The Difference Between You and Me

Diversity lies in all aspects of life and recognizing differences among peers is a great place for a school to start. Celebrating diversity is the next step. At Albert Community School the celebration of diversity is everywhere. A large population of students at the school belong to  ethnic minority groups, including Aboriginal people. Albert School works hard to equally represent and respect all students that go to school.

It is no secret that Canadian society is riddled with racism. Ignoring this problem is not something that Albert School is participating in. In order to promote diversity and equity among ethnicities the school focuses on reconciliation. They have community movie nights that recognize the traumatic effects of colonization. The school also promotes the restoration of Aboriginal culture by offering Cree language classes and having people from the Aboriginal Community come in to engage students in traditional Aboriginal storytelling and traditions.

Apart from racial diversity, Albert School also recognizes diversity in gender. In classes students are taught about the differences between females and males, and also the similarities. Respectful and inclusive practices in regard to gender are carried throughout the school. From school rules about personal space to respect for gender differences.

One part where the school falls short is support for the LGBTQ+ community. There is no GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) nor any type of support group for those that do not fit within the gender binary. Though I was assured posters that stated that this school is a safe place were enough in regards to sexual and gender diversity, I feel as if I’d like to hear from those who identify with non-binary labels.

Albert Community School works very hard to ensure students are treated with equity and feel included. I commend all staff and students for taking the time to participate in reconciliation, learn about diversity, and recognize the issues at hand in Canadian Society. Continue to work hard and never stop the progress that this school works hard to push forward.

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The Sign Family

No, this isn’t some mediocre sit-com about a middle class family called the Signs. This is week four of my learning project. This week I learned how to communicate family and directions using ASL.

This week I was able to get my younger brother in on the action. He was very curious as to what each member of the family was in sign language and incorporated it into conversation. Although his enthusiasm only lasted half a day before he had better things – a.k.a video games, it was encouraging none-the-less.

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In order to learn this week’s task I turned once again to good ol’ YouTube. I used a mix of two channels this week to learn how to sign different family members. First I used ASL That and the video was called “Family Signs in ASL – American Sign Language”. This taught me basic family terms that were used for the majority of the my video below.

After learning the signs from that video I felt like there should be more. Modern families are filled with more than just two parents and distanced relatives. I wanted to see how to sign step-siblings and parents, half-siblings, foster children/parents… I think you get my point.

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That is when I discovered the YouTube channel AASD Accessable Materials Project with a simple video titled “ASL: Family Signs”. The signs were done at a slow pace and incorporated a variety of family members that I had been searching for.

Now that I had deemed my hands practiced enough to sign family members, I moved on to directions. After searching on YouTube and nothing coming up I turned to Pinterest. Although I could find some individual signs on Pinterest which I’ve collected into one board for ideas and reference, I couldn’t find a complete list of words that didn’t require an obscene amount of money to access.

Out of sheer desperation I searched google translate for ASL. To my surprise I discovered an amazing website that was quickly added to my toolbar called Spread The Sign. This life changing tool allows me to search any word in any language and be shown a video demonstration on how to properly sign it. I highly recommend this tool and I will continue to use it in my future.

Another source I used to inspire myself was a TED Talk that popped up in my Facebook feed. I was pleasantly surprised to find it. Watching Christine Sun Kim sign about the beauty of music was what truly inspired me to practice my sign this week. Go check out her TED called “The Enchanting Music of Sign”.

Take a look at my ASL video for this week below.

 

Leave a comment if you have ideas for other categories of words I should learn to sign.

Professional Ethics

Whoever said teaching is not political clearly has never heard of the STF or looked at the history of teacher professional development. The STF stands for the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, it is an organization made up of teachers to represent teachers. They bargain with the government with teachers’ best interest in mind. Who would have thought – the people representing the people?

Even though I am only a first year student I think it is important for all education students to be knowledgeable about the salary and benefits that are provided to current teachers. An easy place to find this information is on the STF website. On this website I learned that teachers get the following benefits: health plan, dental plan, disability plan, life insurance, teacher well-being, and pension plan. This is definitely something to look forward to.

Lastly I learned of the Stewart Resources Centre. This online library houses a collection of books, audio-visual resources, print and e-journals and newspapers, and prepared units all for Saskatchewan teachers. I will definitely be spending my time during pre-internship browsing the many resources provided through this amazing resource centre.

When I was looking around the website I came across the salary grid for the past few years, including the most recent one that expired on August 30, 2017. If I were to be a first year teacher with only a BEd I would be making a salary of $55,474. This amount increases every year for the next eleven years, and varies depending on your level of education. Although new contracts will be signed and the salary will hopefully keep rising, this number gives me a good idea about what to expect in my future.

I was able to really feel part of the website when I came across a section for new teachers. This section of the website specifically addresses the questions and concerns that new teachers may have. I clicked on many links and feel fully informed on the basis of the teaching profession and on the part that the STF plays in my career.

The only topic that this website didn’t cover was the mention of substitute teachers. What is their pay rate? Do they get the same benefits? Does the STF vouch for substitute as well? The lack of mention to substitute teachers is the only cause for concern, and I’m sure that many of you out there have answers to my questions so leave them in the comments below.

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.

