Citizenship Education In Schools

In my own schooling, the topic of citizenship education was briefly mentioned. In elementary school, I was taught to be a good person, act responsibly, and help the less fortunate; however, the idea of citizenship was never expanded for deeper understanding and lived experience. Highschool was similar in the fact that there was not much of a focus placed upon learning citizenship. We had occasional volunteering experiences, and food drives; however, we never fully dove into why such experiences were important as members of community. Such situations also frequently had prizes for the people who brought the most food; therefore, defeating the purpose of the good deed.

The only element of citizenship that was touched on in my schooling was “Personally Responsible”. This element focusses on building one’s character through good deeds and actions; however this is not enough. As the reading mentions, teachers have a large task to ensure students understand social justice issues as well as their place within society. Students can be voices of change; therefore, as teachers we must teach them to dig deeper and begin a pursuit for social justice. In the ideal classroom, students need to first discover who they are as a member of community, then see what they can do within their own surroundings. Finally, they must analyze and begin to understand the social, economic, and political forces in play. Together if we all begin to gain a broad knowledge base of citizenship, we can begin to develop strategies for change within the future.

 

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Diversity Within Mathematics

Ever since elementary school, I have never deemed myself as a “math” person. It took, and still does take, much studying and reviewing for me to retain different math concepts. My strengths have always been in the humanities and arts, as that is where I am able to reflect and develop my strengths. In saying this, I enjoyed Gail’s lecture as she instilled the concept that we are all “math people” and how math is everywhere and takes many forms. My question is why aren’t schools implementing this diversity of concepts into math classes?

I sometimes believe that math is too linear and consists of either right or wrong answers. Although this structure is needed in some math forms, I believe that it is time we began expanding the math curriculum to include various cultures ideologies. Neither my elementary of high school incorporated “non-traditional” math concepts, and, as Leroy Little Bear mentions, it created an oppressive environment for some students. One memory that sticks in my mind is in Grade seven, when my teacher decided to start teaching us Grade eight math so we, “were prepared…” As someone who already struggled with the Grade seven concepts, I remember feeling embarrassed when I continued working on the Grade seven math and my friends moved on. As teachers, we need to think of the needs of all students before we make a decision such as this.

It is fabulous how Indigenous mathematics concepts are beginning to be taught in Inuit communities as Inuktitut is the first language that Inuit children learn. In English, we are not forced to change our mathematics language halfway through; therefore, why should Inuit children? Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric ideas as it focusses on “… ‘natural’ ways of learning…”, taught by Elders and knowledge keepers.  Inuit ways of measuring consists of using certain body parts to discover length, instead of using the common metric system. In lecture, I also learned how there are different ways to classify the number three, which I find intriguing.

As teachers, we need to provide our students with diversity within learning. I love how Inuit mathematics provide a diverse way of looking at math and the world.

Letter To A Pre-Intern

To Whom it May Concern,

To me, it sounds like your school is stuck within the “Western Settler” ideology, not wanting to remove their lenses of privilege. I am saying this, as a white settler myself, as in my own high school there was a limited Indigenous population as well; therefore, Treaty Education was sometimes put on the backburner. Not all educators have gained knowledge about Indigenous ways of life and the Treaties; therefore, they might not understand how both Indigenous, and non-Indigenous peoples alike are all Treaty people. I question whether your teacher was of the older generation, and therefore the push for Treaty Education was implemented midway throughout her career? Either way, good for you that you have persisted in teaching your students with an Indigenous worldview. I agree with how Sheena Koops explains teaching Indigenous content, as she states how it is okay to make mistakes. At Treaty Education Camp, she explained how, as educators, we must, “Go forth and be awkward.” I believe that in education, if we do not take risks, we will not grow in our learning and inclusivity, and neither will our students.

In terms of the student’s overt racism in the classroom around Indigenous content, they haven’t been educated on such learnings; therefore, they don’t have enough knowledge to form understanding, connections, and empathy. Dwayne Donald spoke of how these students are otherwise known as, “Canadian Canadians.” He explains how they cannot connect to cultures outside of their own as they see their own cultural identity as being uninteresting and lacking a sense of pride. I agree with Donald that we have to begin unlearning this concept as it separates diverse cultures, creating the label of “other”. Through engaging students in frequent Treaty Education, and important issues such as racism and stereotyping, they will eventually internalize their role as Treaty people. Claire Kreuger spoke of the impact that the Treaty Four gathering, in Fort Qu’appelle, had for her students as it was an active, outdoors, hands-on learning experience. It is one thing to read about Treaty Education in a textbook, but it takes on a whole other dimension when you experience it through the senses: physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and academically.

