My Teaching Journey

Category: ECS 203 (Page 1 of 2)

Curriculum in Action: Understanding Literacy

How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

Which “single stories” (see Chimamanda Adichie’s talk, viewed in lecture) were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

My upbringing and schooling shaped how I read the world in a negative way. The main reason for this is because my hometown is a predominantly white settle town. This means that the school was full of mainly white students and also white teachers. I think my teacher must have fallen into the “well I don’t have any students of colour so I don’t need to include resources that ‘tell a range of different stories’ (76).” I say this because when I think back to everything I learned, it was all taught from the same colonizer lens, there was never any other perspectives included. My senior year English class was the first time a “new story” was included when we read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. An example of a single story that I recall from my schooling was in grade seven health in our HIV and AIDS unit which also happened to be the only time the topic on homosexuality. This only tells a single story that is very problematic because it attaches a negative stigmatism to homosexuality. Since I began university I have been uncovering my biases and lenses so that I can acknowledge and begin to work against them. An example of a bias I had to work to against was about gender identity, mainly because I didn’t really understand it. Growing up in a small town, everyone always just conformed to the gender norms so that it was seemed “normal” to me. However, I had the chance to attend the  professional development session Gender is ordinary: How to welcome gender diversity every day in your classroom last year with Dr. Lee Airton about their book Gender: Your Guide and it honestly changed my whole mindset because I finally learned from a perspective different than the one I had been surrounded by my whole life.

Curriculum in Action: Understanding Numeracy

Part 1: At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that 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” (p. 77). 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 was in elementary school I really did not like math. Each thing that we thing learned had multiple strategies you could use to solve the question. Normally I would say that is a very good thing because it accommodates more students and their different ways of thinking. However, we weren’t allowed to find out which strategy we liked best and then use it to solve each question. Instead, we always had to know how to use each strategy to solve the problem and we were tested on our ability to do each of the strategies. Which, to me, seems to defeat the point of having multiple strategies or ways to solve the problem if you are just going to force all the students to use every single strategy anyways. I remember in grade 5 our class decided to go on “strike” and we wrote “no more strategies” on paper and taped the paper to rulers and marched around at the start of math class. Our teacher offered us suckers if we stopped and of course we took the suckers and continued on learning strategies which were counterintuitive because trying to understand all the strategies just made everything more confusing.

Thankfully by grade 7 teachers started to understand the purpose of teaching various strategies. So, the whole class was taught each strategy but then in assignments and tests we could use whichever strategy made the most sense to us to solve each problem. In my experience, once you get into high school math classes there seems to be only one right answer and only one way to get there. Thankfully for me this worked and I actually liked it better than having a lot of different strategies because it didn’t seem like there was such an overwhelming amount of strategies to chose from. However, I can see how it is oppressive for other students how maybe don’t think in the way the teachers explains how to solve the problem and then they are left with no other option than to try to wrap their head around it which would result in taking longer to do assignment and tests.

Part 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 of mathematics and the way we learn it.

One way that was very apparent in the reading and in lecture was how Inuit mathematics are done in base-20 rather than base-10. When I read that they use a different base then we do it reminded me of my math 101 class in my first semester of university because we learned how to do equations in different bases but it was very difficult for me to wrap my head around and I went to a tutor in the student success centre a couple times before I could really figure it out. Honestly before that math 101 class I actually had no idea that math could be done in different base systems because I was only ever exposed to the Eurocentric base-10 system and was never even taught that our number system was in base-10. So, I just thought that numbers and mathematics were a universal thing. Another way Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric ideas of mathematics is by exposing the linguistic hierarchy. Canada’s colonial education places English above any other language. This was really seen in the article when it wasn’t taken into consideration that Inuktitut is traditionally and oral language. The dominant Eurocentric ideals can make us blind to other ways of communication because we are so immersed in English, which uses both oral and written communication, that we see it as the norm. Inuit Mathematics also challenges Eurocentric ideas is through teaching styles. The example Poirier gives in the reading is that “Traditional Inuit teaching is based on observing an elder or listening to enigmas… Furthermore, Inuit teachers tell me that, traditionally, they do not ask a student a question for which they think that student does not have the answer” (55). This definitely difference to the Eurocentric “paper-and-pencil exercises” (55) as Poirier would call it.

Curriculum in Action: Integrating Treaty Education

During fall semester several years ago, Dr. Mike Cappello received an email from an intern asking for help. Here’s part of it: “As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke. The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.”

