The purpose of Treaty Education

Why should I bother teaching Treaty Education curriculum, or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) content in schools? There are not any First Nations students in the class, so it is obviously no relevant or important to teach!

No. Nope. That’s not how it works – ever. That’s like saying, “Well, none of my students are aspiring statisticians so I do not think teaching math is relevant to them.” That is not why we have a Math curriculum, or Science or English or anything else.

First: It is government mandated. It is not optional. It is not a request. It is a requirement outlined in the curriculum as content that must be taught in schools – and not just in “Native Studies 10, 20, 30” in high schools, but in all classes in every grade. End of story; no questions asked.

However, allow me to further convince you of the reality and necessity for teaching Treaty Education in the classroom.

It is not for the benefit of the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students in the class that you decide to teach the historical content of residential schools and the impact is has on today’s society. More likely than not, they know that. Those students likely have family members – or know someone else – who experienced them first hand. We have to face the reality that, living in Saskatchewan with the racism and stereotypes that exist, they are living the impact of that history. The students who should be learning about residential schools and treaties are the ones who do not have opportunities otherwise to learn about that past – whether they are First Nations or  not. If we are to teach students about Canada, and Canadian history, it is a necessity to include FNMI content because FNMI content IS Canadian history. The fact that anyone would brush this off as “unnecessary and irrelevant” because the lack of Indigenous students in the class proves the ignorance and complete need for this information to be a part of education.

We cannot call ourselves Canadians – especially in Saskatchewan – while ignoring, and refusing to learn, something that has such a large impact on the history of this country. Saskatchewan is filled with racism and stereotypes, and it is not the victims of these thought-constructs who need to be told this. They know. If we live in Canada we are affected by this history. We cannot say “It’s in the past, and doesn’t matter anymore.” It does affect us, and the repercussions of the past are still hugely impacting in the lives of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. We all need to become educated in treaty knowledge and FNMI content. We are all treaty people.

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Be a “good” student! – What are we really saying?

The problem of common sense (Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. 19-33.

As previously discussed, “commonsense” is something that we cannot get away from in any classroom. It is the acceptance of what are the norms, without regard to the oppressive nature of these assumptions – that everyone should fit neatly into one mold because “that’s just how it is”. If we approach the idea of who the “good” students are, we can easily see this commonsense clouding the vision of the educational system. Kumashiro notes that being a good student in the eyes of society encompasses: being able to learn in one specific way, having none – or few – behavioural outbursts in class, and proving that the student has learned sufficiently by being able to regurgitate the desired information on command. Unfortunately, this pays no attention to all of the variables that play a part in developing the early understanding of kids. People learn differently. That is a fact. Also, some people have a natural predisposition to certain skills and abilities – this is also known as the theory of Multiple Intelligences. For example, I am an Arts Education student. My areas of “comfort” are dance and music, and maybe even literature. Ask me to create draw or express those same thoughts in visual art – not a chance it will turn out the way I am hoping, or at least a VERY minimal chance. Putting this into Kumashiro’s world of education, I would be a terrible student in an Art class because, frankly, that is just not my best subject. This idea privileges those who are simply more academically inclined and marginalizes – and discourages – those who learn differently. Kumashiro wrote of a story of a young child who struggled to stay focused in lessons and did not follow directions “normally”. At the end of this story it was stated that at the end of every day the child would ask “was I bad today? […] I’ll be better tomorrow.” How heart-breaking is that? This young child already had in their head that they were a “bad” student. When a child only sees the label placed on them by society, they often do not strive for anything greater. Their goals and dreams are placed in the far recesses of their minds while they accept the fate that has been handed to them – that they are not a good student and cannot learn in the conventional way, therefore they are not “smart” enough.

Instead, why can we not break this “commonsense” that tries to fit every student into a neat little box of what they should strive for? Instead, why not celebrate the individuality of each student and allow each student an opportunity to learn differently? I am not saying “don’t teach curriculum, kids can learn whatever they want.” But perhaps there is more to learning than regurgitating information to get the highest grade. Instead, why not encourage passions to grow and develop – allowing students to explore what makes them an individual?

The Future of the World.

