Reflecting on My ECS 210 Learnings

(Digital Storytelling Reflection)

Vanessa and I worked together to tell you about some key learnings we are taking with us on our education journey. We realized that we, as well as our peers on this journey with us, are going to be the face of change in education. We have a lot of responsibility to bring equality, and better yet, equity to our future generations. Please enjoy our digital reflection of some challenges we have faced, and hope to change in the future.

Is there Oppression in Mathematics?

(blog ten)

  1. At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

As a students I was definitely oblivious to the oppression and discrimination of the learning I received. Being someone who is white privileged in a white dominant school I was almost never exposed to other ways of knowing. Before today’s presentation with Gale Russell I was never faced with the, now troubling, thought that I was begin oppressive in my learning and that I could have continued that in my own teaching. By not providing a window of world views beyond our Euro-Western one we are degrading students who may learn in these views, we are also keeping our other students from learning in ways that could benefit their mathematical learning. For some students this type of learning could be crucial to their understanding and development, so why hold these views from them.

  1. After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

One of the most interesting things I learned from Gale’s presentation and Poirier’s article was that the Inuit community learns their numbers through oral tradition. Because of the oral tradition they have numbers in multiple contexts and it has ”different forms according to the context” (2007). They also learn their math in base 20 (2007), whereas we learn our math in base 10. I did not even know that there was or how to work in any other base, but 10, until my university math course in year one. Gale was also discussing that their way of learning mathematics was not in isolation, but rather they learn in context, using real life situations. For me, I enjoyed learning math either way, but I can see how for some students learning in context can be way easier and more beneficial.

Unlearning a Single Story

(blog nine)

I do not remember a lot of diversity in the stories I was told when I was young, and as I got in the older grades I only remember talking about some stories about other countries briefly and very surface discussions. I would have to say my “single story” was a Euro-Western story that we created and continues to be told in most of our schools. The white, old guy’s truth was the dominant truth I remember hearing. I think that my schooling has shared a dominant single story, but they have shared some other stories as well. And I like to believe that it has given me a larger lense in which to read the world. Although, being a white privileged person I know I do have a racist mind sometimes due to the stereotypes and the other racist privileged people I grew up around. I have always had racist thoughts because of this, but I have never belittled anyone or acted unfair to anyone because of their race. And as I continue through my degree I do not intend to bring this lens with me. I love learning about other cultures and races, and I have been given many resources now to help me bring diversity forwards and break my racist thoughts and prevent them from being in my classroom.

Unlearning comes with educating oneself and others. It means trying to find resources to support your learning and teaching. I am also constantly trying to remind myself that I have grown up with stereotypes and I need to consciously stop thinking about those and remember everyone has their own stories and we are all equals. I think that the fact these are only thoughts, and I have never acted on them by treating anyone different or engaging with them, I am making good progress. I can definitely come further though and stop my thoughts and continue to educate myself with multiple stories of various perspectives. I look forward to continuing to learn and continuing to have access to resources.

My School Citizenship Experiences

(blog eight)

Learning roles of citizenship is incredibly important in schools, I have always believed this. I always thought my school did an amazing job having us participate in fundraisers and go out in the community, but after lecture on Monday and discussing different levels of citizenship I feel some tension with my thoughts and experiences. My school did several different fundraising activities for various organizations. Some that stick out were for the Food Credit Canada food drives. In exchange for a non-perishable food item students could wear their hats, we counted items for “house” points, created models out of the food and so on. At the end of the food drive FCC members would come in and they would talk with us about their company and the importance of our donations. But we never were given further resources or information about how to get more involved, to become justice-oriented citizens and actually help the local people  with hunger and how we could support these people more long term. And often we would collect donations and talk little about what for or how to become more involved making me think we were more of personally- responsible citizens than participatory in most cases.

One fundraiser that will always be close to my heart was one I started in my local school and then that reached out to my entire community. We were raising money for a local community member who was in need of an expensive wheelchair due to an unexpected and tragic disease that caused his limbs to no longer function. I did an interview with him and asked specific questions about this rare disease he was diagnosed with, I learned as much as I could about his life and all he knew about his disease. From there I got some peers together and some teacher support and we began organizing and running multiple fundraising activities, including a massive community bottle drive that raised over a thousand dollars. It was an amazing experience and I was extremely grateful for all the support. Enough money was raised to buy his wheelchair and even some other supports he needed. I thought I was a full on active citizen, but after learning about what it means to be a justice-oriented citizen, I understand there were steps that I could have taken to further my participation to become a more worldly- citizen.

I believe that in most cases it has been made impossible to become a justice-oriented citizen for many reasons. One, I did not even know there were three “levels” of citizenship until reading Westheimer’s article. Also I never felt a support to become further involved in organizations from teachers or most presenters. Organizations were “in the moment” topics as well; we only discussed them in the season they were globally recognized and then it seemed they were forgotten until the next year. I hope to provide more resources for future students and to make the importance of organizations known over the entire year, not just when globally recognized.

