Panel of Teachers

This week in ECS 100 I had the privilege of listening to a panel of six teachers at various points in their teaching careers. They answered questions regarding their journey as a student, choosing their ultimate careers as teachers, their passion for education, and much more. The experience was really eye-opening and I hope I get another chance to hear encouragement and stories like theirs.

As someone who is in the early stages of learning sign language, I found the young panel member who was convocating in the spring to be the most interesting. She took the initiative to learn sign language, and in a conversation later with her I was able to learn some tips and tricks associated with learning the unique language and the practicalities of learning it.

I was also able to learn about each panel members’ mistakes. I find that mistakes are best when they are learned from, and admitting faults to a room of judgemental eighteen-year-olds takes a lot of guts.

Lastly, I was able to learn about the joys that come with teaching. Each teacher spoke about specific experiences they’ve had in their careers that inspired them to keep going. To hear each person talk so passionately about teaching was amazing. Sometimes I find myself over-estimating the amount of joy and reward that one gets from teaching, but listening to the panel reassured me that the career would be more than meeting my expectations.

Like all students, I have questions. Some can be answered simply, while others are more complex and can’t be answered in a single, hour-long session with the panel. My first question is about the job market. When applying to education I received a lot of discouragement because it would just be impossible to get a job afterward. How true is that statement? Will I find myself unemployed with an education degree in four years?

My next question is about getting involved in schools. What is the best approach for a student to take if they seriously want to stand out from their peers? And then how do you stay involved after and stay part of your school community?

Lastly, I’m puzzled over the push from faculty members to take whatever job I can get. I don’t understand how taking a position that could make me regret becoming a teacher would help my career in the long run?

Using Technology in the Classroom

On Monday evening I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Alex Couros, an Information and Communication Technologies ICT Coordinator and Professor at the University of Regina. He presented about the importance of digital citizenship and literacy in the classroom. He himself has four children at the peak of this technology age, so his knowledge comes from a professors standpoint as well as a father. The topics he touched on were most interesting, and I will high light the gist of his presentation and how it applies to myself in the following paragraphs.

Technology is something that wasn’t around before you were born. Dr. Couros explained the concept of technology to us iGen individuals. At one point the wheel would be considered a technology, or paved roads, even blackboards in a classroom. It’s funny how we tend to only think of technology when it comes to computers and electronics. If we go by the above definition, I shouldn’t be considering computers a technology because I was born after the invention of the computer and grew up with one in my home.

New-age technology touches everyone. Whether the users be babies or the elderly, it should come as no surprise that this internet fad has spread across multiple generations. In fact, in 2016, 32.12 million Canadians which is roughly 81% of Canadians were internet users. This number is rising fast according to statista. With well over half of the country participating online it is safe to assume that digital citizenship will benefit most, if not all students sometime in their lives.

It’s true that we should never expect a future student of ours to have technology at their fingertips. But as Dr. Couros mentioned, despite the wealth gap, technology such as cellphones and computers are no longer a commodity – they are a necessity.

That means that digital citizenship is becoming more and more important in our changing society. Where this knowledge needs to start is in the classrooms. Dr. Couros taught us the negative implications of technology, but he also reiterated the positive outcomes that can arise from using devices at hand.

One question I still have after the presentation is why schools are not allocated more money to provide more technology to students in the classroom? Should each student be provided with a laptop or iPad?

Branching off from the above question is the schools’ job only to educate about the internet and digital citizenship, or should they be providing students with that resource just as easily as they are provided library books?

Regardless of the issues that arise when incorporating technology in the classroom, digital citizenship is a much-needed part of in school curriculum. I plan to incorporate digital citizenship into my future classroom as best I can.

Punishing the Bullied

Ask anyone and I’m sure they’ll have a story about how bullying has affected them. Whether they were the victim, bystander, or the bully themselves, bullying is part of school culture that teachers can’t seem to eradicate. Bullying is harmful no matter what form it comes in – e.i. physical, verbal, sexual, or cyber. There is one group of students who suffer the outcasting and life threatening bullying that seems to escape the radars of adults and authority, LGBTQ+ youth.

Many times, homophobia and transphobia come hand in hand with bullying against sexual minority groups. It is this phobic and less than tolerant behaviour that is hard to speak about when the topic of LGBTQ+ youth is rarely recognized in society. In the reading “Deepening the Discussion About Sexual Diversity in Saskatchewan” it states that, “anywhere between 5-11 percent of people are non-heterosexual or questioning their sexual orientation (PHAC, 2011; EGALE Canada, 2011).” I learned that this sexual minority group is often categorized as too small to address.

After doing some research I came across an article about GSAs (Gay Straight Alliance) in relation to the government. In April of 2015 a bill was proposed that aimed at anti-bullying for LGBTQ+ youth. I learned that currently in Saskatchewan schools, if a school is to create a GSA, a student who desires one must step forward and create the group. Putting the onus on kids and teens, who already feel singled out, ostracized, and bullied, to face the barriers of creating a club that features the hottest issues of diversity is just plain wrong. This bill would mandate that schools provide students with a GSA. This attempt to address bullying of LGBTQ+ youth was garnered as unnecessary.

