Is there Citizenship in the Classroom?

I have been examining this article in a few other classes so this blog post should come quite easy. The three main types of citizen focused on in this article is the participatory citizen, the personally responsible citizen, and the justice oriented. The question here, though, is if these types of citizen education is implemented through the K-12 system. I don’t see this as a straight forward, one answer, type of question. Instead, I believe there are parts where it is taught and areas where this needs to be vast improvement.

There is a lot of citizenship being taught in the younger grades. Especially in kindergarten, up to about grade 3 or 4. Here young children are learning the simplicity of what it means to be a good friend, how you can be kind to others, and to treat others with dignity and respect. This teaches them to be personally responsible for their selves and their actions. In the upper elementary years, students still learn those things, but with a heavier incentive. Now students are learning about what is going on in the world, what has happened in the world, and how they can start making a difference. Now students are becoming the participatory citizen, on top of the personally responsible citizen. Alas, through my experience at least, there was not a lot being taught to cover the justice oriented- but perhaps learning about cyber bullying and bullying can contribute to that area.

 

High school was a different story. Obviously, there are the core classes you have to take to graduate, and you are offered electives to fill those empty credits you need. As someone who took both Indigenous Studies and History, the History aspect of the social sciences area is very transmission like- you learn dates and events, and you get tested on them. You did not really learn what it meant to be any type of citizen. In Indigenous Studies, along with learning facts and dates, there was emphasis on the justice oriented citizen. Perhaps you need a passion in the area, I do, so I might be a little bias, but I feel my Indigenous Studies classes really encouraged me to be a better person and go out and create change within the Saskatchewan community, and is a big part of the reason why I am in Education with a Social Studies minor.

In other classes such as English, and some electives like Life Transitions, there are brief focuses on these three types of citizens, but maybe not quite enough. I am not saying every subject has to motivate kids to become educators, but the amount of people I know that are my age think they have nothing to contribute to the world, and that simply is not the case. Alas, I didn’t see really at all in math or science.

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Colonialism in Mathematics

I did not see a lot of oppression in MY math classes in high school. However, what I did see, was all the white students taking the upper level pre-calculus and calculus classes, while the Indigenous students took the workplace and apprenticeship math. Which, of course, there is nothing wrong with that. In so, a lot of the students taking foundations of mathematics and calculus were very judgmental of these students: “They take workplace math because they can’t do this hard math”, “They’re taking workplace/modified math because they’re lazy”… and related statements. Which, is this true at all? No. Additionally, for the Indigenous students that did take pre-calc and calc were never encouraged by their classmates. They were kind of their own group in the class… some dropped the class, and some failed due to lack of set up for success (purely from their peers).

As I type this out, I am now realizing another form of oppression. The “smarter” kids were always significantly encouraged to move onto pre-calculus to take the route, while maybe the “average” and progressive kids were encouraged to take foundations. It seems like the students who the teachers deemed “not as smart” were encouraged to take workplace or modified. Granted, math is hard, and it may be hard for a student to successful… BUT it is important to remember, as teachers, that every student is deserving of the same learning opportunities. I myself was told to drop out of pre-calculus and take foundations the next semester, because I was not doing well. But I pushed through and made it through the class. I went on to pre-calculus 30, where I initially finished with a 43. I was lucky enough to be put in the “re-entry” program the next semester, instead of retaking the entire class, and then was able to pass with a 53. It is important to note that I received some significantly high grades in other courses. But once my teachers realized I was not good at math, automatically went to attempting to convince me to take an easier math. And when I told them no, did not receive all the supports I believe I could have received because they simply did not believe in me.

Inuit Mathematics:

  1. I found it really interesting that the Inuit people use a base 20 system! You can include this as part of some Treaty Education/Indigenous content while in math!
  2. However, I was not surprised when the white/European teachers assumed Inuit people of not being capable to do math before becoming aware of their base 20 system. To me, this is so typical of white people. Usually, when people are given the opportunity to give into a stereotype, they take it. And in my opinion, this is exactly what they did.
  3. Oral speaking and learning is a major component. This creates a different type of learning. Switching back and forth between the Inuit transfer of information and the Eurocentric way, of course things are going to be more complicated.

