Reading the world, what is your lens showing you? Week 10

Growing up in late 70’s and early 80’s the lens I was taught through was the one of the dominant culture.  That in which many things are still taught through here in Regina, and likely most of Canada.  My books, movies and stories, were very much single storied.  As Chimamanda Adichie told of the single stories she lived I could relate, not to the exact stories, but the stereotypes that develop from the single stories.

I don’t remember having many books about cultures other than my own.  When there was a character that was of different culture, they were almost always presented negatively. They were the villains, inept or in need of rescue.

I was teen during the Ethiopian famine, it was big news.  Celebrities were getting together to hold benefits and record songs (Do they Know its Christmas) to help Ethiopia. A noble cause, to help people suffering due to natural environmental events.  I share this because I think that some of the single stories carry on for years because of the media and lack of a conclusion.  I wonder sometimes if the perception of Africa being poor and destitute comes because we still have that narrative which is renewed every time we hear the song. People share their knowledge of the song, and that is perhaps taken as a situation that still is, because most people don’t research what they hear. The situation in my memory seemed to just fade away with no clear resolve. I think that also says a lot about what we find important to cover as well.  If the drought resolved itself naturally well there was no big “rescue” by usually white people, so it is not news. If it just faded away with no clear resolution, it is easy for people to continue to buy into the stereotypes. With our social media today, I see things cropping up from 10 years ago and people are quick to respond and jump on the band wagon with out checking dates, and facts.

I think as teachers we need to be aware of inadvertently promoting single stories.  I think often of how we are taught how important learning about Residential Schools and Treaties are.  I agree they are but if we are only teaching about this part First Nations history we are promoting a single story, under the guise of inclusive ed.  We need to take our teaching further, by talking about all the different aspects of First Nations cultures and incorporating those aspects into all our subjects all year and not just teaching Treaty Ed as a single unit.  We also need to provide a variety of books for students, not just ones that talk about specific issues that are culturally related. We need to provide stories that have diverse main characters and have our First Nations students and all our students represented doing everyday things, not just special occasion events.  We need to make sure that we are representing First Nations people (and all other cultures) who are successful, and not just because they over came tragic circumstances.  In doing this I feel it gives us many stories. We see how rich and deep everyone is.

 

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Why is Treaty Education important? Week 8

I was unfortunately not able to hear Claire Krueger’s talk, so I will have to base my response on Cynthia Chamber’s article and Dwayne Donald’s lecture.

I think one of the most important things that we need to recognize, is that even though all our students appear white, in this case, or some other nationality, there is a good chance, they have a mixture of nationalities in them including, First Nations.  Dwayne Donald, tells us his mother was Norwegian descent and his father was First Nations descent.  Chamber’s also tells of her mother and father, who were fiercely loyal to their countries of birth, even sometimes using the others nationality as a derogatory term.  However, when she looked back, she found that her father, a Scots man, had Irish grandparents a few generations back.  We can never be 100 percent certain that our students are white, and it shouldn’t matter anyway. We need to teach the correct history, no matter who is in our class.

Dwayne Donald, also says to look to the future we have to follow the connections of the past. The past gives us understanding into the relationships and why we are not communicating with each other when we talk to move forward.

Finally, even if we knew all the students where not of Aboriginal descent, the treaties are still in effect and us as the dominant power, are still benefitting, while we are still committing atrocities against our First Nations people.  One just has to do a little research to find that there is poor living conditions and education is still not meeting the needs of the First Nations people of Canada.  Until we are all educated why this is happening nothing will change, and we will always have this divide in our country.

 

Race and Discipline- Week 8

3 things I learned:

  • Anyon’s study was really eye opening. I always knew on some level that there was a discrepancy between schools in lower income neighbourhoods and middle to higher income neighbourhoods in terms of resources and facilities.  What was really fascinating is how the teachers taught according to the perceived future of the kids, given their current family circumstances.
  • Lisa Delpit comments that children, when using certain programs are often labelled before they are even taught the concepts. How is that even fair?
  • The idea what a teacher may see as beneficial and a great tool to learning may not be accepted or seen as a good thing by her students. Deplit describes the student seeing the teacher as lazy because she has students edit each other’s work. Perhaps an explanation from the teacher about looking for the errors, helps all students become better writers might have changed the students mind.

