earning my spots as a future educator: my journey through ECS 210

For this digital storytelling assignment, I decided to take a children’s book approach, with myself being played by the lovely leopard Leerder in the story. I created the pages of my story on a website called StoryBird, took screenshots of the pages on my computer, and added audio voice overs and music to the images in iMovie. I am a huge fan of YouTube, and this is my first original video on my channel. I hope you enjoy coming along on my journey with me!

building my PLN

PLN

This post is Assignment 2 – Part 3 for ECS 210

Besides being about the many types of curriculum and the implementation of anti-oppressive teaching strategies, ECS 210 focused a lot on the construction of both a positive online identity and a Professional Learning Network (or PLN) through both Twitter and a blog.

While I did have both of these outlets set up in a professional context before this class, I find that my skills with these technological tools, my interactions with others through these mediums, and my realization of the responsibility I have to communicate with my colleagues and followers has grown tremendously over the course of the last few months.

This post is going to highlight some of the experiences and knowledge that I have gained throughout this journey of professionalism.

Just a few stats to start off (these were recorded from January 13-March 17):

Since ECS 210 started, I have:

  • followed 91 new people on Twitter and gained 68 new followers
  • tweeted 177 times (66 of which were either about ECS 210, an interaction with a classmate, or a retweet/response to post from a classmate)
  • used the hashtag #ECS210 27 times
  • followed 29 new blogs on WordPress and gained 23 new followers on my blog
  • gotten 25 new comments on my blog posts and commented on others’ blogs

This just goes to show you how much your PLN can grow in such a small amount of time!

The following section is comprised of screenshots of some of my most memorable interactions with others in the past few months…

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Here (above) is a comment that I wrote on thinkbannedthoughts‘ blog in response to an article that connected to my Inquiry Project (also an assignment for this class). The response I got is below; I was very excited to have challenged someone else’s thinking to the point that they even did some research to back up their opinion. To me, that is the goal of blog comments – to create a reciprocal atmosphere of critical thinking.

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Below, a post by TerryTutors ended up relating to a classmate’s tweet about supporting grieving students in our classrooms (an event that, unfortunately, is a part of life but something we often fail to think about). I ended up being able to give that classmate (@CassHanley) a resource that answered her query, which felt really good. It was also fascinating to see how many links I was finding between my Twitter and WordPress accounts.

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And here is another example of a WordPress referral that I made  to another classmate (@ItsJ02) via Twitter… I am still constantly in awe of how many useful resources and intriguing people that can be utilized by educators. It is very comforting to know that if you are ever having trouble, asking questions, or planning lessons, there is probably something out there that can help you achieve what you want.

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One of the interactions I was most excited about – and most proud of – was with Alec Couros, the resident technological and social media guru in the Faculty of Education. I noticed that I had many new followers after being mentioned in a few of his tweets via our ‘Twitter-sation.’

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(To any Education-related Twitter users out there, I highly recommend that you follow @courosa, as he is an expert and always tweets great stuff!) To have my blog and Twitter profiles (which I refined as a result of this class) complimented by someone who is very well versed in that respect was such an amazing feeling. Life lesson learned: if you go to a PD event, follow the presenter’s advice, because you never know how it may help you down the road. It also pays a huge compliment to them that you listened to their tips and actually applied them to your practice.

Most of all, I really enjoyed having a course hashtag to constantly be checking for new resources, food for thought, and inspiration. I predict (and hope, for future Education students’ benefit) that all Education classes will have Twitter hashtags in the future. It is such an easy and interactive way to connect with your classmates, especially when you have such a big lecture and only get to know a small portion of your classmates personally in the smaller seminars. You can end up making a professional relationship with someone who you may never get the chance to see in person. Eriko (this is her blog and her Twitter address is linked later on) and I interacted back and forth many times throughout this course, on both Twitter and WordPress.  It is very rewarding to have certain ‘critical friends’ that you know are going to read your posts and give honest, constructive feedback (and you do the same for them).