An Unfortunate Email that shows the Unfortunate Events of Teaching and Schooling

This gruesome email Mike received two years ago is exactly what we are learning not to do right now. Everything we do in university ECS/education courses heavily stresses the importance of Indigenous content and Treaty Ed. Because, well, it really is important. It infuriates me that this was the reply from the cooperating teacher. How long ago did this teacher go to school? Are they a recently graduated teacher or a teacher who has taught for years? I am assuming the answer to this is that this was an experienced teacher, and to have such an opinion as to why Treaty Ed isn’t and shouldn’t be taught is mind boggling, but not surprising. A lot of experienced teachers are so stuck in their ways that they don’t dare do anything else- but at the same time, this is our student’s futures and educations we are talking about, and if that means teaching Indigenous content to learn about the *very* important past– then change your ways and TEACH IT!! What I understood from Claire in the presentation, students need to focus more on the culture, the people, and then the issues going on in Canada for any student to really understand.

Something I think I realized at Treaty Ed Camp was that we do not ‘celebrate’ Indigenous culture and events. I believe if we say the word ‘celebrate’, we are trying to ignore the major issues of the past. Instead, how about, acknowledge, consider, or even better… recognize. When we recognize the Indigenous issues of the past and the continuing issues of today, then we can come together and participate in the powwows, pipe ceremonies, and smudges that Indigenous peoples openly welcome anybody to. Kind of something like “I recognize this happened in the past. I am sorry, and I am here today to embrace and appreciate you and your culture”.

So, when there are ACTUAL teachers, in THIS province, in THIS city, who have no problem stating that Treaty Education isn’t important… these are the people we have to apologize for; this is not the type of teachers we are trying to be, and definitely not the type of teacher the Faculty of Education trains their students to be. It is sad and unfortunate that we have teachers out there who believe this, and now it will be our job to fix that.  What this email shows is that these students are learning that Treaty Ed is not important, and that really isn’t the case.

Week 5- Before and After Reading

Before Reading- how do you think that school curricula are developed?

I’ve always imagined curriculum being made through a group of accredited peers: young teachers, older teachers, phDs, and the minister of education and other affiliated associates, who gather and come to decisions. The process is lengthy and these professionals must bring in elders and representatives from other cultures to ensure the desired outcomes of the curriculum reflect other cultures.

After Reading- How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

The way I understood this, is that creating curriculum is kind of like a parliamentary system. There are numerous highly-prestigious people coming together to essentially make the “laws” of school outcomes and indicators. Each outcome and indicator suggested needs to be approved by every member, and will resort to a vote if party members come to a disagreement. Much like politics, every member in the curriculum making process is being heavily watched, and judged on their every decision. There is no way to fit everything that everyone wants into the curriculum, therefore, not everyone is going to be pleased about what they find in the curriculum.

I suppose one thing that surprises me about how curriculum is made is regardless of how much outside input these creators of curriculum are given- they still are only going to produce a curriculum with only what they believe is important: “Political processes are driven by interests, and particularly by the most vocal interests” (pg. 22); so, regardless of how well educated a person may be who is suggesting pitches to the curriculum making team, and how great their ideas may be (that is full of purposeful and useful stuff), there still are going to be those people who do not agree and will not place it on the curriculum. Because educational situations and environments are much like politics, and it seems like we are still hesitant about putting new things on the curriculum because it will not achieve the “desired” results.

“Finding ways to mediate interests through different processes and uses of evidence will remain a challenge, though one worth pursuing.” (pg. 22)

 

Who Decides Who The Good Students Are?

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to common sense? Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student? What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these commonsense ideas?

According to Kurashimo, as previously discussed, common sense in school is following the status quo. Therefore, to be a “good student” is essentially the same thing. The “good student” in school is the one who follows all the hidden school “rules” or hidden curriculum like always raising their hand, ability to quickly recite what was just told in lecture, sit still, are always on time, etc. It often does not actually have anything to do with how “smart” they are as a student. Whereas the students who may not always be on time (which may be because of legitimate reasons), the students who need to shake their leg in class, or the students who do not learn as well in a lecture based class are the students who are deemed as the “bad” student. This unfortunately leads to many more opportunities for the “good” student, while the “bad” student, who is actually on the same intellectual level, receives none.

