Pretext: For our blog this week we were asked to think about a response to a teacher that is having difficulty implementing Treaty Education in their classroom because of resistance from their students and their colleagues lack appreciation for Treaty Education
Firstly I would remind this intern that they are doing everything right by persisting with Treaty Education especially in a school where it is a seemingly inferior topic. I would also tell them that Treaty Education is relatively new to the education system and people’s resistance is unfortunately expected. Since their colleague does not see the importance in teaching Treaty Education and will likely not be easily convinced of its value, I would suggest that they remind that colleague that it is mandatory as it is a part of the Saskatchewan curriculum; as Claire said in class “back everything you do with the curriculum.” In addition, I tell this teacher to use the resources out there to try to educate their colleagues on why Treaty Education is needed in schools and what it means to be a treaty person.
In regards to their students, this teacher’s lesson is probably one of the first and few times they have been asked to think about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples’ worldviews. The purpose of Treaty Education in to teach people about the history of the land we get to live on. It is to inform people that because of European settlement some people have been privileged to have great success and other people to be forcefully marginalized or assimilated into a new culture. Treaty Education is about informing people that peaceful promises were made between nations so that everyone could share this land and cultures could thrive together. So it is important that this teacher’s students learn these things and maybe a lesson on privilege to introduce the topic would be beneficial. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to get through to people when they have grown up hearing and learning from others who share racist or ignorant views of the Indigenous people in Canada. Hopefully, these students will eventually come to the realization that they are treaty people. They are on this land because of promises of many things such education, agricultural assistance, money, and much more; many of these promises were not kept.
I hope that my response and these points would help the teacher to persist in her mission of teaching treaty education. I know that I will likely see the same resistance in my career but I understand the purpose of treaty education and I know that I want it to be a part of my classroom regardless of others view of treaty education.
Throughout the reading, reinhabitation and decolonization can be seen. Reinhabitation means to find and create ways that help people to live in their environments. In the article, reinhabitation is happening through the dialogue that is being created between the youth and Elders. The Elders are teaching the youth about the First Nation’s traditional ways of knowing and the youth are teaching the Elders about their perspectives of the world and their environment. Additionally, the 10-day trip on the Kistachowan River is the central part of this research which I also think shows reinhabitation because of the river’s connection to nature and history for the First Nation. Decolonation happens when we start to end and change the ways that have previously had a negative impact on Indigenous people. In this article, decolonization can also be seen through the Elders sharing their ways of knowing because this worldview helps to dismantle the worldview that European colonizers forced on the First Nations’ people.
In my own classroom, I really want to teach through the lens of an Indigenous worldview, which for me might mean that I will often be challenging the worldview that I grew up to accept. I also think another thing that this article stressed was getting help from different programs in the community and I can use this idea in my own classroom. Having Elders come speak to my students and reaching out to programs that are part of reconciliation are things that I want to do in my classroom. Lastly, I think that knowing the resources that are out there is important. Groups like STARS along with all of the amazing professors I have met through the program and other classes are all people that I can reach out to if I do need help adapting these ideas in my classroom.
Earlier this semester I wrote a blog post about Kevin Kumashiro’s definition of common sense. Common sense is the assumptions we make without question or analysis; it is the lenses we look through without realizing we are looking through any lenses at all. These sensical assumptions include many things such as what curriculum should look like, which assessment methods are best, AND what this blog will talk about: the good student. Common sense tells us that a good student does not question the teacher, can learn easily, is obedient and submissive, and needs no modifications. Generally, this definition favors white students that have no exceptionalities. When I type “good student” into Google, the image results are very telling about what this definition means.
Search results when “good student” is typed into Google
If you enlarge that image you will see that the majority of people in those photos are white, at a desk, and are with books or demonstrate obedience and compliance. This definition excludes any students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD, any students who are not white, and any students who excel in other areas that are not reading, writing, or arithmetic. This is probably why so many artists have shared their stories about how negative school was for them; their intelligence and talents did not fit into this definition and therefore they were set up to fail. Learning about these assumptions we make has helped me to become much more critical, and now when I hear the term good student I try to imagine all kinds of students from all backgrounds and remember that it will be my job to help them succeed.
In ECS 210 we have been examining curriculums and curriculum theories in many forms, from many theorists. This week we were asked to look at curriculums in the subject area we will likely teach. Since my major is Mathematics, I chose to look specifically at Mathematics 9 from the Saskatchewan curriculum.
