Summary of Learning

Summary of Learning Project

 

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Curriculum as Numeracy

Math has always played a huge role in my life. My grandfather was a math teacher and professor for 40+ years — he retired at 70 because he just did not want to stop teaching and was so passionate about the subject. When he finally did retire, he still did not stop passing on his love for math. Instead he’d get all the grandkids to sit around the kitchen table and teach us. Now this was back when I was living in Pakistan for a year, so I learned things the way they do there. I learned the tips and techniques relevant for the type of math that is taught in Pakistan (which is the same math, essentially, but done in different ways). For some stuff such as trigonometry, they start teaching it at earlier grade levels. When I came back to Canada, and applied those methods, I was told I was wrong. I was told to do things the Eurocentric way that is taught here, and to “forget” the way I was taught things. For me, it was more than just math, it was a connection to my grandfather, so being told that that was wrong was oppressive. Being told that I wasn’t doing things right even though I was getting the same results with my ways of knowing was oppressive. This type of teaching is discriminatory because there could be tons of other people who use different methods, but if the results are the same, is it really an issue? This is something which made me start to dislike math in high school because I had to rewire my way of doing things and was constantly told it was wrong. The same is probably true for students of other various cultural backgrounds, such as FNMI peoples, who may have learned things differently in childhood.


Ways in which Inuit math difers from Eurocentric math:

  • Inuit math uses a base system of twenty as opposed to the Eurocentric ten.
  • The body is used as a measuring tool by Inuit people.
  • Inuit people learn by observing Elders rather than pen-and-paper practicing.

 

Treaty Education

(Oh boy, buckle up. Just a quick sidenote that this is something I’m really glad we get to talk about and I can’t wait for the class discussion!)

Our questions for the week are as follows, but I’m going to try to answer them together in my response.
1. What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Content and Perspectives where there are few or no FNMI peoples?
2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We Are All Treaty People”?


We have been talking about Treaty Education a LOT this semester; in fact, I think about 90% of what I know about Treaty Ed, I learned this semester, both through my current classes and the two-day Treaty Ed training conference we had over a weekend in late September. After hearing what I did from the Elders that were present, it baffles me that there is so much ignorance still surrounding the history of FNMI people in Canada – and that is precisely why Treaty Ed is so important. Those stories are not being heard, and in some cases they are but they aren’t being respected. They aren’t being given the same value as the normalized Settler-centric stories that students are so used to hearing.

I, myself, did not hear a single thing about the Aboriginal side of Canadian history until my first year of university; I did not know that the last Residential school in Canada – in Saskatchewan – closed the year I was born. That wasn’t that long ago. And some people still don’t know, or care. That is why Treaty Ed is important.

There are people that still see FNMI people and spew stereotypes and misunderstandings, believing them to be privileged and ungrateful, “useless” members of society that are all “alcoholics and drug addicts”. These people say these things not knowing that promises made to FNMI families were never kept; not knowing that those addictions stem from white settlers taking advantage of the communication barriers between the two groups. That is why Treaty Ed is important.

Whether there are FNMI students present in a classroom or not, it is important for us all to be learning that version of history. It is important so that people know the truth, the only thing that will lead to proper reconciliation. It is important because we ARE all Treaty people whether we know or not, whether we admit it or not, because of where we live. We live on Treaty land. We live on land that (although signed off, although negotiated in the end) was still stolen. We live on promises unkept. We live on families ripped apart. We live on unfairness. To this day, FNMI people are taken advantage of, not given their full rights while being portrayed as horrible people.


I find it kind of timely that there is so much going on in the education world surrounding Treaty Ed right now; the Sask. Minister of Education has currently been under fire for stating that she believes Indigenous education should be its own thing rather than be infused with the various other curriculums. To quote, she says, “Indigenous education is certainly extensively infused in the curriculum beyond treaty education,” believing that her grade 8 son should not have to think of his ancestors as bad people while taking a social studies class. While that makes sense to an extent, the fact that someone who has such power over Education in our province thinks like this is very troubling; we cannot just make FNMI education an optional course thrown in during high school (that, let’s be real, nobody takes anyway – most people I know took Social 30 instead of Native Studies 30). When you take a look at the Outcomes of subject curricula and the Treaty Ed Outcomes, you can see that they are all intertwined. They are important in moving forward with truth and reconciliation, and it is important to include these narratives in our Social Studies classes, and our English classes, and our Science classes, and so on, because they belong there. They don’t deserve to be an afterthought.

If you’d like to know more, here’s the article – and there’s a lot of twitter buzz on the topic right now if you want to join the discussion.

Pedagogy of Place

The article makes distinctions between the definitions of reinhabitation and decolonization, while showing us that the two are still interconnected. I like how the article stresses the importance of hearing narratives firsthand from those that have experienced those particular histories – in this case, the Elders. From my personal experience, I learned the most about Residential schools when I listened to Elders speak about the horrors they or their family members went through. The full story doesn’t get to you until you hear it firsthand. I think the article emphasizes how important it is for people to reform and reclaim their own histories instead of letting the “winners” tell the story.


Being an English major, I often think about the importance of teaching and incorporating different cultures into my lessons. We talk about the “pedagogy of place”; the “place” shapes what we teach because of what kinds of people and cultures are in that place, but in a country like Canada there are so many voices. It’s important to try to bring light to them all, and in a way that is sensitive and non-assuming. I think back to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story”, which mentions the harmful effects of shaping our perceptions of a place (or people from a certain place) based on one account of that place. It is important to not assume someone’s story because of where they might be from.

I tend to make things in these blog posts personal quite a bit, but that has everything to do with my background, which has, in a way, paved the path that brought me to this career field. I’ll often hear friends critiquing my “home country”, Pakistan, by talking about what they’ve heard or seen in the media. I try to defend Pakistan when I hear things going way off from what they are actually like, but I’ll get responses such as “Well, why do you care anyway? You’re Canadian.” The fact is, I’m not just Canadian; I’m Pakistani-Canadian, and that means that there is more than one place that has shaped who I am. People find it hard to comprehend that just because I have lived in Canada my whole life, it doesn’t mean that I’ve never visited Pakistan or embraced that side of my culture. This is just something that I felt kind of fit into this idea of the “place” surrounding our classrooms, since our students come from so many variations of places.

It all goes back to the idea of hearing stories from those that have experienced things firsthand. It is my hope that in my ELA classrooms, I can use oral and written narratives that teach my students about different cultures and ways of life through those that know them best, rather than using mainstream media and Eurocentric textbooks as my main sources of information.

The “Good” Student

Our reading discusses the “commonsense” of what makes a student a good student. This student is white, obedient, and does not question what is being taught. This student blindly follows the teacher and must agree with what is being presented to him. I say “him” because this student only really has value if he is male – females can only learn and work until they become mothers, anyway.

Although we read this and think, how outdated, the reality is that a lot of teachers still see “good” students as being this type of student. As much as we hate to admit it, some people who are entering the field of education still do bring their biases into the classroom and expect their students to agree; for instance, just the other day a classmate said to me, “I’m tired of talking about homophobia and racism in our classes”. This shocked me, because the truth is, if you’re on the road to becoming a teacher, especially in today’s society, you have to talk about that stuff; you can’t get tired of it because you’re going to be teaching students of colour who face racism, and LGBT+ students who face homophobia. You’re going to teach students that are faced with sexism on a daily basis, students who have disabilities (both visible and invisible), you’re going to teach students from different background of all sorts. You’re going to be teaching students that do not fit the “good student” standards set by teachers of the past, so you really can’t stay stuck with that sort of view. 

Our schools are more diverse than ever, and if we expect all “good students” to adhere to being quiet, obedient listeners, we aren’t doing justice to those with intellectual, learning, or hearing disabilities. If we only pay attention to white, cis-male students, we are letting down the females and non-binary students in our classes that are also destined for greatness. It may sound idealistic but “good students” nowadays are those that work hard and try their best; good teachers are those that make their classroom environment safe and inclusive for all. 

Different Literacies in the ELA Curriculum

I chose to focus on the ELA20 Curriculum for this post since I’ve been working closely with it this semester.

First, I’ll talk about some of the things that are similar throughout the ELA curriculum for most grades. The curriculum definitely has a mix of autonomous and ideological literacies present, but I guess what I’m questioning is how even that distribution is. The autonomous comes in the form of the stuff kids “have” to learn when it comes to ELA – things like the core reading, writing, listening, and speaking. This is more focused on the skills that come with these factors, such as grammar, the rules of the language, properly decoding and comprehending a text, the formalities of public speaking, etc. While there is a certain amount of freedom with how students can display these skills or make them their own, there is still that level that is expected to be known — the stuff students are then tested on. The ideological part comes in with the representing and viewing, in my opinion. How students choose to interpret and then display the knowledge they are shown in class.

With ELA20 in particular, the curriculum is very focused on the students’ understanding of self. The units are “Beginning and Becoming” and “Establishing and Realizing”. These unit topics themselves encourage student interpretations and offers them the opportunity to expand their thinking by understanding themselves and others. The following is taken straight from the ELA20 curriculum book:

• provides meaningful contacts that address “big ideas” and questions for deeper understanding

• focuses on language and helps students understand how it works

• teaches students through powerful cognitive and communication strategies

• includes a range of texts (oral, print, and other forms)

• encourages student inquiry, social responsibility and personal agency, and self-refection

You can almost sort these strands, as you read them, into either “autonomous” or “ideological”. This shows that there is an attempt at a balance for sure.

We had a great conversation about text selection in this week’s ELNG class. Some could say that the curriculum is What is sometimes seen as autonomous is the variation (or lack thereof) of the texts that students must read, the same stuff being presented over and over. The research that Carmen Holota had conducted showed that the newest full-length text being read in ELA20 was Holes – published in 1998. The thing is though, these texts aren’t required. They’re suggested, and many teachers don’t know that, so students end up deciphering the same stuff their parents and older siblings did. Carmen let us know that as future ELA teachers, we have the power to bring in texts that we think may be more meaningful and relevant to students – we can even take suggestions from them or our colleagues who may have insight to give. We have the option to give our students choice, and lots of it. It may be a longer process, but it’s something that would result in a more ideological approach to ELA.

 

Curricula

Before:

I believe curriculum is developed by a group of people that have experience working in school systems — people such as past and present teachers, principals, school administrators etc. This group takes into consideration the context of the area they are developing curriculum for (i.e. provincial) and discuss changes and additions that need to be made. I think they’d meet after a certain time, perhaps every year or every other year, to keep the curriculum up to date.

After:

Curriculum is developed by a whole range of professionals and at different levels. It’s almost tiered – national, federal, and local levels. Often, experts are consulted and it takes much longer than I originally thought. I recall my ELNG prof telling me how it took them around 6 years to finalize the current curriculum so it obviously takes a lot more planning than I thought. The involvement of the larger school community — parents, students, teachers, and more —  and experts in different fields brings about a variety of viewpoints and ideas that contribute to the curriculum. This is important because some of these people will be using/experiencing the eventual curriculum firsthand.