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Katelyn Pippus ECS 210

"Education is the kindling of a flame , not the filling of a vessel." – Socrates

Digital Narrative: Final Reflection

This is my final reflection for ECS 210.

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Building Relationship Through Treaty Education

“Treaty education is an important part of forging new ties. There must be an appreciation in the minds of the general public that Treaties are living, breathing documents that continue to bind us to promises made generations ago. This is why my government is committed to making mandatory instruction in history and content of the Treaties in the K-12 curriculum.”

(Speech from the Throne 2007)

This quote, taken from the background and purposes section of the 2013 Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators, highlights how vital it is for all people in Canada to become aware of the importance of Treaties.  I think the most important part of this quote is the very first sentence where it says that Treaty education is important in “forging new ties”. Throughout the history of colonialism and residential schooling ties with First Nations peoples have become frayed and broken. It is through broken relationships that people have suffered and so it is key that reconciliation comes through mending broken relationships with individuals and striving to create new ones based on mutual understanding and trust. In the lecture “On What Terms Can We Speak?” presented by Dwayne Donald, he talks about how the disconnect in Treaty education occurs when teachers attempt to present it as “an informational problem” as opposed to a relational problem. By presenting the “informational problem” of Treaty Education the power of story is removed. Without connecting these historical injustices to individuals’ stories the curriculum becomes devoid of emotion and loses the power to incite empathy and agency within our students. Instead students tend to switch into test mode where they simply memorize the information necessary to pass the test at the end instead of engaging with the material and allowing it to resonate with and affect them in meaningful ways. If teachers presented the messy, nuanced, history of the relationship between Europeans and First Nations people students would be given opportunities to grapple with the information and engage with the implications of treaty in their own lives.

The quote also highlights that Treaty Education is not intended only for the First Nations students in our classes so that they feel accepted or represented through the curriculum. Treaty Education is for all students and even the teachers who teach it so that they gain a more holistic understanding of Canada’s history and their position as Canadian citizens. First Nations ways of knowing and perspectives have been silenced in the past due to institutionalized racism enforced by schools through Eurocentric pedagogy and curriculum. Treaty education invites students to gain an understanding of Canada’s First Nations people and the ways that treaties have shaped and continue to shape the relationships between the two groups. Through this type of instruction we break down barriers of “us and them” which become constructed through ignorance and unfamiliarity. I think it is important to teach treaties no matter the demographic of your class because eventually students will encounter First Nations people and if their understanding of them is based on racist and biased opinions there will be no chance for new relationships to be forged. I also believe it is important to emphasize to my students that I am on the same journey as them. I am still learning about what it means to be of settler descent and how treaties shape my responsibilities as a Canadian citizen. Above all I think treaty education is important because it teaches students about the importance of diversity. Teaching treaties in authentic and nuanced ways calls our students to forge new ties with people that are different from them and to recognize their role in creating relationships to bring about unity and harmony.

Ministry of Education. (2013). Treaty Education: Outcomes and Indicators [Curriculum Guide]. Retrieved from: https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/materials/english/docs/Treaty%20Education%20Outcomes%20%26%20Indicators%20%20Feb%2021%202013.pdf

Curriculum as Place

Reinhabitation:  identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments

Decolonization: identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places

Throughout this article there are many examples of both reinhabitation and decolonization occurring through the intergenerational activities that occurred through the interview process as well as the ten day river excursion. Both of these terms are dependent on the passing of knowledge from the elder generation to the younger. The lasting effects of colonization and residential schools are being felt keenly in the area of indigenous language as it “drastically reduced the number of fluent speakers in the community according to some interviewed” (p. 78). Through the interview process and the river excursion reinhabitation occurred as elders told stories about the river and used words from the indigenous language to reveal aspects of the river that do on official maps but which carry deep significance for the Mushkegowuk people. As they travelled on the river and the elders spoke about specific spaces on the river it was as though “every curve in the river has a name” (p. 76). Through storytelling and reacquainting the younger generation with the spiritual aspects of the river the elders were teaching the youth about the total environment of the river which extended far beyond the topography and physical nature of the river. Throughout the course of the journey the elders also shared “knowledge with youth about ways to live off the river and lands” (p. 75). Through this process reinhabitation was achieved through experiencing the river and through reconnecting with the ways of knowing and existing that are traditionally practiced by the Mushkegowuk people.

Decolonization also occurred through the interview process. Through the conversations that took place between the elders, youth, and other community members indigenous ways of thinking were reintroduced and reinforced. These conversations highlighted how blatantly “western frames that centre on an accumulation-oriented model of development” were juxtaposed against indigenous understandings of social and economic practices (p. 83). Decolonization was also achieved through the river excursion as the Mushkegowuk people believe that the river and the land is “crucial to healing the Mushkegowuk people from the impacts of colonialism” (p. 78). Through being out on the river, reconnecting with the land, decolonization was achieved.

