once upon a time…

(if you want to skim/skip the story and get into the meat and potatoes of why I wrote a tale about the history of colonization in Canada, scroll down)

Once upon a time, there was a group of noble and peaceful people living in a vast and varied land. These people lived alone on their land for thousands of years. They were very attuned to the world around them, and they used this respect for the natural world to harness the properties of the plants and animals that lived in their land. The smallest plant could be used as a magnificent medicine. The animals that roamed the land could be used to provide shelter, clothing, tools, and food. Each time a plant or animal was killed or taken from the earth, the people made sure to say a prayer of gratitude thanking the earth for providing them with sustenance. The people traveled their land, learning to live in harsh climates and conquering the many challenges that faced them. In order to keep their way of life alive, they told intricately-woven stories to their youth, so that they could, one day, be the story keepers that would pass their tales on to those that came after them. The people continued to live on in peace and harmony in their untouched and undiscovered land.

 

Until, one day, newcomers arrived from across the fathomless seas. The people were surprised to see them; they had become so accustomed to living in their land alone. The newcomers looked, sounded, and acted different. They were fragile and could not withstand the harsh elements that the first peoples had always known. They did not know how to survive in the land that the first peoples called home. So the first peoples reached out to help the newcomers and show them their way of life. They taught the newcomers to create shelters so they would be warm. They showed the newcomers how to hunt and fish so they would be fed. They taught the newcomers what plants were helpful or harmful so they would be safe. Slowly, the newcomers learned to live in this new land.

 

The newcomers, while strange and other, did have their own special skills to contribute. They had learned to craft materials out of metal and fabric that were beyond what the first peoples could create. The newcomers shared their inventions with the first peoples in return, giving them pots and pans, metal arrowheads, guns, and blankets. Unfortunately, these gifts came at a very high price.

 

The first peoples were not aware, but the blankets the newcomers had shared, while warm and comforting, shared something else: something sinister and deadly. A sickness, brought over from across the seas by the newcomers, was hiding within the blankets. As the first peoples slept tightly bundled in the blankets, the sickness crept into their flesh and bones and began to work its dark magic. The first peoples, though strong and accustomed to their severe weather, had never experienced this sickness before, and they soon began to fall ill in the thousands. The first peoples, desperate to save their sick family members, tried every herbal remedy they had come to know, but nothing worked. One by one, the first peoples fell, their death toll rising into the thousands. The dark sickness continued to creep across the land, laying its icy hands on children, elders, or the weak and ill.

 

While the blankets brought the nightmare of disease, the guns, too, spelled disaster for the first peoples. With this advanced technology, animals could be killed with swiftness and ease. Gone were the days of taking only what was necessary to survive; beasts were killed without care, carcasses piling up. As more of the animals in the land were hunted down, the first peoples’ main food source depleted, leaving them hungry and dying off from disease. A once mighty and proud people were left weak and frightened in their homeland.

 

The newcomers, now quite accustomed to living in this new land, were eager to explore and claim the land as their own, building houses and farms wherever they roamed. As the newcomers gained strength and numbers, the first peoples realized they needed to make a deal if they were to survive.

 

The leaders of the newcomers and the first peoples gathered together in a sacred place to talk. Although some of them had learned the words of the other’s language, they still struggled to understand each other as they discussed. The first peoples, strong believers in cooperation and peace, thought that the agreements they reached with the newcomers would be honored and kept as sacred promises. The newcomers, thirsty to own and tame more of the vast land, did not have the same understanding. They did not see the promises as sacred, and had no value in keeping these promises with the first peoples. They were blinded by greed to have more, more, always more.

 

Years passed, and while the newcomers thrived and continued to claim the new land as their own, the first peoples continued to struggle in the place that had belonged to them for millennia. The newcomers wanted to teach the first peoples their ways of life; they wanted the first peoples to be more like them. To accomplish this goal, they sent the first peoples’ children away from their families to go to school. Many of these schools were places of fright and suffering for the first people’s children. They were not allowed to speak their own tongues, wear their own clothes, pray to their own gods. Some were beaten or abused if they did not follow the strict rules asked of them.