Throughout your three week block, you will learn many important lessons from your co-op teacher; however, I also believe that if she is open minded, she can, and will, learn from you. As a new generation of educators, we are equipped with the knowledge of strategies to teach Treaty Education and, if we incorporate elders into the classroom we can gain an authentic understanding. Even though there are not Indigenous students within your school, I believe that we are doing the youth of tomorrow an injustice if we skip Treaty and Indigenous education; we are not fulfilling our duty as inclusive teachers. To work towards Truth and Reconciliation, as well as honouring the treaties, we must share our knowledge, and always strive to learn more.

Good luck!

Miss. Davis

Diversity Within Ways of Learning

I found this article to be interesting and appropriate, seeing as I had just gone to Treaty Ed Camp this past Saturday. Many of the sessions I went to spoke of the importance of integrating Indigenous culture into our daily classroom and the lessons we teach. However, if we want an inclusive classroom, we must first notice our own racist tendencies as, the first step towards change is accepting our own faults and biases. Then it is our job to continue learning and moving forward, trying to be the best version of an educator we can. I have learned that in Indigenous knowledge, one never stops their journey of learning. I agree with this worldview.

1) List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

This narrative is great as it introduced me to the Indigenous way of learning, and how it differs from western knowledge. In the article, there was a big focus on the importance of place-based learning to the Mushkegowuk Cree peoples. To get in touch with the natural environment or “Paquataskamic” a group of Cree youth, adults, and elders took a learning journey across the James Bay River. (Pg. 71) This journey helped reinhabitation happen as the Cree youth began to re-learn the traditional ways of knowing, as well as the role and meaning of the land in relation to their social well-being. I found it interesting how Bowers stated how, “… decolonization as an act of resistance must not be limited to rejecting and transforming dominant ideas; it also depends on recovering and renewing traditional, non-commodified cultural patterns such as mentoring and intergenerational relationships” (Restoule et al, pg. 74). This quotation relates to the river trip as the elders were teaching the youth about cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge of their culture; however, the youth were also teaching the elders in return. They learned collectively.

2) How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

I believe that too often in education, we see learning as happening in a classroom with four walls. In my high school, my teacher spoke of the importance of outdoor education; however, we hardly ever learned outside the confinements of the classroom. I love how Indigenous learning has such a close relationship with the land as I believe it helps students better understand the world around them. For example, in the narrative, the students learned valuable life lessons while experiencing and discovering nature on the river. In my own classroom, I will ensure that I frequently take my students outside to allow them to engage in “non-traditionalist” ways of learning and discovering. I believe that incorporating Indigenous ways of learning into the classroom would allow my students to broaden their perspectives of the world and think in creative, exploratory ways. It is my goal that my students leave my class knowing about the diversity within ways of knowing.

What is Curriculum?

As teachers, we understand that curriculum is a document that contains information we must include within our lessons and activities. It is a set of guidelines that helps us create a roadmap of outcomes within the classroom. The big question is does curriculum restrict or help teachers, when creating lessons?

Before Reading:

“How do you think that school curricula are developed?”

I believe that school curricula is created by volunteer teachers and faculty. In one of my education classes, my professor frequently spoke of how teachers, just like us, must volunteer to help create curriculum changes, otherwise changes will not happen. As for the outcomes and indicators within the different grades of curriculum, I believe that they were created many years ago. People have likely observed children, seeing what skills are essential for each grade level. I am unsure if the outcomes and indicators get updated when the rest of the curriculum does.

After Reading

After the reading, my understanding of curriculum was broadened. I learned how school curricula is developed, not only by teachers, in elementary and high school, but also by school administrators, local authorities, (when available), and post secondary institutions. (Levin, pg. 10) I think that it is awesome how so many voices are heard when creating the curriculum as many diverse ideas and perspectives will be brought forth. Through this reading I learned how it takes a long time to create curriculum, as there are many elements to consider. In the curriculum there are both general and broad goals, that educators must teach; however, there are also many, more specific, learning activities and objectives that need consideration. (Levin, pg. 8) Before this reading, I had never thought of how debates and uproar could be started because of changes to the curriculum.  People are vocal and like their opinion to be voiced; therefore, the curriculum creators wouldn’t always have an easy task! As a future teacher, I want to keep learning about the curriculum as I believe it is an important document within education. However, in saying this, I believe it is a document that needs constant updating as the world is always changing.

