What do you remember about your school teachers? It could be their kind-hearted smiles, their ruthless marking schemes, or their ability to ignite a passion in you that you never knew you had. Now picture that teacher… there face, the sweater they wore most often, the click of their shoes, or the coffee mug they drank from, but most of all remember their voice.
“Hand in your homework on time!”
Did this just sweep you right back into that second-grade classroom? I remember sitting as the expectations raised by the teacher registered in my mind. If my silence is what she demands, will I be a good student? Does my ability to meet deadlines, sit quietly, stay silent, make me a good student?
In that teachers’ eyes, it did.
The Common Sense Narrative
As Kumashiro writes, common sense is a commonly held belief across a culture, country, or group of people. There is a common sense understanding for what makes a good student. Expectations carried across from teacher to teacher, understood by all. It’s what we learn to expect. It’s what is modeled in every classroom across Canada.
The belief that a good student sits quietly, hands folded on top of their desks, without squirming is shared among educators and is not questioned. This is an example of common sense. When we accept things as are, this can become dangerous as it does not leave room for change or improvement.
This is an Issue
Think about the students who do not fit into the “good” student narrative. The ones who suffered under their teacher’s wrath and were viewed as troubled or unteachable. This could include students who have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), or various other reasons why a student may not learn best by sitting still and being quiet.
By upholding the “good” student common sense students who do not or are not able to fit into that box experience a hostile and unwelcoming learning environment. The “bad” students are not offered the support that they require to succeed, and it is often questioned why these students lose interest in school. It is easier to say that all students are different and learn differently than it is to adjust classroom narratives to ensure students are in a supportive learning environment.
Paulo Freire is a critical pedagogy educational philosopher. He is big on critiquing the current model of education and provides insight into his pedagogy in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. He has also helped to uncover the unintentional power structures at play in education related to race, class, gender, and many more factors.
Friere is recognized for his innovative take on bias within the education system. This is shown through his quote that states:
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” – Paulo Freire
Neutrality of the Education System
Remaining neutral is one of the biggest goals of all teachers in the classroom. Refraining from infringing upon your students’ beliefs, and limiting discussion about controversial topics is ideal in the classroom. Paulo Freire believes that by ignoring the powers that are at play outside of the classroom, such as sexism, racism, and homophobia, neutrality is not achieved. The silence sides with the powerful, and upholds a system that oppresses the powerless.
The impossibilities That Come With Neutrality
To remain unbiased limits the possibility of change. Pretending that unfair principles within society can be ‘left at the door’ of a classroom is not only unrealistic but also misses the opportunity to address the issues and ignite social change.
The Teacher and The Student
Living in a fairytale world where all events that play out in a student and teacher’s life can be pushed aside for a math class puts unruly expectations on both parties. If schools are not a safe place to discuss the injustice or privilege granted by an unfair society, where else can students grapple with the conflicts inflicted upon them and graduate with a mindset to change the world?
For myself, school was always an extension of my life. It wasn’t a loading screen that prepared me for life – it is life. The fact that many Canadians attend schools do not veer from the self-proclaimed stance of neutrality means that Canadians are being denied the space to ignite social change. Curriculum, as it stands right now, aims not to address the conflicts within the greater society, and therefore side with the powerful and not to be neutral.
How does a student in Northern Canada finish their grade twelve education with near identical knowledge to a student who lives on Prince Edward Island? They surely were not taught by the same teacher. Nor did they attend the same school. This is part, in due, to the curriculum. Teachers plan their lessons from the curriculum. Students learn based on the curriculum outcomes and prove their knowledge through standardized testing. In the end, all Canadians finish school with… er… for lack of better words, identical tools in our tool belts. But this way of learning brings up some tough questions, with some even tougher answers.
How did the curriculum start?
You may have learned about a little something called the Industrial Revolution. This was a time when people stopped living in small farming communities in favour of the promises that came with living in the big city. Scales for production went up tenfold as demand for products rose higher and higher, demand for jobs increased, and populations of people preferred to live in large, dominating cities rather than living that country bumpkin lifestyle. This brought forth the desire for efficiency. How do we make the train go faster? How do we make the people work longer? How do we make the students learn smarter?
Meet, Franklin Bobbitt, the father of curriculum studies who developed the once popular belief that children’s time in school should be as efficient as possible and that each child should finish with the exact same educational experiences as the next. Now let’s switch to a man you may be even more familiar with – Ralph Tyler. The father of assessment and evaluation. Ring any bells? Maybe this will help:
What education purposes should the school seek to attain?
