Understanding Individual Experiences: Looking at Literacy and Single Stories

Throughout schooling, literacy is a key component that many students are engaged with and expected to learn from. As Kumashiro explains, we learn about our worlds through reading about certain groups of people, which results in students only learning about those specific experiences and perspectives ( Kumashiro, pg. 71). This develops over time into how we read the world. From my perspective as a student in school, I read the world based on the literature, the classes, learning techniques, extracurricular activities, and the interactions with peers and teachers. Much of the literature I worked with was pre-selected by those who held a dominant position. As such, there was little focus on different cultures and ethnicities and instead focused on British classics and North American mainstream novels. When being assessed on these works, there were never any opportunities to discuss perspective. Certain core courses I now see as a pre-service teacher, like Treaty Education were not in place and instead focused more on the science and history disciplines. All sports were based on Western traditions and origins with no opportunity to expand to new options. Finally, much of the pedagogy was structured around a lecture-oriented approach.

All of these factors resulted in biases and lenses to be developed. Having teachers that followed the same practices of learning and instruction, led me to believe that most students learn the same way, and that there is primarily one approach to teaching content. Another bias was due to the fact that certain perspectives were not discussed or taught, resulting in assumptions that they are not as important as other core subjects. As well, there is the bias that only certain Western activities could be adopted as extracurricular, while truthfully there is much more. As Kumashiro explained, certain lenses bring with it political implications (Kumashiro, pg 73).

To unlearn these biases means constantly being aware of them while forming lesson plans and observing the curriculum, and seeking alternative approaches and topics to read and learn that fall within the Western curriculum.

The single-story that was present throughout my schooling was that students with learning disabilities were unable to learn with others for different classes, such as mathematics, language arts, and history. This developed into a larger understanding that these students were not able to participate in the larger classroom environment. There was limited opportunity for discussions on different courses of action, such as the inclusive environment. The truth that mattered was the school, as it was necessary to follow this more segregated approach to classes in order to graduate and move into future classroom environments.

Works Cited

Kumashiro, K, Kevin. Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice., Taylor & Francis Group, 2009, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.libproxy.uregina.ca/lib/uregina/detail.action?docID=446587

The danger of a Single Story. Hosted and Narrated by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, July 2009, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story | TED Talk.

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