How might the changing nature of learning and the increased prevalence of technology be related to social justice and anti-oppressive education? What is made possible/impossible by these tools and this type of learning?

I see learning becoming more interactive and including a whole world of knowledge at our finger tips. However, students can start to lose interpersonal skills when they focus too much time on technology. This can be oppressive in the way that it is taking away valuable skills and not everyone can learn in that way. While the internet has a wealth of knowledge it also is unfiltered and can contain oppressive content that does not promote social justice. This can set back learning and even encourage students to use the language they see online in real time. This language can be so horrendous in some cases and will prompt many uncomfortable conversations. However, these sort of technological tools can assist students in their multiple intelligences and create a fun class atmosphere where everyone is actively engaged with a world wide audience.

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Autobiography Comment

After reading my autobiography, I noticed that I addressed two of the topics that are listed as things we did not talk about. My very first line states that “I am a socially awkward girl”. While I didn’t address my gender in a huge way I still made reference to it by talking about how my idea of body images has distorted and how that has had a deep impact on me as a person. Body image is an issue that is very relatable to gender. In my autobiography I also expressed a view about my sexuality. Near the beginning of the piece I mentioned that “at that time I was not interested in the opposite sex” and even came to address it later on in assignment stating at high school age I started to notice boys. I feel men have had a huge impact on my life and that is why it was important to address. My bullies in school were predominantly men and that it why I have a fear of them now. My sexuality has unfortunately caused a rife of pain in my life. On my first page I included a picture of myself. This picture obviously shows that I am a white woman. There is no getting around my race as I will always be “a nice white lady”. I was always oppressively taught that white people should not call attention to their ‘race’ because it is racist. I suppose those words are very ingrained in my head and I wouldn’t want to offend anybody by saying it. In a hidden or subtle way I did address these issues, but would still feel very uncomfortable highlighting them. 

Kumashiro Chapter Two Response

A good student is one who actively engages with the content and lessons that the teacher provides. They behave as if they were a robot and spit back answers in the teacher’s words. When they are forced to find the “closest” interpretation of a book, they model all thoughts based on what the teacher has provided in class. The common sense student will enter the classroom with little knowledge and leave it with an enriched mind that has been constructed by the teacher. In the Kumashiro reading, he describes two students who do not fit this common sense view of the student. He talks about two young people who march to the beat of their own drum. While the “good” student will learn from highly structured lessons, students like M and N learn from a lack of structure and figuring things out themselves. Because of this solid divide create in schools, the students with the model behaviour can either A. be forgotten about because the teacher spends so much time disciplining the others or B. receive all the praise in the classroom and have the other students feeling out of place. I see both types of students being oppressed because of classroom dynamics. It is very hard to cater to all learners without putting in enormous amounts of extra work. Unless a teacher really devotes a good amount of time to the classroom, students will be oppressed the lessons. There needs to be a healthy mix of structured and unstructured lessons during the course of the year. All students need the opportunity to learn equally and have time spent on them.

Learning through crisis is about learning to be uncomfortable in learning and step out of that well-crafted box to see more opinions than just the ones provided by the social norm. A crisis is meant to disorient a student and force them to think about social justice and the implications of oppression in the classroom. Crisis happens when hot button issues are freely discussed in a safe classroom environment. In order to bring my students to crisis and help them guide themselves through their thoughts, I need to have a safe classroom that encourages opinion and thought. I also need to explore reflection and having students produce feelings through action and tableaux. It seems that I am lucky because I have been gaining experience using drama in the classroom. Drama can really help students flesh out controversial issues and give everyone a chance to respond to it in some way. This is where process drama should be a huge part of lesson planning. A process drama can give students a chance to insert themselves into controversial materials and work their way through it at a steady pace. It is never directly stated in the curriculum that you have to address hot topics with your students. Because teachers are not forced to address these issues, they can just glide over them. This creates huge disconnects in learning. If these topics are thrown into that spiral curriculum, students won’t learn any new information or viewpoints. This means that their opinions are still narrowly influenced. I think more teachers need to learn how to deal with play and then help their students use play to talk about controversial things. Play is such a huge helper in a classroom setting.

