ECS 210

Curriculum as Numeracy

When I think about math, I usually think about numbers and equations. I don’t think about the ways that math is done, and how it could potentially be oppressive and discriminatory. I always enjoyed math, and considered myself to be quite good at it, but I know that there were many in my class that did not have the same views as mine about math. I agree with Eddie Woo after watching “Mathematics is the sense you never knew you had.” He said in his TED talk that there are many students that close themselves off from math because they don’t believe that they are good at it. I enjoyed the analogy that he made about not being able to see, and how that doesn’t mean you just give up on being able to see. You go to the eye doctor and get glasses. This can be said for math skills, as well. I believe that we are all mathematical beings. However, there are ways in which the methods we use to teach mathematics in our schools which can be oppressive.

Math is thought of as very linear. You solve problems by following a certain order. If you show your work and do things in a rational order, you will be able to solve the problem or equation. Math is very objective, and it is not very common to see multiple methods of math being used. If teachers were to look through, for example, an Inuit perspective, it would show in another way what math could potentially look like. In Dr. Gale Russel’s lecture, she encourages teachers to look through a different lens, and see what math could look like, besides the traditional linear perspective that is dominantly used in our classrooms.

The Inuit perspective is a very interesting one because it challenges the Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics and the way we learn it. Dr. Gale Russel and Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community (Poirier, 2007) highlight the ways that our mathematic system is challenged. The first idea that is challenged is that math is a universal language. Poirier (2007) states that math is not a universal language. Different cultures have different methods to solving mathematical problems. Inuit children learn math from their mother’s tongue for their first three years in schools. They don’t learn math from using basic math skills that their teacher has taught them. The second idea that is challenged is mentioned by Gale Russel. She talks about how the Inuit have a completely different number system which is not base-10 like ours. This challenges the idea that our number system is universal. The third idea that is challenged by the math system used by the Inuit peoples involves the teaching methods (Poirier, 2007). The ways in which we teach our students math involves a teacher at the front of the classroom writing notes on the whiteboard. It is very much a pen and paper method. The Inuit’s method involves using the observation of elders and listening to enigmas (Poirier, 2007). All of these things challenge the way that we teach math, and I think it is important to recognize that this proves math does not have to be a linear process. Math can be done in different ways. As Dr. Russel says, we should all put on a different lens and gain a new perspective as to how math can be done. Understand that we are all mathematical beings.

ECS 210

Curriculum as Literacy

I believe that schooling has a huge impact on how students view the world. School forms students opinions and ideas. This is critical to understand as a future educator. Personally, I know that my schooling affected my views, and created biases that I am still trying to overcome. I grew up in a small town that lacked diversity. The only experience that I had with seeing someone that had a different skin colour than me was through videos, social media, etc. In a school like mine, we did not have very many opportunities to make personal connections with people that were different from me. We didn’t read stories or watch videos that had characters that were different than me. If we did, it always had a negative theme. I think that this lack of personal connection created biases that I was not even aware about until I started university.

I link how my biases were developed in my schooling experiences growing up to Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk. When she talked about the ‘single story’ of the African people, I couldn’t help but think as I was watching that she was totally right. Majority of the time, when I see African people represented on T.V. or on social media, it is because of catastrophe or it is surrounded by negativity. This isn’t just for African people. More specifically in Canada and Saskatchewan, this can be said for Aboriginal people. In literature, there are minimal positive representations of certain groups of people. This creates bias. Kids are extremely impressionable, and it is important to not create single stories in the classroom as a teacher. In a school like the one I went to, I didn’t get the chance to have personal connections with those who were not white. The only chance I had to develop an opinion on those with a different skin colour than mine was through what stories we read, or were told by my teachers. Single stories were created through what information was chosen to be taught to us, and what information was chosen to be eliminated from discussion.

I think that in order to overcome your biases, you have to first accept that you are, in fact, biased. You then must do some personal work. I know that coming to university, I learned a lot through various classes, and how some of my opinions were based on false knowledge. I am still working through the biases that I have, but I think the most important step is to accept it, and learn from the past.

