Summary of Learning

Below is a video with a brief summary of some of the things this class prompted me think about this semester. Not everything we talked about in this class is reflected in the video, but it’s just some of my personal thoughts. In my video I didn’t mention hidden curriculum specifically, but I mentioned my view on ‘norms’ with my family as an example. I also blogged about that here, which you are free to read as well. A pretty good portion of what we talked about in class was always linked back to common sense, and what we view as common sense in reference to Kumashiro. I also wrote about this in my blog, but did not cover it in my video. If you’d like to read what I have to say, you can go here and here. The ideas I wrote about there relate to my video when I briefly mentioned the good student and the good teacher. This class is supposed to be about curriculum, but I found that I got much more than that out of it. I was challenged to reconstruct my thought process in relation to curriculum, but also in relation to many other aspects of my life. Racism, place, common sense, etc, and just in general, my view on how I’m going to teach.

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Treaty Education

I am at a point in my education that I understand why Treaty Education is important, and why it must be taught in schools. However, I find in most of my classes the point is emphasized, and we’re asked to make lesson plans including it, but we aren’t actually shown how to do that properly. I thought Claire’s presentation was amazing. I learn so much from seeing how active teachers use the curriculum in their own ways. To me, hands on learning is the best type of learning, and being able to see how Claire teaches was inspiring. She made it seem easy and effortless, even though the subject is daunting to me. I really appreciate how she showed us it is okay to make mistakes by using herself as an example. She left us with applicable teaching resources and examples to help us teach what so many teachers leave out and deem unimportant.

Something else that has been on my mind, is that us pre-service teachers are being asked to teach about treaties, and to be honest, I hardly know what they are. I didn’t learn much about treaties in school, and I don’t feel educated enough to teach what little I know to anyone else. In high school I took a class called Native Studies, and I don’t recall anything that Mr. C taught me. All that I remember is him sleeping at his desk while we watched the movie Cool Runnings for the 3rd time in a row, and then him cramming in the last 2 weeks of class and me almost failing the exam.  I am not a history buff, and have never been interested in history, so part of the problem might be that learning about history has no interest to me, so I don’t remember any of it. Now as an adult, I see the importance of teaching the history of what actually happened in Canada. And the importance of teaching that from a young age in order to restore our nation and it’s true history, starting from the ground up. Something I think would be really helpful and useful is if there was a required class that taught us actual Treaty Education content that is applicable to the prek-5 program. It would make me feel much more comfortable and competent going forward as a teacher.

In Response to the Intern

 

Dear Intern,

You have been placed in a situation where you have a great opportunity! It sounds like these students are uneducated in the area of Treaty Education, and you have the opportunity to plant a seed. I would have a conversation with your cooperating teacher and ask if you can do a lesson or mini unit on Treaty Education. Although there may not be any First Nations students in the class, keep in mind that we are all treaty people. That means that we (brown, white, First Nations, European, etc.) all live on Canadian land, and have a responsibility to understand the treaties between the original residents of Canada, and those who settled here and tried to eradicate those who were here first. Treaties do not only apply to the First Nations, Metis, and Aboriginal peoples. They are an agreement between them and those who agreed to share the land, but took away the rights of the First Nations people.

It seems like the students do not see any personal reason to learn and engage with the content, so they choose not to. I think this is when it becomes important for you to make it personal for the students. This is a 30 level class, and these students are old enough, and capable of hearing hard truths. I would show them their part in Treaty Education. I would ask them where there family came from over the generations. What are the habits and celebrations of those countries and cultures? After discussing that for a while, I would ask them to discuss people that originated in Canada, and what happened to them. We live in Canada, and what do we still see of those people? Who belongs in Canada and can’t belong anywhere else? After that, I would hit the point home, and bring out the true history of Canada. I think showing the students the reality of assimilation, and the cruelness of what the residential school system has done, will help them be a little closer to realizing the importance of Treaty Education.

Unfortunately for these students, it may be a little too late to take up the entire history, but it is in the curriculum, and your cooperating teacher should allow it if you can make your case.

Sincerely,

Kim

Teaching to the Place

Reinhabitation was happening with the mentoring going on between the elders and the youth. The elders are teaching the youth about culture, and the importance of the land and animals. Going on journeys down the river as a group allowed them all to learn about their history, and the land through experience. The word reinhabitation to me sounds like it derives from “reinhabit”, which to me is when someone goes back to a place they were living at, or being at previously. I like the verbage of the word reinhabitation. It makes the process of learning sound like they are going back home, or how it used to be.

