Labels. This word resonates with me more than any other during our short time in EPSY 400. We have discussed this word often in almost every education class I have taken so far. “Don’t label the students”, “Labels are harmful”, “Labels diminish the status of those that we place upon them”. These are familiar phrases that we ponder as we move forward in our training to become educators. However, I do not buy it. I am labelled. I have ADHD. I do not buy into the fact that labels diminish or harm a person. People hurt people. This sounds very basic, but it is true. The label ADHD does not affect me, it is the people who refuse to understand the gift that I have. Autism is not a label that defines a person, it is the people who deny that even with autism people can be brilliant and effective members of society. The labels do not change a person. However, the counterpoint is typically “If there were no labels, then people wouldn’t generalize people”. I agree, but in western culture is that even possible? Western culture labels EVERYTHING! I’m curious to see that when I have children there is not a label maker beside where they check the health of a newborn. It is mindset that needs to change. Either we need to get rid of labels, or get rid of the stigma behind the label. My vote is for removing the stigma. Labels assist us in understanding who we are. Without my ADHD label I was lost. I was changing jobs, depressed, suicidal. Then I discovered who I was. I will be honest. I tried to shed it at first. I didn’t want to be labelled, I wanted to be normal. But, it is when I embraced my label that I found myself. I understand myself better now that I have my label. I am proud of my label. Therefore, I feel that the mindset we need to change is that labels are harmful. The labels hold power when we let them hold power. It should not define someone, but empower them to explore their label and embrace it. I wear mine with pride. ADHD, brother, son, teacher. You should too. From LGBTQ to Austism to Gifted, everyone should wear their label. That is what makes you unique. That is the difference we can start from so I can look forward to getting to knowing you better. I have a label. Do you want to get to know me better?
An interesting link I’ve discovered between each of my classes that I’m taking in this final semester of my education is that stories are a great way to develop and teach content. I’ve learned about funds of knowledge and how the wealth of skills that a person develops over time comes from their life story. To the things they experience and the people they build relationships with, a person’s story is a great starting point for a lesson. I admit freely that I agree with this. However, I have to caution myself that I must remember to view the WHOLE story before making decisions about my instruction.
How does this connect to EPSY 217 and our blanket exercise you ask? The entire exercise is a story. If you have not had an opportunity to experience this exercise then please reach out to an educator for details. The exercise takes you on a journey to experience, not just read about, colonial history and the impact colonialism had on our Aboriginal people. Since the exercise is more about the experience, you begin to feel what the people felt, think critically on the actions of our forefathers, and build an understanding of the events of our past. In my opinion experiential learning provides more avenues for absorbing content than a typical direct instruction lesson. The blanket exercise envelopes you, it places you at the heart of the issue and makes one think about the problems that were in the past, now the present, and why they may have occurred. In a short time the blanket exercise takes you through a more complete history than any high school history class that I ever had the pleasure of sitting through. This exercise captures key events such as residential schools, small pox, treaties, and more. After completing the exercise one must take the time to reflect upon the story and be mindful of the experience.
As I take the time to reflect upon the experience I was able to share with with my EPSY 217 class, I ponder why are stories so prevalent now in white education. Education is moving towards an experience, rather than a world in which we just go to a building, and someone tells us the skills we should acquire to be a functional member of society. I find it fascinating that our world of education is slowly starting to pull from those that we oppressed for so long, our Aboriginal people. Storytelling is a primary way of how aboriginals share their knowledge. Throughout the blanket exercise I could not help but think that “we are now teaching through story, this is quite ironic”. There is so much power in teaching through story. The blanket exercise experience, even with the irony, has taught me why we should use story as a mode of instruction. Stories capture attention and provide imagery which engages the senses along with the mind. Stories require critical thinking skills as you must read between the lines to understand the message being provided. The blanket story may be very blunt, and the activity is very interactive, but the philosophy of storytelling is apparent. The exercise attempts to make you feel as people felt, think as they thought, live as they lived. The blanket exercise provides an authentic experience that does its best to not diminish the problems faced by our Aboriginal people.
