The Power of Upbringing and Single Stories

My Kurdish upbringing had a huge role in how I view the world today. I am a second-generation immigrant to Canada, so even though I was born in Canada I was raised by parents who still lived very traditionally to where they came from. One thing that had struck me the most growing up was the countless times when I would witness strangers give my parents dirty looks and sometimes verbally harass them only because my mom wore a hijab and my dad wore a turban out in public. This is the reason why our parents did not force my siblings and I to wear them because they had wanted us to feel safe at school. In elementary school I notice kids who wore hijabs and turbans or other religious pieces would get bullied for wearing them. I found myself sticking up for them because I was so used to sticking up for my parents for that reason. It truly is awful that some children do not feel safe in their own classroom because of what they believe in. In my own classroom I will bring the lens respecting and stop prejudices over how someone chooses to express themselves wether that be religion, sexual orientation, identity, etc.

A single story that stood out to me the most in my own schooling was in elementary. Every year my school would put on a “Christmas concert” for the parents including songs such as “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls”. While I and many other students did not celebrate Christmas, we felt excluded, some kids were not even allowed to be in the concert because their parents did not want them to be. Singing and performing would be beneficial for everyone so why was it made to celebrate one group of people and exclude others.  

Citizenship in the Classroom

In my k-12 schooling, I remember seeing each type of citizen that was mentioned in the Wertheimer article “Limits of Personal Responsibility” and some types more than others. The responsible citizen was pushed the most in my experience which I think was the schools main focus. An example of this I remember, is how my school created a system that made sure the student body would respect and be kind to each other. We had called it “Random act of kindness week,” where the students were given incentives if they were seen being kind to others including if they would could show good traits of their character like being honest and respectful. The participatory citizen comes second to what I remember the most. Some examples of this at my school would be having fundraisers such as food drives, and clothing drives. The last type of citizen which is the justice orientated citizen was not visible to me until high school. In my native studies 30 course I was grateful to have a teacher who would teach me to think about the “why” for social justice issues. One thing that stuck with me that she said was that if you choose to be neutral you are actually siding with the oppressive side. This really opened my eyes because I considered myself to always be that person to just stay in the middle when issues arise, so if I really wanted to see change, then I must choose a side.

Importance of Treaty Education

Treaty education should not be a controversial topic in schools yet unfortunately it is. As a future educator myself it is my wish to have treaty education mandated in all schools in Canada. There are many common excuses as to why some teachers do not want to teach treaty education in their classroom. The excuse that if there are no Indigenous peoples in the class than it is okay to not teach treaty education is terribly wrong. Treaty education is not just for indigenous students because most already know what is going to be taught but most non-indigenous peoples do not know. What I suggest is to inform your cooperating teacher and maybe give her some recourses in order to learn that treaty ed is for non-indigenous peoples too because she is obviously not educated about this. Non-Indigenous peoples are the ones who the treaty education is for primarily because they are the ones who have to unlearn about what the treaties are and learn how to rebuild relationships with the land and the indigenous peoples as well.

What I think “we are all treaty people means” is that if you live in treaty land than you are connected to its history and the ancestors of the land as well. Indigenous history is everyone’s history. Since we are all treaty people it is crucial to build relationships with the land and the people who live on it in order to live a harmonious life.

Curriculum as a Public Policy

Before reading Leven’s article Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should be Learned in Schools, I didn’t know much on how curriculum is formed and implemented. I learned that policies in education which include all aspects of how the curriculum is made, who it’s made for, what it’s made of and so on is a political decision and has almost little to no public attention. Government officials and scholars work together to shape the curriculum which means that they decide what subjects to teach and what to teach in them. Of course, there is no shock that there would be conflict between the creation process of the curriculum. In my own experience I learned that the native studies course is optional in high school which some people did not agree that it should be a mandated course. My teacher for that course made it a class assignment to compose a letter to the ministry of education and persuade them why it should be a mandatory. Thinking back, this made me realize that teachers don’t really get to say much when it comes to changing curriculum only the major stakeholders do which is the government officials, scholars and political leaders. It concerns me to think that as a student and future educator I have very little say in what goes on in the curriculum. 

