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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Learning to Unlearn

How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

I grew up in a small town in rural Saskatchewan so even though its hard for me to admit racism is part of who I am. It was clear in school that it was the European perspective that was valued. Throughout my education we never talked about treaties or indigenous ways of knowing. Since some of my class mates lived very close to the reserves surrounding Fishing Lake. There was a strong negative opinion about what First Nations people think and do with their time. Therefore, bringing up anything involving Indigenous peoples in the classroom would have caused a lot of heated arguments and not a lot of valuable learning.

So even though its hard for me to admit, I do have a lot of biases about things that I didn’t even consider. But I am learning to challenge the things I know to be ‘facts’ and adjust my own personal lens to have a new perspective. To me the only thing I can do is remain open minded to learning and hearing new perspectives.

 

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.

We are all Treaty People

The phrase “we are all treaty people” means we have an obligation as inhabitants of Canadian land to learn the history of the land. As teachers we have a responsibility to educate the future generation with the truth. They need to learn our history and take responsibility, they need the knowledge to make our relationship with the indigenous people of Canada a positive one.

It needs to be understood that in the classroom we as white settlers don’t have any authority to teach indigenous culture. When we do we westernize indigenous knowledge. We need to have the respect and confidence to share the things we know and have the knowledge to talk about. We can’t shy away from asking elders or knowledge keepers for help and guidance. After participating in Treaty Ed camp it is clear that elders want to help, that knowledge keepers have the image gift to share knowledge and aren’t reluctant to share use their gift.

I am currently enrolled in EMTH 300 with Gale Russell. She is very passionate in the field of mathematics and has a very kind and warm personality. She accompanied Shana Graham at the Treaty Ed. camp. They created a clear perspective for me on what it means to teach indigenous ways of knowing. We tend to find what we know within various pieces of indigenous culture. We don’t give it the recognition of being what it is, in the context it is in.

The current relationship between western settlers and indigenous people is undefined and the context we speak in is unclear. There are individuals like Claire Kreuger who are persistent in restoring the relationship in her classroom. Creating a space that acknowledges various indigenous perspectives and contexts.

As Freire mentioned,

“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

In response to the intern teaching Social Studies 30, live by this message. Fight against the powerful and stand tall for the powerless.

Curriculum as Place

“Reinhabitation and decolonization depend on each other.”

“Decolonization is an act of resistance and must not be limited to rejecting and transforming dominant ideas;” Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, and Edmund Metatawabin said “It also depends on recovering and renewing traditional, non-commodified cultural patterns such as mentoring and intergenerational relationships.” For decades, Aboriginal children were uprooted from their families and communities in order to “take the Indian out of the child” as a form of assimilation. Effects of residential schools still linger today as generations of residential school survivors share burdens related to education, family, and loss of culture. Their experiences continue to be felt further through intergenerational circumstances.

Within the article, it stressed the importance of reestablishing the youth with a sense of connection to land, culture, and life with the help of Elders in the community. Due to the erosion of mother tongue language and deeper meanings of connections to the land and territory, a community can make it a priority to bring together Elders and youth so they could learn from one another about the role and meaning of the land and language to social well-being.

As a teacher, I am a firm believer that Nature is important a child’s development. I consider that students of all ages benefit from authentic and experiential learning experiences beyond classroom walls. Treaty education encompasses this ideology, which stresses that the survival and health of all communities are directly related to land, a strong sense of community, and the drive to educate self-determining people in all areas of life. Educating students in this manner may mean teachers have to venture from western ideologies. The form of education discussed within this article can be infused into all subjects. Of course, this type of education and instruction may take more time, planning, and research for teachers, but the outcomes will be valuable and memorable for students.

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.