When I was in high school, I thought teaching was easy. A teacher shows up, tells you about the subject of the class that you are in, and then you move to the next class. You either understand what is going on, or you don't. And if you don't understand, then you ask for help from the teacher. HOWEVER- now that I am in the education program, I have learned that teaching is much harder than I thought. THERE IS A LOT OF WORK.
Let me explain:
Teaching is not about creating lesson plans and having the best tools or resources to use with their students. Teaching is about inclusion, differentiation, and patience. Ayers draws the perfect scenario about the process of teaching two different students. Student A quickly understands the concept of subtraction and is able to apply what she has learned with little assistance:
And then there are students like Student B:
Planning, preparing, and implementing lesson plans are key, but a teacher can have the best lesson plans, have excellent classroom management skills, and deliver instruction, but are lousy teachers. Thus, it is not that a set of techniques or skills that makes a great teacher, but rather the teacher's ability to engage students, interact with them, and bring life to the subject matter that they are teaching. As Ayers writes, "greatness in teaching is always in pursuit of the next challenge, the next encounter...greatness demands an openness to the new and the unique. For great teachers, it must always be 'here I go again'" (Ayers, p.97). Teaching is a profession that should not be structured to educate students the same way every time. Great teaching is different and inclusive, and should be the fundamental element in every school. All schools should make continuous improvement a priority, nourish students and have high expectations, and be unique in regards to the work and teaching strategies in classrooms. In a way, teaching IS a mystery because you will never know what is going to happen next during class time (unless, of course, you have the lesson plan).
The chapter discusses standardized testing- a topic argued about quite often, especially in PED3150. I was reading this chapter with the mindset of being a supporter of standardized tests. After reading this chapter, however, I am uncertain how I feel about standardized testing.
"Standardized tests are plagued with intractable problems, they're inherently biased, distorting the performance of people who are culturally or linguistically different, regardless of ability, intelligence, or achievement."
And this statement is 100% true. Reading this statement made me think about how it must feel like for someone who did not grow up in Canada to try and complete a standardized test based around Canadian culture/politics/language/economics. Or even the opposite- how I would feel trying to complete a standardized test in a new country that I move to.
What I thought was frustrating about this chapter is when the principals speak to Mr. Ayers about his student's performance, which results in having the class split into three different groups. I strongly disagree with using standardized testing scores to differentiate children and automatically assume that the kids placed in the "lower" group are not intelligent. Standardized tests should only be used to measure the understanding of certain concepts (like math or English) in schools. It should NOT be used to divide students based on their scores.
It seems that the important ideas to inquire regarding curriculum are ones that involve students. Instead of teaching curriculum, attempting to engage the students with the curriculum expectations is what Ayers tries to explain. In this chapter, he states a few questions such as "are there opportunities for discovery and surprise?", or "are students actively engaged with primary resources and hands-on material?" or, "is the work linked to student questions of interest?". These questions aim to have students critically think about their learning experience. And I agree. This approach is better than reading a textbook and having students simply follow along. It allows students to be involved in their learning and not have to sit through a lecture.
Although the curriculum is dry, it does not have to be portrayed this way to students. What I like about the curriculum is the flexibility it gives educators. Teachers can approach lessons in various ways to make it interesting. There is no right structure for how to teach, which enables teachers to be as creative and engaging as possible in order to spark interest in their students. I guess what Ayers is trying to say is- don't be boring, be new, innovative, and have fun while trying to teach the curriculum to students.
When I first heard the title of this book, I thought actual Indians. Like the Indians who live in the South Asian country with a diverse terrain and the second most-populous world in the country. But then I saw the art on the cover of the book and realized what I was getting my self into.
I loved this book. It reminded me of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney that I used to (and still might) read.
Alexie's novel is captivating and brilliant in many ways. The story dictates the life of the narrator, a Native American teenager named Arnold Spirit Jr., detailing his life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The novel starts off with Arnold mentioning that he was born with hydrocephalus and thus is small and suffers from seizures. Throughout the book, readers experience Arnold's lifestyle such as learning that his family is poor (a condition he attributes to being a Native), his awkward personality, and his love for basketball. The story is saddening, but with a comedic twist as Arnold tries to stay positive and make something of himself to prove that he can be anything he wants. Arnold struggles with typical adolescent issues like bullying, self esteem, girls, and masturbation, but what seems to make all of this worse for him is poverty and the isolation of his reservation from everyone else. I found it interesting to read a comedic version of this perspective and think that Alexie wrote it this way to shed some light onto a dark reality for FNMI populations.
