Addressing Gender, Sexuality and Race in Our Identities

We created an autobiography for ECS 210 and we are now looking back on them and reflecting on what we included and what we did not.  We were asked: “What does it mean that you did not address your gender, or your sexuality or your racialization as important or constituitive of your identity?”  I did talk about the privilege I receive from being white and also from being Aboriginal, but I did not mention my gender or my sexuality.  Now that I think about it, I’m quite shocked that I didn’t mention the fact that I was female in my paper.  I have been a feminist for a few years now and I feel empowered being a woman. I think this comes directly from my assumption that these facts are “common sense” based on how I write and the dominant narrative.  This sounds absolutely horrible, but the message of this “common sense” model is definitely not what I intended to put across in my paper.  This is very interesting to think about because Kumashiro writes, “the goal is not to rid our classroom of harmful hidden messages since such a goal is unattainable” (pg. 41).  I feel the pressure already of saying the wrong things or portraying an oppressive idea through the hidden curriculum, but Kumashiro is suggesting that our students need to develop a critical lens to make sense of these hidden messages.  This allows students to think deeper about what they are being taught and it also encourages them to bring up questions that you may not have thought of before.

Name: Ashley

Gender: Female

Race: White, First Nations

Sexuality: Heterosexual

These are not typically the things we find out about people when we first met them.  This partially stems from the fact that a lot of us do not share our life stories right from the beginning.  I have to feel comfortable around someone before I share personal things about myself.  This might be a result of the fact that I feel better in my comfort zone and that I’m reluctant to go outside of that zone.  Kumashiro writes,  “After all, our hidden lessons demonstrate how it is that oppression can play out in our lives unnoticed and unchallenged, and our lenses of analysis demonstrate why it is that we often desire making sense of the world in only certain, comforting ways” (pg. 41).  This quote stuck out at me while reading this because I need to really think about how I make sense of the world and why I choose to live in more comforting ways.  The only way I will truly become comfortable is by doing the things that make me uncomfortable.

How do you identify yourself to others? How do you encourage students to use this critical lens that Kumashiro mentions?

Technology and Social Justice?

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When I was in elementary school, the only thing we needed technology for was learning to type and researching topics.  New technologies over the years have opened up countless opportunities to engage learners and teach in different ways.  I believe that the changed nature of learning and the rise of technology is related to social justice anti oppressive education because we can connect to a larger audience to receive guidance and feedback.  Teachers use internet sites like Pinterest to get teaching ideas and they could also reach out to a community of educators through forums and Twitter.  Educators can connect with millions of people all over the world to create a support group or to have a discussion about ideas.  Collaboration is a big thing for education and the fact that you can post and access teaching materials is pretty great.  The internet offers another way to seek out help and support for your teaching goals towards social justice and anti-oppressive education.

We can use different technology tools to create digital stories with anti-oppressive content.  In my previous post about treaty education, Claire’s students used apps like Puppet Pals to portray their versions of the signing of Treaty #4.  The students also created songs and podcasts, which I assume was done by Garageband.  These projects offer a more engaging and fun way to learn about content in the classroom.  This also makes learning more memorable and we as educators should strive to make anti-oppressive content relevant and fresh in students’ minds.  Using the internet and other technology tools allows students and teachers to have their content seen and commented on by a much larger community.  These anti-oppressive ideas and projects will keep educators and others around the world aware and inspired to do the same in their own classrooms or households.

How do you think technology and new modes of learning are related to social justice and anti-oppressive education?

How Stories Shape Our Lives

Part one of my ECS 210 assignment was to summarize 10 articles in “The New Teacher Book” and part two was to critically respond to the resonances and the dissonances in one or more articles.

Part One 

Part Two:

I chose to reflect on the article called, “Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club” by Rita Tenorio.  As a child, I was raised around people of all colours, including my own family.  One side of my family is mainly Aboriginal, another side is mainly white, my neighbours were Chinese, and a few of our family friends were Jamaican.  I realized, through this article, that a lot of children were not exposed to as many diverse people as I was.  The article says that, “we have to acknowledge that we live in a racist society and that children typically mirror the attitudes of that society”.   Although a lot has changed from when our parents were kids, people that are my age still tend to be racist, so I hope that through anti oppressive teaching, the next generation will be even more accepting of differences.

Reflecting back on my schooling in elementary school, I realized that we never really did talk about race and differences.  We learned about First Nations history, but we did not recognize physical differences between the classroom and the larger community.  I feel like education was more about creating a classroom where everyone was seen the same and treated the same.  Now, we are focusing more on how we are different and why we think that way.  I think a classroom that encourages diversity is way more effective than thinking that everyone is the same because none of us are the same.  We have different family lives, different skin colours, different hobbies, different learning abilities, etc.  The list goes on!  Whenever I had to draw a character in elementary school, I would always colour them peach.  I even referred to this pencil crayon as the “skin-coloured” one.  I find this quite interesting since I am far away from being “peach” coloured.  Even when I was in the older grades of elementary school, I still drew white characters and wrote about white characters.  If we learned about our differences in the classroom, I might have drawn a Native American person or an African American person.  My dad refers to me as “Heinz 57” because I have so many different layers of culture and race; I am Aboriginal, Ukrainian, French, Scottish (I think) and so many more that I can’t keep track of.  Most of us today do not identify as one thing because we have so many different components of ourselves.

