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.