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Titanic Education: A Collision Course With Curriculum

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Kaela Baudu

on 23 May 2013

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Transcript of Titanic Education: A Collision Course With Curriculum

Let's go deeper... What we now know... Next, we discovered a new definition:
Curriculum as Place... We, as teachers, must be mindful of the place we are in, meaning community, society, family, and school. A students understanding is grounded in their experiences; who they are matters, and where they come from is important. Children are better able to connect with and understand the content if it is relative to them. This curriculum is connected to religion, socio-economic status, and culture. “Place” changes our original definition of what curriculum is. We soon realized that our definition of “curriculum” is a commonsensical societal narrative... Our ideas urged us to continue seeing things the way they had been viewed traditionally; the concepts and ideas are what we view as “normal” and therefore never question. If we, as teachers, fail to act against the societal norms, our students will never learn to think critically! Breaking the cycle begins with education. Other definitions of curriculum were introduced, such as... The hidden, null, lived, taught/planned, learned, and experienced curriculum. However, it is important to note that if we only focus on one type of curriculum, we are doing a disservice to our students. Our Initial thoughts as to
what Curriculum is... On the first day of class, we were challenged to define “curriculum”. We each had a basic understanding of the formal curriculum, but had a narrow viewpoint. Collaboratively, our group defined curriculum as the documents, subjects, materials, and general expectations set forward by the government. Reflecting on our own school experiences, we remember curriculum to be the outcomes and indicators written in a large booklet with set standards to be followed. Next, we discovered a new definition:
Curriculum as Place... So, how do we
“go against commonsense”... Through troubling knowledge, we can create a more socially just and anti- oppressive environment for our students. By placing ourselves in a discomforting situation we are forced to think critically and explore other perspectives. True knowledge takes place through learning in crisis, addressing personal biases and being aware of our beliefs in order to grow and be challenged. Another important aspect of troubling knowledge is teaching with uncertainty. Educators can never be sure if what they are intending to teach is what the students are actually learning. Instruction can be construed as racist, sexist, or biased, and we must be aware of our actions. Are the students acquiring the intended meaning of a lesson, or are they learning the unintended actions or behaviors of the educator? Above the surface... Some ideas that we found troubling within
the education system... “It is not our lack of knowledge but our resistance to knowledge and our desire for ignorance that often prevent us from changing the oppressive status quo” (Kumashiro, 2009, p. 27). More.... Part of troubling knowledge is
understanding the curriculum of self... This curriculum is rooted in our own experiences, stories, values, and beliefs that we share with our students, both intentionally and unintentionally. We cannot escape the idea of “self” in our classroom. The government has attempted to “teacher-proof” the curriculum through scripts, but we do not want to remove the self, because then we are simply passing on a scripted set of government regulated values. Instead, we want teachers to challenge their perspectives to create an equitable classroom. A story validates our experiences and takes us back to our own place; it becomes powerful, interesting, and stimulating. An unscripted lesson becomes more personable – it allows the teacher to explore the possibilities and places value on what is being learned - all of this is important when working alongside students. And now... We want
learning to be
less teacher-directed
and more child-centered. Moving towards
an anti-oppressive
environment
through socially
just education... We want children
to see themselves
within the curriculum and
provide learning that is
meaningful and relevant to them. Teachers must become
knowledgeable
about their students immediately
so that they can provide
learning opportunities that will include
their identity, families, customs,
values, and beliefs throughout the year
in all
subjects. As teachers,
we need to teach not only the
mandated outcomes, but also what
remains hidden and unspoken, challenging
students to go against societal norms
and providing the tools
necessary for change. So, what IS curriculum? What we now know... Questions of Crisis... Kelsey... How will I be able to connect with the students that I do not share lived experiences with?
How do we “standardize” 30 unique students? Questions of Crisis... Janelle... Why are our publicly-funded schools not adopting any practices of alternative schools in the province? (ex. providing breakfast programs for ALL students. As Bonnie Morton explained, poverty is everywhere and should not be limited to an area.)
How do I provide anti-oppressive education in a restricted environment? (ex. teaching LBGTQ issues in a Catholic School)
Are we doing harm to our students by providing them with an unrealistic sense of equity and equality? In society, there is a hierarchy that students will eventually encounter. Are we depriving them from learning how to live and cope in a society which, in many ways, is unjust? Questions of Crisis... Kaela... When trying to implement change, how do I find others that agree with me and support me?
How do I promote socially just education in these types of negative environments where this is not important to the school?
What if I am judged for having limited knowledge about a culture or way of knowing? What I have “seen” that I cannot “unsee”... Kaela A poem that represents our views is
“Children will Listen”
by Stephen Sondheim.
A teacher must be aware of their
beliefs in order to grow
and be challenged.
