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?
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.
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.
Now I’m not sure about others’ experiences around the University, but as for myself I often find myself with some time to kill between classes and will occasionally think “I wonder if there is anything new and exciting in stock at the bookstore”. Between my own curiosity and the need for one last textbook I found myself wandering the bookstore once again this past Wednesday afternoon. This particular day I was returning from the washrooms somewhere in the hallway of College West, and walking into the bookstore, when I noticed peculiar signage on either side of the entrance. There they were, those oh-so-familiar stick people, depicting male and female and people in wheelchairs – notifying patrons of a bathroom entrance nearby. After walking half-way across the University to go to the washroom (okay, it was more like 100 metres) here I was standing face-to-metaphorical face with one just 5 metres from where I had started!
Having noticed them now, it is difficult for me not to notice them, just off to the sides of the entrance to the bookstore, whenever I happen to walk past. It is not that they are particularly out of the way, everyone who walks into the bookstore walks right past them, however I cannot help but think they go rather unnoticed. I think, perhaps, it is because often when you are going to the bookstore, looking for a bathroom is likely not in the forefront of your thought process. Generally you are going to the store with a specific purchase in mind, or even with the specific thought of browsing for something. The busyness of colours and sale signs distract an onlooker from potentially noticing the bathrooms. This is likely the reason for me acknowledging their existence Wednesday, I had just been in a bathroom and was not particularly set on the thought of shopping. Perhaps next week I will find a new set of washrooms, or maybe even a water fountain that was previously undiscovered, meanwhile I will begin using these unfrequented washrooms. If you did not realize these bathrooms existed prior to reading this post and you are female, please forget everything you have just read – it is my private bathroom (decided by me, as of this moment).
Now I realize that it is not uncommon to notice fallen leaves, especially this time of year. That being said, on my way home from class on at the University Monday night I could not help but stop and take a picture of this red leaf. It is not as though we do not have red leaves, they are as common as any yellow or orange, but this one just seemed to stand out in the middle of the pathway. Perhaps it was the way the lights on the staircase seemed to accent the leaf amid the darkness that drew my attention. Either way, I found myself stopping dead in my tracks to take a closer look – and a few photos.
There was a simple sort of demand for attention the way this leaf stood out from the rest. Although Fall is often associated with plants dying, weather cooling, and just general preparation for winter; this leaf seemed to have a peaceful sense of warmth about it. It was almost as though this fallen, dying piece of nature was placed there, ever so gently, to remind us of the beauty in Fall. Yes, it is often a dark and dismal time of year – where more days seem grey than sunny, and the weather encourages us to stay in bed all day with a warm beverage – but there is beauty woven into nature. Even beauty in those things that we know are dying and will soon fade away, such as this fallen red leaf.
This week (and for the rest of the semester) I was challenged to notice something I had not previously noticed before. Now it may take a moment for one’s eyes to figure what exactly it is that your eyes should be noticing in this picture, since it may immediately be drawn to the giant dark doorway into the bathroom. Instead, direct your gaze upwards from the doorway, ever so slightly, to the smaller dark stripe of the vent grate. In the middle of said grate, there are 3 to 4 white, cloth-like pieces sticking out from between slits – that’s right, they are dusty old dryer sheets. My question, left completely unanswered, is: why in the world are there dusty old dryer sheets stuck in the vent at this relatively expensive, high-class hotel?
Over the weekend my mother and I traveled to Saskatoon for a few days. These pictures were taken after getting our bags in the room we had booked. When as I sat down in bed to begin some homework, I laid backwards to relax in an attempt to procrastinate and lo-and-behold there they were. Upon noticing the dryer sheets I audibly asked, “Mom, why are there dryer sheets in the vent?” To which she, of course, had no reply or explanation. Perhaps these sheets were stuck there once to fresher the air that blew through the vent, however from the looks of them those sheets had seen fresher days. Plus, judging by the prices on their room service menu, this hotel seemed to be fairly pricey, supposedly well-run hotel, how could this slip past their diligent room cleaning? The biggest question I have is whether or not this was in fact an intentional and deliberate thing, or if by some unknown force (likely the air being pushed through the vents) these dryer sheets had been blown up, and lodged into, our rooms vent. There is much left in the dark about this observation, however I can honestly say I have never noticed anything quite like this in any hotel room before.