Who Am I?

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I’m a third year Education student, pursuing my passions in science and working with children. My other interests include reading, baking, biking and playing with my dog.

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Math as a Human Endeavor

When I think back to my experience as a math student, I remember taking notes, then working on problems, then writing a test. I didn’t mind it, I did well in this kind of a learning environment where there was one right answer and I knew the exact steps to get to it. However, my sister and I were talking about what classes she liked and didn’t like this past weekend. She shared with me that she loved and preferred her english classes over her math and science classes because in english there was actual connections to her life. As soon as the words came out of her mouth I could hear my EMTH professor Gale laughing and then showing her exactly how wrong she was.

Her disinterest in mathematics came out of the oppression of a relationship with the subject. In mathematics we discriminate ideas that are not apart of our western ways of knowing. We turn away ideas that are not linear in nature when in reality no problem is ever solved in a linear way.

After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Communities I was fascinated. The first thing that really clicked with me was the statement: “Mathematics is a dialogue between people who have math’s problems to solve.” I interpreted this as looking at math as an engaging social activity and not the independent process that we currently rely on. I also noticed a reoccurring theme throughout the document which was the value of the relationship between a person and math. They talked about the importance of the relation math plays in ones life which as I mentioned earlier, is something we are missing in our math classes. Another thing that I found interesting was the way they emphasised everything upon self-orientation and sense of space. They see the most important part of mathematics as being an individuals sense of space because that is the most practical and useful part. In our math system we don’t really teach special sense or even see it as something to be of value.

Politics of What Should be Taught in Schools

Question to answer BEFORE the reading:

  • How do you think that school curricula are developed?

I think school curriculum is developed by veteran teachers that are considered experts in their fields by the Ministry of Education.

Questions to answer AFTER the reading:

  • 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?

The curriculum is a document that contains what students are expected to do able to know. The article stressed that politics is the primary process through which public policy decisions are made. This quote from the curriculum policy reading troubled me:

“In every setting, from classroom to country, political influence is usually highly unequal, and those who have the least status tend also to have the least influence on political decision making.” – Ben Levin

The people who have the least status in our education status would be the students, which is funny because they are the center of everything we discus. But it was my understanding that professions with classroom experience and PhDs were in charge of making changes that were necessary. I just recently learned from one of my professors that was involved in writing the most recent revised mathematics curriculum that even she didn’t have a lot of say in the newest curriculum. Every time the curriculum is revised the team of professionals that is in charge of upgrading it are only allowed to change 10% of it. This shows that curriculum is strongly political and change takes years. I didn’t realise that the people we consider experts in there field of still don’t have that much influence at all and the reading supported this idea as well.

Kumashiro and The ‘Good Student’ Mentality

Our societies view on a good student is someone who learns and thinks in a certain way. They never do anything unexpected and are well behaved. They do their work quietly and respond to the teacher when questions are asked. A ‘good student’ can clearly demonstrate what was learned in the curriculum. These students would typically come from privileged homes. Since we go into the classroom with preconceived notations of what a ‘good student’ is it limits those students who can’t learn in this way. We fail the students that down fall under the ‘good student’ category. This point-of-view also limits the potential of different teaching and learning techniques that would truly benefit someone students. This is just another example of how teaching or curriculum is never neutral.

In chapter 2 of Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What it Means to Be a Student, Kumashiro talks about the value of students learning through crisis. He defines a crisis as a “state of emotional discomfort and disorientation that calls on students to make some change.” Allowing students to enter a stage of crisis makes them to challenge their way of knowing or learning and confront challenging material. When they go through this the teacher is there to help students through their discomfort.

Unpacking Education Paradigms

As a child the objective my parents always push on me was to try. They didn’t care if I was the best at what I did or even if I did well at all and honestly I never believed them. There was no grade for effort. There was no recognition for effort, only performance on certain preplanned days were you were tested for how well you knew what was taught in the pervious week. In schools to be given the chance to reflect on ones experience is unheard of. Its too inefficient. This quote challenges our old way of thinking about schooling, about the curriculum.

If given the chance however, I think it would benefit the students who aren’t recognized as above average intelligence. These students are the ones who aren’t fast at math or don’t have photographic memories. These are the kids who get put down because they are taking too long and the class needs to ‘move on’. Reflection is a necessary part of the learning process and it cant be pushed to the side any longer.

