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Let’s Do the Math

  1. Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

When I think back to my educational career in mathematics, I cannot find a specific moment where I remember thinking “wow this is oppressive”. Of course, this may have been due to the fact that I was both young and naive back in high school or may have also been because I am a white, eurocentric male. Either way, when I do think back to our mathematics education, I do reflect on some moments that could have been oppressive.

For starters, our math class featured no incorporation of indigenous knowledge at all. This is disturbing to me as there are definitely ways to incorporate indigenous knowledge and culture within mathematics and counting buffalo is not a viable option.

We barely talked about anything in mathematics except formulas and numbers and of course, that is the class, but I do feel that this transmissive mode of educating can definitely be oppressive to students. My experience, however, was fine and not very oppressive.

2. After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

Firstly, the formation of their own Inuit counting system was super interesting and very powerful. This creates a very intriguing and engaging educational system for Inuit children because they are learning through their own culture and their own language. This definitely works to decolonize and challenge Eurocentric ideas.

Secondly, they continue to use the traditional Inuit calendar to keep time which fascinating. This again works to keep Inuit culture and practice in schools and to help keep their traditional ways alive in the youth.

Lastly, the researchers discovered that the Inuit schools have been using Inuit versions of English mathematical terms such as cube in English is called Sikkitakutuk in Inuktitut. Which translates to “many squares”. So this again keeps traditional language and concepts in the classroom instead of having to use English and Eurocentric “southern mathematics” in Inuit classrooms.

I really enjoyed this work that they have done with Indigenous culture and language in mathematics classrooms in Nunavut. I hope to see more interpretations in other classes to help bring a sense of familiarity and an anti-oppressive lens to mathematics education. Thank you for reading!

 

 

Do Not Give In

Dear Intern,

 

I have read your email regarding the issues you are facing within your classroom and I ask you not to become discouraged. While this is an uphill battle within many schools due to a lack of education with regards to First Nation content, simply doing nothing or bowing down to the majority, in this case, will not only change absolutely nothing in your school, it will ensure that the predominately white narrative that children are overexposed to in school will remain intact, alive, and allowed to continue within the minds of our students, keeping the tradition of oppression and ignorance for yet another generation of people. So, if you disagree and want to be an educator who shakes things up for the better, (which, clearly you do) then there are a few things that I can recommend to help you.

First and foremost, you may believe it is the Indigenous students that will benefit most from your indigenous lessons, however, this may be false. It is those who are pushing back, those who do not understand, those are the students that will benefit most from your Indigenous classes. These students need these lessons to help themselves understand the idea of “we are all treaty people”. When you can convince those students, then you have done your job well.

Indigenizing our curriculum is a crucial first step. As I have learned in my experiences, there are multiple ways to include Indigenous content in almost every aspect of every class. Do your best to incorporate indigenous ways of knowing. Even simple things such as opening the day by saying “hello” in Cree. These little changes to your approach can definitely change the student’s ways of knowing and help to ease students into Indigenous culture and history. A wonderful resource is Claire Kreuger’s blog. You can find it by searching Clair Kreuger. It will be a WordPress. She has wonderful insight and great ideas.

Of course, these things take time. You cannot expect everything to change like a revolution. This is much more of an evolution that needs to take place. You, as an educator, are the person who will influence your students’ ideas and can even alter their beliefs. You may not realize it, but you have immense power in your classroom. What you do, say, teach, express, and believe, whether you notice it or not, will affect your students. If you truly wish to incorporate Indigenous knowledge, traditions, history, and culture, you will and you must. You may already realize it, but it is imperative to our future peoples that they can understand one another. You cannot hate, nor fear something you know a lot about.