The following is a final example of how one tweet of mine allowed me to connect with several other ECS 210  students (@karidavis8, @karae_danielle, and @CloeAllard) through #ECS210.

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(Here is a link to the quiz we are referring to, if you are curious)

During my blogging this semester, I have become more aware of giving due credit to anyone that I mention (hence the links that are sprinkled all throughout this post), and there is really no excuse not to link to someone else’s blog or Twitter when WordPress makes it so easy (and strangely fun – just me?) to embed links into your text.  My post ‘improving professional communication‘ (February 24th) was inspired by a tweet from a fellow classmate (@parker3e), and I made sure to let her know through Twitter that I had mentioned her in my post, as well as adding links for my readers to follow her in my actual post. I did the same with my post ‘news awareness, gender equity, and music’s influence – oh my!‘ (March 2nd), but this time I was referring readers to the social media outlets of my instructor (@jmachnaik).

In regards to my previous posts (the two mentioned and linked above) about professional goals, I have been following up! I’ve been trying extra hard to truly listen when someone else is speaking and take in what they are saying. After they are finished, I give myself time to think and respond thoughtfully. Also, I have been checking my news apps fairly often (I am being kept on the edge of my seat with both the happenings in Ukraine/Russia and the missing Malaysian airplane). I currently have five news apps on my phone:

  • CNN
  • NewsFlash
  • Newsify
  • Globe News
  • News360

So far, I’m using CNN most often, and I really like that it shows breaking news updates on my lock screen, but doesn’t clog up the corner of the app icon with notifications.

Two assignments in this class also pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to experiment with two new online tools – StoryBird and Wikispaces. Though it was a bit frustrating at times when my inexperience meant not knowing how to accomplish a task, I actually really enjoyed both of these sites! They have become two more resources to add to my technological repertoire and I would highly recommend them to all educators.

A final warm, fuzzy moment for me was when my blog was pointed out during my seminar and my instructor had me teach other classmates how to add Widgets to their blogs. It was lovely to know that viewers appreciated my blog and thought that I had something to offer. I know that some of my peers have had a hard time getting used to tweeting and blogging and, although I cannot personally understand their struggles because I love tweeting and blogging so much, I try my best to share tips that may help them dive into technology as a means of presenting themselves as a professional online and enjoy it as much as I do.

In closing, I now have so many more ‘tools in my educational toolbox,’ in the form of colleagues, resources, and knowledge. My growing professional identity and engagement with others’ content has created numerous learning experiences and moments of critical personal reflection over the past few months. My learning as a result of ECS 210 has encouraged me to keep experimenting with new technology that can be used in the classroom and my own professional practice, periodically revise my professional goals,  and continue challenging my ideas regarding education so that I can grow into a critical and reflective educator.

 

someone explain this to me

standardized testRegarding the issue of standardized testing, I am honestly confused. Obviously at some point in the past, someone thought it was a brilliant idea. But in light of the countless real-life horror stories and studies about standardized testing that prove their detriment to students, I am unsure of how anyone who advocates for standardized testing is still around and can actually validate their side of the argument (though I’d be interested in hearing some substantiation of that position).

Personally, I see no benefits to this method of testing, and I am fairly certain that almost all educators and those well-versed on the matter would agree. So why are standardized tests even still being debated as a viable option for finding out how students are doing in school?

Standardized tests throw equity, individualization, differentiation, multiple intelligences, anti-oppressive education, creativity, multicultural learning, and critical thinking (so basically all of the educational foundations that I have learned in my program so far) out the window in exchange for an identical test (written by people who have most likely never met the students who will be taking it) that is handed out to vastly unique students with very different needs, which tests them on arguably irrelevant information that is to be memorized and regurgitated.