YouTube in the Classroom

This week Regan and I were tasked with creating a conversation on the positives of technology in the classroom. We took it in the direction of a parent voicing their concerns about the use of YouTube in the classroom. Take a look at our conversation below.

Teacher: You must be Regan’s Mom. I heard you have some concerns about the class?

Parent: Yes, I have some concerns about the use of Youtube and the lack of security that it offers, what if my child is exposed to inappropriate topics?

Teacher: Well, let me start out by saying that digital citizenship is a new component of the curriculum that all students must take part in. As for the use of Youtube I feel that the benefits in the classroom outweigh the risks. Just take a look at the article “Technology in the Classroom: 5 Undeniable Reasons to Embrace it”.

Parent: What benefits could possibly be more important than the safety of my child’s personal identity?

Teacher: First, personal identity in real life is not separate from online identity. Giving students early exposure to YouTube in a classroom setting allows them to learn how to use the resource safely and responsibly. Teaching my students how to be responsible digital citizens is my aim with using YouTube. Creating a positive digital footprint is more important than ever, and using a resource like Youtube makes for lasting memories and a great learning opportunity.

Parent: There are people are there that could watch my child’s video and it will make it easier for them to kidnap, blackmail, and the video will be online for the rest of their life! Also, how can you ensure that your students are on task when using a “resource” that has millions of videos that don’t relate to what they are learning.  

Teacher: Yes the internet is not forgiving in that what happens on the internet can not be reversed, but teaching your daughter that crucial lesson in the classroom and not from unfortunate experience is the reason why digital citizenship is so important. As far as kidnapping and blackmail goes, I’m teaching your daughter that if she wouldn’t feel comfortable having an image or text on a billboard, then it certainly doesn’t belong on the internet. YouTube is a resource full of distractions I’ll give you that, but with my close monitoring I hope to instill positive behaviours that prevent wandering cursors.

Parent: Well, Regan is also telling me that you are expecting her to research and teach herself about planes, isn’t it YOUR job to teach her about these topics or definitely not the internet, how reliable can the videos on youtube really be?

Teacher: Yes, this project is true. I’ve found that when students are given a choice about their education, such as Regan’s choice to research planes, they become much more enthusiastic and excited to learn about the assigned topic. The students can tailor their learning themselves and the individualized topics mean more to them. If I was the only source of information I would not have the time or resources to peak each of their interests. One of the components of digital citizenship is to teach students which sources are reliable and which are not. The internet may seem like it’s only filled with fake news, but in reality there are some amazing sources and great information if you know your way around. Check out this website that convinced me to use YouTube in the classroom.

Parent: Wow, I didn’t know that.  This is all really good information.  But don’t you think this also limits relationship building between classmates?

Teacher: Actually, I believe it expands the potential for relationships to be made. Your daughter has the potential to become friends with someone halfway around the world, or just connect with classmates on a deeper level via the internet. She can create relationships that never would have been possible if it weren’t for YouTube, the students can work together to share videos and to teach each other their research projects via their YouTube videos.  It is time for YouTube to be utilized in the classroom.

Parent: Thank you Miss Hodson for taking the time to meet with me, I really appreciate the information that you provided to myself.  

Teacher: Your welcome. If you’re still not convinced may I suggest checking out this video on the positive effects of YouTube in the classroom. 

 

If we missed anything or you see some holes in our argument let us know in the comments!

How do you use technology in the classroom?

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.

School and Prison – What’s the Difference?

Schools are supposed to prepare children for their futures. The mantra that many of our parents lived by was ‘go to school → attend college → get a good job → Success’. I learned that for the upcoming generation this is no longer the case. With so many opposing forces that threaten to push students off track to higher education, many students no longer see the purpose of education.

I learned that these opposing forces come in the shape of school policies that aim to push racialized students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system. In CBC’s article “Almost half of TDSB students expelled over last 5 years are black, report says” it states that of the 307 students that were expelled in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) “more than 300 expelled students were males in secondary schools. Of those, 48 per cent self-identified as black, compared to 10 per cent who are white.” It makes sense that when students are ostracized within schools based on systemic factors such as poverty and race that they no longer see value in learning.

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via Google

 

In order for this type of punishment to be taking place, students must be under constant surveillance. This is true when you take into account the type of schooling that North American ideas have created, and how likely schooling is comparable to the panopticon. In Michael Gallagher’s article “Are Schools Panoptic?” he summarizes the panopticon idea as “a ring of cells encircling a watch-tower, from within which a single supervisor is able to see inside each cell.” This was created in the late eighteenth century by Jeremy Bentham as a new way to build prisons. This is often compared to schools because the similarities are uncanny. Students are herded into classrooms based on age, academic level, and other criteria. Teachers supervise students, dictating acceptable and and not acceptable behaviours with a severity of consequence. No matter where the students move within the school they are under constant surveillance, and that promise is what keeps them in line.

In my time in the education system I too witnessed the effects of school policies that pushed students out of the classroom. The presence of a resource officer was a constant in my school and played a large role in supervision and served as a threat for some students. I also witnessed many classmates face suspension and expulsion. These students would brag about the time off, not recognizing how damaging the system was.

My question throughout this week was about realistic alternatives. To end the panopticon like schooling I assume that an obvious answer would  be to decrease control and punishment, how are parents and students assured the safety and stability of a school? What would that look like?