A response to “TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-bullying Programs Miss the Mark“
I was actually very pleased with both articles from this week and felt like I really connected with and understood both of them. When I read that this week was going to focus on “Queering Education” I was really excited. In the article about Glee, I actually learned quite a bit especially about the distinction that needs to be made between homophobic bullying and sexual harassment, the business of anti-bullying products, and what we could be doing better.
I had never considered that bullying based on sexual diversity could be better described as an act of sexual harassment and how the failure to make this distinction leads to various consequences. Those who are the subject of such types of sexual harassment then feel as though what is happening to them is just an average case of bullying rather than a human rights violation. While bullying itself is not okay and needs to come to an end, this mislabeling of sexual harassment as bullying is also making the violence students are subject to go unnoticed in a certain way.
I was also shocked to find out that anti-bullying has become a business on its own. Because there has been so much research done on the topic it has also grown into a huge marketplace where companies make hundreds of dollars by selling anti-bullying starter kits to schools. I think that this has contributed to the problem not only through the commodification of bullying but also by making it seem like an easy problem to solve. I can imagine that some schools believe that they will by this starter kit and do whatever it says and then their problem is solved and they never have to talk about bullying again. This pushes the actual solving even farther back by deluding those involved into believing that it no longer exists.
Included in the article were suggestions on what can be done, prevention strategies, and a bunch of resources that can be used as something educational for myself and also for the classroom as well. I very much enjoyed the fact that this article was not only critiquing the current state of the bullying dilemma that we sadly face in schools across the world but that it also provided us as future educators with enough to go those couple steps further. Just reading this article would have been great but the added ideas for solutions and resources really make it easy to imagine bring these solutions into the classroom.
One thing that I found problematic was not with the article itself but the situation that is surrounding the profit of bullying. We now understand that anti-bullying is not the only thing we should be focusing on but that we should look to educate students and school community members about the institutional backing that homophobia has. Now that we know where the problem is and how to move forward though, I am worried that this will bring about another opening for profit. Will companies/organizations begin making “How To Start A GSA In Your School” starter kits too?
The first part of this reading that I found quite interesting was the information that smaller provinces, specifically New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, have better policies in regards to inclusive education. It actually gave some statistics the reflected a larger number of students with disabilities immersed in inclusive classroom environments in these countries as compared to a smaller percentage for larger provinces. This also raises some questions for me. Why are these provinces farther ahead? Is it because of funding differences, differences in education programs, etc.? I am also wondering what these statistics are based on as well. After reading this article I tried to do a little bit of research for myself and look at New Brunswick’s inclusive education policies. While the policy seems to be there, news coverage around the issue of inclusive education in New Brunswick reflected a very negative view on how the policies were enacted in actual schools.
Post-secondary inclusive education has also made leaps in the past years and has evolved in such a way that includes students of almost all abilities. This was a surprising change to me as universities, while are usual quite liberal spaces, also have a history of excluding those seen as unintelligent and for a very long time people with disabilities were seen as being unintelligent. As universities and other post secondary institutions move towards more inclusive education structures it will undoubtedly make room for more tolerance and acceptance in society as well.
One of the other things that I realized from this reading was the effect of “pull-out programs” and being with peers of the same age has on the students’ social well being. This realization is further reinforced through my experiences in my field placement with one of the students. This student does not attend class full time and is in a somewhat out of the ordinary situation with their education. They are at the grade two age however they have never been to school before this year. Before this, I would have questioned why they didn’t just start off their school career back in kindergarten but I see how they interact with the rest of the class and can’t imagine the effect that being placed in a younger class would have on him. As far as “pull-out programs” this student instead has somewhere they can go to calm down if they are feeling over stimulated in the classroom and then rather than simply being removed from the classroom environment all together they can become better at doing things in the classroom to prevent this from happening.
I understood from this article that teachers have, for the most part, no prior knowledge or skill sets that can be implemented to include those with disabilities in their classrooms and instead these students are shuffled off to support staff. This is partly because of lack of funding, resources, and the large class sizes in most schools, but it also has a great deal to do with the lack of education teachers receive. However, there was little mention of improving the system that makes use of educational assistants and which is already in place in a number of schools, instead revamping the whole process of providing help for students with disabilities. Could educational assistants provide a link between the students and the teachers and other classmates? Is there some way to work them into the equation rather than just eliminating them completely?
I don’t think that I can pick anything out of the article that I find particularly problematic. However, after reading this article I felt that I was left with so many more questions than I have been for any of the previous readings. I am not sure if it is because I have a much deeper connection with this topic or that I didn’t interact with the reading in a typical way. The topic of inclusive education is becoming more interesting to me as I make my way through this first year of my education degree and I would like to study it further to gain a better understanding of how inclusive education is working right now, how to improve it as a whole, and also how to incorporate it into my classroom.
