One day, I hope to be an art teacher. That is the reason that I am taking ECS 210. I dream of helping children learn to reflect, communicate, and connect with themselves and others through art. Doctor Laura JJ Dessauer once said, “Art therapy allows for processing and externalization of emotions, explorations of choices, and reflection on conflicts.” I love art because it gives me a chance to reflect and express myself. This class has helped me realize how important that really is. Today, however, I will go out of my comfort zone to try to communicate through audio storytelling instead.
I drew a pathway to represent the journey of growth and self-discovery that teachers take as they endeavor to become the best educators that they can be.
Six short weeks ago, around the beginning of July, I began taking a class about Curriculum as a Cultural and Social Practice. But, in the event that someone asked me what the class I am taking was about, I would simply reply “curriculum” because deep down, I was unsure what Curriculum as a Cultural and Social Practice entirely entailed.
I remember on the first day, back in July, we were asked to brainstorm, “What is curriculum?” “A plan or guideline that a class is expected to follow,” was my answer. It took me by surprise when I learned that there were many types of curriculum. I was especially intrigued by the concept of a hidden curriculum. Hidden curriculums are not always hidden. Often, they are obvious, but the reason they go unnoticed is because they have been normalized. After learning this, I first identified a hidden curriculum in my own childhood. I have a very traditional father, and taking this class helped me pinpoint many hidden curriculums that have been in place throughout my childhood. Fortunately, my mother was able to teach us that those agendas were not okay. For example, for the first 11 years of my life, my siblings and I were not allowed to speak when an adult male was in the room. No, we were never told this directly. But we were told to “Be quiet; Grandpa is talking” or shushed when he entered the room. I think a major issue with hidden curriculums is that children are expected to behave a certain way without understanding the reason why. Children learn to accept standards such as that tables are to be moved by “strong boys” and that learning must be done sitting, for standing at your desk is unacceptable. Depending on the situation, there may be a good reason behind these rules, however, there may not be. These hidden curriculums shape children’s minds and who they become when they grow up.
Now that these six weeks have passed, my view on the definition of curriculum has changed drastically. Yes, I still believe a curriculum can be a guideline. But now, I also know that curriculum comes in many forms and that curriculum is never neutral.
The fact that curriculum is never neutral was repeated often throughout this course. The curriculum documents are never neutral, meaning, the creators of the documents build the document with their biases or their government’s biases. Secondly, the teachers who teach the curriculum are never neutral either. I think that as a teacher, it is a little more difficult to remain neutral. After all, most teachers want the best for their students and the lens that they teach through is what the teacher believes is the best. It is difficult, although important, to recognize the lens and question if it is really the right one to be using. As teachers, it is our job to understand that we have a lot left to learn ourselves and that we may be wrong with our current understandings.
When the day comes that I am a teacher, I will have to sit or stand at my desk and decide what I will do with the curriculum document that faces me. Before I begin reading and planning, I will take some time to identify my biases and how my biases will affect how I view the curriculum. Secondly, I will try my best to set my biases aside and then view the curriculum document with a clear lens, keeping each and every one of my students in mind. Identifying my biases is not a one time activity. Not just every time I receive a document, but day after day, I must recognize the biases that I am holding within. On my journey to becoming a teacher, I will revisit this process frequently. One of my main concerns of teaching is integrating Treaty Education within the curriculum. I do not want my students to just listen about Treaty Education, but I want them to live it. I believe that some of the best learning is done through experiences, such as time spent on the land, listening to stories, and building relationships. I hope I can make that happen in my classroom. I know how important it is, so I am also worried that I will not be able to do it justice. Fortunately, incorporating Treaty Education into our classroom is a skill we practiced during this class. There are so many exciting things to learn about each and every culture, it is almost overwhelming. To deal with this, I will set small goals and build from there. In this way, I will become a facilitator – someone who can take curriculum and use it as a tool to build life-long learners.
Throughout ECS 210, I experienced cognitive dissonance when we learned about the making of the curriculum documents. I was surprised to learn that politicians have a big influence on curriculum. Before, I used to think that there were professionals, who perhaps had a Doctorate in Education, that created the curriculums. I imagined that they spent time researching and reflecting on what works and what does not work in the actual school setting. Too often, teachers are given a curriculum that does not fit with the reality of the classroom. We see this today with school starting back up mid-pandemic. Children are expected to wear masks and stay six feet apart. This is going to be nearly impossible. I was also very disappointed to realize how many of the politician’s decisions were based on what would get them re-elected and not necessarily based on what is best for the people. I believe that the bigger decisions should be made by professionals who have done research, taken and analyzed statistics, had practical experience, and have reflected on the past.
I am happy to be entering the world of education at a time when people realize change is needed. Slowly, but surely, we work towards developing more appropriate ways of teaching and knowing.