Treaty Education is also a wonderful experience. I learnt many things during my time going to this event. One of the greatest lessons I learned was through a smudging ceremony. I learned so much about the culture and significance of a smudge and it gave me real, first-hand experience and knowledge of First Nations culture. Just by this simple act of smudging, I learned so much. I gained a better understanding of the four medicines involved in the smudge, I learned about the role and significance of a smudge and, arguably most important, I learned that smudging is for anyone, not just for First Nations peoples. I think that was a key to my better understanding. Instead of my previous understanding that I could not be involved in such events because I was not of First Nation culture, I learned that anyone could smudge provided they follow the First Nations practices. That was a huge relief and made me feel both involved and special which are some key feelings that I think open the door for student engagement into First Nations culture. When students stop segregating and feel belonging, then interest and understanding grow exponentially. That is how I feel.

So, to that end, work on your connecting with your students. Spend time delving into ways of bringing in First Nations content in small chunks like saying “hello” in Cree to ease students and bring them into the conversation. Do your best to include First Nations content within all of your lessons in some form. Take a look at Claire Kreuger’s blog. She has fantastic ideas on teaching Indigenous subject matter as a white teacher. Make sure you focus on those who push back and become vocal when you start discussing First Nations content. Those students are wonderful and need to unpack their prior knowledge before they can get into your content that you will offer. Finally, consider coming to Treaty Education day. This is a full day dedicated to learning about First Nations culture and there are tons of strategies that people use to create a better, more inclusive classroom. Remember, and this may sound harsh but it is the truth. This is going to be tough, there will be many times where you struggle or want to give up but these students need this knowledge. Everyone deserves to understand. We truly are all treaty people and with that, go out and keep learning yourself. I know you will accomplish great things and thank you for your concerns. I cannot wait to see what you accomplish. Thank you very much.

 

Levi Harvey

ECS 210

The University of Regina

How Place can Impact and Heal

 

 

  1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

The increased intergenerational connectedness fostered through the effort of connecting youth and elders to create a better, more involved community. For instance, youth conducting interviews for a short audio documentary which aired on local Wataway Radio.

The audio documentary inspired excursions. Elders would pass down the knowledge of how to live off of the land. They would also point out key spots along the way. These excursions offered a wealth of insight into the importance of well-being in remote First Nations communities. A value of traditional territory and knowledge began to boom.

There is a renewal of language as well. From the interviews came the knowledge that many spoke broken Cree because of the lasting effect of assimilation from Residential Schools, with this, the old and young began to relearn their language.

There was a river trip along the Kistachowan river was a profound experience as the river held cultural, historical, and economic attributes. The river trip was crucial for the people because of the linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge that was shared along the journey. This was a very important step for the people as elders were able to reconnect with this sacred waterway, but the youth were introduced to a very important landmark within their history. of course, this also relates to the political aspect of protecting land and water rights for indigenous peoples.

This project help to deepen relationships among the community and the land that historically was and still is their homeland. The river trip was a learning experience that went beyond the classroom returning to traditional ways of learning. Learning from specific places has a more meaningful connection to people and creates an all-around better experience for those involved.

2. How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

As a future Social Studies educator, I can easily incorporate this into my classroom. for instance, we can go on field trips that relate to what we are learning in class. Treaty Four, for example, is a perfect connection to this type of educating. Students would be able to connect personally with the location that these major events in history have occurred giving a memorable connection to content and also a better understanding for the history that we need to discuss in class. There is something about physically being somewhere that can be quite powerful. Creating emotional attachment and a greater respect for the events that have occurred in such places. When you, as a person, are really there, nothing can compare to that experience. It is no longer in textbooks or a picture online, it is a physical place that exists. I really appreciate learning and teaching through that. I would even argue that a majority of students will engage more in the setting, such as the place of Treaty Four, when they are physically there.

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Yes, but WHAT IS Curriculum?

How do you think that school curricula are developed?

With only a little prior knowledge of how school curricula are developed, I can make an educated guess. Based on prior knowledge, I know that curricula are developed by teachers in the field. When curricula need to be renewed, expanded, etc. teachers with expertise in the subject area are chosen to help create the curriculum. This group can be comprised of individuals including new teachers, old teachers, elders, political officials, leaders, etc. It takes many hands to create curriculum and decide on what should be taught in school. Once these members are gathered then the curriculum can be discussed as a group to determine everything about the course. Once these people are in agreeance on what this new curriculum looks like, there are separate focus groups that deal on different parts to develop this curriculum such as the curriculum writers, etc. Once the curriculum is written and ready to test, there is a pilot program of one year so that a select few teachers can teach this new curriculum and discover what works and what does not. Once adjustments are made, the curriculum will be rolled out provincially as the new standard. This whole process takes years to culminate. That is what I know about developing curriculum. It is very basic and I am sure I missed a lot of information.

