Blog #9 – Case Study

This week in seminar we talked about three different case studies in small groups, and then discussed as a larger group afterwards.

Three things that I learned were:

  1.  Unexpected things will happen while we are teaching, and sometimes there is nothing that we can do about it. These case studies really opened my eyes to the kinds of issues that really can exist within schools, as well as how we might address them.
  2.  That teachers will address problems in different ways. Based on the conversation that we had we could all agree that each case study posed a specific problem, but couldn’t all agree on how to deal with the problems.
  3.  The importance of making sure that students aren’t on their phones during lockdown drills. I’d never thought of cell phones being the one dead giveaway that students are in a classroom.

Two connections that I made were:

  1. When we were talking about accessibility and how people who are differently- abled are treated, it reminded me of this summer when my boyfriend was in a wheelchair and how he was treated, and how inaccessible many places in our community are.
  2.  The idea of a teacher’s personal life affecting their professional life and how students see them. In one case study a teacher was put on the news for drinking and driving. This reminded me of when I worked at a restaurant next to my high school, and how after school often times a whole group of my teachers would come and drink in front of me while I was working directly after school, and how it impacted my own opinion of them as professionals.

One question that I still have is:

In all of the recent mass/school active-shooter situations I have heard of and read about, most people used their cell phones to text loved ones and keep them updated, and even used their phones to say final goodbyes to family. How do I, as a teacher, tell a student they are not allowed to update their family, knowing that if things turn bad it could very well be their last chance to speak to their family?


Blog #8 – Teacher Identity

This week we talked about the idea of teacher identity.

Three things that I learned were:

  1. The STF Teacher’s Project. This project showcases teachers in Saskatchewan and how they are making a difference in their schools and communities through a documentary-style video. These can be used as resources for teachers who are looking for new ways to help their students and communities.
  2. The different components that make up teacher identity in relation to policy discourses, including how we are trained as teachers, funding, curriculum, funding, and accountability policies.
  3. The idea of “teaching in the undertow”. I thought as a teacher that teaching only from curriculum was something that was not only expected of me but the best way to do it to avoid any issues. However, its clear that teaching off-curriculum (as long as curriculum is still covered) and engaging with my students in ways that aren’t all about testing and assessment are going to be the more meaningful classroom experiences for them.


Two connections that I made were:

  1. Miss Yerkes’ notion of “feeling like a teacher”. I agree that when I dress a certain way, usually with heels I feel more like a teacher than if I was wearing something less professional or where my heels didn’t click down the hallway, and that this in turn contributes to how I act as a teacher.
  2.  Teachers in the media. In my own life I can say absolutely that my own teaching style sometimes reflects that of teachers I’ve seen in the media or teachers I’ve had before. Everyone wants to strive to be the exciting, Jack Black-type of teacher and avoid being the Severus Snape type, but I think that in the way that the character themselves are portrayed, it takes away from the real lessons that they are teaching and we don’t see their planning or curriculum.

One question that I still have is: As we grow as teachers, how much do we need to focus on separating our personal identity from our teaching identity, and when is it okay to let those two merge?


Blog # 7 – the STF

This week in lecture we spoke about the STF and what it does for teachers, and in seminar we talked about the prison to school pipeline.

Three things that I learned were:

  1.  That the STF Executive is comprised completely of teachers and former teachers. I think that this is really important because people who have taught or are teaching have the kind of insight into the lives of teachers that can’t be found elsewhere. These teachers make decisions for all teachers in Saskatchewan.
  2. The Code of Collective Interests. I didn’t know that it existed or what it was comprised of, but now I know what are and aren’t considered to be respectful actions towards the Federation.
  3. Resisting the criminalization of school behaviour. I have never really seen this as a concept itself, but it makes sense to me to be 100% conscious of how, if at all I am punishing students as a teacher and how my behaviour might directly affect that student in a way that sets them up to be sent through the school to prison pipeline.


Two connections that I made were:

  1. The school to prison pipeline. I learned about this in an English class and learned about the ways in which our educational systems in North America contribute to incarceration. We had a guest speaker come in who was a part of that pipeline who had been released from prison and returned back to university later on, and this reminded me of his story.
  2. The STF’s Code of Professional Ethics. I learned about this in ECS 100 where we talked about what would be expected of us as future teachers

One question that I still have is:

How do we as teachers strike ethically, knowing that it results in the sacrifice of some students’ education?


Blog #6 – Hidden Curriculum and Reproduction Theory

This week in lecture we talked about hidden curriculum and reproduction theory.

Three things that I learned were:

  1. The idea of Reproduction Theory. This is a theory that argues against the ideas of schools providing equal opportunity, but rather schools seek to reproduce the “status quo” like a factory.
  2. The idea of the “culture of power”. This is the notion that those in the dominant culture are the ones who have power.
  3. Anyon’s idea of connections between types of schools, the type of work that is done and the control that the students have over themselves. I never thought of he differences between these types of schools and the connection that has to the expectations that exist within the school.