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. – Abraham Lincoln

That’s a pretty straightforward statement – and how true. As educators we are literally teaching and guiding those who will be running the country in 30 years. They will be the ones making the decisions about what is important, who gets the tax cuts, and whether they build a new outlet mall or a school. It is our responsibility, then, to ensure that we are equipping these children with the experiences to develop sound morals, ethics, and priorities. We are to equip them with the tools to be critical thinkers and decision-makers, and to let them know that they can – and will – make a difference. Especially in today’s society, it is so easy to sit back into the world of social media and place our value in how many “likes” we get, or how many “followers” we have; is that what is really important? Consider this: you are teaching those who will be teaching your own children, and who will be teaching alongside you. What sort of values and beliefs do you want to be important? However, it is important to keep in mind that simply because we are teachers we can force our worldview on others. Yes, we can try to instill a sense of priorities and importance – that perhaps fundraising or donating money to a good organization is a good alternative to eating out every day, or that always completing a task to the best of your abilities is important – but we cannot force our ideals upon the students. The best we can do is support and care for them, model our own beliefs and thoughts, and encourage them to pursue their dreams and see the value in everything they do.

I know it seems really cliché, but there is really no other way to say it – the children are the future. We cannot complain about “kids these days” if we are not doing anything to make a difference for them.teaching

The Tyler Rationale Experience

The Tyler rationale is a highly objective, efficient, and standardized way of approaching education. There is little room for creative freedom of the students, and even less room for expression of personal interests and strengths. Further explanation can be found here.
Upon first thought of my own experiences in the school system, it was hard for me to recognize when exactly the Tyler rationale was being exemplified. Then I remembered my grade 1 teacher. Now, at the time we (the students) just thought she was mean. It is now that I am in the Education program that I recognize her teaching strategies – though I still do not necessarily agree with them – as being based in what she believed was the “right way”, and not completely irrational “meanness”. In grade 1 there was a right way, and therefore a wrong way, for everything. I remember on numerous occasions she would not allow some of the students to go out for recess because we were not writing our letters correctly. By this I mean that we were writing O’s by circling clockwise instead of counterclockwise, or one boy – heaven forbid – who was starting his O’s at the bottom and circling counterclockwise. Everything seemed to be drilled into our heads over, and over, and over again until everything was perfect. If our homework (yes, we had homework in grade 1) had any mistakes in it we had to completely redo it over recess and lunch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am realizing more and more how much the Tyler rationale sneaks its way into everyday classrooms easily. However, I would like to draw upon this first grade experience to fully realize the benefits and limitations of this rationale. Obviously, forcing this level of expertise onto a five year old child does not begin their experience in the education system very well. Though I’m sure she had good-intentions in trying to ensure we learned the basic skills need to progress through school, the push for perfection in our work really didn’t do us much good. More than anything it took away our freedom of expression and replaced it with the way it was “supposed” to be done – the “common sense” we had to learn. We learned not to ask questions, to do as we were told, and if there was any hint of failure we had the “fun” of school taken away. This all being said, however, also lays way to the very important benefits of being taught in this way; we learned what we needed to, and we learned to do it well. Yes, it may have been over the top, but the majority of the class could write more-or-less legibly by the end of the year. We knew our colours (keep in mind I was in French Immersion, so it was learning another language and new words for the things we knew), and we certainly knew how to control our behaviour – or at least keep it unseen by the eyes of our teachers.
In conclusion, yes, perhaps the Tyler rationale comes across as the extreme end of the teaching spectrum. However there are arguments to be made that they effectively teach what students need to know – no nonsense included. It is apparent that approaching teaching as an science experiment – that in adding the right reactants a reaction will occur to produce the desired result – or as an industrial assembly line is not the empathetic, caring, fun way we like to believe teaching should occur. Though there is surprising amounts of that ideology that continues to lie underneath what we see in today’s classrooms in Canada.

How is “common sense” defined, and why is it important to pay attention to?

The problem of common sense (Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI

Kumashiro speaks about “common sense” as the things that are often assumed or expected to be discussed/taught as normal because it is simply tradition, or the way that it has developed as standard. It is regarded as the things that we “should” be doing because that is just how it is done. It is often the routine aspects of teaching – and life – that go unquestioned because we are comfortable, and convinced that it is the best practice – for whatever reason. It is that unquestioned nature of the “common sense” that leads to the oppressive nature of the education system. We regard them as normal, without realizing how truly oppressive they are, and are often willing to settle because they easily slide under the radar unnoticed. If we want to foster a healthy educational environment we need to begin by questioning the true nature of how we are addressing social issues – rather than conforming to the way of teaching impressed upon us by Canadian (and/or American) societal norms.