Heather’s Moms Got Married Response

Disconnected and disjointed from the “nurturing” school

Environment. Open to all and yet open to a few mainstream

Norms who fit the type that teachers love. Outcasts skirt their way

Through an endless push of schooled fish rushing

In the opposite direction. Hard to be unique and worse

To be oneself. Small white town with overt

Religious values, but not a single person practices properly

They think everyone should pretend. Shaking at home

Behind the N64, too afraid to attend functions put on

By the “in” crowd. The homosexual and the socially unacceptable

Always travel in packs and coat their emotions with a strong

Dose of “I’m just like everyone else”. One fearless friend

Flies his rainbow flag, but resorts to stitching it up every

Night to keep it in pristine condition. Six other beaten boys

Reduced to an apathetic mess, because they don’t want

To get caught and kick out to struggle alone. A free country with

Marriage to whomever asks and still they slink around in this

Underground system trying to find a suitable date. Ask

For a LGBTQ club in a place that promotes safety and prepare

To be brought down by the administration. “Those unholy people don’t

Deserve a home of their own under this roof”. Not even a “normal” person

Could untangle that collection of cords. The controversial care of another

Person’s love is too much for them to handle and those wonderfully

“Othered” people are never represented in our selected

Curricular readings. “How untoward”. Each tightly closed off

Boy moves away to a less conservative city to rest happily

In the arms of a man who will show them how important

Their lives are to the people who will never break them for their

Personal preferences.

I chose to respond to “Heather’s Moms Got Married” for this assignment. It was one article that I felt I related to the most. The majority of my friends in high school were homosexual and really struggled to fit into the student body because of it. We had a group of “weird” kids that always hung out together and they were part of it. It was heartbreaking to see how they were disrespected by other students and teachers. Our town would never accept their sexual preferences and forced them to act like something they were not. While this article is talking about the law system in the United States, parts of Canada still struggle to offer the freedom to love as well. I strongly believe that the LGBTQ community should be represented in our curricular learning and viewed as this awful thing that no one should talk about. I appreciate that the author of this article talked about this issue with her students and framed it under equality. She even involved herself in her LGBTQ community and opened the issue with her daughter. I would have liked to read further on the discussions she had in her classroom. Everyone deserves the right to love openly and be safe. Times are changing and as teachers we need to change with them.

Images of Teacher

The first program is the teacher as a learned practitioner. In this we learn about how students learn through educational psychology. We go through a part on the subjects that should be taught based on the curriculum. It is stressed about the different ways we should use classroom management and we learn how to teach. This is a large trial and error process. At first I saw myself as the researcher, but after class today I am now convinced that fall into this model. I have learned all these various things in the classroom and it is becoming clear that we are practicing the trade and really just going through the motions. The next is my favorite image of teacher: teacher as a researcher. Over and over in education classes it is stressed that self reflection is a major aspect of our everyday life. Sometimes I feel like all we ever do is reflect and reflect on those reflections. It is becoming a bit of a redundant spiral, but is still necessary to farther my knowledge of self. The statement that I like to live by was included in this section: Lifelong learner. I enjoy imagining all the knowledge that I will acquire with age. However, unlike some teaching programs make us believe, I know that I cannot know it all. This is not a game of Pokémon after all. We must treasure the knowledge that we gain and always be comfortable telling our students that we don’t have all the answers. Teacher as a researcher must always engage in professional development and write research based papers. The last image is one that I don’t really relate to, but I know is still an aspect of teaching. I don’t want to see teaching as a job. I want to see it as an important part of my life. Teacher as a professional looks at the behind the scenes mechanics of teaching and the more political aspect of the business. We must gain certification in this trade and religiously study the codes of conduct so we don’t get fired. These are all interesting outlooks on the education program and each play a role in shaping us. While one might stand out more than another, we still fall under the other categories. This can lead to oppressive behavior, but also to an understanding of self.

The New Teacher Book Summaries

Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual – Gregory Michie

Michie offers up the metaphor that first year teaching is very similar to the colloquial concept of being pulled out to sea by the undertow. He talks about his experience as a first year teacher. His first idea was to really emphasize teaching for social justice and being a hero to his students. It was a short while later that he realized he needed to take on smaller challenges first and make some allies in the teaching community.  Michie suggests that providing the right content in the classroom can help promote a better learning environment.  He mentions that at times that undertow pull will grasp a first year teacher, but they must hold on to hope and pick their battles. With all this in mind, a teacher can continue their learning journey and go with the flow when necessary.

Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children – Rita Tenorio

This article has a main focus of how to bring up the topic of skin color in a classroom with elementary age students. Tenorio suggests that it can be done and should be done, because children as young as two have already been deeply impacted society.  She notes that teachers should always be aware that the influence of racism is embedded in students and themselves.  Her advice is to let the kids in on the conversation because they will have many questions. The latter half of the article describes activities that Tenorio has used in the classroom. The first was called a Me Pocket. The students receive a plastic sleeve and are asked to fill it with things that represent them. They also do an activity called Remembering Someone Special. Students are encouraged to bring items for a table to remember their loved ones and open up a discussion about them.  During the Let’s Talk About Skin talk students are asked to talk about mean things they have heard someone say about skin color and then role-play scenarios in how to respond to those comments. For a connection to science the students mix paint chips to match their skin tone.  The last activity that Tenorio mentions is a writing exercise in which students write a positive statement about their skin.  With these steps, students are a bit closer to understanding racial awareness and anti-racist ideas.

