Reading Responses

Reading Response #8

Missing the Mark

This week’s reading, TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Programs Miss the Mark, by Gerald Walton examines the many ways in which LGBTQ student rights have ben overlooked. Using the wildly popular television series Glee, Walton identifies how the education system deals with homophobic harassment in ways that do not promote real change, but rather avoid the complexity of the issues themselves.

Having grown up being a fan of Glee myself, I found this article to provide an interesting perspective on the show’s approach to LGBTQ students. As the article states, the television series addresses a broad spectrum of bullying, yet as mentioned by the titled, has missed the mark in terms of dealing with homophobic harassment. Throughout the series, LGBTQ students are represented in many empowering ways, yet the approaches to dealing with their harassment are often submissive and ineffective. More often than not, these acts of harassment are treated as forms of bullying and dealt with in such manner. While this effort to curb bullying is commendable, placing homophobic harassment in the same category as bullying simplifies a much more complex area of concern that not only applies to fictional school systems, such as the one in Glee, but also in the reality that we live in today.

This article has brought to my attention the need for change in the education system’s approach to dealing with LGBTQ student issues. The lack of attention that LGBTQ students receive is something that has always puzzled me and has led me to question what changes can be made to give them the equal recognition they deserve. Although there currently are many policies set in place that attempt to prevent homophobic harassment and mistreatment of LGBTQ students, I personally believe that change cannot occur without actions being taken to support these policies. As stated in the article, real change cannot be achieved without cooperation and “participation at all levels, including students, teachers, administrators, bureaucrats, parents and the broader community” (219).

Reflecting upon this reading, as well as class discussions, I believe that the biggest problem in relation to dealing with LGBTQ issues in the education system is an overall lack of understanding. This lack of understanding can be attributed to the absence of attention given to the LGBTQ student population in general. Without a concrete understanding of the issues LGBTQ students face, we cannot effectively work to overcome them.

I think that the first step towards promoting LGBTQ rights within the education system is by educating teachers on the issues. Teachers are in a position that allows for them to have great potential to enact change through education, yet it is critical that they are first educated themselves. I as a future educator have very limited knowledge on theses issues, therefore I would love to learn more about the LGBTQ student community in general, as well as how to approach the issues they face. By educating teachers, they can then take the information they learn and spread it throughout their schools. This not only promotes understanding, but also an overall sense of diversity and acceptance.

Today’s education system has come a long way in terms of promoting the acceptance of all students, yet this article has led me to recognize that there are many barriers that remain to be conquered. Although there is a tough road ahead, teachers must understand that some days they may make strides in their journey towards achieving equality in the education system, while other days may feel like they are moving backwards. The important thing to remember is that providing students with a safe and accepting environment that they can grow and thrive in, regardless of who they are, is key.

 

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Reading Response #7

An Inclusive Education in Canada

            This week’s reading, Oh, Canada: Bridges and Barriers to Inclusion in Canadian Schools by Laura Sokal and Jennifer Katz, explores the triumphs and downfalls of inclusive education in Canada. The article not only identifies the importance of academic inclusion, but also the equally significant area of social inclusion, which is often overlooked.

The article describes inclusive education as the practice of welcoming and accepting all students into regular classes that support and contribute to their education experience. The first thing that came to my mind while reading this article was in relation to my own personal experiences with students who have learning disabilities and how their education differed from my own.

Having worked with students with disabilities such as down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and dyslexia, I have noticed many ineffective approaches to inclusive education over the years. More often than not, I have witnessed the instant implementation of educational assistants for children with disabilities, which is something the article addresses that continues to puzzle me. Although these professionals are extremely helpful and an integral component to the education system, I feel that they can often be implemented in ways that hinder a child’s experience in the school setting. By frequently pulling students away from the rest of the class in order to educate them, many children feel discouraged or as if they are seen as being less than in comparison to their peers. From my experience, I have found that all students benefit from the academic and social inclusion of those with disabilities in the classroom, not just those with the disabilities themselves. When exposed to those who are different from them, students are educated on aspects of diversity and learn to not only accept those who are different, but to celebrate those differences. In my opinion, this concept of acceptance and embracing what makes each one of us unique is one of the most significant factors to inclusive education.

