‘Reading’ Education

‘Reading’ Education

March 22, 2019

Out of all of the readings that have been assigned this semester, I found this week’s reading, chapter 7 from Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice by Kevin K. Kumashiro, William F. Pinar, and Gloria Ladson-Billings to be one of, if not, the most influential and in my opinion, most significant article to date. The information provided within the book’s chapter is of the lens from which individuals view various aspects of our world, and how having a certain lens or perspective can greatly affect the ways in which we perceive people, culture, politics, education and more. It is through these lenses that we all ‘read’ the world, and this ‘reading’ tends to reflect the ways that we were brought up, and reinforces the various ideas brought forth to us during our impressionable youth up until our adult years. I think that this chapter is especially significant because it asks us to consider our own, perhaps hidden, preconceived notions and biases that we have taken as a lens to view our world, and consider how our lenses as educators can affect our students. It is important to move past one single lens view, and try to incorporate a number of perspectives in order to allow our students to do the same.

In my experiences growing up and through my school system, I think that I have been greatly influenced and it has certainly shaped how I ‘read the world.’ My family has always attempted to be very conscious of all people, and I have many relatives who have married people from all across the world. Being influenced in my home life by a vast number of people from places that I had never even been gave me a greater perspective of the vastness of our world, and allowed to get a better understanding of a variety of cultures and experiences. I think that this has shaped the way that I view other cultures than my own, with interest and curiosity that others may not necessarily possess. My schooling was more biased I would say. Most of our learning focused on Indigenous culture, so I gained an excellent amount of knowledge and glimpses of Indigenous perspective throughout my elementary and high school careers, including workshops with Elders. Otherwise, most of the information we received came from as Kumashiro says “[w]hite, middle-class men” (Kumashiro, et. al. 71), as the books that we read and the information that was given to us was mainly from one perspective and one group of people that share a mindset. This did not allow for as much diverse thought or a multitude of perspectives.

I hope that as an educator there won’t be any biases or lenses that I bring to the classroom, but I know that is likely not the case, and is highly improbable. As Mike once said in a lecture “we are all recovering racists” (Cappello). Little thoughts may squeeze their way into our brains, as they do to all, but it is important to realize that these are just conditioned biases gained from years in schooling that did not recognize the detrimental affects their lens might have on their students. I think that it is likely impossible to fully unlearn these biases, however not impossible to work against them, and work towards a more accepting and diverse lens that accounts for a variety of perspectives. Though I have biases of my own, I will not allow them to affect my work as an educator, and I will ensure not to pass any of my learned experiences of particular lenses on to my students. I want to be the kind of educator that brings in books and more from a number of groups rather than one dominant narrative that I received in my schooling.

Varied Perspectives on Teaching Mathematics

Varied Perspectives on Teaching Mathematics

March 15, 2019

This week’s readings included “Jagged Worldviews Colliding” by Leroy Little Bear and “Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community” by Louise Poirier. These articles had a common theme of the importance of mathematics in education, and provide an understanding of mathematical education from perspectives that I had never considered before. Having read these articles I feel that I have a better understanding of the abstract idea of mathematics, and the varied perspectives that can allow for deeper understanding.

When I think back on my experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics I can think of only minor ways in which there were examples of oppressive and discriminatory behaviour, etc. Particularly, my mathematic education in both elementary school and high school did not allow for a variety of thought processes or methods in order to achieve the expected results and “right answer.” Because my math was taught in such a way I had never even considered that math could be taught or learned in any other way, such as discussing math without the presence of number symbols in other languages or cultures, and more. In this way, my mathematic education did not allow for any slight deviation or aberration from the expected form, and forced many students into boxes that ensured their failure. This also ensured that no other viewpoints could possibly be considered or further developed.

Having read Poirier’s article, “Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community” I can identify many ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics and the way we learn it.  First of all, Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas by separating the ideas of “southern mathematics” and their own traditional form. The Inuit’s mathematical system “is a base-20 numeral system. It seems that, for these students, two separate and distinct universes cohabit: the world of day-to-day life and the ‘southern’ mathematical world. Furthermore, their everyday world has nothing to do with the mathematical world” (Poirier, p. 54) whereas the Eurocentric ideals very much emphasize the fact that math is everywhere, that math is in everything and that everything is in math.