 

What is a “good student”?

During both my elementary and highschool years, my class was frequently dubbed as the “difficult class”.  We had some very strong personalities who sometimes made teaching, and classroom management difficult for the teachers. However, within our group, did our teachers have internal biases about who were, “good” and “bad” students? As a future teacher, I believe that all students have the potential to be “good students”. If students are acting out and not engaging, it is our job to discover what is holding them back from succeeding. No student should ever be labeled.

“What does it mean to be a “good” student according to common sense?”

Through, Against Common Sense : Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, Kumashiro, (2010), mentions how “common sense” varies greatly from culture to culture. Therefore, the ideals of the “good student” also look different from place to place. Kumashiro gives a broad definition of the student’s job, saying,  “Students are expected to follow instructions, work hard, and do homework in order to learn what they are supposed to learn…” (2010, pg. 22). He also states how the grade at the end indicates the student’s level of success.

“Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student?”

As teachers, if we are educating our students based off the “norms of schooling”, some students will succeed while others will falter. Though this “common sense” view of education is easier on the teacher, it restricts the students greatly as it teaches them, “…using only certain methods, and treats students in only certain ways” (Kumashiro, 2010, pg. 24). Students that learn using this method will succeed; however, teaching this way doesn’t include multiple learning styles, or diversity.

“What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these common sense ideas?”

These common sense ideas contain invisible forms of oppression including, but not limited to, “…class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language, age and other social markers” (Kumashiro, 2010, pg. 24). We need to learn to break the mold of “social norms” and “common sense” in education as it will allow for inclusivity and further educational success for all. I agree with Kumashiro that it is time we begin to educate our students on diverse groups of people’s so their view of “difference” is more accepting and inclusive. (2010, pg. 25).

Variations of Educational Learning

Throughout these past few weeks of ECS classes, both in 200 and 210, I have learned of many “big thinkers” in education, and the important role they played in improving schooling and curriculum. Looking back through history, its great to see how much education has grown and evolved from the linear ways of schooling. One person who helped move education in a positive, explorative direction was Loris Malaguzzi; the man who founded “Reggio Emilia”.  

“Our task is to help children communicate with the world using all their potential, strengths, and languages, and to overcome any obstacle presented by our culture.” -Loris Malaguzzi

I love what Malaguzzi, and his approach stands for, as it promotes student learning through hands on experience and exploration. Through this quote, Malaguzzi speaks of many positive elements that can benefit learners in the classroom, including:

  • Space and creative leeway for educators to structure their lessons and activity’s. This freedom helps teachers create, “out of the box” lessons that broaden student’s understandings.
  • It allows students to take the lead in their own learning, by incorporating, and working with, their skills, talents, and learning styles.
  • It allows for cultural boundaries to be broken. Malaguzzi promotes the inclusion of diverse languages, which in turn helps all students learn about different cultures.
  • This method allows children to learn by doing and exploring.

Using this method, it is impossible to teach in a linear fashion. I always believe that teaching is not an exact science, and we are always learning and adapting to our classroom needs. This method would not work with one singular lesson plan, as all student’s needs are different.

In Malaguzzi’s quote, the teacher has an important role to play as they are the cheerleader, knowledge bank, and supporter for the student. I love how in this method, the teacher is not lecturing at the front of the class, but instead providing engaging experiences for students to learn at their own rate and style. Through the child’s education, we also have to help them discover their own voice within the world. The student’s role is to be open to new learning experiences, find which learning style works best for them, and discover how they can use their skills and talents to benefit them in their learning. Students should be taught how we are all unique and each bring something special to the world.

I agree with Malaguzzi’s philosophy as I believe students need variations, within the lessons they experience, to reach maximum learning potential. I believe that, though we have the curriculum to help guide us as teachers, we must teach to the needs of our students. The children coming into our classes are already full of knowledge and skills; therefore, I agree with how Malaguzzi speaks of incorporating these into the classroom. As teachers, I believe we can help students learn new things, but in return we are enveloped by a wealth of knowledge.