Commonsense ideas around the ‘ideal’ student

I would like to start by saying that really enjoyed and can relate to the Kumishiro reading this week. I am currently employed as a site-coordinator for the Before and After School Program, where I spend appx. 5 hours a day with the same group of kids.

I often see kids, who learn differently, or have high-energy levels, be labelled as ‘bad kids.’ I find that these kids are often ignored or overlooked, and teachers are typically easily irritated with them. They are absolutely not ‘bad’ kids. They just need someone to take the time to acknowledge them, talk to them, and show them not only patience, but also trust that they are capable. Something as simple as giving them a job, like running to the office or checking if the gym is available, can make their day. I’ve seen it first-hand, respecting them gives them a reason to show respect back and they are way more inclined to listen and participate. So frequently I find the ‘bad’ kids asking if they were bad, and it upsets me because they are learning, through what they’re told and how they’re treated, that they are not respected or held to the same standards as their peers which is very unfair. This is something that I often discuss with one of my workers and I can not express how much it frustrates me.

On another note…

Through the reading and the ideas of commonsense that we’ve discussed in class, there is a pretty clear picture of what a ‘good’ student looks like. A good student a someone who will sit quietly and will learn quickly using the methods that are introduced to them, and all the other students in the class. They will not only follow the rules and expectations laid out by the teacher but will also interact well with other students in the class. A good student will complete assignments and know the answers to exams. When analyzing books, or any other material, they will not add in personal thoughts or question the curriculum or the teacher’s ideas. With this in mind, students who learn quickly and in the ways schools teach will benefit from this. It’s an easy route for them to get through school as quickly as possibly.

However, these commonsensical ideas create some challenges. First of all, all students come into school with ideas already in their heads, this can be problematic if something they have already ‘learned’ is not correct. Furthermore, it does not allow room for creativity, individuality, or a difference of opinion which greatly constricts the learner. Students, who learn as an ‘ideal’ student, do not learn how to ask question, think critically, or recognize and challenge oppression.

Disability Studies in Education

For my critical summary I chose the topic of disability studies and its importance in education. This is something that I have always been very interested in and being employed at SaskAbilities has affirmed my passion around this topic. I am excited to explore this topic and learn more about it.

One article that I will explore is Disability Studies in Education: The Need for a Plurality of Perspectives on Disabilities by Susan Baglieri, Jan W Valle, David J Connor, and Deborah J Gallagher. In this article, the authors focus on the history of special education and its importance, and how we need to create a broader understanding of disability. The article discusses how instead of modifying a lesson based on what we believe a student can or can’t do, that we need to offer a spectrum of possibilities and teach in a way that learners can engage. I came across one quote that really stood out for me, and that I feel very strongly about.

“Disability is an idea, not a thing. It is not that people do not vary or differ from one another in sometimes very noticeable ways, but to call or think of some of those differences as “disabilities” is to make a social judgment, not a neutral or value-free observation. Put differently, it is not the way in which people vary or the differences they have in comparison to others but what we make of those differences that matters.”

Another article that I came across was by Nirmala Erevelles, Understanding Curriculum as Normalizing Text: disability studies meets curriculum theory. In this article, Erevelles discusses that “[…] lost in the shadows, is any critical discussion of disability in curriculum theory.” The author questions what conduction produced the distances that exist between the ‘disabled’ and ‘normal’ world and how educators can create a curriculum that would enable all students, both academically, and socially. Erevelles analyses how we need to understand and deconstruct what society views as the norm to be able create an inclusive curriculum.

Both articles emphasize the importance of understand disability and what creates the distinction between an “able” and “unable” student so we can make a difference. My next steps will be to dig deeper into these articles as well as to find at least one more that relates. I hope to find ways in which we, as future educators, can expand and share knowledge on disability and create an inclusive classroom in which everyone can learn.

The Tyler Rationale

There are a couple of examples that come to mind in my schooling which relate to Tyler’s rationale and ideas around curriculum. One example that sticks out quite clearly for me would be my math classes, especially in high school. We were taught how to find the answers to problems in particular ways, and that was exactly the way we had to do it. I remember there was one unit that I was struggling with, and when I asked for help, my teacher didn’t even know how to teach it a different way. I went around to multiple teachers in my high school and there was only one who had a different way of explaining it. There were also many times when during a test, I could come up with a formula that worked and find the right answer, but if I didn’t do the question exactly the way we were taught, I would lose marks. Another example is the reading tests we had to do where we were taken aside to read to the teachers, and we were graded in comparison to our classmates. We were then given a reading level and had to pick books according to that level.

