Category Archives: ECS 210

Digital Story

For my digital story, I followed a talk show format with my colleague Tyler Zubot.

I enjoyed doing this project, using the talk show format was great for having an organic conversation with someone and not just talking to the camera.

Take a watch and leave a comment.


Math is more than just numbers.

Math has never been my best subject.  I took several math classes in high school and did fairly well.  I have taught one math lesson in my placement last semester.  This lesson was a math 8 lesson on the volume of a rectangle and how to calculate that.   The lesson was very daunting to teach.  It went ok and I know I will have a lot of work to do if I ever have to teach math again.

I have learned that math is more than just numbers.  There are different ways to teach math and those different ways have their own bias’ and unintended consequences.   As Leroy Little Bear points out Indigenous ways of mathematics are very different from that of European methods.  One difference that stuck out the most to me was that Indigenous education involved learning through experience.  this also includes the philosophy, values, and customs of the material.  I find that a lot of my education and what I have had to teach students is very number and theoretical based.   This focus is very Eurocentric and does not incorporate other ways of learning and understanding math.   I also find that the questions often asked of students are a very “nice white lady” and the story is only a way to compliment the numbers and no emphasis is placed on the story itself.

After reading Poirier’s article Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, three challenges for the Eurocentric view is evident.  The first being that the Inuit have a base 20 system, which is very different than the base 10 system that widely recognized.  Furthermore, the Inuit do not see math as helping them in everyday problems.  The Eurocentric view can be seen as ‘acculturation” which is the process of integrating students into that of another culture.  Also, the traditional Inuit method of learning is not writing numbers and words down on a page but rather learning and observing from their elders and knowledge keepers.

Another interesting aspect of Inuit culture is that the months are only as long as it takes for a natural event to take place. the name of the months come from an animal activity in nature.

Single stories in my schooling.

I will start off by saying that I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan in one of the most conservative areas in Canda, any Conservative party could run a blue mailbox in my riding and it would win.  This political landscape really shaped my life in and out of the school.  I was taught to see the world through an agricultural lens and anyone not from this lifestyle was not of the right lifestyle compared to the locals; especially if you lived in “the east” part of the country or happened to be a Liberal supporter.  The attitude we farmers were the only “real hard workers” and the rest of the country were lazy.  But I only caught some of that attitude, mostly outside the school, for the most part, my school was very positive and the whole community was very positive and accepting.   I also was told the rest of the world isn’t as great as here and who would want to leave Canada or within a 5-hour drive from home, I am reminded of my Grandfather.

My school atmosphere was pretty normal for a school of around 200 students.  I was fortunate because we had a large immigrant population, mostly Philipino.  This allowed me to be exposed to aspects of a culture different from mine.  Whether it was the food they ate or the holidays they celebrated.   This lens allowed me to see what diversity would look like when I came to University is when I was really hit with the diversity lens.

From a young age, I was very inquisitive and needed answers to questions I had and needed to develop a deeper understanding.  So when I would hear people saying how they preserved the world I always had questions.  I now understand that I was and still am challenging the lens I have superimposed on me.

I do bring these lens’ into the classroom, however, I don’t think that these lens’ are exclusive to my part of the world.  Drive to any rural place on the prairies and the view of the world will look very similar.  Through my work in city schools and through the university, I have discovered I have a tougher time relating and understanding the problems some of these students face, because of my life experiences.   I also grew up in a middle-class family and I was always well looked after and most of my friends were in the same situation.  I was also taught that if someone wasn’t successful and on government assistance then they must be lazy.  So another lens is the privilege that I was born with as a white male, the privilege of being middle class and having a stable home and school life.  I looked up to my teachers that happened to be all white because I respected them and understood they had expertise that I nor my parents had.   Combating and unlearning these bias’ will not be easy, I feel the key is to keep an open mind and be a lifelong learner.  By doing this we help to learn new perspectives that will help to mask over old bias’.  the old bias’ can be reshaped and used as an asset to further my learning and ability to be a great teacher.

In my schooling, the single-story that excised was the learning mostly about the negative parts of history and the negative effects on the present day.  The truth that mattered was the white Europeans perspective and how this perspective saw all history and present events even when they had business telling an event through their lens.

Politics if necessary but not necessarily politics: The politics of curriculum

Politics is in our everyday lives in more ways than we can understand or notice. Education is no exception.   Politics is everywhere, whenever there is a friend-enemy distinction there will be politics.  When the curriculum is created there is also politics that come into play.   There are groups and third-party interests that play a role in what goes into the curriculum.  That will extend into how the curriculum is taught.

