Posted in ECS210

Final Project: Summary of Learning

The end of the semester has come, and though I have been overwhelmed by the amount of work I’ve had to do in the last few weeks, I’m sad to be finished with this class.

It’s really hard to cram so much learning into one 4-6 minute video but I did my best to address the main concerns of the class. The most important things I took away were about teaching Treaty education and Indigenous ways of knowing, so that’s what I tried to highlight the most in this video. It’s really awkward to talk to a screen, and even more awkward to talk as slow as you can so your viewer can understand! Well, without further adieu, here’s the link to my final project!

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March 21st: “Bias, Lenses, and Single Stories”

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

A non-political lens that I have that is important to bring into the classroom is that I grew up in the era of technology. Since I grew up alongside technology developing, I have a good amount of digital and media literacy. It’s easier for me to learn new technological skills since I already have a broader repertoire than someone who has only learned how to use what is now readily available in the last few years. Having this lens helps me interpret “fake news” and discern sources.

Apart from that, I grew up in Canada, in a middle class family, and I am white. All of those parts of my positionality affect the way I see the world. It wasn’t until college, when I moved out of the comfort of my parents house, met new people, and saw new things that I realized just how much those things affect me. Since I grew up in such a small town, with very little diversity, I have come to terms with the fact that I see different races as “other” than me. Before beginning university, there was nothing to challenge my views and help me realize my implicit biases.

    I think the best way to unlearn these biases is to be aware of them. There’s no use pretending we don’t have biases because they are present in every single person, often unconsciously. I think learning to recognize them when they come up and identify why you may feel that way is a good way to start. For example, in the video presented in class, we were shown a white man giving a webcam interview when his children interupt. A woman intervenes and scoops up the children. Automatically, majority of the viewers of this video assumed that she was his nanny, not only because of the context, but because she was not white. Since she was actually his wife, a lot of the articles that reported this humorous incident received backlash for assuming she was a nanny. When I watched this video, I assumed that too. I think it’s important to acknowledge why we think this. A single story that has been presented through stereotyping in movies in TV is that of non-white women as maids, housekeepers, and nannies. That is reason enough for the automatic bias that comes up regarding those videos. Being more critical of the media we consume and how it can be a major factor in developing our bias. Plus, as always we should correct that thought and affirm that you cannot tell anyone’s job because of the colour of their skin; that is a stereotype perpetuated by dominant culture.

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

In my schooling, the main single story that was presented was that of the Indigenous peoples, only in the past. As I have mentioned in my blog posts before, the only narrative I heard about Indigenous peoples pre-contact was that they lived in teepees, ate buffalo meat, and lived off the land. Over and over that was the only narrative we heard until we reached high school. We studied Residential schools in grade 12, but only then. Even so, we discussed the process that allowed for them to occur, and what happened to students during that time. We did not, however, continue our discussion into how this affected Indigenous peoples presently. There was no discussion on how detrimental these schools continue to be to them, and how the effects of colonization still seep into their lives today. The single story presented was that the hardship experienced by Indigenous communities was in the past, not an ongoing problem. The only truth that mattered was that of the colonizer, the White narrative; and that narrative was that the past was in the past and everything was solved.

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March 15th – Decolonizing Mathematics

In my experience of learning math, it was almost always oppressive and discriminatory. From the moment you begin to learn math, you are classified into the binary of “good” at math, or “bad” at math… and most of the time this leads into the second binary of “smart” or “not smart” that’s placed upon kids almost immediately. I appreciated what Eddie Woo said about math in his Ted Talk (linked below); that he was born with genetically bad sight, but that didn’t mean he stopped trying to see. Once students are lumped into this category of “good” or “bad” at math, they either take the praise and excel, or throw their hands up and claim they’re not good at math and never will be. I think as teachers, it is our job to provide the glasses; the tools in which the students who are “bad” at math use to see.