What educational experiences will get us there?
How should we organize the experience?
How do we determine that the goals for each student are being met?
This sounds familiar to the way schools are run today. And let me remind you, Ralph Tyler has long since retired his teaching hat, this way of teaching has been around for a long time. Today we hear words like aims and objectives → content → organization of teaching and learning → evaluation and assessment.
Limitations of the Tyler Rationale
The Tyler Rationale may have been ideal when the goal was to produce the same student to the same environment, equipped for the same factory job. But now we live in a world where we value all types of learners who have many experiences in and outside of school, and a plethora of different jobs that require their own list of skill sets. Trying to fit the independent learner in this confining ideal of curriculum does not work out well for the student or the society at large. The Tyler Rationale allows for students to fall through the cracks, to fail in a system that no longer prepares its students for the real world.
Exceptionalities of the Tyler Rationale
With all the negative light being thrown on the education system throughout this article, don’t forget that in its prime, the Tyler Rationale allowed for education to become accessible to all. Without it, we would be stuck in a class system that oppresses the many and favours the few. The system is only taking us down the path towards success, not getting us to our destination.
I spent twelve years moving through the Canadian education system. Each year was similar to the ones before. Each classroom mirrored the last with the only difference being ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ motivational posters hanging on the walls. I would consider myself an expert when it comes to education, after all, I watched teacher after teacher model the same deliverance of material to their students through:
In my decision to become a teacher myself which I am currently working towards I accepted and expected that I too would organize my classroom the same as my past teachers had done, and would deliver content through:
After all, it was just common sense.
Do you see the pattern? The way the curriculum is recycled year after year through the generations? This is how certain practices become ingrained in our way of thinking, and eventually become common sense.
What is common sense and why does it get a bad rep in teaching?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines common sense as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”. This thorough definition sums up my entire experience in the education system; I absorbed my surroundings and understood the situation and soon developed reliant knowledge based on my experience.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Not all parts of the curriculum are necessarily good. Yes, much updating needs to be done to keep up with the fast-paced changes in Canadian society. There are also parts of the curriculum, and the way in which teachers, well, teach that can potentially hurt and/or oppress marginalized groups of people in society. When we recycle previous generations ways of learning we don’t bother to question the notions of privilege and continue to ignore the changes that need to happen.
In Kumashiro’s book Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice I learned through her experience in Nepal how difficult it can be for an education system to criticize their own practice, even if it means bettering the learning experience for their students. She herself was sent to Nepal to help reform the education system with her common sense knowledge of the American education system. She witnessed first hand how difficult change can be, and learned how to criticise her own common sense of what education ‘should be’.
The word digital citizenship implies more than one person. This means that in order for me to get the most out of this course I would have had to have interactions with others online. I not only comply with these guidelines but embrace them. I loved conversing with people online, creating new friendships, finding out similar interests, or having debates. This all helped to create my PLN – Professional Learning Network.
It was all very new to me, and I tried my best to just throw myself into the deep end and hope that I didn’t sink. Not only did I stay alive on the internet, but I feel that I contributed in a positive way to the learning of others.
Don’t just take my word for it, check out the links below to see the places in which I contributed positively to my digital community.
If you would like to see some examples of the exact ways I contributed to the learning of others check out the short video I made that includes snapshots of my interactions with others online.
This semester has been full of ups and down, but my digital relationships have been there to cheer me up and offer support. I’d like to thank those who contributed to my learning over the course of the semester, especially my EDTC300 classmates.
Here is the day we’ve all been waiting for… the day I stop tweeting constantly about ASL. For my EDTC300 class this semester I was tasked with taking my learning into my own hands and teaching myself something new. I could’ve picked anything really, but I chose to learn American Sign Language.
ASL or American Sign Language is a physical and visual language used by deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people to communicate. I’ve always had an interest in languages, and when I was presented with this opportunity I knew that I wanted to learn a new one. I ultimately chose ASL.
I’m sure you’re wondering how this whole ‘learning a language in ten weeks’ challenge turned out. I can honestly say that it taught me skills I never even dreamed of. Not only did I learn the basics of a whole new language, but I created a community for myself that helps to widen my perspective on life. My new internet resources and friends allow me to see the world in a different way. My #LearningProject was a nice break from the traditional homework I was used to.
