What is a ‘Good Citizen’? What do they do?

Citizenship is a tricky concept to define and understand. Does citizenship mean to be a good citizen and what is a good citizen?

Throughout my own experience in K-12 schooling, there was a variety of examples of citizenship education. From K-5, we had a book that each class could add to when they did a good deed that supported our environment and community such as doing a project made of recycled material or collecting the recyclables. We had a buddy program in the older grades where we partnered up with the elementary to read with them; we read stories to the residents of our local care home; we had mandatory volunteer hours; we had town-wide clean-up days; we participated in food drives, clothing drives, walks, and fundraisers for so many different charities; and the opportunity to receive a class credit in exchange for a specific amount of volunteer hours. I remember learning briefly about government structures, but I left school not understanding the different parties in our country, how to vote, or the importance of critiquing public policies and priorities in order to support positive changes within our community, province, and country.

“What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” by Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne detailed three different ideas of what a “good citizen” is and does including personally responsible citizen, participatory citizen, and justice oriented citizen. The majority of citizenship education I received focused on being a personally responsible citizen. The idea was that if they could get the entire school involved in helping others we would develop character and responsibility, when really we did not learn more from these actions than just following directions. My extra-curriculars were where a hint of participatory citizenship was encouraged. I was on the Student Community Council and Student Representative Council. These opportunities were outside curriculum but provided me with opportunities to lead meetings; balance different perspectives; and in and plan efforts to support others, such as organizing food drives, clothing drives, and fundraisers.

Although approaching the curriculum designed to promote personally responsible citizens did help others, allow students to feel good, and give students a chance to learn about the challenges faced within the community and other places, it failed to get students actively involved in recognizing, planning support, and acting on challenges. Further, it failed to create a lasting and meaningful change that can come from asking why this problem is present, the policies in place or lacking that prevent a change, and getting down to the root cause of the problem that justice oriented citizens do. Personally responsible citizens provide a band-aide for a problem and do just enough to ease their conscious rather than challenge and fix the problem. No amount of canned food is going to fix the problem of hunger.

As mentioned by Joel Westheimer in a video interview, some individuals do not believe politics and teaching citizenship belongs in schools as perhaps schooling should only focus on job training, but really a role of schools is to create informed and democratic citizens. As citizens we should learn to be able to come together, listen to the different perspectives of others and work on our differences to be able to move forward together. Students need to learn that people have different perspectives and we need to be able to respect the perspectives of others. This describes a justice oriented citizen who can respect and learn from other perspectives while weighing the options to respectfully come to a decision.

Although learning not to break the law, not do drugs, help others and the environment, and work ethic are all fantastic things for students to learn, they should not be taught to just be obedient. A good citizen does not always need to be obedient, otherwise we would never see improvement in a society. Citizens are allowed and should be encouraged to critically reflect on the situation and rules in place for our community and take action to further benefit the community.

~Taylor Block

November 12, 2018

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Eurocentric Ideas of Mathematics as Limiting to Diverse Populations

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?

As a white settler, I do not think I, personally, ever experience oppressive and/or discriminating aspects in mathematics. I was privileged in being taught how I was used to and what is common in my culture. I was also benefited as the math problems, pictures, and wording were catered to my history, culture, and understanding. For example, I remember having a math problem in the younger grades that used female/male names and asked how many females there was in comparison to males. This benefited me but could have disadvantaged students whose background did not prepare him to know which names were considered female or male. When our education caters to one specific view point, for students who are not white settlers, it means they need to conform and learn these beliefs/understandings or fail the class/be left out. Other examples in which oppressive and/or discriminating aspects were present in mathematics included the linear way in which we learn, the lack of teaching to multiple intelligences, the content used for examples such as referencing Canadian money and typical white sports. How can it be a fair assessment of what someone knows about math when the assessment includes information they do not know? Are we assessing them on their math skills or on their knowledge of white ideologies?

I took high school math and physics with a boy who immigrated from Spain. He was very smart and a Rockstar at math, but he did it differently. On paper, you could never follow how he got the answer, but he always did. As my teacher always gave marks for process, she had to adapt and give him credit for his work. I appreciated that our teacher was able to adapt for him rather than force him to change the way he demonstrated his understanding.