ECS 210

Curriculum as Citizenship

I remember a few ways that citizenship was incorporated into my high school and elementary education. There was always a focus on sharing in my younger years. Other values such as having good attendance, putting your best effort forward in your school work, and being a kind individual were not directly taught in a lesson. They were, however, obviously important in our school. It was quite apparent that our school wanted our students to possess desirable qualities that a personally-responsible citizen would have.

We had programs such as ‘Halloween for Hunger’ in our school. This was a program that had everyone donate canned goods on Halloween, and the SRC would take them to the food bank. I think that this was an example of developing personally-responsible citizens in our school. There was a sense that you were “doing the right thing” if you donated canned goods to those who are in need. I think that it is important that programs like this do exist in our schools. It is important to teach kids the values that personally-responsible citizens possess. However, it is important to recognize that this type of citizen is not the only type of citizen that we should be looking to develop.

According to Westheimer (2004), “developing commitments for civic participation and social justice as well as fostering the capacities to fulfill these commitments will support the development of a more democratic society.” I agree that our schools should look into combining the qualities of all types of citizenship; personally-responsible, participatory, and justice-oriented. As of now, the focus in schools is creating personally-responsible students. This limits students, and focuses more on creating students who are interested in ‘doing the right thing’ by participating in the movement of change, instead of creating students who want to take charge themselves to make change. As future educators, I believe we should be looking at shifting the focus, and work towards developing more well-rounded citizens out of our students.

ECS 210

Treaty Education

My response to the email would be the following:

I appreciate your concern and sense of responsibility surrounding the issues you have faced in your classroom. I understand that this is a challenge that you might not have expected, but this is a common issue that happens in our schools today. To understand where your students and fellow teachers are coming from, you have to know that everyone is at a different stage in their reconciliation journey. It is important to keep in mind that Treaty Education is not an option. Some may think that it is not as important to teach if their student population is made up of a majority of non-Indigenous students. I might argue that it is even more important for non-Indigenous students to learn about Treaty Education.

I think a major issue that is likely happening in your classroom is that the students and teachers in this school don’t see the relevance or importance of Treaty Education in their population. They don’t think that it applies to them. I know that for myself, if I don’t see something that impacts my life or way of living in a meaningful way, I am not overly interested. “If it doesn’t bother me or doesn’t have an effect on my life, why would I need to get involved? Why would I need to make a change?” These are examples of common questions from the average person in our society. This is where, as a teacher in your position, I would bring up the following statement: “We are all Treaty People.” This brings the relevance of Treaty Education to the table. It will allow for your students to open their minds to Treaty Education because it does, in fact, apply to them. The signing of the treaties is not just an Indigenous issue. It is not simply a ‘you’ problem. There are two parties involved in the treaties, and that is the Indigenous and Non-Indigenous populations.

It is also important to re-iterate the purpose for Treaty Education to a prominently Non-Indigenous classroom. Although this may seem obvious, there are many people that do not understand why Treaty Education is important. Treaty Education is important in order to recognize the truths and very real effects of the past, and to educate for the future to lead to reconciliation. As a Canadian, it is our responsibility to look at its history. Treaty Education is a part of that history. It is our responsibility to learn and grow from the past, and Treaty Education plays a huge role in that.

As for the racist comments coming from your students, I would call it out for what it is. It is important to say, “that was racist.” Don’t go about it in a polite, non-direct way. Racism is very much still engrained in our society. It might not be intentional in some situations, but it is important to not be a bystander. Just because you don’t say anything, does not make it okay. Not say anything about the racist comments is just as bad as saying the actual comments yourself.

Thank you for contacting me. It is critical to ask questions and to learn from different situations such as this one. No one is saying that this journey is going to be an easy one, but it is important to learn and carry on.

ECS 210

Curriculum as Public Policy

According to the Levin article, curriculum is developed and implemented through public policies. Policies govern almost every part of education (Levin, 2008). Everything that is taught, the people that teach, the students that learn, and how that information is taught relates back to politics in schools. “Every education policy decision can be seen as being, in some sense, a political decision (Levin, 2008, p. 8). Education is not beyond politics. Having an apolitical view about education as an educator can be problematic. There is discussion surrounding how politics shape curricula (who is included/excluded), as well as the content that is in the curricula being taught (Levin, 2008). This is significant because it shows what is being considered when curriculum is being developed and implemented. It is concerning that there are so many factors that work their way in to the development of curricula. The reason I am concerned is because there are only so many hours in a school day, which makes it next to impossible to incorporate everything that should be taught for content to ensure that all individuals are included.

