ECS 310

Who Inspires You?

albert-einstein-quotes-science-education

Albert Einstein is one of the most intelligent individuals in history. He is mostly known for the kind of knowledge that is valued by a high IQ rating. However, this is not why I value him so much. Not only was he bright with traditional ideals of intelligence, he was wise. I have quoted Einstein many times in my own teaching philosophy and other areas of personal interest. He has so much perspective on the ways people can learn and the power students have over their own learning.

Through this quote, Einstein makes my vision for education possible. I believe the shift of teachers going from “deliverers of information” to “creators of optimum learning environments” is critical to the future of the classroom. In past classrooms, a teacher designing the environment based on the students needs and interests would be unheard of, or at least very uncommon. Today the classrooms are better, but we aren’t all there yet. Of course it took us years to get to a certain point, it will take many more to go back.

 

ECS 310

Aboriginal Knowledge and Mathematics

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?

This is a question I have had to take some time to reflect on. Firstly because the last time I completed a math class was in grade ten. Grade ten was almost eight years ago for me, so it has been tough to look back on.

When I was in elementary to middle school I honestly cannot recall too much of what I learnt in math. My strongest memory of math in my younger years was how much I struggled with word problems. I was a strong reader, I read chapter books by grade three, however the sequence of the problems in written form was hard for me to transfer into numbers. I have always been a very visual learner. I was not ever offered an alternative way to do a word problem or a visual aide so Im not sure if that classifies as oppressive or not?

In high school there were three levels of math. A30 which was the easiest and minimum for most programs in university, B30 and C30 which was a little harder but required for programs such as medicine and science, and finally, calculus which speaks for itself in difficulty. However, a stigma I developed at the time was that those who did calculus would move on to be quite successful financially in our western society. I believed this because of how much talk of university, medicine, engineering and science surrounded calculus. In my western culture, these were the jobs that had high salaries and high salaries were a measure of success.

I cannot speak much on oppression and discrimination in the math classroom for me. It is also something I’m not sure I feel comfortable fully expressing on a public blog.

I was not ever much of a fan of math after middle school and I had so much going on in high school with my personal life that it was hard to engage in the subject I enjoyed least.

When I transferred high schools I had a teacher who was incredibly passionate about math. He worked so hard to instill an understanding and love for math in his students. With him as my guide I was able to pull my math marks from nearly failing to excelling.As a teenager I felt like a lot of my teachers had given up on me, but he pushed me and gave me the confidence I needed to get through the class.

ECS 310

Why teach Treaties?

treaty4-logo

This week we were asked to respond to a brief email sent by a student to their teacher asking for treaty resources and struggling to find them or have support in searching for them due to the demographics of the school.

1. 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?

2. What does it mean for the curriculum and you that “We are all treaty people”?

I have to be blunt, is this even a question? This year I attended TreatyEd. Camp at the University of Regina hosted by the UR STARS team. This was one fo the most educational and rich experiences I have had relating to learning more about treaty thus far. One phrase I took from this was from Noel Star Blanket, an elder who spoke in one of the sessions. He spoke about a classroom teacher who had been teaching treaty and indigenous knowledge to her students.

The students protested a frequently appearing question; Why do we have to learn about THEM? Her response: Because they had to learn about US. 

Bravo and back flips to this teacher. To me this question is bewildering to ask because my perspective supports the idea of FNMI education to ALL students. Aside from this quote, Canada was existent before the settlers. Canada was not empty, it was not an uninhabited land that was reclaimed and built by our fore fathers. The history is so much more than that. As a student in elementary to high school I did not learn this. I learnt that settlers were “heros”. They came and settled the uncivilized Canada in a “peaceful” way.

In grade eleven I read books such as April Raintree that brought to light the opression and racism that indigenous people face everyday. I learnt a bit about residential schools so I thought I had an idea of what our real history was at this point.

In my first year of university, I was thrown into the depths of the consequences western history has had on minority groups. My professor introduced us to the “Blue Eyes” experiment by Jane Elliot. I will be honest when I say I was fuelled with anger. Reflecting on the thoughts and feelings I had at this time, I did not truly understand racism. I understood race as a combination of social class, color, and job status, give or take a few elements depending on who you are.

When I took my second year of education classes I was again faced with addressing racism in the form of “checking my privilege”. I remember vividly struggling with “white guilt” and the ideas that minorities are just as racist as white people. It was incredibly hard for me to understand “white privelge”. Once I understood this concept, I was overwhelmed with anxiety promoting fleets of guilt and shame associated with my race. Near the end of the same class we were given a task, to move from a place of guilt into a place of action. We can blame, we can be sad, we can be angry, but what good is it all without action? I now understood the system that I have been born into, the events that were clouded with images of “white saviours”. The prying question was.. “Just how exactly will I move to action?”