Screenshot from Math 9 curriculum
In this curriculum, almost all of the outcomes have an indicator about relating back to self and community. In this sense idealogical literacy is present in the curriculum, because students are asked to make connections between the Math and themselves. Additionally, under the Aims and Goals section of the grade 9 Math curriculum, Math as a Human Endeavour is listed as one of the goals. This goal very much so follows along with an ideological frame because it encourages students to use mathematics as a way of challenging and analyzing their experiences beyond the classroom and beyond basic fundamentals. However, the majority of math curriculums still follow an autonomous frame. Knowledge acquired through mathematics can be described as arbitrary rules and facts that students are expected to memorize rather than discover on their own. One thing I would like to point out however, is that although the Math curriculum can be viewed this way, a teacher can still adjust their classroom and the way they teach so that it is more idealogical than autonomous. For instance, in my EMTH 300 class we have been learning about teaching mathematics through problem solving and inquiry. When math is taught with this method students develop formulas and proofs on their own and also develop a deeper understanding.
This is why I believe that teaching techniques and methods go hand in hand with curriculum. A teacher can choose to interpret a curriculum as autonomous or idealogical depending how they want to deliver that curriculum to their students. Just because the literacy of the curriculum might seem to favour a certain frame does not mean that it can only be interpreted one way. As I am learning more about curriculum I have developed a deeper understanding of how I can interpret it to match my own philosophy.
My understanding of curriculum after this week’s readings is that curriculum is a document which specifies what students are to know and be able to do. There are general objectives in curriculum and then there are more specific outcomes for different grade levels and subjects. Although teachers, principals, and experts on subject areas are involved in the curricula process it is still more often than not a political matter in which government has complete control.
Although I knew that education was controlled by the government I had never really thought about the impact that could have on curricula. No one is completely impartial to what they would want to be taught in school, and unfortunately people are always going to have their own biases; like Kevin Kumashiro always says (who my professor Michael Cappello often quotes): “What does it make possible and what does it make impossible?” If someone’s decisions are very rooted in Religion what could the curriculum look like? What things may be given special attention and what items might be omitted? I think this is important to remember when analyzing curricula as well as when voting and taking part in democracy. The government has the power to make every final decision on curricula even if experts on education have put in hours of research and their expertise into creating it. It is concerning to me that we entrust the government with such power because of possible biases, but also because they do not always know the demographics and diversity of students in each school across the region they govern.
I believe if the public is aware of the power the government has in terms of education, more people will be encouraged take part in the conversation about schools and more specifically this topic: curriculum. If more people voice their opinions and concerns, more groups of people will be represented, and hopefully the government will see the need to be much more mindful when making decisions on education.
I am in my third year of the Education program at the University of Regina and during these three years I have started developing my own teaching philosophy, and in my philosophy, I have my opinion on what curriculum is and its impact on education. Recently I have learned about an educator, Ralph w. Tyler, who has had a huge impact on curriculum and current education practices. In school, many of the lessons and units were taught to me using his rationale and approach. My teacher would have looked at the objectives my classmates and I were to master, and then organized those objectives in the order they were to be taught. The goal and product was the same for all of us and little of the curriculum was modified or adapted.
In my opinion there are a few problems with using this approach, For one, the student is held completely accountable for being able to form to this teaching model. All students are taught the same which we know is not beneficial or realistic. The other problem with this is that there is no room for teachers to “venture” from the laid out plan. In many cases a lesson or unit has the potential to explore and expand many ideas; however, with this approach the objectives are laid out in a very industrial order that takes away from teachers ability to educate and instead turns them into technicians that produce one specific and generic product (the student).
One could say that one benefit of this is that it makes teaching efficient. A teacher can use this approach to easily put together their units and create their lessons. It also creates a very easy way of measuring the students’ “success”. However, I do not think that a students success can be measured with this approach because Tyler’s rationale does not benefit all students and therefore would not help all students succeed.
I recently read the introduction from the book Against Common Sense by Kevin Kumashiro. In this introduction Kumashiro reflects on his time teaching in Nepal, and how different the education system is in Nepal compared to the United States’ (and similarly Canada’s). Before reflecting on Kumashiro’s definition of common sense I wanted to think about what the word meant to me. My own definition of common sense would be something that the majority of society knows. I never stopped to consider that common sense in Canada would be very different than what could be considered common sense in Greece, Zambia, or Peru. Kumashiro explains common sense as the ritualistic, well-practiced, and often unquestioned way of doing things in each society, and in education he says that common sense not only suggests what could be done but in fact implies what should be done and that anything against the common is unacceptable. When teaching in Nepal, he realized that learning by lecture and practice and assessing by exams was the only sensical way of schooling there. In Canada, it is common sense that school will begin in the Fall and end at the beginning of Summer, and that in school you will learn specific subjects that every other student across Canada will also be learning. The problem with these widely accepted ideas is that they can sometimes create an oppressive environment for some students; for example, those students who cannot learn early in the morning or cannot function for six hours straight. This is where there is an issue with “common sense”. If we are not constantly questioning why and how we as teachers do things then our practices will never evolve, and we will keep creating an environment that not every student can thrive in. Like Kumashiro said, changes are happening but to keep the ball rolling and to keep creating inclusive and successful classrooms we as teachers need to keep innovating our classrooms and keep questioning the norm.