What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark? – Rita Tenorio

Tenorio reports that two inappropriate responses are to act too strongly towards a child or to assume they might not understand what they are saying.  She notes that these situations fit into the hidden /null curriculum and should be used as teachable moments.  This process can’t be done in one step, but should happen over many. She says the teacher must let the student know how those remarks made them feel and also give the other students an opportunity to talk about it.

Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations – Sudie Hofmann

Hofmann describes a sad event in her life that occurred because of a father’s day gift. Her daughter brought home a tie for her dead father and ended up being very frustrated in the end. She talks a lot about teachers being on top of knowing the family diversity of their classroom and not engaging in insensitive lessons.

Heather’s Moms Got Married – Mary Cowhey

Cowhey describes the family diversity in her grade two class. There are mixed couples, single parents, and LGBTQ couples. Even at a young age they realize that if all families don’t have equal rights then ‘that’s not fair’.  This elementary school was her first teaching assignment and a great place for growing.  Cowhey learned that family diversity is a beautiful thing.

Out Front – Annie Johnston

This article is about an out teacher who stresses the importance of acting as a role model or being a support station for LGBTQ youth.  She presents the task of implementing the queer curriculum into studies of every kind.  Another important point is to set an anti-homophobic standard in your classroom and try to get the other teachers on board as well.

Curriculum is Everything That Happens: An Interview with Veteran Teacher Rita Tenorio – Leon Lynn

This is a to the point interview about the issues new teachers will face in diverse environments. Tenorio speaks frankly in saying that there are many things that new teachers still need to learn after they finish school. New teachers need to work in a very political world and learn about the larger social forces. They need to break past stereotypes and get to know each student. She states that curriculum isn’t just the books, but is also the interactions and classroom dynamics. Her most important point is that new teachers need to make a network with other educators.

Working Effectively with English Language Learners – Bob Peterson and Kelley Dawson Salas

The two authors offer up the challenge of working with EAL students and various types of programs that one can find in different schools. They say the best form of communication is slow and clear. It is also best to spend a bit more time with the EAL learners and give them extra supports so that they are successful in class. One should also encourage them to continue to speak in their first language.

Teaching Controversial Content – Kelley Dawson Salas

In her master class, Salas developed many practise units on social justice topics. All of the students were proud of their plans, but were too afraid to implement them in the classroom. They had fears that they would be fired or receive some sort of retaliation from the higher ups. It is these insecurities that hold teachers back.  In Salas’ classroom, she taught a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. It was outside her social studies curriculum. The students enjoyed the unit and she didn’t receive any flak for it. Salas notes that you need to be prepared to justify your teachings. She says that you don’t always need to seek permission from parents. With every year you implement social justice into the curriculum, the easier it gets.

Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year – Dale Weiss

Dale was a first year teacher who made his initial bonds with staff on the picket lines of a union strike. During the holiday season, Weiss implemented teachings about various holiday traditions. He also has personal experience with the Jewish traditions. He noticed that the school was not very diverse in its traditions and only represented Christmas in the holidays. He brought his concerns to the administrator who addressed it at the staff meeting. This enraged a lot of staff and put a barrier between them. At one point he received a threatening letter in his mailbox. This was addressed at a committee meeting. Weiss expressed his viewpoint in a different way and actually won over some staff. Later on he reflected on his approach and realized that he should have taken feelings into considerations and addressed the topic at a less heated time. He still teaches for social justice, but also takes long time traditions into account before changing everything.

Tupper & Cappello, 2008 Article and Prompt

It is becoming clearer to me with every new piece of information that we are given in this class, that there is so much hidden racism. I also have been learning that I am a part of that racist culture. I remember back to my own school days and I can hardly pinpoint a time when we learned about treaty education. We are so dead set in these ‘usual’ narrative explanations that it is hard to see the point of view from someone else. Our common sense idea of Canada is taught to us and First Nations perspectives are put on the backburner or are addressed very minimally. The only time I remember even talking about the First Nation’s people in school was the Red River and Saskatchewan Rebellions. This education was lacking and I was only made aware when I took the Indigenous Studies class in my first year of university. There was so much other First Nation’s content that I had never known. The argument of this article is valid based on my own experience. Kids with little or no experience learning First Nation’s curriculum are ill educated and fall into the common sense. They need to see the racial context of the past and address it as a future generation. I wasn’t surprised at all by the preliminary research findings in this article. They reflect many schools. I can see myself attending many treaty workshops in the future and using Elders as an information resource. My knowledge base is so limited, but I am able and willing to learn more. I don’t want to be ignorant in a setting where I should have information and realizations about my own white privilege. I have so much more learning to do before I hit the classroom.