We Need To Challenge Literature, As It Challenges Us

How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

Growing up in England has had an impact on how I “read the world”. The classic’s like Dickens, Hardy, and Chaucer were all written by white-middle aged men depicting their perspective on the world. Although their work was eloquent, and powerful, they did see the world through their own privileged lenses, which didn’t relate to me. I was a white girl; born hundreds of years later and didn’t understand the world the authors had written about. I also found it difficult and frustrating reading Bronte and Austin, the female characters were caught up in Britain’s claustrophobic class society which restrained them and held them back.

Yes, I have biases, but understanding this is the first step to overcoming them. Even as a young child I disliked the privilege boys were given just because of their gender. I have always thought that everyone should be treated fairly as we all have our gifts, and gender is irrelevant. I also disliked the class system as we should be judged on our merits, not by where we went to school or how much money you have.

The work I’ve done in my ECE 325 class on anti-bias education, has been difficult and yet rewarding. This class has made me realize I’m human just like everyone else, and because of this I have biases I need to work on. Classes at the university challenge my ‘common sense’ and help me to open my heart, acknowledge my biases, and overcome my negative emotions. I have grown as an individual over the last two years; I’m kinder, more giving, more forgiving with others and myself.

Our readings at the University of Regina are powerful, as they show me different perspectives; they challenge me, make me question, and analyse myself. The internal conversations anti-bias literature stimulates is tough yet worthwhile. This literature pushes me forward to a new level of understanding and makes me more open and accepting of everyone around me.

Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

We all have biases as they are part of our unconscious; biases help to shape the way we see the world. We need to look at our biases and see what truth lies buried. We need to examine the lenses we see through and realize there is danger in seeing things with a “single story”. The “single story” shows one aspect of the truth and we need to challenge it.

The major story present when I was growing up was that boys were better than girls. Boys were smarter, faster, and stronger, and always got what they wanted. As a girl I had to accept the fact, that boys were superior, it was the way of the world; this truth was in my home, family, and at school. I never liked this “single story” and always fought against it.

The truth that matters is the truth in my heart. I am now learning different views on my life’s volume of stories and see the vastness and inter-connectivity of people, places, and environment. I knew I was strong, brave, and bold and with a deeper understanding of myself I can bring a richness to others and help unlock their “single stories”.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Math

1. At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

When I went to school there was only one way of solving math problems. I had to learn everything by route and memorization. Math was “linear, static, and objective” (Bear, 2000, p. 84). I didn’t understand the relationships of numbers and found math to be a huge wall that was too big to climb. I hated learning my times tables. My teacher would make us stand while we individually recited our tables, and those who were correct got to sit down, the humiliation and shame I felt being one of the last students to sit stays with me today.

The worst teacher I ever had was my Grade 7 math teacher. I didn’t learn a thing the whole year as I was in his class. I lived in a state of constant fear during this year at school. The teacher’s punishments for incorrect answers were: wearing a large egg box on your head tied with pink ribbons or placing our hands on “Fred” the cactus, as he pushed our hands into the spikes. I just remember praying throughout the class, ‘please don’t pick me’.

These are only two examples of how math was used to  manipulate, control, and oppression me. I’m sure everyone has a story or two to tell about their personal math horrors. Our math teachers have used their subject to keep us silent and scared. This needs to stop!

Math is a beautiful subject, with intricate connections and relationships. We need to teach the dynamics of math, and the relevance it plays in our everyday lives to appreciate and marvel at it. Math is a subject to be embraced not feared.

2. After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

The way the Inuit approach mathematics is completely different from Eurocentric mathematical ideas. “Different cultures have developed different mathematical tools according to their needs and their environment, and the Inuit community is no exception” (Poirier, 2007, p. 54). The Inuit have developed a mathematical system that aides their survival; they live in an environment that is completely different to ours, their mathematical system is different too. The Inuit people are closely attuned to nature, and use nature as their guide, they don’t rely on Eurocentric abstract ideas and logic for survival.

The Inuit use a base 20 numerical system compared to our base 10 system. Children from kindergarten to Grade 3 are taught in their native language, Inuktitut, before learning about math in French or English. I admire how the Inuit insist on keeping their language in tact during their children’s formative years but realize Grade 3 would be a difficult year for the students as they have to learn a second language and strange math.

“Inuit children develop spatial representations that are different from those of children who live in a city like Montreal” (Poirier, 2007, p. 55). It’s a shame that Inuit children have to learn both types of thinking and are judged by our Eurocentric rules. Their spatial representations, ensure survival and life in a harsh environment, and shouldn’t be compared to others who live in completely different environments.

References

Bear, L. L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Batiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp.77-85). UBC Press.

Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67.

 

“We Are All Treaty People”

What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?

It’s important for all of us to understand the people, place, history, and culture of the people we live with. The only way we can understand First Nations peoples is know them. As a society Canada hasn’t wanted to learn anything about Aboriginal ways, customs, and traditions; Canada has treated First Nation people with disrespect and attempted genocide. The only way to move forward is with mutual respect and understanding.

