Posted in ECS 210

ECS 210 Summary of Learning

This has been one heck of a semester! I have really enjoyed all of the learning that I have done in this class and am so grateful that I decided to take it! Below is Sydney McGrath and I’s Summary of Learning where we chronicled our learning journey in ECS 210! Check it out!

To close out, I want to thank all of my ECS 210 classmates, especially my wonderful seminar peers! I have learned so much from all of you! As well, thank you to Katia for co-leading lecture and for leading an awesome seminar. And, thanks to Mike for leading a great lecture! I have learned so much from all of the people involved in ECS 210 and hope to see everyone again in the future!

Posted in ECS 210

Jagged Worldviews and Oppressive Math

When I think back to my schooling experience, specifically the many math classes that I took over the years, it never occurred to me that something like math could be oppressive. Not only does the way we talk about, view, and value math have roots in prioritizing some peoples over others, but it also has individual impacts. All the way back to grade one or two I can remember being taught that there is only one answer and only one way to get to the answer. Playing with numbers and having fun with math was never a goal of my math education. Rather, reproducing formulas and structures to get to the desired result (getting 100% every time if possible) was valued more than learning to be confident and competent with math. It was interesting to me to see how Dr. Russell talked about how we are all mathematical people when in school if you didn’t know how to reproduce formulas and answers you could give up on math because “you don’t really need it in your everyday life”.

It is then interesting to view how math has been represented in Inuit culture and how different it is from my own view growing up. These differences also show us that our views and teachings on mathematics are not universal, which I am sure is a line that many students have heard in their math classes! The Inuit have a completely different way of representing numbers with language based on how the number is seen in context, and also because they use a base-20 system with a sub-base of 5 (as compared to the base-10 system that we often view as universal). If a number is inside of something, in a group, in a pattern, etc. there is a different way to say it. Furthermore, something like spatial relations, that was not often talked about in my math experience, was and continues to be extremely important to the Inuit way of life. Being able to know where you are in an endless sea of white snowdrifts, and then to talk to other people about how to get where you were, requires a remarkable sense of one’s spatial relations. Lastly, measuring was done in a way that didn’t require extra measuring tools. Simply using the length, width, and height of certain body parts was enough to build clothing and tools. This way of measuring seemed unreliable to me the first time that I read it. I thought to myself, how would they make a standardized size of anything when everyone has different sized bodies? It has just now occurred to me that this way of measuring could be better because then you have a tool or piece of clothing that is directly proportional to your own body! Not sure about anyone else but this seems like a way more effective way to build clothing and tools.

Posted in ECS 210

Am I A “Good” Citizen?

It was always my experience in all my years in grade school that the approach my classes had toward citizenship fit into the category of Personal Responsibility. There was a focus around holiday time for students to fill shoeboxes to help kids around the world have Christmas gifts and the focus of any community-oriented activity or event was to help people in need. Of course, these may not be the kinds of things needed to stop the actual issues that we giving to, but it did instil the value in me of supporting your community. As I moved into my middle school years I was continually selected to participate in leadership conferences and events. This is the area of my school that moved away from personal responsibility and more into the participatory citizen role. It is important to note that this is technically considered curriculum (everything that happens inside and outside of school – Praxis) but it was not something that every student did. This continued on into my high school years when SRC, SADD, and Me to We became big parts of my grade school experience. Although student leadership groups can tend to lean more towards the socially responsible citizen, planning my own events/fundraisers and leading others in yearly activities let me explore a more participatory role. Although I would not say that I reached the level of the justic-oriented citizen in school, I was close with many mentors who I would consider reaching this category, and therefore was exposed to the idea of taking action for social change.

In my schooling, the personally responsible citizen role made it possible to begin seeing how you can support your community. That being said, it made it impossible for us to grasp, as young students, the idea and foundational work of social change. If this was the only model of citizenship that I was ever shown, I can imagine that my worldview would be drastically different. Moreover, engaging in the second type of citizenship, the participatory citizen, it made it possible to learn what kinds of impacts your own actions do and could have on the community and people around you. This type of citizenship is hard to navigate in a school though! I found that in many places, this type of citizenship would be the driving factor at the beginning of the year or the beginning of an event and slowly fizzle down to charity (personally responsible citizen). I think that because of my own interests that I expressed to my teachers and administrators from a young age, I was able to engage in a more participatory approach to citizenship. I know the kind of impact that having this led to in my life, and I can’t help but wonder what the impact of not having any of these experiences would be.

Posted in ECS 210

Treaty Ed? Or, Settler Ed?

For this week’s blog post, we were tasked with responding to the following email excerpt. This student is struggling to introduce Indigenous perspectives in their Social Studies 30 class. Their co-op teacher is not supporting them in their struggles and it is probably making it even more difficult for her to bring the ideas to her students.

The Issue

As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada. I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke.

The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.” 

