For this weeks blog response we were asked to answer one question before the lecture and one question after the lecture. Before the lecture we were asked to answer how our upbringing and schooling and schooling have shaped how we read the world and what biases and lenses that limits us to. The prompt also asks us how we could go about unlearning theses biases. Then after the lecture, it asks us which “single stories” were present in our schooling and in those stories who’s truth mattered.
To start off with, I think that the school I went to for elementary had a huge impact on how my younger self read the world. I went to a catholic elementary school and I believe that limited my younger viewpoints harshly. This was mainly due to the limited viewpoint the school placed on religion. Now I am Lutheran myself, and I have no gripes against any other religion, but the way this catholic school enforced and taught religion created a bias in many of their students. I understand that it was a catholic school and the majority of the students there were catholic, but many of the classes wouldn’t even recognize other religions (including Lutheran when is also a sect of Christianity like catholic is) in anything they taught. I was really only exposed to other religious practices and understandings once I reached high school. My elementary had instilled a notion that catholic was the dominant religion and only through exposure to a public school that acknowledges every religion was I able to see the world differently.
Unlearning the biases of religion (via exposer to different religions) however, seems easier than unlearning some other biases instilled in schools. One bias I have noticed not only in me but in the people around me is racism directed toward anyone who is not considered white. Now I do have to clarify that these don’t have to be acts of racism against an ethnic groups but could be as simple as a remark made to a friend, or a thought made in anger; I would also like to clarify that no one is innocent when it comes to this idea of racism. But this rampant racism is quietly instilled as we are growing up by the shows we watch, the textbooks we learn from, and the discussions we have in class. Education has been trying to be more ethnically and culturally inclusive with recent textbooks and curriculum, but that doesn’t change the dominant white narrative right away. To unlearn theses biases is a hard process and has to be tackled not only individually but fundamentally in societies core. It can begin with self reflection of ones own biases, not to rid ones’ self of them because that is impossible we all have and carry our biases with us; but to recognize them and choose not to think or act upon these biases.
I believe based on the description of “single stories” given in the lecture that there were two major stories that were maintained during my schooling. Both stories as mentioned before in this post were the dominant ideas of the Catholic Church and White society. Through out textbooks and classes school instilled in us that these were the truths that mattered. As the future generation of teachers it should be our goal to try and change this single storied idea for our students, even if it is a simple as changing the focus of a novel study in English from a white author to an author of different ethnicity so an understanding of different viewpoints can be understood. Changing theses dominant narratives cannot be done in a day, or even one semester, but with time we can start to make a significant change in the lives of our students.
This week we were asked to respond to two questions about mathematics proposed by our readings. The first question asks us to ponder the singular way mathematics is approached in schools and whether we experienced discriminating or oppressive forms of mathematic during our time in schools. During my time in elementary and high school I didn’t notice any form that stood out to me as oppressive, however when I was doing my placement a few semesters ago I do think I saw what the articles are trying to have us understand. I was helping with a math class in a grade 6 and 7 classroom and because it was a work period I was wandering the room, helping those who needed help. There was a boy who asked it he did a question right, and to me it looked like he did; he had the correct numbers and the correct answer, but he used a different way to reach the answer than the formulas the teacher had taught that day. I told him it looked right to me, but because I was very new to the idea of teaching I said we should check with his teacher as well. When we showed it to his teacher she did confirm he had the right answer but mentioned that his formula was wrong. When he explained his way of getting the answer she told him that was good, but he still needed to learn the formulas they learned that day because those will be used in later classes. At the time I didn’t think much of it but after the lecture and readings this week I realize that is a very oppressive and binary way of teaching.
With some thought, I realized this binary way of teaching mathematics has been with most of us our entire life. In early grades we begin to learn formulas, that do to some degree help us understand math, but are mainly used to just be a foundation for the formulas you learn in later years. and while these formulas have seemed to work to teach math to those like myself, I wonder if there are other ways we could look at math.