In order to adapt these methods to consider place within my subject area and teaching I believe that I would rely heavily on external voices. I would need to bring in elders who would have a familiarity with the region to teach their cultural understandings of the place to my students. I think it would be interesting to get a copy of the zines and the audio documentary for students to examine in my English class. The audio-documentary could especially useful for fulfilling outcomes such as CR 20.1 in the ELA 20 curriculum.

Restoule, J.P., Gruner, S., & Metatawabin, E. (2013). Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing. Canadian Journal of Education, 36, (2013): 68 – 86.

ELA 20: Autonomy Through Ideaology

In the English 20 curriculum there is a good blending of the two models of literacy that were proposed by Street in his article “New Literacies Studies”. The curriculum has a whole section entitled “Developing Literacies” and in that section it talks about how the aim for literacies in English is rooted less in the processes and neutral skills required to be considered literate. Instead the preamble talks about how “Literacies involve the evolution of interrelated skills, strategies, and understandings that facilitate an individual’s ability to participate fully and equitably in a variety of roles and contexts – school, home, and local and global communities” (ELA 20 Curriculum). Through this definition it is evident that the ongoing process of developing literacies is integral to the English curriculum. Literacies are not viewed as a task to be completed but a skill to be mastered. The English curriculum also focuses on the idea of promoting deeper understanding and this is largely achieved through the ideological approach to literacy. Through this approach the English curriculum encourages students to make personal connections and to consider many worldviews in their readings and understandings of different literary texts. The curriculum contains a chart on page eight of the document that outlines what curriculum is and what it is not. In the “What ELA Is” section of the chart there is a line that reads “Using culturally responsive critical, creative, and metacognitive processes to make sense of ideas, information, and experiences” (p. 8). This states a very ideological understanding of what curriculum is. Lower down on the chart, under the “What ELA Is Not” column, it states ELA is not “Following only teacher-directed skills and strategies, and spending time on isolated skill and drill activities”. This essentially outlines the autonomous understanding of literacy. So ELA 20 in theory is much more ideologically oriented than autonomous.

That being said ELA offers a way for the two models of literacy to be interlaced. Through a dominantly ideological orientation there are still opportunities for teachers to teach the skills that are necessary to construct understanding such as effective listening, reading, writing, viewing, and representing skills. But through the ideological lens of literacy these skills can be taught in a way that is authentic for the students.

Curriculum Policy

Before Reading:

My understanding is that school curricula are developed by a team of people that have some experience in the teaching profession. In our ELNG class our instructor was on a team that was responsible for re-writing the ELA curriculum. So the people that develop the curriculum have likely been involved in teaching at some level. They have some experience teaching the curriculum and that experience provides valuable contribution to the development process. There are also likely researchers involved in the process. People who have studied education for years and who have a degree of some sort in curriculum development. There likely higher up ministers of education that have a say in how the curriculum is developed and what is included within it.

After Reading:

The process of developing and implementing new curriculum is complex. There are elements of the process that I did not know existed. For example, I did not realize that businesses had any role in the curriculum development process. But on page 16 of the reading it states that “business groups often have strong views about various elements of secondary curriculum….industries will try to promote subjects and programs that support their labour market needs” (p. 16). Prior to reading this article I had never considered how many different groups had vested interest in what is put in the curriculum. I had never really considered how mass media affected educational policy either. I was not aware either that political leaders will often consider expert opinion but tend to take more interest in public opinion (p. 18). This article is interesting because it shifted my view of curriculum from being a document that was designed with only the interests of teachers and students in mind to encompassing the interest of politicians, business people, and the public as well.

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available on-line from: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.

Citizenship: A Curricular Problem

Citizenship is a complex idea that is understood differently by different individuals. Understandings of citizenship can be shaped by factors such as region, race, gender, age, ethnicity etc. Not all people are able to participate in citizenship in the same way and this is something that we must be cognisant of as we educate the next generation of citizens. Teachers constantly present understandings citizenship through both the official and hidden curriculum.

One way in which citizenship education is a curricular problem is because it is through the curriculum that student’s ideas about citizenship are shaped and/or reinforced. This becomes problematic when the idea of being a good citizen is confused with being a good person. The two are not the same thing. In order to be good citizens students must understand that they must move past the participatory model of citizenship (As outlined by Westheimer and Kahne). In order to be good citizens students must become independent thinkers who are able to think critically about the world around them and take appropriate action.

The other way that citizenship is a curricular problem is because there is more to the curriculum than what is officially mandated. As teachers we must be cognisant of the ways that we are talking about citizenship in our classrooms. We want to encourage students to recognize that they are already citizens and we want to empower them to take ownership of their citizenship but we must be careful not to indoctrinate them with our own ideas of citizenship. Also we must recognize that we do not live in an ideal democracy and so not all students will experience citizenship in the same way. Some of our students may be faced with prejudice and oppression in their citizenship experience based on factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, etc. We must strive to empower students to engage in and think critically about their understanding of citizenship and as teachers we must reflect on how we are portraying citizenship in our classrooms.