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

After reading the article there was one common theme; politics. I found myself looking back at my answer before reading to compare, I found some relations, but a lot of it was solely focused on the political agenda that curriculum ultimately revolves around. I found a lot of irony in this reading. How educators and students, those who actually deliver and retain the information taught, are the ones who have the least amount of say in the building of curriculum process. I found that concerning to me as a future educator. If we do not have a say, how can we effectively teach students?

Adding to my previous statement before the reading, creating curriculum is a process filled with varying individuals from many different fields and backgrounds, while this is true, as brought up in the article, there is a lot more of a political presence than I would have liked to see. Public policy plays a major role, which is fine until new issues arise in politics and those take precedence or are the agenda for the next curriculum update. To conclude, there are a lot more political ideologies in the development of the curriculum than I would like to see. While politics envelop most of our lives, it is sad to see that government, who does not know more than teachers about teaching, interfere in the process of building a strong, progressive lasting curriculum for students to learn and enjoy. Thanks for reading!

Levi.

 

Who is a “good” Student? Is there such a thing?

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

Commonsense is defined as the culture of rules and regulations that society lives in and dictates as safe and functional. These rules do not change often as they are practices that have been in effect for decades. What these rules that are a part of our “commonsense” mean for the educator are the base of what society wants for the next generation. Within Kumashiro’s article, he discusses how this commonsense ideal creates a steep divide between students. What does it mean to be a good student? Simply it is the idea of a quiet, attentive, composed, and rational individual who does what they are told when they are told it to the best of their abilities. These students are considered “the best” because they are easy to manage and do not disappoint or disrupt. Of course, these students are awesome and are rewarded for their behaviour. The “good” student rarely expresses themselves in class whether that is through answering questions or sharing their experiences.  These are the typical “good” students.

The divide for the “good” student and the “bad” student continue to deepen as they go through their educational career. Those who consistently act appropriately often become “favourites” or can be referred to as “smarter” than other students. Some may get better grades on the fact that they are a well-liked student. Of course, these students do well in school and deserve their grades, I am merely stating some potential bonuses of being a “good” student. While “good” students often raise the bar and continue to excel, those that may not be able to be “good” students can easily falter. These students may not receive praise, which is an integral part of success. Some may receive worse grades because of lack of interest or because they may be kicked out of class for trying to express themselves against the teacher’s wishes. These students may be disliked more, bullied by students and staff, and may suffer because of those reasons. The “bad” student is just that, considered “bad” because of the way they conduct themselves in school.

According to Kumashiro, “bad” students often have outbursts, behavioural management problems, lack of attention, care, ideas, etc. These faults are often misunderstood by educators, and, if these qualities of a student persist, the student can begin to get shunned by the educator for the expectation that the student does not have any quality ideas to contribute in class. This is how “bad” students remain bad.

As you can probably tell, I was often considered a “bad” student throughout my educational career. I had issues sitting still and controlling my behaviour, I always wanted to share ideas and thoughts, (especially when they were not necessary). I enjoyed school and eventually learnt how to conduct myself, but it took a while and lots of yelling and getting kicked out of classes before I learned. This conduct left me with a bad taste in my mouth and led to some resentment towards school. However, this could have been handled very differently. I believe segregating the “bad students” does not help the situation. It will only create resentment and a dislike of education for some students in the long run. A more focused, one-on-one individual approach to help the student would be much more helpful in that situation. Some students will enter the classroom with issues that we as educators do not see. So instead of denying them opportunities and disregarding their ideas and opinions in the classroom, do your best to understand the struggle of the student. We were all there once in those desks, do not forget that.

Thanks for reading!

Levi.