In response to Jaques Ranciere’s “The Ignorant Schoolmaster”
The main theme that I took away from this reading is that we, as humans, all have the same capacity for intelligence and we can all learn, but it is the ways in which we learn that are different. I think that this is an important lesson to learn when first going into a classroom. You never know what the class is going to be like and where the students will be in terms of previous knowledge and I think it is so important to realize that no matter where their academic level is it is never impossible to teach them something. There may be students in my future class that aren’t able to learn something from the way I am teaching it or the way their classmates learn and it is so important to find new ways to help them learn. I wouldn’t be able to just cast a student to the side because they aren’t understanding me. Sometimes we may hit a bit of a standstill and not know how to get through to some students but it does not mean that they are incapable of learning, we just need to find new ways to help them learn.
Also interesting in this article was the exposure of the intellectual hierarchy that exists in the classroom. This hierarchy places the instructor/explicator on top and it remains their job to keep the student underneath them. Personally, I have noticed this in many of my high school classes and even a specific university class that I am taking. Our professor consistently uses difficult language that is specific to the area of study, that most of us are not a part of, and refers back to concepts as if they should already be previous knowledge to us. This puts us, as students, further back in understanding what is actually being taught and leaves us in a constant state of simply trying to understand rather than applying new knowledge to our assignments and class discussions. I believe that this constant struggle on both sides is what leads o what many students would call the “bad teacher”.
After reading this article there is one big question that I have left. How do we teach students something that we ourselves do not know? I think I am still unsure about this concept. I do not doubt that it can be done but I certainly would not feel comfortable teaching the material because I would not know if I myself was right, let alone know if what my students were doing was right.
A response to Parker Palmers “The Heart of a Teacher”
After reading Parker Palmer’s essay “The Heart of a Teacher” I was able to more fully understand some of the dilemmas facing modern teachers such as the complexities and interconnectedness of our students, subjects, and selves, the act of keeping our heart open and how it improves our teaching, and how to teach using more than just technique or method.
In order to be a “good teacher,” we need to understand our subjects to the best of our ability in order to teach them well but we will never know them completely. As for our students, we need to try and understand their inner workings, find out how they learn best and help them achieve their highest potential. But one aspect of teaching is often left out of the equation and that is that we must understand ourselves. Understanding of the self influences the way we teach in extraordinary ways as we are always subconsciously projecting our own emotions, experiences, and our own learnings onto our students. When we feel passionate about a subject it becomes obvious in the way we present information and teachings to our class. When we feel confused and self-conscious about the material we are attempting to teach that too will come out in the way we provide the lesson and students will be able to pick up on these insecurities. While it is okay to not know something it is different than the mistrust your students may feel if you are simply relying on a textbook and your method or technique rather than engaging with the material and the classroom.
Keeping our heart open to our students is something that we touch on in class in a couple of different ways. We need to remain open and hospitable towards our students and provide for them a safe space to learn and play and this all comes from the heart, from a place of love. When we put our heart into our teaching we are putting our whole selves into it. Just as our hearts are the core of our bodies and ensure they function, knowing our true selves and putting our greatest effort into the act of teaching is the core of the classroom environment. However, as Palmer points out, our hearts can be weak at times and we can lose strength when feelings of vulnerability and hopelessness take over. He also says that there is no technique for “reclaiming our hearts, for keeping our hearts open” (8) and instead we must look within ourselves for truth. This also goes back to the idea of knowing ourselves as well as we possibly can.
The main piece of advice I got from this article is that there is no special technique or formula that will make me a “good teacher”. It is up to me and whether or not I try my hardest to understand myself, my students, my subjects, and the inner teacher that determines if I will become someone my future students look back on and have good memories of.
In response to Leroy Litte Bears “Jagged Worldviews Colliding”
Leroy Little Bears essay “Jagged Worldviews Colliding” has some similar messages in it that I read about in an essay that Thomas King wrote titled “The Truth About Stories”. In both of these pieces of writing the idea of dominant/superior worldviews is explored as coming from the dominantly euro-centric or western worldview that influences much of the world including Canada. Both of the articles discuss how the dominant worldview is a product of colonialism that sadly persists to this day, and that it obviously doesn’t account for indigenous worldviews. There is a supposed superior worldview that becomes the dominant belief among the general population and in our case discounts the thousands of years that people in this region have lived in under different worldviews. An interesting piece that Thomas King brings up in his essay was that origin stories also have a great impact on influencing our worldviews. In the Christian origin story there is a man and then a woman is created for him and that they are expected to be perfect for God. There is one origin story that King mentions in his essay that is particularly interesting. It is about a character named charm and her story of creating the land and giving birth to twins. The twins were opposites in almost every aspect and they were not perfect, they, like humans, were flawed beings that made mistakes. If you compare these two stories you can see how their themes are reflected in the worldviews that play out in society.
