What about the words you aren’t reading?


Learning is an interesting thing because, typically, as you learn, your points of views on certain things tend to be influenced. Young minds are extremely impressionable; it makes sense that children (predominately) shape their understanding of the world based on how they are taught about it. When you are younger you don’t really think that deeply about it, or at least I didn’t. I never asked myself whose voices were being heard and whose weren’t. It made sense to me that my class, a group of 90% white students, mostly read stories about white people; it didn’t occur to me to question that until much later.

Growing up as a white kid in small town Saskatchewan, it makes sense to have been taught stories about white people. My assumption is that my teachers taught these things in an attempt for us to relate to them. I remember reading stories such as Anne Frank, Of Mice & Men, and Inkheart. While the characters in those stories were supposed to be like me, I found that even as a white person many of these stories were so hard to relate to. I never bothered to question how that much worse that probably was for my Métis or Filipino classmates…

I think the point of teaching literature, especially for older students, is to have them think critically about the words we were reading – which we did. However, we never took a chance to think critically about the words we weren’t reading – I believe that this, right here, is where we, as future teachers, need to step in and fix it. Reading stories that are written by and for white people might create and reinforce biases/stereotypes. In her TEDtalk, Chimamanda Adichie points out that even she, as an African woman, began to understand literature to be a predominantly white person’s discourse.

Adichie mentions that the “truths” that mattered were always white truths, so she began to internalize those truths for herself. She mentions writing stories about blonde-haired, blue-eyed children who loved ginger beer. I mean, that makes sense when those are the only truths that you get to read about. Of course, Adichie eventually comes to understand that people who aren’t white are also allowed to share their truths in literature too; which, I think, should be the status quo for all students. The world isn’t made up of predominately white people, so I don’t think we should teach our students predominantly white stories.

It’s all about the Benjamin’s, baby

According to the Levin (2008) article, curricula are essentially developed through a serious of political decisions and policies. Policies, according to Levin (2008), “govern just about every aspect of education” (p. 8); this includes what is provided, how, by whom, in what form and with what resources. It is interesting, because on the surface level I don’t think many people consider government as playing as big of a role as it does – I, naively, didn’t at first. Ultimately, a country’s politics/government will, by and large, greatly shape curriculum. Those who are in power will have greater influence than those who are looked as inferior. Therefore, it makes sense that Treaty Ed has only recently gained the momentum it has. I mean, we all know how Canadian history has worked so far.

On the surface, this doesn’t really seem that bad, but then the article gets to the fun stuff. Levin (2008) offers that it is important to note that, in the grand scheme of things, governments have limited power. Instead, governments tend to work in favour of the corporations/businesses that try to influence their agenda. In layman’s terms, political agendas are, largely, bought and paid for by wealthy, outside, sources…yikes.

Levin (2008), also provides that since politicians/government officials are so busy, many important decisions tend to be made quickly and without any discussion – so that’s comforting!

Curricula are meant to be organized around general and broad goals as well as specific learning goals and objectives. There exists a debate centred around what should and should not be included within the curriculum – the age-old sex ed debate.

Curriculum policies tend to be shaped around the current social climate. Levin, (2008) does note that there is often conflict between subject “experts” (science, math, English) and the general interests of the public. Essentially, the question to be asked is which knowledge is most important, and what is the best means of delivering that knowledge in a way that in benefits most learners.

I found much of this article to be quite troublesome. On one hand, I do understand why we use and need government, they are essentially mediators for society. However, it is problematic when you come to learn that governments are more concerned with its allegiances to big businesses than it is with the people it is supposed to look after .

There are many “actors” involved in curriculum policies – teachers, parents, governments, businesses, and education boards. However, when the most powerful voices are the guys with the biggest check books, and not the students and teacher, it becomes a problem. If the guys with the most money are the ones with the most say, then it is fair to assume they might try and push certain ideals, while ignoring others completely. An educational system is not a corporation, so I think it is fair to suggest that it shouldn’t serve the interests of them.

When it comes to Tready Ed, I imagine it was a difficult process to get to the point we are today. There is still tons of work to be done but it definitely has made leaps and bounds – especially in the past few years. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I graduated in 2011, so it is interesting to see that the Treaty Ed document is from 2013. There are four main objectives to Treaty Ed (treaty relationships, spirit and intent of treaties, historical content, and treaty promises/provision) in which students should have an understanding of by the end of grade 12. While I did learn about some of these things in high school, many of these things did not become clear to me until well-into my university career. It is worth considering the political climate then as compared to what it is now. I never bothered to consider that back then.