I was always pretty good at math but I didn’t enjoy it. I like problem solving, and to be quite honest I enjoy the satisfaction of getting things right, but math never spoke to me. I was always unfocused and uninterested in math which until high school generally landed me in the 70s-80s area. One way I remember my mom getting me motivated about math when I was younger was to show me with money. I was already paying for things with the money I earned from household chores when I was quite young, so learning how money added up really revolutionized the way I thought about math. Since I love money (of course, who doesn’t!), it re-invested me in the subject.

As teaching and schooling are political acts, it follows that even in mathematics, the dominant perspective is upheld. In this case that perspective is that there is only one correct way to do math. One particular way that we can decolonize teaching math is to offer multiple methods. The best math teacher I ever had taught me in grade 10 Foundations and Workplace Math (I’m not sure if those are still named that), and sadly retired after that. She always offered 3 tactics for every type of problem or equation we used, and everyone was able to find something that worked for them. Even the students that were “bad” at math were able to achieve the grades that were reflective of the best of their abilities and were satisfied with the outcome of the class.

Teaching mathematics in a non-Eurocentric way can definitely begin the way it does in Poirier’s article “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community” (also linked below), with students learning to count in their own language. In any class, but especially one with young children, inviting those who speak a different language to talk about counting in their mother tongue can be incredibly enlightening. For example, when I began learning counting in my French class last semester, I found it really hard to wrap my head around the concept that they count by 20s as well! 80 in French is quatre-vingt, which means 4-20, or 4 times 20. Logically, that makes no sense to me being raised in a place that was colonized by the British. Teaching that the colonized way is not the only way, however, can open up many possibilities for learning and understanding in all subject areas, not only mathematics.

I think that part of why math is so unpopular among students is its “lack of practical application”. I would argue that knowing how to problem solve is an incredibly important skill for all to have, but seeing mathematical problems exist alongside us in the natural world makes everything so much more real for students (like how I learned basic math with coins). In our technologically advanced world, no one needs to know how to add, do long division, or have an  understanding of coordinates or distance, because it’s all available at the touch of a button. I appreciated how in the article, the author took into consideration things Inuit peoples already know and use. Their community is likely more cut off from technology than ours would be, therefore learning place-finding and how to self-navigate is a necessity (I would argue that it still is in any location).

Appreciating the Inuit’s sense of place is essential to teaching that supports their world. I also found it interesting how they don’t have specific start and end dates for months, and they are only categorized by the way the natural world around them is functioning. Tracking natural patterns would be an interesting way to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing in any classroom, and would be an excellent way to break students out of the “copy the formula” mode mathematics is infamous for. As Eddie Woo also said, understanding that math exists in all patterns makes things more tangible for students. Thinking of math as something obscure and detached from us that only the elite and intellectual can understand is a very Eurocentric way of thinking. Math is all around us and bringing that understanding to the classroom is essential for beginning decolonization and to help all students succeed.

Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67.
Mathematics is the sense you never knew you had | Eddie Woo | TEDxSydney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXwStduNw14

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March 8th – Curriculum as Citizenship

The most obvious place where I recall citizenship being encouraged is in grade 12. Every grad class at my school was to pick a cause to support and organize fundraisers for that cause throughout the year, and reveal the grand total raised during our ceremony. We were expected to form a committee who would organize and run the fundraisers and spread the word to the school and other graduating students about what we had planned. I was a part of the fundraising committee, but ended up leaving by the end of the year because it got too political. (Not political in the sense that we discuss it, but political in the way teenage girls shoved into the same room for too long get). We held barbeques, hosted bake sales, and canvassed hockey and basketball games for donations. I would call this an example of both participatory citizenship, in that we actively formed committees and self-organized, but also personally responsible citizenship in that we donated our own personal time and funds for the cause. Our cause for the year was to raise funds for the Horizon House: an assisted living care home for people with disabilities in Maple Creek in support of a classmate who would be using those facilities after graduation. Part of what caused the politics of our committee was that our committee voted to allot some of our fundraising money to install a trophy case in the school. This, however, is not a platform for my anti-sports ranting to explain why that was problematic for some.