 

Little by little, the vibrant culture of the first peoples began to fade. Being apart from their families and their language, the children forgot their way of life. If they returned home, they were strangers to those they had once loved. Many lived inside constant nightmares from the horrors they had faced in the schools. When the children grew up into adults, they were broken and did not know how to lead good lives, having never led good childhoods. When they had children of their own, they did not know how to be parents, and so their children, too, suffered. Some tortured souls turned to drink or drugs, seeking some refuge from the pain and suffering, if only for a moment.

 

Meanwhile, the newcomers had made themselves quite at home, in a land that was not theirs. They began to take over government and control the land. The first peoples were too weak and sparse to disagree. The newcomers decided to banish the first peoples to their own isolated pieces of land. Many cruel rules were inflicted upon the first peoples. Practicing their own customs or beliefs would land them in jail. Leaving their isolated pieces of land, even to attend a family member’s funeral, was a criminal offense. If first peoples decided to attend a university, they would lose their identity as part of the first peoples. If women of the first peoples married a newcomer, they lost their identity as a first people. The first peoples, full of despair, prayed for a miracle.

 

After a long period of darkness and depression, a spark of light began to grow within the hearts of the first peoples. Though they had been hurt and oppressed, they longed for justice and a return to the peaceful ways of the ancestors. They began to speak out about the horrors they had faced. The first peoples were taking back the power of the stories they had used long ago to share their lives with one another. More and more first peoples began to share the tales of the injustices they had faced and slowly, the spark grew. It was even capable of jumping into the hearts of caring newcomers who realized the evil of what had been done in the past.

 

A new age is on the horizon. First peoples and newcomers together, passionate about righting the wrongs of the past, fight to restore the peace and harmony that was once common in this land. They strive to keep the promises that were made by their ancestors many moons ago and find forgiveness for what has been done. This does not mean that all is well; there are still many battles to be fought and many newcomers who do not support the spark. There is a long journey ahead and the ending of the tale is not yet written. What part will you play in writing it?

 

 

THE CONTEXT 

I was inspired to write this “fairy tale” after a troubling discussion in my Grade 6 Social Studies class today. Over the course of the year, the students have often griped and groaned whenever we have to learn about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people and their culture. This has never sat well with me.

The students’ main complaints are:

  1. “We learned this already.” They have learnt the same things about FNMI people many years in a row and they are bored of it. (understandable)
  2. “Why do we have to learn about them? We want to learn about our own people.” While I absolutely understand the craving to delve into our own ancestors’ culture (which students will have an in-depth opportunity to do at the end of the year during our Culture Fair), I find it deeply unsettling that students in our school system, though well versed in traditional FN culture and residential schools, still do not grasp the importance of learning about the first people who lived in this land.

When I entered the classroom today, ready to start our new unit on Global Interdependence, all plans were thrown out the window. Students, inquiring on what the new unit would be about were asking, “Is it about First Nations people again?” (inner cringe). One student piped up, “Why don’t we call them Indians anymore?” and the teacher within me was rip-raring to go. Cue a crudely hand-drawn world map, and I told a summarized version of how early European explorers, mistakenly, called First Nations people “Indians,” thinking they had landed in India.

This began to spark many other questions among students, such as “Why do First Nations people get so many extra perks that we don’t?” (namely, “not paying taxes,” “hunting whenever they want and as much as they want,” “getting scholarships or getting accepted into university over others,” and “getting monthly cheques from the government” – those are, indeed, loose quotations of what the students believe or have been led to believe). The social justice warrior within me had to calmly continue taking questions and jotting them down on the board to discuss, while making quick and curt explanations to shut down insensitive questions such as, “Why do they go (insert offensive war cry here)?” [yes, that really happened, and it caught on to half of the class]. I have to say, I am rather proud that I didn’t start preaching halfway through and was able to stay composed. What did become clear to me, however, was how deeply these misconceptions are rooted in the students’ home lives, with many comments beginning with, “My mom/dad told me __________.” How can I blame students for having these grossly misunderstood ideations when they are being reinforced (and introduced) in their home lives?

