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!

i think i need to watch juno again

ImageToday in my ECS 110 class, we looked at some videos of successful culturally responsive schools that create environments in which their Aboriginal students can achieve academic success. One of the schools had a day care right in the building and some of the video clips showed teen mothers with their children at the daycare.

I can’t say I am proud of this, but it is the honest truth that I immediately caught myself looking down on these teen mothers. In true teacher fashion, I quickly stepped back and thought, “Why do I feel this way?”

Any mention of teen pregnancy in my schooling presented it as shameful, irresponsible, a HUGE mistake, etc etc etc. Shows like ’16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ don’t always present the situation in a positive light, either. TV shows involving characters who think they are pregnant or get pregnant are scandalous incidents. Media urges teens to ‘abstain from sex’ and ‘use protection.’ So is it really any wonder that I reacted this way? Feel free to disagree, but I think that many of the representations of teen pregnancy in our world today have TAUGHT me to think of it like this. 

I don’t condone teen pregnancy and this post isn’t meant to promote unprotected sex. All I am trying to say is: What can we do for/what supports can we offer to girls who do get pregnant?

And this is exactly why the day care at the school is such a genuinely helpful thing. A mistake or bad decision shouldn’t affect the ability for a young mother (or father) to experience success in their life. Yes, having a baby at a young age is a HUGE responsibility and will change your life immensely, but that doesn’t mean that the mother/father should lose their right to an education. 

At first I thought, “I don’t plan on teaching high school students, so why should this even matter to me?” But teen parenthood can affect elementary school teachers as well because students’ parents may be very young. I want to ensure that I am open minded and understanding towards any potential parents who did have teenage pregnancies. 

In closing, I have learned a lot about myself through this experience! I cannot look down on people who have been in these situations that society portrays so negatively. Each person I interact with as a professional deserves my respect. I can’t judge them until I have walked a mile in their shoes. Which is why I am interested in watching Juno again and finding other resources that can allow me to see things through a teen mother’s eyes.