Children are extremely impressionable,
and we must constantly be conscious of
what principles we are passing on. "Children Will Listen" Careful the things you sayChildren will listenCareful the things you doChildren will see and learnChildren may not obey, but children will listenChildren will look to you for which way to turnTo learn what to beCareful before you say "Listen to me"Children will listenCareful the wish you makeWishes are childrenCareful the path they takeWishes come true, not freeCareful the spell you castNot just on childrenSometimes the spell may lastPast what you can seeAnd turn against youCareful the tale you tellThat is the spellChildren will listen!! By Part of what contributes to our commonsense idea of curriculum is the oppressive “single story mindset”... The media and society often perpetuate a single story by over-representing places or people. It is our responsibility as educators to disrupt these commonsense ideas. This also relates to the idea of partial knowledge; where our perceptions are limited. What I have “seen” that I cannot “unsee”... Kelsey What I have “seen” that I cannot “unsee”... Janelle And now, moving towards an anti-oppressive environment through socially just education... We want children to think critically and creatively, providing different avenues for learning. Learning should be less teacher-directed and more child-centered. We want children to see themselves within the curriculum and provide learning that is meaningful and relevant to them. Teachers must become knowledgeable about their students immediately so that they can provide learning opportunities that will include their identity, families, customs, values, and beliefs throughout the year in all subjects. As teachers, we need to teach not only the mandated outcomes, but also what remains hidden and unspoken, challenging students to go against societal norms and providing the tools necessary for change. More... It is important for us to surround ourselves with people who share the same values, beliefs, and visions of anti-oppressive education. This creates a more caring community for our students.
Receiving ongoing professional development will assist us in developing anti-oppressive practices, examining our own biases, and finding resources that are inclusive to all students in our classrooms. With this we can work against the commonsensical norms of society.
We acknowledge that anti-oppressive education will never be achieved; however we believe these are some of the first steps, we can take in creating a more socially just society. "Children Will Listen" Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me" Children will listen
Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen! It is still the learning that takes place in the classroom based on objectives, goals, values, and outcomes teachers strive to teach their students. These outcomes largely come from government (standardized tests, written curriculum documents) and change over time. However, curriculum is also how the students receive the information, whether or not they relate to what is being taught, and who they are allowed to be in the classroom.  A piece of the curriculum is brought from the teacher’s lived experiences and stories; another piece is determined by the community’s values, beliefs, economic status, and culture.  The curriculum, whether it be hidden or overt in practice, constantly shapes identities, and determines who is allowed to learn, and what topics are approached. Also... Teachers have choice with how they wish to deliver the curriculum through the indicators. There are many types of curriculum such as formal curriculum, null curriculum, hidden curriculum, curriculum as self and curriculum as place. Within these categories there is also knowledge; partial knowledge, troubling knowledge, learning in discomforting ways, as well as learning through crisis. All forms of curriculum and knowledge are equally important. What is unintentionally taught is equally important as the content we teach intentionally. We believe that every form of curriculum is always changing. How did this make us feel? Janelle... I felt cheated. I thought the curriculum I was teaching was inclusive to all students and offered all perspectives on each topic and subject. I began to question how I could teach equally and equitably to every student in my classroom through this mandated document. This question left me feeling angry, fearful, and challenged. Kelsey... We must challenge assumptions!
We need to confront individuals,
institutions, organizations, and
media that pass on dangerous
commonsense views. By opposing
commonsense thinking we can obstruct
the passing along of these beliefs to
students and assist in creating future
socially-just leaders. Children seated in rows and raising their hands, educators at the front of the room; lack of student choice in classrooms (instructional, assessment and environmental differentiation); time limits and constrictions; unrealistic expectations; one style of instruction; worksheets and standardization; inequitable representations in school workforce, curriculum, and resources; a disconnect between home and school; pre-determining a student’s future based on academic ability (tracking and streaming); high student/teacher ratios; educators with negative attitudes; assignment deadlines; schools reproduction of social order; high grades given as reward for compliance or favoring students. Oppression can result from what students learn, as well as how students learn and who we allow our students to be. There is a lot more to curriculum than we initially thought; curriculum is not just about the things we are teaching, but includes the things that we do not teach. The formal and hidden curriculum identify dominant narratives. Curriculum, school, and educators shape students identities and affect who they will become. We play a huge role in constructing and re-constructing privileges and inequalities. Schools can be a place to interrupt these notions. I have always had an idea of what I wanted to teach, but now, I have a completely different perspective of the curriculum and it’s hidden implications on students and society. I was not aware of the ways that schools determine who is allowed to learn, and who is not, forcing others to assimilate to our “commonsense”. This leaves me feeling unprepared; how am I supposed to teach inclusive education if the curriculum document is not on my side? Initially, I was shocked at the ways our curriculum excludes so many, but my surprise soon turned to anger. It is obvious that the school system is not ready to distribute its privilege fairly. Kaela... I felt unprepared and uncomfortable for thinking about curriculum in a traditional way, in a way that means I am privileged and others are oppressed. I felt embarrassed for never questioning that traditional view. I feel nervous and intimated when thinking about challenging these societal norms and teaching and practicing equality through the mandated curriculum. Continued... Something that has been made very obvious to me this semester is the way teachers often make assumptions about their students’ culture, performance, and ideas based on dominant narratives.  