The East coast has taller houses.

WP_20151128_009This past week was a challenge. A challenge to the point in which I enlisted the aid of my brother to open my eyes to the oddities in the world around me. I was visiting family on the East-coast-USA, and had no idea how I would notice something I had not previously noticed in my surroundings – since I was dropped into whole new surroundings and so much of it was WP_20151128_008new. However, at the same time, I have previously spent a number of months living in that area and have already noticed much of what I would normally notice. It was then that my brother reminded me of a conversation we had earlier in the week – all of the houses seemed to have at least one or two (if not more) up-lights, shining onto the front of their homes. That is, they all had a number of lights shining upwards onto their homes, giving them a taller, more eerie, almost haunting, sense at night. This does not exclude my father’s home, as seen in the pictures. The single up-light, shining onto the front entrance, combines with the two porch lights to give the house a sense of being impossibly tall. Even as one stands at the end of the long, inclining driveway, the lower house is well-lit and fades into darkness as the eyes are drawn to wander WP_20151128_007upwards. This is the case with the vast majority of houses in the same area –  brightly lit near the base, as the house seems to loom over the light source and fall into its own shadow. This reminds me of the effect achieved by holding a flashlight under your chin to give an eerie feeling as you begin to tell a ghost story around a camp fire.WP_20151128_005

Now, I cannot honestly see how this might tie in with my previous pictures. Generally, I am finding my picture are more nature-life-routine focused. This week I have been taken out of my regular routine and have come up with something seemingly unrelated to the rest of my posts. Although this realization cannot as easily be categorized along with the others, it does have a more “artistic” feel to it. It is more than simply realizing something that impacts my life or something that I have no noticed. It touches deeper into the intrinsic artistic value in seemingly senseless things. Why would anyone care to make their house seem taller? It is not simply for the purpose of having light that these lights are placed arbitrarily around homes. There is thought and design put into the placement. Even in something as simple as lighting the front walkway – there is art.

 

Rocks.

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Rocks. This week on my way to the dance class I teach on Thursday nights I noticed a few large mounds just passed the parking lot. Since I was rather early on this particular day (a rare occurrence for me) I decided to further investigate the objects. They are four giant rock installations. As shown in the one picture, there was a smaller rock with a sort of plaque or information sign on it, however most of the writing has faded and is no longer legible. Now, I am not sure when exactly these stone pillar-type things were erected outside Winston Knoll Collegiate, though I could have sworn they were not there early in the week for my Tuesday-night dance classes.

I did not have much time to investigate – or take better pictures for that matter – though I did find a small explanation. As seen in one of the pictures, “This Climable Sculpture is designed for ages 5 to adult.” I would be interested to know more information about these structures, or why they were put up. I imagine it was some form of an arts initiative by the school; to create or showcase an interactive piece that could both incorporate the arts, and create a relaxing place for students to hang out. Now, I have never attended Knoll, nor do I frequent there during school hours, so I do not know what these rocks are used for. Though, I will admit that I cannot help but be reminded of an art installation used in one of my favourite novels The Fault in our Stars; when they visit a giant, horizontal skeleton sculpture, set up for children to use as a play structure.

I’m no tree-hugger, but…

Tree missing from the bathroom view Where the tree used to stand Where the tree used to stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday evening I returned home from a long day of work and school, upon entering the bathroom I noticed something did not quite seem right. Finally, I realized what it was – the big tree in the backyard was no longer the view outside the window. Instead, I could clearly see the power lines coming from the house, and the cloud filled sky as the sun was setting. Upon further investigation the next morning, the tree was in fact gone. Now, I was aware Tuesday morning that the city would be coming to cut down both this tree and a large pine tree in our front yard. However, I was not expecting these two trees missing from the landscape to affect me as much as it did.

As mentioned last week, this is the home that I have spent the better part of my life in. I am not saying that I was particularly attached to these trees – the one missing from these pictures was actually quite the safety hazard – but their presence was evidently more noticeable than I had thought. Now that they are gone, I notice the lack of small birds that are normally jumping to and fro outside the bathroom window. Later in the week, when we let my cat outside in the afternoon he wandered around the stump, wondering where his climbing tree had gone, even the squirrels have noticed the giant tree missing from the front yard. Come spring, I am certain our front yard will be infinitely less lively with the favourite perch of many robins having disappeared.