2 aha moments

  • The idea of codes that need to be taught about the culture of power, as Delpit talks about. As part of the culture of power we often don’t see that we have codes because for us its is “common-sense”. We often fall into the trap of thinking if our students are born here, live in our city, that they live by the same codes. It may be true of those who are part of the power but for those who are not, the “common-sense” is not the same.  We need to be aware of making those assumptions.
  • I share the following not as a critique of the person in question, but simply as an observation based on the readings I read just a day or two before. I am not able to criticize because I am just learning, and most importantly I don’t know what went on in the situation before I entered, or after.  In the last week I noticed that unconscious, biases don’t always apply to race, but sometimes have a hierarchy. I observed a situation with a leader and children for approximately an hour.  In that hour I noticed the leader was notably harsher on the First Nations boys, then the white boys and the girls were treated more gently.   In my short time in the situation the boys in general were more well behaved than some of the girls. When behaviour for the boys was called into question, it was more of fidgeting nature, and they were asked to leave the group or threatened with being taken to the supervisor. The boys who presented as non-white were called out most often. If the girls were called out it was gentler, and they were not asked to leave the group.  Interesting to think about for sure. Again, this is an observation not a critique.

 

How do we as teachers recognize that we maybe unconsciously, unfairly over correcting children because of our personal prejudices?

Week 9- Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation and Code of Ethics.

Three things I learned from this week.

  • I learned how to read the teacher pay scale grid. I also found it very interesting in our classroom discussion that after your first degree, it wasn’t necessarily degrees or certificates completed but the number of credit hours you have that determines the next level of pay.
  • I found the Sask. Teacher’s Federation website to be a great resource.  It has so many things that are helpful to teacher’s, not just in terms of benefits, or political advocacy but also useful resources, for professional development.
  • The emphasis on talking to the colleague you have conflict first, and then taking it further to admin, after. I wonder why this is such and emphasis.

 

My 2 aha moments.

  • That the union can bring you up on “charges” should you not cooperate in a walkout or strike and attend to your students or do your work.  As a future teacher, I have always thought that my students well fair is of utmost priority, and I struggle to see how strikes and work to rule and other such actions are beneficial to my students.  To me that is my common good.  Maybe I will understand those actions better once I am in a classroom on a regular basis but being on the outside looking in, I just can’t imagine myself being good at following the rules of such actions, over my students.
  • The other aha moment was in a side conversation with Dr. Crooks, we were discussing continuing our education after our degree. I often toy with the idea of pursuing a PH.D. but I have always dreamed of being a classroom teacher, that is where I feel I belong.  I always thought that having the PH.D. would require you to exit the classroom and get into admin or the Ministry.  I thought why would the school boards pay a Grade 3, for example, a Ph.D. salary.  Crooks, told us in that conversation, that you couldn’t be taken out of the classroom because of your level of education.  Of course, there are other factors involved, but I thought that was nice to know.

 

My question is

How does the Code of Ethics and our responsibility to talk to our colleague about an issue first, work with our other responsibility to report abusive behaviour immediately?

Week #7- History of Education

Throughout our reading on the history of Education of there were some new tidbits of information for me

I found it very interesting how little education many students had during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I am not sure where I got the idea that Grade 8 was the standard for education, so I was shocked to see that many students had as little as a Grade 3 education and Grade 6 was more the “norm” for highest education.  It was also so surprising at how young and little education teachers needed.  That requirement for education for teachers carried on for a significant time.  I can’t imagine a Grade 9 student, having the ability to manage a classroom full of children some of who are only a year or two younger than they were.

Reading through the history, I also found it very interesting that many of the same complaints and issues of education are still the same concerns today.  Concerns such as the number and size of the school boards in the province, and that education isn’t keeping up with society.

The broad categories of educational philosophy were a source of some new ideas and aha moments.  The definitions of each philosophy were easy to understand and made sense.  I had heard these theories before but never fully understood them.

The educational philosophies were a source of an aha moment as well.  With the explanation it be came apparent to me that our school’s systems are still very rooted in perennialism and essentialism.  We are very much product oriented in our teaching and our assessment.  Although there is a bit of shift to progressivism and social reconstruction, those will never be fully realized until we revamp our outdated thoughts of assessment and learning.  There is more than tests and worksheets to prove learning is happening.

Another aha moment is that the age-old complaint of education isn’t keeping up.  Who or what are we trying to keep up with.  If it is other cultures, we need to realize we will never be like other countries because we don’t share the same societal views as those countries.  Our general society thinks we should be teaching our children to read in Pre-K or Kindergarten, so adopting the successful in Finland play based program here won’t be beneficial or keeping up.  We also aren’t keeping up because for most governments funding the curriculum development to update more frequently isn’t a priority.  We can’t keep up if we don’t know what is truly important in education and if we don’t fund modernizing our curriculum.