After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

As described in Poirier’s article, there are a variety of ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it. Inuit mathematics is very different in comparison to Eurocentric ways of mathematics. Inuit mathematics has a base-20 numeral system whereas the Eurocentric ways of mathematics is typically base-10. This means that students who learn Inuit mathematics have to learn an entire new way of thinking about mathematics in order to understand Eurocentric mathematics. Further, there are up to six different words for a number in the Inuit language. For example, the number three can be represented in six different ways, all dependent on context. Further, the language used for numbers is vastly different than the numbers used in the Eurocentric version of mathematics. As previously mentioned, Inuit mathematics is on a base-20 system, so the translations for the numbers do not match the numbers in Eurocentric math. Especially since Eurocentric numbers do not really have much of a literal definition whereas numbers in the Inuit language are literal and not abstract. Lastly, the Eurocentric methods of teaching do not match the traditional way Inuit students learn. Traditionally, listening and observing elders would be how Inuit children learn which is vastly different from the direct instruction and classroom set-up. Traditionally, Inuit students would have learned differently with clues to real-life math problems being present in story telling.

These differences make clear that it is not that Inuit students are not as good at math, but rather the Eurocentric ideas regarding mathematics are vastly different. It is interesting to see how vastly different Eurocentric ideas of math are in comparison to that of the Inuit Community. It is no wonder as to why some Inuit students would struggle in learning Eurocentric based mathematics.

This website by the Buffalo Trail Public School was an interesting resource to look at. It provided a variety of games, activities, resources, and lessons that we could utilize to incorporate Indigenous perspectives in mathematics. Please note that not all resources relate directly to our curriculum or to Canada, so you must assess/adapt them to ensure their suitability.

~Taylor Block

October 29, 2018

 

Why teach Treaty Ed if there are few to no First Nations in the classroom?

For some reason Treaty Ed in a classroom with few to no First Nations students is seen as pointless by some teachers. As mentioned by Dwayne Donald, how Treaty Ed is incorporated in the classroom is directly linked to how the teacher perceives their own relationship with the content. If the teacher does not think it relates to them or is not comfortable with the content, I do not think they are very likely to teach or at least not teach it very well. Claire Kreuger provides valuable information in her introduction and short interview. She states that Treaty Education may be needed even more in classrooms without Indigenous students as a stronger effort needs to be put into building these relationships and teaching to the history. The purpose of Treaty Ed is to build these relationships, have students reflect on their feelings and develop empathy, and make sure they are aware of the past so these future leaders do not repeat the mistakes of the past and can work towards a better future where relationships are built and together we can move forward. Treaty Ed is a mandatory component; it is our duty as teacher to include it in a purposeful and meaningful way. I appreciate when Claire Kreuger mentions that although residential schools are gone, the mentality that brought them on is not. This is a main reason as to why it is so important that all students are taught Treaty Ed, even when there are few or no First Nations, Metis, or Inuit peoples in the class. Stereotypes, prejudices, and misinformation still exists regardless of the lack of Indigenous students present in the class. Treaty Education is not just for the First Nations students, it is for all students. Treaty education is a shared story. Cynthia Chamber states that the stories of treaties is a shared story of one that describes how the land was shared and the agreements that were came to; it is of one that is different depending on who is telling it, with different expectations and endings. Regarding my understanding of curriculum, this is important to remember when teaching students about the treaties and history. We need to teach it as a mutual story and not just a story owned by the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people with only them impacted by it. As we teach it, we should reflect on how they have impacted all students and continue to play a role in our shared history.

It seems that these students may have very little experience with Treaty Ed. As Claire Kreuger describes, it is okay to move to early outcomes of Treaty Ed or to a place where the students can learn and make sense from. This being said, it is still important to make sure the content remains balanced and meaningful. For these students, you may need to start from square one or close to.

