How We Learn is Constantly Changing

Every single day technology becomes more and more prevalent in our society. This means that education too is becoming technologically driven. As we advance with our tools of technology and social media, schools must keep up and grow with the changes. This growth means that how we look at education, and how students themselves learn is different. Technology and social media now allow us to connect to billions of people all over the world within seconds. This means that our students can be more informed about the world around them, and connect more easily to the issues and dilemmas that our society faces. We can use this to benefit our students’ education and knowledge of social justice and their role in it. By educating and giving our students to take on a role and find greater meaning in their community and society, their understanding of social justice only broadens.

Image There are so many great ways through technology to get involved in good causes and become a part of a network of people who are all striving for change in their own community. Whether it is helping someone online with a tutorial, or spreading news information to inform those around us, technology connects us all and makes making a difference that much more possible. However, it is also important in this technological era that we do still emphasize the importance of connecting in person, and communicating with one another face to face. If we remember to balance the ways in which we communicate and connect, then we truly flourish.

 

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My Re-Examination of Identity

My Re-Examination of Identity

This week we were asked to re-examine our autobiography and consider certain aspects of our identity in relation to gender, sexuality and race. After taking time to really reflect on my own autobiography and sense of identity, I feel I have come to a much deeper understanding of identity and the factors that affect our perception of identity. It is hard to really understand why so many of us chose not to address these important factors when it came to identifying ourselves and how we become the people we are today. However, I feel from a personal standpoint that by not addressing these factors, they have not affected me the way they would for others when it comes to identity. Because I’m part of the dominant group in Canada, I have never felt the need to address my race, and I have never been negatively impacted because of my race. In addition, my gender and sexuality have also not had a significant impact in my perception of my identity because they too are part of the dominant group. However, to say that these factors did not impact my identity because they are part of the mainstream dominant group is also false and I am aware of this. As I learn more and more about interconnectedness of our society and our identity, I realize that everything about me has been shaped and impacted by the world around me, including my gender, race and sexuality. I agree with Kumashiro that we cannot be naive when it comes to the fact that oppression is constantly prevalent and in all aspects of life. It is in our implicit and explicit curriculum, so we need to be aware of our beliefs and oppressive actions. If we do not open our eyes to how greatly we are impacted by these social factors, then we too are blinded by oppression “common sense” social norms and we recreate that knowingly or unknowingly in our classrooms. Sometimes it is both scary and enlightening to think critically about the oppressive beliefs that are embedded in our society and within our selves, but by breaking them down, we can better understand how to de-construct them and teach anti-oppressive education for ourselves and our students.

Who are Our Good Students?

Every teacher wants a classroom filled with good students. It helps us get through lessons easier, and helps us manage our classroom environment. Good students make our job easier. But what exactly is a “good student?” Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense examines this debate. Common-sense tells us a good student follows the rules, listens attentively, reaches learning outcomes and strives to learn. While these are all good standards of learning, this one-sided view of a good student leaves much to be desired when it comes to examining our diverse students. This type of evaluation oppresses many of our students who struggle with certain aspect of learning, or require different learning strategies. Within the confines of this defintion many student may fail to meet the standards of what it means to be a “good student.” However, when changes are implemented and effective personalized teaching is in place, they are indeed good students. To subject our students to an unfair and biased standard only sets students up for failure. There are many different ways to examine our students’ progress and we have to keep these in mind moving forward. 

Another concept Kumashiro discusses is teaching through crisis. This occurs when we teach our students something which requires them to think critically, reflect and make a change. This is an important part of teaching for social justice, and while it may be discomforting to us as teachers and students, it is an important part of our growth as socially conscious people. 

