My name is Tristan Dashney and I am currently in my first year of the Education Program at the University of Regina. I grew up in the small, rural town of Kyle Saskatchewan. After spending my whole life in the same school, watching many different teachers coming and going, I realized that I myself wanted to become a teacher.
I was never very good at or interested in math classes when i was in high school. There were many math classes in which i didn’t pay attention because i was incredibly bored. However, I do not believe that my math classes were ever discriminatory or oppressive in any way. My classmates and I never hated math class because it was oppressing our culture or anything like that, we just were bored by it. After doing this reading i have had my eyes opened to the different ways that cultures such as the inuit people do math, but i don’t think how we do math is necessarily discriminatory in any way. i don’t think that us trying to teach an inuit student our ways of mathematics are oppressive, just as them teaching us their methods of math is oppressing us.
I do find it very interesting how different their ways of understanding math is when compared to our own. for example, they use a base twenty system of counting while we only use base ten. I also find it very interesting that they mostly just do math mentally and orally rather than writing everything down as we do. Never again will i allow a math teacher to demand that i show my work. And only recently were written words created to go along with their methods of using math. And even then, their words are specific for the context in which math is being used. Their ways of knowing math may be different to ours, but i don’t think either methods are better or worse than the other, just different.
Throughout the article, the researches experience many different instances of decolonization and reinhabitation in the community of Fort Albany First Nation. One of these specific instances is seen when the youth of the community were given the opportunity to interview their elders and community members. They did this not to collect research, but simply to pass down knowledge and ways of knowing through the generations and through spoken storytelling. Another instance of decolonization comes from the renaming of the Albany river to the Kistachowan river, using one of their own words rather than an english word.
In my own teaching, i’m not entirely sure how to incorporate these ideas of place and decolonization into my lessons in a way that is meaningful to the students. I believe it is important to know the the stories and the ways of knowing of the people who were here before the european settlers. It is important for the students to understand that although they learn in many history classes the story of the european settlers and of confederation through the european lense, there are other histories and peoples associated with this land. The land already had a long and meaningful history that should be taught alongside any other stories of this country. However, I don’t yet know how best to teach these lessons or how to incorporate it within my future lessons.
Before I did the reading for this week, I had a very basic understanding of how curriculum was formed. I believed it was a group of teachers and ministry representatives who generally agreed upon what goes into the curriculum. After reading however, i realize just how difficult creating the provincial curriculum can be.
It takes a whole lot of different groups of people to come together and each have their own unique ideas of what students need to know and what should be included in one course. Getting all of these people from all over the place to agree on anything is near impossible. Moreover, just combing through all of the possible content and deciding what is important or necessary and what can be left behind is insane. Then taking all of that important information and trying to squeeze it into a single course is even harder.
Finally, teachers do not have nearly as much say in the curriculum that they are being required to teach as i once thought they did. As for students, they have the smallest part in what ends up in their classes and what is supposed to prepare them for the future. And that is where i’m a bit torn. one one hand i would love for students to be more involved in the creation of curriculum for future students. They would know better than anyone what aspects of a class work and what falls flat. On the other hand, students don’t know what they need to know. I’ve been in classes where we’ve all been super lost and the teacher asks if there’s any questions, and no one says anything because we don’t even know what questions to ask. Writing curriculum is a hard and lengthy process and i do not envy those who toil away at writing it for us.
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” – Paulo Freire
I Chose this quote from Paulo Freire because it is simple, but has a much deeper meaning depending on the context. When applied to the field of education, the quote draws on heavy issues such as the problem with race relations within the classroom. If a teacher decides to “not see colour” within their classroom, what they are really doing is seeing all of their students as one race. In doing this, the teacher is disregarding the unique and important cultures of all the students in the class, as well as only teaching from their own cultural point of view. When the students see their cultures being ignored because the teacher is trying to be “neutral”, then they will feel just as left out as if the teacher only focused on one specific culture.
Coming from a very small town of about 500 people, there wasn’t really a variety of cultures for the teacher to acknowledge. We all came from pretty much the same white, rural, farming background. However in much larger school environments such as many city schools, there is a much larger and more diverse student population. Regardless if the teacher feels uncomfortable teaching about all these different and possibly unfamiliar cultures, it is important to expose the students to other backgrounds and cultures in the world. It is important for the students of different cultures or races to feel welcomed and recognized as being just as important as the rest of the students in the class.
In the introduction to his book, “Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice”, author Kevin Kumashiro gives an anecdote about his experience teaching in Nepal. His experience taught him about the contrasting ideas of common sense that he and the people of Nepal had. Living and teaching in Nepal taught Kumashiro that what he thought was common sense, was really just his own american ideals and that the people of Nepal lived and functioned in a way that was very different to his own. With regards to teaching, Kumashiro goes on to describe the common sense view of education in the United States as following a simple but strict guideline. There are a set number of classes, set class times, set class years, and generally pre-determined classes or teaching materials. Things in the United States are done in a certain way, and Kumashiro claims that they are not necessarily better than in other parts of the world. He also goes on to talk about how implementing those American ways of common sense teaching can be oppressive and imperialistic towards the other countries.
Kumashiro talks about how oppressive these common sense ideas of teaching can be to other countries, but also in the United States itself. It is important to notice and understand common sense, because it helps identify problems within our current school systems. Looking at and thinking critically about what we consider common sense in our schools helps to determine what may be some outdated ways of doing things. Picking about our ideas of what should or shouldn’t be in a classroom right now, or even how a classroom functions, can help to inspire change not only within our schools but also within ourselves as teachers.