Although a child may be a certain race, they will not necessarily connect with every cultural aspect of that race.  As teachers, we must make a conscious effort to never stereotype our students; we cannot afford to make these assumptions because every child’s lived experience is different.   We must honor the lived curriculum, taking time to understand the stories of our students so that we are better able to understand them.  When finally understanding  how being a white, upper-middle class, heterosexual female from a nuclear family has shaped me, I realize that this can also have a serious affect on how my students learn.  My dominant narratives and stories affect how I stereotype my class, embrace or disregard their personal stories, and ultimately pollute the hidden curriculum.   It is in the best interest of students to learn about and be immersed in a multicultural society, to dismantle stereotypes, and accept a community that embraces many histories, traditions and religions. We, as teachers, must be mindful of the place we are in, meaning community, society, family, and school. A students understanding is grounded in their experiences; who they are matters, and where they come from is important. Children are better able to connect with and understand the content if it is relative to them. This curriculum is connected to religion, socio-economic status, and culture. “Place”
changes our original definition of what curriculum is. I can not unsee how learning in comforting ways disrupts and questions nothing; however learning in discomforting ways can provide optimal learning opportunities as well as upset prior knowledge. However these areas of discomfort must take place in safe and accepting environments free of bias, stereotypes, prejudice and racism.
I can not unsee the unlimited potentials of anti-oppressive and social justice education for all students from different ethnic backgrounds, ages, genders, social classes, religions and families.
I can not unsee that a building, four walls with a door, a school bell and a written curriculum do not define what education is or means. The importance of relevant and meaningful relationships and learning is imperative to the success of education.
I can not unsee how I have assisted in endorsing commonsense views and how I am now left with the discomforting thoughts that I can maintain the status quo or begin to challenge it personally with my students and future colleagues.
I can not unsee the “ignorant perception” that I, the teacher, am here to fill student’s minds with knowledge. I now know the student’s who enter the classroom are not empty vessels waiting to have me fill information and education into their minds. They are individuals who bring their own knowledge, experiences, values and beliefs into OUR classroom. The classroom community the students and I create together will help ensure that everyone’s knowledge, stories and experiences are honoured.
I can not unsee how my own assumptions of cultures, gender, privilege, inequalities, teaching and learning and school traditions can reinforce biases, stereotypes, prejudices or racism. I must regularly reflect, challenge and critically think through a variety of different lenses so I do not follow the same commonsense practice I have been taught to exercise.
I can not unsee how grades define students (high grades mean intelligence, low grades mean unintelligence). I must confront and change this discourse by providing inquiry based projects and differentiated learning to the classroom. These instructional approaches make learning meaningful and relevant and encourage all students to develop a love for lifelong learning. Understanding this has forced me to reconsider my values, and has made me uncomfortable and troubled many times.  It is difficult for me to confront my beliefs and upbringing, and challenge my “commonsensical” childhood.  But, as we have learned, troubling knowledge places us into situations where we must think critically.  Now that I have acknowledged my values, change can be made.  Acknowledgment is the first step in teaching social justice, but now I must move forward, so as not to perpetuate the commonsense by remaining silent.  I believe that listening to students to better understand their experiences enables me to inquire into their stories, assess and document with fairness, and move towards a more socially just classroom.  How society has failed us in so many ways... Racism, Sexism, Gender Roles, LGBTQ, and Poverty.
How I am privileged and “others” are oppressed.
How the best way to learn, is through crisis and discomforting situations...
That societal oppression discriminates against people who are different, that assuming stereotypes about these people may create self-fulfilling prophesies for these people.
As educators we must strive to dismantle these oppressive barriers.
That schools reproduce social status's and reproduce existing inequalities.
That schools are oppressive and by choosing not to discuss something controversial we are oppressing those in silence.
That poverty is everywhere... That people working can still be poor. That poverty does not cause disabilities...
What are the dominant narratives and how does it affect our learning- my learning?
Narrative Inquiry- It can be messy, it will be messy, but it will take you down paths that are worthwhile to students because it is their lived curriculum.
To attend to a child's story, I don't have to talk or answer or have advice; if I want to hear silenced voices in my classroom the best thing I can do is to listen.
I cannot "unsee" how grades are defined and how students are assessed.
I cannot "unsee" the different teaching techniques that are available to help my students learn in a way that benefits them.
That curriculum as place will follow me wherever I go... Thank you for a great semester Julie! Janelle, Kelsey, Kaela Tweet us...
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