My Response

I would encourage you to help your co-op and students see this issue in a new light! This may sound like a daunting task, and it is, but, as Claire Krueger points out in her and Mike’s video, we will never be absolutely perfect in our approach and teaching of this topic. Of course, this does not mean that we should forgo trying! In her introduction, Claire also brings up the excellent point that what we do in the classroom and ultimately what and how we teach, tells our students essential information. You may think that I am talking about numeracy, literacy, or scientific facts. However, a large part of what our students learn in our classrooms is who is important and who is not. Our kids sit in the classroom and absorb all of the overt and covert messages that we are sending them about the people and things in our world that are worth their time. She then goes on to mention that these people will be adults one day, holding onto these stories that we told them as children. I think it is important to say that the children in our classroom will not only move on to be people with power in politics, business, or wealth, but they will also be the everyday people that live in our society. They will work jobs in retail, the service industry, and various trades. They may even become parents of their own! Either way, the stories that they learn in our classrooms are the stories that they will view the world around them through. They are the stories that they will tell their families, friends, co-workers, and customers.

Furthermore, it is imperative that we as teachers recognize our duties to our kids. We have to give them accurate information in the classroom surrounding the structures of power and oppression that affect their daily lives. This means that we have to teach them about relationships, about colonization in the past, present, and future. Even if we cannot recognize the power of the things I just mentioned above, teachers, at their most basic level, are required to teach the curriculum. As Mike mentions in his and Claires video, if a teacher is not teaching Treaty education, that means they are not teaching the curriculum, and they are not filling the most basic requirement of their job.

Treaty Education, of course, holds more significance than simply checking off a box to say you have done it. We are giving our students, most specifically our non-indigenous students, a glimpse into the perspective of indigenous people living in what we now call Canada. Claire Krueger describes this approach to Treaty Ed. as something different. Instead, she calls it Settler Ed. If you think about it, is Treaty Ed. only for Indigenous students? Why are we “educating” them on the things that have happened and are happening to them? Wouldn’t it be more useful if we directed this learning to non-indigenous students? Dwayne Donald provides an interesting take on how we view Indigenous and Canadian “culture” in the classroom. It is often seen as a deficit when Indigenous students are too “cultured”, he even goes as far as to say that some look at it as a learning disability. If we look at the opposite, what do we see as the problem with Canadian culture then? What is the learning disability associated with that?

It is essential that our students recognize that we are we are all treaty people and that settler Canadians, the Canadian Canadians that Donald talks about, find importance in learning Indigenous perspectives and more specifically, that we learn about Treaties and everything that they entail, relationships, promises, etc. We, as humans, stand a better chance of thriving if we do it in peaceful conjunction with the other human and other-than-human aspects of the world. We have things that we can learn about from others, we can even learn about ourselves through these experiences.



Posted in ECS 210

Learning From Place

Learning from Place” defines reinhabitation as the act of “identify[ing], recover[ing], and creat[ing] material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments” (p. 74). Further, decolonization is defined as the act of “identify[ing] and chang[ing] ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places” (p. 74). It is important to keep these definitions in mind to support the ways that they have shown reinhabitation and decolonization. Throughout the Learning from Place reading and research project, there are many ways that reinhabitation and decolonization are happening. These include but are not limited to language revitalization, merging the Cree and colonized maps together, bridging relationships between youth and elders in Fort Albany First Nations, rejecting the idea of neutrality and creating action through confronting colonial structures that are embedded in institutions.
In the process of decolonization, the reading states that “decolonization as an act of resistance must not be limited to rejecting and transforming dominant ideas; it also depends on recovering and renewing traditional, non-commodified cultural patterns such as mentoring and intergenerational relationships” (p. 74). In a broader sense, this is exactly what the research project was based in, intergenerational relationships and the learning these relationships encouraged. For youth, the process of interviewing community members (adults and elders) provided them with a unique experience to learn across generational gaps. Furthermore, this intergenerational learning is a starting point in the reclamation of traditional understandings gained through language. The adults and elders in this specific research project expressed that young people were losing their sense of the word “paquataskamik” the Cree word used to describe the natural environment of the whole traditional territory. This brought about the need for language revitalization and was expressed in this project in the river excursion through recognizing the Cree names for the natural environment around them. The participants of the project worked across generational gaps to attempt to bridge this understanding.

When considering how to adapt these ideas in order to consider place in other subjects, this intergenerational learning is something that can be done. Furthermore, making spaces for the voices of those who have a deeper experience and understanding of specific topics, such as the traditional connection of specific Indigenous groups to the land, is crucial. It is important for me to recognize that I do not have the same experience in this place as many others as I am a settler Canadian. However nice it may be to make this acknowledgement, this now requires action. Using natural experiences and bringing the environment into the classroom, or better yet, taking the classroom out into the natural environment, are all things that I can do as a future educator. Overall, recognizing curriculum as place seems to require three things: the understanding that curriculum needs to shift constantly to fit the needs of the students and moreover, the community; that it is crucial to involve the community in the learning process and learning experiences that make-up the students schooling; and, lastly, a rejection of the commonsensical idea that education and schooling are the same things. Education includes everything that is learned inside and outside the walls of the institution of school. In making a shift to recognize schooling as different from education, we can move toward a more inclusive recognition of the knowledge people around us hold.