Authenticity is an issue plaguing treaty education in our Saskatchewan schools. Token activities are typically done to ensure the box is checked, but do they truly educate our youth on the history of treaty? The blanket exercise fills a void for educators by providing students of all ages an opportunity to learn the history of treaty in an interactive and engaging manner. The beauty of this vehicle of learning is that it can be scaffolded upon to teach students concepts beyond the history. During #TreatyEdCamp, here at the University of Regina, I was fortunate enough to listen to two amazing speakers that pulled pieces of the blanket exercise into their subject areas. One of the speakers, Shauneen Pete, provided opportunities for authentic assessment using tools such as the blanket exercise. The exercise provides an opportunity to experience treaty and then reflect upon the scenario. She suggested that with the authentic experience you could utilize a traditional way of sharing knowledge, such as a story (yes, another link to story). The other speaker, Shana Graham, provided me with a mind blowing experience tying the blanket exercise to math education. Math is a subject of passion for me, so I was blown away that such a powerful exercise for teaching history could continue on through math. Concepts such as shape and space, perimeter, area, percents, and rates for example, could be taught using the blanket exercise as the foundational activity. Not only could students experience history, they would now have an opportunity to experience math. Beyond the experience is the fact it would be an authentic way of teaching treaty during math. No more tipi exercise! The blanket exercise provides a hands-on way of engaging students in treaty education and math. From there she discussed other traditional activities that link to math and it all started with the blanket exercise.
The blanket exercise is such a powerful experience and I’m very glad we did the activity as a class. Having done it before with a group of strangers it was interesting to see how having those you know around you changes the experience. Being with a group of fellow teacher candidates provided a different perspective for me, one that I see the power of this activity in my classroom. It was a great experience to be able to reflect upon with my colleagues and see and hear what they thought as educators. I am definitely going to attempt this activity in my own classroom. I had a key takeaway from my internship. It was that students enjoy learning through stories. Giving them a world to work in beyond the typical classroom inspires and engages students. This activity transports students into the world of treaty and I am excited to take this journey again. I cannot wait to walk alongside our future leaders as they explore and understand our spotted history with hopes of inspiring them to go forth and make change in our world.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to get back into the classroom at Dr. L.M. Hanna Elementary School.
I have provided an outline of my experiences at this page:
Check it out!
As a class we were fortunate enough to head to the Mackenzie Art Gallery and visit the Moving Forward, Never Forgetting exhibit currently on display. This exhibit is host to a variety of artworks that provide a sense of the impacts of Residential Schools and Colonialism on First Nations people. The works in the exhibit are powerful and invoke many different emotions as you walk through it. My journey through the exhibit also sparked many different feelings. For me the walk through the halls created almost a sense of sadness. Sadness, in the fact that I felt hate in some pieces as I moved past them. This feeling of hatred coming started me pondering “Are we moving backwards, instead of forwards?”, “Are the events that took place too hate filled that we can never out run them?”. I felt concerned that for all I’ve learned and all I’m working towards, it may be out of reach. For me, I’m working towards the creation of harmony. In order to move forwards we need to let go of the hate and embrace each other in love. I’ll admit that sounds a bit sappy, but it is the truth. Harmony is the resolution, I do not ask that we forgive and forget, but I think we need to understand and remember what happened and work hard to ensure events like this never happen again. This is true for all types of people, we need to accept everyone as human and embrace humanity as a whole before our futures can be realized.
Through the sadness I did feel a sense of healing even through the hatred. A piece that resonated with me is one that is depicted below. I was so enthralled with the works in the exhibit I forgot to get the name of the artist, so all credit goes to the artist for his work. This piece lifted that sadness and provided me with the moment I sought, serenity. This artwork created many questions for me. Not all emotionally charged I should add as well. I had practical questions such as “How did he create the piece so the shadows lined up perfectly?” to thoughtful questions “How can we create harmony, instead of putting our “stamp” on society?”.
When I looked at this piece I could sense the “stamp” that the settlers placed upon our First Nations people. The imprint of the Union Jack on the fur lining of the structure showed me the impacts of worldviews on society. What this sparked for me is that it is up to us, teachers of the current and future generations, to dispel the hatred and work towards that harmony. We need to help remove the “stamp” placed upon First Nations people and help them move forward. We also need to teach our students about these events and tell the true story, so we can never forget how worldviews have such a tremendous impact on our society and our future.
