My Journey in ECS 210

This is the story of my journey in ECS 210 in the way I understand the curriculum, agency, uncomfortable learnings, and future growth.

Youtube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN0SzT8nTdI

 

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Personal Bias of a Neglected and Self-Shunned Story

[week 10]

My upbringing and schooling had some influence on the way I tend to “read the world” but perhaps not in ways that many would expect, at least on first glance or through a brief and impersonal conversation. My experience growing up was one full of lies everywhere I turned, full of people who didn’t care, full of sealed lips, closed eyes, and an assortment of false courtesies. I moved a number of times and lived among a few vastly different communities which each presented certain perspectives on the world to me and each of which presented to me notions of “reality” which either conflicted with one another or with my family or both. In essence, my past brought me to a place where I criticized everything – especially myself, had very mixed feelings about myself and the world around me, and lost faith in what could be consider “the common good” among people choosing to focus more on the negative.

I’m not going to share the details of my past because that would take too long and it would put me through a fair amount of emotional turmoil that I’d rather not experience right now. What I will say is that it doesn’t seem to matter in my experience anyway. I can make claims about my personal biases and perceptions all I want and all that ever happens is the people listening will see whatever they want, often that will be something to do with me being “male” and white or brown in skin, depending on the person. Few people have tended to actually see me for something different without hearing about my personal story, and many who’ve heard pieces of that story assume they know the truth before knowing the full story. In such context, my personal bias is whatever you perceive it to be, because my “truth” doesn’t matter unless it fits a particular narrative.

In my own schooling experience the truth was whatever was dictated upon us and the stories that were told all fit certain public narratives rather than the nuances of individual experience. The individual was often claimed to have mattered, but the narrative spoke otherwise suggesting that the individual only matters when the individual’s story fits neatly into an assigned place. That feeling that personal truth doesn’t matter is far more widespread than many would like to believe.

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The Canadian Citizen, the shepherd’s flock.

[week 9]

In my education previous to university, there were a number of representations of citizenship presented to me, many of which contributed to giving me a particular disdain for perceptions of nationality, patriotism, and group pride – but that’s a topic for another time. Throughout most of my school experience I recall being expected and required to stand in silence for a national anthem every morning. The flag was to be respected and revered as a symbol of “our great nation”. It almost sound like I’m talking about the USA with such statements, but I’m not. That sort of national pride was and is here too. This semester when I did a weekly coop with a 6/7 elementary teacher, the students were expected to do the same, and when time came for the students to draw something about their personality, many drew an image of the Canadian flag indicating that they may have had a very similar experience to my own.

My experience didn’t just have nationalism to it, but also a good deal of characterization. The Canadian citizen was an ideal depicted through stereotypical images of what it meant to be Canadian. The Canadian citizen was good or well mannered, white, black, or Asian typically neglecting much reference to first nations, Inuit, and metis peoples. The citizen of Canada was respectful and courteous but a rough housing hockey player who loved maple syrup and the word “eh”. Curling was presented as a positive aspect of the Canadian citizen, but less often than the hockey representation. The was a lot of representation of the Canadian citizen being bilingual in my personal experience, but I also attended a french immersion elementary school for many years, so that may have had some influence there.

Throughout my educational experience each type of citizen mentioned by the article was presented in one or more ways. The justice oriented citizen was the least often depicted version. The participatory citizen and the personally responsible citizen were more so on an equal footing from my perception, but my memory is not perfect. It’s entirely possible one was represented more than the other in some fashion. Many if not all presentations of citizenship were in some fashion problematic in my view, although I am somewhat if not entirely biased in that regard. The representation I saw through education of the citizen was one who is entirely complacent and never questions authority unless given permission, and make no mistake, permission was granted in predictably self-serving ways.

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Mathematical comparisons of numerical representation

[week 8]

Mathematics in my own education experience was both a nightmare and a relief. It most certainly had oppressive and discriminating elements to it, if for nothing else than the one fact that a vast majority of the time there was only one specific way that any problem could be solved and to solve it in any other way, regardless of rational, reasoning, or result, was deemed to be unacceptable. There were times where I was very good at solving problems my own way, but I was docked marks for not showing my work a specific way – the teacher’s way. I was nevertheless privileged to have an understanding for numeracy as it was presented in many cases because I was able to adapt well, solve the answer, and learn what the teacher wanted me to solve the question as quickly. In other cases I was removed from the classroom to be taught in a separate space because the teacher perceived me to be falling behind, or not ready to learn at the same level as other students… those moments were particularly difficult, not because I didn’t understand but because I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that thought was something I often struggled with in the first place. Being removed for such a reason only built on to my negative self-image, despite being able to do the work I was provided in that separate class setting with ease.

Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric notions of mathematics in a number of ways, hah. First off, the numeric system is based on a sub base of 20 rather than 10, also, different types of items warrant different number representative terms. The calendar system is counted based on recurring natural events like the coldest month or the time when birds lay eggs.

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Treaty Education for All

[week 7]

Treaty Education is not some subject to be taught, but rather it is an important part of being Canadian and living in this land. Students with majority non-indigenous backgrounds are Canadian whether they were born here or brought here in the sense that we all live here. Treaty Education is our past, our history, our culture; it is a key aspect in understanding what it truly means to live in this land and why we even have the opportunity to live here that we do. Some were born here, myself included, and that makes the significance of Treaty Education all the more important, indigenous and especially for those who are not. Many people in indigenous communities have been otherized despite this land being home to a long line of ancestors and despite supposedly peaceful negotiations which took places many many decades prior to any of our current existences.

The purpose of teaching treaty education is to build a connection to the land in which we all live, a connection among the people who live on this land, to mend ancient and recent wounds in cultural relations, and to inspire a new generation of people who will respect the land and its people, all its people, better than generations prior.

“We are all treaty people” speaks directly to concepts I mentioned recently, that we are all people who live here in this land and Treaty is an important part of living here, it is the historical backbone by which the “Country” as it is currently was built and it influences both historic and modern dialogues.

At TreatyEdCamp I both presented to a group of peer & teachers and attended several sessions for myself. The keynote speaker ended up talking about many similar things that I discussed myself when my time came to present, although in a different way using her own experiences. That’s what made it similar though, for me, I was able to relate very well to her story and if I am to speak truthfully it brought up some memories that are difficult for me to deal with, similarly again to my own presentation. Her story and my own in each their own way are representative of the stories of many students that I may have in the future. These stories are important to listen to, to care for, and try to understand even when it might be difficult. The other presentations I attended discussed resources for treaty education that I may be able to use in my own teaching career, the treaties of Canada from a UN perspective (this was a particularly informative session), and perspectives on Treaty education through Mathematics. Oddly, Mathematics is one of the subjects I would least like to teach, but that’s a big part of the reason I thought it was a good idea to attend such a session. I’d like to be the best teacher I can be and part of that, at least for me, is understanding how I can teach in a variety of different subject areas and how those experience interweave to help me become a better educator.

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The connection of place

[week 6]

reinhabitation and decolonization presented in the article narrative:

  • giving voice to indigenous peoples
  • use of Cree language
  • renaming of place for Cree language words
  • providing students/young people with opportunities to interact with the land
  • providing young people opportunity to interact with elders
  • discussion over water rights and perspectives
  • a connection through discussion of land and place to history and culture

Regardless of subject area, place is something that can be incorporated into teaching practices. Communication and honest interaction is a significant part of bringing that practice to life. Not only is bringing place into teaching a good idea, but it also can help to give students a sense of belonging and meaning by enabling them to better understand the historical, cultural, and current perspectives on place.

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Curricula Development Perceptions Verse Reality

[week 5]

Before the reading and before the seminar I had said and believed that curricula was developed by government and educational elite representatives based on standards negotiated through at those upper levels with some input from those with less power/authority, but not much. It was a negotiation of what young people ought to know and be prepared for in the society the curricula is developed for.

After

The reading suggests that curricula is driven in large part by politics, which isn’t any different than the notion that I place prior to the reading – although there’s no reason to believe a student who writes a blog post some 9 weeks late. Also feeding the narrative is that within politics, and most structures in society generally involve some version or form of politics, power is a key resource and aim. Those people with the most power tend to have the most say, which poses the question: who exactly has the power and who therefore dictates curricula?

Government is not necessarily all powerful however and there is a sort of fear within the political sphere of the loss of power, that fear influences decisions made by those with the power while other people with less power in a government sense but more in a social influence sense seek to impose their own rationale on government power as well. To add to this toxic mixture of power politics, positioning is never fixed for a reliable set period of time to achieve personal agendas. Agendas instead bounce back and forth constantly tipping the balance one way or another. Anything the people with power can use to their perceived advantage then flies, and often this results in tactics that many might find distasteful. People, and thus power too, are swayed by beliefs much more often than they are by facts.