Secondly, the Inuit people are expected to learn math in a language that is not native to them from grade three and onward, whereas Eurocentric people merely continue learning in their first language. Mathematics can already be a very challenging subject for many and cause many students to feel frustrated, and that is merely in my own experience where English was used indefinitely. I can’t even imagine the difficulty of practicing mathematics in a language that is not the first language I was taught.

Lastly, Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric ideas by concluding that a person does not need ‘show their work’ or write anything down in order to be successful in math, or in order to get the correct answer. Rather, all of the mathematics done by the Inuit people are done within their minds. Poirier states: “their tradition being
essentially an oral one, the Inuit have developed a system for expressing
numbers orally. They do not have other means of representing numbers;
they have borrowed their number symbols from the Europeans” (Poirier, p. 57). This method is an example of the capabilities of people that Eurocentric ideologists had not considered when forcing their students to include every step of their thought-processes on paper while completing math questions. Having this ability is both incredibly impressive as well as demonstrates the result of this oral style of mathematic education.

There is not necessarily one good way, or correct way to do things, and I think that this is something I will keep in the front of my mind in my future as an educator. Allowing for a variety of methods and ways of thinking will allow my classroom to be more diverse, and I hope, more successful and healthy.

Curriculum as Citizenship

Curriculum as Citizenship

March 8, 2019

This week’s reading was in regards to citizenship in curriculum. Written by Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne, “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” discusses and “examine[s] the politics of educating for democracy” (Westheimer & Kahne, p. 1). This interesting idea of citizenship, politics and more within the educational curriculum is one that I would like to further explore within my own classroom in my future as an educator.

These particular topics within educational curriculum seem to be discussed and considered more and more with each passing year. From my own Kindergarten to grade 12 education I can not think of many instances in which we delved deep into the topic. I have only a few memories of instances in which the topic of citizenship was brought up in my educational past. In elementary school I was introduced to the idea of citizenship in a very broad sense, however in a legal context. We went through the definitions of citizenship, politics and more, particularly with the thought of immigrants gaining Canadian citizenship in mind. In early high school, I remember taking a Social class in which us students were expected to study for a mock Canadian citizenship test to understand what those who attempt to gain Canadian citizenship may go through. We never actually went through with this plan. I think that this was an excellent lesson plan that fell through, and could have been extremely beneficial. 

In my educational experience, I think that we were focused most on the “personally responsible citizen” however it was not explicitly stated that the work we were expected to do was in fact related to this type of citizen, rather, we merely believed we were doing community-based work. For example, in my physical education classes we were always required to volunteer within our community in order to gain insight and respect. Volunteer work is an excellent example of a personally-responsible citizen, helping the community in any way that they can.

I think that this approach to curriculum can be extremely beneficial, and allows for this form of citizenship to flourish, along with all of the traits that come along with it, however I think that in my experience, it would have been more effective to set up the volunteer work, etc in a way that tied to citizenship itself, rather than being vague in a sense of aiding our community. In general, I think that this “personally-responsible citizenship” type makes leadership and justice orientation seem less important, when “justice-oriented citizenship” has a just as influential role in society. I also think that approaching curriculum in this way, that I experienced, made the ideals of citizenship to be more vague and theoretical rather than a true representation of future life within one’s community.

 

Treaty Education

Treaty Education

March 1, 2019

“As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke.

The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Co-op for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.”

–  Anonymous student

To Whom it May Concern,

It is excellent that you are concerned about this issue in your school, however, quite disappointing that your co-op teacher does not share your views on the importance of Treaty Education. Unfortunately, it is due to ignorance and a lack of understanding that your students reacted in the way that they did. It may also be due to discomfort, as those who are unaware of certain things may feel unsure how to respond in situations, and therefore the racist remarks and joking matter. I think that in order to bring forth the seriousness of learning about the Indigenous peoples as well as overall Treaty Education you will have to reiterate the seriousness by perhaps bringing examples and making the concept of Treaty Education much more realistic in their eyes and minds. This is especially important if the students you are working with have had no interactions with any sort of Indigenous culture. Bringing an Indigenous Elder to speak to the class, or showing documentaries from Indigenous perspectives can be an excellent resource in providing information that is coming directly from Indigenous culture, rather than your perhaps more “outsider” viewpoint.

