Math Talk

Math for me has always been a challenge. I’ve been told by many teachers that “math just isn’t your thing.” Until now, I was in total agreement. I believed I was just more ELA and social studies orientated, subjects which I perceived to have more elements of subjectivity involved. This subjectivity allowed me to lean in a way that wasn’t so linear. I could make connections and come away with conclusions to aspects from either subjects that others didn’t and still be right. The fear in math of not getting the one right answer was paralyzing to me. To get this one right answer, oftentimes, only one linear method was given to solve it. If you couldn’t understand this method often you were considered a failure, or at least considered yourself a failure. This is not to say I didn’t have some excellent math teachers that worked hard to tutor me to success, but I still felt I simply didn’t catch on as naturally as other students. This caused me to have a very negative introspection of myself that I  believe caused further roadblocks for me in math. For this reason I gave up on ever considering myself to be good at math.

 It was Eddie Woo who changed my perception of math in his Ted Talk Mathematics is the Sense You Never Knew You Had. In this lecture Eddie compares math sense to the sense of sight. He emphasizes that just because your vision may be impaired doesn’t mean you should give up on sight, similar to how one should not give up on math as, “all human beings are wired to see patterns” and “make patterns,” which is essentially what math is. This helped me realize I am a mathematical being just as much as the star students in my Math Foundations 30 class were and that I’m more successful at math than I previously thought. Gale Russel further enhanced this epiphany for me in her lecture What is Mathematics anyway. She asked the audience to relate math to other subjects and see if mathematics didn’t have a relationship to any of these subjects, the answer was a resounding no. This further deepened my understanding of myself as a mathematical being and that perhaps I just needed to approach math differently to better understand it within a classroom setting.

In the article Jagged WorldViews Colliding by Leroy Little Bear, he notes 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). In my own math education experience I can not recall any experiences where I personally felt oppressed, but I can easily see how one could feel that way, specifically Inuit students. The article “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community” highlights several  ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics and the way we learn it. Some examples are listed below:

  • Math is not learned in their native language of Inuktitut after grade 3, but English or French.
    • Inuit mathematics has a base unit of 20 and there is little connection of western mathematics to their daily lives in Inuit culture. 
  • Inuit students are particularly good at spatial relations (geometry), due to their connection with the land and the importance of having an understanding of where you are spatially in the barren environment of the Canadian North.
    • Unfortunately, Western education does not put importance on this kind of math.
  • The teaching methods of the students Inuit elders and teaching methods of Inuit students Western style teacher’s are vastly different. 
    • The Inuit children are brought up to learn with paper and pen they learn through listening and observing their elders  (Poirier 54-55).

It is obvious, from the examples above, that math is not a universal language. More and more educators are beginning to see this, but our education system still has a lot of work to do to change the often oppressive and discriminatory tone of math education.

References

Challenging “The Danger of a Single Story” With New Perspectives

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan in a white working-class family has had a lot to do with who I am today and how I read the world. Most of my upbringing was very positive. I learned to place value in kindness, hard work, and the importance of community, among many other things. My upbringing, unfortunately, also contributed to certain prejudices and negative biases that tainted the way I read the world. There was little diversity to speak of in my community thus, I was at the mercy of a single, very eurocentric narrative. This narrative was often filled with racist, sexist, and homophobic language. Oftentimes the overall message of this was to be different was to be wrong. Though I know this language is wrong, I still catch myself subconsciously engaging in it. For example, I often catch  myself paying more attention to what a white male has to say in a conversation versus a white female, even though they have a similar education and social status. These biases will unfortunately undeniably contribute to what I teach, consciously or not, in my future classroom. 

Within my schooling experience I also experienced a similar single story narrative. This narrative was based on the perspective of older white men. Their views dominated almost everywhere. They wrote much of the curriculum me and my peers were taught, authored many of our assigned books, and held leadership positions within my school division. Most of these men had good intentions and worked hard to better our educational experience, but the impact of their dominating presence was, nonetheless,  dangerous. As Chimamanda Adichie mentioned in her talk The Danger of a Single Story,  “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” This, in essence, is the danger of the single narrative I experienced. Their truths and perspectives were equally as important to others, yet few others had the opportunity to present or learn their own and others truths. 