What I found intriguing was the character of Mr. P, a White geometry teacher who regrets "beating the Indian out of the children" in his years of teaching. Mr. P ends up with a broken nose because Arnold throws a book at him, which leads to Mr. P making a home visit to Arnold's house. The best part of their discussion was the following:
"If you stay on this rez," Mr. P said, "they're going to kill you. I'm going to kill you. We're all going to kill you. You can't fight us forever."
"I don't want to fight anybody," I said.
"You've been fighting since you were born," he said. "You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope."
I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply my hope.
"Where is hope?" I asked. "Who has hope?"
"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation."
This was my favourite part of the book because it provided Arnold with hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation. I believe all teachers should provide this type of support to all students and encourage them to strive for the best.
"I ASK YOU TO IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT THE EXPERIENCE OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES IN CANADA. IMAGINE THAT FOR HUNDREDS OF YAERS YOUR PEOPLES' MOST FORMATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS AND TRAUMAS, THEIR DAILY SUFFERING AND PAIN, THE ABUSE THEY LIVE THROUGH, THE TERROR THEY LIVE WITH, ARE IGNORED AND SILENCED."
- Marie Battiste, p. 23
I remember many of the main topics that were discussed in my grade 10 history class: WWI and WWII. I also remember learning about how the United States of America treated their Indigenous population very poorly, but merely scratching the surface of Canada's treatment to Aboriginal people.
Watching 'We Were Children' and reading Chapter 2 of Marie Battiste's Decolonizing Education has impacted me emotionally because I feel as though I have been cheated by not being informed of the forced assimilation and marginalization of First Nations peoples in Canada.
Canada is known internationally as a peace maker. A country that accepts all people regardless of their faith, religion, colour, and social class. This is something that is constantly taught to us in school, so why not also include some aspects of Aboriginal culture that has actually contributed to making Canada? I think the hardest part about reading this is trying to figure out why this all happened in the first place.
However, some light has been shed upon this topic. Canada is not perfect, as no country is. But the situation has improved drastically (I would say) since residential schools were considered the norm. It's sad to know that the last residential school was closed in 1996, but they no longer exist and that is what's important.
I feel as though I am not prepared enough to teach FNMI (First Nations, Metis, and Inuit) history and culture, but I am confident that these small steps to understanding the history of Indigenous populations is an excellent first step for future changes (that I hope will occur) in the Ontario curriculum. It is time that we celebrate the accomplishments of FNMI people and rebuild relationships by connecting and emphasizing this history in the classroom.
We Were Children is a powerful documentary about two survivors named Lyna and Glen who attended a residential school for what their guardians thought was 'better' for them.
I have never been so frustrating while watching a film.
"The savage doesn't believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness" is a line that was often repeated at the beginning of the documentary after viewers see that Lyna has arrived at the residential school. It is NOT okay to call anyone a savage for their cultural practices and be able to get away with it. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper followed a similar route by introducing his Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.
It was scary to see this documentary because of the way that Lyna and Glen told their stories. In the residential schools, viewers learn that the Indigenous people were punished for speaking their own language because "English is God's language." Students were physically punished using whips, emotionally punished by being locked away, and psychologically punished by sexual assault. Why? Because "we the civilized world want to save you from a certain death." Unbelievable. Students were given numbers (Lyna was number 99), and their physical appearance was changed so that they no longer looked or could be identified with their cultural roots. These residential schools stripped away anything they had before arriving. I was outraged when one of the girls said to Lyna that she was washing her hands a lot because she 'isn't white enough' and that means she's dirty. The schools also had a painting on the wall to remind the children that their ancestors are in Hell and the goal of life is to get to Heaven- this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
I was happy to see that one of the sisters found Glen in the basement and screamed at the two priests who were doing such horrible things to him and the girl in the other locked room. What Glen said is true- what kind of God do they have that let them hurt other people? I can't believe that they sent the nun away for trying to speak up for Glen.
"Priests wouldn't do that" is a line that Lyna says, and she's right. If a priest is to follow a religion accordingly, then he shouldn't be raping little boys and girls.
Sister Mary is kind and I was happy that she took the young girls to the kitchen and fed them properly. It is sad to see that it took Lyna having to steal food to obtain the attention of the nuns and show them that they are not being fed well. Sister Mary was the hope in the hopeless school as she tried to be nicer to the kids throughout the documentary compared to others.
