Summary of Learning

Click this link to view my Fall 2018 ECS 210 Summary of Learning

summary of learning

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Whose stories matter?

How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

I was born a fifth generation white settler on Treaty 4 territory. Growing up, I didn’t realize this. My family, like many others normalized a kind of under-the-breath racism toward Indigenous people. I attended upper middle class, majority white elementary and high schools. And this kind of racism, subtle as it may be from my social surroundings, no doubt had an impact on the way I viewed Indigenous people in my own community. Since I was young I was taught from my family and from school that racism was wrong — we read books about slavery and learned about the history of racism toward African Americans, but not of the same history that faced Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Unlearning this kind of racism has been something I’ve worked towards since early high-school, and even more so in the past four years since graduation. To do this I’ve learned that my inherent opinions must take a back seat to the truths I’ve learned from my Indigenous friends and community members, and all those working to make those truths heard. This is why Treaty Education is so important — we must disrupt the common narrative in order to allow students to form their own view of the world based on truth and multiple viewpoints.

Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

In my own schooling, the common voice and story told was that of the colonial settler. White privilege was threaded throughout my education as we were the only ones to learn about the positive contributions of people who look like us. This gradually began to shift as I got to high school, but the overwhelming amount of stories told were those of white people.

Citizenship Education

During my own experience in school, I can think of ways in which I learned to be a good citizen, and more specifically a personally responsible and participatory.

Regarding the personally responsible citizen, Westheimer and Kahne (2004) say:

“The personally responsible citizen acts responsibly in his/her community by, for
example, picking up litter, giving blood, recycling, obeying laws, and staying out of debt” (2)

This is a definite reflection of my own education. These are things I remember being taught from a very early age; very often we as students would do garbage pickup on the schoolyard and be taught to recycle, and as we got older learned the environmental implications of litter. We learned about Canadian law in Social Studies and we were taught from Kindergarten to obey rules and in effect, laws. Debt was a concept covered in Foundations of Math 30, so many of us learned why it was important to stay out of debt, the difference between leasing and buying, etc.

Regarding the participatory citizen, Westheimer and Kahne (2004) say:

“Proponents of this vision emphasize preparing students to engage in collective, community-based efforts. Educational programs designed to support the development of participatory citizens focus on teaching students about how government and community based organizations work and about the importance of planning and participating in organized efforts to care for those in need, for example, or in efforts to guide school policies.” (3)

In my own schooling, we learned about the rights of Canadian citizens and people across the world, and the history of human rights. We conducted a research project on human rights movements around the world, promoting the idea of the the participatory citizen in that we were learning about the “importance of planning and participating in organized efforts”. We also learned about the ways and ideologies by which different governments operate.

The one type of citizenship education I do not remember being taught is the justice-oriented citizen, about which Westheimer and Kahne (2004) say:

Justice oriented educators argue that effective democratic citizens need opportunities to analyze and understand the interplay of social, economic, and political forces.

I don’t remember ever getting the opportunity to analyze and understand the interplay of social, economic and political forces in my schooling. I remember learning about all three separately, but never intertwined. Without this opportunity, students may never be able to make these types of connections and understand the relation between the three. This means that students’ interest in different issues may not be as strong as it could be if they understood fully the implications and history of the issue, and may not be as apt to play an active role in social change and social justice.

FNMI Ways of Knowing in Mathematics

In my own experience in learning Math, I cannot say that I remember one meaningful application of FNMI ways of knowing. Maybe the problem was the textbooks, or maybe it was that teachers felt overwhelmed with the amount of material that needed to be covered. Whatever the reason, there was no instance in my time learning Math 9, Foundations and Pre-Calculus 10, Workplace 10, Foundations 20, Pre-Calculus 20, Foundations 30 or Pre-Calculus 30 that I ever learned anything but the dominant discourse about math. What are the causes of this? How could I have gone through thirteen years of learning math, all different kinds of math used for all kinds of purposes, and never once encountered one word problem or equation that displayed any way of knowing other than what Math Makes Sense says are appropriate applications of math? Is this discrimination, oppression even? That’s hard to say, but I do know that it was a majorly missed opportunity on the part of every math teacher I ever had to introduce students to FNMI ways of knowing in Math.

Three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric mathematic ideas:

  • Firstly, students learn mathematics in their own language. This can challenge the ways in which students understand concepts, such as using a word meaning “indivisible” for the number “0”. “Their tradition being essentially an oral one, the Inuit have developed a system for expressing numbers orally.”, this means that they have had to adopt European ways of representing written numbers.
  • Second, the traditional Inuit calendar challenges Eurocentric ways of knowing by characterizing months based off of natural events. For example, September’s number of days fluctuates depending on how long it takes a caribou’s antlers to shed their velvet.
  • Third, traditionally, the Inuit use their bodies for measurement in contrast to the Metric or even Imperial systems used worldwide today.

 

Louise Poirier, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ucjs20, Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community.

