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It is not for the benefit of the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students in the class that you decide to teach the historical content of residential schools and the impact is has on today’s society.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.

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?

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.

Fact 28

Oh the wonders of being a student. It is unfortunate that I put off Fact of the Day for a few days but I have returned and with some wonderful knowledge. I apologize to those of you in my ECS 100 class, as you have already heard this fact.

In Saskatchewan there are 60 independent schools (ie. private, charter, virtual, home-based, Montessori, historical, immersion…etc.). It was interesting seeing this list as there are many schools that I have never heard of, yet I live in the same city as them.

Quickly running out of time, and steam

20 days, 21 hours, and 33 minutes until my first final exam. Where has this semester gone? Now, I do not know about any other students out there but I am really starting to feel the heat. Two weeks of actual classes left and I am left wondering how to cram these last few group projects, portfolios, assignments, chapter notes, field logs, blog posts and miscellaneous work into the next 14 days. On the note of blog posts, I am not sure if this qualifies as ‘relevant to the class’ but I feel this is something I really need some assistance with.

How does anyone find the time to be actively involved online? In all seriousness, I am finding it incredibly difficult to put the amount of time into my online presence and I feel I should be. Upon taking the ECMP 355 “Introduction to computers in the classroom” course this semester, I do feel it is important to be an active participant with other educators, if I choose to go towards a career as a teacher. Unfortunately I am finding it really difficult to keep up to date with all of the educational blogs, Twitter chats, and other things that I should be following and reading to be successful. Perhaps it is my procrastination and perfectionism (that I try) when writing a good, well thought, blog post. It could also be that I try not to just skim articles before sharing them with the class. Throughout this semester I have also been exposed to a number of teachers, educators, and other students throughout the province, country and internationally, that are seemingly always on Twitter or posting really interesting blogs.

20 days, 21 hours, and 17 minutes.

This is not so much an informative post, as so much as that I am just searching for solutions, gasping for air, trying to find a better way to remain active online, without spending all day online. If you have a method or schedule of how you manage your days to incorporate technology please leave a comment and let me know how you do it. Even if you have not got it down pat, please feel free to throw some options out there for how I might be able to improve my professional learning network and digital citizenship. I am even wanting to read any stories of failure and what did not work for you.

20 days, 21 hours, and 11 minutes to go.

Help!

Go big or go home – Best classroom ever

I am really learning to appreciate how all of my classes are starting to tie together, well sort of. What I mean is this: I participated again in the #saskedchat last week (November 13th) as I have stated previously on my post about Twitter chats. The topic of discussion being “We’re discussing Designing Learning Spaces tonight. 1. Why is it important to rethink the design of current learning spaces. 2. What are some of the ways schools can better utilize/adapt present spaces? 3. How can a teacher make changes to a standard l learning space?” So the evening came and went, I gained an immeasurable wealth of knowledge, and I went to bed. The very next day I have my Education Core Studies seminar in the afternoon. Lo-and-behold what was the main topic of focus that day? None other than education spaces and how to make advances to incorporate new tools (like incorporating technology for ECMP) in the classroom. We divided into small groups based on our degrees and where we wanted to teach and, while my education career is still incredibly tentative, I said I would be in the Fine Arts group because I am a Dance major and Music minor. As luck would have it I was the only one in the group and got to design the classroom with whatever my heart desires. Here we go.

Here is the picture I drew for my layout of the classroom to present to the seminar group next week. I want to apologize in advance; there is a reason I am not an Art major or minor.

This is a sketch of an aerial view of my desired Fine Arts classroom.

This is a sketch of an aerial view of my desired Fine Arts classroom.

Loft

This is an Art loft included in the room, unfortunately I drew it on the back of the page so it is kind of hard to understand.

Perhaps the best way to go about this is by room.