Curriculum Development from a Traditionalist Perspective

I have heard the analogy made between schools a factories many times. In Michael Schiro’s Social Efficiency Ideology he words it perfectly by it saying:

“The school is compared to a factory. The child is the raw material. The adult is the finished product. The teacher is an operative, or factory worker. The curriculum is whatever processing the raw material (the child) needs to change him into the finished product (the desired adult). The curriculum developer is a member of the research department who investigates what the consumer market (society) wants in terms of a finished product and finds the most efficient way of producing that finished product.”

Given this explanation I define Tyler’s rationale or social efficiency ideology as being the most straight forward way in which a school can operate.

When I think about the ways in which I encountered Tyler’s rationale in my own schooling I immediately think of mathematics. Since the way I was taught math was very ‘efficient’. We were given a lesson on a topic with some examples for the first 20 minutes of class then we were expected to complete a series of questions out of a textbook. But after learning more about Tyler’s rationale I can see that I encountered it in most of my subjects.

Social efficiency ideology prepares students for a productive adult life, allowing them to perform useful skills and make education more relevant and useful. It makes schooling as efficient as possible, creating less cost on the economy. The problem with that in today’s society is that there are a vast range of job opportunities and school cannot possibly prepare students for all of them. This way of thinking also limits creativity and demotes the importance of music and the arts.

The Problem of Common Sense

How do you define ‘common sense?’ Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘common sense’?

Kumashro defines common sense as something we don’t need to learn, rather something that we have already learned. It’s the unspoken assumptions we all have. Its our values, priorities, perspectives and ideologies. Since these things make up who we are it becomes embedded in our ways of teaching and learning.

A quote that surprised me in the reading by Kumashro is: “The lecture-practice-exam approach to teaching had become so ingrained in the practices of Nepali’s schools as to have become a part of ‘common sense.’ Such an approach did not conform to what I had been taught was sound pedagogy.” Even though this practice was considered decades behind our current education system, I remember been taught this exact same way when I was in high school 4 years ago. I think another problem that arises with our ‘common sense’ is that we also assume our education system is way more advanced then those of third world countries. This example proves that we maybe aren’t as far ahead as we think we are.

Given that example I think what also needs to be understood is that a lot of the oppression driven into our way of doing things occurs outside of our classrooms and will not end simply because we change what and how we teach. But there are useful theories that can have a positive influence in the redesigning of the current curriculum.

As teachers I think it’s important to pay attention to our idea of ‘common sense’ because it limits the norms of schooling. We are quick to judge ideas that force us out of our comfort zone. Ideas that challenge the way schools are supposed to be and are often seen as distractions from the real work or nonsensical. We teach only certain materials, organize them into certain disciplines and teach them using only certain methods. Our notions of ‘common sense’ need to be examined and challenged in order to advance our education system.

Reading – (Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI).

How I’m Making the Leap for Climate Change

My family and I are very aware of the climate change issue, it influences our ranch in a lot of significant ways. Since we rely strongly on perennial pasture land to feed our cattle, the harsh weather conditions impact the future of our ranch and family. The rising concerns regarding climate change caused us to look into what we could do to help with this problem.

After doing extensive scientific research we came to realize that if we were to change the way we were feeding our cattle, not only would it be financially beneficial and produce higher nutritional meat but we could contribute substantially to the carbon crisis.

In the summer of 2017 my family signed a conservation easement that would change the way we thought about cattle and the environment. This easement restricts us to only use our land for perennial pasture grazing.

Its obvious that besides the ocean, the largest carbon storage tank we have is the earth. In order to promote this philosophy we have chosen to undergo the process of rotational grazing, meaning that when we move cattle from pasture to pasture we leave 50% of the grass behind. We are utilizing the photosynthetic process by pulling CO2 into the plants through the roots and into the soil.

When talking about a balanced ecosystem we need to think about the symbiotic relationship occurring between the living organisms below and above the ground. Research shows that if the weight of plants and animals above ground is equal to the weight of microbiota below ground the ecosystem functions at its optimal capacity. We noticed that after a few short weeks of leaving grass behind to pull more carbon into the soil the grass grew quickly and with higher nutritional value then ever before. This happened even though our farm experienced 16 inches less rain then normal.

The process of atmospheric carbon dioxide capture and long-term storage is referred to as carbon sequestration. This is a measurable process in which we can actually determine the rate of carbon capture and storage happening on our land by simply obtaining soil samples.

In Robin Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass she states: “No waste, shared wealth, balance, and reciprocity” are what is required for a sustainable economy. If the general public were to become more knowledgeable and aware of the true problems and solutions of climate change, together we could create a sustainable economy.

Since rotational grazing is a process that is numerically proven and scientifically sound, I have chosen to share it as my leap for climate change.