Tyler’s rationale creates this idea that if we can see the end goal and we know where we need to get, then we just need to figure out the steps to get there and that these steps will work in the same way for everyone, which is not the case. Another problem with this idea is that it puts educators in a position where they teach us what to think, rather than how. This greatly limits educators and gives them very little room for creativity. Furthermore, this theory only focuses on the results, and not the steps and the learning it takes to get there. This takes away any opportunity for students to learn how to think critically.

Although I don’t see many, there are a couple positives to this Tyler’s rationale. The first that comes to mind is that everything is taught in an organized way. Everyone is learning the same things in the way, at the same time which, in theory, makes it easier to teach. This theory simplifies teaching for educators as it clearly lays out everything they need to teach and how they should go about it; and it allows them to plan their time accordingly. Even though this is not the most effective way to teach, seeing that everyone learns differently and at a different rate, it is an easy way to teach concepts quickly and with less confusion.

Kumashiro

Commonsense is what people are used to and what they think is the norm. It’s what they had become accustomed to. These ideas give us a sense of comfort. An example of this is when Kumashiro talks about how it took time to get used to how they did things “It took time to change how I thought about meals, water, time, privacy and other aspects of daily life in Nepal.” This is because it is different from what he’s grown up learning and experiencing.

It is important to pay attention to commonsense because it is difficult to recognize. Commonsense creates a sense of belonging and it can be hard to come into a new situation if you are unfamiliar with their ways of doing things. We often don’t question certain practices and perspectives because it is what we’ve been taught and always fall back on. Kumashiro mentions that perspectives that challenge common sense are often dismissed as being irrelevant or inappropriate. It is easy to get lost in commonsensical ideas and we then struggle to think outside of these ideas.

Learning as a Process – Disability

This article, assigned in class, discusses how the term “disability” should be questioned and how we should take the time to look at this term in a different way. People with disabilities are said to be disabled because they are not capable of doing things in the same way as what society views as normal. The authors of this article ask us to focus on their abilities and their desire to be wanted and accepted, rather than focusing on their disabilities and how they’re different. “People with intellectual disabilities seek to be recognised as human: ontologically, materially, and politically.”

If we start to focus on individual’s abilities and what they thrive at, rather than focusing on where they struggle, I believe that we will have a new respect for people who are different from us. “The Charity Model declares disability to be a tragedy, a misfortune, that must be tempered or erased by generous giving.” (Clare) However, everyone faces challenges and is unable to do some things, and if we took the time to recognise that different doesn’t mean bad, or broken, or unable, people’s view on “disabled” people would start to change.

The dominant group consists of those who are mentally, physically, and emotionally capable to take part in everyday activities, because this is the norm, things are catered to us and we take advantage of this, often forgetting that others don’t always have the same privileges. “Sometimes we who are activists and thinkers forget about our bodies, ignore our bodies, or reframe our bodies to fit our theories and political strategies.” (Clare). We forget to be courteous to people who look, believe, dress, and act different from us because we are so used to what has become the norm, which often leaves people to be afraid to express themselves or be different. If we took more time to be aware of ourselves and thankful for our abilities, we would then be able to better accept and appreciate the abilities of others, even if they don’t appear in the same ways.

Writing the Self Story – Gender

i)

Gender roles play a very prominent part in society, and more often then not, it happens subconsciously because it is what we expect to see in people is create by the media and what we expect to be the norm. There are so many standards regarding how the proper girl or boy should look, dress, and act and these ideas are created in peoples’ mind and are forced upon people at a very young age.

In my own self story about gender, I expose the normative narrative around how, as children, boys and girls are expected to act and play differently. A toy’s a toy discusses how little girls are expected to play with toys such as doll’s and boys are expected to play sports and have boyish toys such as cars. Adults in particular have become so used to this norm that it is strange to them when a little girl wants to play with the “boy’ toy. Just as the woman working at McDonalds thought and stated that, a boy wouldn’t want a necklace, and because I wasn’t a boy, I shouldn’t want a sports toy. My mom informed the lady working that, “it shouldn’t matter. A toy is a toy.” However, this is often hard to see as sexism is built into society in ways that we don’t even recognize. Is Everyone Really Equal by Robin DiAngelo gives the example of how, “cooperate-produced toys amplify rigid gender roles, socializing girls into femininity (nurturing, caring, beauty play) and boys into masculinity (aggressive, violent, physical play).” (DiAngelo, p 1 06). My classmate, Amber Sadden, had an experience that was not that different from mine when playing with her cousin, who happened to be a boy. Jonas, the cousin, was caught playing with dolls and a pink puppy by his father, who, as a result, become enraged and lectured the children on how, “the colour pink was only for prissy princesses and dolls for girly girls, but since he was to be a man that he shouldn’t be anywhere near those toys.” Girls, who are supposed to grow up to be nurturing mothers are expected to be the ones playing with dolls while boys are supposed to grow up to be hard working and strong and instead should be sports or more hands-on games. In reality, the father should play just as important of a role as the mother and both parents should be hard working, capable, and motivated. Both Amber and I are arguably very lucky because we both grew up with parents who didn’t look at toys this way and who helped us to understand that it’s okay to play with whichever toys we wanted. However, Amber said that she felt ashamed to be holding this pink toy that got her in trouble; it seemed as though her uncle thought that the pink toy was a sign of weakness. Amber says that her mom worked hard to remind her that, “’a toy is just a toy’ and ‘a colour is just a colour.'”