In my understanding of the matter, Treaty Education and information regarding First Nations, Metis and/or Inuit (FNMI) content and perspectives is just as important in areas where there are generally no or very few First Nations, Metis or Inuit peoples as when there are many because their culture, content and perspectives have made a historical impact on this land, and continue to impact us to this day. It is for the same reasons that we teach any other piece of information regarding the past in History or Social classes. Treaty Education can teach us about the positive and negative impacts the choices our ancestors made in the past have had, allowing us to learn from them, Treaty Education allows students to grasp where and how our nation came to be, and most importantly, Treaty Education shows respect and admiration for the people who began on this land, and were strong before many European settlers caused so much damage. Regardless of how many FNMI students are attending the school, Treaty Education must be taught to all.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that “We are all treaty people” refers to both FNMI peoples as well as any others who do not fit into that category, because we all share one history in Canada, regardless which “side” you fall on. The decisions of the past have created the future of today, and we are all a part of the mosaic that creates Canada. In regards to curriculum, being treaty people means that we are considering the past in order to develop a more optimal future, and to allow for overall reconciliation.

Good luck with your attempts to bring Treaty Education into the classroom, I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Alex MacPherson

Learning From Place

Learning From Place

February 22, 2019

This week’s reading is entitled “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” by authors Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, and Edmund Metatawabin. This article discusses the ways in which “rehabilitation and decolonization depend on each other” (74), and delves into the 10 trip taken by students as a project in order to further develop their understanding of the Fort Albany First Nations’ experiences and relationship with the land, as well as their culture. This was all in the hope to develop their knowledge and in order to “(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation);” and “(b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization)” (Restoule et. al. p.74).

Some of the ways that I see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative include the variety of ways the students were taught about Indigenous culture, from the Fort Albany First Nations specifically, that seemed to integrate both more traditional methods of learning, such as storytelling, and the practice of going out and giving something a try, versus the more modern understanding of using technology and video/audio examples to teach. Restoule et. al state: “The advisory committee for the project wanted to develop a process that brought youth and elders together. We thus established a process with the participating community groups to promote youth, adult, and elder involvement with an audio documentary project about social, cultural and economic perspectives of the Kistachowan (Albany) River” (Restoule et. al. p. 74). This form of mixing modern with traditional allows for a better, and more accurate understanding in multiple forms. I also think that it provides students with a stronger grasp on the intended goals of reinhabitation anf decolonization. 

I might adapt these ideas towards considering place in my own subject areas of English and Drama in teaching by delving into all aspects of a variety of cultures in order to provide my students with a focused understanding of a vast variety of Indigenous, and many other, cultures. I believe that it is incredibly important that educators, especially in Canada, incorporate multiple ways of knowing into their lessons, and provide their students with the necessary information to think critically about what it means to “learn from place.”

Curriculum

Curriculum

February 8, 2019

Prior to Reading:

Having very little knowledge on the topic I think that there must be a number of levels in which information and ideals regarding education are passed through in order to be developed into fully fletched curricula. I think that they are developed by considering what exactly is required for students to know in the current times based on what has been deemed as common sense, information that will aid students in their futures, and that will allow them to be productive members of society. All of these considerations tied in by a number of people likely allows the beginning of the development of curricula.

After Reading:

Following my reading of the article I now have a better understanding of the process of developing and implementing curricula. Like I suspected, curricula development is a lengthy process that must make its way through a number of steps, and that is why there is very little change throughout the years. Many people are involved in the development/implementation of curricula through reviewal processes of determining which aspects of curricula were lacking in the past, and which may need to be added for a more successful future based on their gathered data. Through this process they determine what needs to be removed, added, or altered.

Prior to reading, I had never considered how time consuming and near impossible the process of developing curricula could be. Ensuring both student’s academic success, while also considering their futures is certainly a trying task, and I am surprised that there has been any amount of success due to the extreme individualities of each student/person involved in the curricula’s creation.