In lecture, we discussed worldview “A” and worldview “B”. The first worldview reflected the western worldview and its dichotomous attitudes while the second worldview, the indigenous worldview, opened it up to both “sides”. Both worldviews are accounted for in worldview “B” and it provides a much wider way of knowing that would benefit a much larger majority of people. It was also very interesting to see how the class responded to the worldviews in the lecture especially once they were revealed. There seemed to be a large part of the class that ignored the second worldview and made it seem idealistic, but mostly after they discovered that it was widely recognized as an indigenous worldview. I believe this also ties back to my indigenous studies class that I took in the first semester. My professor also talked at length about worldviews including their influences on society and their perceptions in society so it was very interesting to see these thoughts revisited in the reading and in lecture.
The idea of over-empowerment and the difference between strength and privilege was something that McIntosh brought up in her article that was new to me. I have been taught to recognize privilege as just being at the top and in some cases, having earned your place there. I can see now that being at the top should not mean that there is someone at the bottom. This over-empowerment that McIntosh talks about “distort[s] the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.” This is different than my simple idea of white privilege, which does not really recognize white people as a race and rather that racism only affects people of colour.
The connections between certain groups in society and their ‘levels’ of privilege and the myth of meritocracy are both ideas that I am familiar with, yet I failed to recognize their importance to each other. The idea of intersectionality was a huge part in helping me identify my own privilege, I can see that I have white privilege but may be disadvantaged in some ways because I am a woman. I could not see, however, how the idea of meritocracy played a role in how I dealt with this aspect of disadvantage. I can rely on my white privilege to help move up a ‘level’ and overcome the disadvantages of being a woman. I would have mistakenly suggested that I was able to make this shift in social positionality simply because I worked hard and proved myself and instead completely ignored the fact that I had another system of privilege working in my favour.
Individual acts of racism or sexism do not make up white privilege or male privilege it is the institutional power that worked to build and works to secure it. I can recognize that I have white privilege and participate in the system of racism, but that does not mean that I am racist, although this is also a hard distinction to make because it almost provides an escape for people to ignore the things they do that are actually individual acts of racism such as microaggressions or a number of learned behaviours that act towards the discrimination of people of colour or women.
We often say that those with privilege should use their unearned assets to rise up those at a disadvantage, but is that enough? At first, I would have said that I agreed with this statement and should not have to give up my privileges but rather to use them to secure the same privileges for everyone, but is it working, is it working fast enough? In this article McIntosh says that men and white people should give up some of their privileges while at the same time raising the disadvantaged from their position of little to no privilege.
There was something at the very end of the article where McIntosh went into some background information and guidelines for her list. She had to add in, and stress, the fact that her “sample is very specific with regard to race, sex, region, location, workplace, vocation and nation.” I cannot be sure whether she had this secondary list published along with her article the first time, or if she realized that she needed to add it after the fact. This tells me that even though people may be reading and attempting to understand what the article is warning about, they still feel the need to apply generalizations onto people of colour and assume that if one person says or agrees with it then it is a fact for the whole group.
Because there are three different perspectives inside Shattering the silence it allowed me to attempt to better connect with the people who had to and continue to suffer the impacts of residential schools. It allowed me to put myself in the shoes of a parent struggling to do what is best for my children by moving to Crown lands on the promise of food, or teaching themselves how to farm and live off the land in a way that was entirely different to how they and there had been living for thousands of years. I learned about the struggle that families had to go through concerning sending their children away to school or having them taken. They were put in a position where they had to choose the lesser of two evils: either send them away and hope they come back someday, alive, or hide them from the authorities and risk being arrested and taken away from them anyway.
I learned a great deal about the intergenerational trauma that occurs as an effect of the residential schools. There is almost a role reversal in some ways, children long for their parents to open up to them about their trauma and lean on them for support, which is typically the role a parent would take. Their children take up political activism to try and provide hope for their parents or grandparents and work towards securing a life for them that does not make them feel so much pain.
I am also expanding my knowledge of the concept of personal sovereignty that existed among indigenous people. This concept is something that my Indigenous Studies professor touched on last semester and from the HIstory of Education in Saskatchewan reading, I was able to further understand it in the realm of knowledge. I have learned that this personal sovereignty extended to children as well, they did not belong to their parents and because of this, they were able to gain knowledge in a way that is unique to how children are thrust into the current education system and expected to conform and excel.
I would love to learn more about the celebrations and spiritual practices that were used to educate children as they grew up. The History of Schooling article went into very little detail about pre-confederation education and I think that this would not only help develop my own ideas of education and knowledge but also aid me in teaching Treaty Education.
There was one thing in the Shattering the Silence reading that I found problematic, alarming even. The children were assigned numbers instead of names and in my mind, I cannot help but liken this to another event in history, The Holocaust. There are startling similarities between the two events, the most prominent being the genocide that occurred within and alongside the schools, but also this practice of dehumanization in both events. Reduced to a number, beaten down, and stripped of their identities.