This life-changing experience took me on a roller-coaster of a ride. There were highs and lows and I can’t wait for you to explore each of my posts, but if you want the quick version – check out the recap below!
*But if you want the fun version check out my YouTube Channel where I posted videos each week throughout my #LearningProject
At the beginning of my #LearningProject I challenged myself to post a video every week. I never realized how difficult and testing this goal would be. The process of learning, filming, editing, and uploading is a long and painful process that really tested me this semester. Even though I love the process when in times of stress it really caused me to learn how to prioritize my time in order to successfully meet my goal.
Luckily, I was familiar with YouTube as I’d already created a channel and posted past school assignments online. I had a desire to film and post about my life, and doing it under the pressure of my #LearningProject was just what I needed to become familiar with the process.
Continuing to post about my life via videos and vlogs is something I definitely plan to continue with after this project.
Go check out my YouTube channel Hayley Hodson in order to see my growth not only in ASL but also in my video skills. I can see that I have significantly improved throughout the 10 weeks in the aesthetic and editing skills of my videos as well as in Sign Language.
The Benefits of Learning ASL
I did not pick to learn ASL because it was easy. I didn’t pick it because it is popular. I didn’t pick it because I thought it would give me the best grade. I chose to learn ASL because I truly love languages of any kind. ASL is just a different way of communicating that I hope to continue learning about.
Unlike spoken language, visual languages such as ASL are often the minority. In the past, they have been isolated and oppressed and made to feel unwanted. In order to reverse this – we, the hearing, speaking, population – must reach out in a language that both hearing and hearing impaired can use. Sign Language.
According to the Canadian Association of the Deaf, there are about 357,000 culturally Deaf Canadians and about 3.21 million hard of hearing Canadians. That is a huge population of people that are isolated and unable to communicate effectively with hearing people like me. I plan to learn Sign Language in order to open the lines of communication between the hearing and non-hearing.
This is not the end of my learning journey. Although my #LearningProject ends after ten weeks, I still plan to continue learning ASL. These last ten weeks are just the beginning. I have been able to build a solid foundation of knowledge and resources that enable me to continue my learning journey. Learning American Sign Language will be a lifelong commitment that I plan to see through.
Learning a language is not easy, but when provided with materials, resources, and a PLN anything is possible.
A culture lives through its language, and American Sign Language is no different. The language is more than just a means of communication, it is a way of life. By learning ASL I inadvertently connected to a new culture and see the world through a different lens. Although I do not rely on ASL as a means for communication, and will never truly understand what it means to be deaf or hard of hearing, the language gives me a better understanding of how these people live their lives.
Languages have always intrigued me one way or another. The ability for communication to embody an entire culture draws me in. You cannot have a language without a culture nor a culture without a language, they are such integral parts of each other and come hand in hand to new learners such as myself. Learning Sign Language has introduced me to a culture who’s stories have been shoved aside. I hope to bring recognition to the culture and language of deaf and hard of hearing people as well a learn the language.
I may not be good enough to fully communicate with another signer, but I plan to work on my skills. I recognize this as a lifelong journey in learning a second language, and I hope I can spend the rest of my life improving my signing. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn with motivation from my classmates.
My #LearningProject has come to a close, but I am not.
Week 10 has come upon me and I find myself wanting to do something different. Something close to my heart. Something that will really show what I’ve learned. What better way to do that than through music. Music has been a big part of my life and meshing my love for music and sign language together seemed like a perfect match.
I started by picking a song. I wanted something that everyone would know. A classic, but not too old. A song that I wouldn’t get sick of after hearing it for hours. I decided on Viva La Vida by Coldplay. The song was catchy, I knew the lyrics, and it provided a plethora of new vocab. It was perfect.
Next, I needed to figure out how to sign the song. I searched for an ASL cover on YouTube and it turns out that a lot of people have covered that song. My favorite video and the one I ended up learning from was by SignSong called Sign Language Project: Viva la Vida – Coldplay. The video was clear and well put together. The girls were enthusiastic signers and it was great learning from them.
And so, a week later and I’d not only learned the song but also filmed, edited, and posted the video. Take a look below at the video and see for yourself how much I’ve grown as a signer.
Signing has not been easy, but knowing that I am capable of making such cool covers is amazing. I will continue to make covers in the future and will maybe even have to create a new channel to showcase my talent!