Life Lenses

We all perceive the world a different way. Where I come from, what kind of family I have, even my occupation shapes the way I look at the world around me. Each aspect of my personality and external factors contribute to building a type of lens in which I see the world through. For example, I only run outside during daytime hours. The idea of running outside at night seems unsafe because of my lense as a woman, but I don’t fear police brutality because I do not have the same lense as a black person.

Image of looking through glasses
Looking through glasses

Many people go through their lives looking through their lens but never looking at them. The best example I have been given was by my ECS professor Michael Capello; every day you get up and put on your glasses. You wear them all day, they help you see the board at school and aid in depth perception when going about your day. Rarely do we take time to examine the glasses themselves. We are so busy observing the world through the lens that nobody bothers to take them off their face and critically evaluate how our site is warped by our lenses.

In Kumashiro’s book Against Common Sense, he encounters students who face the same feelings as me as the job can never be done. You can never complete the evaluation of your lenses. He says this perfectly on page 78, “My student teachers often express frustration over the contradictory implications of these theories and the notion that the work of interrupting our own privileges (racial, gender, or otherwise) and coming to know our students will never end.” This kind of interruption is crucial for educators, as self-improvement and progression are important to have a successful career as a teacher. I think it is important to notes that this work is not only done to improve the self but also to deconstruct the oppressive nature that it built into our society, and our schools.

I will leave the last words to Kumashiro as his words act as inspiration on the days when it feels most difficult to examine my lenses.

“Yet, I would also encourage my students to consider ways that the contradictions and ongoing work can present rich opportunities to challenge oppression in schools.”

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Inclusive Education and Diversity

Our differences are what make us stronger. This saying is applicable in everything from political speeches to the classroom. Not only is this saying nice to tell your students, but it is important to act on those words. Valuing diversity is important in a school setting as it allows for each student to feel included and represented. In Albert Community School the school and staff, do not fall short on diversity.

Upon walking up to the school I see a sign that honours the Indigenous land that the school sits on – Treaty 4. When walking in the front door I spot a bulletin board housing student artwork. The hallways are lined with diverse images from many cultures and countries. The library windows are lined with books on relevant topics such as bullying and cultural appreciation. I have had the privilege of experiencing the Pre-K classroom which holds representation from different cultures in the form of miniature teepees and traditional Chinese clothing. The building that constantly surrounds the students fosters inclusion because they are able to learn in a place that appreciates their culture.

While meeting the staff members of Albert Community I recognized many cultures being represented. Staff members appeared to be of European descent, Asian descent, and the school also has twelve staff members of First Nations and Metis heritages. The diverse set of faces allows students to see themselves in their teachers and support staff which encourages respect and appreciation.

It is easy to spot diversity in visible characteristics. Visual observations do not require much work to get the answer. It is the hidden forms of diversity that are not always at the forefront of every school’s visual appeal. There is a plethora of different identities that each student may live with such as religious differences, mental illness, political beliefs, ancestral ties, immigrant status, learning disorders, and sexuality and gender differences. These types of differences should be represented just as much as visible differences.

Differences are what makes us stronger. Whether they be clearly visible or held within we, as educators, need to recognize the ways in which each student is different from the rest and find a way to represent it in our schools. This will move schools towards a more progressive and inclusive nature.

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?