Government places policies which help guide the formation and development of curriculum which is decided by groups of people from different areas, many of who have a power within a set field and each of whom are influenced by public opinion in some way. Experts with relation to certain fields are a part of the discussion but don’t hold the power to make decisions themselves alone. Curricula is a complex weaving of politics, power, education, expertise, popular consent, and negotiation all communicated through in a cycle of development.

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The ‘Good’ Students

[week 4] post

The notion of a good student is an idea that flickers around society in many ways, a predominant way of which is ‘commonsense’ ideal of the good student. Depending on where you are and the society with which you reside this ideal may in fact be very different, but the good student we’re referring to is a very specific version.

The good student is that student who meets the expectations of the teacher. This student fits the norm for what a student is. The student listens carefully to what the teacher has to say, raises a hand always before speaking. The good student asks questions, but none that would be possibly deemed destructive or an interference. The questions that are acceptable are known to the teacher and the student is expected to only ask those questions and to give the answers the teacher would expect. The good student works hard to memorize the knowledge presented by the teacher and equally hard to have what is perceived as good relations with others. The good student is likely to be the culture, religion, sex, gender orientation, sexual orientation, and nationality that the teacher expects a good student to be – which has seemed to be straight, white, male, christian in the past, and even now this stereotype holds in many regards. Therefore, a student who fits the mold and behaves in the expected ways is the good student and worthy of more attention, praise, and esteem than any other. Should this be the case? Of course not, that shouldn’t even need be said but sometimes it’s quite necessary.

Due to these notions of a good student, the student who learns in a different way or behaves a little differently is shunned as a bad student without any consideration for their individual skills, talents, abilities, and preference and perceptions. That student sitting off to the side, never socializes, carefully examining the flowers growing by the fence can’t possibly be a good student: there must be something wrong with such a student and with that student’s teacher for not getting the student to conform. That’s what the commonsense would have us believe at least…

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What is the colour of your lens?

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

 

I have often been accused of seeing the world through “rose colored glasses”.   I use the word accused because most people don’t see their surroundings that way. I like to believe that people are inherently   “good” and that there is “good” in the world. I believe that I’ve developed this mindset because of the community I grew up in, how my parents raised me and the schooling I received. I fit the norm of white, middle-class, educated female. The people that were around me and taught me were often of the same background. Therefore, I never really had to consider what my biases were until I entered a classroom to teach. I realized quickly that every student in there had their own story, their own history, their own culture and their own biases. The one that I became most aware of was how I deal with students who don’t meet my “expectations” for classroom behaviour and learning. I expect that students will sit at their desks when class is on, that they will address the teacher in a polite manner, that they will complete their work on time, and that the will not talk when I am talking. As I have spent more time in the classroom I am aware this is not the reality for every student and that I have to “check myself” to be more inclusive. For example, there can be some students whose parents are working two jobs and don’t have the time to spend helping them learn math or reading skills. So when these students come to school with incomplete work, I need to consider all that is going on in their lives, not just what I see in the class. I don’t think it is easy to unlearn biases. I do think  that recognizing you have them is the first step.

Looking back at my high school time I remember leaving my small community school where there were 17 students in my grade and entering a high school where there was 350 students in my grade.  It was at this point where I noticed the differences in the students at the high school I attended. There were people who just showed up, not wanting to learn. They were simply there to hang out and socialize. There were groups of individuals like myself who wanted to learn and experience what the school had to offer in terms of subjects and extra-curricular activities. There were the students who came to learn a trade and only took the minimal required core subjects. Within these groups, there were also differences that you could see, both socioeconomically and culturally. As a result, I tended to assign stereotypes and labels.  My group was the “good students” and everyone else was flawed for some reason. It wasn’t until I got to know some of these people and understood where they came from that I began to understand that the line between “good” and “flawed” is not as clear as I thought.

I believe that the “single stories” that were present during my schooling were a reflection of the teacher who was at the front of the class. In most cases, this would be the European story, which would mirror the story I had to tell. The question of whose truth mattered is harder to answer. If, like I do, you subscribe to the adage, “there are three sides to every story; yours, mine and the truth”, than I believe that all the “stories” have merit and should be heard.  By doing so, we stand a greater chance of developing a larger view of the world. The difficulty lies in making this happen as we tend to surround ourselves with the familiar. As students, we have a degree of responsibility to seek out more stories. As future teachers, we owe it to our students to present a variety of stories. This combination will help facilitate the learning that needs to occur.

 

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Final Project

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