The overall treatment of these children was horrendous and should never occur to anyone again. It is heartbreaking to know that residential schools still exist around the world. I am happy to know now that the last residential school was closed in 1996- but this seems way too late. These schools should have been closed hundreds of years ago. I am glad they are no longer legal.
Let me start off by saying that Canada is a beautiful and blessed country. We are living in a country where we do not need to worry about whether or not we will have dinner on the table, nor do we worry about where we will sleep tonight, and never will we question our safety like refugees. I hate hearing people complain about being in Canada because they do not know and will never know what it feels like to be a refugee.
My family is from Syria, a country in the Middle East that continues to be torn apart. A country powered by dictatorship and 'rightful' ruling of government simply because of blood relations. No person qualifies to be the next president of Syria, unless of course, your last name is Assad. But who cares about the land anymore? And who cares about the person in power and the government? The issue now lies in the exponentially growing number of internationally recognized refugees and their struggles hereinafter. Canada is a remarkable country and leader in regards to humanitarian action and services available to refugees.
'Everybody's Children' is powerful because it documents the lives of two refugees who have arrived in Canada. What is most powerful about it is the beginning, where Joyce cries at an acceptance letter that arrives in the mail. Not the typical university acceptance letter that many of us have received, but a letter that identifies her as an asylum seeker. What a difference in perspective. I also found it amusing when the Red Cross driver asked Sallieu if he knew what the CN Tower was (obviously Sallieu did not). But what was comedic was that the driver told him he should have looked up Canada before arriving here, obviously unaware of Sallieu's situation.
I found it amazing that regardless of their struggles, Joyce stays true to her faith and consistently thanks God for everything He has provided for her in her new home. I was very happy to see that Sallieu never took his education for granted and always strived to be the best in his classes. I remember when I was in elementary and high school, many students skipped and refused to participate or come to school. Now, all of us are trying to achieve and be the best that we can be because we matured and realized that education is important. I wish and hope that future generations see the value in education and how blessed we are to be living in a country like Canada.
Chapter 3 in Ayers' graphic novel discussed classroom physical environment. He mentioned ideas such as grouping tables together to facilitate student discussion (okay, this is not something new). The only interesting idea I found in this chapter was how Ayers' uses his desk as a table that students can work on. It is no longer a teacher's desk, but a work station. I thought this was a neat idea, but also was curious about where Ayers would place his belongings, which include things like student work, tests, a bunch of other paperwork, and maybe his lunch? I think it's a cool idea to do this in my class, but everyone needs a space to work at, and blended yourself in with your students can go either way. Either 1- students will consider you your friend (in regards to high school students) or 2- students will love you because you're so cool and relaxed about teaching. In my CSL placement (and in classes I have had previously) the desks would be arranged in a 'U' shape (or semi-circle), that way everyone is facing the front of the class and it is possible to have discussions and see others. I like this arrangement of desks better than the traditional row-by-row seating. This arrangement I would use for high school students, while the grouping of desks would be more ideal in an elementary school.
Entre les Murs is a French drama film based off of a 2006 novel by François Bégaudeau regarding his experiences as a French language and literature teacher in a middle school in Paris. The film highlights issues he deals with in his classroom, particularly with students like Esmerelda, Khoumba, and Souleymane. Bégaudeau plays himself in the role of the French teacher, Monsieur Marin.
At the beginning of the film, teachers are being welcomed by current staff to the new school environment. I was surprised to see that one teacher identified his teaching subject as 'multiplication tables' and that he occasionally teaches math. Off the bat, I could tell that this school was probably an urban school, and it's unfortunate that I was able to identify this by the 'subject title' he was going to teach. During this introduction, new teachers were laughing when current teachers would introduce themselves and the length of time they had been teaching at that school. It suggested that is must be very difficult to stay at this school for more than a year before quitting and moving on to another. One of the almost-retired teachers also wished 'courage' to the new recruits, again displaying a forefront of the urban school to the new teachers before they even set foot into their classrooms.
I was not surprised at all to see that former teachers were going through a class list with new teachers and identified who are the 'nice' and 'not nice' students. I feel as though this would be routine for anyone who teaches in urban schools because of the stereotype that is given to these students.