We watched this video in ECE 325 the other day and I think it is very relevant to what I’m talking about in this blog post.  It brings these anti oppressive ideas into action.  They compare skin colour and hair textures, they have conversations about different races and they build a tolerance to all people.  The part that I really liked was when the teacher showed her students pictures of animals dressed up as Native Americans and actual pictures of Native Americans.  The students were able to pick out the stereotypical attributes in the animals, like the fact that not all Native Americans wear feathers on their heads.

One of the activities the children did in this article was first to put their hands onto the table to recognize the different colours of the students.  Later on, they would mix paints together to try and match their own skin colours.  A student in this article said, “We put black, white, red and yellow [together].  I like the colour of my skin”.  After reading this activity, I decided to try and do the same with my skin colour.  I used five coloured pencil crayons: Arizona Topaz, Roan Red, Soft Peach, Cotton White and Chestnut.  I was amazed at how many colours I had to use in order to somewhat match my own skin colour.  As mentioned before, if I ever had to draw myself, I would automatically take out the peach-coloured pencil crayon.  I find the fact that some people refer to themselves as pink, brown or black is quite interesting now that I have read this article because based on the experiences written in the article and on my own experience, we are not all one colour.  Even people from the same racial groups have different colours because we are not all the same.

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A “bump” that I thought of while reading this is the content in an anti bias classroom may challenge the beliefs of families.  I know of a lot of parents that are still not accepting of different races and sexualities, especially the parents of the children of my generation.  I feel like they have these old fashioned ideals from when they were younger and it is definitely hard to try and make them see and appreciate how far we have come with the acceptance and encouragement of all people.  Some of us may have been influenced by our parents to think in these oppressive ways.  I think the problem I would have is how to approach a family that has such different views from you.  Both parties would have completely opposing views and you cannot just compromise on issues of racism and sexism.  I do not want to force my ways onto these families, but at the same time, I want to build this anti oppressive classroom where everyone is on the same page.  This may be an unrealistic dream because there will be some opposed to the ways I want to structure my classroom.

Another thing that conflicts me is the fact that not all schools receive as much support as this one does.  In the article, “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year”, the teacher felt like an outsider because he tried to change the ways in how the school decorates for Christmas because not all students celebrate Christmas.  A lot of staff members were angered by this and thus did not support or encourage this individual.  This is all because people today are very sensitive about their traditional and usual ways of doing things.  In order to feel comfortable with teaching controversial issues and collaborating with others, you need to build a support system of educators.  Without this, you may feel alone and terrified to create an anti oppressive classroom and curriculum.  I’m scared that I would get hired in a school with educators that did not support my ideas or without anyone to talk to for advice, especially as a first year teacher.

In conclusion, I think that including issues of race and recognizing differences is very important to have in a classroom.  These children will grow up with different ways of thinking and will be able to recognize why everyone is different.  I think it is also beneficial for adults to educate themselves on anti oppressive teaching because it has been very valuable learning to me and several of my classmates.  In the video I posted above, there was a scene where a child asked what was wrong with a woman that was in a wheelchair.  The mother quickly apologized and ran off.  I think this is a perfect example of how not educating children on differences can result in these awkward moments.  The mother could have, instead, explained to her daughter why wheelchairs are needed or maybe the woman in the wheelchair would have been okay with explaining what happened.  Having conversations with children about differences will encourage acceptance and will open their eyes to the fact that our differences are what make us unique.

Treaty Education

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Claire Kruger’s presentation on treaty education was very interesting and inspiring. I think the thing that popped out at me right away was when she said, “we signed a treaty to share the land. Keyword: share”. Through technology, the students shared their ideas. The ways that these students expressed their learning of this concept was amazing and creative. It goes to show how historical content can be fun for students with the right tools. Another thing I loved was the fact that this program highlighted the fact that we are all treaty people and you don’t need a status card to be a treaty person. This creates a space of equality because this is a commonality among all students in the classroom.

The integration of technology was also very exciting for me. I learned a lot about educational technology last year in ECMP 355, but seeing some of these apps and technology tools come to life with young children is absolutely amazing. I’ve also had a strong interest in integrating technology into my future classroom, so these ideas are helpful!

How have you integrated treaty education and technology into your classrooms?