This reactive way of thinking that the Saskatchewan Government holds onto is similarly displayed in pop-culture. In the article “TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Campaigns Miss the Mark” I learned that often times, “homophobia is regarded as a personal problem rather than an institutional one that poisons school environments and leaves children emotionally and physically unsafe.” Although I love the show Glee, which was the example used in this amazing article, it is very true that the battles against homophobic bullying were minimized to appear as if it is a problem on a person to person basis rather than addressing the issues of the entire system.

Glee sheds light on the bullying that happens to the everyday high schoolers. Despite it’s cliche premise and stereotypical cliques the audience is able to look past this and see bullying as a real issue in schools. That’s it. A school issue that can be left in the past after graduation. In the article “TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Campaigns Miss the Mark” the issues of this thinking are addressed. If you picture the typical acts of bullying, you often think of students being shoved in lockers, fights after school with a circle of onlookers, and name calling that aims to break down the integrity of the victim. This is more than just bullying, it is a violation of human rights and is indeed considered physical or sexual harassment. Downplaying this harmful behaviour as high school bullying results in nothing good for the rest of society.

If this kind of behaviour is appropriate in school then what is stopping people from interacting this way outside of school and after graduation?

Why does this sexually minoritized group of students continue to be ignored despite the recognition of a problem?

What Inclusion Really Looks Like in Canada

Canada. A place of inclusion and diversity. Equality and compassion. Just look at Canada’s history as a country at the forefront of inclusion in the document “Oh, Canada: bridges and barriers to inclusion”. I learned that in 1985 Canada became the first country in the world to include the rights of people with mental and physical disabilities in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite this claim to inclusion written in an honourable legal document, thirty-three years later and Canada has yet to take the necessary actions required to live up to this legislation. From this, it can easily be drawn that Canada is not the great place of inclusion that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms claims us to be.

With the recognition of inadequate accommodations being considered a human rights issue, as pointed out in the document “A brief introduction to inclusion, inclusive schools and barriers to inclusion”, school boards are now scrambling to provide appropriate, budget friendly accomodations. This leads teachers to wonder what inclusive education looks like. In my experience as a student I’ve witnessed teachers adapt lessons to provide adequate accommodations for a range of students. When my teacher is expected to tailor a curriculum to a multitude of students simultaneously without compromising any student’s quality of education I challenge the current system to come up with a better solution than cancelling special education tracks in favour of piling more work on the teacher.

I learned that in order for a student to acquire an educational assistant the child must be put through the least inclusive process that could possibly be created. Parents, doctors, and a multitude of other people in the student’s life must evaluate, file paperwork, and draw a negative light on the student’s learning ability. This process would offput any chance of a student feeling successful in the classroom, and goes to stigmatize the student as different from his or her peers. This in turn prevents an inclusive environment.

I struggle to understand how teachers and school boards can value the right to education when an entire population of students isn’t given the opportunity to learn effectively. How can we call ourselves educators when we alienate those who require non-traditional forms of education?

I also do not understand how this population of people has been excluded for so long without mass repercussions. If this is truly a human rights issue, then Canada cannot hold such a prestigious title in inclusive practices.

I often wonder what other countries are doing to promote inclusion. How are their philosophies different from ours, and how do we adopt them into western society. Would looking at alternative worldviews lead to positive change?

thirty-three years is an entire generation of students who were promised inclusive education but only received outdated education practices. Let’s change the story and include all students in the classroom.

The Evolution of the School Master

To teach is more complicated than I once thought. Upon reading the introduction and first chapter of the “Ignorant School Master” I learned that education has undergone many trials and errors and change of thought. A word that kept reappearing in the text was explication. After a quick google search I learned that the word described the process of analyzing and developing an idea or principle in detail. Learning this word led to a deeper understanding of the text as the job of the supposed school master was to explicate. The problem being examined then is the best way for a master to explicate to his or her students.

One of the topics that caught my eye as I was reading was the analysis of the relationship between the student, the text, and the master. One of the questions that Joseph Jacotot raised was that a specific topic would then be explicated twice to the student. This was the formal way of education. So, Jacotot decided to test what happened when students had to rely on a single form explication – the text. It was concluded that students reach a better form of understanding when the explication was given by the school master. I had never before considered this double way of teaching, and was glad to learn of his experiment in the area.

The reading also mentioned a hierarchy within education. The teacher has superior knowledge and for the student to learn, they are admitting that their knowledge is inferior to their master. Although this idea of a power-play between student and teacher doesn not sit well with my teaching philosophy, it is still interesting to learn about the intellectual levels of groups of people. The categorization and ordering of people is linked greatly to western worldview. I am able to see where each idea fits into the western worldview and understand the connection. I learned that even in the classroom there is still a large influence from western worldview despite how inclusive and diverse a teacher claims to be.