Ben Levin defines curriculum as “an official statement of what students are expected to know and be able to do.”  Levin points out that not every educational issue will be subject to intense public criticism and lobbying.  According to Levin Curriculum is developed and implemented through a process of lobbying, research, and consultation with the players involved.  The players can include government officials, representatives from school boards and education ministries, business leaders, supply companies, parents and some students.  Universities also play a role in deciding what goes into the curriculum.  This is where divisions are made and every player tries to have their agenda placed front and center.

Levin explains that curriculums are organized around two levels of objectives, general goals and more specific learning activities and goals.   The challenge is fitting in all the important information that students need to learn, which can be a source of conflict.  After the curriculum is decided upon, it comes into effect in the schools and teachers, administrators and other players work to implement the new curriculum.

What concerns me with the process outlined by Levin is that with so many voices at the table and so many voices wanting there points to be implemented. How does the new curriculum reflect what is best for the students in the classroom?  With this many groups at the table, not everyone will be happy.  Trying to make everyone happy will make no one happy because everyone will feel they gave up too much.

When looking at the first few pages of the treaty education document I noticed that there were many voices contributed to the making of this document.    There seems to be great inclusion of Indigenous voices and collaboration with First Nation leaders from a variety of places.  Places like the First Nations University of Canada, the office of the Treaty Commissioner, tribal councils and the University of Saskatchewan.  There are other names from organizations like some divisions from the Saskatchewan education ministry.  However, the difficulty is knowing how much input each group had and how evenly distributed the input was.

The first few pages read like an inclusive document and one that works to encompass a lot of viewpoints and have a central goal in mind.  The document uses a direct reference to the speech from the throne in 2007.   The Levin talked about the players that place input into have curriculum structure and substance.  I place great importance on the players involved and with Treaty education the players involved are extra important.

There may be a source for tension because there is no precedented or old curriculum to work with; the new version will be the first one in existence.  However, with every curriculum there will be competing interests and that will be a source of tension.  There could also be tension coming from other Indigenous groups that wanted certain items included but they ended up not being.   There are so many items that could be included that there was not enough room.  As Levin points out, there is often too much material to fit into a class.  Therefore not everything can be included, because of this a biased is introduced.  Someone has to choose what to include.

The creation and implementation of the curriculum is a political and diverse process that requires the involvement of many players and the interest group’s involvement.   The education in politics is unavoidable because as Ben Levin points out in his article the players play an important role in the curriculum.  Many of the issues pointed out in the Levin article are in the Saskatchewan Treaty Education document.  The important thing for teachers to remember is that there are always going to be competing interests in the forming of the curriculum, so teachers need to keep that in mind to better serve the students and work with other staff.

Curriculum and Treaty education in the classroom.

For this week I looked at treaty education in the classroom and how it can be successfully incorporated.

To respond to the email that the pre-service teacher sent. Treaty education is very important to incorporate in schools fo all ages.  I believe that all schools need to address the issue, not only because it is mandatory and clearly stated in the curriculum.; but because treaty education needs to be a staple in the all-encompassing education experience.

However, it isn’t just important for students to learn treaty education is important for parents to learn as well.  As  Claire Kreuger talks about, parents have not been exposed to this kind of learning so when students go home and they tell parents about what the have learned; this is often the first time parents have talked about treaty education.  

I feel the whole purpose of schools is to expose students to new things and educate them on issues that are outside of their sphere of influence.  Therefore all students need to be exposed to treaty education and indigenous ways including other types of knowledge and ways of knowing.  There is no excuse for not teaching treaty education outcomes.   I can say with assurance that improvements are happening and more teachers are making strides to meaningfully integrate treaty outcomes.

Claire Kreuger explains that treaty education does not need to be a specific part of each course.  Treaty education is more easily incorporated into social studies and English classes, compared to math or science classes.  The important thing is that you find a way to incorporate treaty education and start working at it.  Claire Kreuger points out that a teacher is not going to get treaty education right the first time; trial and error are key and failure is unavoidable.  The best thing to do is to move on and strive to do better the next time.

