathering place in which to connect and share stories of ABCD in action.

A Match on Dry Grass: I have the book on order from the library (going to take a while, I think); I have not had the time to dig really deep into this one, but I love the idea that this group out of Harvard has. I am quite inspired when I read about real research being done to see how communities are empowered, especially with a focus on working towards social justice. My goal in looking in this direction is to see what works in Champaign-Urbana, our school districts and our community.

Take Your Family to School: I found this in my RSS feeds for the National PTA and started looking into it. I quickly got a hold of Sherri Wilson, who is spearheading a number of online communities like the one for Family Engagement at the PTA Great Idea Bank. While at first I thought this was rather kooky (really, take your entire family to school? And get under the feet of the teacher?), I think the thrust of this idea is awesome in terms of raising awareness and creating an incentive to be creative about how a school works together with families. I am looking forward to reading stories of how this has happened around the nation.

Will Kyles: I am amazed at how much this gentleman is trying to make a difference. From my point of view, he is doing an awesome job of bridging different segments of our community while working hard to bring social justice to Champaign.

The University has a number of things going on – I am convinced I have not yet found them all, yet. 🙂

  • Dr. Chris Span and Dr. Adrienne Dixson: I mentioned their work with the Rose & Taylor Barbershop community forums. They are very much concerned about the impact of a dominant culture upon the minority culture and how that relates to African-American education in Champaign.
  • Dr. Abdul Alkalimat: I keep stumbling upon this name when looking up sources for social action and community engagement. He is a professor with the Department of African American Studies and has authored quite a few papers, is affiliated with eBlack and otherwise engaged with the community in a number of ways. Here are a few examples:
  • Community Engagement @ Illinois: A massive 222-page tome; lots of interesting stats, stories, observations and conclusions.
  • Involved with the Great Campus Scoping Study: Still looking for a “real” website. This was that big project that Imani Bazzell was involved with.
  • New Community Wiki: Dr. Abdul likens this to PrairieNet2. Waiting for a link and more information (ie, what is it called?)
  • Epsilon Delta (EΔ): Another I found while looking up info on Community/Family engagement. I am surprised that the mentoring/tutoring arm of the University/Unit 4 partnership has such strong backing and solid footing. I had no idea. They have a bunch of links I want to check out, and hoping to establish contact with someone (as in, a human being). I got to Epsilon Delta via their “Tutoring and Mentoring” help-wanted list for our area, which is rather cool – I hope they keep it up to date.
  • Center for Education in Small Urban Communities: I came at this site sideways while googling (aka, stumbled upon). Among other things, the Center is the main thrust behind Student Opportunities for After-School Resources (SOAR). In many of our talks at Houlihans, we seem to ask the question and point out that we have a friggin’ University in our backyard. I believe the CESUC is what I have been looking for. However, based on what I have found so far, they deal more with the “engagement” aspect (which they do quite well!), trying to fill in the gaps. While they tout their research and studies, I have not yet found where they intend to get into the guts of our local school system and suggest changes to curriculum, facilities or other big-ticket items. Still looking, and waiting for responses to emails. 🙂
  • I-STEM: Earlier this year, Dr. Julia Burke and Dr. Lizanne DeStefano met with various focus groups to discuss the Kindergarten Lottery. Today (20Dec) they are meeting with Trevor Nadrozny (Unit 4 Director of Curriculum) to get him caught up to speed on their progress. We who were involved in the focus groups were asked not to say much about their ongoing research, so I am not saying much. Wishing it would go faster so I could say more. 🙂 But going back to I-STEM, they are obviously related to the STEM efforts Unit 4 is trying to push with BTW. Some very interesting ideas. Dr. DeStefano has been involved in a number of research articles that I have stumbled upon as well.
  • Community Informatics Initiative: An offshoot of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, CII also has ties to eBlack CU and UC2B. They now house the archives for the dormant Community Inquiry Labs, a fascinating exercise in Community Inquiry (sad to see that it is no longer active or dynamic). Dr. Sharon Irish and Dr. Bertram (Chip) Bruce were some of the contacts I made in association with this project. Also see the Community Informatics Club.

To think, this is just scratching the surface.

Additionally, I have a strong feeling that Dr. Wiegand will be our next Superintendent. Neither the NG nor WCIA would say for sure what happened at last night’s “Special” Board Meeting (mostly because some of it was Closed Session), but I have this gut feeling; she has a lot going for her, mostly that she is already the Interim Superintendent (as of Jan 1) and has experience with the school district.

3 Responses to “systemstate dump (aka, flushing out my head)”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    I also should mention that Pattsi got me started on the first four. The only other thing on my queue she gave me is bell hooks, another Freire protege.

    What strikes me, with all this involvement and research and good intentions, how come the majority of what I hear (and have been hearing) is how bad Unit 4 is (as a whole, not individual teachers) and how hard it is for the community to engage? Mind you, I am not proposing an argument about the subjective qualities of Unit 4 and the Administration/Board, but rather, why is this the message that I hear when there is so much evidence of good engagement? What am I missing? The one thing I can think of is that we as a school district have been close to committing the same sins that Boston and Rockford have committed.

  2. one of my goals for next year: winning the PTA Family Engagement Award « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] grant/award out there that is very similar is the “Take Your Family to School Week” (mentioned briefly a little whle back). Very similar, I think, although perhaps a little less permanent, or […]

  3. “We make the road by walking”, part deux | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] I titled this post “part deux” because I have written about Freire and Horton’s book before. […]


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