The New Teacher Book Reflections and Connections

Curriculum as Narrative – Part Two

Two of the articles from The New Teacher Book that really stood out to me were “Teaching Controversial Content” and “Teaching in the Undertow”. As a pre-service teacher there are many concerns and fears I have. These include not meeting the requirements, not being able to reach my students, and failing to inspire my classroom. When it comes to teaching with a social justice approach, it can be very intimidating for new teachers. Not only are we new to the curriculum and our students, but we are also new to our staff. Stepping on other people’s toes or unintentionally offending someone is a very real fear and it can deeply hinder our teaching development and progress. This article especially stood out for me because I know first-hand many teachers who represent this negative undertow. These teachers put in their time from 9:00 am till 4:00 pm and put zero effort into their lessons. They often photocopy worksheets and hand them out, watching the clock tick till the bell chimes. What if I become one of these teachers? What if one day I lose my drive and do minimal work to get by? These are issues that are problematic and concerning. I don’t want to be carried away by the undertow, and become negative about the impact I as a teacher can make. It is easy to say that you will not let it happen, but it is not always that way.

There are going to be many setbacks along my professional journey that will make me question my choices and abilities, but I really enjoy how Gregory Michie points out that we all make mistakes. We can either view these mistakes in a detrimental way, or flip them around and see how we have learned from them. I think this raw and honest advice is something we as first year teachers need. Teaching is not an easy profession, and our dedication and passion is tested each and every day. However, I believe that with an optimistic and realistic approach to these first years of teaching, no matter how rocky, can help us develop professionally and individually. This article additionally reminded me of a shocking statistic that we learned in our first year of Education. Around fifty percent of teachers quit their profession within the first five years. We weren’t taught this to be scared, and I’m not sharing it with you to scare you either. However, there is something to be discussed within this dilemma. It makes me wonder if there is enough support, or whether we’re properly prepared both mentally and intellectually. Perhaps what is happening to these fifty percent of teachers is that they too are being pulled out by the “undertow.” The point here is not to fear the future, but instead prepare for it. As Michie points out, finding allies and gaining support from those around us makes a huge difference in our professional journey. We need to be aware of the dangerous waters, but not be afraid to swim and discover our own teaching path.

The second article that really spoke to me was Kelly Dawson Salas’s “Teaching Controversial Content”. The quotation which speaks about who has the authority to decide what we teach was what really made me stop reading and truly think about that statement. We decide and we have the authority. There is a very fine line between have control over your classroom content and following the curriculum close enough. In my opinion this is both good and bad. The curriculum keeps us on task and teaching the right lessons; however, it is also important for us teachers to be able to personalize and adapt our lessons to the needs of our students. Sometimes I feel teachers get so caught up in following the curriculum to the tee that we miss out on many teachable moments. I believe that these teachable moments of spontaneity and lessons that connect with us on a deeper level are when true learning takes place. The lessons of a higher relevance and meaning have a lasting impression and create a learning spark within us.

I agree that all of the lessons we teach must be beneficial to the student, and we have to be able to back up our work as professionals. However, incorporating social justice in our classrooms is important to me, and making a conscious effort to do so is essential in all content. Like the teachers at the beginning of the article, I too have fears of crossing lines or pushing the limits. What content is too sensitive and where do you draw that line? Content like homophobia, racism, and sexism are all crucial lessons that our students need to be aware of to become caring and accepting people, yet so many teachers shy away from discussion because of the sensitivity associated with it. We need to discuss these social issues in order to create and anti-oppressive environment. There shouldn’t be hate or shame in the world our children live, and we as teachers have a chance to make a difference. So the question then is whether or not it is worth it for us as teachers to take that risk and work through that discomfort of a controversial topic. I believe it is worth it, and that we do need to go out on limb. We do not have to do it alone, and there are many resources available to us as teachers. We can fight for social justice in our classrooms and we can do it in a respectful way. All of our students deserve to be equal and all of our students deserve to be advocated for. I have always believed through my teaching philosophy that social change can happen right in our classrooms, and this article is telling me that it is okay to take that risk.

There are many different resources available to us for teaching diversity and controversial content in our classrooms. The article recommends www.rethinkingschools.org/newteacher as a great tool, but I would also like to recommend Danielle Moss Lee’s article, “Creating an Anti-racist Classroom” which discusses the issues of sensitivity and the importance of teaching anti-oppressive content. It also has a Top Five Power List which I found very useful.

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/anti-racist-classroom-danielle-moss-lee

Teaching social justice and controversial content can be intimidating, but if we want our students to take risks and reach their full potential, then we too must take those risks!

