how my schooling has moulded me

An important idea that I have learned in my first semester is that teachers must be aware that they are teaching in many different ways in order to reach out to their students’ varying learning styles. Teachers have a tendency to teach in a way that compliments THEIR personal learning style and this got me thinking… 

I am a memorizer. In math, I didn’t need to understand WHY or HOW a formula worked, I could just memorize it and remember how to plug the numbers into it in order for the right answer to come out in the final step. 

The sad thing is, this type of learning is de-emphasized in today’s educational system. Just as future teachers are learning about critical thinking and personal reflection, so are today’s students. There is no longer a focus on memorizing and applying, but rather on understanding, questioning and using a concept in different ways in order to expand knowledge. 

So what made me into a memorizer? 

My schooling experiences. 

What troubles me most is that I did exceptionally well in school. This denotes that the assessment systems are designed to test this type of memorizing knowledge. The school system is set up in a way in which the memorizers can flourish.

It is not until I entered into the Faculty of Education that I have noticed this approach undergoing drastic change. In my Grade 12 year, my Math/Calculus teacher always encouraged us to UNDERSTAND over MEMORIZING (which, to me, seemed pointless, as I could perform the tasks just as well and have no idea what I was truly doing or what the purpose or reason behind it was). My Chemistry 30 course was centred around building critical thinkers. We had to write a departmental exam as the final, and our teacher successfully prepared us for the challenging test by giving us questions we’d never seen before. In order to solve them, you needed to use your previous knowledge and perhaps use multiple formulas or concepts in order to build a bridge towards developing an answer. We were being trained to think critically and made intelligent leaps from what we already knew in order to know something new. 

The more I learn about education today, the more I see the old ways of memorizing being tossed out. Especially in university, I hear the words “critical thinking” in every single class. No longer is being a memorizer going to cut it for me. I am being taught to think outside of the box and challenge myself. 

Even though I am outside of my learning style’s comfort zone, I know that adapting my critical thinking skills will only benefit me in order to succeed in my chosen profession. Learning these critical thinking skills will allow me to teach my students to NOT be memorizers like me.

As I have heard over and over (in only one semester of the teacher education program): A successful teacher is a critical thinker and a reflector.

stereotype or not?

I took Indigenous Studies 100 in my first semester and it has really opened my eyes in regards to how the average Canadian views Aboriginal people. As budding teachers, we are told that a large percentage of the classes we teach will be made up of students of First Nation descent, so it is important for us to understand how a typically Westernized curriculum and school environment affects children who aren’t in the “normal,” White middle-class category.

I have found though, that I have more questions than answers after taking the course. Because I now view things so differently, I find myself questioning if certain images and depictions are stereotypical and racist, or historically accurate. And even if they ARE historically accurate, is it wrong to depict things this way because it paints Aboriginal people as incapable of evolving, when really, they dress and look like us on an average day?

For example, in my field experience as part of ECS 100, the teacher had a station that included a doll house with furniture and various dolls to choose from. There were 3 dolls (pictured below) that were clearly meant to be an Aboriginal family, consisting of a father with long hair in traditional dress, a mother with similar animal-skin-looking attire, and a baby, swaddled in the same type of material.

I loved the fact that the teacher had incorporated the Indigenous dolls but then found myself asking if this was giving the children the wrong impression about Indigenous people, who, to my knowledge, don’t generally walk around in animal-skin clothing on a regular day. So even though the attire may have been historically accurate, would these toys be considered as playing into a stereotype?

The reason I ask is because, in our INDG class, our professor brought up an issue about a child’s Halloween costume named “Sassy Squaw,” which of course, automatically sets off an alarm bell in my head because of the derogatory term it incorporates. On top of the name, the costume was rather revealing and short, especially for a child. This blatant depiction of Indigenous females as sexual objects is obviously racist.

But what about other girls who dress up in Indigenous costumes for Halloween (I knew a girl in high school who sported a Pocahontas costume one year, although that costume was also rather risqué)? If they wear traditional attire, is it still a violation of the race’s culture? Or is it just white people who can’t dress up in those costumes because it is something they’re not and would be considered to have a mocking undertone? Or should all costumes of this nature not be allowed because they carry so many misguided ideas thanks to television and films?

This is an issue I really struggle with because I am afraid that if I incorporate images or some other use of Indigenous culture or people in my classroom, that it will be misinterpreted as racist. I hope that in my continuing studies, I will find the answer to these queries.