In regards to using standardized tests as a measure of accountability for teachers, I also see this as a huge failure. This is completely defeating the purpose of the teaching profession. Teachers should not be accountable for drilling information into their students’ heads, but rather on how well they feed their students’ minds and curiosities, and foster a joy of lifelong learning (which standardized testing does NOT do). Forcing teachers to cover material that is not of their choosing, only because their students will be evaluated on it later seems very backwards and is completely against my beliefs. We should never teach something simply for the sake of evaluating how well students retained the information, but to actually grant students with a useful life skill. Also, the misconception that all learned knowledge can or should be tested is also extremely flawed. In this day and age, only assessing through tests has no excuse, when so many other methods of evaluation exist and are more equitable.

I would also argue that the type of students that standardized tests seek to create (mindless memorizers that only focus on the facts, not why they actually matter) have less worth as members of society than engaged, socially responsible, creative, critical thinkers. When heading into the workforce or interacting with those around you, your value cannot be encapsulated on mere paper. We are human beings, not bubbles on a page. We are people, made up of personalities and experiences, memories and emotions. And by enforcing standardized testing, we are taking away that personal, deeply intimate, human connection aspect from the learning process and our students. Students should not be treated as numbers on a page; they are living beings with limitless potential, and I think THAT is how they should be treated.

In summary, from a future teacher’s perspective, I truly don’t see how standardized tests can still be viewed as a just method of assessing students, an efficient use of highly trained teachers’ time, or a fulfillment of educational goals as a whole.

-KKF

 

technique doesn’t make a teacher

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This is the image that many people will automatically think of when they hear ‘teacher.’ But is standing at the front of the classroom, lesson plan in hand really capturing the breadth and depth of the teaching profession?

This week, I read an article (I included the link at bottom of this post) by Parker J. Palmer titled “The Heart of a Teacher.” Although this piece had many memorable messages, the one phrase that I connected most with was:

“good teaching cannot be reduced to technique”

As my peers and I are now approaching the end of our second year (and therefore, the halfway point in completing our degree), I feel that there is a slowly rising panic inside of many of us because we have not had very much explicit instruction or practice regarding how to lesson plan or actually teach a class.

This quote really made me rethink the imminent importance of learning these things. You can have the best lesson plan in the world, but will it truly matter or make a difference if you don’t know how to incorporate social justice and anti-oppressive practices into your teaching practice? Are you actually fulfilling your job as an educator by merely planning activities for children to learn from if they are never relevant to students’ lives and real world issues?

So, to my fellow future teachers: take a deep breath and realize the merit of the strong foundation being built for us. We are challenging and reshaping our personal beliefs and ideas about teaching; we are understanding the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in our practice; we are questioning the constructed ideas of students, teachers, classrooms, and schools that our experiences as students have created and perpetuated.

When we came into this program, perhaps we viewed lesson planning and organization of learning experiences as the sole duty of a teacher, but I think now we all realize that our future careers are much more complex than we may have originally believed. Rather than worrying about when we are going to learn the ins and outs of managing our own classrooms, focus on what’s important about what we are learning right now and what we have already learned in the program. I think that a teacher who is in tune with their inner values has already mastered a large portion of being a successful educator. All the rest will come with experience (which, don’t worry, we will get A LOT of in our next two years as pre-interns and interns).

For now, just enjoy the journey – and don’t forget to look back at how far you’ve already come.

-KKF

http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker/writings/heart-of-a-teacher

why am i (really) here?

I wrote an autobiography about what moments in my life led me to become a teacher and now, in true teacher fashion, I am going to reflect on what I wrote. The main aspect we were to focus on was our aversion to addressing our race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. 

In my autobiography, I did address these parts of my identity, but I took a questioning lens. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“Was I unknowingly steered into this field by society because of my identity as a white, middle class, heterosexual female? While I like to think that my passion for education is all my own, I can’t deny the fact that a large portion of the teacher population is made up with those who identify themselves the same way.” 

