Summary of Learning

It is crazy to believe how fast the semester has flown by. It seems like only yesterday I knew nothing about the curriculum. Now, I can no longer say the same thing. I am happy to have learnt what I have in ECS 210 as I believe it will be a benefit for me and my learners. Here is the link to my video. It is also posted below. I would like to thank Mike and Katia for all they have taught me and making lectures enjoyable by incorporating different curriculum orientations.

Check out my nifty video!

Video Transcript:

Line 1: Perfect. We’re all comfortable and ready for our story. So here it begins, “The Scrooge of Curriculum”. Once upon a time there existed a teacher who did not understand curriculum at all, she thought it was nothing but a set of documents that indicated what she should teach her students. However, curriculum is more than that but she was unaware so later that night, she would learn lessons from 3 curriculum ghosts – the curriculum practice ghost, the Treaty Ed ghost, and the Ghost of Curriculum. The teacher, Ms. Lang went to bed with her failing curriculum paper beside her, which she was very upset about as she thought her view on the curriculum was absolutely correct. As she fell asleep, she awoke in a room.  

“I am the curriculum practice ghost. While you think the curriculum is simply a set of documents it is so much more. In fact, there are four forms of curriculum orientation. 1. Curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted which essentially means students learn what is on the syllabus through lectures. 2. Curriculum as product meaning there is something to be learnt and it will be evaluated in one form or another. 3. Curriculum as Process essentially means students get choices in their learning and assessments. 4. Curriculum as Praxis focuses on tackling social justice. While each of these approaches has pros and cons, one approach does not trump another since each has its own unique purpose. In fact, to run an effective class, using all 4 models is very beneficial to your learners. 

Ms. Lang awoke from her sleep shocked with her new learnings however, she decided that she would not rewrite her paper. As she returned to her slumber, she was visited by another ghost – the Treaty Ed Ghost. This ghost would take Ms. Lang to an empty field. She would be greeted by notes on trees and echoes in the wind. 

What is this? Curriculum as Place? What does that mean? 

It means the curriculum does not simply imply traditional classroom learning, it is taking your students outdoors and teaching them from here. It provides learners with the opportunity to learn in another environment and connect with the land, family, culture and community. It is very cross-curricular and is not just limited to a few subjects.

We Are All Treaty People? 

Well of course we are. You learnt this through the teachings of Claire Krueger and Dwayne Donald. This means we are all part of the Treaty and as teachers, you are to incorporate Treaty Ed into every one of your classes. This is simple as you learnt in the lesson planning seminars as you saw hands-on examples with science lessons regarding pipelines and their environmental impacts to using the area of reserves for math problems instead of just teaching Treaty Ed in the humanity classes. Teachers are to ensure the lesson is not inappropriate and not to fear teaching Treaty Ed because it is okay to make mistakes, just remember to correct them (also asking for help doesn’t hurt and it is perfectly fine to become comfortable in the uncomfortable). There is no excuse for not teaching Treaty Education.

Okay I get it, curriculum is more than outcomes and indicators but I still think my paper is good enough and I’m too tired to rewrite it.  

Finally, I am the Ghost of Curriculum Dictatorship and the last ghost you will be hearing from. You know, it is not just teachers and curriculum designers who create curriculum, it is governments, the public and others but how do these people know what should or shouldn’t be taught in the classroom? It’s not only people who decide the curriculum perspectives but it is the literature and resources you use, pay attention to them and you may find that those materials are often from a viewpoint from the most powerful population. Even social media is included in this.  Typically, it is the white-Eurocentric perspective preferred in the formal curriculum if you investigate it. These white Eurocentric ideas also form the null and hidden curriculum which dictates how the classroom should be run. Heck, even influential moments in history dictate the curriculum. The curriculum is far from being neutral

So, curriculum is more than a set of documents and I need to consider curriculum orientation when lesson planning to benefits my students. It is also should be considered that when I teach Treaty Education and or I outside the classroom I may feel uncomfortable, the benefits of learning outweigh this feeling. I never would have considered this. 

 “Hey, you wrote, this paper and got a good grade you must be a good student”. 

Actually no, I am not a good student. A good student is just someone who agrees with the teacher and society’s standards such as being quiet and doing what I’m told to do. Often, the good students are those who are also privileged in society, for instance, reflect on your own education with this.  I wrote my paper on my opinion because I know single stories limit our knowledge of the world and keep us blind to stories we disagree with which negatively affects the students. You’re a math major but you only know one variation of math. For example, you tell seasons by dates on a calendar while the Inuit community tells the seasons by events in nature. School is simply a way of assimilation if you look at it like that and we have a far way to go.  This may seem common sense to you with how to do the math, but you must be aware that common sense varies and we should not avoid the conflicting common sense presented to us in the opinion of how schools should be operated. 

I suppose that is all true, I will rewrite my paper because my view of the curriculum has definitely been changed with all this information. 

And that is the story of how Ms. Lang was no longer the Scrooge of the curriculum. What a good story. Essentially, this story was written to show what all I have learnt in the curriculum and how my view has changed. When I begin to teach, I hope to consider the single stories and orientation being presented to avoid telling a story that is in favour of one social group. For Treaty Ed, my goal is to try my best as I now know that being uncomfortable is okay and I am not alone. While I still fear the curriculum, I now feel more comfortable in my knowledge that surrounds it.  I would like to thank Mike and Katia for all they have taught me. 

Dear Math, Stop Asking us to Find Your X

Math. You either love it or you hate it. It’s one of those subjects where you are one side of the argument, never in-between. One could argue that math is hard because it is only used by math teachers and mathematicians. However, Eddie Woo’s TED Talk, he begs to differ as he states “mathematics is a sense for patterns, relationships and logical connections. It’s a whole new way to see the world,” (6:05-6:15). Then the joke “Dear Algebra, stop asking us to find your X, she’s not coming back and don’t ask Y” may be mentioned as soon as someone hears the term “relationship” associated with math. Honestly, I probably would make that joke but I love math jokes so that’s fair. I never considered how math is all around us in patterns such as the similar patterns of geometry between rivers, trees, lightning bolts and so much more as Woo pointed out. Honestly, math is more cross-curricular than I ever thought, it’s incredibly beautiful. Or the patterns which exist in “the seasons of the years, the migration of animals, renewal ceremonies, songs, and stories,” (Bear, pg.78). When I think of math and patterns, I think something along the lines of red square, blue circle, red square, blue circle, not all the other beautiful patterns which exist in our world. 

Trees are patterns
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This leads me to discuss the one very important line written by Leroy Little Bear, colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews… Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (pg. 77). While I thought my education in all subjects was very inclusive, I have quickly learnt it was not. My education, specifically math looked at one strategy to solve problems, with always a preferred method cited in a textbook. We never looked at real-life examples of patterns like the seasons changing or flower growth, we simply looked at careers which focused on the patterns we saw in our textbooks. The curriculum model which typically surrounds math isn’t inclusive either. With math, the class was very product-based. Students simply learnt how to solve a problem based on how the teacher taught it and then students would write a test. If students did not understand how to solve the problem the way the teacher had taught it, they would simply fail the test. 

From here, Louise Poirier’s article “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community” challenges Eurocentric ideas in relation to math. Firstly, the Inuit community was found that there is a “system for expressing numbers orally. They do not have other means of representing numbers,” (Poirier, pg. 57) which offsets the Eurocentric idea that math is more written communication versus oral. I mean, how many of us remember writing a multiplication test? Probably a lot. How many times did you do math verbally? Or were you told to work on questions from the Math Makes Sense **insert grade** textbook quietly and independently? A second way of challenging Eurocentric ideas is the idea of directions and angles. In Eurocentric math, we often orientate ourselves with the help of a compass where we follow the needle pointing North and we will give directions like walk 90 degrees North. However, the Inuit have a different sense of orientation. Poirier found “the Inuit have developed an outstanding sense of space to help orient themselves. They have learned to ‘read’ snowbanks and assess the direction of winds,” and use Inukshuks for landmarks (pg. 59). This is very unlike the Eurocentric way of orientation. I mean, did you learn directions by ‘reading’ snowbanks? I can say I did not. A third way Inuit math differs from Eurocentric math is in terms of calendars. In Eurocentric math, we know how many days are in each month and when each month starts and begins. The only thing that changes is what day of the week each numerical day lands on. However, the Inuit calendar is built upon “natural, independently recurring yearly events” (pg. 61) which includes when “baby seals are born” and “when baby caribou are born” and “when two stars appear in the sky” (pg. 61-62). This is much different from how we see our calendars. 

Baby Seals mark calendar dates for the Inuit
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In conclusion, math is thought of differently across the globe. There are many interpretations of math but we must be open to the idea of math and not just assume we hate it since math is all around us, in numerical form and in natural form. Math is so much more than just doing textbook questions. In regard to Treaty Ed., math is not measuring the angle of tipis as found in the textbooks, but it could easily be exploring math from the Inuit perspective and gaining respect for it. We must remember that not all students have learnt math in the same manner in which we assume, so we must be aware that there is no one particular way of math. As educators, we must leave behind our ‘single stories’ of math and explore the beauty math has to offer. 

Until next time,

  • Jayden

Canada, eh?

Canada. The place where it’s always cold and snowy. Where you see either a moose or a beaver every 5 kilometers while driving. Where there is nothing to do but play hockey. A place where people in one province in particular call a sweater with a hood, a bunnyhug. Where in that one province, the land is so flat you can see the neighbour’s dog running 50 kilometers away. The province where everyone is a die-hard-watermelon-wearing-Saskatchewan-Roughriders-fan and everyone is a farmer. If you’re reading this, you may be asking yourself questions such as “why does this girl assume this country is nothing but cold and snowy, doesn’t she know we have summer?”. Or even better, “why is she just discussing the common stereotypes about Canada and Saskatchewan?”. The reason why I am talking about Canadian and Saskatchewan stereotypes is not simply to humour readers, but to shed a light on a bigger issue. That is, single stories.

What are some single stories you have heard about Canada?
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This week in ECS, we pondered single stories we have heard throughout our lives. We were asked to consider our upbringing and schooling to see how it has shaped us to “see the real world”. So, let’s begin. I was raised in a farming community with a predominately white population. I went to school K-12 in the public school system where all my teachers were white. Many people in my community were the same, sharing political values and social morals. I grew up in a middle-class family with heterosexual parents and my brother. My religion is Christian (if you ever come to where I’m from you’ll learn Church is a big part of the community with over 10 churches in the community and many still standing in the surrounding small towns and villages). While being from this community made me who I am, it also caused my education to tell single stories. What are those stores? The stories where those in my community agree with, where usually those of the white race are the dominant and heroic characters in literature. Our school did not have a lot of diversity, neither did my community so when we learnt about different cultures, it was often through a stereotypical lens. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” mentions that when we hear stories, we often assume negatives for those who differ from us and often fall into stereotypical views (13:00-13:20). Adichie mentions a story about a college roommate she had when she attended school in America, her roommate assumed since Adichie was from Nigeria, she would listen to “traditional Nigerian music” and was surprised to find out Adichie listened to Mariah Carey (4:30-5:00). This often happens when we meet someone who does not look like us or comes from the same place as us, we assume they are completely different from us. 

As I continue to reflect on my education, I think by coming from a predominately white community, I shape my views around that. I easily notice when we talk about those who are different from us, such as reading a book with a non-white main character. Although that rarely happened. With my upbringing and education, I will be bringing biases and specific lenses into my classroom, I do not mean to but most of us act on biases which we were raised on and we often stick to the lenses we are most comfortable with. To overcome biases and lenses, there is one thing I am able to do. That is, educate myself and others. Then hopefully, I am able to see more than just a lens that makes sense in my community by looking at lenses from multiple communities. This will benefit students as they will learn not to be single-story-minded where hopefully one day, stereotypes won’t exist because we will understand those who differ from us better. This will we will no longer put certain biases on students such as those with exceptionalities or from other countries. We will learn to see a student for their full potential.

What books do you remember reading? Whose perspective were they written from?
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Single stories in my own schooling were presented from those of a white narrative. Our pal, Kumashiro who’ve been reading about, writes “when students read literature by only certain groups of people, they learn about only certain experiences and perspectives, especially those of groups that have traditionally been privileged in society,” (Examples from English Literature, pg. 71). I remember reading stories and writing notes about different cultures, but when it came down to it, the stories were mostly written through a white perspective and the notes were created by a white teacher. Who can agree with this? Who remembers learning about the Medicine Wheel from an Elder and not a teacher? I can’t say I do. Now as I leave you, I have a question, what texts did you read in class? Who were they written by? 

Added: I just want to mention, after writing and posting this new post, I thought of a book that I read in Grade 12. That book was “In Search of April Raintree” which is a highly recommended read but that is the only book I remember reading that is a different story than my own. This book not only was written by an Indigenous author but told the experience of the main protagonist through the perspective of an Indigenous person instead of a white person.

Until next time,

  • Jayden

​The 2019 Curriculum Election

2019. The Canadian Federal Election year. This is when you see campaigns from potential candidates who are running for a party with hopes to win and be the party in power. People watch these campaigns like hawks, analyzing what every party says where voters will then make a (hopefully) informed decision on which party they will vote for. The voters will then make their way to the voting station where they are registered to vote and go behind the voting screen and place a nice X for the party they are voting for on their ballot. From here, the ballots are counted and the party with the most votes in a riding wins and the party with the most wins in all the ridings becomes the party in charge. Pretty simple, right? Heck to the no. Politics are much more complicated than that. Similarly, the curriculum and politics are complicated. 

A popular sign within the 2019 Federal Election
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To begin, it would be helpful to read, “Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools,” written by Ben Levin. Levin introduces the curriculum as “an official statement of what students are expected to know and be able to do,” (pg. 8). Basically, this means that if in the Grade 1 curriculum it states that children should be able to do simple addition, then the children are expected to do so. According to Levin, the school curriculum is developed by the government. But it is not just the government whose voice is being heard in the decision-making factors. The government listens to their voters and decides curriculum based off of what the majority of the population deems essential for students to learn. Levin writes, “in every setting, from classroom to country, political influence is usually highly unequal, and those who have the least status tend also to have the least influence on political decision making,” (pg. 8). Aside from the majority of the population having an influence on curriculum, Levan goes onto to explain curriculum is also a product created from the media and events. It is written, “The significance of the media is also illustrated by the consistent finding that where people have first-hand knowledge…where their prime source of information may come through often negative media coverage,” (pg. 11) meaning if the media covers a story about the curriculum where the curriculum appears negatively, the curriculum may be changed so stories about this negative curriculum disappear. Then, when it comes to the implementation of the curriculum, changes that were made, may not be checked to see if they are successful or failures (Levan, pg. 12). 

Another perspective from the development and implementation of the school curriculum is that secondary teachers and elementary teachers are on two different pages. This is interesting as Levin writes throughout his article how the two levels of teachers differ from what they deem important. Another perspective about curriculum comes from business’. Yes, I too am surprised about this. Levan writes “business groups often have strong views about various aspects of secondary curriculum…,” (pg.16). This means the businesses which may be very strong in a certain province, can help determine the curriculum. For instance, in Saskatchewan, Potash Corp is very well-known, do you think they have an influence on the curriculum? Is this why we learn so much about resources and the ground??? One area of concern with regards to the curriculum is the notion that an expert in a certain subject creates the curriculum and then teachers who may not be knowledgeable about that subject are expected to teach this. Is this fair to teachers? Are there enough curriculum resources for those teachers so they can reach every outcome and indicator???

The Media also plays a factor in curriculum development.
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With this, we were urged to look at the Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators created by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. After much examination, one can easily notice the Government thinks it is necessary for students to learn Treaty Ed as “The Constitution of Canada recognizes and affirms the existing treaty rights of the First Nations peoples and the Aboriginal rights of Metis people in Canada,” (Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators, pg. 3). However, in Levan’s article and mentioned above, many areas of curriculum say an expert usually creates the curriculum for a particular subject area, whereas this document by the Government does not use experts in the creation of the document. Also, one can easily tell from the curriculum document that the government implemented Treaty Ed since it deemed it important which echoes similar points to Levin’s article. In the end, the Treaty Education document still needs improving as many teachers still do not teach Treaty Ed but to learn about that, read my last blog post. 

Now as I leave you, what do you think would help create a neutral curriculum? Or will a neutral curriculum with no influences ever happen? Is there such a thing as a neutral curriculum?

Until next time,