After reading the treaty education documented I noticed that it says that you cannot understand the goals of treaty education without considering them parts of a whole which is what was said in Leven’s article. It’s not hard to imagine that there would be some tension in the development of treaty education since some people can argue that science or other subjects are much more important than treaty education. To me this means that those policy makers (the curriculum makers) don’t understand or care to understand the importance of implementing treaty education in the curriculum. They do not want to come to term with the facts that indigenous ways of knowing is as important as science and math and any other subject currently in the curriculum. 

Treaty Education Outcomes

Place Based Learning

In the learning from place: A return to traditional Mushkegowuk ways of Knowing by Jean-Paul Restoule article we learn that with placed based learning many things can be accomplished including rehabilitation and decolonization. In the article it was shown how bringing people closer to the land can lead to reclamation of culture and also build stronger communities. When reading this article, I was reminded of a book I had read when I was younger that was called Touching Spirit Bear. The premise of the book was about a boy with behaviour problems who was sent to a remote island in hopes he would seek answers from the land in order to find ways to help him in life. When he first arrived to the island, he was very annoyed and unhopeful but after he spent serval days there, he slowly began to appreciate everything the land had given to him and by the end of the book he completely changed personalities. I have always enjoyed reading this book because it gave me faith that the land is its own spirit and can be the answer to many problems. Back to the Restoule the article itself, in it they had taken their camp group to a river where their aim was to re-establish a connection between the youth the land, culture and life. They learned about the history of the river, how to live off of the river and noted significant sites along the way. By doing this they are reclaiming what was theirs and acknowledging decolonization as well. 

Place based learning in curriculum is essential for students and teachers in order to solve problems in the community. Considering rehibition and decolonization while adapting place based learning into my own classroom and subject areas will surely be helpful because without attempting to dig into historical roots of the students’ lives and acknowledging their community as one of the primary recourses for their learning than it would be quite difficult to gain the value from this type of learning. This means that it is essential to incorporate indigenous ways of knowing into all subject areas, making it central in the classroom. 

What Does it Mean to be a “Good” Student.

The definition of a good student can be seen in many different ways, but according to the commonsense it is seen in a traditionalist practice. A good student is someone who benefits from the curriculum as a syllabus and the curriculum as a product approach. In this sense, it is expected that the “good” student is a good listener. Their role in the classroom is primarily to pay attention and take notes while little to no focus is put on the world around them. Another role of a good student is that they test well, someone who can handle the pressure of exams. A “good” teacher expects their students to pay full attention in class, to do all of their homework, to arrive on time, and to be well prepared to write tests. When these expectations are not met the teacher blindly mistakes these students to be unintelligent or lazy. Some students are more advantaged than others that may benefit some aspects but are equally disadvantaged without taking account the context of the individual.

This definition of a good student privileges not many. A child who may be privileged from the traditionalist approach is someone of middle to high class.  These are the students who don’t have to worry about their transportation to school, or their energy level since they were able to eat a healthy breakfast. These are also the students who have parents at home who support them and offer help with homework and studying. Also, these are the students that go home to a healthy environment where they feel safe and secure. It’s clear for me to see that with these privileged students they are more likely to benefit from this curriculum approach and be seen as a good student but even with these pedestals behind the child, it can still be hard for them in the classroom that does not take account the individual. So, if students with privileged backgrounds still face difficulty, then students without these privileges face even more hardship in school.

With these commonsense ideas it is extremely hard to see and understand the challenges that students go through. We all know it’s not easy to be a student, so why should we ignore their voices. When I was in high school, I faced many challenges that caused me to fall behind on my grades and put me into the category of a “bad” student. My parents were immigrants to Canada with very little education, so it was hard for me to get the help that I needed at home. My school did not understand that I did not have the means to receive math help from my parents or have someone read over my essays, so when my teachers graded my work, they believed that I was just the “unintelligent” or “lazy” student, which did not help my self-esteem. In order to give students what they need, they need to not only have a voice but need to be heard and valued. Taking into account the surroundings of the individual in a classroom is vital, which means that we may have to step back and revaluate the definition of what a good student is according to common-sense. 