The email was honestly very eye opening because trying to incorporate Treaty Ed and First Nations perspectives into the classroom could very well be a obstacle that I could face in my three week block depending on the school I am at and my cooperating teacher. It is honestly to think about how many schools and teachers probably have the same “lax” mindset around Treaty Ed and that is not okay because it doesn’t matter if there are any FNMI students or not, it important either way. The cooperating teacher, and the school (in the email) need the understanding of curriculum that we are all treaty people means that we ALL need to learn about Treaty Ed and from FNMI perspectives and content, not just because there are FNMI students present but because we are all treaty people therefor it is important for everyone. The reason we are all treaty people is explained by Chambers, “The treaties are a story that we share…It is our story: the one about the commons, what was shared and what was lost” (29). As Claire discussed, it is equally or more important for the non First Nation students in the classroom to be taught Treaty Ed and FNMI concepts perspectives. The reason why relates back to what Chambers said about how “We show our young what to believe and how to believe when they are very young…We learn how to believe scientist and mathematicians, teachers and curriculum” (26). So, we are teaching children to believe a curriculum that is in need of changing and as Claire explains, “we need to stop making racism and colonialism our underlying curriculum” (6:24). Furthermore, we need to undo “the racism that we [education system] have gotten so good at teaching them [non First Nations students]” (5:24) and one way of beginning to do this is by teaching Treaty Ed and incorporating FNMI perspectives and concepts.

Curriculum in Action – Approaches to Unit Planning

In Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Critical Literacy in Diverse English Classrooms: A case study of a secondary English teacher’s activism and agency, Lopez describes culturally relevant pedagogy as seeking “to develop cultural competence, academic excellence and socio-political consciousness” (76). Since I am focusing on early elementary years (K-5) in my degree I think what I would implement in my classroom would look different than the grade 12 English class that was used as an example in the reading. However, it is still just as important, or debatably more important, in the elementary years and it is in high school. I feel like in elementary year the “agency to disrupt the dominant and Eurocentric forms of knowledge and discourse” (76) won’t be as explicit as performance poetry. It could take the form in something like teaching both western and indigenous sides to history, providing literature with diverse character (characters of colour, LGBTQ characters, diverse family dynamics, ect.). Or if we come across a story that reinforces gender norms we could break that down together as a class. In my ELNG 200 class we were learning about “Linguistic landscapes” and I think that would be a good topic to bring into elementary classrooms. You could give groups of students a camera and go for a walk around the community taking pictures of various types of signs and then once back in class discuss what languages are represented in the pictures and why that may be.

Based off what I read in Placing Elementary Music Education: a case study of a Canadian rural music program, one of the biggest thing I hope to do to contribute a sense of place for my students is to apply learning to their local environment. I feel like no matter what the subject you can find ways to include aspects of the students community. For example, ELA you could have local authors, in science you could include the local environment and animals, in math you could incorporate aspects of the community into problems for the students to solve. Beyond that I also think it is import to bring the community into the school and also take to school into the community. This could build off of the first suggestion so for example, have the local author you are learning about come speak to the class or take the students to their book talk or something along those lines. I also agree that Brook’s use of music festivals is a good way to bring the community into the school to watch to student preform. I also know first hand how much music festivals are a tradition in a small town, we would have Carol Festival, Spring Concert, Remembrance day ceremonies, etc. I also hope to teach in one of the small towns around where I grew up, so these festivals will most likely also be something I do to help contribute to my future students sense of place.  

Curriculum in Action – Learning Theories & Approaches to Lesson Planning

In almost every education class I’ve taken in my degree so far we’ve discussed how everything in our society, but schools have advanced so much. I feel like this article is touching on the same concept, just by comparing educational trends to the global network. By making this comparison Waks really makes it clear how important it is for new educational trends to succeed, because they are currently far behind the global network. This is evident when Waks explains “crystallized intelligence [is] the use of acquired knowledge and ability to reason using learned procedures, and fluid intelligence [is] the ability to reason broadly, form concepts, and solve problems based using novel or unfamiliar procedures” (76). According to Waks, currently our education systems are creating “‘crystallized’ knowledge, not the ‘fluid’ knowledge needed by today’s network users and knowledge workers” (76).