On the same note, though, the other main area of high school I found that encouraged citizenship was grade 12 Phys Ed. I suppose it’s probably not called Phys. Ed anymore, it would be Wellness 10. I only lasted one semester of Wellness, because I had been skillfully planning my exit from gym class since I entered it. Our teacher enforced volunteer work as an extra-curricular aspect of the course, required for credit. The amount of hours went by grade level; 10, 20, or 30 for grades 10, 11, and 12 respectively. He was very adamant about those hours being completed, no matter what. While I appreciated the fact that he encouraged volunteer work so strongly it became second nature for those students of his that completed three years of Wellness, I’m not sure I can even call it an example of self-responsible citizenship. I think it’s important to consider what exactly volunteer work is according to your personal philosophy. Granted, it’s likely he needed to be a little lax with the criteria in order for all his students to find volunteer work in the very small town I grew up in, but he let some interesting things count. For example, a favourite volunteer activity for my classmates was doing lines at a basketball game or scorekeeping. Which generally, members of said teams would be doing anyway. But I promise, this isn’t going to be an anti-sport rant.

We also had a branch of student council at my school called Student Representative Council or SRC. Most of what the SRC did was organize school events and fundraisers, but had very little outside community involvement. It did, however, teach students the mechanics of running a meeting, electing officials, and organizing events. This is an important part of being a participatory citizen.

I can remember very few examples of justice-based citizenship. Only around the time we got to the higher ages of high school were we invited to dive into social issues head on. We were required to do a debate in grade 12 English and were encouraged to pick a social issue. My English B30 class ended up only having about 5 people and we decided to tackle Syrian refugees, as that was the hot button topic in 2016. I’m proud to say that the pro team, myself and another classmate, solidly won that debate. Maybe I’ve forgotten other occasions in which we were invited to consider a social issue and its causes. From that assignment, we got to explore the conflict in Syria and see exactly why it was people needed to flee. We began to understand the base reasons for why Canada was allowing these refugees: we are a rich, relatively safe country with plenty of room. So why wouldn’t we give them shelter? That was as deep as we got, however, as colonial history and its effects were very rarely discussed in full force in my school. Coincidence as to why we received very little justice-based citizenship training? I think not.

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Email Response – March 1st

“As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke.

The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.”

  • Anonymous Student

To whom it may concern,

I appreciate your efforts to work with your pre-intern class on Treaty Education. I am disappointed, although not surprised at the attitudes of your cooperating teacher, other faculty, and students towards this topic. Speaking from personal experience, Treaty Education was non-existent in my primary and secondary school career. Before university, I could probably have told you what treaty our settlement resides on, but I could not tell you anything else about it. For example, which Indigenous groups resides there, where the treaty was signed, who the treaty was signed by, or even what was promised in our treaty. In primary school, we were taught that before settlers came, Indigenous peoples resided in this place we now call home. They lived in teepees, ate buffalo meat, and “lived off the land”, and that was the only narrative we received for years. In grade 12 history we began to explore the history of Residential schools and in grade 11 and 12 English we began to explore Indigenous literature. That education was very brief, incomplete, and not well received because the foundation was not there. As Mike pointed out in his session with Claire Kreuger, this information is directly in our curriculum and to make a point of not teaching it is to make a point of not doing your job.

To be fair, these are probably not bad people. Whether they are intentionally racist or not, their abstention from taking a perspective does far more harm than good. More than likely, they were taught in a time where Treaty Education hadn’t been introduced or at least properly incorporated. Their apathy comes from the fact that they are not Indigenous, and the treaties that were forged years ago were created in their favour; therefore they have not had to consider the impact that treaties have had in their daily lives. Since they do not experience the after effects of treaties and Residential schools, and they don’t see Indigenous students in their midst, they don’t see why they need to take time out of their jam-packed day to educate their students on treaties. I would ask you to impress on them the importance of the phrase, “we are all treaty people”.