The film was very good at capturing what an actual class would be like. I felt like I was a student in the French class and it was boring for me because I felt like I was in grade 9 all over again. The chaos that was set in the classroom atmosphere is one that I am accustomed too- it reminded me of my elementary days where we would drive the supply teacher crazy because we didn't want to learn what they were teaching. "What is the point of teaching something that is not interesting" - a question imposed by one of M. Marin's students and one that is asked often in various classrooms. It was very frustrating watching this film from an outsider's point of view because I felt bad for what M. Marin was going through.
I related to Khoumba when she asked M.Marin why he chose the name 'Bill' as it is a 'whitey' name. I remember we asked the same question in one of my classrooms, but my teacher had made an effort in being more inclusive by including names like "Mohamad", "Shanice", and "Abdi" on tests. And Khoumba is right,the majority of the class represents visible minorities, yet the name chosen did not reflect those in the classroom. I liked how M. Marin addressed the issue and didn't ignore it. He address many issues in the classroom that come up (such as when the students question his sexual orientation) even though they have absolutely nothing to do with French.
I found it frustrating to watch the scene with the staff meeting. They attempted to discuss a punishment system which would closely reflect the driving license permit point system. That is, students would start with 6 points and would lose one to two points when they would misbehave. One of the parent representatives criticized this because the teachers only condemn the students and do not praise them. She suggested that maybe they reward students for their good behaviour. The meeting was painstakingly boring and useless, as they did not reach a verdict, but instead, started discussing a "more important issue in the school"- the staff coffee machine. I thought this scene was a joke.
To be honest, I wouldn't know what to do in M. Marin's position. It is evident that he tries very hard to teach and to communicate with his students throughout the film. He even tries to get his students to make self portraits in hopes of getting to know his students better. I don't want to criticize M. Marin and say that he could have made a better effort by trying to get to know his students outside of the classroom. They already made his in-school experience very poor and I didn't expect M. Marin to try any harder to try to connect to these students. Honestly, his classroom feels like an endless and long journey.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beverly-Jean Daniel’s article Reimagining the Urban: A Canadian Perspective because it discusses a very important issue in regards to the media and its determined representation of the “urban." Daniel argues that we should reframe the urban-suburban divide to lessen the bias towards the “urban” population.
It is unfortunate to still see that the majority of people who are ignorant to other cultures truly believe the stereotypes and the one sided representations of these people based solely from media outlets. Even though Canada is known internationally for its acceptance, tolerance, and peace towards other cultures and religions, the false conceptions about race are still prevalent in schools today. Daniel states this issue in a manner that is relatable to students who have attended urban priority schools. She states, “ Canadian teacher’s images of urban schools primarily emerge from the media, most specifically the films that portray urban students as violent, racialized bodies…” (832). The media is heavily blamed for planting these misconceptions in the public, but people are also to blame for not exploring and learning about the targeted culture. Being uneducated about culture, religion, or in this case, the "urban" population hinders student-teacher relationships. Thus, I agree with Daniel’s argument that the word “urban” should be reframed and defined differently, especially since urban populations move toward suburban areas. Canada should embrace its reputation for being a multicultural mosaic and hold this status in school environments by being accepting to everyone, regardless of urban or suburban status.
In ’Where do I belong?’ Canadian Curriculum as Passport Home by Cynthia Chambers, a different style of identity is discussed. She uses her history to define her Canadian identity. But what is Canadian identity? As children in public schools, the concept of Canada having the reputation of being the most welcoming and accepting of all cultures, religions, and ethnicities has been engraved in our minds. We are constantly reminded that everyone is equal and has rights, but are Canadians hiding behind this forefront of what Canada is supposed to represent? Both Daniel’s and Chamber’s argue the existence of this supposed forefront and if Canada’s population is representing it accordingly. In regards to education, I think that the teacher population should tailer to the uniqueness and diversity of the student population in both urban and suburban schools.
William Ayers' comic book To Teach – the journey, in comics is an excellent book in regards to exposing common myths in the teaching profession. I liked that he exposes the myth that teachers know everything, when really, teachers are also learning with their students. Ayers explains that a teacher should get to know their students, which will allow for a better student-teacher relationship. I agree with him on this because nowadays it seems as though students are just people identified by numbers rather than creating an interest in their future aspirations.
Ayers, W. (2010) Chapter 1 ‘The Journey Begins’ and Chapter 2 ‘Seeing the Student’
Chambers, C. (2006). “Where do I Belong?” Canadian Curriculum as Passport Home, Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies, 2.
Daniel, B. (2010). “Reimagining the Urban: A Canadian Perspective”. Urban Education, 45 (6) 822-839.