(I also addressed this question in a previous blog post, “just a little tuesday afternoon thinking…” from March 19th, 2013 if you want to hear some more of my thoughts on this matter) 

So while I did let the reader know who I am in regards to these identifiers, why didn’t I include an outright proclamation of these things as the very first sentence, or in the first paragraph? When we introduce ourselves in real life, we usually don’t have to say, “Hi, my name is ______ and I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual female.” And my question is, why not? We can’t determine any one of these things just by looking at someone. There are people in the world who may self-identify as black even though their skin may look to be a lighter shade. There are those who feel they were born in the body of the opposite gender of who they really are – so while they may look male on the outside, they self identify as a woman. We can’t judge socioeconomic status or sexuality by merely looking at someone, either. So why don’t we introduce these things about ourselves?

Obviously, it is not a cultural norm. But WHY not? Is it because only privileged people who are close to us get to know some of these deeply personal things (like sexuality)? Is it because we are embarrassed of a part of who we are? Is it because we expect people to know these things without us saying them? It is interesting to think of an alternate universe in which we are open about these fundamental parts of our identity. While this (most likely) will never catch on in society, it does make us question if we are hiding pieces of our identity from ourselves for some reason.

As a future teacher, I think that uncovering these pieces of ourselves is an important stepping stone into truly knowing yourself – which is the first step to realizing and appreciating differences as a window to anti-oppressive education.

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).

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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.

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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

improving professional communication

A big, cheery “Hello” to everyone reading this! My ECS 200 volunteering today got cancelled due to a power outage, so I decided to blog away a little bit of the enormous open time slot I now have.

I have realized two things about my professional communication that I can work on improving:

  1. I have always really enjoyed blogging and sharing my thoughts with the world online. Until recently, however, I have never really put an equal amount of effort into reading others’ posts. Then I realized: if I get a warm, fuzzy feeling from someone commenting on one of my posts, I should be sharing this warm, fuzzy feeling with others. How am I building my professional personality by expecting others will read my posts and share their ideas about them, when I am not reciprocating the action? ECS 210 has really helped me to realize that it is a two-way street of sharing your thoughts AND your thoughts on others’ thoughts. What good is putting information out there when you are not taking other perspectives’ in? So, it is my new goal to read a lot more of the blog posts that come up on my WordPress feed. If you know of a blog that I should be following, please comment it down below! 
  2. Image  I saw this tweet from a fellow ECS 210 classmate (@parker3e – go follow her!) recently, and it made me realize that I do this too much. In a conversation, I am frantically thinking up relevant responses that link to what the speaker is saying, and then end up missing half of what they shared because I am either caught up in my own thoughts or trying to remember what I wanted to say back. I really need to practice listening fully to someone until they are finished talking, and then give myself time to reflect on it and bridge off with my own response. It is a shame that our society views silences in conversation as awkward, because I find that I need that extra time to really think about what I’ve heard in order to make a thoughtful reply. Do you catch yourself doing this, too? It would be nice to know I am not alone – haha.

Those are my professional development goals, for now. Wish me luck!

Do you have any current goals that are guiding you towards becoming a better professional, educator, citizen, or person in general? Do you have any thoughts on my goals? Share them with me in the comments!

-KKF

love is love

 (This post is Assignment #2, Parts 1&2 for ECS 210)

First of all, if you want to take a look at my summaries of 10 different anecdotes from The New Teacher Book (2010) (pictured below), here is the link!

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Second of all, the story I chose to dig deeper into was “Heather’s Moms Got Married” by Mary Cowhey. I find gay marriage and equality in marriage rights to be a very pertinent topic in today’s society; we hear about it in the news, on social media, and from those around us all the time, so I think it would be irresponsible for educators to ignore this and neglect addressing it with their students.

As I reflect more on Cowhey’s piece, I feel a lot of frustration and find myself questioning why this is even an issue at all. In the story, the children (who were in their early elementary years) could easily distinguish that discriminating against someone and not allowing them to marry the person they love simply because they are of the same gender is just plain wrong. Such is the beauty of childhood. Children aren’t born to discriminate, segregate, or hate certain types of people. Their experiences in society and their families, however, shape them as they grow up into adults that both notice and separate those who are different.