Here is my CBSL learning story video, hope you enjoy!
3 things I learned:
- The academic definition of “profession” which looks at a profession as having a lot of knowledge in a certain area that was obtained over a long period of time, being a well respected and essential service, and being mostly independent of other jobs. I thought this was interesting because when applied to the teaching career, a case can be made both for and against teaching being a profession. Obviously as a future educator, I believe that it most certainly is a profession. However with the growing use of online education and the easy access of information, some may see teachers as becoming “obsolete”.
- I learned that there is quite the heated debate about whether or not teaching counts as a legitimate profession. While I personally think it should be considered a profession, there is a strong case against it. I think regardless of if it fits the definition or not, teaching should be as respected as things like doctors or scientists. (Teachers should also be paid more)
- The story of Krista Yerkes, the beginner teacher, was a very interesting one. It seemed like she had a lot of difficulty adjusting to her role as a teacher. To me, the story seemed to be a “what not to do” tale of sorts. Although i found it very interesting to see the experience of a fellow new teacher and it gave me an idea of what struggles to expect.
2 Connections I made:
- The debate over whether or not teaching counts as a profession really got me thinking. I believe that overall, it doesn’t really matter if something is officially a profession or not. The label doesn’t impact a teacher’s performance or their teaching style. While the title of profession may come with greater respect for teachers from the public, it doesn’t determine the importance of teaching. Perhaps if more people truly saw and understood the benefits to education, teachers would receive greater respect and be more revered.
- I also connected to Krista’s story. Like i said earlier, her story and her reactions to teaching seemed like a what not to do, and she seemed to be having a very rough go. While i have very limited experience working in classrooms, from what experience i do have i would say that teaching is not nearly as terrifying an experience as she describes. She also seems to make extreme choices such as fighting with and moving away from her college roommates. In my opinion, while teachers need to present themselves in a professional and respectable manner, I also think there is a certain amount of “chill”, for lack of a better word, that teachers need to have. As with any job, if someone takes everything too seriously it becomes no fun and they begin to have problems with their job. I liked when Krista helped connect to a student with behavioral problems by connecting with that student and being more relaxed around them. Connections like these help students want to come to class and want to learn, and showing that as a teacher you care about your students is very important.
1 question I still have:
- Would viewing teaching as a profession change the way that teachers present themselves to the public and to their students, and if so would this change have a positive or negative impact on the students’ learning?
This week’s assigned video had a certain interest for me, because of the fact that it was partially made by Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. I went into watching The Secret Path with no background knowledge of what it was going to be about, aside from Gord Downie’s involvement in it. Once i started watching, i was immediately hooked by the unique art and music that accompanied the touching story.
3 things i learned:
- While I already had a general understanding of what residential schools were like, I learned more about the awful conditions from the video. The personal account made it more real in a way, rather than just hearing about it from textbooks and articles.
- I learned about the many artists like Gord who are using their art to raise awareness about these issues for the public. The panel in the last half of the video really stressed how important it is to go to other indigenous artists and see how their art is impacted by the legacy of residential schools and how they are trying to shed light and gather interest in that dark part of Canadian history.
- Finally I learned more about how the indigenous people can forgive the tragedies of the past. I liked when the panel talked about how sometimes its okay to be angry about what happened, and how that is a healthy emotion to be feeling. I feel like much too often people talk about the forgiveness and idea of moving forward that needs to happen. However they don’t talk about what indigenous people may be feeling and how they can handle those feelings
2 connections I made:
- The Secret Path video itself connected to my own past learning of residential schools. I’ve been taught about residential schools all throughout high school, but like I said earlier, there’s something about seeing it as a personal story that makes it more real and more impactful than hearing it from a history book.
- Another connection I made was with the survey that the TRC did about canadians who had not learned about residential schools. The number of Canadians who said they had not learned about residential schools during their life was something like 60% (i couldn’t find the part in the video to confirm this) and this once again connected to my own schooling. During high school I had always thought this was something that happened long ago and everyone had to learn about it. However, after seeing this video and talking to other people such as my parents, it has become clear that only in recent history have we even begun to teach our children about the dark history of our country, and while a lot of progress has been made, there is still a long way to go to fully educate the future generations.
1 question I still have:
- As future educators, how can we better teach our students about the history of Indigenous people and residential schools in a impactful and meaningful way?
After a few more visits to my CBSL placement, I have had more time to learn and understand what goes on in a funeral home. In my first CBSL blog, I talked about how the staff manages to keep a lighthearted tone and energy, despite the weight of the job they do. I initially believed they acted like this simply to make the job a little more bearable. However, the more time i spent with them, the more i realized that they genuinely enjoy the work that they do and they love to help people through some of the most difficult times of their lives.
While I’ve only had three or four more volunteer experiences since my initial post, I’ve got to see more of what goes on in the funeral home. Apart from the work they do in the funeral home, Speers occasionally volunteers with different events around the city. I got to help them be a part of the Silent Hearts fundraiser walk. Silent Hearts is a group for families who have had their child pass away at birth or shortly thereafter. It was an amazing experience to help out with such a meaningful event, and it was wonderful to see all of the extra work that the people at Speers funeral home put into the event, when they have absolutely no obligation to do so.
Overall, I’ve had an excellent experience at Speers. They are a group of wonderful people, and they do some incredible work there. It takes a certain kind of person to help people through some of the most difficult times every single day. They have inspired me to try and help my students during their times of need and to try and make their lives just a little better.