From some graciously thoughtful students (bless their souls), I was able to coax out some ideas about why these “privileges” (can anyone smell the irony here?) might exist for First Nations people? Surely, the government didn’t randomly decide to bestow all of these perks upon them for no reason? Two students were able to come up with the opinion that these things were a way of making up for the wrongs that had been done against First Nations people in the past (**inner cheering that I have reached someone**).

After we had run through most of the questions and comments, I left the students with the knowledge that I’d find some information regarding their queries and we would reconvene next class (hence, the story). I hope that we can follow this tale with a discussion that shifts the focus from, “It’s not fair FN people have things we don’t,” to focus more on what we have/had they they do not.

  • What privileges do the newcomers (European settlers) have that First Nations people do not?
  • What problems exist regarding how the newcomers entered the new land? What could have been done differently?
  • Why do you think the newcomers did what they did?
  • How would the story of your ancestors be different if the First Nations were not welcoming and helpful when the settlers arrived?
  • What is the moral or lesson of this story? What can we do, today, to continue to heal the wounds of the past?

 

Clearly, this is a topic of passion for me. If you share my passion, or have an opinion on this important, reconciliACTION work, please share with me in the comments below. Feel free to share my “Once Upon a Time…” cautionary fairy tale with your class/other teachers if it can be of use to you – see PDF file here –>  (Once Upon a Time…)

 

Until next time,

-KKF

 

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news awareness, gender equity, and music’s influence – oh my!

Over the past few days, a few things have come to the attention that I thought would be worthy of sharing with all of you:

News Awareness This one is a personal development target for myself. I have never been one who turns on the the news on TV to catch up with national and global happenings, mostly because I find the news to be very disheartening, monotonous, and skewed in its representation of different perspectives. However, I have realized recently that, as a teacher, I have a responsibility to keep up with important current events that my students may have been hearing about and have questions about that we can address as a class. As of now, if a student came up to me and asked, “Teacher, what’s happening in Ukraine?” I would have no way to answer them. That is not what I want for my future classroom. So I have perused the App Store on my phone and downloaded a handful of news apps that I am trying out in order to spark myself to get with the times and avoid future embarrassment over my obliviousness to recent news stories. I’ll let you know which ones I have found most helpful after I have given them all a fair shot!

Gender Equity In my ECS 210 class, groups of us are doing Inquiry Projects on a topic of our choice, and mine is “Gender Equity.” My instructor (check out her blog and Twitter account!) lent our group a couple of textbooks to pull ideas from, and I found one particularly insightful: “Rethinking Early Childhood Education” (by Rethinking Schools, Ed. Pelo, 2008).

Image (this is what the book looks like)

Here are just a few of the points that I gleaned from my short time reading:

  • Science kits in toy stores had NO female figures (girls or women) on the boxes –> What does this say about our society’s beliefs about girls’ interests and capabilities?
  • The word ‘tomboy’ makes a girl into a boy, simply because she doesn’t act in a stereotypically associated ‘girly’ way –> just because of her actions, she can no longer retain her identity as a girl? Is it, then, abnormal for girls to be ‘tomboys’? And what could be a possible alternative for this word ‘tomboy’? I’d argue that she is a girl just as much as her female classmate dressing up as a princess, wouldn’t you?
  • Game Boys have a similar effect –> Does this mean girls can’t play with them? Do you think a video game console today would be named something similar that rejects one gender? Is this just an innocent mistake, or does it have deeper repercussions?
  • The children’s story “The Three Little Pigs” creates a hierarchy of living spaces. Houses made of straw or sticks are significantly symbolized as ‘less than’ those of bricks, when people in other countries live in these types of ‘lesser’ homes. –> Yes, this one isn’t related to gender, but I found myself so taken aback that I just had to include it. It makes me wonder what other, hidden messages we are portraying to children in classic fairy tales and fables…
  • Something that I realized as a result of this lens of gender… There have been types of Lego that are specifically advertised towards girls because they have pink and purple pieces and all the sorts of things that little girls will (presumably) like. Aren’t these blatantly ‘girly’ toys just perpetuating these stereotypes, though? Why can’t girls play with normal Lego? This is creating the idea that girls can’t use boys’ toys and must have their own, separate, girly-fied versions. I see no reason for boys to have superhero dolls to nurture or girls to have frilly Lego to build princess castles with. I don’t think we need to change the nature of the toy in order to try and market it towards a certain audience.