TreatyEdCamp provided a variety of interesting perspectives that I could take into my classroom. First, I received the opportunity to listen to a presentation on Treaty Walks by Sheena Koops. She described the importance of all individuals recognizing our place in relation to treaties, what they mean to each person, and what they mean for the relationships with others. We are all treaty people and should take time to reflect on the treaties and how they have impacted ones own life, the lives of others, and the relationships. This information is valuable for classroom use as it is important to help students recognize how everyone is a treaty person, meaning have all been impacted by the treaties and our on this journey together, but the outcomes have been very different for different people. As a white settler, I as a teacher must recognize what treaties mean to me, how I have benefited from them, and what they mean for my relationships with my students, my neighbours and others. Recognizing this myself will help me thoughtfully implement Treaty Ed in my classroom and having my students reflect on their placement within treaties, will help them learn, empathize, and understand. As Claire Kreuger states, the content is important, but the real goal is helping students reflect on what happened, their understandings, feelings, and empathy. Michael Koops presented on what could/should occur after the blanket exercise. In this I learned that after the blanket exercise or when students are at a point where emotions are present and empathy and understanding is brought forth, a debrief should occur where we ask, what now? All cultures have economics, politics, education, religion, kinship, and artistic aspects, but when they do not match our own we get uncomfortable and try to change things. We need to recognize that different views and perspectives are good. As white settlers, we can be an ally and work to support others and encourage others to as well. We need to build this relationship. This is crucial to TreatyEd as building relationships and understandings is key to moving forward. Lastly, Brad Bellegrade discusses the importance of creating an environment where students belong and can build their confidence. He does this through rap. I can use his advice in the classroom to support all of my students. We can educate students all we want on the facts about Treaties, but without them receiving the opportunity to truly reflect on what this means for them and their relationships with others, it is not meaningful education. We can utilize Brad’s advice to support students in feeling comfortable and confident enough to be able to self reflect and examine.

~Taylor Block

Learning from Place

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims 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) (p.74)

  1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
  2. How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

Reinhabitation and decolonization happen in a variety of ways throughout the narrative. As Restoule, Gruner, and Metatawabin mentioned in Learning from Place, reinhabitation and decolonization depend on each other and throughout the article are present during the river excursion between the elders and the youth. During this experience, reinhabitation was evident as they explored their environment, learned the traditions/culture/ways of knowing of their people, and reconnected with the land their ancestors lived off. This experience brought forth information on the importance of the land to First Nations people and their economic and social well-being. This experience supported decolonization in its way of reconnecting the youth with their cultural traditions and “sense of connection to land, culture and life” (p. 76). Decolonization was supported following the excursion as a map of important sites was developed and marked with the original Cree names to support the use of Cree language and history. Paquataskamik means the natural environment in Cree and according to Restoule, Gruner, and Metatawabin “when youth lose a sense of what paquataskamik is, they may begin to lose the connections that form the complex set of relations that bind them together in a historically and geographically informed identity” (p. 77). This word helps represent the relationship the individuals had to the “rivers, the lands, and he communities joined together by them (p. 77). This loss of language can be attributed to intergenerational language loss due to residential schooling; there is a concern that this language loss may lead to a lack of linguistic connections to the environment.

Learning from place allowed the youth to learn about their culture in a meaningful way. They were involved and learned by experiencing and being a part of the land. They learned about the importance of the land, learned Cree terms, and were part of celebrations that occurred in the community/territory. This experience helped the youth develop a bond with the land and rivers and helped them take pride in themselves and where they come from.  Further, the lake represented a traditional place with large meaning. The lake was more than just water, it was a burial location for ancestors and signifies the deep connection the First Nations people had to the water. The youth were able to learn and discuss a new way of interpreting the world, the place in which their ancestors struggled for self-determination, and the relationships between people and nature. These areas of knowledge and connection that were likely stripped away due to residential schools were reintroduced with this experience, working towards decolonization and reinhabitation.