As a consequence of this single narrative I grew to have a false sense of truth in the world. I saw that typically only men held positions of power and notoriety, such as author, principal, Minister of Education, CEO, Prime minister, etc. I never used to wonder why I only saw men in positions like these, but simply accepted that they were, perhaps, better suited for them. However, as I grew up and learned about the injustices of the world I realized this was not the case. I learned that men, typically white middle-aged men, simply had obtained unearned privilege that boosted their social status and allowed them an easier path to these positions of power. This is only one example of my personal experiences with the danger of a single narrative, but one of the dangers that the narrative of my background and schooling experience enabled me to resonate with the most. 

The silver lining of my own experience with the single story narrative, and the prejudices and biases they invoked, was that I was able to unlearn them. This was done through education by addressing such topics. For me this education was simply my primary and secondary education, but I believe the same effects can be had through travel and doing your own research. I believe the true power of education is the ability to gain new perspectives. These perspectives allow us to see more than the single story narrative that dominates our own life.

As a future English teacher it’s important to me to introduce different narratives through literature. The reading Against Common Sense by Kumashiro states that “[w]hen students read literature by only certain groups of people, they learn about only certain experiences and perspectives, especially those of groups that have been privileged in society (such as White middle-class men).” Thus, in my own future classroom, I will put a focus on implementing books written by a diverse group of authors. that offer a multitude of perspectives to help combat biases and prejudices.  

References

  • Adichie, Chimamanda. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED. July. 2009. Lecture
  • Kumashiro, Kevin. “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson.” Against Common Sense. Routledge: London, 2009. 19-33. online

“What Kind of Citizen?” – A Look at Schooling and Citizenship

The article “What Kind of Citizen?” by Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer looks at “what good citizenship is and what good citizens do” in terms of supporting a democratic education system (1). It details three conceptions of citizenship, including personally responsible, participatory, and justice oriented citizenship and their implications on curriculum. In my own k-12 schooling experience I can remember many examples of participating in good citizenship practices, with the exception of justice oriented citizenship, and their implications on my peers.

Personally responsible citizenship was the focus of my schooling experience. For this model “citizen[s] act responsibly in his/her community” (Kahne & Westheimer 3). To promote this, my elementary school had us pick up garbage, taught us to be kind to others, and contribute to charity organizations. Every year we would participate in Operation Christmas, an organization that sends shoe boxes of gifts to children that wouldn’t otherwise receive anything for Christmas. We also brought non-perishable goods and donations in for food drives and participated and raised money for events like Jump Rope for Heart and the Terry Fox Run. As me and my classmates advanced to older grades we still participated in many of the same events, but we also learned about how to be law abiding citizens through programs like Dare and Drivers Ed and learned about paying taxes and contributing to society through classes like Accounting and Life Transitions. 

As I got older I became more involved with different modes of participatory citizenship. Participatory citizenship is that in which “citizens. . . actively participate in the civic affairs and the social life of the community at local, state, and national levels” (Kahne & Westheimer 4). In doing this me and my classmates began to learn more about how the country we live in operates and how we as citizens contribute to that. In social class we learned about the different levels of government and their responsibilities. We learned about voting and the platforms of popular political parties. I also started to help organize fundraisers, which included a community wide bottle drive for my volleyball team every year and being on the head committee of our graduating class’s fundraiser. For our graduating class’s fundraiser picked a cause that we felt our class connected to and came up with ways to fundraise. We held several events to fundraise including bake sales, community barbecues, and a dance. We ended up raising a substantial amount of money for a great local cause and learned valuable lessons about citizenship in the process. 