No Such Thing as a “Good” or “Bad” Student

A “good” student, according to commonsense understandings is a student that behaves well in class, that is attentive, works diligently and independently, and who works well with other students. A “good” student comes to school regularly and is not late. They engage with what is going on in the classroom and does what the teacher expects of them. The student’s parents have good communication with the teacher and they support their child. The student can adapt to different classroom situations and follows instructions.

Students who are privileged by this kind of thinking are often middle class, white students. They understand the social norms that are enforced by the school system and can exists comfortably within them. But this type of definition excludes many students. When we use this definition to label our students as “bad” and “good” we fail to see all of the good that lies within the students that have been put at a disadvantage and written off as bad. When we allow ourselves to unjustly label our students we become blind to the amazing talents and gifts that students have but may have to express in ways that do not fit with the commonsense model of teaching. In order to help our students realize the abilities that they possess we must strive to see past the labels that have been placed on them. We must instead look at the child as an individual and address their needs in order to highlight their strengths and talents. After all, who is to say that there is such a thing as a bad student? Every student can be a good student if we get to know them and help them to recognize that in themselves. There are no “good” students or “bad” students, there are only students we have chosen to approve of and those we have chosen to write off. It is up to us to believe and find ways to teach so that all students can be good students.

Lifelong Learning

“Learning a passion to learn is more important for your practical success than learning any particular facts or skills.”

-Will Richardson

As a future teacher is that my goal is to encourage my students to become lifelong learners. It is useful to pass on knowledge and content to our students but I believe that teaching children to learn and encouraging curiosity and critical thinking is far more important. While knowledge equips students to handle situations in the real world instilling a passion for learning within our students equips them to continue to grow and thrive in their current and future lives. When students are able to learn from anyone and anything in any situation they are guaranteed to be successful no matter where they go in life.

People are born with an inherent curiosity. You have to spend only a few minutes with six year olds to realise that. They are constantly questioning the world around them. Wondering how and why things work. But as people grow up they lose this quality somewhat because as you get older the expectation is that you need to know certain things and people are taught that by not knowing they are somehow lesser. When people become self-conscious about not knowing is when the passion for learning gets lost. By the time students get to the secondary level of their schooling their desire to learn has been largely silenced by fear of appearing dumb or come across as a try hard or a nerd.

As a teacher we must strive to do two things. First we must strive to teach students to be active learners. We must help them to view learning as a process that begins when they are born and doesn’t stop until they die. A shift must occur in their thinking from learning being a fixed process used to achieve the aims put forward by school but to view the ability to learn as the most powerful tool students possess. We have to encourage them to view their questions not as evidence that they are lacking in some way but to view those questions as opportunities to grow and progress.

Second, as teachers we need to strive to unlock the passion for learning that is inherent in each student. Instead of forcing our own agenda of learning on them we must provide opportunities for students to discover their own passions and to set them up with opportunities to pursue and use that desire to enrich their learning. When the students are able to discover the passion for learning within themselves they are more likely to continue learning long after they leave our classes

Ralph Tyler’s Rational: Recipe for Disaster or Success?

When I was in high school I took advanced placement English. Advance placement courses give students the opportunity to study a subject in greater detail and depth with other students that are passionate about the subject area. At the end of the year there is a test offered to AP students where, if they score high enough on the test, the class can count for their 100 level credit at university. I loved my class because we got to do more in depth analysis of works and we did creative projects and had heated discussions about literature. But the main focus of the class was to prepare us for the exam.

The portion of the class that we spent preparing for the exam was modelled identically after Tyler’s rationale. The purpose of the class was to teach us to take the test well, to respond coherently in a short amount of time, and how to decipher the multiple choice questions. The experiences we were provided were mini practice tests where we had to complete portions of previous tests in a limited amount of time. We also wrote many in class essays to prepare us to write the mandatory ones on the test. Our test prep classes were very structured. We were given prep books which had hints about how to be successful. Then when the end of the year came we sat down and wrote the three hour exam in a tiny classroom in our library.

In a way this method of teaching us to take the test was quite helpful. It taught us what to expect in the exam and we learned to write the exam in an efficient manner. It stream-lined all of our learning towards one final goal. It made it simple for our teacher to plan for class because we simply worked through the prep book and practice tests and meant she had little prep to do before class each day.

Throughout the course of our time in AP we gained many important skills which were not able to be measured by the final test. While it was designed to test our abilities the rigid structure, the time limit, and the product centered focus of the test made it extremely difficult. We were not given the opportunity to demonstrate skills like in depth analysis because of the time crunch. We were given no opportunity to demonstrate how our writing had improved or how our analysis skills has expanded. Instead we were asked to perform well on a difficult test in a short amount of time.

I think we put our students at a disadvantage when we teach and assess them using Tyler’s rational because of all the things that are overlooked. There is no way to document growth in his model, either you pass or you fail. It also leaves no room for student autonomy or even recognition of a student’s prior knowledge. It presents a picture of a uniform learner when in actuality the learners in our classrooms bring unique knowledge with them and they each learn in unique ways.

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