Main classroom: Upon walking in the door there would be a row of computers along the wall to the right (bottom wall). The wall straight ahead (left wall) would have some storage units (ie. bookshelves and filing cabinets) and in the middle of the wall have Smartboard with a speaker system hooked up (do they already come with speakers? I am unsure). I got the wonderful idea of having half tables in the class from @TheWeirdTeacher and a couple of people mentioned kidney tables so I threw one of those in just for the sake of nostalgia, also to have at least one full-sized table in my class. Along the far wall (top left), where the music room cuts off, I would put a sort of bistro-coffee-beverage station with whatever the kids could bring or ideas they suggested. It would also have a higher table with stools along one wall for smaller group work, as well as a couple comfortable chairs and a coffee table. In the other far corner (top right) where the music room and dance studio form a corner, I would put some beanbag chairs, cushions, pillows, and the like, for more group work or for students to take to the half tables and use. This room would likely be linoleum or hardwood flooring that I might throw a shag area rug over just for fun. Leading into the other rooms, the door into the music room is on the far wall (top) and the dance studio door is against the wall to the right. Beside the dance studio door I would like a spiral staircase leading up to a loft, used for art projects.

Music room: This room would have a fairly simple set up. There would definitely need to be a window in the door and two along the front wall (looking into the classroom) for safety reasons. It would contain a number of chairs that are able to stack easily against the back wall, in case the space is needed for something else as well. There will be a computer in a back corner that can be used to access extra sheet music, listen to songs, or for whatever else may be needed. Also, along the furthest wall from the door (far right) There would be a large bookshelf-cabinet thing to store the spare instruments (guitars, saxophones, trumpets, flutes, etc.), accessories (picks, capos, reeds, oil, cork grease, etc.), and a large collection of CDs, tapes, and records, along with the necessary players for them. At the front of the classroom, along the wall with the door, there would be a podium, Just to the right of the podium there would be a grand piano and against the back wall there would be a full electronic drum set. This room would also be equipped with its own stereo system. The last, and likely most important aspect to the room is making sure it is sound proof so that it would not be too disruptive to others.

Dance studio: Similar to the music room, the dance studio would have 3 windows facing into the classroom. I would like the entire floor of this room to be hardwood. Also, there would need to be an entire lengthwise wall that is mirrors with a mounted ballet bar along the mirrors and along the far wall (top). There would also be a computer in this room to play music, search for dance inspiration, and other related things that may be needed. I would also install a video camera into the front of the room to be able to record any routines the students may want, as well as to be able to see areas that may need improvement. The room would also contain some mats in case they may be wanted for practicing certain movements. There would also be a small closet-thing to hold props, costumes, and other extra stuff for performances or theatre productions. Finally, along with its own stereo system as well, it would also need to be relatively sound proof.

Art loft: Briefly going into the art loft, it would include a number of large tables for students to sit and work at if they would like, and a number of art easels as well for students who might be painting. It would also have a few (5 or 6) computers for use and two printers, one for general printing or printing colour pictures and the other for printing photographs. Beside the printers there would also be a large cabinet to store various miscellaneous artsy stuff (ie. different paints, pencils, sketch pads, canvas’….etc.). Ideally I would also like to have one or two alternative options as well, such as screen-print and letterpress machines, however they would make the space very crowded. They could potentially go in the extra storage room off the side of the loft, that is over the music room, though I am still undecided on this point. Further back in the room, past the storage cabinet, I would like a waterfall-fountain and garden to add a more natural aura to the space, as well as the entire far wall to be a window to let in more natural light. This would be added to with a skylight over the loft, and a few natural light lamps around the room to encourage a natural environment for creativity to flow. I would make a balcony from the loft over the classroom, again for some safety precautions, so that the instructor can be aware of where students are and can see what is going on. Lastly, as with the other rooms, it would have its own stereo system.

A couple side notes:

  1. There would be a ‘master system’ with which the instructor could override the speakers in each room, to make announcements to the class more easily.
  2. As mentioned in the art loft, there would be an extra storage room in the loft. This could be used for excess props or costumes from previous years, extra equipment…etc.

I apologize again if my sketches are difficult to understand, but hopefully this description will aid in figuring it out. If you have any comments or questions about my classroom feel free to comment. Also, if you feel I should add or remove anything do not hesitate to let me know – I have until Friday to continue to make changes before I present it to my class.

I do not have the attention span for this

Despite my impeccable ability to procrastinate, I have finally built up the motivation to post a couple more ‘substantial’ blog posts – aside from my fact-of-the-day posts. I have also realized how easily I can get distracted and my inability to multitask very well in these last couple of weeks. A lot of learning has occurred.