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

Why the heck do we need to know about this stuff?

I will admit that the concept of treaty education is a relatively new one to me, and it is something I only became familiar with a few years ago. I graduated high school in 2011 and, from what I recall, treaty education was not the status quo. I remember learning about First Nations people in high school, but I always remember those sections being relatively brief and quite dry – By this I mean, my teachers teaching predominantly from the textbook, or showing us a VHS copy of Dances with Wolves… I also remember not really enjoying learning about the subject matter and there were times I wondered “why the heck do we need to know about this stuff?”. I have had a great deal of life experience between now and then, and looking back, I can see how problematic that point of view was. Did I form this point of view on my own? Did my teachers somehow shape my point of view based on how they not only understood, but also delivered the curriculum? Whether intentional or not, I think the later is likely the more probable answer.

Claire Kreuger mentions that it is our job, as future teachers, to prevent racist and colonialist ideals (within the curriculum) from entering the classroom. Were my teachers at fault for how they delivered the curriculum, or did they simply just not understand the complexity of what they were teaching? Claire mentions that there is a lot of underlying racism within the curriculum. This, in turn, produces students with skewed or racist points of view, which in turn produces future-adults with racist ideals. Treaty education is important, particularly for non-First Nations students, because those students need to know their place in Canadian history too. I mean, First Nations people are not the ones who need to be educated on First Nations history. Treaty education, particularly for white students, should be focused on moving forward, mending relationships, the complexity of Canadian history, and understanding the cultural trauma and its ongoing effects on First Nations people. This, in turn, will produce adults who do not see First Nation’s people as “others”, but as equals.

Treaty education, according to Cynthia Chambers (2012), is work that is done “for the common good; it is work best done together”. Essentially, Chambers (2012) is suggesting that treaty education is education that helps us renew the relationships we have with one another – we may do this by focusing on what we have in common, our stake in the world, and its survival. The implementation of treaty education, I think, will be a major turning point for First Nations people and the overall Canadian curriculum. I think that one day we will be able to mend some of the wounds from the past and move forward. I am hopeful that one day, in the not-so-distant future, First Nations people will have the equal place in society that they rightfully deserve. If children are taught treaty ed from the moment they step into a classroom to the moment they accept their diploma, it is likely that we will see these changes sooner than later. We are all treaty people, and it is our due diligence as future teachers to understand the complexity of what it means to be a treaty person (and adequately teach about it).


references

Chambers, C. (2012). “We are all treaty people”: The contemporary countenance of Canadian curriculum studies. In Reconsidering Canadian curriculum studies (chapter 1). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

It’s okay to not be the expert

The article Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing dissects a ten-day river trip for youth, adult and First Nations elders. The main objective for the trip was to educate the youths on traditional Mushkegowuk knowledge – with a particular focus on traditional knowledge, cultural identity, relationship to the land, and history. Throughout the trip, First Nations elders would engage with the youth in an attempt to “decolonize” them. By doing this, the younger generations could be re-introduced to traditional ways of knowing while elders could observe the erosion of their culture; the main goal was to attempt to reclaim Mushkegowuk culture.

Throughout the trip the youths would conduct interviews with each other, adults and elders while they discussed the role of the land, river, and socioeconomics. Also, elders would share traditional knowledge with the youth; this included exploring waters and lands, history, language, issues of governance and land management. Throughout the trip elders would tell stories and they also used Cree language to help expand youth knowledge.

As someone who will one day be a history and social studies teacher, I believe First Nations education is extremely important. It does, however, become tricky trying to navigate. How do I properly/adequately teach First Nations history when I am not a First Nations person? It is safe to say I am not the expert here.

I think considering place would be hugely important, and I am drawn to Mike’s example from class – trying to teach native studies to a room full of First Nations students. That scenario likely played out a lot differently than It would have if he were teaching Native Studies 10 to a group of predominantly white students. It is important that we consider place because sometimes our students might be able to teach us more than we teach them, and it is okay to not always be the expert. We wouldn’t go into a classroom in Germany and try to educate those students about the Holocaust, that sounds absurd.

So why then, should I, as a white person, try and become the “expert” on First Nations culture? I think the clear answer is that I shouldn’t try and become the expert. Instead, I may need to adapt and modify my teaching strategies (depending on place). One idea I think may be beneficial is reaching out to elders within the community and having them supplement my lessons with more traditional ways of knowing. The ways in which we will adapt our ideas should greatly depend on who we are teaching and the message we are trying to deliver; pace is hugely important.

