On The Scene: PARCEO’s Symposium

On Saturday, March 1st,  I attended Participatory Action Research Center for Education Organizing’s (PARCEO) Symposium. The theme for the event was: Sharing Principles and Practices of PAR. As a community-based, non-profit organization PARCEO brought together a collective of empowered community groups and advocates to discuss how they are currently infusing PAR into their work and to network amongst each other.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a research and learning method that empowers community members to take collective action to address their concerns and recognize their own expertise. (I will write a separate post on PAR soon.)

The full-day event was held at El Museo del Barrio. The symposium was in the youth activities and educational space of El Museo, which definitely helped to set the tone for the learning, sharing, and reflecting that took place in all the sessions.

For me the day served as an informal conversation about what community engagement and advocacy looks like from the perspective of parents, teachers, and students. The underlining thread of all the groups in attendance was education. I would venture to say it was educational justice and the roles of key (students, teachers, parents) stakeholders in education.

I attended sessions on community organizing challenges, the partnership between parents and teachers in a child’s education, and youth-led organizing. Each session was led by a specific community group(s) and a discussion on their work with PAR in the local community. Throughout the day I was constantly reflecting on the discussions and furiously writing down my lingering questions.

I love to learn from others and to hear about their direct experience on a subject, so the symposium was my classroom for the day! By the end of the day I was feeling reinvigorated and inspired. Overall, it was a great event and I look forward to the next PARCEO symposium.

Here’s what I do know: community collaboration is essential and necessary for community empowerment and transformation.


Good or Bad Debt: Higher Education?

Lets be honest the value of a higher education degree will always be debatable. I remember when I entered undergrad in 2004 it seemed like everyone was receiving a bachelor’s degree, so it was inevitable that I would pursue my master’s degree to eventually distinguish myself in the job market. I took exactly two years off before I entered graduate school in New York.

It took me eighteen months after walking across the stage at Radio City Music Hall in May 2012 with my masters degree to receive a job worth the blood, sweat, tears, and my first child that I gave to a major private university to find a job directly aligned with my passion for service-learning and education reform. Was it worth it? Of course! I wouldn’t trade a moment of the 18 month journey it took me to complete my beloved MA in Educational Leadership.

Was the debt worth it? Absolutely! I literally own this degree (and the school owns me for another 10 years), but would I have done it for a fraction (or none at all) of the cost? YES!! Yet, for me this was a “good” debt that I was willing to take on to further my career. It was well worth it!

This video by EncounterBooks on the Glen Harlan Reynolds’ Higher Education Bubble looks into the dwindling value of higher education in America. They even compare it to the housing crisis in the mid 2000s with the ever-increasing cost of higher education. Regardless, you know your value and what you are willing to do to ensure you reach your career dreams and goals.

Here’s what I do know: to become a lifelong learner you have to advocate and invest in yourself first!

Today’s Learner: 21st Century Skills Every Student Needs to Succeed

Today’s Learner

We all know that the Common Core curriculum (and other education reform programs) mention 21st century skills, but rarely do those skills seem tangible like they do in this infographic.

Jackie Gerstein, User Generated Education, developed this great chart of what skills would be most valuable for today’s learner. I think these skills are adaptable for anyone in K-12, higher education, or in a continuing education program. I know that I will definitely be referring to this chart over the summer as I draft the curriculum for my program. By the end of next year I hope to have them all on track to mastering or planning to master these skills.

Here’s what I do know: holistic ( social, emotional, and academic ) learning can only benefit today’s learner in every aspect of their lives.

My Educational Belief: Service-Learning



My professional platform is a teaching and learning method: Service-Learning (SL). SL is a process where students learn and develop through active participation in the learning process. This teaching style provides meaningful community service activities that relate to academic subject content that students are learning in the classroom.

The distinction between community service and service learning can be described as: providing direct service to address an immediate need of the community, by serving food at a homeless shelter once a week and service-learning, serving food at a homeless shelter once a week and advocating with homeless families for the creation of more transitional housing and social service programs that ties to identifying a social problem and developing practical solutions. In addition service learning has a reflection component that students (and the community) to complete as it relates to the theories they learn in class. The reflection process allows the students to process whether their learned theory supports or negates what they accomplished through practice.

I chose Service-Learning as my professional platform because I feel strongly that students need to be reengaged in the learning process. Amdist the standards movement and the consistently changing “education movement” the foundation of learning and developing both cognitive and social skills to be active citizens has been lost. Reengaging students in the joy of learning and grasping knowledge that can empower them to change their immediate surroundings is crucial if we are to become a globally competitive country.

Here’s what I do know: incorporating the teaching and learning method of service-learning into the K-12 education curriculum, as it is already being used in multiple higher-education disciplines, would only benefit our students learning and expose them to non-traditional means of learning through service.

Great Debate: Project-Based Learning vs Problem-Based Learning vs XB-L

Surprise, surprise with the great demise of the American education system there are a lot of different reform program coming out of the woodwork in hopes of boosting student learning capabilities and comprehension. I say all this with a hint of being cynical that they will all work, but I am glad that there are options abound to meet the varied learning styles of the ever-changing student population. I think it is about time that there are feasible active learning solutions that students would enjoy.

Alright enough of my rambling about education reform practices, now on to the article Project-Based Learning vs Problem-Based Learning vs XB-L. John Lamer with the Buck Institute for Education, wrote a great article on the varied “x”-based learning models. I like how the article gives a brief history, overview and insight into two of the major debatable models. Also I look forward to looking to reading the second part of the article.

Here’s what I do know: it is pertinent that experiential and collaborative learning is essential toward ensuring that every student is well prepared for to beyond successful in the 21st century.