Understanding comes from shared respect, an open mind, and a willingness to learn about each other. Learning about Aboriginal people isn’t just about learning about them but understanding that Canada’s history is “our story: the one about commons, what was shared and what was lost” (Chambers, p. 30). We all have a role in changing the wrongs of the past and creating a better society for everyone. We shouldn’t have guilt of our ancestor’s deeds, as their behavior is part of our history, but we do have the power to control ourselves and change the present. Each one of us needs to empower ourselves with knowledge; to ensure the wrongs of the past are not repeated and have an attitude of kindness and respect for a new future.

That respectful future begins with learning about First Nations peoples, whether there are Indigenous students in class or not. Learning respect gives us an appreciation for Aboriginal culture and customs. First Nations people are not forced to stay on reserves anymore, and we need to acknowledge who they are and respect them as people. For example, standing at the bus stop during our winter storm, I had an interesting conversation with an Indigenous man. He was from the Northwest Territories and we talked about the harshness of the weather there compared to here. He talked about his experiences when visiting Inuit friends and describe the traditional Inuit way of life. Both of us marveled at their strength and fortitude for living in the North. This was an interesting conversation for us both.

What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people?”

 To be treaty people means that we all come together with mutual respect and encourage everyone’s successes no-matter what our skin colour. Those of us who are immigrants or are from settler ancestors live in a country where we reap the rewards of lands that were negotiated through treaty. We benefit from history, and we need to understand it’s time to put our prejudice aside and work together. We need to be more aware of the environment and First Nations attachment to the land as well as our attachment to it. First Nations people want to protect the land and its welfare, as they understand the importance of clean waters and healthy land.  We too as treaty people need to take greater care of the land we live on; healthy land equals healthy people.

It’s important for everyone to understand that we live in Canada together, what one person does has ramifications for others. We need to treat our First Nations brothers and sisters with love, care, and kindness. Being treaty people means we are all related and need to come together as a family unit, rather than squabbling over egocentric greed.

Reference

Chambers. C. “We Are All Treaty People”. Referred  from  https://ecs210.wikispaces.com/file/view/We+are+all+treaty+people.pdf

 

Land Shapes Who We Are

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to:
(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74)
1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

Reinhabitation within the article

-For the Mushkegowuk people they need to know and understand their connection to land, as the article states, “connection to nature is important to children’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual development” (p70).

-The Elders and youth went on a river field trip. The youth learned the importance of traditional ways, and how these traditional ways become an integral part of the people.

-The river is part of the people and a living connection for family now, and those who have passed on; they are buried in different areas along the river.

-The river and its inhabitants teach the youth many lessons; frogs indicate when the water is clean to drink, birds foretell a change in weather, and moose understand the Mushkegowuk’s need for food.

-The youth learn how to live off the river, and learn about key historical/traditional sites on the river trip. They explore their history, language, issues of governance, and land management.

-The youth created an audio documentary to help record all that they learned; they captured the wisdom of the elders, and immortalized their teachings.

-It was important for the Elders to teach and “restablish among the youth a sense of connection to land, culture and life” (p76).

-The Elders taught the traditional names of places, and rewrote maps reintroducing land names that have been forgotten. The youth soon leaned that every curve in the river had its own name.

-As the young people performed activities Cree words were used to describe what they were doing in this way, the youth leaned new vocabulary by physically doing the tasks. They were learning by imprinting language with actions. It’s important for the younger generations to understand and “form a linguistic connection to traditional territory” (p78).

Decolonization throughout the article

-The article states that decolonization is not just “rejecting and transforming dominant ideas” (Bowers 2001), we also need to change ways of thinking that don’t hurt people or places.

-The whole point of Elders teaching Ways of Knowing to the youth was a form of decolonization, and they taught the importance of traditional ways.

-Colonial thinking is based on money, wealth, and owning things, whereas Indigenous ways focus on nature and respect. It is important for youth to value the old ways, therefore, when the mining companies come into the communities and want to pillage the land for resources the youth need to know the full ramifications of what mining will do to the land and their way of life.

How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

-The place we live teaches and shapes us.

-We as teachers bring our own lessons from the land where we grew up, as do our students. It’s important to respect all lessons taught from the land, and come together in community to learn from each other.

-No-matter where our students are from in the world, they all have unique lessons taught by the land. We need to have welcoming classrooms for them to freely teach the lessons they have learned.

-There needs to be involvement from community members in the classroom, who respect, wonder, and love the land.

-There are inherent biases towards First Nations Peoples in our province, and we need to learn, understand, and respect their history and traditions.

-Elders need to be invited into the classroom to tell stories about the land, rivers, animals, and plants.

-More classes should take place outside; use nature as a teacher.

-Students should be involved in learning about the world around them, nature is key to everything, science, math, art, language, and music/sound.

-It’s important for students to become physically involved with their world, and have pride in what they accomplish.

-I want to have a worm box in my classroom, to teach about the soil, how worms recycle our waste food, and how important they are. Everything is equally important in our world and needs to be respected. If we don’t value nature, we don’t know the full importance of it; even mosquito’s are important as they are food for birds and dragonflies, just because we don’t like them doesn’t mean that they aren’t any more valid than we are.

Reference

Restoule., J-P., Gruner. S., Metatawabin. E. (2013). Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing. Canadian Journal of Education. 36, 2 pp. 68-86 Referenced from https://ecs210.wikispaces.com/file/view/RestouleEtAl_2013_Learning%20from%20place.pdf/597510552/RestouleEtAl_2013_Learning%20from%20place.pdf