My school had very few examples of justice oriented citizenship. Justice oriented citizenship is” analyz[ing] and understand[ing] the interplay of social, economic, and political forces” (Kahne & Westheimer 4). Although I can’t think of any personal examples of this there are a few ways I can ensure incorporating it into my own future classroom. I think Treaty Ed would be a great place to start. To incorporate this I would teach and help support students understanding of the history of the systematic oppression of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people of Canada, and the trickle- down effect it’s had into the present, as to not reproduce similar patterns of oppression in the future.

The focus schools impose on personally responsible citizenship is of course important in producing good citizens that abide by laws and help others, but it has its limitations. As Westheimer and Kahne point out in their article, participatory citizenship “may actually hinder rather than make possible democratic participation and change” (6). This comes from a focus of teaching individual acts of kindness rather than collective social issues. Students simply aren’t seeing the benefits and interconnections of citizenship within a democratic society. I know many of my own friends did not vote in the previous election. They made the excuse “what difference does it make?” As a future teacher I would like to expose this misconception by incorporating more participatory and justice oriented citizenship practices into my future classroom to help students realize that their actions and vote make a difference. 

 

References

  • Kahne, J., Westheimer, J. “What Kind of Citizen?” American Educational Research Journal,  41.2 ( 2004): 1-30. Web. 2 March 2020. 

 

Curriculum as Treaty Education – Apathy as Resistance

The following blog post was written in response to an intern education student asking for help incorporating Treaty Education in a school that did not understand its purpose or  importance. 

Dear intern,

The situation you are experiencing is problematic, but unfortunately not uncommon. You were right to further question your situation, even though it might be uncomfortable, as these feelings are the best way to bring about change. Without future teachers like you asking uncomfortable questions, such as this, there would be minimal opportunity for change. 

In answer to your question I would explain to your class the importance of Treaty Ed by mapping out Canada’s past with treaties and the spirit and intent of treaties and its trickle down effect into the present. Explain that to change the relationship between First Nations and Canadians everyone must understand this past. As Dwayne Donald mentioned, in his lecture On What Terms We Can Speak, “if you’re going to think about the future you actually have to work backwards . . .  because it’s only then that any talk of the future makes sense.” I would help identify with your students that the lack of diversity with First nations students in their own school will probably not correlate into their future lives. Thus, it’s important to learn how to develop a positive relationship in the present. I would also point out to your students and co-workers that, as Claire Kreuger put it, “[a]pathy is a form of resistance,” and by ignoring the issue we are adding to the problem. 

Another important aspect your school is ignorant too, regardless of whether or not there are First Nations students present in the school, is that we are all treaty people. After mapping out Canada’s history with treaties and the spirit of treaty relationships students should begin to develop an understanding that, as Cynthia Chambers points out in her article WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE,” “treaties are a story that we share.” The Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators document itself states that “[b]y the end of Grade 12, students will appreciate that Treaties are sacred covenants between sovereign nations and are the foundational basis for meaningful relationships that perpetually foster the well-being of all people” (2). Thus, treaty education is not only advisable, but mandatory.

It is important when teaching that “we are all treaty people”  to teach lessons with substance. Make sure to help the students contextualize the information they are given in a meaningful way. In other words don’t make lessons all about memorizing and reiterating. Be sure students place meaning in the fact that they are treaty people regardless of their ancestral background. Help students to understand that being a treaty person is all about being committed to a positive relationship between themselves and First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people. It’s a commitment to executing the spirit and intent of treaties to the best of your ability.

-Best of luck!

Levin’s Curriculum Policy and Saskatchewan’s Treaty Education

The reading “Curriculum Policy And The Politics Of What Should Be Learned In Schools” by Ben Levin discusses the political elements involved in creating curriculum. It brings to light the complexities and key underlying information the public is often oblivious to when it comes to the development and implementation of curriculum. The chapter discusses who is involved in curriculum creation; largely being government. Other participants include “education stakeholder groups – teachers, principals, senior administration, and elected local authorities where they exist – are . . .involved in curriculum review and decisions” (16). Subject matter experts play a vital role “in the curriculum formation and  review processes” (16). Students also play a minor role, specifically in terms of assessment policies. In terms of implementation this is done mainly by educational stakeholders, specifically teachers, despite what one could argue to be, their minor involvement in curriculum creation. 