Decolonization is happening when the radio programs took up the work of the youth and broadcasted it. They people in the area are being made aware of what potentially could be taken away from the community by allowing the land to be used and disturbed for money and resources. They are reminded through the education of the youth what is important to their culture.

In my own classroom, I think it would be really interesting to find out what used to be on the land where the school was located before it became colonized. It will be a great exercise to draw the students back to the truth of what happened in the area, and how there may have been loss to people living on the land. There are many directions and subject areas this could be taken up in! Another cool project would be allowing the students to choose their own land that they identify with (ie. a family farm, the playground, their backyard, their favourite hangout etc.) and do some investigation in the community or with family. This could also be taken up as an interdisciplinary project!

 

A Constant Process

As a young person in school, I didn’t pay attention to the curriculum at all. I’m sure it has shaped my knowledge in some way, but I don’t recall even thinking about the fact that the teachers were required to teach me certain things. Now that I am in University, I see the affect the curriculum has on a teacher, and it affects how I think about my teaching. Looking back, now that I am aware of curriculum, I had some pretty amazing high school teachers that used a lot of creativity within the curriculum, which I will be able to draw from and use as great examples.

Hidden curriculum that I will have to be cognizant of personally, is the many “norms” that have been present in my life. In my adult life I have become aware of many of these “norms”, and have attempted to challenge them in order to be a better person, and now, a better teacher. One of these is my idea of family and personal relationships. I have always viewed my family, the typical husband and wife with kids, as the normal family. There is no history of divorce or separation in my family, no premarital children, lots of love, they are church attenders, and are society’s typical nuclear family. When I see people who deviate from that, I consider them not normal. I think that this type of family is not the “norm” anymore, and in order to include all my students, and be sensitive to their needs, I need to get over my ideas of the normal family.

The family is just an example of many items of hidden curriculum that I need to focus on. But since I view relationships as highly important in my classroom, I think the family is something that I need to keep front and center as it is the starting point to any relationship. I have definitely challenged my “norms”, but I still have lots of work to do, and it seems like it will be a constant, never ending process.

Where Does the Power Lie?

First off, teachers are the people who enact curriculum. Other people have a say in creating and revising the curriculum, but ultimately, it is the teacher in the classroom who is required to use the curriculum to teach. Whether they are using it fully and completely is up to them, but the power lies with the teacher. I’ve got the power! (Yeah, I know you just sang that!)

Unfortunately, it may not always be the case that the teachers have power over what is in the curriculum. I see this as a tragedy, because the people who create curriculum can’t find out if it is an effective and efficient curriculum without having hands on experience teaching it. During the lecture, Mike talked about a time when curriculum was designed over the summer by teachers who then received their masters credit for it. I think that is a great idea, but at the same time, a very time consuming idea. I realize that curriculum can take a long time to develop, and it isn’t reality to pull out classroom teachers from their jobs and have them working on curriculum development, but I think that would be ideal.

As for the way curriculum is set up, I think it’s great. There are the outcomes that are set in stone, but you can get to the outcomes any way you want (as long as your principal approves, of course). I am excited to get creative and work towards the required outcomes in fun and experiential ways. The amount of outcomes may be slightly unpractical, but goals are generally set high in any workplace. I don’t like that in a way, we are set up for failure. But on the other hand, if there were not enough outcomes, then some teachers would slack off and do the bare minimum. It will be interesting once I am a practicing teacher, to find out how possible or impossible meeting the outcomes seems, and how I will decide which ones are more important than others. I imagine I will be doing lots of consulting with well-practiced educators!

 

The Privilege of Common Sense

Common sense tells the “good” and “perfect” student to sit and do what they’re told without questioning anything. They are essentially the empty bucket to be filled with information of the teacher’s choosing. This is the student that I was when I was younger, and at the time it was the student I strove to be. I wanted to do what the teacher told me to, and do it well. I was part of the privileged group of students because I lived in an environment that made it easy for me to be that “good” student. I lived in a middle class family that allowed me to have a relatively easy childhood with plenty of food, lots of sleep, and time for homework.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the fact that I wanted to be the common sense student, because that is what was expected of me back then. I do wish, however, that I would have been prompted to get an opinion, and be passionate about something! I was a quiet student and generally did what I was told, and didn’t have much of a challenging point of view. Because of that, as an adult I have had to flounder to find my voice and opinions. Now I believe expectations of students and teachers are changing. What we’re learning in this class is challenging us to avoid the common sense definition that we all have of what school is. As teachers, we are being encouraged to foster our students to engage and think critically of content instead of just memorize it.

I think being an educator who actually helps students to find their opinion and voice will have a part in creating a society that thinks deeper than the surface level about problems, and will create a better society to live in.