Just over a week ago now I decided to participate in the weekly (Thursday nights) Saskatchewan educators chat on Twitter (check out their ongoing conversation HERE). Going into this event I had very little idea about what to expect. It is also important to note that, while I am realizing the potential of Twitter used in a professional way, I would not consider myself an avid Twitter user and I am still learning the ropes. Now in my ECMP 355 course one of the instructors, maybe both I am not sure, mentioned using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to be able to watch the conversation more easily. I got started with Tweetdeck because, as I believe, it is actually created by Twitter and I figured that would make it safer, or rather I just felt more comfortable with the idea. Finally, I got my Tweetdeck all set up with the hashtags I wanted to follow and was prepared for this thing to start, with about 5 mins to spare.

Screenshot of my Tweetdeck set up. Really high-tech, I know.

Screenshot of my Tweetdeck set up. Really high-tech, I know.

Originally, I had seen that the genius hour conversation was also fairly active and was thinking I would go ahead and participate in both, however once people began trickling into the Saskedchat I quickly realized I am highly unsuccessful at multitasking. The topic for Saskedchat was student lead conferences. A lot of the conversation was a bit lost to me, however I did learn some interesting techniques to shift into this, rather than taking up the majority of the time talking in a more teacher lead conference. This was a rather interesting conversation as well because as I was in school I do not really remember anything other than me, as a student, leading the parent-teacher conferences. The others in the chat were incredible helpful and answered all of my (seemingly) stupid questions and even gave some advice, which was greatly appreciated. All-in-all I learned a lot about a lot of different things, and had a good first experience with Twitter chats. I also got a few more followers and was able to follow other educators/knowledgeable people as well – I am basically popular. Just kidding.

I will also go on to say that I enjoyed it so much that I went on to participate in it again this week, and was able to discuss student learning spaces and how to make your classroom work well for the students and be interactive. There were definitely a lot of good ideas I will have to write down and keep for later, in case I ever get a classroom of my own. I  have to say, the idea of a loft in a classroom is really sticking with me.

It is definitely a cool experience to participate in a Twitter chat, even if it is not Saskedchat. There are a ton of other chats going on, both educational and not I would imagine, that can really get you thinking.

If anyone has any other chats they have participated in or that they recommend please leave a comment and I will try to check them out, as well as some other ones based on my interests as and we will see how those go.

A quick snip-it of the conversation last week!

A quick snip-it of the conversation last week!

Does Skype really have a downside?

So upon discussion with Nicole Climenhaga, from my ECMP 355 class, we decided to compile a list of pros and cons associated with the use of Skype in the classroom. We were both hoping to get a big more creative than that, however due to circumstantial reasons (did I even use that in context properly? Oh well) *cough* other University classes *cough* we quickly ran out of time and ideas to make it any more interesting than the following table.

The lovely pros vs cons list Nicole and I created.

The lovely pros vs cons list Nicole and I created.

I also thought of a few other negatives after Nicole made the table, and I have no idea how she did it or how to edit it.

  • Students may get distracted by other conversations on Skype, if it is being used individually.
  • It opens up one other way for cyber-bullying to occur, with the teacher being unable to monitor how each student is communicating with each other.
  • There are sometimes spammers who add random people on Skype, claiming to know them. Students would need to understand not to add strangers or to give out important information.

 

 

Much of the information was found here, though I found many of the reasons included to be fairly repetitive – they said the same sort of thing, but used it in different context. While, according to the look of the table the negative side looks a bit longer, they are a lot less worrisome than the positive column is beneficial. There are a few concerns of whether or not the users of Skype will have access to internet, though being used in a classroom there should be a guaranteed connection for the teachers, and the hardware required to have a successful call (ie. webcam and microphone). Though there are a few others mentioned on the list I would not consider them to be a high-concern issue, whereas on the positive side of the table it has more beneficial aspects. Aside from the typical voice and video calls that are able to be made, there is also the option to send files and video or audio messages to a specific contact or group conversation. Also, Skype gives the teachers the ability to collaborate between each other, with the student’s parent(s), or even with the students themselves. Even just these few benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages to using Skype in a classroom.

If anyone knows of or finds any glaring disadvantages (or other advantages as well) to using Skype in a school setting please let either Nicole or I know. We would love to hear everyone’s personal take on other advantages or disadvantages.