Whether you are Indigenous or not, your life and livelihood exists on the land of Indigenous people who did not consent to give up their land to us. They did not consent to the way their land has been exploited. They didn’t consent to be put in Residential schools. The horrors the Indigenous peoples have faced we will never be able to fully comprehend, but it’s our duty to make sure it never happens again. I think everyone can agree, Residential schools can never happen again. As Dwayne Donald says in his lecture (linked below), our sense of past, present, and future isn’t correct. We think that time is linear and what happens once will not come about again, even though this is clearly false. If you don’t believe that, consider the first World War. After the World War 1, everyone was horrified and defeated by the atrocities that happened and they promised never again; yet just 21 years later, history repeated itself. It’s important to know where we came from to understand where we are. Every aspect of our world and society as we know it is a direct result of colonialism. Everyone wants to eradicate racism, but assume that that is done by persecuting known white supremacist societies or people who directly use hate speech. Without taking time to consider colonialism, it’s impossible to consider why Indigenous students are not finishing or participating in school, why there is such a high Indigenous incarceration rate, and a high Indigenous suicide rate. Our job as teachers is to protect our students and give them a safe space to succeed. How are we expected to do that if we don’t acknowledge the foundational problems in our system? If we don’t acknowledge the traumatic past of our Indigenous students?

More importantly, as Claire points out, Treaty Education is not intended for the Indigenous students. They know what treaties are better than the teachers that teach it because they impact those students the most. They don’t need to be told their history, their Elders have passed those stories on to them. They don’t need to be told how Indigenous peoples continue to be oppressed in our society; they live it. To assume they need us, teachers, who are generally white, to teach them their history is racist in and of itself. It’s the children who were raised in a white family, where race isn’t openly discussed for fear of being labeled as racist, who need this the most. Indigenous students are constantly disadvantaged in our school systems and our white students (and teachers) need to understand why. If we are ever to consider achieving “reconciliation”, we all need to be educated on our past and why we don’t want to repeat it. Also as Mike points out, this issue is not going to go away for teachers. It’s only going to get bigger, and it’s only going to get louder. If they can’t find it in their hearts as teachers to educate their students so they can be better, more empathetic, understanding, and active… then I guess there’s not much anyone can do about that. Worst case, scenario, take the approach with them that this idea of Treaty Education isn’t going away and tell them to teach it to prepare their students for post-secondary school. They’ll have to listen to it here, where Indigenous studies courses are mandatory.

Resources:

Mike & Claire Kreuger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWY_X-ikmaw&feature=youtu.be

Dwayne Donald: https://vimeo.com/15264558

Posted in ECS210

February 14th – Learning as Place

This week for our required reading we had an article called “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing”. This article discussed a project in which students embarked on a 10 day river trip, with a key part of the process being “an audio documentary about relations to the river”. The goal of this trip was 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) (Restoule et. al, p.74).  Students learned about the traditional relationship with the land, or “paquataskamik” cultivated by the areas’ Indigenous peoples at Fort Albany First Nation.

I see a lot of reinhabitation and decolonization happening here, especially in the community consultation regarding the project.

“The initial research phase was centred on local advisory and community members in defining research directions. An inter-generational advisory group was formed with representative members of local community organizations (band office, health centre, education authority, the high school, elders and youth groups) from the community so that ethical issues and choices would be informed and tracked by local people themselves and the project would develop with continued community involvement.” (Restoule et. al, pg. 72)

I think this step is important in both reinhabitation and decolonization because our ideas of classrooms are based on white, European ideals. I have no source to back this up, but I believe that Indigenous peoples used to teach their kids within the community and everyone had a part of it. There were no designated teachers because everyone had something unique to offer, and that would be something very valuable to get back. When we all learn together, everyone is invested and included. This would be a great way to get students started in that “community involvement” that most curricula and school objectives push for!

Another bit of community involvement I was really moved by was the stories of the audio documentary. I think that it’s such a great idea. First Nations Elders are a really underutilized resource. They have so much valuable knowledge to share and they are usually super excited to be given a chance to pass it on to the younger generations. I hope I will have a chance to invite an Elder to speak to my students! Although, an Indigenous studies professor I greatly admire once told me that the proper way to show respect and talk to an Elder is to offer them tobacco… and I’m not sure where I’d find that or if that’d be appropriate in a school setting! I’m sure there are other gifts they would appreciate just as much! (If anyone knows anything about this, leave me a comment!)