In terms of democratic aspirations of a global network society, it seems as though the global network is moving forward with a push towards new more progressive education trends with an emphasis on understanding instead of memorization. However, on the other hand Waks also discussed how “Schooling as a public enterprise advancing common goals is getting shoved aside by a neo-liberal regime seeking to privatize public education and impose corporation-operated charter schools emphasizing rote learning and standardized testing” (80). So, it seems that there is a strong divide throughout the democratic society are really just cancelling each other out because neither side is achieving the educational change that they want to see and the education system remains the same. Furthermore, Waks explained that “These [schooling as a public enterprise] efforts have weakened the democratic role of national and state governments and in particular have granted corporations inappropriate influence over educational policy” (80). Additionally, “it neglects the question of power in setting the future orientation of society, by overlooking the growth of corporate power over the democratic state and its public functions” (81). Since it seems neo-liberal corporations seem to have unnecessary power, that is probably another reason probably why liberal new educational trends are never given the time of day. Another reason new educational trends are so hard to implement, is because “In our postmodern era, large-scale, liberal “metanarratives” of social progress for all, such as Dewey served up in The School and Society, are greeted with skepticism or even ridicule” (Waks 80-81).

Citizenship and the Curriculum

In my K-12 schooling experience I can’t say I really recall any sort of direct citizenship education in the classroom (although my recollection of what I learned in any grade earlier than grade 7 is a little spotty). I feel like it was more somehow instilled through the hidden curriculum and expectations of parents. The school aimed to create personally responsible citizens through the school policies. Westheimer describes an aspect of personally responsible citizens as “must have good character; they must be honest, responsible, and law-abiding members of the community” (240). My school’s “values” excepted students to act with respect and responsibility. I remember every classroom in the school had respect and responsibility posters hung up at the front of the classroom. The only other thing I can remember my school doing is through various clubs they created participatory citizens. I was apart of the almost every club but the SLC would be the club that really creates produces participatory citizens. We planned various events and fundraiser for in the school and in the community. Since I was in a small town school, pretty much everyone had to take leadership positions in order to come up with ideas and make the events happen. These clubs “prepared students to engage in collective, community-based efforts” (241). However, for the students who weren’t in clubs, I feel as though they wouldn’t have gotten any citizenship education in regards to the participatory citizen. I wanted to look on the school website to see if their values were still the same and I ended up coming across the schools vision statement which says, “At Robert Southey School our vision is to prepare students to think, learn and act as respectful and responsible citizens.” I think that vision statement is a bit ironic because the school didn’t really do much to develop the different types of citizens. Now that I’ve read the school’s vision I can see why no aspects of Justice-oriented citizens came up in my education. The idea of students  learning to think as a respectful and responsible citizen seems very limiting in my opinion. It doesn’t allow student to learn to analyze and question “social, economic, and political forces” (242) that would lead students to try and find the root cause of various problems. Furthermore, I believe this idea of wanting to create students that think a certain way could stem from curriculum when the emphasis was on curriculum as a product, which didn’t want to have any out of the box thinkers.

Building Curriculum

The Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools article really challenged my idea of curriculum that I “learned” from when I was in school. I was under the impression that curriculum was made by the government and I honestly didn’t think that they took other opinions into account when developing curriculum. When Levin said, “The role of politics in policy is troubling and misunderstood by many educators” (8) I feel like that is true about some of the teachers I had growing up. All my teachers sort of talked about curriculum in a negative way, complaining about how much needed to get done in the year or about what topics were required to be taught. That is what gave me the impression that the government had total control over curriculum. However, as Levin said, “Although every government comes to office with a set of policy ideals or commitments, the reality is that much of what governments attend to is not of their own design or preference” (10). In fact, this reading really showed how complicated it is to make curriculum because you have to find a middle ground for so many varying perspectives. There are so many different groups involved including: school councils, post-secondary institutions, teachers, principals, and business groups. I understand why business groups got involved, because they a could have students working for them one day, but I also don’t really see the need for their involvement? Especially when they have just as many or more seats than groups like teachers do (according to the example we saw in class). However I am surprised at the lack of voice students have in curriculum policy. The only real student involvement seems to be the “use of student outcome data to guide education policy” (19). However, if you talk to first and second year university students I am sure you would hear a lot of “I wish I learned that in high school” or “how come we didn’t learn this in school.” It would be interesting to see how voices like that could affect curriculum development.