Teachers involvement, or insufficient involvement, in curriculum development surprised me. From Levin’s article I understood that teachers had the smallest part of curriculum making when compared to government and topic experts, but are essentially the only ones implementing it. Previous to this reading I believed teachers to have more of an active role in curriculum development. I believed topic experts to follow teachers leads and work closely in line with them to develop a teachable and educational curriculum, it seems to be very reversed though.

In connection with Levin’s reading I also read through Saskatchewan’s Treaty education curriculum, Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators, largely made by Saskatchewan’s provincial government. From this document I made the connection of the struggle Levin notes regarding the teach-ability of a curriculum made by experts. Levin noted in his article “One danger in curriculum development . . . is the production of curricula that are not readily usable by ordinary teachers” (17). I can see, and have experienced,  how the average teacher, who comes from a white settler family and has little experience with First Nations culture or history, would have trouble teaching expert made curricula on treaty education. Even though this curriculum was made in 2013, while I was only in grade eight, I experienced only a small of the goals the document sets out to implement, the goals being: 

  • Treaty Relationships
  • Spirit and Intent of Treaties
  •  Historical Context of Treaties
  •  Treat Promises and Provisions.

When it comes to development I assume similar tensions were in play, with many of the stakeholders, government officials, and experts to some extent being of white settler decent working on a document aimed at First Nation culture and history. One can assume the Saskatchewan government was also facing a lot of public pressure to both push the document through as fast as possible, but also from people who questioned the necessity of the document at all. Its content would have been another extreme source of tension. The document is aimed at bringing about reconciliation due to a traumatic relationship caused by Canada’s government toward the First Nations people, thus its content holds no room for mistake as its a risk to furthering the trauma in the relationship. 

I believe teaching treaty education in my own future classroom to be of huge importance. I think education on the subject is the key to changing false and racist narratives. When tension on the subject inevitably arises I hope to use it as a learning opportunity as an entryway for greater understanding. Treaty education is something I feel very passionate about and hopefully one day have the opportunity to work alongside experts in developing a curriculum.

References

  • Levin, Ben. “Curriculum Policy And The Politics Of What Should Be Learned In Schools.” The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction. Edited by Conelly, Micheal., He, Fang., Phillion JoAnn. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2008. 7-24. Online.
  • Government of Saskatchewan Ministry of Education (2013). Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators.

Learning From the Mushkegowuk People and the Kitachowan River

The article, “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” by Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Grunner, and Edmund Metawabin, highlights the importance of a critical pedagogy of place and its role in identity. The aim of a critical pedagogy of place is reinhabitation, done through “identify[ing], recover[ing], and creat[ing] material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments,” and decolonization through “identify[ing] and change[ing] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places” (Grunner, Metawabin & Restoule 74). The article shows these processes through bringing the community of Fort Albany First Nation together for a ten day river trip and the production of an audio documentary. 

An important term in relation to the the article is paquataskamik, a Cree word meaning  “traditional territory, all of the environment, nature, and everything it contains” (Grunner 74). Paquatskamik is important to the Cree people of Fort Albany First Nations as it is entwined within their cultural identity. In other words their sense of place is directly linked to their sense of self. Understanding this is an integral aspect of both reinhabitation and decolonization.

The connected concepts of Reinhabitation and decolonization were largely done through cause and effect of introducing the Mushkegowuk Cree communities ways of knowing to the rest of the community. The framework for these ways of knowing included:

  • Language, history, and territoriality;
  •  Deeply rooted relationships among people and between people and nature
  • Ways of seeing and being in the world (including social and economic relationality) that lay outside of a western perspective;
  •  Efforts of local people who struggle for self-determination in a specific place  rather than the western world.

The introduction of Mushkegowuk Cree ways of knowing against that of only the western approach helps to destruct false biases of the western world towards the Mushkegowuk First Nations and allows people to value these differences, helping to revitalize Mushkegowuk culture. This in effect brings both Reinhabitation by teaching about “our total environments,” and decolonization through “change[ing] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places”.