Who makes a “good” student?

I feel like I can suggest (with a reasonable degree of certainty) that most people have a fairly similar image of what a good student is. This particular student shows up on time, raises their hand to ask a question, scores straight As, doesn’t act up, and probably eats from a silver spoon. This image seems like common sense, however, it does not really account for anyone who doesn’t (or maybe doesn’t have the ability) to fir into that mould. This ideal doesn’t account for the child whose parents could not get them to school on time because they didn’t have enough money to put gas in the car. This ideal does not account for the child who has a learning disability, and this ideal does not account for the child who’s just not like everyone else.

Those who are “privileged” from this idea are those who don’t really have any exceptionalities and fit easily into this mould. This student has the resources and they do not really have any obstacles in the way of their school success. Most children will likely be considered (relatively) good students, but there are a few who do not really have the opportunity/resources to show they can be good students too.

This model of a good student doesn’t really account for everyone, and that is a problem because things become very one-sided when only certain voices get heard and only certain children’s needs are tailored to – particularly in a classroom setting. Being a good student is not a one size fits all sort of thing, nor should it be viewed as one. These commonsense ideas make it seem like being a “good” student needs a rigid definition and make it possible for only one type of learner to be considered a good student. I think every child can be their own version of a “good” student, we just need to modify what exactly we consider a good student.

The Pre-Critical Summary: Disability and Inclusive Education

Being an inclusive education minor, the topic of disability and education is not only important, but also extremely interesting to me. Perhaps, the most important starting point is defining disability. Andrews et al., (2000) defines disability using an incrementalist approach as well as a reconceptualist approach. Incrementalists use the medical model of disability, suggesting that disability is something that needs to be fixed, cured, accommodated, and endured. Reconceptualists, however, frame disability as more of a social construction; meanings are found in both social and cultural contexts (Andrews et al., 2000). It is important to understand how each perspective views disability as we will eventually frame our own pedagogy using one (or a combination of many) of these approaches.

Baglieri et al., (2011) following a more reconceptualist approach, suggests inclusive educators should perceive and account for both ability and disability, consider how interactions and setting may contribute to the creation of disability, and consider how the label of disabled may limit a child’s access to curriculum and learning. Baglier et al., (2011) further suggest that teachers should adopt a more universal design for learning (UDL). Using a UDL allows us to think more broadly and openly about learning opportunities, think more fluidly about the way learners may interact with the curriculum and classroom space, and recognize and put a stop to educational practices that set aside special educators from general educators. I think it is fair to suggest that the use of a UDL would not only benefit exceptional learners, but possibly all learners.

Students with disabilities may face many barriers to education in their day-to-day lives. Some barriers may include environmental barriers (lack of elevator or wheelchair ramp), intentional attitudinal barriers (singling out, bullying, isolation), unintentional attitudinal barriers (lack of knowledge), and general physical limitations specific to the disability (Pivik, Mccomas & Laflamme, 2002). There are, however, ways in which educators can work around these issues – or at least, try to. Facilitators can be making environmental modifications, social/policy changes, as well as institutional resources. A combination of any of the three of these facilitators would no doublt help a child with an exceptionality have a more positive classroom experience.

This, however, is only a very small amount of the research/data available on how teachers can become more inclusive educators; something I think is important for all future-teachers. Next, I would like to research how exactly an inclusive education system comes to be and how history has shaped inclusive education. I also found an article on tools of exclusion and how those tools inadvertently effect the classroom experience, particularly for disabled or exceptional learners. Finally, I would like to focus on the future directions on inclusive education and see where things are headed since I will, after all, become an inclusive educator!

References
Andrews, J. E., Carnine, D. W., Coutinho, M. J., Edgar, E. B., Forness, S. R., Fuchs, L. S., … & Rosell, J. (2000). Bridging the special education divide. Remedial and Special Education21(5), 258-267.

Baglieri, S., Valle, J. W., Connor, D. J., & Gallagher, D. J. (2011). Disability studies in education: The need for a plurality of perspectives on disability. Remedial and Special Education32(4), 267-278.

Pivik, J., McComas, J., & Laflamme, M. (2002). Barriers and facilitators to inclusive education. Exceptional children69(1), 97-107.