My answer to the second question begins to relate to the idea I wonder about as well. The second question they ask us to consider is how Inuit mathematics challenge these oppressive dominant ideas based in what was in one of the readings this week. These different ideas, like approaching math through spacial relation, may be ways of changing the cookie cutter formulas presented by the dominant view on math. The Inuit use spacial relation as a way of understanding without the use of diagrams in their math. Similar ideas that they change are ideas of measuring and explaining mathematical phenomena. Instead of measuring by a numbered distance like cm or km they use objects as their measuring tools. This idea changes the entire idea of converting the many different form of meters and may make approaching measurements more accessible for younger students. Finally Inuit people also present a different idea for explaining mathematics. Rather than just using numbers they find religious, scientific, or animist ways of explaining an answer.
If some of these or other cultures ideas towards mathematics were to be applied in schools, I feel more students would find a form of math that works for them. Unconfined by the dominant narrative of formulas more students may find joy in mathematics and feel confident enough to know they can achieve many things with mathematics.
This week we were asked to respond to a few questions presented in an email to one of our professors from a student in their internship who was struggling with treaty education in their placement. The question we were asked to ponder were:
- What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?
- What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
In my opinion the purpose of teaching treaty ed to schools without a big First Nation people presence is very similar to that of Clare Kreuger. She explained, in the video that substituted our lecture this week, that it is not about the first nation people being taught treaty ed, but the settler families being taught treaty ed. It is about reminding those and teaching those who may have forgotten or not know about a commitment made by settlers with the people who shared their land with them. I believe the importance is about reminding of the commitment made over sharing the lands and the importance of said commitment. As Clare Kruger said it is only through educating settler families that the rampant racism found in Saskatchewan (and Canada) can be addressed.
To me the idea that we are all treaty people means that even though you may not be directly related to anyone who signed said treaty you life is still directly affected by treaties. The treaties were not just for the First Nations people and should not only hold significance for the First Nations people; but should hold significant in the lives of anyone who calls Canada home. This significance should show in how we apply, teach, and handle treaty ed curriculum.
For this weeks class we were asked to respond to two questions proposed to us that play on the reading we did this week.
- List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
This first question is a hard one for me, because while I do read about decolonization of the narrative through interactive teaching experiences like the one in our reading, very rarely do I witness it in person. In my university career I have taken three indigenous classes, and while they have taught me about other ways of knowing they have done so in mostly a westernized way of doing so. I have learned from some amazing people in my indigenous studies class but most of the teaching’s are done in a classroom through a lecture. This western way of teaching doesn’t always work with the indigenous way of knowing though. There was one opportunity though during theses classes where we were asked to take part in a round dance as a class, and that seems to me to be the only opportunity I have seen drive that changes the narrative based on teaching.
2. How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?
Applying these ideas to my future classroom alone may be a difficult task; however it may be a great opportunity for partnership. I could work with someone like an elder, or a person who is willing to teach about their First Nations heritage to challenge the western ways of thinking. Something like this would require a lot of planning and may seem very field-trip like, but I believe to challenge the western ways of knowing we would need to get out of a western knowledge setting. The place of the classroom can be a very comforting and welcoming place to many but we cannot deny that the western classroom is where many of the injustices and repression of many cultures have taken place. only through changing the idea of the place of the classroom can one hope to begin any form of decolonization and rehabilitatiuon.
In preparation for both the lecture and seminar this week we were asked to do our blog in two parts. In the first part we are asked to explain how we think school curricula is developed and then show how our understanding has changed after we do this weeks reading in the second part.
Prior to the reading as well as the lecture my understanding of how curricula is developed I believe is pretty simple. From my understanding curricula is developed by the board of education, who sets out guidelines teachers have to follow based on the grades they are teaching. The developed curricula is based on what the government sees as important for students to learn. I also believe that curriculum is rarely updated and teachers will often have to adjust their sessions to fit for this outdated curriculum.
After both the reading and the lecture I have come to realize there is a loft more that shapes curriculum than just government policy. There are many aspects as well as many different groups that shape curriculum; from companies, to parents and students, voters, and experts in the areas of study, all have a roll in shaping curriculum. The one thing that concerns me for all of this is that students seem to have the least amount of say into how their curriculum is formed. Because many of them can’t vote yet, the government doesn’t see their concerns when it comes to shaping curriculum for them. Often this may lead to students learning things that have no impact or interest in their lives, and that is where we begin to run into problems. It may be hard to include but I believe that students need a voice in what they feel is important for them to learn and more of a say in help shaping curriculum.