As I was looking over some jot notes I made about this story, I noticed that I had written something along these lines: “If children can realize the fact that denying equal marriage rights is immoral, then why can’t adults?” When I reread it, I realized that that statement is undermining the vast capabilities and cognitive complexities of children by thinking that anything children think should be easy for adults to think as well. This realization, for me, has a deep connection to my Philosophy of Education; I now know that sometimes, despite my best interests, I may not see children as being capable, much as I may agree with the statement that they are. It was a powerful inner self reflective moment for me as a future educator.

Back to my frustrations with the difficulty that some of society has with the acceptance of gay marriage, though. The way I see it, love is love. I expressed some of my personal feelings about this issue in a poem (which you can see in a larger format here):

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I found that writing this poem really allowed me to put myself in the shoes of someone who is gay. It breaks my heart to know that something as beautiful and pure as love can be illegal. How is that possible? No matter which way you look at it, love is about two people who have “an intense feeling of deep affection” for each other (that is the dictionary’s definition, by the way). Whether these feelings are between a man and woman, two women, or two men is completely irrelevant. This is the way I want my future students to see it. How can there be anything wrong with something as wonderful as love?

Here is one of my absolute favourite videos, which I think really sums up my feelings.

Cowhey addressed the idea of using children’s books to broach this subject with elementary-age students. I fully support this method – stories are a great way to get children engaged, provide them with characters they can empathize with, and showcase life lessons in a more exciting manner. Stories are very powerful teachers within themselves, which leads me to share with you a list of literary resources that can help a teacher to address gay marriage with their students in an approachable way.

  1. Gay Children’s Books
  2. Children’s Books That Help You Explain ‘Gay’ To Your Kids
  3. Gay-Themed Picture Books for Children *also has titles in other languages for ELL students*
  4. Picture Books with Gay Parents
  5. Gays & Lesbians in Books for Children *this is a really thorough list!*

And just in case you’re ever worried that teaching about gay marriage/sexual orientation could upset administrators or parents, just refer them to Article 10 of the STF Code of Ethics, which reads as follows:

“develop teaching practices that recognize and accommodate diversity within the classroom, the school and the community” (which include differences in “language, religion, ethnic background, family status, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, physical abilities, and mental abilities”).

-KKF

technology links us in

I recall something that Julie Machnaik (@jmachnaik) said way back when in ECS 100.

“You don’t need a class on technology because children innately know how to use these devices when they come to school.”

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Technology is a big, overarching theme in education, and I think this is what makes it so easy to tie into each and every subject. Students don’t need computer classes because they should be learning how to use computers in Math, English, Social Studies, Science, Art, etc., etc. The same principle applies for social justice and anti-oppressive education: it can be integrated into all subject areas. So what happens when you bring the two together?

Technology provides endless opportunities for creativity. A little imagination and innovation is all you need and – voilà! You have a brand new Science lesson that teaches students to use stop motion animation diagrams in order to explain how gay/lesbian couples can use artificial insemination to have children. Or maybe a YouTube video for English class that reads a story in both English and Cree. Or perhaps you Skype with an expert about how socioeconomic status directly affects overall wellbeing for Health. In our society today, we can utilize technology as a means of introducing students to these kinds of issues. Technology also provides a more interesting path towards deepening students’ understandings in these areas – and their learning will probably be more permanent if they used an app to create a project rather than writing a paper on a certain topic.

I believe that as the internet becomes the first (and fastest) route we turn to in order to learn new information, teachers need to realize and accept the fact that they are no longer their students’ only lifeline to knowledge. If children can answer a simple query with a quick Google search, it changes the role of the teacher from a bearer of information into a prompter of deeper thinking, a guide for the efficient and safe navigation of the vast wealth of knowledge that the internet holds, and a helping hand to assist their students in learning new avenues with which to explore, display, and critically examine their newly found knowledge.

How do you think technology ties into social justice and anti oppressive education? In what ways do you see technology altering the roles of educators?

treaty education

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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