As a health major, I would be able to adapt these ideas to considering place in my teaching. Holistic teaching and assessment is an important aspect to health education; this means to teach to the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the being. By considering place and creating opportunities for students to experience their environments, I am supporting their holistic development. For example, in Grade 8 health we look at sustainability and the relation between the environment and the health of people. I would love to have an elder come in and speak to the students about the importance of our environment to our holistic health. Further, we could explore outside and discuss how our environment makes us feel and the differences it might have on us if it was an unhealthy or healthy environment. The students are also required to assess how our environment helps support our various needs.

~Taylor Block

October 15, 2018

Round Two: Second Blog of the Week about the Complex Topic of Curriculum Development

Hey everyone! Looks like it is round two for our blog posts this week!

This week we looked at Chapter 1: Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should be Learned in Schools by Ben Levin.

Pre-Read: How do you think that school curricula are developed?

I think that curriculum development is a collaborative process where designated individuals (hopefully with real teaching experience) collaborate together and with other professionals in a subject area to decide which information is important for students to learn by the time the graduate. From there it is broken down into age appropriate content that should be learned at different age levels. The information that is deemed important to be included in the curriculum is specific to the society in which we live. For example, the mandatory subjects that we have come to know in Canada may be very different in comparison to another country.

Post-Read: How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

An interesting perspective shared in the article is that the interest of voters is what drives the changes being made. The government is always thinking about how they can maintain power and gain votes, which means giving the people what they want. Regarding education policy, people can know very little about the education system, but can feel very passionate about their views, so the government tries to please everyone while creating effective policies.

Politics shape school curricula by saying what subjects will be taught, for how long, and in what grade. Politics also has a large say in what content should be included in various subjects. Politics play a role in every aspect of education from the curriculum to the expectations of the teachers and school including anti-bullying policies, health promotion, promoting equity, to vaccination policies. Everyone wants our schools to do more, but do not want to provide more time to do it. It is a constant balancing act of trying to make the most people happy when there are different views on what should be taught, how it should be taught, and for how long. There is further pressure from industries or other areas in government to teach towards their own needs and causes. Occasionally, there are also other policies that influence education whether that be policies on assessment. Curriculum is created through a collaborative approach of experts, representatives, government officials, and teachers.

Politics has always been a confusing topic for me. Reading about the politics of curriculum has made me realize how big of a role politics plays in impacting our education system including what we teach, how we teach it, and when we teach it. I think it is very concerning that our education system is impacted so much by politics and the views of the public who rely on personal opinions and experiences. Or the creation being impacted largely by the views of experts which does not always make it a practical curriculum for the average teacher to implement effectively. It is important that curriculum is created in a way that any teacher could utilize it to deliver an effective program.

~Taylor Block

October 5, 2018

What is a ‘good’ student?

Respond to the following prompt on your blog: What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the commonsense? Which students are privileged by this definition of the good
student? What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these
commonsense ideas?

As Kumashiro previously mentioned in our first reading, commonsense varies in different societies and environments. In Canada, a good student should be quiet, follow directions, speak in turn, work to accomplish their task, and think in a way that is expected. These ideas support the role of education as creating good, contributing, and obedient citizens. In Chapter 2, Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What it Means to Be a Student, Kumashiro provides two examples of students who were not considered to be a “good” student. In one scenario, a student was always moving around, speaking out of turn, not paying attention, and misbehaving. Could it be that this student just does not learn by sitting and listening, but needs to be more actively involved in there learning? Or, the example of a student who did not conform to just following the teachers orders, but instead excelled when they were given the freedom to express their knowledge. I appreciated the example by Kumashiro where this student questioned his teaching when discussing themes. He guided a discussion where they were trying to understand the themes of a book by coming to the conclusions that the teacher wanted them to, rather than how they personally interpreted the themes. We expect all students to behave and think in a certain way undermining their previously learned knowledge and experiences. As I spoke about last week in seminar, I wrote Saskatchewan departmentals in my higher level classes. In particular, I remember an English departmental which had an image with a multiple choice question of what theme the image with representing. I specifically remember this picture being of a child trying to cross a rope bridge that was near falling apart. This image could mean something different to everyone, yet it was a multiple choice question meaning there was only one answer that they considered correct. Depending on personal experiences and knowledge different interpretations could have been made.  