Having taken a break from Jack Toth’s “The Teacher Every Student Wants and Needs” it was time to dive back into it. I always look forward to these readings, yeah I know insane university student here, but this time I did not dive into it with the same fervor I had in the past. Lately, I’ve been feeling like the students in the story, misunderstood, a little lost, in need of guidance. It’s been very hard to reach for my gifts, abilities, and that desire to succeed. The fight to keep negative influence and procrastination out of my life. The drive is fading, but what I can appreciate is that because of my mentors and heroes I have the ability to reach deeper inward and fight harder than before.
The first take-away from Jack Toth’s story is that as educators we must be resilient and demonstrate to our student’s what resiliency is. We need to show our students how to conquer their inner demons and to do that we first must face our own inner demons. I’m beyond sad, that I cannot replicate my achievements of last semester. The system is against it. So I need to face the inner demon of giving up. I need to know how to face this challenge head on, so I can show my students how to fight through difficult times. I can’t give up. I could in the past, but this time is different. This time I believe in myself. I believe that I can and will make a difference. I wrote a post on why it is important to know who your heroes are. This is why I wrote it. Heroes show us that we have something to fight for and I believe that is what the teacher in the story is striving for.
Some of our students will not have positive role models in their lives. This positive influence makes such a huge difference and as an educator we must shoulder the heavy load of being that positive role model for our students. I have no problem doing that, but that load comes with a cost. As teachers we need to sacrifice personal time to ensure we are available for our students as often as possible. We sacrifice a personal privacy that other occupations receive. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been down that other path, I’ve had the option of leaving work at work, and the sacrifice I know that I should make while teaching is one that I know that it is worth it. In the novel we are shown first hand how if a teacher makes this sacrifice and opens themselves up to their students the impact is tremendous. As teachers we have more power than any other occupation to create the future of our world. We may not shape it completely, but we lay the foundation for the future.
This sacrifice isn’t without a downside. It will take a lot of time and energy. It will take a supportive spouse who understands that my students are an extension of my family. But how do we let students in without issues arising? How do we protect ourselves without becoming too guarded? In the novel we are shown that “Mr. Teacher” has to confront a female student outside of school about an issue in a low-risk environment, like a restaurant, due to the student having major issues in other aspects of life. The character discusses the potential issues and solutions, but I feel that this is a recipe for disaster. However, I appreciate the solution that was presented in the end. The character did everything the way I think I would have done. He talked to administration and had full support of the parents. I think this situation showed that as teachers we need to include everyone within the classroom in order to ensure we can open ourselves up as much as possible in order to reach our students. Admin and parents need to be involved and informed if we are to succeed in becoming the teacher every student wants and needs.
In reading this story I discovered so many parallels between it and my own life experiences. It was like looking in a window to my own soul. From front to back this story reminded me why I chose to change professions and go into education. It reminded me that I am on a lifelong journey of personal and professional learning. It reminded me of the power that teachers have and that we should not stand idly by while we can make a difference if we chose to accept it. If we choose to accept our gifts, abilities, and desire to succeed we can impart those believes on the future of our world. When we stand up for our students we can assist students in finding their true self and become what they truly want to become. But as the title states, no one ever said this was going to be easy. No one has informed us of the personal costs that may come of this career. No one has said that we will get every student to buy in to our messages. No one said that there are students that we will lose and the price paid may be the life of a student. In the end we are still human. We will make mistakes. We will allow emotion to affect our decisions and it may lead us in the wrong direction. But I’m willing to try. I’m willing to lay it all on the line for the chance to see at least one student find what they are looking for in themselves. Why? I made a personal choice to take the harder path. No one said it would be easy, and that’s fine by me.
“Political Education and Citizenship: Teaching for Civic Engagement” by Ken Osborne is an article that discusses how young people are not actively engaging in political and civic issues. The article presents an understanding that our education system is not doing its part in helping youth explore politics and civics. In reading the article I believe that as educators we can and must do more in order to bring more young people into the decision making process that affects our countries, cities, communities as a whole. Students are neither aware of the impacts of not participating nor do they have the knowledge to participate even if they wanted to. Osborne makes a very distinct notion that our education system seeks to teach students to become good people, but the system comes up short when teaching students to become good citizens. The notion that he describes, I believe, is correct. There is nothing wrong with wanting students to be good people. To be a good person one should obey the law and treat others as they would treat themselves. But, our nations and communities are missing out on the energetic and passionate opinions of our youth. Energy and passion that would assist in guiding our world to harmony.