“Learning from land and place beyond institutional walls is a
return to traditional Mushkegowuk modes of teaching and learning.” (p. 82)

Posted in ECS 210

Curriculum Policy and Politics

How do I imagine curricula are developed?

When I think of how curricula are developed my mind instantly jumps to those that will be using it to teach, teachers! I can imagine a bunch of seasoned teachers brought together by the government to discuss their collective area of interest and expertise in order to define what they believe students should be learning. In my imagination, this process of collective curriculum development goes through some sort of check by someone within the federal government who is “in charge” of education in their respective province or territory. Of course, after that thought comes to mind, my cynical thoughts take over. Are teachers the ones who actually design curriculum? Is this how I think curriculum should even be designed? What kinds of third-party interests are being represented and how? The questions are endless.

How are curricula actually designed?

In reality, curricula are actually designed in a slightly different way and fully understanding the process of curricula development requires a knowledge of the role that politics plays in the development of public policy. It is stated in the reading by Ben Levin, Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools, that many educators are unaware of the political process that influence policy decision which in turn then affect “what schooling is provided, how, to whom, in what form, by whom, [and] with what resources” (p. 8). Thus, in order to truly understand how policies regarding education are formed, we must understand how politics make these influences, or, how government works.

Levin points out six different aspects of the inner workings of government in order to provide some insight into how this affects education policy. These six aspects are as follows:

Voter Interest Drive Everything 

One of the main driving factors of what happens in government and politics in elections. Each party wants to secure their position as the next elected and thus have to try to cater to voter interests. Within this aspect, it is up to the governments to attempt to change voter perceptions of what they are doing or going to do, and up to voters to pick the issues that they care about, no matter how little they may actually know about the topic.

Governments have Limited Control over the Policy Agenda

Because parties are in office for a limited amount of time, and they are constantly being dragged in every which direction at once, it makes it difficult to set a course and stay on it.

There is Never Enough Time 

There are a vast array of matters that a government has to attend to, many of which we don’t even see, and all must be attended to in order for everything to run smoothly. Unfortunately, this means that the way time and energy are divided amongst these topics can never be truly enough in everyone’s eyes. Nor is it factually enough time to fully investigate the matter and any issues surrounding it.

People and Systems Both Matter

The individual people that work within a government system and the structures within the system itself are equally important and are both determining factors in the types of public policies that are created, gain traction, and implemented, when the policies are put into place, and who the policies value or don’t value.

A Full-Time Opposition Changes Everything

This seems very self-explanatory. It is understandably difficult to get anything done or get anyone on the same page when there is a group of individuals who oppose absolutely everything you say or do.

Beliefs are More Important than Facts 

In some cases, it is hard for people to look beyond what they believe or want. This is especially true concerning public policies. As Ben Levin states in his article, even if there were impeccable research findings to back up a policy, as long as it is disfavoured by the public and their beliefs, it won’t be supported.

Who is involved in curriculum making?

I was happy to see that schools, teachers, and “subject matter experts” were among the groups of people that were involved in curriculum development. I was less happy to see, however, that there were other stakeholders who were able to use their power to influence curriculum development. Businesses, who want to promote the acquisition of skills that will benefit them in the future, promote different curricular goals and objectives. While I am sure there are those who would try to find the positive side to this aspect of stakeholder influences, it seems to me that this would provide a biased product.

Posted in ECS 210

Who has the Privilege to Learn Comfortably?

The commonsense notion of a “good” student implies that we want all students to be silent, obedient, and capable of learning in only one way. According to the commonsense, “good” students are able to sit at their desks all day and absorb information that is told to them by their instructor. They are not supposed to engage in any “off-task” behaviour and they most certainly should never question what they are learning. The “good” student is able to finish all of their school work without delay and strive to gain individual success in their class and school. This student should also be able to perfectly balance their school work and extracurriculars to ensure that they are “well-rounded”.

There are some very specific students that are privileged by this definition. Those that are able to sit still for extended periods of time, absorb information by listening to an instructors lecture, and believe every word that their instructor tells them about a number of specific topics. These “good” students may also include those that have enough money to not work during their high school years, afford nutritious meals throughout the day, afford basic health care, and have some way to get to their school with little trouble. This idea of a “good” student rarely includes students who learn in one of the many other ways (eg. don’t learn by sitting in a chair for six hours a day). If we are to focus on Canadian schools, It also leaves out many people who do not learn in these ways because of difference pertaining to their culture. The current school system in Canada is set up to largely advantage White, Euro-western students. Not to mention, middle to upper-class families and students have the upper hand in many instances. As Kumashiro’s article points out, schools are set up to let those with the most power learn in comforting ways.

This commonsense idea has made it impossible for us to recognize multiple intelligences, the nutrition and physical health needs of children and young people, and the systems of power and oppression that affect everyone in this country and further. In this commonsense understanding, we hardly recognize that students have a home life outside of our classrooms unless we see the “negative” consequences of it.