Learning With the Community

(blog six)

This week we discussed curriculum as place. To me this means either applying the curriculum to your place, or better yet, creating curriculum within your place. Place being your community and school. I believe that where you are teaching definitely has an impact on how and what you are teaching, most importantly the how. How are you addressing specific topics? How will certain outcomes affect your students? How can you engage your students without hurting or exploiting anyone? How can you bring in community members or experiences?

After reading about the project done at Fort Albany First Nation, that honoured the Mushkegowuk Cree peoples, I learned about the importance of learning from community members to help keep community culture alive. Reinhabitation was occurring in this project through a 10 day river trip and interviews between elders, community members, and youth (students). All the people learned from each other, the land, and their outdoor environment as a whole. Decolonization was constantly taking place throughout the process of this project. For example,the youth learned from the elders and community members that “many more place names existed than the English ones that appeared on printed maps” and the youth further learned that “every curve in the river has a name” (p77). This example shows how the youth were losing some of their language and history by not having learned something so important to their culture.

It is, and always has been, important to me that schools and youth are involved in their community. When I become a teacher I want to embrace and recognize our community’s ways of living and knowledge of the world/ environment around us. For example, we are fortunate to have a grain elevator in our community (South West Terminal), and they are very welcoming to community members coming in to learn about grain production and have very interactive “workshops” for people to learn about agriculture- which is the majority of community members lifestyles. I think all types of little pieces of history and knowledge that can be embraced outside of the classroom help provide better understandings and often are better remembered. Beyond that I think it is important to recognize and explore other ways of knowing beyond the community as well. For example how farming be differ in China for example, they are more likely to grow rice, whereas here we do not. These conversations would be especially helpful and engaging if your could speak to different ways of knowing with students from various cultures or backgrounds. We need to learn from each other, the young, the old and all the in between to help continue the community’s culture and ways of knowing and understanding.  

Building Curricula: the Where & Who

(blog five)

I believe that school curricula are developed by government officials and leaders of school boards. I honestly do not know too much of where or who decides what curricula is learned. I do know that students and parents do not get much say in what the curricula is.

After reading the article by Levin I have come to learn that politicians and government are at the very forefront of the decisions that are made in making and implementing curricula. “Policies govern just about every aspect of education—what schooling is provided, how, to whom, in what form, by whom, with what resources, and so on” (Levin, 2008, p. 8). The way that government and politics works makes me very concerned about the process in which our curricula is being created and enforced. Levin (2008) explains that “political influence is usually highly unequal” (p. 8), they are always thinking “about how to improve its prospects for being reelected” (p. 9), “attempt to shape as well as respond to public opinion” (p. 10), highly influenced “by external political pressures, changing circumstances, unexpected events, and crises” (p. 11), and “beliefs drive political action and voting intentions much more than do facts” (p. 13). It worries me that the government is not always doing what they truly know and believe will be best for the education system, teachers and students. I fear that they are too worried about their image, as well as too focused on all aspects of politics to put full effort into what is best for students.

Implementing curricula seems to not be much different than the actions taken within creating it. Levin stated “policy implementation tends to get short shifted” (2008, p. 12), this is due to the fact that that money is often an issue in properly implementing policy, as well as time. Often politicians have many other issues they are trying to deal with right after they have dealt with one. Time is a huge factor, often progression of implementation is neglected to be checked up on. This also concerns me, how do politicians know if what they have decided is being followed through how they wanted it to? How do they know if they made the right choice?

After continuing reading through the article I learned that often depending on the location and the people and systems, schools can have a large or very little say in what changes are made to curriculum. Schools tend to have a little more freedom over “particular subjects or topics” (Levin, 2008, p. 16). I also learned that industries and businesses will try to promote programs in schools that will benefit their markets when students are finished school (Levin, 2008, p. 16). I also learned that assessment policies can play a huge roll in creating curriculum (Levin, 2008, p. 16). Sometimes parents, teacher, and even students get to have their opinions heard as part of “curriculum review groups” (Levin, 2008, p. 17). Overall I have learned that politics play the main role in creating the curricula that our youth are taking in, and I do not think that this is right. I understand that it is a complicated process, but I also think that teachers (at the very least) need to be heard more often as they are with the students every day and they are the ones distributing the curricula every day, every year; they know the curriculum through and through. I believe that it is important to give the people living the curriculum every day a chance to create it.

Commonsense and the “Good” Student

(blog four)

The author of “Preparing Teachers for Crises: What It Means to Be a Student” was caught in the commonsense of what a “good”, classic, student was to act like. These traits included:

  • Listening quietly during lecture and retaining that information
  • Finding the specific answers the teacher wants
  • Understanding readings like the teachers do
  • Only doing subject tasks during their subject times (ex. Art during art time)
  • And behaving like proper adults with manners, silence, obedience

These traits that were ground into this teachers mind actually made him shut down his students’ knowledge, thinking, and creativity. Later, the author learned that his commonsense idea of what a “good” student to look like was hindering his students learning.

The students that are privileged by the above traits would include children who may be:

  • Higher status
  • Strict parents, perhaps authoritarian parenting styles
  • Learn by listening and reading
  • Do not have many life experiences or background knowledge
  • Who have a set way of thinking, just like their teachers

All these possible traits of students seem absolutely ridiculous, but they would need to be empty vessels. These students would need to all be little robots cut from the same tin. And this just isn’t realistic, which is why we need to move away from the commonsense of “good” students.

These commonsense ideas make it hard to see/ understand/ believe that:

  • Children have knowledge
  • Children learn through various methods
  • There is more than one answer or opinion to learning
  • Children’s true intelligence and understandings

In conclusion, as educators, we cannot try to fit all our students in one box. We need to remember that they have their own minds, thoughts, experiences, and understandings about the world. We need to give them their chance to express themselves and to create their own learnings.