These beliefs privilege students who learn in structured environments, whose experiences and prior knowledge match that of societal expectations and norms, and whose learning needs match that of the traditional classroom. It disadvantages students who learn in other ways, whose ideas are more creative than what may be deemed as correct, students who do not learn through memorization, and students who are kinesthetic learners. This commonsense idea of a good student prevents all students from receiving the opportunities and strategies they need to succeed, it minimizes creativity, and makes for a very boring school experience. By holding these commonsense ideas, children who do not fall into the category of ‘good’ student automatically fall into the category of bad student. It is impossible to see that these students are not bad, but might not learn that way. It is impossible to see that rather than the student being bad, maybe it is actually the teaching, the activities, and the classroom that is not suitable for all students (when it should be suitable to all students).

I knew a student who was an amazing artist, could tell you all the information you could possibly need to know about vehicles, and was very kind, but he became frustrated when he had to sit and listen for to long. He learned by doing rather than listening and did not take well to set instructions. Many teachers and other students saw him as a bad student, but really it was just instructional strategies, expectations, and the environment that did not match him.

What could it look like if we taught to the needs of all of our students? If we did so, would there ever be a student that is considered ‘bad’?

 ~Taylor Block

October 2, 2018

A Quote to Influence Teaching Practice

A quote by Michael Apple discussed in lecture and mentioned in our PowerPoint struck a cord with me to how we interpret education.

“. . . I am even more convinced now, that until we take seriously the extent to which education is caught up in the real world of shifting and unequal power relations, we will be living in a world divorced from reality.”

~Michael Apple

This quote made me think about how our curriculum and school system represent the unequal power in our society. We often see schools as a place that students come to learn, come to be treated fairly, and can be put at an equal footing as everyone else. By reflecting on this quote, I can think about how these ideas of our education system are wrong. Our schools represent and privilege the group in power within our society and continue to disadvantage many of our students. When we look deeply at the curriculum we can see that many of the objectives that we require our students to learn are reflective of the knowledge that our society has placed importance on. It privileges white settlers and those who learn in a very linear and listen and regurgitate way. It disadvantages students whose ‘common-sense’ knowledge is not that of white people, it disadvantages students who learn in less traditional ways, and it disadvantages students whose strengths are not in the methods or knowledge we teach.

Reflecting on this quote encourages teachers and administrators to critically think about why we teach the subjects we teach and why we teach how we do. By reflecting on this quote, teachers can look at ways to try and alleviate the power society has on our schools and focus on creating equal ground for all students by incorporating different ways of knowing and celebrating all strengths of students not just the traditionally celebrated strengths.

To tie in a quote by Paulo Freire, “washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” By pretending that our schools are free from the influence of race, gender, politics, and class, we ignore the struggles that some of our students face; we ignore the role we play in reinforcing the privileged ideas.

Until we seriously consider the effects that the unequal power relations in our world have on our education system, we are undermining the experiences and talents of many of our students and telling them that certain knowledge, skills, and people are more important than others. For our students, it impacts their learning and sense of self and for our teachers it prevents them from making the connections with their students and helping students develop to their full potential.

In relation to my understanding of the curriculum, Michael Apple’s quote has encouraged me to critically think about how I, as a teacher, need to continuously keep in mind the assumptions and biases I am putting forward in my class. I need to make a conscious effort to remember the struggles of my students and reflect on the content, method, and assessments I use.

As a health education teacher, it is especially important to remember the determinants of health that may be impacting the lives of my students as well as their learning/understanding of content. I cannot teach the Canadian Food Guide and expect all students to be able to bring a balanced lunch to school when fruits/vegetables are not available in their house. I cannot teach only to the ‘white’ food and expect all of my students to know what an avocado is as I did not even know what bok choy was until more recently than I would like to admit. Even little things such as the food we teach about are reflective of the power struggle in our society. Our curriculum is suited to the needs of very few individuals and as teachers we need to be aware of these biases, so we can provide a proper education to all.

~Taylor Block

September 25, 2018