Some specific examples of reinhabitation and decolonization in the article can be seen in the communities shift in view from seeing the land as a resource to that of having greater personnel connection with the land. The ten day Kitachowan River trip helped to foster this deepened connection to the land by “help[ing] members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge” of the river, which in effect “re-established respect for the meaning of paquataskamik” (Grunner 81). In a sense the community discovered “identify[ing], recover[ing] . . . material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments” (reinhabitation). This also, identif[ied] and chang[ed] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places” (decolonization). The audio documentary about “relations to the river” and it’s broadcast to northern Ontario  “. . .creat[ed] material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments” (reinhabitation). 

In my future career as a teacher, with an english major and social studies minor, I definitely plan on incorporating a critical pedagogy of place into my classroom. This could be through writing assignments such as, researching your historical roots and how they connect to you today or  Identifying what makes you, you and connecting this to your environment. I could also incorporate outside learning to connect students to place, as mentioned in the article  “connection to nature is important to children’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual development” (quoted in Keller 2005). Another possible idea is a research essay on the history of the treaty negotiations, on whichever treaty land we are present on. Whatever the assignment i believe including “place” into the curriculum to be vitally important to students success in reaching their full potential.

Grunner, S., Metawabin, E., & Restoule, J. “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing.” CANADIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION , 36.2 (2013): 68-86. Web. 2 February, 2020.

The Problem of the “Good” Student

The reading “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson” by Kumashiro explores ideas of anti-oppressive education by calling on educators to examine commonsensical ideas of learning. Kumashiro notes early in the article that “[t]heir is something oppressive about what we often say it means to be a student and, simultaneously, what it means to learn” (23). He introduces the revolutionary idea of teaching about oppression through the end goal of student crisis, where students confront troubling knowledge and learn by “work[ing] through their crisis” (30). The reading invokes many questions we have about common sense ideas in our education system surrounding oppression and how to avoid it. It seems like common sense to question and advocate for anti-oppressive ideas and practice but it often isn’t. I believe the first step in doing so is identifying common sense norms, such as what our education system expects from “good” students. 

What does it mean to be a good student? This question is more heavily weighted than what one might think. My own common sense answer to this is centered around hard work, positive attitude, good attendance, and good listening skills. To get a more broad understanding of what one expects from good students I took to my twitter account.

twiiter 1

I got a broad range of  great answers from educators and aspiring educators. Though these ideas can be considered common sense they still are important qualities in classrooms. Most of the answers portrayed similar common sense ideas about a “good” student as my own. A few examples are shown below.

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Our education system is built around rewarding students with qualities such as the ones above. These students often produce work at the levels expected or even beyond what the teacher intends. They absorb information presented to them in a timely manner and are able to relay the same information without challenging it. These types of students often come from supportive families, who are willing to help aid and foster the students educational needs. These students typically don’t have disabilities that make it challenging for them to sit still, process information, spell, read, etc. Students that have conflicting qualities and circumstances as the ones above, unfortunately, are often oppressed by our education system and don’t benefit from the same rewards as a “good” student. 

These common sense ideas of a “good” student can be dangerous. It leaves students who aren’t considered to be “good” behind and their full potential untapped. Teaching  for and rewarding only one type of student allows for only one type of student to perform at their greatest potential. It’s important to question common sense because if we didn’t there would be dire consequences. Residential Schools and slavery would still exist, women wouldn’t have the vote or even be considered a person, Tobacco would be considered a medicine, ect. Questioning common sense ideas of what a “good” student is, is important for student success as a whole, thus future success of our society. Educators need to broaden their view of what a “good” student looks like so they can adjust their teaching methods to help all students succeed and avoid oppression. 

Below are some examples of what questioning  commonsensical ideas of what a “good” student can look like.

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Kumashiro, Kevin. “Preparing Teachers For Crisis: A Sample Lesson.” Against Common Sense. Routledge: London, 2009. 19-33. online