As I reflect on the disappearance of these trees, and how they might relate to any of my other realizations, I am noticing that there is not specifically one thing that I am drawn to notice each week – it if in fact quite a few different things. As previously mentioned, there is an aspect of time in many of my pictures – the sun-rise each morning, the leaves falling as the season progresses, even the time lived in my home. However, there is also an aspect of routine – the stairs that I descend every Wednesday after class, the place that I park every morning for work, the things I see in my house every day – that is being made clear throughout the weeks. Many of these pictures are taken in places where I spend a lot of my time, or at least see upwards of 4 times per week, and show how these places can change – after a number of years, weeks, days, or minutes. This goes to show that even in the mundane, every day things that have to be done, there is always something new going on. No day is exactly the same, even if all of the activities and places seem to be.

The house that is my home

Wall at the bottom of the stairs As I was sitting on my stairs this evening, avoiding homework that desperately needed to be done, I found myself staring blankly at the wall. It was then that I realized just how beat up and worn this wall actually was. There is a huge water spot near the top, from when the snow melted a number of years ago and flooded down the wall and into our basement. There are numerous large cracks in the foundation, testifying the age of this old house. The rather large hole in the drywall was caused by a box-spring falling down the stairs, and the evident patch jobs hiding other similar holes. All of these things, while flaws to any potential buyer (not that we are planning to sell this house), are what make this house my home.Hole in the drywallCracked foundation with water stains and chipped paint

I have lived the vast majority of my life in this house. Every little knick, hole, or dent being a testimony of the lives lived here. There are memories in these hallways and on the staircase where I was sitting when I took these pictures. Some days I would lay, precariously balanced, on the railing just to send that bit of adrenaline through my body; other days I would sit on the stairs and peer between the bars to watch whatever my mom was watching in the kitchen, because I was too lazy to walk down the last 5 stairs. Even to this day I occasionally have small panic attacks and compulsively run up the stairs, remembering the times my dad would chase me up the stairs as a child before bedtime. I am one of the fortunate few who have been able to stay in the same home for over 20 years. While yes, it might be nice to change the scenery and make new memories in other places, I am glad for the time I have had here and for the love, laughter, and tears that my family has shared in each room of this home.

Running out of days

Day 1 6:30 AM

Day 1 6:30 AM

Day 2 6:30 AM

Day 2 6:30 AM

day 3

Day 3 6:30 AM

Day 4

Day 4 6:30 AM

As the end of the year – and Winter – are upon us, it is not uncommon to notice the sun rising later in the morning and setting earlier – it is 7:00 pm right now and there is not the slightest trace of sunlight left in the sky. I am fortunate enough to be at work by 6:30 am four out of 5 mornings every week. It is for this reason, I think, that I have noticed the increasingly later sunrise each morning more evidently than most other years. While this is a different sort of realization than many of my others so far this semester, I thought it would be rather interesting to try to document these changes. In these first four pictures it is difficult to notice much of anything different, aside from the hints of differences in weather. Day 1 is visibly foggy, evident by the hazy look around the lights. Day 2 was the morning it had rained during the night, and the ground is still wet in the parking lot at my work. Day 3 and 4 were fairly similar, though the clouds are slightly noticeable on day 3. As far as the second set of pictures, taken around 7:15 am on the same mornings as the first four pictures, there is not as much different as I was hoping to show. It may be more beneficial, if I were to retry this project, to take the pictures for longer than just one week. I do find it interesting, at the very least, to see the differences in weather each morning each week.

I am rather disappointed in the results of this attempt to make long-term changes visibly noticeable in a matter of days. I’m not sure if I was really expecting it to work in the first place. Maybe I will try it again another time, or perhaps these

 

subtle, natural changes are simply meant not to be physically recorded, but for each individual to enjoy on that more intimate, personal level. For now, I will go back to noticing the obviously physical things in life, rather than attempting to physically quantify the metaphysical.

Day 1 7:15 AM

Day 1 7:15 AM

Day 2 7:15 AM

Day 2 7:15 AM

 

 

Day 3 7:15 AM

Day 3 7:15 AM

Day 4

Day 4 7:15 AM