Let’s talk about Treaty Education

Students will never gain a full understanding of the place in which they live if they don’t receive Treaty Ed or First Nations, Inuit and Metis perspectives and ways of knowing. Treaty education is important in that students gain an accurate knowledge of the land on which they live, and the commonsense narrative which they have likely heard and believed in can be disrupted in this way. By looking at the Treaty Map, students look at Canada through a different lens, a disruption of the normative map we see featuring the provinces and territories. The purpose of Treaty education is not to acknowledge truth and work toward reconciliation only when there is an Indigenous person in the room, rather it is to help ALL students gain a full understanding of these concepts. A perpetuation of teaching through the lens of the normative, dominant Canadian narrative can only reinforce those ideas and allow them to permeate and continue to exist within society, which is the opposite of the goal of Truth and Reconciliation.

Erica Violet Lee, the Keynote speaker at TreatyEdCamp spoke about feeling separate at her school as the only  Indigenous student to be placed in AP classes. I believe that one way we can avoid students feelings this way is by replacing things like the “Redman” mascot at Erica Violet Lee’s high school, and replacing them with authentic FNMI perspectives and ways of knowing. One way of enacting FNMI content and perspectives is by smudging at school. This, Jeff Cappo said at TreatyEdCamp is all about building connections with students.

 Treaty Education is important because we are all treaty people. At TreatyEdCamp, Sheena Koops reminded us that a treaty exists between two parties, which is not often what people think about when we talk about treaties; often people think that only Indigenous peoples are treaty people. But we have to remember that this is not the case, that a treaty is like a contract or a deal where two parties are involved — not just one. For my understanding of curriculum, this means that all students must learn about FNMI ways of knowing as well as be exposed to Treaty Education in order to gain a full understanding of the place in which they live.

Learning from Place

In Restoule et al’s (2013) Learning from Place, there are many instances throughout the narrative in which reinhabitation and decolonization occur.

  • ” The processes of creating an audio documentary about relations to the river and engaging in trips along the river were part of a decolonizing process of remembering as younger generations were re-introduced to traditional ways of knowing. Over just two generations, one could observe the erosion of deeper meanings of connection to land and territory that are encoded in the Mushegowuk language, its declining use among the adult and youth generations” 
    • The river trips were meant to help introduce, and perhaps reintroduce Indigenous ways of knowing in relation to the river and water and the Mushegowuk people.
  • “The excursion brought out how important water is to Mushkegowuk culture.”When we hear frogs singing we know the water quality is safe for our consumption. We listen to the song of the birds to know what kind of weather is approaching. The moose will know when we need food and allow themselves to be taken. Such is the contract we have with the animal world.”
    • These ways of knowing can only come from elders and those who have learned from them, and reinstate a knew way of interacting with and living on the land. They break down the colonial way we think of survival, where we might use a water tester, an app to check the weather, etc., and replace them with traditional ways of knowing.
  • “The river trip helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge. It re-established respect for the meaning of paquataskamik and demonstrated how irreconcilable that meaning is with western notions of boundaries as imposed by federal and provincial reserve policy and other planning models.”
    • According to Restoule et al, (2013), paquataskamik is “the Cree word used for traditional territory, all of the environment, nature, and everything it contains”. The re-establishment of the meaning of this was done through the decolonization and reinhabitation, by replacing colonial ways of knowing with traditional ones, and re-orienting the viewpoint of the land away from the western/colonial view.

So how might I adapt these views and use them in my own classroom?

As a social studies teacher, I can facilitate discussion about physical environment. Where are we? How do we know? How do we use the land, what/how else could it be used? These kinds of inquiry questions could set up a lesson about traditional ways of knowing about the land.

\As an English teacher, during the discussion of a text I might ask students similar questions about setting: Where is the setting? Who uses that land and why? Who may have used it before, and how?

Bringing in these different perspectives will help students to question where they are, and how they relate to the land they live on.

How are Curricula Developed?

Before Reading 

I think that the way that curriculum is implemented is largely based on the many different ideas that come from curriculum theorists such as Bobbitt and Tyler. In Saskatchewan, I believe that curriculum structure is developed based off of these theorists ideas, but the curriculum content itself is informed by government representatives from the Ministry of Education, FSIN members, SIIT members, textbook publishers, community members, and in small part, teachers.

After Reading

According to Levin (2008), “main education stakeholder groups” comprised of “teachers, principals, senior administrators, and elected local authorities” , as well as “some
combination of national, local, and school participation; and in federal systems, education governance will have a fourth (and often primary) level at the state or province” (p.16).  One concern about the provincial government holding the primary stake in curricula is that “The central role of governments inevitably brings into play a range of both political and bureaucratic elements” (Levin, 2008, p.16). Levin goes on to say that although there is often only one government official “charged with the responsibility” of education, often the curriculum can be influenced by the opinions of other political leaders (2008). After completing the reading, I realized that what I’ve been taught and thought before the reading was not too far off. What concerns me is that, as we’ve seen in Ontario, political influences can sometimes supersede what the teachers and students want, even though they’re the ones that are most directly affected.

Who is a “good” student?

What is the commonsense definition of a “good student”?

According to Kushamiro in “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student”, a good student must exhibit a certain set of qualities: They must be able to focus on the teacher while at their desk,they begin a task as soon as it is asked of them, they are able to monitor themselves, they can only interject or ask questions if their hand is raised. The problem with assuming that a child who preforms these tasks with ease is a “good student” and all others are not, is that it favors only a few students.

