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Kelsey Buettner

Education Blog

Citizenship Education

The most common example of citizenship that I remember from my K-12 schooling was the personally-responsible level of citizenship as well as the participatory level. During elementary school we would help those in need by doing things like food drives and brining in monetary donations. We also organized a Christmas toy store by donating gently used toys and creating a store throughout the school for people to come and choose toys to give to their family that they couldn’t afford on their own. We also possessed desirable qualities of a citizen through practicing our faith and participating in things like reconciliation. However, when we participated in these activities, we did not think of it as a level of citizenship we just thought it was something we had to do while we were in school and didn’t think we would have to participate in these things after our time in school.

The participatory level of citizenship was most prevalent in my high school years. At my high school we had to complete ten hours of community service for our Christian ethics class every year. We played an active role in community organizations by volunteering at places like the food bank, senior homes, or elementary schools. We also volunteered to plan and participate in movement activities at senior homes during some of the physical education classes. What lacked during our experiences in the community was our knowledge of strategies and skills. We did not think about decision making and problem solving for things in our community we just went out and did our service and didn’t think about it after we completed it.

My schooling did not focus on creating justice-oriented citizens. My only experience with justice was through my law class in grade twelve, but we did not take action in the class to improve our society we just learned about it.

This approach to curriculum made it possible for me to experience volunteering in my community, but it didn’t teach me about my roles as a citizen or the importance of why I should do it. I felt that I had to engage in all these activities because it was a requirement and not something that really connected with me. I believe when we teach students about citizenship, they need to know that’s what they’re learning about, rather than having students participate in activities without providing meaning and why it’s important. Student’s need to recognize the importance of citizenship and how what they learn in school should continue with them as they become a mature citizen in the real world.

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Different Views of Mathematics

Thinking back on my experiences in my mathematics classes, I never really thought of it as a subject that could be oppressive and/or discriminating for other students. It’s my ignorance as I was never taught that a subject such as math could be oppressive to students who did not learn it in a westernized way as I did. However, I did notice the lack of Indigenous ways of knowing within the math textbooks. I can only recall one unit in my grade nine year that had an Indigenous culture unit, however it was skimmed over in my class due to “other units that will be on the exam”. I always thought of math being the same way for everyone in the world, so I was happy to be enlightened during our lecture on Friday. I really enjoyed listening to the stories from Gale as she spoke of math in a way that I never viewed it and I took a lot away from her lecture to think about in my future if I need to teach mathematics.

The Inuit students begin learning math with a base-20 numeral system whereas the Eurocentric way uses a base-10 system. In lecture, Gale said that a base-20 system could be used because when one sits in their igloo they have their hands and feet in front of them which consist of 20 all together and not 10. The Inuit have also developed a system for expressing numbers orally. I cannot understand it that well because I was taught the Eurocentric way, but the way Gale described it was extremely interesting. Another way Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric ideas about math is through their measures for length. As people needed clothing and shelter, Inuit people measured with parts of their body. The Eurocentric view for measurement uses rulers and tape measures. After reading this article and listening to Gale, I have learned lots of interesting things about the way we teach mathematics that will help me in my future.    

We Are All Treaty People

It’s a sad reality that there are teachers in the field that do not think treaty education is important and do not educate their students properly. In my previous school experiences I did not receive meaningful treaty education. I believe it is so important that we as teachers, and our future students, understand that we are all treaty people and that most of us are settlers that need to become unsettled. It is our responsibility to incorporate treaty education into all subject areas meaningfully and have our students truly understand the importance of this place’s history and how it affects everyone today. The excuse that one does not have any Indigenous students in their classroom so they do not have to teach treaty education is not valid. We all need to recognize we are treaty people and make a connection to what it means so be a treaty person on Treaty 4 land and how that impacts each person in their journey of being a settler becoming unsettled.

I believe that treaty ed. camp is a great opportunity for us as pre-service teachers because we are becoming prepared for treaty education before we begin as a teacher, whereas other people who have already been teaching for years are only receiving education now. One thing I will always take away from treaty ed. camp is the reminder about how we refer to this land as Canada. We acknowledge that it has been called Canada for 151 years, but we need to acknowledge the land before that and recognize that there was history here long before Europeans came over to this land. I believe that anything worth doing is never easy, so it will definitely be difficult to teach treaty education when we are faced with people who do not value the importance the same way we do. If it is a difficult topic to teach, it’s often an important one and we need to keep that in mind for our future when we face challenges for teaching treaty education in our classrooms.