Something that surprises and concerns me regarding the current education system and curricula is the focus on certain subjects over others, and the ways in which some teachers emphasize pushing through curricula and therefore teaching their students just the very bare minimum rather than beneficial, substantial life information. First of all, I think that there should be more emphasis placed on the arts in education, and a push for both mental and physical health. Where I do certainly see the importance of Math, English, and Science for example, I do think that there are benefits to Visual Art, Music and Dance that many overlook. I also think that when teachers merely teach the required info rather than focusing on the needs of their students, they are setting them up for failure. It is important to remember to not just teach curricula, but to teach students.

Expectations of Students

Expectations of Students

February 1, 2019

According to the common sense, there is truly only one example of a “good” student. This would be a student who speaks only in class when called upon after raising their hand, one who finishes their homework and all assignments to the best of their abilities and on time, who does what they are told without question, and learns the required material in the exact manner the teacher is providing it. Unfortunately, this belief of the “good” student is extremely one-sided and causes many brilliant students to be consider “bad,” or to cause unnecessary stress due to the traditional teaching methods.

This definition of “good” student only serves to benefit those who have the particular learning style the trope calls for. A student who requires more hands-on learning for example, or a student that can become very restless without breaks or activities will suffer due to the strict traditional views on teaching. Only one type of student can actually succeed in these methods as they are very restricting and heavily involve “curriculum as product” as their intended result.

This common sense view of what it means to be a “good” student causes many to feel that they are unworthy or inadequate due to a single method of teaching and learning. By considering the fact that all students are unique and individual people that will require a variety of teaching methods in order to effectively grasp the required material might allow future educators to develop new methods of teaching. Incorporating numerous methods into a single lesson that will benefit all students may result in less students being left behind, or labeled as “bad.”

Educational Theories

Educational Theories

January 25, 2019

Having began studying the various educational theories from the perspectives of a number of theorists in the field, I have come across a quote that I believe to be an excellent description of how education and curriculum should be taught in the future:

“Learning is not just about ‘correcting’ what students already know. Learning is not just about students’ acquiring what some in schools and society have already determined to be the things that they are ‘supposed’ to know. Given the recognition that curriculum cannot help but be partial, learning needs to involve refusing to be comfortable with what we already know and what we are” (Kumashiro).

This quote by educational theorist, Kevin Kumashiro describes the way in which he believes information should be handled. As mentioned in lecture, teachers should not assume that all students have the same prior knowledge, pre conceived notions, or even similar ideals of common sense, therefore students should not have to ‘scoop out’ all of their prior knowledge to make room for newer information that has been deemed ‘require.’ New concepts of knowledge, and this idea of ‘what students should know’ as determined by curriculum needs not interfere with what knowledge students will already carry with them, rather, it can be additional information from which students may grow and begin discussing prior thoughts in new ways. I agree with Kumashiro’s perspective in this quote as it allows individuals to embrace new topics and expand their horizons of knowledge without having to give up on what makes them who they truly are. Stepping out of their comfort zone without relinquishing their cultures or identities.

I believe that this style of teaching is incredibly possible and doable if teachers are open to understand where exactly their students’ prior knowledge comes from, and recognize that what they already know may differ from what you as an educator know, however that does not mean that they are wrong. Allowing students to gain new perspectives, rather than trying to correct what is already known. This understanding will require open mindedness from teachers, and a willingness to try new things for the students. A give and a take are what will make Kumashiro’s theory a successful one in practice.

This relates to my own understanding of curriculum and school more and more lately due to the critical thinking my education degree has pushed me to develop. While reading Kumashiro’s theory, I hope that I will be able to focus on the points he makes in my own future practice. By allowing students to explain their point of view, I will gain perspective myself, and will gain a better understanding of the diverse peoples I will be fortunate enough to teach.