 

“What a child can do today with assistance, she will be able to do by herself tomorrow”

“What a child can do today with assistance, she will be able to do by herself tomorrow” is a quote by Lev Vygotsky. He was known for his work as a psychologist in Soviet Russia. He was considered the founder of an unfinished theory of human social and bio-cultural development. This quote speaks to me and stood out to me as I was searching the abyss of the internet in search of an inspiring, powerful quote for this weeks’ blog. This quote speaks to me on many different levels. For one, this quote outlines the idea of children and their level of independence and power that we may not always recognize. Children are very quick learners and, when interested in the subject, can practically follow exactly what is being taught to perfection.

Secondly, I know that as a child once, (and admittedly, still am) knowledge and learning independent things, such as jobs I could do myself, or lessons I could explain to my friends or anything of that sort made me interested right away. Of course, no one is perfect and needs assistance to learn how to properly accomplish a task of any varying degree. Once the task, whatever it is, is sufficiently taught, the student or pupil no longer is in need of the instructor. Hence the second half of the quote; “she will be able to do by herself tomorrow”. This speaks to how society functions. Society cannot succeed if the future generations are incorrectly taught. The role of a teacher to me is super important because of this aspect. I have always looked up to my educators and have gained a lot of respect for the profession ever since beginning my university journey.

This quote contains many hidden meanings such as stated above about needing a good teacher in order to create good independent students. The main takeaway for me is simply that students are more capable and knowledgeable than we give credit. Children will always have a unique interest in learning and growing how to succeed. Children will always rely on us as educators to ensure that they receive the absolute best education that we can possibly give them. Because if we succeed in that, not only will children be able to learn how to do it today, they will do it by themselves tomorrow, and they will create the days following that all on their own. Our students are the future. The future we want to see.

Hopefully, all of this makes sense. Thank you for reading!

Cheers, Levi

The Tyler Rationale

This weeks’ reading focused heavily on the Tyler Rationale. Firstly, the “Tyler Rationale” is a practical approach to curriculum development. Within the article, the “Tyler Rationale” appears to be a very straight-forward and conservative approach to delivering curriculum to students. This definition definitely fit into my small town school.

A) My small-town-farming-community-style education definitely fit in with the “Tyler Rationale”. Many of my teachers were older and brought in traditionalist views with how they delivered education. In fact, we may have only had one or two teachers that were under the age of 40. This created a strict and straightforward learning environment. One in which students would often rebel against. The lessons we received were cut and dry in high school. Most of the time, it was note taking from slides on powerpoint or lecture-style presentations from our teachers. Our math and science classes also followed a lot of this lecture style approach. Minimal questions were asked or brought up and we did our work after our teacher was done delivering the criteria for the lesson of that day. Personally, there was nothing wrong with this style of teaching or learning, however, it was simplistic and non-engaging.

B) The “Tyler Rationale” as stated above, appears very simplistic and straightforward. One of the big things that I noticed throughout the article was that this rationale is very vague and has no mention of students. We as teachers today are so focused on the students rather than the material, however, the “Tyler Rationale” seems to hone the idea of curriculum and how to deliver it rather than focus on student success. This was the major problem that I noticed with the Tyler Rationale. I found this quote from the article to fit with this section. “Curriculum workers thus, have two tasks: they must determine what the consumer market wants in terms of a finished product, and they must determine the most efficient way of producing that product” (Bobbitt, 1913). This message proves that the student approach to teaching is disregarded.

C) The “Tyler Rationale” is a very straightforward approach to curriculum education and I believe that is what makes it so popular and internationally accepted. It is simple and easy to follow. The four key questions to the theory also outline what the “Tyler Rationale” is. These include:

  1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
  3. How can these educational be effectively organized?
  4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

Are there some benefits? Yes, I think so. This rationale helps teachers by giving them a simplistic and easy-to-follow way of providing curriculum to students. However, it seems to lack depth and context. More student influence would definitely make this a way better way of teaching and with the direction that we as a society are moving, I feel that the  “Tyler Rationale” will begin to dissipate and eventually be replaced. Thank you for reading!

 

Levi Harvey