“We are all treaty people” was an important resource and I  did not really understand what that phrase meant.  Cynthia Chambers explains that her parents are treaty people even though they come from different backgrounds and were immigrants from Irland and Scotland.   On a legal level, the treaties were negotiated and signed by the government of Canada and people living in Canada make up the government.  On the other hand, stories and experiences will be lost if we refuse to listen and learn from the past; young and old alike. Cynthia Chambers also notes that for the treaties to be upheld both indigenous and non-indigenous people have to work together and successfully communicate.   For curriculum, this means that the concept of “we are all treaty people” must be incorporated and addressed for better understanding.   I also feel that dwelling and living in the past will not resolve anything.  I have often said that we all should have a relationship to the past in the form of admiration and respect for the past and the struggles it entailed.  

Dwayne Donald’s lecture on “On What Terms Can we Speak?” outlined important points, like the idea we should strive to “amalgamate the past present and the future”.  This is an interesting concept that I hadn’t thought of before I listened to his words.   What he meant by this is that to understand the present we must understand the past.  Also that the past occurs simultaneously in the present.  I add that we must look at the past with a historical perspective and not judge past figures as if they have the information we have today because they didn’t.  The key is a locked-down insider-outsider dynamic that dose does not include denial of relationships.  Good relationships are very important.

To summarise, the important thing to remember is that treaty education looks different for every teacher and classroom.  The job of the teacher is to incorporate treaty education into the classroom in ways that fit the environment of the classroom.   I have found that treaty education is very difficult to ignore treaty outcomes because it is weaved throughout all renewed curriculum.  The teacher would have to work hard and purposely avoid the outcomes.  That said Treaty education is mandatory; therefore it is important to incorporate and address the concerns of the students.


Reinhabitation and Decolonization in learning from place.

In the reading from this week learning from place, Restoule et al (2013) identify Reinhabitation and Decolonization.  Restoule et al define reinhabitation as the goal to identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in
our total environments.   They define decolonization as the goal to identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places.  Reinhabitation and Decolonization depend on each other.  

A couple places where reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the paper.  The documentary project addressed on pg. 74 is an example of  reinhabitation because the Kistachowan
(Albany) river is a place that can help teach about identity and how to live in a certain area.  Also, this project looks at social, cultural and economic impacts.  The project also had the youth involved and working together which builds relationships.  Restoule et al looked at youth in this community that had to re-learn what their ancestors knew; this is a sign that decolonization is taking place.  Restoule et al looked at the environment and what the people have to re-learn because the information was forgotten through the process of colonization.  

This type of work has implications in the classroom.  I feel that as a teacher we must try to incorporate the different ways of knowing and address ways to foster an environment where Reinhabitation and Decolonization can take place.  Social studies take on an important role because teachers have to teach that past.  The past will look different through the lens of Reinhabitation and Decolonization but it is important to notice these differences and teach accordingly.

Commonsense Understanding of the “good” Student

I have talked about the idea of commonsense before in my blog post: Commonsense reflection, but this is about the commonsense understanding of the “good” student.

Kumashiro talks about the “commonsense” understanding of the “good” student.  in the second chapter of his work against commonsense.  What he is saying is that a common sense student is one that gains the right knowledge and understanding of material.  But it also goes deeper than that; the commonsense student also engages in class discussion that often involves the students trying to find the answer the teacher has decided is correct.  this also means that educational goals are often set by the messages and the images coming from a society that passes on what it means to learn.

Kumashiro also p[oints out that curriculum identifies what skills and knowledge we want students to learn and then test them on whether or not they have learned that.  Furthermore, we reward schools that can get their students to demonstrate such learning and punishing those that don’t.

Furthermore, he points out that Students come to school with misinformation and it is the teacher’s job to correct what they know and add to what they don’t. This misinformation or what a student already knows can act as a lens and narrative that students can see information through.

The commonsense student means “meeting standards” these standards to be met are standards that society has deemed to be common sense and what a student needs to know.

All of this contributes to what Kumashiro defines as a good commonsense student.

The students most privileged by this information are a white student or at very least a student that has lived their entire life in Canada. The students that will be the least privileged by this are the new students to Canada or students living with families that do not adopt the norms of Canada.  Also, the students least privileged by this “good” student are the students with mental disabilities that do not understand the cultural norms.

Cracks in the school system are difficult to see because teachers tend to see the student through the lens of commonsense.  when in fact some are learning just in the way more familiar to them.   This understanding also fosters an environment with little to no change because often teachers can’t see past the problems that are not so obvious.