girl lego

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music’s Profound Influence While listening to an “Epic Film Scores” playlist on my Songza app (which I HIGHLY recommend that everyone download!), I could easily recognize which movies certain tunes came from – sometimes within just a few bars. As a huge lover and advocate of music, I enjoyed this simple reinforcement of how easily music sticks with us and embeds itself into our memories – often infused with a deep, emotional connection. This is the driving force behind my firm belief in using music daily in my future classroom – if a song I sing in a Grade 1 class can be recognized fifteen years later when my students are in high school because of something they learned from it, or the way it made them feel, then I am definitely doing my job right. Music is such a powerful force, why not harness it for learning?

Thanks for reading! Until next time,

-KKF

treaty education

Image

A couple of things came up for me during Claire Kreuger’s presentation on Treaty Education today:

  • I think it is very exciting that the push for inclusion of Indigenous viewpoints is becoming more prominent in education as it is such an integral part of our country’s past
  • I feel that I don’t know a great deal about treaties myself, but I think learning something alongside your students is a great approach – if teachers include Treaty Education in their classroom, they will be educating themselves along the way as professional, lifelong learners
  • Integrating things like Environmental Education, Treaty Education, and social justice into other subjects’ curriculum goals is a necessary skill in order for teachers to accomplish everything they are required to in one year
  • These tasks may be very daunting, but they are worth it in the end
  • We, as teachers, need to be connected to as many resources as possible (ex. elders, teachers on Twitter, other professionals, etc.) if we are going to make the most of these decisions – no one person can do it alone! You will need a lot of help and should embrace that fact if you are going to succeedImage

To bridge off that last point of sharing resources and being connected, I thought I would share with you some wonderful resources that Richard Van Camp (an author from the Dogrib nation in NWT) shared with me after an in-class presentation in my English 110 class last year (I highly recommend his children’s book, “What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?” – it has lovely illustrations!)

Primary Aboriginal Resources – This resources offers many different ways you can incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into various subject areas. It includes a TON of stories.

Primary Storybook Favourites – This second resources has a vast array of children’s books with Aboriginal themes. And don’t worry, there are representatives from many different First Nations cultures, not just one (because after Claire’s presentation, we will all be cognizant of the fact that they are NOT all the same).

Enjoy!

(And in case you want to get synced up with Claire:    

Twitter: @ClaireKreuger      

Classroom Blog: mmekreuger.edublogs.org

Treaty Education Blog: treatypeople.edublogs.org)

-KKF

ipads and cheerios

Just a quick little catch-up post here everyone:

1. No tutoring Tuesday or Thursday this week, BUT I have 4 sessions next week to make up for it. I am going to be a lesson planning machine this week and #1 is done! Sticking to my previous goal of adding more technology and interactive activities, I made the ENTIRE lesson with only iPad apps! I am very excited to try it out and see how it goes!

Here are the apps I am using:

Sight Words 2, Word Monsters, Dog Story, Phonics Genius

Maybe in a later post I can give my likes and dislikes about these apps and their functionality, but I am gunna take them for a real test drive first (because I don’t count my experimental playing of all these games, which I have to say, is actually a lot of fun… haha. The perks of this occupation are endless, I tell you!)

Wish me luck!

2. As an avid YouTube watcher, I spent the last day of my holiday catching up on all of the uploaded videos I had missed over the past little while. One of my favorite series is the _________ React by the Fine Brothers. There are many different groups of people who react to videos and internet sensations chosen by viewers. Teens, Elders, Kids, YouTubers all give their insight.