According to Kumashiro,  the “bad” students often have management issues and don’t pay attention, or engage with the discussion/class (when as mentioned earlier, a lot of students are not able to just sit still in a lecture. Some may need to shake their leg or doodle in order to be engaged).  Then, if these “problems” do not change, the student starts to feel put down by the teacher even though there is really nothing they can do about it, even though they did nothing wrong. This is how the “bad” student always stays the “bad” student.

I believe our job as educators is to ensure we are fully aware of all our students different learning environments/capacities. I myself need to be shaking my leg or foot, and sometimes doodling, to remain controlled in a classroom setting. It helps me keep regulated and in no way takes away from my engagement in my learning. More educators need to be aware of this as a lot of their students are suffering because they are feeling shunned by their teachers and peers, as they really are not understanding why they are being pinned as the “bad” student. I think the worst part, is that students see the way the teacher treats specific students, and if a teacher does not treat a student well, neither will they. Educators are major role models in every single aspect and that is why it is so crucial that every teacher must thoroughly understand their students.

Let’s Talk About It… Education and Life

I am hoping there are others that are currently following the Eminem/MGK “beef” that is going on and finds the humour in my title…

Anyway:

This week’s prompt is to find a quote that resonates with us and unpack that quote. We were given the following guiding questions: Think about what it makes possible and impossible in education. What does it say about the teacher, about the student? How does it related to your own understandings of curriculum and of school?

This quote I found/chose is actually from this week’s reading from Smith. The quote, however, comes from Franklin Bobbitt and he says:

“Education that prepares for life is one that prepares definitely”.

I picked this quote not only because I agree with it, but also because I have not particularly see it happen thus far in my life. What I mean by this, is that curriculum really often does not set up students for further into their future. A curriculum goes as far as the end of the course, and I believe that is often why we hear students say things such as “Why are we even learning this?” and “How is this going to help me in the future?”. Unless you are taking a career class or life transitions class, the curriculum really does not prepare for life. Although this thought of mine is not directly the fault of teachers, I do believe that teachers do have a choice as to how they present the curriculum that is presented to them- regardless if the curriculum “sets up for life” or not. A teacher’s enactment of the curriculum is actually what resonates with the students the most, so that is where our jobs as educators need to take that extra step for our students that the education we give them certainly does prepare them for life, which then perpetuates that it will prepare definitely (when I think of the word definitely in this context, I am thinking of the different ways the student can use their education in different situations and scenarios and highly influence their decision making skills).

I am not saying that it is impossible for curriculum to ever prepare for life. Of course it can. However, what I am saying, is that this quote helps me recognize a few flaws in the system. Through this recognition we are able to come up with possible solutions.

The “Problem” of Common Sense

How does Kumashiro define common sense and why is it so important?

 

Kumashiro defines common sense as education through familiarity and personal experience; a simple, yet practical theory. Kumashiro also defines common sense as things that we have come to know as the “norm”- just typical things that typical people do every day. Why? Because it’s common sense. That being said, it’s the thing that everybody does, therefore, it should all be the same. Therefore, when it comes to education, Kumashiro says that common sense in this aspect is no different as all schooling should be the same. Kumashiro argues that this ideology doesn’t explain what schools COULD be doing, but rather, what they SHOULD be doing. This demonstrates the idea that things that are considered “common sense” is just expected by all teachers even though not all students may not have the same understanding of “common sense” as they do.

Assuming every student has the “same” level of common sense is a bold move and is therefore why it is so important to consider. Students are and can be raised in very different environments, and what one student learns at home may not be what another student learns. Common sense is not something that is purely taught at school, so despite many students having the same teachers and learning their ways of common sense, students will still go home and experience different lives and that is why it is so important to consider problems such as these within common sense. Part of our job as teachers is to ensure each of our students experiences the same opportunities, and that will not ever happen if we belittle a student because they asked if the teacher prefers black or blue pen.