Math Experiences

When I think back to my former math experiences I do not think of it being oppressive or discriminatory at the surface. After reading Jagged Worldview Colliding it was brought to light to me that, yes, math can be oppressive or discriminatory.  One example that was most prominent in my math experience was the fact that math is either right or wrong. I can relate this to my Chemistry classes I have taken as well. There is only one right answer and if you do not achieve that answer you are wrong. For me, I loved math as it was a subject I was good. For other students not so much. In my Calculus class in high school, my teacher would go at the speed of learning only a select few students could follow. This left many students behind and not able to grasp the content being oppressive to students who may learn in different ways than just notes and at a slower rate.

While reading the article Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community I was very shocked and intrigues.  When thinking about math I always thought it would the same worldwide but that is not the case in the Inuit community.  Three ways they Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes of mathematics and the way we learn is are:

  1. The difference in numbering and measuring: Inuit mathematics teaches students to measure with space and distance.
  2. The difference in mathematic literacy: Potentially making it more difficult for Inuit to understand Eurocentric math as their language is very limited.
  3. The difference in tracking time: For the Inuit, they track time on the natural, independently recurring yearly events.

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How Upbringing Shapes the Real World

Growing up in a small town populated by mainly European settlers with an exception of a couple African American families and a handful of Chinese and Filipino families you can probably guess how my upbringing/ schooling shaped the way I read the world.  I attended two schools in my home town. An elementary school from K-6 and a  comprehensive school from 7-12. In both of my schools, we never touched much on race or that there were  people other than “Whites”. Of course, I knew and was not completely blinded by whiteness, but I believe if I was raised in a different setting or had different schooling I would not have had as big of a culture shock as I did coming to school in Regina.  Because of my upbringing, I am working on learning more about racism and ways I can educate myself and my friends.  A lens I will bring to the classroom is to not assume that everyone has the same background. In my former education, I was never introduced to books that looked at the culture of anyone but Europeans not allowing me to think critically about the world and society around me. By integrating such literacy like Kumashiro states in chapter seven we can educate students on different cultures, identities, and races allowing them to have a well-rounded view of the real world.

After watching the TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi it was clear to me that a single story that was present in my schooling was how literacy only benefited or promoted white cultures. This gave me a preconceived picture in my head of what a perfect girl would look like or what you had to look like to have a good life. As said in the TED talk single stories make us characterize people not allowing us to see beyond.  Single stories limit people and do not allow them to show their true selves and potentials.

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Developments of Curriculum

     In an article by Ben Levin, it states that “curriculum is defined as an official statement of what students are expected to know and be able to do”. According to the article school curricula are developed and implemented based on many components. That being said, the development of the curriculum is not made by just school boards but largely on the bases of politics. When creating and revising curricula there are jurisdictions set in place that normally have well-developed formal processes. “Education governance typically involves some combination of national, local, and school participation; and in federal systems, education governance will have a fourth (and often primary) level at the state or province”. Also, the development of the curriculum will involve principals, teachers, senior administrators, elected local authorities, and experts in said subjects. This article provides information on the development of the school curriculum. For example, they are now allowing parents, students or non-educators such as business representatives to take part in curricula review. One thing that surprised me was that there was an issue in the involvement of experts in curriculum renewal. I agree that they may not be as important as people believe because lots of teachers teach in a subject area they are unaware of so having the curriculum to advanced can make it very hard for some teachers to teach.

After reading the Saskatchewan Treaty Education document I noticed that there are different perspectives that it includes rather than the limited ones in Levins’. A tension I imagine was apart of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum is people not understanding the importance of learning about Canada’s Indigenous peoples and the history behind it.

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Treaty Education: Response to an Email

Email:

     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.

     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.

Reply:

Dear___,

I am very excited and intrigued by your approach on how to integrate treaty education.  It does not surprise me your students were very confused about the topic or treat it as a joke.  However, you can use this as a way to asses your students in the end. Seeing their perspectives on the topic at the beginning versus at the end can give you a way to grade their growths as students on the topic.

It saddens me to read that the school does not put any emphasis on treaty education and your cooperating teacher does not understand how much more important it is to teach treaty education when there are no First Nations students present.  I would suggest you start by teaching your class about the importance of treaty education and what it means to be a treaty person.  A good resource for this is Cynthia Chamber’s “We Are All Treaty People“.  Showing students that treaties are essentially apart of their identity and where they come from, more of a place-based style of teaching, can intrigue your students more.  Allowing them to feel apart of the treaties as a treaty is an agreement between two groups, therefore, treaties are a two-way street.  Once your students have an understanding of the past you can get into teaching them the purpose of treaty education where you may want to introduce them to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to action”.  If there are any problems with teachers or parents about what you are teaching make sure you have the curriculum handy as it states we must teach treaty education and since it is such a broad curriculum it is very easy to connect lessons to the curriculum.  An extra resource for you to use is a lecture by Dwayne Donald called On “What Terms Can We Speak?“. Best of Luck!

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Critical Pedagogy of Place

The article, “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” introduces a “critical pedagogy of place” that allows readers to see examples of reinhabitation where we identify, recover, and create material space and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments and decolonization where we identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people places in action. Reinhabitation and decolonization are found in there examples from the article above :

  • introducing traditional and cultural ways to youths
  • teaching ways to reconnect to the land
  • renaming different places/ significant spots in the traditional language

In efforts to incorporate these ideas, Indigenous ways of knowing, into my teaching area, Chemistry, would take unique approaches as Chemistry is a very systematic subject. Also, like in Chemistry First Nations have usages for elements that are different than normally taught. Touching on ways First Nations use molecules such as water or rocks and how they impact their lives is a way to add in Indigenous culture to Chemistry. As well, incorporating a full lesson taught by an elder on how they utilize the land in their everyday lives and for survival also with the medicine wheel and different elements they use for healing could be another approach in incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing.

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What Does it Mean to be a Good Student?

 

     Growing up in a small town meant going to a school where you knew everyone and saw everyone, inducing your teachers, past school hours whether that would be uptown or out at town socials.  Being a good student was very important in this context as word traveled around quickly.  Being labeled as a bad student could mean not getting the job you applied for, not being trustworthy enough, or not being able to fit into the social circle you wanted to.

     A commonsense snapshot of what it means to be a “good” student is someone good at listening to instructions, is quiet until spoken on or raises their hand when they have comments. A “good” student does not have outbursts, can replicate what they have learned in the from that has been asked, and does not ask critical questions about teaching or what they have learned. Lastly, a “good” student is happy and radiates good energies. 

“Bad” students or students who are disobedient do not privilege by this definition of being a “good” student.  However, students we receive good marks or who are good learners will privilege by this definition. This definition does not take into consideration that there are students who have other learning abilities or “unique learning styles” stated in Kumashiro’s, Against Common Sense: Chapter Two.  It also makes it impossible to see that sometimes a student may be “bad” but they are still trying to learn like M in Kumashiros books as well as some students may seem like they aren’t paying attention or learning anything when they are like N because of these commonsense ideas.

It is very important as future educators to be aware of this commonsense good or bad students so we can apply this knowledge when we are put into the workforce and be aware of our students and surroundings.

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