Single Stories

Prior to the reading and watching Chimamanda Adichie’s talk, I’ve never really thought about how what I was taught influences how I “read the world.” Growing up in Weyburn, which is a small city, we were taught what was right and wrong, who was “good” or “bad” and what we should be avoiding. However, because we were in a small and safe community I feel as though we were rather sheltered from a lot of things. Some of the biases learned from my education include that boys will be loud and troublesome, but also better at sports or more hands on work, and that students who are actively involved in the school will do better not only in school, but in life.

In English class, prior to high school, almost everything we read was about the typical white family and took place in an environment that was similar to my own. However, once I started high school, we read novels such as The Kite Runner, and Book Thief. Novels such as these help to expand my lens and learn about other parts of the world.

Many of the biases that I was taught also tie into single stories that were present in my upbringing. In addition to what I listed above, the typical white, nuclear family who could live comfortably and happily was the norm. Chimamanda Adichie said that growing up she believed that stories needed to have things that she could not identify with. This is interesting because we some more comfortable with stories that have aspects that we are able to relate to. Allowing for different perspectives and learning about stories that are different from our own will help to eliminate these biases and gives us a better understanding of other cultures and the world around us.

Citizenship

From what I can remember, there was very little attention paid to citizenship education at my school. The only discussion ever really related was when we talked about self identity in terms of race-orientated topics, and we talked about what it meant to be a citizen in regards to having the right to vote and the importance of exercising that right and understanding politics. Other then that, there was some emphasis on the importance of volunteering, helping the elderly, and overall getting involved in the community, but it was never explained why – it felt more like we were being pressured to do it as an assignment or because they really needed extra help at the basketball tournament that weekend. Joel Westheimer said that, “school is more about job training and not shaping who we are as people,” which sums up my experiences quite accurately. The importance of shaping children to be the best versions of themselves and successful members of society seemed to be lost.

In my schooling, the focus seemed to be on the personally responsible citizen. We were always taught the importance of recycling, obeying the law, and making sure we were responsible with our money. As a mentioned above, my teachers always emphasized how important it was to volunteer. As I got older, the focus moved a little to the participatory citizen and how important it was to be involved in events in the community. However, this still seemed to fall under the personally responsible citizen as our teachers encouraged us to organize these events as ways of volunteering and building responsibility and skills to work hard.

The problem with primarily being taught from a personally responsible citizen viewpoint is that students are taught how to be good people, but they are not taught how to think critically and analyze situations more thoroughly. I think that being taught about all three citizen viewpoints would be ideal as there are very important elements in each and it is important that students learn not only to be valued members of society, but also to grow to be, and to do, the best that they can.

Curriculum as Treaty Education

Dear Intern,

First, I want to give you credit for taking action around this topic and for willingly diving into it to better educate our youth. It’s sad that the teachers you’re working with feel as though they don’t need to teach Treaty Education due to there being no First Nations students. Although it can be a challenging topic to talk about, it’s imperative that we acknowledge its importance.

I believe that such a big reason for Treaty Education not being taught is ignorance. There’s a good chance your coop teacher was never taught about it or its importance, so they choose to overlook it. A good place to start might be by talking to your coop teacher, or other teachers in the school and explaining your feeling, thoughts, and passions around the subject. It is important to recognize that we are all treaty people and we all share the same land. However, simply stating that is not enough; we need to learn what it means to be a treaty person and build connections and identities. We need to remember what everyone gained and lost when treaties were signed and that it is very important to our history. Learning about the mistakes that were made in the past will prevent history from repeating itself and we can work towards reconciliation. Furthermore, beginning to teach treaty education to children at a young age will help them to better understand treaties, what happened in residential schools, and inter-generational trauma.

A very important step is building an understanding in children. It seems to me that the students are choosing to brush off the topic or making jokes around it because they have no relationships with Indigenous people, or they feel that the topic is not relevant to them. I would start by taking the time to talk with the students about what they’ve heard about treaties, residential schools, and even Indigenous People and correct any wrong information. Additionally, helping the children to build connections will allow them to better understand; this can be even more important in a school with few Indigenous students, as the children wouldn’t have had the chance to form these relationships. These can be done through ways such as attending a powwow or bringing in an elder to talk to them.

I hope this helps get you started and you and your coop teacher can begin to work together to educate the students and other teachers in the school. Good luck with everything and thanks for reaching out!

Curriculum as Public Policy

In, “Curriculum Policies and the Politics of what should be Learned in Schools,” Levin discusses how school curriculum was developed. Levin puts strong emphases on public policies and how they govern just about every aspect of education. Education is very political, yet it surprised me that, despite all of the discussions and individuals that are needed to build the curriculum, “most policy decisions in education, including curriculum decisions, are made with little or no public attention.” Levin also discusses how many educators find the role of politics in policy to be troubling as they feel that education should be based on knowledge, experience, and expertise rather than policy being driven by research. This can be problematic because, “For politicians, what people believe to be true is much more important than what may actually be true,” which results in these decisions being based off deciding what would make the most amount of voters happy.

Treaty Education can be a hard topic to talk about and to teach. However, it is very important and plays a large role in understanding our own identity and the society we live in. The Saskatchewan Treaty Education Document has similarities to what Levin discussed, such as how even though the curriculum is created by bringing many people together with very diverse backgrounds, the government still has the most control over what is going into the curriculum and being taught. When reading the document, I was very surprised that mandatory treaty education was not introduced until 2007. Children being introduced to the subject at a younger age will help them form connections and build a stronger understanding. This lack of treaty education and indigenous perspectives causes people to not feel connected and it makes it impossible for Canadians to really understand the subject.

Learning From Place

In the reading from this week, Learning from Place, it is discussed how reinhabitation and decolonization depend on each other; there are multiple examples throughout. One thing that was mentioned in the article is to include youth in important discussions about the land and water. It is also mentioned that it is important that children be taught by elders. This would allow them to form connections and work together in the community as well as have elders share experiences and pass down traditions. Also, the article discusses teaching different ways not only seeing, but also being in the world in ways that are outside of dominant western perspectives. In additional to this, having the children create an audio documentary about relations to the river was a “part of decolonizing process of remembering as younger generations were re-introduced to traditional ways of know.” The importance of connecting to the land and cultural patterns help with reinhabitation. Finally, the Cree language still being spoken is an important point.

As a future teacher, I believe that one of my biggest goals will be to create a classroom that accepts differences and allows for different ways of thinking about things and viewing the world. Classrooms are full of a very diverse group of students and both teachers and students need to respect and welcome everyone. One way that this can be done is by helping children make connections to diversity. It is also very important for students, at any age, to recognize that we are all treaty members. I think about my schooling and how being taught about different cultures was often rushed through and I think that giving children a way to relate to it will allow them to learn how to accept it.

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.