Two connections I made were:

  1. When we were talking about the culture of power, it made me think of white privilege, especially when it was mentioned that those with the power are usually those who are unaware of it. A lot of white people that I know are upset at the notion of white privilege because they don’t feel as though they hold any power because of their race.
  2. Correspondence theory and the idea that schools don’t provide equal opportunities for all students and continues to push the status quo, that students who start out poor often end up poor. This reminds me of students that I have known since kindergarten and where they are now. Those who were affluent then remain affluent and have more opportunities as adults than those who started school with a lower SES.

One question I still have is:

How can we make classrooms equitable for all?


Blog #6 – History of Education in Saskatchewan

This week we talked about the history of education in Saskatchewan, as well as the constructions of school systems.

Three things that I learned are:

  1. The idea of teachers and schools being behind one of four Philosophies of Education: perennialism, essentialism, progressivism and reconstructivism. I thought that this was an interesting concept because it made me think about teachers I’ve had and what their own educational philosophies were, as well as what my own might be. I learned that these four philosophies can be merged and each teacher can have a strong mix of any of the four as their own philosophies.
  2. The idea of Normal Schools. I had no idea that these had existed as the first kind of professional teacher training in Saskatchewan and that prior to their opening, teachers had no kind of teacher-training.
  3. That the first ever teacher-strike in Saskatchewan occurred in 1921 in Moose Jaw.  Despite the strike being short, the victory was felt by the teachers to be a victory because it allowed them to represent themselves.

Two connections I made are:

  1.  Education as a political act. I have seen this time and time again in my own education. I strongly believe this is because of the changing political and social climate in North America in the past fifteen years. I was in the sixth grade when Barack Obama was inaugurated and  our entire elementary school sat in the gym and watched on the big projector screen as he became president. Throughout high school many political topics were spoken about, and as the LGBTQ+ discourse began to really open up such as with the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, so too did the opportunity open in our classrooms to learn about that community specifically and diversity. This can be said about LGBTQ rights, All Lives Matter, gun control and mass shootings and so much more. As our world changes, certainly the burden is on us as teachers to educate our students about our changing world.
  2. Hidden curriculum. This I think goes hand-in-hand with the politicizing of the classroom. We encourage schools to have gender-neutral bathrooms and rooms for smudging, and these things (though both are very positive) suggest acceptance of specific communities within the school, and therefore the school must have a positive feeling about these communities to include them, in turn influencing the way students think about things. Today we might have arguments about gender-neutral washrooms because they are new to us, but in the future they’ll be the norm and students won’t think twice about them.

One question I still have is:

Is hidden curriculum ethical, and where should the line be drawn?


Blog #5 – Diverse Perspectives

This week we talked about diverse perspectives on development and learning in class. We looked at both the idea of the learning spirit as well as the reconceptionalist theory.

Three things that I learned are:

  1. The idea of the Indigenous Renaissance, as described by Marie Batiste in her article ‘Nourishing the Learning spirit: Living our way to new thinking’. This is the idea that there is a “resurgence of Indigenous knowledge”, which began with the first generation of Indigenous peoples to obtain University Degrees in the 1960’s.
  2.  That the idea of reconceptualization when looking at different learning theories is a theory in itself. This is the idea that no one theory should or can be applied to all children.
  3. Canella’s Assumptions in Educational discourse, which include focusing on the necessity of learning, movement towards logic and advancement, certain knowledge as more important or legitimate and the inferiority of people within education.

Two Connections I made were:

  1. The assumption that there are certain types of knowledge which are more legitimate. In high school I remember certain subjects being requirements for graduation such as a math, a science and an English requirement, but subjects like woodshop, physical education and law were not requirements. This gives the suggestion of some classes being more important, or “basic” knowledge.
  2.  The Reconceptualist’s theory. I connect to this because I also strongly believe that there is no one theory that can blanket every child and their way of thinking. In my own journey as a teacher one of my main takeaways has always been that students learn and develop differently from one another and in many different ways.

One question I still have is:

How can we challenge the assumptions put forth by Canella and perhaps look to provide a discourse that is more inclusive?


Blog #4 – Culture and Diversity

This past two classes we  have talked about social and emotional well-being, as well as culture and diversity in classrooms. In seminar, we did the jigsaw activity which allowed us all to hear different stories about mental health and have a conversation about it. In lecture we talked about culture and diversity, which opened up good conversations about “what would you do” moments featured in the text books.

Three things that I learned were:

  1. That there is a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and cortisol levels in the brain, which in turn can also affect grades. I thought it was interesting and made a lot of sense because children from low SES households often have more stress than other students, and often compare themselves to others in all kinds of ways.
  2. Banks’ Five Dimensions of Multicultural Education. This includes content integration, an equity pedagogy, prejudice and bias reduction and awareness, a process of knowledge construction and the empowerment of social structure and school culture. I never thought of multicultural education as a system, but the dimensions all connect in different ways and balance each other.
  3. The idea of tracking students and it’s effect on their socialization. This is when low SES students are placed in specific classes based on assumed ability and are taught differently. This could also happen for high SES students who are expected to do better.