I hope you enjoyed my connections and reflections with the readings! If you would like to ask a question, comment, or respond please do so!

Curriculum as Narrative

This week we read a series of articles about new teachers and the challenges we face. These stories were both informative and inspiring. As a new teacher, mistakes are inevitable, but it is how we learn from those mistakes that impact the teacher we become. I would invite all new teachers to read these short articles, they certainly give a new perspective and help ease the fears and anxieties of our new journey. The following are my summaries of each of the articles:

Articles taken from The New Teacher Book edited  by Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walter.

Curriculum as Narrative and Community

 

‘Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of School as the Usual’- p. 43

This article is about the “undertow” or negative influences new teachers face and can be hindered by. The author uses this ocean metaphor to explain the challenges of staying positive and fighting for your students to have the best education possible. Additionally, it is important that new teachers do not feel like they are the only ones fighting for social justice, and that there is support if you seek it out. While some battles we face such as negative co-workers are battles we should not choose, it is important for us to keep our ultimate goal and teaching pedagogy always in sight.

‘The Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’- p. 83

This article is about a teacher’s journey to help her students combat racism and understand the forces and impact of race. It discusses that even at a very young age children are greatly influenced by race and that consequentially affects how they treat others and how they view the world. Lessons like Me Pocket and Skin Colour and Science helped students developed a different perspective on race and helps form equality and awareness.

‘What Can I Do When a Student makes a Sexist or Racist Comment?’ p. 93

When a student makes a sexist or racist comment in your classroom it can be very uncomfortable and it may be your first reaction to simply shut down the comment or act like it did not happen. However, by doing or saying something, or even by saying nothing, we are still conveying a message to our students. Since curriculum is everything that goes on in the classroom we as teachers need to be very aware of how we respond to this type of behaviour. The most important thing is to address the issue and how it made you feel as a teacher and who it may hurt.

‘Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers can be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations’ p. 95

This article explores the issues of sensitivity when it comes to classroom projects that are personal and centred on family. Because our students are so diversified, many projects can make our students feel embarrassed or shameful or their family. We need to be sensitive to the fact that like the narrative at the beginning of the article, some students may have lost a parent or only have one parent in their lives. Likewise, students with two moms or dads are also excluded in some traditional projects. We as teachers need to be aware of these oppressive projects and aware of the sensitivity and privacy of home life for our students. By exploring different project options and being aware and informed we can create a safe and welcoming classroom for all of our students.

‘Heather’s Moms got Married’- p. 103

Family diversity is a very important topic in our world today. Because our students come from all walks of life, our classroom needs to be a place of acceptance and kindness. This article discusses one teacher’s experience teaching in Northampton and the diversified families she encountered. Gay marriages became a hot topic within her grade two classroom when one the student’s moms got married. This teacher chose to use this to expand her student’s knowledge and respect of their classmates and those around them. She allowed them to have open discussions as well as ask questions they had. This school focused on the positives of family diversity, and because of that, the students and parents enjoyed positive learning experiences and environment.

‘Out Front’- p. 111

This article is about the LGBT issues which our can hinder our schools and students. From the point of view of a gay teacher who is open about her sexuality, this article has a deep sense of hope within it. This teacher not only supports her students fully, but also hosts the group support meetings every week in her classroom. The personal stories of students coming to her looking for help emphasize the need for change in the school systems. As the article points out, this begins with an anti-homophobic school and classroom, as well as teachers who are open and welcoming of all students and sexual orientations. In addition, the curriculum needs to change and evolve as well to include and incorporate more LGBT content and lessen the oppression of the common sense teaching. This includes gay literature, representing different family structures, as well as discussing from an early age gay people and issues. By creating an open and diversified space and classroom, students are more willing and able to be themselves and learn acceptance and compassion for all people.