The newest Kids React is about an allegedly “controversial” Cheerios commercial. Why is it controversial? You’ll have to watch it and see.

I myself was waiting for something terrible to be said on the commercial. But the only reason that this commercial is turning heads is because of the mixed race parents. This seems like such a joke to me because this is an everyday, normal situation for so many people.

While the fact that Cheerios is getting heat for displaying a realistic family situation made me angry, the children’s reactions really brightened my day. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason I am ecstatic to spend my career with children. They truly give me hope for a brighter tomorrow. It reminds me a lot of my favorite quote:

See life through the eyes of a child: Everything being beautiful.

So let’s all try and adopt the view that these kids had. They didn’t see anything wrong. Because there wasn’t.

delicate balance

It feels like a long time since I’ve written, but it really hasn’t been! First post of April, though! And sorry to anyone who sees how many posts I had in March, that isn’t indicative of how much I usually post.

As per usual, I have just come back from ECS class and have a few things I thought were worth sharing.

1. For our ECS assignment, we had to read an article about Indigenous Education and respond to it. I chose one by Verna J. Kirkness and one thing that really resonated with me is when she talked about the Indian Control of Indian Education policy of 1972. She pointed out that “we continue to base education on white, urban culture and history” (22). As a white pre-service teacher, this brought up a nerve-wracking question for me:

If people who have Indigenous blood/culture in their past can’t implement Indigenous ways of knowing into the curriculum, how can I?

This also got me thinking about my preconceptions, though. Just because people have Indigenous family members doesn’t mean they know any more about the culture than I do! My ancestors are German, Polish, French, etc, etc, etc but I know nothing or very little about those traditional cultures. We automatically assume that Aboriginal people are experts on their cultural traditions, but, the truth is, they are just like us! Lots of Aboriginal teachers have to learn how to implement Indigenous ways of knowing in their classrooms too!

Kirkness, Verna J. “Aboriginal Education in Canada: A Retrospective and a Prospective.” Journal of American Indian Education 39.1 (1999). Print.

2. Talking about incorporating Indigenous knowledges not into singular activities, but the classroom as a whole leaves me with a million questions. Most of all: HOW? I really wish I could observe a classroom that models these practices so I could see for myself how it is done! I just hope that the program continues to prepare me for real-life teaching situations like these so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

3. After attending the Education Career Fair early in the semester, I have been seriously considering doing my fourth year internship in a predominantly Métis or Indigenous community. I think this would really help to answer lots of my questions about teaching students with these backgrounds so they can achieve academic success! I have heard that any experience with children of these diverse backgrounds (which will make up 40% of classrooms by 2016!) is a wonderful opportunity and asset for young teachers. As a dominant figure in terms of race, class, and sexual orientation (and gender in the field of education), I also think it would be a great learning experience for me to be in an environment where I am the ‘minority.’ While this may be uncomfortable at first, I think it will give me a better understanding of minority students’ perspectives and feelings in a school setting. Hopefully this can help me to be aware of ensuring that all students feel welcome in my classroom!

As a side note, I was SHOCKED when my professor told me that ZERO students have done their internships in Métis/Indigenous communities (unless they were in Indigenous Teacher programs)! When Saskatchewan schools have a high population of these students, it really surprises me that no pre-service teachers are eager to gain useful experience like this! Maybe I will be #1! 🙂

4. When dealing with any social justice issues (homosexuality, class, gender, race, etc.) in your students’ identities, I think it is really all about striking that delicate balance between treating students the same AND different. You want all of your students to receive the same respect, care and expectations so the classroom is EQUAL. However, you want to address your learners’ individual needs and identities so your classroom is EQUITABLE. It’s absolutely impossible for me to judge this while I am sitting on my bed, typing on a laptop. I think so many facets of teaching can’t be learned in any other way than experiencing them first-hand in a classroom; that’s why I am so eager to get out into the field so I can start answering some of my endless swarms of questions!