A question that comes to mind is “why it is the school/teacher’s responsibility to teach morals to the children, why is that not a parent’s job?”  I wonder this often as a parent and a future teacher.

What is in a name? Blog #5

When I take a walk with my boys, I often feel that it needs to be an educational lesson.  I guide them on what we are seeing, naming things asking questions like what is that tree? why is it green in the winter? Those things I feel are important for them to learn.  Why do I feel knowing the names is important?

Naming things makes it more efficient to describe something but more than that naming something often shows a form of ownership.  We get a cat or dog and we name it, to distinguish from other pets and we want to distinguish it because we consider it ours, we want everyone to know its ours.  During the blanket exercise, it became very clear just how much the settler invaders as Newberry calls us strived for and coveted ownership of the land.  They didn’t want to just use the land they wanted to possess it, at any expense.  I think our tendency to want to make sure our children know the names of everything, is because we are perpetuating the idea of ownership, passing that ownership to children.  We think we got the land fair and square through the treaties, but once you know about the intent of the treaties you begin to see, it wasn’t fair at all.

Maybe as future teachers and possibly parents, we need to instead of naming things just allow our students/children to engage on the land.  We need to let them use their senses to appreciate what we name.  Listen to the birds, smell the air, feel the dirt, to see that there is so much more to the land, than ownership.  That wilderness is all around us, we don’t have to go to remote places that perceive to be free of people and modern amenities we can experience it right where we are.

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Math is biased too! Mind Blown!

Mind Blown!  Ok so I am a bit of geek getting all excited about a talk on math and how its not as straightforward as I thought.  I have been around long enough that math required memorization and more memorization of addition and multiplication facts.  We did page after page of the same thing each step getting progressively more difficult.  We always had to show our work, for every single question, and if you didn’t even though you would have the right answer it was wrong. We were never allowed calculators in class, at least until algebra, because “you won’t always have a calculator with you, so you better know this.”

Living in my sheltered white settler world, I never really thought about how math would be different. How could it be drastically different, maybe the symbols were written differently in different languages, but the facts were still the same.  We all used base 10, right.  I also thought that math was probably as close to neutral as you could get with curriculum, of course the word problems were not neutral but everything else was right?

After today’s lecture, not even close.  To be fair to myself and probably most of us, who has really thought about the different numerical bases that are in use.  I never have, not something that has interested me enough to research.  I did know from my school days that ancient societies used different numerical bases, but that was ancient, I never considered modern societies still use something other than base ten.  In Poirier’s article, she talks about math being more about measuring time, and quantities.  Math is part of survival in the cold northern communities.  Numbers are looked at in context, and in that context are part direction and spatial relations in the community.  Knowing you are in the right direction is very important in vast spaces, like Inuit communities, specificity in describing landmarks is a matter of life and death.  So, in this context 3 inside is very different than just 3 objects.  Measuring and using body parts as your “rulers” is also essential, with out a well fitted parka it might get awfully cold. Many good seamstresses use their hands to measure.  My grandma, her fingers were never wrong, but a ruler might be.  Using body parts, for measuring, is also survival, when you get out in the cold you don’t want to be taking mitts and gloves off to manipulate a tool, but you can measure with your arm quick.  The marking of time through natural events, and not suns, moons and modern calendars suit the remote life as well.  Animals for a long time have been used to predict the weather, their natural rhythms know when to grow a warm coat or shed.  It helps the Inuit know when to do certain things.

The Inuit way of math is essential to survival and life.  Western ways of doing math is not specific enough and too incremental for the Inuit way of life, in remote communities.

Experiencing through story. Blog #4

20180317_110023Our prompt for this week is to write about an experience from the last week.  Last week we read/watched the Lorax and went to the water treatment facility.  We also read Witness to the Rain, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

I am going to focus on my experience of the reading.  I found it the most pleasant aspect of the week.  I have never been a big fan of the Lorax, not sure why and the water treatment plant visit left me ill for a day or two after.  I couldn’t shake the chemical smell from there for a couple of days, so it wasn’t a very pleasant experience.  Not all experiences need to be pleasant to be written about, but I am choosing to write something I found pleasant. I need pleasant, I need calm, I need peace this week, this semester.