Personally, in my own teaching practice, integrated learning from place will probably have less to do with actually going outside to view said land. As I have said in blogs many times before, I plan to integrate works of literature from all different types of marginalized peoples, and I think a big part of that will be choosing and supporting Canadian Indigenous writers and using their material in my classroom. I hope there will be some way I can integrate the audio (or even a visual) documentary into my classroom, though I can’t know for sure how that will work for me until I know where I will be teaching and what I can centre a project like that around. Something that may be interesting would be to teach a lesson in cut poetry with words from a different language, particularly something like Cree so that the language could continue to be upheld and transferred to the younger generation!

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February 7th – Curriculum & Politics

Before doing this week’s reading, I would have thought that curriculum was developed by our provincial government based on industry demands and requirements for entry level jobs or entrance into post-secondary schools. After reading the article “Curriculum Policy and The Politics of What Should Be Learned In Schools”, I know now that is not the case.

It turns out that while yes, the curriculum is developed by the provincial government, most of the time it is not based on industry demands or the entrance requirements of the average post-secondary institution. It is in fact, largely influenced by experts in the chosen fields who may have a greater understanding of the base concepts of their field, but have very little idea of what is practical and what is required of students beyond their secondary schooling. Often, the idea of what needs to be taught can also be biased by non-experts. Levin also describes the herd mentality that affects most political decisions and therefore schools, and says that what is right is not often what’s chosen. The decision that’s made is the one that’s screamed the loudest by the general population, who most often are not experts.

I was really surprised to find out that entry level job requirements and post-secondary entrance requirements aren’t often what is considered. In Education we usually discuss the benefits and pitfalls of standardized testing, and the concept of preparing students for the “real world”, whatever that means. But where do we draw the line between what is necessary and what is beneficial for students? Most students feel they would benefit from learning basic life concepts like taxes, but knowledge of how to do ones taxes is not an admission requirement for standard entry into post-secondary education institutions. Thus far, we have discussed how schools are politically charged, that the implied curriculum is important to consider, and how to shift away from the narrative we are used to. Most teachers, fresh out of school seem to be geared towards changing the world one student at a time. While that’s a noble goal, it’s not quite realistic. There is still the “meat and potatoes” of teaching, if you will, to learn. It’s interesting to move on from those topics and consider what academics mean to the school system, and it’s funny that this seems like such a small part of what’s actually important to know about curriculum.

Obviously, school does exist for a purpose outside of the social conditioning we have discussed in this class. The original point of school was to prepare students for life in a factory. While things have changed over the years and we don’t necessarily believe there is one specific path all students can or should have to follow, academics are still the main focus of schools. There needs to be some standards on what is taught in order to feed industry requirements. Yet again, we must ask ourselves whose standards we are listening to when developing curriculum for each subject. It seems from this article as though many people have a voice over what needs to be taught and that none of them seem to be the right person to focus on.

I like the idea of a focus group with a teacher, a parent, a regular civilian, a high school student, a post-secondary official, and some industry influencers that was discussed in the Ontario calculus issue. I think having multiple inputs is good, but having an actual discussion and bouncing ideas back and forth like that is an excellent idea. I also think that it’s important to acknowledge that there is no way there will ever be a one size fits all curriculum which seemed to be the crucial point of this article. An education will always be incomplete because the amount of time we have students in school for is simply not enough to meet every single expectation. As someone who has been through schooling, I do agree that we should be teaching more practical skills like taxes… but if there’s hardly enough room in the math curriculum to cram in the things industry and post-secondary schools are demanding, I don’t see any way we could be adding more. Just as we consider education and curriculum from a social justice point of view where we wonder whose views we are favouring, we should do the same for the academic portion of school.

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available on-line from: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.