A History of Education

This blog post is based on the reading, A History of Education by Painter.  This writing prompt will attempt to answer: What does race mean in this textbook? What does it mean that teachers are being taught to think in racial terms? What are the effects of teaching teachers to think in this way? The first thing I noticed about this article was the language and tone it was written in.  Since this article was written in 1886, there are obvious differences from articles today. I found it more difficult to read and understand because it was written in a different time.  I hope I don’t misinterpret some of the content, but if I do, you will know why!  Even though we are talking about race in this article, I thought it would be important to identify gender inequality with the use of the word “manhood”.  Whenever the author would talk about humans, the word “man” or “manhood” was used, which is a good identifier of the fact that it was written in the late 1800s.

In the introduction, Painter uses the word “race” to explain the human race, which is strange because the author uses the word in completely different contexts throughout the article.  At the end of the introduction, it is mentioned that “uncivilized peoples” are not included because their lives are “too primitive”.  Who was the author talking about in this instance?  We definitely would not be talking about how a group of people are “uncivilized” in our textbooks now.

The second time the word “race” was used was to recognize the Mongolian race.  A lot of stereotypes and  assumptions are talked about in the article: “They are hypocritical and dishonest ; and, once in authority, they are apt to become tyrannical, and even cruel”.  The author even talks about how they have had little progress with civilization and that they have “evident imperfections”.  Along with this, the article explains Chinese culture as the classics.

Painter explains that education in India would be of greater interest to us because they have “the same blood as ourselves” (Indo-European).  The article also says that people from India are easy prey because of their inoffensive character.  This goes on to explain that the English are influencing social, political and religious changes.  The article mentions that their divinities are strange and peculiar.  The author refers to their ideals as selfish because, “The highest religious aspiration is to be absorbed into the great, unconscious world-spirit”.

I feel like this article just encouraged the idea of othering people from different racial backgrounds.  Some positive things were said about China and India, but a lot of it explained how they were strange or uncivilized.  Following this curriculum textbook could result in teachers being very close minded and not open to new cultures because they seem selfish or weird.  It could also result in oppression because the article refers to some people as “uncivilized” and teachers could believe that to be true from reading this in the 1900s.  I think this textbook is more focused on recognizing differences than celebrating differences.  In our classrooms today, we strive to encourage our differences and embracing the different traditions we practice.

What is Common Sense and Why is it Important?

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This week in ECS 210, we were asked to respond to the following questions: How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense’. Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?  Kumashiro talks about and defines common sense in multiple ways.  In the end, it is all about what everyone considers “normal” and the expected practices, fuelled by social pressures.  He also explains that common sense gives us some sense of comfort because it helps make sense of our everyday lives.  This might be comforting, but norms privilege certain groups and identities.  Going further with social pressures, he discusses that common sense tells us what schools should be doing, and not what they could be doing.  He also talks about how protests against common sense are dismissed as irrelevant, inconsequential or inappropriate.  In this way, I feel like common sense is ruling our lives–it is almost like we don’t even have a say in what we feel is normal.  These ‘norms’ are definitely dominant and are social constructs.

So why is it important to pay attention to this idea of ‘common sense’?  I think there are endless reasons on why we should be more conscious of this term and on how we should think of the meaning of this term.  Kumashiro’s experience in Nepal is an example of differing common senses, culturally.  He liked to clean and realized that water was only located in the centre of the bazaar.  He also realized that different needs (showering, dishes, water jugs, etc.) were tended to at certain times of the day.  I think this tells us that we need to be aware of the difference of cultures, customs and daily lives in order to teach students in ways that tend their own particular needs, instead of being stuck on our own ideas of common sense.  This is also relevant when the students in his classroom told him that he wasn’t teaching right because his ideas were not strictly lecture-practice-exam.  It is very important to recognize these differences, also, because the Peace Corps had a failure to critique their own assumptions about how the U.S. were superior compared to Nepal.  Although it was not a goal to be oppressive, it definitely came across that way.

Since we are on the topic of oppression, I want to address how ideas of common sense and normalcy contribute to this.  When teachers in the Peace Corps went to places like Nepal, they would put off the message that the American way is the best way.  They were pretty much trying to assimilate these students into American culture, without even knowing it.  With this idea of common sense, students could think that they are unworthy or abnormal because they don’t relate to these ideals.  That is the scary thing.  You think that you are doing great things like bringing different approaches of teaching to other parts of the world (the main goal of Peace Corps), but you could also be oppressing others.  What bugs me about all of this is the fact that we have made it okay to oppress and discriminate because it is ‘common sense’.  Oppression is not recognized because common sense has convinced us that schools are neutral and non-oppressive.  This is absolutely ridiculous because this article has proved this idea to be the opposite.  I think that we need to carefully think about our goals and intentions because they may end up in a negative situation.  With this knowledge now, I think that we could become more conscious, open minded and genuine teachers.

Kumashiro says that values and priorities are embedded in approaches to teaching and learning.  Does this mean that our values are to oppress and to push our own ideas of what’s normal onto others?