Kimmerer’s story about the rain brought about feelings of pleasantness, calm, and peace.  In my first entries I talked about my connection to nature through water.   I love the rain, not necessarily the getting wet part, but watching, listening, even being out feeling it.  As I read the chapter, I felt myself smiling a rarity in this busy dreary never-ending winter semester.  I found myself relaxing.  I was with Kimmerer in that forest.  I could see the drops forming and dripping in the different ways.  I heard the drops plop, bionk into the puddle or the streaming.  I saw myself catching the drops trying to keep the drop intact.  I felt my claustrophobia kick, being under that log, reading faster to escape.  When Kimmerer, talked about how wet and cold she felt, how she wanted to go in but didn’t.  I was silently hoping she would stay out just about longer, I didn’t want the rain to end, I wanted to continue experiencing the rain.

The story left me feeling like I was there, and I am ready for and impatient for the spring rains.  Maybe instead of watching from my window, I will go out and experience the drops for real when they come.

 

Wall Kimmerer, Robin. (2013). Witness to the Rain, in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & the Teachings of Plants, pp. 293-300. Minnesota, MN: Milkweed Editions.

Whats in it for us- Blog #3

What does embodiment mean in regards to climate change and ecoliteracy?

The theme from all our course readings that seems to be resonating me the most is that we need to be aware of our environment and we need to appreciate it before we can be eco literate.   I think we also need to be aware of everything the environment can give to us, not just what meets our materialistic needs.

Robin Wall Kimmerer in her story Sitting in a Circle, talks about all the things that we can get from the cattail. She also talks about all the things the Maple trees provide for her community in Maple Nation.  I think we often take for granted and do not consciously think in depth what we can get from the environment other than the common the trees clean the air for us. In order to fully embrace and embody eco literacy, we need to truly see what we would be losing if we continue the way we are.

It is like the once-ler in the Lorax, he starts out thinking its just one tree, and we need the material item that the tree gives us more than we need the abstract things the tree provides.  Then we proceed from there, well its just 2 trees and then 10, then its whole forests, but there are lots more and then we eventually have large scale problems, such as climate change.

David Sobel says that it is difficult for young children to understand the abstract concepts of climate change, and I agree.  The young children though are not to young to understand concepts of what the environment provides us in a tangible way.  Things such as the worms in the ground give the plants good nutrients, trees provide shade and without shade, everything gets to warm and doesn’t cool off. Tree provide homes for animals who through their activities transport pollen and seeds so more plants and trees grow, feeding more animals etc.  When children are outside and can appreciate these basic ideas, they become more empathetic and then advocates.  Embodiment begins with appreciation of what we see, to want to keep that more than the material things.  As teachers we need to find ways beyond the 3R’s to get our students outside and see beyond materialism.

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Wall Kimmerer, Robin. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & the Teachings of Plants. Minnesota, MN: Milkweed Editions.

 

Curriculum of Place

Curriculum of place is a term that I have a hard time getting my head around.  To me those terms don’t just compute, I always have the instant image of curriculum as books, structure, constricting and very formal learning. Place in terms of curriculum is where the curriculum is used and imparted it is a school building.  So how can it can be “of place”

The article we read however makes sense of the term of “curriculum of place”.  After reading the article curriculum of place is more than something that is imparted somewhere.  Place, is somewhere that evokes emotion, that provides identity, it is remembering. Place is an important part of who we are.  How often do you identify yourself by where you are from, and when you remember “your” it evokes all kinds emotions and learning?

The reinhabitation that is talked about in the article, is about sharing those emotions, and recreating that identity that has been lost.  The authors are trying to accomplish this by connecting youth with the elders.  The elders, share their connection and identity to the place through stories as they travel down the river.  This gives the youth an idea of why this place is so important and helps them create an identity that includes the memories, traditions and place. How do we bring that into our classrooms since resources don’t allow us to take these types of trips and not one place, gives identity or evokes emotion in all?

I think the biggest thing we can do is to make time, in our busy days to listen to the stories the children want to tell us. Those stories give our students their identity and help them connect their “places”. We can also try to bring the place into our classrooms by creating an anti-bias place.  We can use different languages in addition to English to label things, we can play a wide variety of music from the cultures represented in our class, we provide books and materials that support the importance of “place”. We can change our teaching to support the different cultural ways of learning, becoming more inquiry or project based. We can bring in the Elders (from any culture) to share their stories, and traditions.  We can create of a classroom of appreciation for all places and ways of learning.