‘Curriculum is Everything that Happens’-p. 163

This article is an interview of Rita Tenorio, an experienced teacher who lends some advice to new teachers. In her interview she discusses that new teachers may view their classrooms through rose tinted lenses and that this may not be the case. A classroom may not be as safe and welcoming as we imagined, and instead the impact of race and class can deeply impact it. If we are not aware of how our own biases and the oppression of society can affect our students and classroom, then we are not equipped to combat it. By networking with other professionals and colleagues, we can discover many tools and assets to creating multi-cultural and anti-racist classrooms.

‘Working Effectively with English Language Learners’- p. 183

This article is about embracing multilingualism and not oppressing students whose second language is English. We as teachers need to be aware of the extra struggles and challenges they may face on a daily basis and keep these challenges in mind as we plan our lessons. In addition, we need to educate ourselves on the services available to our English Language Learners and allow our students to have access to all the help available.  By learning the language and the culture, even if it is just a small portion, we create a better learning environment for all our students. Another important thing to keep in mind is that eliminating their first language is a negative step in their learning journey, so we must continue to keep their language and culture present and prevalent. There are many different delivery methods of lesson plans that are beneficial to English Language Learners and these must be implemented on a regular basis.

‘Teaching Controversial Content’-p. 199

This article describes one new teacher’s brave journey to teaching social justice within her classroom and the fears that come with that. The questions she poses and the very real fears she has about teaching controversial topics such as slavery, homophobia and sexism are fears that many new teachers have. But as the article points out, we as teachers have the authority to choose what we teach and how we teach it. As long as we are able to back up our teaching, and answer questions, we need to brave as we set out in our teaching journey. By communicating with staff and parents the content we wish to explore and being confident in its purpose in our classroom, social justice teaching is possible and worth it.

‘Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year’-p. 317

This article is about the balance of wisdom and caution as a first year teacher. There are many emotional and controversial topics and situations that arise in the school that we must handle in the best possible way. As this particular teacher struggled to make a change in their school, we too may have issues implementing change in our own school. This article points out the very relevant social issue of religion and holidays which are celebrated in the school system. The diversity of our students needs to be met with a diverse curriculum. While teachers may want to see change overnight, this change of traditions can be very upsetting to many people. If we do not consider everyone’s feelings and beliefs, people get upset and solidarity can be lost. Teachers should keep fighting for diversity and social justice, but the moral of this article is that we must go about this in a cautious and sensitive way.

 

 

                

White Box Curriculum

This week’s reading has really hit home with me. Jennifer Tupper and one of our instructors, Michael Capello’s article “Teaching Treaties as (Un)usual Narratives: Disrupting the Curricular Commonsense” is all about breaking down the common sense narrative and curriculum. This article is very clear in its intention and illustrates just how detrimental our curriculum can be to an entire province of children. As I learn more about the common sense curriculum and the mainly white colonial narrative, I realize just how oppressive and one-sided our education program is. What really stood out to me while reading this article is the fact that our students know so little about the major Treaty events that are a huge part of our province and nations development and foundation. When this large amount of students know so little about Treaty Education it becomes ever so prevalent the major flaw of our curriculum. I also never considered how when teachers do cover and incorporate Treaty Education into their lesson plans, it is often given so little priority, effort and time. We cannot pretend to be a province of harmony and equality when so obviously our curriculum favours one race and one narrative. We as teachers cannot fix this problem over night, however, the more educated we become about Treaty Education the more we can make a difference. There is simply no reason for our curriculum to encourage oppression and superiority, and the sooner we make a change and our education system changes, the sooner our province and people become equal and unified.

Treaty Education Presentation

Yesterday we had a guest speaker, Claire Kreuger. She came to speak with our class about Treaty Education. It was a very engaging and relevant presentation. She spoke to us about the projects she is working on, as well she gave us as future teachers of Treaty Education many useful strategies and ideas. I especially enjoyed seeing the media projects that she had her students complete. Bringing technology into Treaty Education allowed her students to engage on a deeper level with their projects and use their creativity to bring meaning to their work. I was able to gather many ideas throughout the presentation like Ipad apps and even implementing a weekly email to parents to report on progress and classroom topics. Claire was extremely knowledgeable about the topic and her passion was incredible. Her presentation was most certainly an asset to our Treaty Education learning. 

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