Another classmate of mine, Aiden Hugg, wrote a story about how the stereotypical man’s evening should go. This includes driving around late at night, smoking in his car with his friend, drinking, and playing pool. “When we got sick of cigarettes, we broke out the pipe and tobacco. We continued to converse, and after we had finished a bowl, we went inside. Once inside, I poured myself a scotch on ice, and Tyler prepared himself a gin with orange juice. Once are drinks were prepared, we went down to play a best of 7 in pool, as we often did.” These are all habits that are very typical of young men and what society would expect to see. Aiden and his friend do these sorts of things all the time and no one thinks twice about it. However, if two young women were to get together, get drunk and high, and hangout in a pool hall smelling like cigarettes, people would most certainly judge and probably refer to them as trashy because that is not how society things girls should behave. Behaviour such as this is something that a young women’s parents would disapprove of her doing.

In comparison to this, Esther tells the story about the time that her and her friends went to an older girl asking how to be a “girly girl.” The girl they go to, Briana, describes herself as being more a tomboy, shows the younger girl what a “girly girl” looks and acts like. The girls play together, and spend time dressing and acting like girls, in an almost mocking way. They learn how to dress, talk, as well as how to do the cat walk, some wearing heels, but then laugh at each other for looking ridiculous. This goes to show how society and the media has created an image of what girls should look like and how they should act. This image is not realistic and often times not even real. Regardless it is something that young girls look up to and aspire to be. They hope to grow up to be pretty, and thin; they aim to be perfect as far as appearance go but learn little about mentality.

ii)

Society feels the need to stick to these gender roles and individuals often struggle with being who they really want to be because they are afraid to stand out or be judged. Danielle chose to write about her view of gender and gender roles. She tells that she would love to run around outside and play in the mud with the boys. She later realized that her female friends didn’t want to join her because it wasn’t what girls usually did. Even though she sometimes doubted her behaviour, she didn’t really care. “It baffled me, since it was so fun! Who wouldn’t want to join in?” She just wanted to have fun and be herself, which is what more people should aim for. Danielle informs that reader that her boyfriend doesn’t identify as either male or female, and dresses however they chose and doesn’t, “blink twice if people defy them.” Individuals should be able to dress and act however they wish, and sometimes this takes some exploring, but they shouldn’t feel pressured by society. It is important for us to have this freedom. “Gender is not one or two things; it can be as many things as you want it to be. Meeting them, learning about them, and in turn loving them, changed my perspective of gender.” When meeting new people, we need to have this type of mentality. One should be able to identify however they want and without judgement. overall, one’s physically appearance really should not affect our opinion of them. It’s their personality the should make the difference.

Furthermore, Jocelyn King’s story really inspired me. She described her morning routine for her first day of grade nine. She gets up early in the morning, excited to get ready and to make herself look and feel beautiful. She spends a long time on hers makeup but feels strong and empowered by doing so. When she looks at herself after she’s finsihed, she states, “I feel as stunning as I look.” The makeup gives her confidence and makes her feels ready to take on the day. “My mom tells me I look beautiful and I felt my nervous slightly calm.” Many people see being a woman as meaning that all you care about is your looks and that you are weaker gender. However, Jocelyn lets the reader know how being a woman and putting on makeup made her feel strong, capable, and ready to conquer the day.

Just as being born a female doesn’t make you weak, being a man and choosing to play with a “girls” toy doesn’t make you any lesser of a person. Children should be given the option to play with whatever toys they want and dress how they wish. As they grow and mature, the standards to confide to society’s view of gender should not be forced upon them. People should be free to express themselves in whatever ways they want as long as they’re not doing harm to others. Whether they chose do to this through the length of their hair, the way the dress, or what games they like to play, that is their choice and they deserve to be respected for it.