Critical Pedagogy of Place

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to:

(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74)

 

When I read this quote I thought back to last year’s Treaty Ed camp where the keynote speaker said that we were celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday as if this land has only been here for 150 years. This quote really stuck with me because it is completely true that we fail to recognize that there was land and people here long before settler invaders came and established it as Canada. Celebrating Canada’s 150th was a perfect example of having a lack of knowledge of our place. I believe it is important to fully understand our connection to this place and the true history of it and educate our future students about it properly.

Considering place in a physical education class may be done through meaningful experiences in outdoor education. We must steer away from superficial experiences that attempt to teach about place such as canoe trips because canoe trips only scratch the surface. We need to educate ourselves to find a deeper meaning of place and we can do that through learning opportunities like treaty ed camp and through learnings from Elders. I was not fortunate enough to have place meaningfully incorporated into my learning experiences, so it is my job to educate my future students properly and not deprive them from the education they need to learn.  

Curriculum Development and Implementation

Throughout my education, I didn’t really stop and think how the curriculum was developed or who wrote it. I had no idea that teachers followed the Saskatchewan curriculum and had outcomes they needed to hit for each class and grade level. When I entered university, I learned that each subject curriculum is co-written by a group of people that could be considered “experts” in that subject area. Curriculum is government mandated and varies from province to province, however I don’t believe the government should have complete control over what is taught in schools. I believe teachers who have experience and specialists in certain subjects should have more input into what is important for students to know, and I also believe that students should have say in what they want to learn because it is their education.

School curriculum creation and implementation is all political which is troubling because education is a matter of expertise and should be beyond politics. Public Policies govern just about every aspect of education—what schooling is provided, how, to whom, in what form, by whom, with what resources, and so on. Every education policy decision can be seen as a political decision. Although government is voted on by citizens of the province, we know that most policy decisions in education, including curriculum decisions, are made with little or no public attention (Levin, 2008; p. 8).

This reading provides information to those who may not understand that teachers do not get to choose what is taught, they are told what to do by public policies and the government. The public may feel that they have say in education and believe that education should involve the students, but it is more political than we would like. This concerns me as students should be the ones put first when it comes to creating curriculum and implementing it, but they are often not asked their opinions. I did not have a lot of prior knowledge regarding curriculum development and implementation, so this reading was very informative and useful to understand the politics of education.

A “Good Student”

A “good student” is often thought of as one who sits quietly in class, copies exactly what is written on the board, and responds to the teacher only when a question is asked (Kumashiro, 2010). Students are expected to sit in a desk for the required time of class, listen, take notes, and leave. In the past, teachers often viewed the students who enjoyed moving and talking during class as the “problem students”. Through our experiences in the education faculty, we have come to understand that there are various types of learners, and a “good learner” cannot be summarized in one sentence. I believe a “good student” can be one who is compelled to learn, questions what is being taught, and engages in lessons meaningfully, and appreciates knowledge. Notice how a “good student” cannot be defined by their learning style. A good student can still hit all aspects of what I believe a good student is no matter if they must be moving, sitting quietly, or cooperatively learning with peers, etc.

Students who are privileged by the idea of what a “good student” is demonstrate the ability to sit quietly and follow the previous expectations of students. Students who are good at listening, practicing and writing exams benefit from this definition. This definition does not support different learning styles and does not acknowledge students who may have disabilities or need accommodations.

This definition of a “good student” makes it impossible to create a diverse classroom. A classroom that consists of all the same students and learning styles is one that does not benefit the students. Students need to learn from their peers and be taught using different instructional strategies to benefit the different learners present in their classroom. If a good student is considered one who sits quietly and listens and then writes a test, then the transmission teaching model is used and creates a very boring and basic educational experience. Students do not learn from sitting quietly and listening every day of the year. They need to be challenged in different ways of learning and knowing to expand their knowledge.