Students who are privileged by this commonsense definition are auditory and visual learners who are assumed to be confident to begin a task right away, without delay for fear of failure. Students who are at a disadvantage because of this definition are those who may need to move around, students who learn kinesthetically. It also disadvantages students who may have ADD or ADHD, or other qualities that mean they may require help staying on task. It discourages students from presenting their ideas unless they are brave enough or willing to wait and raise a hand, and even then their idea or quesion may not get to be shared.

This commonsense definition of a “good” student makes it hard for those disadvantaged children not only to learn, but to feel accepted within their classroom as legitimate learners, as good students because they don’t fit the definition of a “good student”, no matter how willing to learn they may be. We as teachers have to understand that all students have the potential to be “good “, and that the definition of a “good” student is not static.

Whatever we believe, they learn.

“We all mouth the mantra “All children can learn.” I would modify the chant to “All children do learn.” It’s just that some of them learn that we expect them to be successful, and some learn from us that they are dumb. Whatever we believe, they learn.”  – Lisa Delpit, “Multiplication is for White People”: Raising Expectations of Other People’s Children

I chose to discuss this quote because a, I have a great admiration for Lisa Delpit and b, because it resonates with me strongly. Delpit has spent much of her life concerned with equity within American classrooms and determining how to ensure that African American children feel empowered at school, which is an issue I see mirrored in Canada in regards to Indigenous students.

Lisa is right in saying that we all mouth the mantra “all children can learn”, we believe in the idea that all children, across the board can learn what we want them to. Of course all children have the capacity to learn, but the consequences of things that exist within the hidden curriculum are often the lessons learned by students. Tracking in schools creates a separation of students, and sets a specific expectation. And students catch on to this. They know that if they get placed in a special math group that it’s either because they’re not meeting standards and therefore aren’t expected to even try, or that they’re above and beyond the expectations and therefore will be held to a higher standard. These students will learn that they either need to constantly be pushing themselves beyond the level of their peers, or that their teachers don’t expect them to ever meet the same level as their peers — either way, that separation changes the way a student thinks and feels about school, and themselves.

Tracking does have it’s benefits, and arguably can be considered a form of differentiation. However, these students feel ostracized from their peers when they are told they are different. Yes, it requires more work on the part of the teacher to ensure that students are in the same classroom for the same lesson, however this work will serve to empower students who have been inherently told their whole school career that they aren’t good enough, or that they don’t meet our standard of understanding.

No teacher goes into the classroom without bias, but what is important is that we don’t allow these biases to interfere with our students’ education. Systemic racism often creeps up from behind us before we can recognize it, but as teachers we cannot allow this to affect our students. We need to teach equitably, and we need to ensure that all of our students feel confident in their abilities, whatever they may be.

Using the Tyler Rationale

In the third chapter of  Curriculum Theory: Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concerns by Michael Shiro, the Tyler Rationale is used to help readers understand the idea of social efficiency. The Tyler Rationale is a set of four questions presented by Ralph Tyler:

  1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain? (What  kind of people we’re looking to produce)
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes? (What do students need to get there?)
  3. How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
  4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained? (Assessment)

I can definitely find ways in which the Tyler rationale was used in my own schooling. The idea of what educational purposes the school should seek to attain can be seen as the curriculum – the mandatory guidelines for what students will (not should) learn throughout a school year. The curriculum exists, in a way because we as teachers in Saskatchewan look to produce a particular type of person/learner through the outcomes. The experiences can be seen as the work that we give students to do in order to reach those goals (outcomes) set by the curriculum.  The organization can be found in lesson and unit planning. Lastly, indicators found in the curriculum which summative assessment is based off of lets us know whether or not a student is learning in the way we want them to.

There are both negatives and positives to this approach to schooling.

One negative is that when teachers are trying to squeeze the whole curriculum into “100” hours of class work and are focused so much on meeting the outcomes and indicators, they can very often miss teaching and learning opportunities that fall outside of the curriculum, but that are still beneficial. It is very limiting to have a structure for learning in which we are told what to teach, which can lead to teacher stress.

However, it would be wrong of me to say that having a guideline isn’t insanely helpful when we are teaching. I couldn’t imagine walking into a classroom with no lesson plan, and no outcomes, indicators or objectives to help guide me in my teaching. “Winging it” could lead to some serious problems – timing,  not to mention (the negative effect that seems to never go away), teacher stress. Not having a unit plan means that every day is a free for all, and I personally don’t think I could teach effectively if that were the case.

Thankfully our curriculum offers us some room. We are told what students must learn, but we are not told how we must teach it to them. We can choose various texts, videos, resources, themes etc. that suit our students and our classroom needs and interests. I believe that while in some areas (cough cough, Social Studies) our curriculum might need an update, we as teachers in Saskatchewan are lucky to have a system that guides us, but doesn’t loom over us, allowing us the room to make decisions for our own classrooms.

Shiro, Michael (2013). Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns, (2nd ed). SAGE.