When discussing the concept of good person versus a good citizen with our class I was surprised when most young people came from small communities, but did not have any knowledge of our political system. I grew up in a small town as well and I was encouraged to watch elections, explore political news, and keep tabs on how the government, both provincially and federally, were spending the dollars and cents of our country and province. I had a basic understanding of what left and right meant in the political arena. I apparently knew more than your average small town student. The problem that occurred later, when I was able to utilize my knowledge provided by my teachers, was I did not know how to use the knowledge. I did not understand that not voting did have an impact, but it sends the wrong message to those that are involved in the system. I did not know that by voting for my party of choice that it might help them win future elections and spark change in our world. I did not know that ticking that box on the voting card is only a small part of what I can do in order to challenge the decisions being made in our communities. I did not know that I could make a difference. This is what Osborne is talking about when he brings up the argument that we are teaching to have students be good people rather than being good citizens. Coming out of high school, I knew that I should follow the rules, speak when spoken to, work hard, and stay focused. However, I was never taught that I could make a difference. I think that is the cornerstone to being a good citizen. Understanding how you can affect change, knowing that it is possible for you to help guide the decisions being made. Being a good person is knowing that you could make a change, being a good citizen is rising up and making change happen.
Good citizenship stretches beyond the realm of politics and into our own social lives. Clubs, committees, boards, governing bodies of sports organizations, all relate to citizenship. A good citizen will actively take part and help make change rather than one who just participates and uses the services provided by the organization. As educators we have the tools and the stage capable of reaching out to our students and helping them find out what it means to be a good citizen. So what does it mean to be a good citizen? I believe being a good citizen has a different meaning for each individual. Different meaning creates complications because each student will have different opinions, but that is exactly what we want them to have. We want students to have differing ideals of what it means to be a citizen, not just a good citizen, but a citizen in general. That, in my opinion, is the first step towards helping students understand that they think differently than others and have different ideas on how to solve problems. Thinking differently is where you can start becoming active in your club, communities, province, or country. Students need to understand that being different and thinking differently is a good thing. If everyone followed the same path, and thought the same thoughts, how would we make any progress? Osborne states that “The more fundamental problem is that by high school, students come to see schooling for what society has made it: a custodial credentialling machine in which education becomes little more than the accumulation of credits.” The first step in solving this problem is encouraging students to think. Not only to think, but to think differently. To challenge everything and anything until they understand the problem, teaching, whatever it is, the way they are comfortable with. Citizens need to challenge things and not just accept the status quo, unless they know why they are accepting and agreeing with it. Good people accept good things, good citizens challenge each notion and accept things only when they agree with it or understand why the notion exists. After students become comfortable with thinking upon citizen decisions they need to learn how to communicate their thoughts in an appropriate manner so people can listen.
Another facet of the realm of citizenship that I did not know about until my 4th year of business school was about lobbying. I did not know there were so many organizations vying for the attention of our politicians. I did not know there were so many people who were passionate about the same issues I was passionate about and who were doing something about it. A good citizen challenges the decisions being made, but in a healthy and constructive manner. Understanding how to communicate your thoughts is something we do teach in schools, but I feel like we never really allow students to be passionate about their writing. As educators, we mark their grammar and ensure they stayed on the topic being discussed, but we do not encourage passion. We do not say to a student that they should explore an interesting paper on the political parties in Canada. We do not encourage students to talk to a lobbying group to gain a better understanding of how they can save the trees, the whales, stop the oil sands, or whatever they believe in. We do not provide enough outlets for our students to channel their beliefs. I honestly, however, do not know why. Why are we not encouraging active citizenship? We encourage sitting in desks quietly, we encourage good study habits and good grades, but more often than not, from my experience, I’ve seen educators stifle the opinions of their students. Another circumstance of teaching students to be good people and not teaching them to be good citizens. What happens when the realm of citizenship extends beyond the borders of our countries, even our world, into a digital space?