Teaching to Educate, Not to Remember

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

-Albert Einstein

This quote really caught my attention because I felt it somewhat described my experience of education. Too often I feel teachers assign rather than educate. Some teachers teach the information to students so that they can repeat it back for a test, but then the students forget everything after the test is written. This is not educating students, this is teaching them to remember. When students are truly educated they can understand and apply the knowledge learned long after they leave school. This quote reflects my experiences in school because when I had a teacher that truly educated me, I understood what I learned and could apply it in real life. In past experiences when I did not have the most invested teacher, I forgot everything I “learned” in their class after I handed in my final. I believe I will remember this quote as I enter the world of teaching because I want my students to feel educated and knowledgeable after they leave my class and not feel like they were only taught to remember.

This quote makes teaching students to be lifelong learners possible because it reminds us that we need to teach and educate meaningfully rather than teach for a student to pass our class and move on without learning. This quote makes it impossible for teachers to neglect their responsibility to educate. When teachers see this quote, it should be a reminder for them to reflect upon their teaching.

This quote shows the responsibility of both the teacher and student. It is the teacher’s job to educate students to be life long learners and educate for a higher level of understanding than just memory. It is also the student’s job to be invested in their learning and want to learn and understand the material to apply to life after they are done school.

This quote relates to the three broad areas of learning in the curriculum. The three broad areas are: building lifelong learners, building engaged citizens, and building a sense of self and community. These broad areas of learning are how the lessons taught in schools are supposed to transform into life outside of school.

The Tyler Rationale

In 1949, Ralph Tyler introduced four basic questions every educator must answer when creating curriculum or instructional programs. They are:

  • What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
  • What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
  • How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
  • How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

The questions posed by Tyler focus on teaching information and meeting the outcomes at the end of the year and follows a transmission view of teaching. The transmission view can be described using the analogy of throwing a baseball. Knowledge is thrown from one person to another, arriving in the same condition in which it began (Smagorinsky 7). For most of us our previous school experience was just that, having material thrown at us only to repeat it back on a piece of paper for a mark. It didn’t really matter if we understood what was being taught. If we could memorize the information given to us and repeat it back the same way it was taught, the teacher could check off on their program that they “taught” the outcome given in the curriculum. The Tyler rationale also represents the factory image that we viewed in lecture. Children enter into the school system, receive the same information taught using one teaching style, and get spit back out the other end.

The Tyler rationale tells teacher to ask, “what do I need to teach?” instead of having teachers ask, “what do my students need to learn?” As future teachers, I believe it’s important to reflect on these previous approaches to teaching and adapt them to benefit our students now. What worked in 1949 should not be the same way of teaching in 2018. Although teachers need to follow the curriculum to know what their students should understand and demonstrate by the end of the year, our teaching styles must be adapted for our students that vary from class to class. Sometimes exams work, other times an open discussion amongst the class will teach you what your students know and understand. It’s all about learning and changing the future of teaching instead of repeating the cycle of information given and repeated.

Common Sense

Kumashiro defines common sense as things that everyone should know (Kumashiro XXIX). He talks about his experience in Nepal and how everything there was different than how he was custom to living. For example, he talked about how he was used to eating three meals a day, but he learned that they serve only two meals at 10:00am and 5:00pm. For us, eating three meals a day seems like common sense to us, but in other parts of the world that would not be common. Common sense primarily focuses on where you live, your religion, and different customs around the world. Kumashiro mentions that his way of teaching did not match the ways of teaching in Nepal and was asked by his students to not to spend time on work that was not in the textbook and told to follow the sequence of what they were “supposed to do” (XXXI). He believed that it “seemed that students and faculty already had clear ideas about what it meant to teach and learn, and that his attempts to teach differently simply did not make sense” (XXXI). I think this relates to education today because even as students in the university, we’re used to the ways we’re taught and how a course is run and we’re reluctant to be taught a different way because to us, the way teachers have taught us is common sense at the U of R. However, our job as future educators is to challenge the common sense and try new innovative ways as knowing because education is always evolving. Kumashiro believes “learning different methods is essential to improving as a teacher” (XXXII). In our own classrooms in the future we will have students from different countries, backgrounds, customs, and religions that will believe different learnings and teachings are “common sense”. It is important to pay attention to common sense because sometimes, common sense isn’t so common so it is our job to teach and learn about different practices that can be considered common sense by a variety of people.

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