Sexual Identity and the Curriculum.

One thing I am extremely passionate about in curriculum is advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. When I first started to dive deep into the importance of developing awareness about sexual identify in the classroom, I figured it would not be easy since education has been made to ignore these types of problems and have been unaddressed for many years. If you think back to the different types of curriculum, specifically curriculum as a product, you can easily make sense of the fact that context in the classroom is ignored and education does not take into effect that people who identify differently than heterosexual need a different kind of support in the classroom and community. 

While doing research on this topic I came across an article written by a well-known scholar, Lee Airton. Airton’s article Leave “Those Kids” Alone: On the Conflation of School Homophobia and Suffering Queers is full of promising suggestions that I completely agree with. He shares an opinion that LGBTQ+ children should in fact be left alone in the classroom, but this does not mean doing nothing because doing something for the people who identify as LGBTQ+ is different than doing something about the issues in general. He challenges that education should take responsibility in its own time, since school time is limited, to tackle the issue of homophobia and for it to have teachers, students, and community to be engaged in all aspects. 

In my paper, I will discuss the ways Airton suggests a school can successfully be engaged in a topic like this while pulling from Wayne Martino’s article about teachers in Australia addressing non-normative sexuality and as well as Dennis Sumara’s article about addressing heteronormativity toward a queer curriculum theory. 

Lee Airton’s article :

Curriculum Theory and Practice Response

Growing up in Regina public schools I was able to experience many different ways of teaching and learning. From elementary to high school it was clear to see the traditionalist perspectives that was widely used between one teacher to the next. The Ralph W. Tyler rational in the Curriculum Theory and Practice article by Smith is based on four fundamental questions that provide a scientific model that can get the same results no matter who the student or teacher is. Tyler’s last question is “how can we determine whether these purposes are being attained” which is the assessment block of his rationale. My schools would have end of semester written exams that would test what we know in all subject areas. Exams and tests were highly emphasized within the schools I attended. I have always wondered why exams were taken so seriously. It had never made sense to me have strict time limits or strict no cheating rules. I believe that through this process I and many other students as well have severe anxiety over test taking.

Some of the limitations to the Tyler Rationale is that he completely ignores context. His ideology is that curriculum development can rise above context which is the social, cultural, and historical differences in the classroom. If teachers are extremally focussed on getting their class to pass all of their examinations than there is very little time for interaction between the teacher and student which is where most of the actual learning takes place. His rationale makes impossible for all students to benefit from. By ignoring the individual difference in the classroom this takes away from the learner, which then students are left with little or no voice.

There are a few potential benefits from the Tyler Rationale. It is productive, systematic and has high organizational power. His rationale provided a clear form of outcomes that made organizing the content, methods and evaluation somewhat easy.

The Problem of Commonsense Response

Kumashiro in The Problem of Commonsense article defines ‘commonsense’ as perspectives, views and ideologies that have been brainwashed and forced into minds. These concepts make people feel somewhat comfortable in the sense that it gives them the mind set of “that’s just how it is and how it will always be”. An example of commonsense in North America is having the school year start from September to June and no school in the summer. This idea stemmed from early history when Canada needed the summertime to harvest fields and since then this idea has become and believed to be an unchangeable concept. In todays urban society it does not make much sense to not have school in the summer but since its a part of our commonsense it won’t be challenged to change.

It is so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’ especially in schools because if we simply ignore it and not challenge it than we allow oppression to happen. Some of the things that are taken as ‘commonsense’ in schools advantage some students and disadvantage others. This is why it is important to pay attention so we’re able to questions and challenged certain ways of teaching and doing so, it does not continue to oppress people. An example of commonsense in schools that have the potential to disadvantage and oppress individuals is having the school day start early in the morning. Some individuals are not privileged enough to have access to transportation or even the means to have a healthy breakfast before school. Changing the time of day when school starts could have so many benefits for everyone, since it could improve students academic responsibilities.

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