In our digital world or society humans, our students form a large part of this user base, are able to interact with each other at lightning speeds. The digital world has sped up everything a citizen is a part of. These digital citizens make decisions faster because knowledge can be obtained within a few keystrokes, opinions are shared quicker because people can post their feelings on message boards that can be read all over the world, things are happening much faster and on a much grander stage. In teaching our students to become good citizens I believe we can help our students navigate the digital nation that is forming. Students need to understand how decisions are made so they can help challenge them. They need to know how to share their opinions and feelings so that they do not harm not only themselves, but others as well. There are many parallels between the real world and the digital world and we need to take charge sooner rather than later in educating our students in being good citizens so they can convert that knowledge into being a good digital citizen. Providing students with metacognitive functions, being able to monitor and reflect on something, being able to understand why something is happening is part of being a good citizen. That is something we need in our digital world and that is something I believe as educators we will start to bring forward. The future is in that digital realm and using digital tools to interact is fast becoming commonplace in our schools and workplaces. As educators we now have the opportunity to show our students that you can be a good person and a good citizen. We can encourage our students to share their beliefs and values. We can help them understand their beliefs and values. It all starts with us, as educators, as we have the tools and the forum to usher in a new era of citizenship. However, it is on us to do the same as our students and I know that is a difficult journey. But it will be one that will be well worth it when we see our students making changes for the betterment of the world of tomorrow.
In looking at the significant history that is woven into the Witness Blanket it was hard choosing an artifact that resonated with me. I wanted to find something that spoke to me as a pre-service teacher, but I also wanted to find something that spoke to me as a person. As a person of white privilege, but also as one that is learning about the stories woven into the blanket.
I chose the hockey skates pictured above as the artifact that spoke to me. As a member of white society I have had the opportunity of playing hockey since I was 5 years old. I spent more time on the ice than anywhere else. When I look at the picture I see young people that form a group of individuals of diverse backgrounds coming together to work towards a common goal. I see at the base of the photo that they were a team of youth that had their challenges, but the ultimate goal of fun was always achieved. It is in this picture that I see that through all the hardships of residential schools there were good times. There were times where even though the individual identity was lost there were groups that came together. It shows that there are common bonds that connect all of us. If we look through the window panes of the past we can see that we share something in common with all people. We all share the thoughts that we all love to have fun, that we all love games, and that we can all work towards a common goal of harmony and happiness.
There are many painful stories of the residential school era, but I greatly enjoyed that through all of it, that children were able to experience some joy in a sport that I still have a great connection to this day. In looking at this picture I felt a tug, a pull of connection to these people in the timeless display. It gives me hope that we can eventually come to the state of harmony if we set aside aside our differences and embrace the team aspect shown in the photo. If we become the group of individuals with diverse backgrounds that work together towards a common goal I know we can achieve fun, happiness, and harmony.
As I continue to journey deeper into “The Teacher Every Student Wants and Needs” by Jack Toth, I keep getting pulled back into my pre-internship experience. I keep getting sucked back into the classroom where the students have some similarities to the ones depicted in the text. On the surface these students may seem like challenging teenagers, but if we choose to dig deeper it can be scary what we find. But we have to dig deeper. We have to truly know our students if we are to be successful in the classroom. This is the biggest take-away I had in reading chapters 3 through 5.
In these chapters we find that we need to build significant relationships with our students in order to challenge them to become the critical thinkers and lifelong learners that we want them to be. It is not enough to have that surface relationship where everything could be all sunshine and rainbows. We need to dig deeper and discover the inner being that forms the true student. This true student is the person we are teaching. It is the one that may not have slept the night before because their parents were up all night fighting. It is the student that could be having suicidal thoughts because they think they do not and cannot make a difference. It is in these dark places that we must go as educators because sometimes we may be the only ones at the time that are willing to go there.
In trying to dig deeper and discover the inner student we also need to dig deeper within ourselves to understand who we are and what we want to be as an educator. I greatly appreciate the text when it states “If you don’t respect yourself, how can you respect me?”. It is difficult to teach respect when you cannot respect yourself. If you do not believe the message why should your students? The same could be said even for content curriculum. If you, as the educator, do not connect with the content how can you expect your students to? How can you take your students on a journey of self discovery when you cannot discover or reflect upon yourself? These metacognitive processes are important to us and our students and without digging deeper within ourselves it is difficult to dig deeper and become that critical thinker and lifelong learner.