I liked the The Saskatchewan Way: Professional-Led Curriculum Development article because it was focused specifically on Saskatchewan which is where I have done all my schooling so far and it is also where I plan on teaching once I get my degree. This article talks about the changes that curriculum has gone through in Saskatchewan. The thing that surprised me the most was the claim that “Saskatchewan was an early leader in this approach [collaborative approach to curriculum development] … it carried through to it’s most recent major global curriculum and educational reform” (6). The only reason this shocks me is because of the time these advancements were happening. For example, “The core curriculum review was carried out through the Core Curriculum Policy Advisory Committee, which was established in 1985” (7) which “provided a rationale for educational change in the province, based on sound coordinated principles” (7). However, you know what Saskatchewan still had running during these times? Residential schools. It just shocks me that our province could have been an “early leader” when we were the province that had the last residential school to close.

Queering the Curriculum

There are so many ways to address the intrinsically homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, and oppressive behaviours in the systems we teach in. One of the first ones that comes to my mind is gender neutral bathrooms. I think back to my small town high school, where there wasn’t a single gender neutral washroom until my grade 12 year when there “became a need for one”. I put that phrase in quotes because more likely than not, there has always been a need but nobody felt comfortable enough to disrupt the “common sense.” My schools “added” gender neutral washrooms by just re-naming the staff bathrooms which happen to be on the opposite end of the school to the gendered high school bathrooms, which really creates a sense of othering. However this can be avoided, in my ECS 100 field placement all the bathrooms in the school were single stalls so that anyone could use any stall. This would also eliminate the stresses of gym class change rooms. So many people aren’t comfortable changing in front of their peers for so many reasons and by having stalls it once again eliminates the sense of othering for the people who chose to change in a stall rather than in front of everybody or the people.

When beginning to think what integrating queerness into curriculum studies means to me, I reflect on when Skyes said, “privileged voices (and violences) of White heteronormativity need to seek anticolonial, ethical encounter” (29) and “queering curriculum studies involves listening for ways I am implicit and complicit with White supremacy on theoretical, political, and personal levels” (30). These quotes stuck wit me because prior to this weeks readings, I wrongly assumed that queering the curriculum was just about gender and sexuality. However, it is much more than that and actually is more about dismantling power imbalances. I feel like one of the best ways to incorporate queerness into my classroom is to call out things such as “colonialism, white heteronormativity and capitalism” (31) everyday as I come across it. By me pointing these things out during a lessons or in a story it teaches the students to also actively pay attention to those things. To go along with this, after pointing out the problems in lessons in stories, it is also important to provide literature and lessons that provide what the problematic lessons or stories did not. This could be through books that are diverse gender, sexuality, race and family structures or having a workshop about some of these imbalances.

By maintaining a classroom free from any notion of sexuality we would just be maintaining the stigma around sexuality that we see today. Even if schools aren’t teaching anything about sexuality, that isn’t going to stop students from figuring it out on their own probably in an uneducated way and that’s the truth. So, why not properly educate students and properly fulfill the “duty of care for all students” by addressing topics such as consent, pleasure, gender spectrum, the diversity of sexualities, and the spectrum of biological sex ( We truly are doing students an injustice throwing them out in the world without a proper education on topics regarding sexuality. However, it is extremely important that these topics are address in an inclusive and supportive way. For example, resist using male or female specific pronouns and try using gender neutral pronouns (they/them) when explaining topics like sexual health for example.

Curriculum in Saskatchewan & Place-based Pedagogy

You can see the idea of a “good student” very clearly in Painter’s article from 1886. Throughout the reading it is very clear that a white middle-class Christian male student was the only type of person worth educating. Therefore, any other gender, race, class, or religion was being oppressed while white middle class Christian boys were being overtly privileged. Now adays, the idea of a “good student” isn’t so explicitly advertised but it definitely still exists just in different ways. A good student seems to be a student who can sit nicely and say, do, and think exactly what or how the teacher wants them to. This concept is especially seen in Kumashiro’s article ,especially in the following quote, “ I was a teacher who wanted to have control over the classroom. For me, M’s behaviour was a sign that I was … not reaching M, and therefore that M was not learning and becoming the student that I desired” (20). In both of the texts, it appears that they both consider a “good student” to be a student who can learn through lecture teaching and doesn’t question what they are learning or why they are learning it. This advantages only one type of learner while the rest are left trying their best to learn in a way that doesn’t work for them.

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