Treaty Education & Relationships

(blog seven)

The purpose of teaching Treaty Education, whether your classroom has many, a few, one, or no First Nations, Metis, and/ or Inuit (FNMI) students is to help build relationships, to share history, to become connected. Our history is a huge aspect of how we live today, the relationships we have, the commonsense ideas we have, the land we live on, and it is incredibly important for all to understand our history in order to move forward and build stronger relationships.  Dwayne Donald defined colonialism “as an extended process of denying relationship” with places we live, on our head and our heart, with people who look different from us in his video. “Everyone is colonized” he states, and I agree we all have biases, we all recognize our physical differences. And he explains how there is a disconnect between settlers and FNMI peoples due to our perspectives and lack of relationship from history to even now. He is challenging us to deconstruct the past we share and to face our divides in order to build relationships so we can all live together in peace with equality among us. Cynthia Chambers in her article suggests the same idea, that there is a serious disconnect between peoples and that immigrants and people today have spent too much time trying to “break with the past” in order to become modern. But we cannot just forget. We need to come together, we need to listen to each other, accept each other’s stories, and build relationships with one another.

As Chambers says, “the treaties would still be my story, and my family’s story. It is our story: the one about the commons, what was shared and what was lost.”. And I agree, it is not the FNMI’s stories versus the European settler’s stories, it is our stories together that have created the environment we live on and within today. The settlers and the FNMI peoples signed these treaties, it took two sides to make an agreement, therefore the treaties involve both parties. We need to take responsibility for our commitments to the treaties as well as the FNMI people. So, to me, “we are all treaty people” means that we share our history, we need to continue to build together, to listen to one another, in order to create our futures together in a way that all people’s opinions/ perspective/ beliefs are of equal value. The classroom is where children spend hours and hours for thirteen years of their lives and as educators it is our responsibility to help ALL children, race and culture aside, express their perspectives and learnings.

For an educator struggling for her students positive engagement in the topic of Treaty Education I think it is important for them to explain to their students that Europeans did not write history alone, nor are they superior in their beliefs today. Educators need to, as Donald challenged, bring forward the tensions of history between races instead of making it an informational problem. Educators need to dig deeper and share how our history belittled FNMI peoples and how these relationships still are being repaired today. I also like his idea of reconstructing the idea of culture, thinking of it as a verb in that “it is something you do or create” not as a racial divide. Us, educators need to be comfortable with our idea of our own relationships with FNMI peoples in order to help our students build their relationships.

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.

Experience Builds the Facts

(blog three)

We, as educators, spend hundreds of hours with our students every year. Whether we believe it or not, they look up to us. They lean on us to guide them, to support them, to educate them, and to prepare them for the rest of their lives. Will Richardson once said, “we as educators need to reconsider our roles in students’ lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second” and I could not agree more. This reminds us, the future teachers, that there is more to curriculum than outcomes and indicators. We are not only to be shoving facts in children’s faces, we are to be giving them opportunity for experience. Experience that will connect them to nature, to math that will apply to their everyday lives-like how to budget, to understand the First Nations culture who lived here before us, and so much more.

This quote tells me, as a future educator. that it is OK for me to not just stand in front of a classroom and preach to my student’s fact after fact. Rather, it tells me to explore facts and use various and diverse methods of teaching and learning for my students. My role is to help my students understand how curriculum content applies to their everyday lives in their pasts, in their present, and in their futures. It also tells me that my students need to be open-minded and adventurous. These characteristics will benefit them in a learning experience like this and allow them to make the most connections possible. My understanding of curriculum and school from Richardson’s quote is that children need to be given more opportunity to enhance their life experiences, their connections to the world beyond the classroom walls. I understand that curriculum and content are important, but I agree with Richardson, that they are not the most important thing we are teaching children; they need to learn more than the facts in order to succeed after graduation. Children learn best when they are engaging, this way they are building on the facts with their own experiences and connections.

If We Change the Philosophy…

(Blog Post Two)

While some of Tyler’s initial ideas, somewhat make sense, his entire philosophy, “education is a process of changing the behaviour of people” (pg 2) has got him steering his ideas in the wrong direction. Students (children) are meant to learn through their mistakes, creativity, their own thoughts, feelings and experiences, and while they may need teachers (adults) to guide them; they do not need us to change them.

(a) The ways in which you may have experience the Tyler rationale in your own schooling?

Standardized tests have been in my school experience. I have taken English, Math, and Chemistry Saskatchewan government exams throughout my high school experience. Some teachers have even asked for projects of all students to be handed in with the exact same final product, which is also much like Tyler’s Rationale. This makes assessment easier for the teacher, but also proves students to be the same and to be following a type of “protocol”.

(b) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rationale/what does it make impossible?

It makes creativity absolutely impossible. It makes self-learning absolutely impossible because teachers are to create “situations that will evoke the kind of behaviour desired” (pg 2). Tyler’s method understand that children learn through interaction and reaction with their environment, but he wants teachers to control and direct their behaviours to all be the same, thus the final product and thought processes are the same (pg 2). Individuality is impossible in a situation like this.

(c) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible?

There are a few “good” ideas behind the method, but the entire process needs to be different with various final outcomes/ products. For example, Tyler’s idea that students do need to meet certain standards in order for us to graduate them and move them up levels (pg 20), to me makes sense, just not how he approaches this by molding the students to be the same. The evaluation should include creativity as well as content and grammar, this allows for students to be creative and expressive. Tyler also believes feedback in evaluation is to help shape behaviour (pg 20), but I disagree I think feedback is important in evaluation, but it should be productive and encouraging feedback.