I want to touch briefly on something that struck a chord with me. This time it is something I deeply disagree with. Many psychologists continue to state “If we keep diagnosing students with learning disabilities we label them and pigeon-hole these students”. As a student and educator with ADHD it’s time we speak out on this. I can speak only on ADHD, but it is not a label. It is not my be all and end all defining characteristic. It is part of me. It does define how I approach different situations, but it does not make the decisions for me. I’m still a person, I just now understand what type of person I am and how I react to certain things. So bring on the label then because I know who I am because of it. I am able to dig deeper and understand myself better because of it. I know who I am because I chose to seek that label and I understand my gift. These people who call them labels that are trying to get rid of these terms are the ones that are keeping the labels in play. If you do not want the labels to exist, then do not call them labels. I will concede that the text makes a very good point that they are behaviours and not disorders. This is true, but if we continually strike fear into educators and other professionals that learning disabilities are a bad thing and a label that defines an individual then we are not digging deeper and finding the true person. These “labels” are a mission for someone to start to dig deeper about themselves so they can understand how they learn and can help educators and professional understand them. It is a way of saying we are all different and require different ways of teaching and understanding. So instead of saying “get rid of the labels” why are we not saying “embrace the terms, discover who you are!”.
As I continue to dig deeper into this text, I keep digging deeper into myself. I keep finding new things about my teaching and new ways of educating my future students. I greatly appreciate this text as it is like looking into a slate glass pool of water and seeing my future classroom. This text reflects upon my philosophy of education and I’m excited to continue to read this text and dig deeper into the world of educating students they way I truly intend to. By listening to them and hearing their voice. By understanding them as best I can and helping them find their path.
Image credit to: http://dreamatico.com/darkness/5/ Thank you for posting such an amazing picture on your site!
In reading Jack Toth’s “The Teacher Every Student Wants and Needs” I am instantly pulled back into my first semester pre-internship field experience. Fortunately I did not have to go through such a traumatic experience as the narrator does, there were no funerals, but I did come away with a sense that what every student really wants is to be understood and heard.
The first two chapters of this book seem to be setting up this philosophy of education and it is one I truly stand by. Relationships with students is the foundation for success in educating our youth. It is not about “speaking their language” or trying to imitate their fashion choices, but it is about having your ears open and mouth closed for once. It is about having the mindfulness to learn and listen to their experiences. It is about having the compassion to allow yourself to live their lives through them. Hurt when they hurt and smile when they smile.
In chapter one we are introduced to some of the students that this educator is dealing with. We also are introduced to the educator and how he is feeling about the upcoming school year. A personal hero of mine once said “If you’re not nervous about an upcoming lesson, you’re probably going into the wrong profession”. We need discomfort in order to rise to the challenge and reach our potential. It is in discomfort we learn. And that is what I take away from chapter one of this story. In his discomfort the teacher is beginning to learn that we need to connect with our students before we can educate them. We need to achieve comfort in discomfort with our students.
In chapter two the teacher continues in his quest to build relationships with his students and we are introduced to some more troubled youth. It is becoming apparent that trouble can be easy to spot on the surface of some people, but there could be major issues below the surface that may not be apparent. This is true with our future classroom of students. This diversity of trouble will exist, even more so what may seem like trouble to them, may not seem like trouble to us, as educators, but we need to be compassionate and live through these experiences with our students. I greatly appreciated this chapter as the educator starts to do something that it seems that some educators are terrified of doing. He pushes his students. He challenges them to rise up and face their fears. He does what every teacher should do, he shows his class that he is human and has gone through some troubles himself. He shows that he has found comfort in discomfort. He also learns that some are receptive to his advice and there are others that may take some time to reach.
I am excited to read further as I feel the direction things are headed in is, I believe, for educating youth is persistence. We need to be persistent in our pursuit to challenge youth and helping them find comfort in discomfort. In the context of Social Studies and our current society we need to all find comfort in discomfort. We need to use that in order to learn more about our fellow man. Things like treaty education are perfect vehicles to learn about the cultural viewpoint of our First Nations people and apply our learnings to other cultural issues. We can learn from our own discomfort close to home in order to better ourselves and help out in other troubling situations. This story resonates with me and when I reflect upon the content I agree whole heartedly with the message I am starting to see on the surface. The teacher every student wants and needs is one that cares.
As our semester comes to a close here my closing thoughts on a life changing experience:
Credit once again to Dreamatico: http://dreamatico.com/sky/3/