When reading through this article, I came to the realization that curriculum is much more than what is taught in schools. I now know that curriculum is connected to much larger issues. It is something that is very complex. The relatedness between curriculum and large issues in our society is only increasing (Levin, 2008). I think it is important as future educators to recognize that what is being taught in our schools has a direct link to shaping our society. I believe that it is very important, being a future educator, to look critically at the development and implementation of curriculum.

In the Treaty Education document, there are many connections between it and the Levin article. The Levin article discussed a lot about small ‘p’ politics and its effects on education and curriculum development. The connection that I made between that and the Treat Education document is from the following quote: “… the Ministry of Education is committed to providing the appropriate supports and programs that reflect and affirm the unique status of First Nations and Métis peoples” (Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2013, p. 3). This statement is showing how the government creates policies that allow for Treaty Education to be implemented in the curriculum.

The tensions that I could imagine being developed may be within the community, as well as the teacher’s role in facilitating this information to their students. Starting with the community tensions, some parents and students may question why Treaty Education should be implemented into schools. They may wonder why Treaty Education is ‘different’ from other cultures, and why those cultures are not included into our curriculum in Saskatchewan. Whenever there is some form of change, there is always going to be questions as to why there are changes being made. This is an primary example of change being questioned by the public.

The other place where I could imagine tensions rising is with the teachers and their comfort levels in teaching Treaty Education. They may feel out of place, or uncomfortable for teaching about a culture that is not their own. They might feel as though they are not qualified to teach Treaty Education. The only thing that teachers can do is practice and learn themselves. Sometimes the teacher needs to be the student. In this situation, a teacher that is not familiar with Treaty Education would become the student for a while, but would eventually become more knowledgeable about the subject.

ECS 210

Learning from ‘Place’

In Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing, there are many examples of reinhabitation and decolonization.

An example of decolonization in the narrative is when those from Fort Albany First Nation made an audio-documentary on their relation to the river (p. 70-71). By making this connection, they are re-familiarizing themselves with traditional ways of knowing. This process is, therefore, decolonizing. Developing a small relationship with the land, and gaining a deeper understanding of it, is a primary example of decolonization.

An example of reinhabitation in the reading is when the community will bring Elders together with their youth to learn from each other about the role and meaning of the land to social well-being (p. 73). Doing this shows that the people are seeking to reclaim and create ways to live more in tune with the ecological limits of place. This is a great example of reinhabitation.

For the subjects that I wish to teach in the future (physical/outdoor education and health), I could potentially come up with ideas that consider place. An example would be going outdoors for a class, and getting the students to make their own connections to the land. Another idea would be to find 5 different things, for example, in the school yard and draw a picture of what they saw. These examples are just a couple of the ways to integrate learning from ‘place’.

ECS 210

“Good” Students

A “good” student according to Kumashiro is a student that is cooperative, works hard, listens, and is engaged in what the teacher has to say. They follow directions and do not think outside of the box. Creativity is not what is wanted in a “good” student. What is wanted is a student that colours inside the lines. They do everything what a good and proper student should do. They also understand what a commonsense “good” student is, so they are able to follow these guidelines. To describe what one should think of in their mind when imagining what the commonsense “good” student is, the following description could be used. Imagine a student that is wearing runners, a t-shirt and pair of pants that are in good condition. He/she is sitting in their desk with their body facing the front, and raise their hand if they wish to talk. Their hair and teeth have been brushed, and they have all of the things one need to have proper hygiene. The individual is listening to the teacher at the front, and is not talking out of turn. They are not disturbing others, and they are willing to learn. This is what should come to mind when thinking of the commonsense “good” student.

This image of what a commonsense “good” student is only fits into only some specific groups of people or individuals. The students who are privileged by the definition of a commonsense “good” student are those who are able to focus in class because there isn’t something at home they are more concerned with. These individuals are also able to have clothes or shoes that don’t have holes or rips in them because their parents could buy them a new pair for school. These are a couple of examples of students that are privileged by the definition of a commonsense “good student.” These are also some examples of context where a student’s home life could go unseen or impossible to understand.