A question that I still have after reading is how do the effects of Joseph Jacotot’s work in the field of education continue to influence educators and schools today?

This entire reading makes me wonder about the advancement of self-education. With the advancement of technology and the internet it seems that it is becoming easier and easier to learn a desired topic or skill online. I am puzzled as to how the school master is being changed or cut out completely. Does the school master become the actor in a specific video used to learn? Meaning there would be dozens of such masters being learned from simultaneously. Or does the notion of a school master disappear from the equation and students are learning to adapt to a single form of explication?


Teaching From the Heart

Being a teacher is no easy job. Despite having the summers off and great job security, there often is no constant feelings of success or joy in the classroom. A single day can go from exhausting and futile to creative and enlightening. Parker Palmer is able to articulate the true lives of teachers in his article “The Heart of a Teacher”. He describes the highs and the lows, and looks within the teaching profession to analyse the true work of teaching.

I may not be far into post-secondary education, and I have not even begun to put a dent in the classes in which I will be required to take to become a teacher, but I already know that it is not what I expected. I assumed that I would be bestowed the secret powers of classroom management. At the very least I thought that there was a certain technique that all teachers were equipped with. When none of these expectations were met I find my answer in Parker Palmer’s words, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” He taught me that ability to teach comes from within.

Parker Palmer also writes about the importance of connecting with your inner teacher. He speaks that there is an ability within you to teach without fear. I found this particular quote astounding:

“I am painfully aware of the times in my own teaching when I lose touch with my inner teacher, and therefore with my own authority. In those times I try to gain power by barricading myself behind the podium and my status while wielding the threat of grades. But when my teaching is authorized by the teacher within me, I need neither weapons nor armor to teach.”

I have had teachers who use this armour and wield these weapons. I have also armed myself this way in my job working with kids. I relate fully to what Palmer writes in regards to the disconnect. I will walk into work some mornings so frazzled and disconnected from myself that I fall into this trap. I threaten with words of punishment and timeouts, I protect myself with distance because I know the second I let my amour down this disconnect will cause me to crumble. Palmer has taken this squishy and icky feeling I experience and put it beautifully in the above quote.

My question for this reading is why do we disconnect in the first place from our inner teacher, and how do we minimize this occurrence? I feel that if I can permanently make my teacher self and regular self into one cohesive identity that it would make the classroom a better place for all.

Parker Palmer speaks about the heart of teaching, and that all teachers must keep their hearts open despite the risk of breaking. I often hear that teaching is one of the most unselfish acts that there is. As someone who probably has not experienced the joys of teaching I wonder what kind of appeal that lifestyle has? Can I be a successful teacher while still valuing my well-being?

Jagged Worldviews

The world can be viewed in dozens of different ways. Primarily, in the western world it is easy to fall into an ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative. We think this way, they think that way. Leroy Little Bear breaks down the Western worldview and Aboriginal worldview in his book Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. He explains each worldview clearly and exhibits great analysis of both. In the end he speaks of the loss of culture within the Indigenous community and how worldviews of their ancestors are colliding with the western worldview. Making room in society for multiple worldviews is important now more than ever as Canada continues to grow and diversify.

From Leroy Little Bear’s article I learned of many aspects of Indigenous Worldview. For Aboriginal people time moves in a cyclical fashion. I could spend all of my time learning about the different ways in which people experience time, and how they view the notions of past, present, and future.

Image of North Dakota pipeline protests
North Dakota Pipeline Protest

Leroy Little Bear explained the fascinating Indigenous belief that all things on this earth are connected as one by a moving spirit. In turn, this would give life to what westerns would believe are inanimate objects. I learned that this particular way of viewing the world instills a more respectful attitude in regards to the natural world. It is not only reflected in Little Bear’s writing but when looking to the causes that many Indigenous communities support, many of them fight for the preservation of wildlife.

I also learned that embracing many aspects from multiple worldviews is important in building your own personal outlook on life. It is easy to follow the crowd and believe what others tell you to believe, but to form an opinion that is truly your own, you must take multiple different parts and work them together. The same goes for worldview. As Leroy Little Bear outlined in his book, with the loss of Indigenous worldview and the adoption of western beliefs leaves many Indigenous people at a loss. They often find themselves molding the two worldviews together to create a belief that is cohesive to them individually while staying true to their people.

As the Colton Boushie case moves through Canada, people are facing the underlying conflict between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal citizens. This takes me back to an Indigenous 100 class I took in my first semester. In this class we discussed the slow change of the Canadian legal system to incorporate Indigenous worldview in court such as verbal accounts. This clashing reminds me of Leroy Little Bear’s work because he writes about worldviews clashing across many cultures. I am puzzled over how much molding and shaping worldviews will go through, and excited to see the reflection of old worldviews in new ones.

The question that I end this reading with is one that I often ponder, even before reading this article. Upon learning of different worldviews I wonder that if two people who live within completely different worldviews are still living in the same world?