Curriculum theory & practice

The article outlines four models of curriculum: curriculum as knowledge that is to be transmitted, curriculum as a product to achieve certain goals and outcomes, curriculum as a process, and curriculum as praxis.

            The first model looks at curriculum as a syllabus that is meant to be delivered to students. Essentially, in this model the teacher is in charge of using a syllabus in which they are to deliver to their students. The problem with this approach, however, is that it is very black and white. The syllabus simply outlines specific themes a teacher is to deliver and that’s that. Kelly (1985:7) claims [primary schools] “have regarded issues of curriculum as no concern to them, since they have not regarded their task as being to transmit bodies of knowledge in this matter”.  Essentially, Kelly is suggesting that teachers do not really need to pay attention to the issues within the curriculum as their job is simply to transmit knowledge using a specific plan.

            The next model looks at curriculum as a process. In this model education is looked at as a technical exercise – clear objectives are set, a plan is created to meet these objectives, the plan is applied, and then the outcome is measured. Ralph W. Tyler (1949) suggested that the purpose of education is not to simply have a teacher at the front of the classroom delivering rigid lectures/lesson plans. Instead, teachers should focus on making changes in students’ behaviours. Taba (1962) suggests the use of a seven-step process to assess these changes: (1) diagnosis of need, (2) formulation of objectives, (3) selection of content, (4) organization of content, (5) selection of learning experiences, (6) organization of learning experiences, and (7) determination of what to evaluate and of the ways/means of doing so.

            There are a number of issues that arise with the use of this model. First, this approach takes away the voice of learners; “they are told what they must learn and how they will do it”. Typically, the plan is in place to be adhered to, which means there is limited opportunity to learn from the things that may/may not happen outside of the plan. This also makes it difficult for teachers to progress their educational paradigm. It makes sense to assume that teachers will not be able to progress as they are limited to a certain set of plans – and that’s it. Secondly, this model suggests that behaviours can be objectively measured. In the educational sense, this is usually a check list of items that lead to a desired outcome. So teachers are to teach X, Y, and Z and then hope their students pass the test on the material. The curriculum is essentially “a set of documents for implementation”. Finally, there is the issue of unanticipated results – it is probably fair to suggest that these, too, can be learning opportunities.

            The third model uses curriculum as a process -it is not so much a physical or tangible thing, but rather, it is in the interaction of teachers and their students. This model is based off a model proposed by Aristotle. First, teachers enter the classroom with the ability to think critically, have an understanding of their roll and the expectations others have of them, and a proposal for action. Using these skills teachers should encourage conversations with their students which should hopefully encourage thought and action. During this process teachers will continuously evaluate. The problem with this approach are the obvious links with the scientific method. This approach [turns] “educational ideas into hypotheses [that are] testable in practice. It involves critical testing rather than acceptance”. (Stenhouse, 1975).

            The fourth and final approach looks at curriculum as praxis. This approach is one of adaptation and modification. Teachers essentially use this approach to learn from what does or does not work in the classroom. Curriculum, according to this model, is an active process. This approach, in my opinion, is where future educators should be focused.

            Looking back to my own experience as a student it is pretty clear that schools were using a more dated method to deliver the curriculum. I think my experience was a mixture of the first and second approaches. From what I remember, my elementary and high school both followed the curriculum pretty rigidly, which I know was no fault of my teachers. The problem, however, is that there are tons of students who do not work well with these methods, myself included. For me it was difficult to sit in my desk, pull information from a textbook, and then write a test on that material later. I do not think it was that I did not know the information, but rather, I just did not take well to testing. Also, coming from a small town it is probably fair to say we did not have the resources as a school like Campbell or Riffel would have. Perhaps my teachers knew there were certain students who needed their delivery of information to be different, however, I understand due to lack of resources that is not always possible. It makes sense to do what will work well for most students when you do not have the resources to help the outliers.

            Since we are all studying to be future educators it is really interesting for me to see the “behind the scenes” of the education system. I wonder if my old teachers learned this stuff too but were stuck using a model they did not adhere to solely because their school(s) told them they had to.



References

Kelly, A. V. (1985) The Curriculim. Theory and practice 4e, London: Paul Chapman.

Stenhouse, L. (1975) An introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, London: Heineman.

Taba, H. (1962) Curriculum Development: Theory and practice, New York: Harcourt Brace and World.

Tyler, R. W. (1949) Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction, Chicago, University of Chicago   
            Press.