Curriculum Theory and Practice

Curriculum Theory and Practice

January 18, 2019

In this week’s article, “Curriculum Theory and Practice,” writer, Smith, delves into analysis of curriculum in general, as well as the ways in which curriculum has come to be, and in what ways it influences a student’s overall education experience. Specifically, Smith discusses the theory of Ralph W. Tyler. Tyler’s rationale is based on a series of four questions, from which he further develops his focus on forming behavioural objectives in students. Tyler states, “[s]ince the real purpose of education is not to have the instructor perform certain activities but to bring about significant changes in the students’ pattern of behaviour, it becomes important to recognize that any statements of objectives of the school should be a statement of changes to take place in the
students” (Tyler 1949: 44). Therefore, he believes that emphasis is placed on the future of the students, and the need to reform the future generation into exactly what is required of them. His ideas particularly center around a “rational, orderly, systemic process that can be implemented across all subjects” (lecture).

In my past as an elementary, high school, and finally, university student, I have witnessed the Tyler rationale firsthand through the ways in which a typical class was run. Tyler’s first point of the rationale that poses the question, “what educational purposes should the school seek to attain?” (Smith 4) could refer to the aims and objectives that are currently laid out in the Saskatchewan curriculum. All of my classes were based around the central ideas that had been pre-determined and recognized as essential to my overall learning. Furthermore, Tyler’s fourth point that asks “how can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?” (Smith 4) has become the bane of my existence when it comes to education. In modern day schooling, these purposes are determined as being attained through the use of standardized testing, and tests the individual students on their ability to memorize.

Despite the popularity at the time, there are major limitations to the Tyler rationale. Specifically, the theory eliminates all opportunity for creativity, activist minds and even free thought. By expecting every student to behave in the same way, learn in the same way and therefore “turn out” the same way following graduation, Tyler’s rationale ensures the failure of many, and limits ways in which students may express themselves, and recognize their own truths regarding their learning. This style of education merely trains students to effectively memorize unnecessary information, and in the long run, this knowledge will not remain embedded in their brains. This rationale also does not allow for the success of a variety of students, with varying abilities, and learning styles. For those students who are not as successful with memorization, school is nearly impossible and this system ensures their failure.

Some potential benefits to the Tyler rationale include what Tyler believes to be “value neutral” that can rise above context, allowing every student the same opportunities. However, he does not consider that not all students are going to come into the school system with the same background knowledge, the same “common sense,” or even the same understanding of how the world works. Tyler’s rationale may also benefit those who work well in a neutral and equal environment, or who thrive with memorization, and enjoy testing as a way to show their gained knowledge. The rationale also makes further work on our current curriculum possible. By recognizing what has not worked the best in the past, perhaps we can learn how to create a more effective, fair and successful curriculum for generations of students to come.

The Problem of Commonsense

The Problem of Commonsense

January 11, 2019

In the article entitled Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice Kumashiro defines ‘commonsense’ as the ways in which particular people, depending heavily by the influences of the culture and traditions of a specific place, decide what is to be expected in all aspects of life, and therefore anything that varies from an area’s ‘commonsense’ ideologies is determined incorrect, and even ridiculous. Kumashiro discusses their experience as an educator in Nepal and how that varied from their own education in the United States. They also commented on the reactions of the Nepali children to the ‘American education system’ and how the students were concerned that they were not being taught properly or learning the required material due to the varying teaching styles of Americans and the Nepali. It is through Kumashiro’s experiences teaching in Nepal that they came to the conclusion that although the Nepali ‘commonsense’ varied greatly from that of the people living in the States, that did not make their beliefs any less legitimate, nor did it mean that the American views were in any way superior. In fact, the experience provided the author with a better understanding and a clearer focus of the oppressive nature in which American and Canadian schools are ran based on what has been determined as ‘common.’

It is so important to pay attention to ‘commonsense’ because of the negative aspects these normative views can have on a variety of people. Specifically, Kumashiro discusses the ways in which ‘commonsense’ in curriculum, and how classrooms are ran in the States and Canada is in fact oppressive to students on the basis of the ‘isms’ such as race, sex, gender, class, religion, and more that can create a marginalized, subordinate group. Another important note is that what may be considered ‘commonsense’ or ‘common knowledge’ in a certain place will completely vary from that of another, therefore it is nearly impossible to determine what is truly ‘commonsense’ in all aspects of the word itself. It is important that I, as a future educator recognize that these sorts of beliefs will vary, as well as taking note to avoid the commonly oppressive nature of the normative expectations we have conceived in the Canadian school systems.