Two connections I made were:

  1. Tracking. This happened to me and a few other girls at my elementary school often, because it was assumed we were affluent and smarter than others in our grade. ( I was a low SES student at a very high SES school, most students were assumed to be affluent). We were often put in a different English class or math groups (I was really bad at math, I don’t know why I was ever put in an advanced math group), and this continued into 7th and 8th grade. In 7th grade I moved schools and was placed in a class with about ten others from two classes that met once a week to do independent study. In grade 8 I moved again and was placed in advanced English, but also advanced math because it was presumed I was very good at both ( again I was really bad at math). This pulled me out of my regular class and those of us in the groups were questioned by the other students because they didn’t think we were any smarter than them, and it created some tension in the higher grades. Luckily my high school had no AP classes so I was never singled out.
  2.  When we spoke about students in class who come from a low SES household. This hit home because when I was in third grade my mom went back to  school, and it was just her and my two sisters and I. I went to an elementary school which was located in a prestigious neighborhood and many of my classmates had parents over 40 who were affluent, and my mother was in her late twenties as full-time student, working part time as a bartender. Needless to say I did not have the same kind of home life as my friends, and I often had to watch my sisters. However, contrary to what we learned this week, and despite having both high cortisol levels displayed through mental health issues and coming from a low SES household, I was able to control one thing and that was my grades. So by watching my mother go through school I think that helped me push myself to get the same kinds of grades as my friends and excel.

One question I still have is  if I was able to push myself to succeed despite my low SES standing and correlating mental health issues, why don’t other student have that same drive, and what can I do as a teacher to support students who may be feeling as I did, but don’t have that drive?


Blog #3 – Social and Cognitive Views

This week we talked about social and cognitive views of learning and motivation. Three things that I learned are:

  1.  The different perspectives of learning and their correlating theorists. This includes B.F. Skinner’s behaviourist perspective which talks about rewards and punishments in learning, J. Anderson’s Cognitivist perspective which talks about memory and reactivating information previously learned, and Piaget and Vygotsky’s constructivist perspectives which says that learning should be scaffolded, whether it be individual or collaborative.
  2.  The meaning of self efficacy, which is the belief in one’s self to succeed at a task, and it’s connection to learning.
  3. The importance of self-regulation in learning and the positive effects it can have on grades.

Two connections which I made were:

  1.  The ability for students to succeed more when they are self regulating. I found this very interesting and connected to it because I’ve always felt as though “doing my own thing” when it comes to studying or taking notes has taken me farther in my understanding of concepts than suggestions or regulations.
  2.  Bandura’s idea that the greater the self-efficacy the greater task initiation, and persistence the greater the likelihood of success. When I have multiple things to do such as study for different tests or complete multiple assignments, I will always begin with what I know I will understand more, and what I know I can complete with no problem. These are often tasks that I don’t procrastinate, but tasks which I believe are harder or that I’m unable to complete I will push off to avoid the feeling of struggling through it.

One question I still have:

My sister’s and I grew up in the same household, with the same family, and often the same teachers and peers. While I am often confident in my work and know I can succeed, my youngest sister often doesn’t.  If these are influences for self-efficacy, why is it that us three sisters seem to have different levels of self-efficacy?


Blog #2, Strength and Resilience

This week we talked about  social and moral development in students. Three thing that I learned are that girls are generally bigger than boys during middle years, that there is a difference between authoritative and authoritative parenting styles as well as how to report suspected neglect or abuse.

Two connections I made are:

  1. The definitions of parenting styles. These definitions helped me to understand and connect to my own parents and how I was raised, reflecting on their values and how their parenting has effected me throughout my life beyond them.
  2. The idea of body image in classrooms as an intimidating topic. As we were speaking about students who lose weight rapidly, I thought of myself and how this often occurs and how I felt in high school about it. I also reflected on what was taught in my high school about body image and healthy lifestyles.

One thing I still would like to know is how a teacher can fit in in the parenting role, and where the line is in that respect between teacher and parent, and how far to go beyond that line.


Blog #1 – Cognitive Development

This week we read and talked about cognitive development in class. We also spoke about Bronfenbrenner and his Social Context of Development, which is the total setting or situation that surrounds and interacts with students. It includes internal and external pressures that interact with the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions to shape development and learning. I thought that looking at this model was important for helping us as future teachers to understand the context in which a child develops, and how that has an effect on the way that they learn and cognitive development. I thought that the chapter about cognitive development in the textbook was very interesting as well. My partner has an acquired brain injury, and its personally very interesting to read about the way in which the brain adapts an learns in that context. It also helps us as future teachers to understand exactly why a student may not be understanding something that others do. This ability to look at cognitive function is a tool which we can use to help students by tailoring our teaching style to meet their needs. However, as teachers we can not be so focused on the brain-based aspect of learning, as we will lose the big picture running around trying to understand the exact cognitive processes of each student. For example, if a student is falling behind because their dog keeps eating their homework and they think its funny and continue to let it happen without telling anyone, we as teachers might believe that the student just isn’t understanding the information and focus on the cognitive aspect, where we just needed to ask a few more questions to find the answer. Therefore, these tools are useful as insight, but might not be looked at as the sole resource for understanding why a student might be behind.

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.