MediaSmarts Enables Slacking

MediaSmarts enables slacking, and I mean that in the best possible way. What I mean is this: it has such a wide range of topics, grade and age specific information, and resources for parents and teachers that it immensely reduced the amount of preparation time needed before approaching a subject with their students or children. From their main website you have instant access to a Digital and Media Literacy tab that drops down into a multitude of subject areas with information on many of the prevalent issues within digital media and how kids are using it. Not only that, but under each individual topic it has resources for parents and resources for teachers to access about how to address these issues. If that is not enough, there is then a page for the MediaSmarts research projects, informing readers about the studies done and being done, as well as a blog page that also covers many different categories and topics. Finally, the most useful tools I found were under the teacher resources tab being:

1. Find Lessons and Resources – This page include a variety of teacher resources that can be accessed by grade level, resource, topic, or media type. There are over 50 topics to choose from folks. 50. That is an insane number of lesson plans and ideas that is all right there waiting to be accessed by the lesson plan version of ‘writer’s blocked’ teacher. I realize there is obviously not every topic for every grade, but there is bound to be some information somewhere to nudge you on your way.

2. Class Tutorials and PD Workshops – Now these resources are licensed, however in my ECMP 355 class we were given access to the MyWorld resource. This would be an amazing tool in any classroom and I would highly suggest looking through the overview of it and considering using it. It approaches digital citizenship from such a realistic and understandable way, while teacher the kids how to appropriately reply to questionable situations they will inevitably encounter on the internet. It includes mock social media, instant messaging, video calls, search engines, and library resources for them to access in response to a given situation, while being prompt what is the proper way to accept, research, and reject information they encounter.

Basically what I am getting at through all of this is that MediaSmarts is a potentially invaluable resource that could save time and frustration in trying to figure out ways to approach what can be very difficult topics with your students and children, without scaring them or boring them to death.

Think Critically – People Suck

Ridiculousness, and I do not mean in the funny TV show way. I mean I am completely dumbfounded at how society is developing. In actuality I should not be that surprised, realistically we all see how sexually focused society is becoming. That it is not just accepting provocative behaviour, but it is actually being encouraged and endorsed. Unfortunately it is not something people bring up in everyday conversations.

Quick recap: Sext up Kids is a short documentary about the increasingly sexualized image of women being portrayed to kids and how it is affecting not only their self perception, but also boy’s perceptions of girls and sex. Now, I realize this is not a light topic but I encourage everyone to watch this documentary (about 45 mins long).

Something that really struck a chord with me in the video was the statement made that if you want to be seen, you have to present yourself as a sexual object. If you choose not to expose yourself then you are basically choosing to be invisible. This sort of “black-or-white” thinking is really bothersome to me. I will take this moment to thank my mom, I do not know how she did it, but I think she did a mighty fine job raising me. Being raised in a Christian family, I was always taught the importance of values, morals, and self-worth. While yes, in high school, there was pressure in my life to degrade myself and to try to attract boys with my body, I never felt the need to do so. It is not that I did not want the attention, realistically what young adolescent girl does not want a cute guy’s attention, I just realized there are so many other ways to go about getting it. I know this will sound cheesy but girls (if there are any that might ever read this): you do not have to make yourself up into the sexualized idea of what being attractive is made into. It is better to have an attractive personality that radiates through your external appearance and shows confidence and value. Following up with that, the documentary also stated the issue of kids sexting and sending nude pictures or posting them online. First of all, really?!? Maybe it if just me, but I do not understand how anyone in their right mind thinks that it is appropriate to be posting those pictures online (typically on social media) for everyone in the world to see. It does not matter what your privacy settings are, it is called the WORLD-WIDE-WEB for a reason! Second, people need to stop and think critically for even 5 seconds to consider “Wait, if I send this picture to someone they can instantly go and sent it to anyone else or post it anywhere without my knowledge or consent. Should I really do this?” Even just taking those pictures pose the risk that what if your phone or computer gets hacked (anything ever connected to a data connection can be), or if it gets unknowingly added to Dropbox or iCloud? What then? A clever comparison I thought of is that the use of cell phones and internet is kind of like being read your Miranda rights, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law…etc.” the rest is irrelevant. In the case of technology though it could be “You have the right to remain silent (technologically). Anything you make into a digital copy can and will be used against you in your future for the rest of your life…”

The main idea I would like to end with is that people are, and always will, be looking for ways to make you feel worthless and ways to hold you back. Do not hand it to them on a silver platter. The internet is the permanent record of your life.

Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc