Throughout elementary school and High school math was always my least favorite subject, I didn’t like how it was black and white and there was not creativity. I used to feel like I was being punished when my teachers would randomly call upon me for the answer, or to recite multiplication tables by memory. I would often go to my teachers and ask for extra help because I did not understand and they would repeatedly use the same method, or tell me to focus and I would eventually understand. One part of my math studies growing up that I would consider oppressive, is how my teachers would decide what way to find a solution was ‘right’ or not. I would spend hours at home trying to figure out my math homework and study and I would sometimes look online on websites like Khan Academy to try and find help for myself. When I came to class and offered different ways to solve these equations that made sense to me, that helped me in the way that I learned I would be shut down or told that these methods were not appropriate because they were not the way my teacher had said to complete them. I was and still am not the only one with these problems, and I think that’s why math can be seen as ‘cold and unbending’.
According to the article Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community, Louise Poirier (2007), the Inuit take a different approach and reasoning to mathematics. That not only are the fundamentals different like the math being in base twenty instead of base ten, but also instead of using a written out system and placing importance on patterns and equations, they use a more hands on approach using oral language and story telling over written word. Instead of drilling equations and repetitive practice the Inuit place more importance on the environment, life skills and relationships. I think applying some of these concepts to the way that curriculum and teachers approach math could have a positive effect on not only the way students perceive math but it could make math more flexible and less black and white.
Growing up in Regina, and more specifically in a very ‘middle class white’ neighborhood in my years in elementary school I read stories and heard only about people who looked and lived like I did. Although I heard comments like ‘finish your meal Jessica, there are starving children in Africa’ at home, I did not really comprehend that there were stories different from my own until High school. At this point I was not educated on topics like residential schools, racism or the privileges I grew up having. I remember being resistant to Indigenous education and learning about Canada’s history regarding treaties because I did not think it to be important and would often think about how the Aboriginal children I knew grew up like I did. But becoming more educated I realized that there are more stories than just the ones I had witnessed, that there were reserves in Saskatchewan who did not have access to safe water or the stories of the survivors of residential schools. That there were thousands of stories and just because I knew a few of them, or parts of them I had assumed that I knew them all. This is similar to Chimamanda Adichie’s story about the family who did not have as much money as her family, she assumed that all they were was poor and could serve others when in fact they had many stories and attributes other than simply being poor.
I also struggled with single stories and my personal biases in my English classes throughout high school when we would read books like ‘The Kite Runner’ or ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. I assumed that all Muslim women had no rights, were being beaten or were unhappy within their religion. While reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ I had to realize that this story did not summarize the stories of all Muslim women and that I needed to be open and not make assumptions about what I thought I knew about a group of people.
Growing up and going to school in Regina, I did not realize until now that I had citizenship education throughout both my elementary school and high school careers. The first kind of citizen is labeled the ‘Personally responsible’ citizen, which can be described as a person who takes care and helps ones own community and keeping themselves in good light. Throughout elementary school I can remember countless examples of how this was taught to us, even if not outright. We had many days a year when we would go and help clean up the schoolyard and streets surrounding the school, where we would have bottle drives to collect recycling and donate the money to a charity such as the Z99 Neonatal event. We constantly learned about being responsible for ones self and taking ownership of our own actions and how those actions would come to effect our friends and others that we knew around the school or community. The second kind of citizen is the ‘participatory’ citizen which can be described as someone who someone who attends and participates in community events, social or otherwise. I can recognize this citizen as well in both my elementary and high school years, in all of my schooling everyone had the opportunity to be part of groups such as the SRC (student representative council) to help plan and meet about school events or issues, in elementary as well we had the Safety patrol which helped students to cross the streets after school safely. Another way I can reflect on this type of citizenship education is when we would have student elections, in high school we would vote on many things throughout the year but I think the biggest vote that we had in my grades 9-12 was when we had a grade 12 student wide election for who would become valedictorian of our graduating class. It started with nominations on ballets and then we proceeded with two other votes to finally decide who would represent our 2017 class.
The third type of citizen is the ‘justice oriented’ citizen which sadly I did not receive education about in my elementary or high school years, save for a week in my grade five class with Mr. Johnson. In this week we were learning about the environment and how each of us was positively and negatively impacting our Eco system. We found out our own carbon footprints that we as individuals were creating as well as our carbon footprint as a class and as a school. Mr. Johnson led deep discussions (well deep for 10-11 year olds) about how this would come to effect our planet and how we could reduce our own mark. We discussed how we could educate others and get more involved in the cause of climate change and how it would impact everyone and everything we knew and why this was happening to our planet. Other than this one unit I do not recollect any other times in my schooling when we were taught to be justice oriented citizens.
The following is an email responding to an intern who is struggling to bring treaty education into the classroom.
Good morning (Intern),
Thank you so much for reaching out and taking initiative to bring treaty education into your placement classroom! I am sorry that this has been your experience so far but I am very glad to hear that you find importance in educating your class and colleagues about reconciliation.
I believe that explaining to both your cooperating teacher and students that all Canadians are treaty people and that having this knowledge and understanding these experiences are valuable to everyone, not just indigenous students. Not only speaking about being treaty people but helping to make connections and develop identities and what it means individually to be a treaty person. This may seem simple, but is incredibly important to develop and add on to treaty education is creating a basis of respect and understanding of why these concepts are essential. Finding out what your students know, or think they know about treaties, residential schools or stereotypes of indigenous people. It can be uncomfortable but challenging oppressive and incorrect prior knowledge can help to break down stereotypes and misconceptions that make it more difficult to teach these subjects.
Be open and honest with your students, let them know that you are not an expert and may not know everything and it is okay to make mistakes and be wrong. Giving your students or cooperating teacher other resources and opportunities to learn inside and outside of class. Maybe having the opportunity to speak to an elder, attend an event or watch a film can help your students to associate reconciliation with their own lives and current events rather than a problem of the past.
I hope this helps, if you have any other questions or concerns then feel free to send me another email anytime. Thank you so much for reaching out!
– Jessica McCullough
The article Curriculum Policy and the Politics of what should be learned in schools written by Ben Levin, he writes about the political and discussion process of what goes into creating a curriculum. Levin writes about how the aspect of politics involved in curriculum is misunderstood as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when really politics and policy is involved in all decisions. In the article the author explains all of the parts, groups of people and individuals that must come together to form the curriculum, these people being teachers, board people but mainly government. Curriculum is discussed at length considering how much time per subject, where subjects could overlap and although teachers are the ones who carry out these plans they do not have much involvement in the creation process. I did not imagine that so many people would be invested in what is put into the curriculum, just as I was surprised in class when textbooks were brought up and we were told that even the companies who print the books have opinions on what should be inside.
I was shocked when I read that the first treaty education inclusion in schools was only in 2007. Aboriginal peoples history, knowledge of residential schools, and treaties are such a huge part of the history of how Canada came to be and having such a big part missing does not make sense. Because there has been such a lack of inclusion of indigenous perspectives and stories in the curriculum, there was a lot of rejection because Canadians have little to no knowledge about residential schools, inter generational trauma and treaties.
In the article Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing Restoule, Gruner and Metatawabin write about the connection between identity and place, how understanding and building relationships with nature can create a stronger community and education to their culture and traditional territory. The authors write about a 10 day river trip that engaged youth, adults and elders which is where I connected more to the rein habitation and decolonization. The group went and sought out experiences that could be used to educate and bring discussions about Mushkegowuk culture and gave opportunities to the elders and adults to teach about traditions and interconnection to the land. The authors write of how teaching about nature and relating to traditions has benefited the Mushkegowuk peoples.
“Over just two generations, one could observe the erosion of deeper
meanings of connection to land and territory that are encoded in the Mushkegowuk
language, its declining use among the adult and youth generations.” (Restoule et al, 2013)
This article reminded me of my ECS 100 placement that I am currently in this semester, at Prairie Sky school here in Regina. Prairie Sky is a nature based learning school that not only is very Eco friendly and conscious of the effect they have on the planet. They spend hours outside every day, learning their lessons through an indigenous and holistic method of understanding human nature and how that connects to the place around us. Personally as a future band teacher I do not have much control about the place my classes will take place, but I do have the option to place importance in including indigenous composers and teaching about traditional aboriginal music and how that is part of our history and present as Canadians.
According to ‘commonsense’ a good student is quiet, well behaved, and does exactly what they are told without challenging or asking questions. A student who engages appropriately with the teacher and peers and who can learn through the teaching style the teacher uses without complaint or confusion.
Reading the Kumashiro article I connected strongly to their experience with the student “M”, I run a after school daycare program and experienced a shockingly similar situation with a child last year. While reading the article I not only connected my student to “M”, but I myself related strongly with Kumashiro as well. I had so many problems trying to engage him, combat his challenging and sometimes violent behaviors and to instill healthy habits and routine. I would consistently speak to their teacher, parents, the principal, my peers and site staff, boss and try and find anything that I could use to get through to this six year old. I would question myself and reflect on my interactions with them, I would go home and read articles and sub-reddits about teaching and challenging behaviors and nothing seemed to help. Reading Kumashiros article I was so anxious to reach the end and find the solution to ‘fix’ this child, and others that I had worked with that had some of the same challenges. But as you all know there was not an answer and there is no answer to how to ‘fix’ these children, because they are not broken. I have been thinking and reflecting on my interactions and experiences with him and what I should have done differently, just because he does not engage or learn the way that is easiest for me does not mean that he is wrong or bad. This article has honestly changed my outlook on some of my children and of myself and even though I have not quite yet figured out how to change or what to change at least I am growing.
For my critical summary I have chosen the subject of disability and the curriculum, my article being “Implementing Disability Sports in the General Physical Education Curriculum”. The authors discuss in this article about how including disability sports such as wheelchair basketball can influence the self image and confidence in students of all abilities. The article begins with short personal story about the impact of an inclusive physical education class, then the authors move through what an inclusive classroom could look like and walks the reader through how to implement these ideas. The authors focus on the positive consequences that come from including disability sport instruction in the classroom, specifically with relationships between students.
There are specific steps given to help successfully put into practice disability sports in the curriculum, an ABC model of steps and what the teacher needs to research and consider before adding this to their gym. The authors provide tools and references to get started with an inclusive phys ed curriculum, including a table of what sports have a referenced disabled sport league, assessment rubrics on what to look for in students, and Paralympic specific sports such as goal-ball. Overall the authors of this article were making a collective guide to how to include all sport just as to include all students.
My plans moving forward is to find a couple other articles to supplement my paper, staying with the topic of an inclusive physical education classroom. To make an outline of my main points, specifying what the authors of the articles agree on and what is different from work to work. I also plan on bringing in the aspect of some financial limitations that will arise in elementary schools while carrying out these plans.
Reflecting on my elementary and high school years of education I can absolutely see how the Tyler rationale has had in impact on my learning and interactions with teachers over then years. Not only was testing a huge part of school but we would have multiple tests and assignments a year coming from the school district that were used to test our reading and writing comprehension. Not only in evaluations but in the teaching styles and expectations we as students were expected to meet. I can very clearly remember absolutely hating my physics 20 course because the teacher would teach directly from the book in the order it said and if you did not understand the books method that was too bad for you and your average, if you used formulas instead of what the book said she would mark your answer wrong even if it was correct. This did not facilitate my learning and because I did not think and act the way the told me I should.
I think there are some definite limitations to the Tyler rationale, one big one being that the weight and importance placed on evaluations can hold a lot of students back. Some students do not test well, or experience test anxiety and this does not mean that students are not attentive or intelligent but due to the system of how most teachers grade that is what ends up being reflected in their grades. This rationale limits inclusion of the students interests in their education, as well as restricts critical thinking because this method teaches students exactly step by step what to do and what to think about it not how to come up with your own ideas, thoughts, ways of learning.
A positive aspect to this way of teaching is that this gives a guideline for teachers and students to follow and use throughout the year, even if they do not follow it exactly you can draw ideas or examples from it. The testing portion of this rationale can be useful to get a relative idea of how well the students are understanding and following the concepts you are teaching, although I do not believe so much importance should be put on the results.