Here are a few things I came up with:

  • Addressing racism and misconcpetions about others made by “the oppresser”
  • Addressing my own racism whether it is an intended or unintended act or thought
  • Recognizing my privelge and my place in the system of race as power
  • Teaching treaties

Based on my personal calls to action against opression and racism, I have found that TreatyEd. is how we move from guilt to action. It is our responsibility as educators to teach about the promises of the treaties; What happened before, during, and after.  What the treaties mean and how they have or have not been fulfilled, and how to move forward and live up to the sharing of land as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows. Excluding non-indigneous people to this call to action is not an option. We are all treaty people and this is part of our Canadian history. There are no objections to teaching about the wars of the world, slavery, or the holocaust in the curriculum, so why is there resistence with this?

My grade ten history teacher told me, “We learn about history so we can learn from our mistakes of the past”. Treaties are part of our history and also our world today, we need to learn about them and from them.

ECS 310

Learning From Place


This week in ECS210
we were asked to read: Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing by J.Restoule, S.Gruner and E.Metatawabin (2013) and answer the following:

1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

The neat thing about this article is how the trip goes beyond making the youth personally responsible. While they go on the trip to re-learn their relationship with the land, they also discuss and address the political issues related to government and land management in their area.

2. How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

I have always said that western people have much to learn from the indigenous people. As a white person I am greedy. I take from the earth more than I give. I wear clothes that require tons of water and other resources that use fossil fuels to produce. I wear jewellery that is potentially harvested through slavery, poorly paid workers, and environmental distruction and polltuion.

Today we are faced with an environmental and societel emergency yet we continue to extract resources from the earth and hope the earth will still be there for us when things run out. The indigenous perspective is completely opposite to what our western society has built and I think they are on to something. 

This week I taught a lesson with the consideration of place using an indigenous perspective. I am working in a middle school classroom teaching science. We are currently learning about ecosystems and eventually working towards an inquiry project related to human impact on the environment.

When I began planning my lesson the first thing I considered was how can I incorporate indigenous knowledge into this lesson? I asked myself this because first I believe education on indigenous perspectives is important to do, second because my class is dominantly indigneous and third because when you think of place in regards to ecosystems, we are in grasslands on Treaty 4 territory.

I consulted with elders for sacred, locally grown herbs and resources on Cree teaching. I also had hunting friends contribute animal artifacts such as deer sheds as well. I taught the lesson using the context of the Cree worldview flowchart adapted by Elder Judy Bear.

As a health major in the secondary program, I see multiple opportunities to incorporate indigenous knowledge into the classroom using the curriculum. For example, when teaching students health of self I would do this by using the four dimensions of the medicine wheel.

 

ECS 310

What does it mean to be a good student? 

Here is a question I hear often and dread. Many times I’ve heard, “Think of your ideal classroom”, “Think of your ideal student”, when I am asked this I cringe.

The image of an ideal student holds a standard against all other students. According to Kumashiro and many societal norms, the good student speaks when spoken to, remains seated during class, works silently on their assignments, asks zero questions, and challenges nothing. Some might say this is their dream classroom. Some might go as far to say that this is their biggest goal as a teacher; to have a classroom that is silent and complies. When I think of this ideal standard I envision something like the image below.

Now, if you haven’t heard of Indian residential schools you may not be familiar with what this image means to me. If this is the case, I would urge you to do some research on one of Canada’s darkest eras in history. For some, this may seem extreme or dark that this is what comes to my mind when I think of “the ideal student”, but here they are. Neatly in rows, looking forward, hands on their desks. No disruptions, no questions asked. Sitting in their seats silently, and petrified with fear.

If my students are silent, compliant, and never challenging, I am worried for them. Silence means the students are not learning anything new or are taking a role similar to a machine or computer. They simply take in the information and file it into folders back in their mind, spit it out onto an exam down the road, and forget most of it in a summer.

In Chapter 2 of Kumashiro, there is a student who challenges the teacher in saying that she had no intentions of letting the students facilitate their own learning. He claimed she was pushing them towards her idea of the right answer. I cheered for this individual because he was so keen that he could pin point what he was missing out on in his education. On the flip side, I had a prof. tell me about a teacher he had observed at the back of a classroom last year. He commented on how taken back he was by the class being completely compliant and silent for the teacher. I felt my heart break when I heard him say that. These two situations and how I reacted to them really speak to who I am as an educator.

If students are held to the standard of the common ideal student, it instantly makes active students who are eager to answer, dying to move around, or yearning to socialize with their peers “the bad student”. Too often students are seen as disruptive and incapable of learning because they do not fit the mold of the ideal student every teacher seeks.

I believe every student learns in different ways. Students do not behave for no reason. All behaviour is purposeful in the classroom and I believe it is my job as a teacher to understand why the behaviour is happening and figure out what I can do to work with it. A student who is constantly talking in class may need a job assigned to them that gives them a sense of power and responsibility. The student who is constantly out of their desk may need a brain break or a short walk down the hall, etc.

Students cannot be fit into a box. They must be able to live outside the box and be who they are rather than what someone wants them to be. Only when we let students be who they are and learn at the same time will we have learning that looks like the image below.