To prepare for a discussion in seminar this week, we were asked to define what it means to be a “good” student based on commonsense, then define what students will be privileged by this definition and what it makes impossible to see, understand, and believe in the classroom.
In my understanding of commonsense, a “good” student will be the student who is calm, well behaved, intelligent, and diligent. This definition will however alienate much of the student population. Many students (as well as people in general) have mental disorders (such as ADHD, anxiety or depression) that make it hard to either sit still, pay attention in or participate in class. Because of this these students who want to learn but are already finding it hard to learn will find it even harder to learn as they are considered “bad” students. The best example of this that I can think of is my brother, who for most of his life has suffered with ADHD. He for as long as I can remember (and even now) could not sit still, he enjoyed learning but because to think he needed to be moving to some degree he was chastised for trying to learn. Often he would find himself in the principals office because he was shaking his desk with his leg, or tapping his foot under his desk, because in order to be considered “good” he thought he needed to be confined to his desk space.
I believe that what commonsenses’ definition of a “good” student makes impossible should be considered from the students perspective more than that of teachers (our own). Students will see themselves as either a “good” or “bad” student and as they progress through the grades it will become near impossible for them to see themselves otherwise. It its our roll as teachers to change the idea that their is “good” and “bad” students and give them the tools instead to build belief in change and progress. Our objective should be to show students that progress is possible and their are multiple ways to learn other than just the straight forward “conventional” way of learning.
Instead of responding to a reading this week, we were asked to take a quote from an educational theorist and unpack what it means; what it does and limits; what the quote says about students and teachers; and then how can the quote relate back to our understandings of education. I decided to go with a quote by John Dewey (a progressivist educational theorist) that was used in our lecture. In this quote Dewey describes curriculum as “a map, a summary, an arranged and orderly view of previous experiences, [it] serves as a guide to future experience; it gives direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort, preventing useless wandering, and pointing out the paths which lead most quickly and most certainly to a desired result.” Now Dewey’s description of curriculum is a long one so to unpack it I thought about breaking it down first. The beginning of his description is pretty straight forward, Dewey calls curriculum a map or summary. This simply could be explained that his belief on what curriculums role in education should be is a guide, not a complete one that it should take freedom’s of the student’s interests away, but a brief guide based off pasted experiences that will help facilitate learning. The second half of his description however is where I myself felt he was going against what he himself said. Dewey believes curriculum should “prevent useless wandering” and lead “to a desired result”. At first I thought this went against his earlier idea of a gentle guide and then I realized it works with it. He is suggesting here that curriculum is there as a guide as well as to keep students on track, but not a restricting track. In my opinion he included to “useless wandering” as to say wandering away from what isn’t education; which could simply mean the chaos of a classroom where no one is learning anything, not a classroom that has wandered into learning something different from the desired narrative. It seems that Dewey could almost be saying curriculum is the guide that makes the difference between teaching a student and babysitting a child.
What I think Dewey’s ideas have on education is that as students learn they will be guided by curriculum but be free to find a desired outcome based on their own interests. It would allow for students to drive their own education and learn what they feel is important to them from a subject. This could make the difference between two sixth-grader students and each learning science from their teacher but each getting what they want out if it. However, this idea becomes problematic as we realize that classrooms are made up of a number of kids and would be impossible to base their education (if teacher driven) on each of their own interests. In a case like this the “guide” that curriculum would provide may not be enough for each child to get the desired result.
For a teacher this idea on curriculum could say that they may need to sep back from the reigns a little. It might mean a general subject introduction may be the best the teacher can give the students and then just be there as a support as students drive their own education through peer driven and self driven education. This teacher would have to of course use the curriculum as an example for the students of what worked in the past and make sure that each student isn’t meandering off topic.
For a student tDewey’s idea on curriculum might mean a more independent study. It would provide them with ample opportunities to expand their understanding of subjects they have strong interests in; however, subjects that do not stand out to them may fall by the wayside. Some student’s might succeed in education like this, while others might fail with the lack of guidance provided by the teacher. Each student has different strengths, weaknesses, and needs and when considering education and curriculum both need to be taken into account.
As for my own understanding of curriculum, I do believe that curriculum should be used as a guide. Having not taught before I do not know how loose of a guide it should be; but the idea of being able to look back at the curriculum and see what worked and what did not work in the past I believe will be a very helpful tool.