Although a common goal throughout Canada, there are many barriers that currently exist in relation to achieving inclusive education that I had not recognized before. As identified by Sokal and Katz, three of the most significant barriers include teacher education, funding, and mental health issues. While none of these barriers can be completely eliminated, there are steps that can be taken to improve upon them. I personally feel that teachers are almost always willing to learn themselves, therefore providing them with educational opportunities is a simple first step that can be taken towards lessening the gap between the goal and reality of inclusive education. In terms of funding, I have learnt that there is a common misconception that in order to achieve inclusive education a significant amount of money must be invested, which is not always true. The changes that teachers make in the classroom to accommodate varying needs do not have to be costly, but simply more innovative. Finally, mental health issues are an area of ongoing struggle in today’s youth, making an understanding and acceptance of how to deal with these issues an integral component to inclusive education. This concept of understanding can be related back to the core focus of providing teachers with the education they need to approach these issues. I believe that inclusive education can be achieved by providing support in these three areas, as well as encouraging all current and future teachers to continue to ask how they can contribute to achieving this common goal.

I feel that the main message to be taken from this article on inclusive education is that education is for everyone, regardless of disabilities. This is something I personally believe in and my goal as a future educator is to do everything in my power to ensure that all of my students feel comfortable and accepted in the classroom, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what disabilities they may have.

 


 

 

Reading Response #6

Ignorant School Master

             This week’s assigned reading was the introduction and first chapter of Jacques Ranciere’s book, Ignorant School Master. The first chapter follows the experience of a French teacher named Joseph Jacotot in the 18th century, focusing on his inadvertent experiment, which allowed for his students to learn French without him personally teaching them the language. By assigning a bilingual text and telling his students to read and translate it, Jacotot was impressed as to how quickly they were able to pick up the language. This experiment caused Jacotot to reconsider the role of a teacher and the ways in which students learn.

I found it interesting to read that from his experiment, Jacotot was able to make the claim that knowledge is not always necessary to teach and that explication, which I discovered is the process of analyzing and developing ideas in detail, is not necessary to in order to learn. This claim by Jacotot was extremely influential, as it changed the way education was viewed in the eyes of both those educating and being educated. Looking at this claim today, it doesn’t seem to be too revolutionary, but in the time in which the experiment occurred, nothing like it had been said before.

Jacotot went on to claim that from the experiment, he concluded that all individuals are equally intelligent, leading to the creation of his philosophy of intellectual emancipation. This philosophy was intended to allow anyone to have the ability to teach, regardless of his or her educational background. I was both surprised and interested to hear about the origin of this philosophy and it has led me to question whether or not intellectual emancipation is achievable in today’s society.

I personally found this reading to be very thought provoking, especially with consideration of my future as an educator. The main message I was able to take from Jacotot’s experience was that learning relies more on an individual’s willingness and devotion to their education, rather than intelligence itself. I can personally relate to this idea, as I have often come across extremely intelligent people who did poorly in school solely because they didn’t care about their education. In contrast, some of the most well educated people are those who take twice as long to understand a concept, yet they never give up or stop trying to further their understanding.

I have always been puzzled as to why so many individuals do not value learning or their education in general. In saying this, I do believe that the roles of teachers have changed over time and that it a duty of a teacher to do everything in his/her power to evoke a passion for learning in their students. There are many different approaches to doing so and in my opinion, the first step is to make the students understand that everyone is intelligent in their own way and has the potential to succeed with their education.

I know for a fact that there will always be students who have a poor outlook on education and sometimes teachers are unable to change that, which can be discouraging. No matter the circumstances, we as the teachers of today and tomorrow need to understand that we can motivate students to become the best versions of themselves, and improve ourselves as teachers along the way.

 


 

 

Reading Response #5

The Teacher Within

            This week’s reading, The Heart of a Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching by Parker J. Palmer focused on what he refers to as connecting to “the teacher within”. At first read, this concept was one that puzzled me, as I had never heard of this expression before. Reading on, palmer explores what it means to be a good teacher and how one can improve upon their teaching methods by becoming connected with their inner self. I found this reading to be a brilliant representation of the individual journey a teacher must embark on and it has opened my eyes to a number of things that I must consider as I progress towards a future as an educator.

Parker explains that there are three important sources that need to be considered when teaching. These sources include an understanding that the knowledge being taught in the classroom, as well as the students being taught, are extremely complex. Parker also states that teachers must understand that “we teach who we are”, meaning that in order to become a good teacher, one must first be connected with his/her inner self. In order to connect with ones inner self, a balance between intellectual, emotional and spiritual paths must be maintained. I found it to be very interesting to learn about all the different elements that come into consideration when examining what it takes to be a good teacher. In contrast, Parker describes a bad teacher as being one that distances him/herself from the subject they are teaching and their students. With this in mind, I have come to understand the undeniable importance of a teacher being able to connect their self with both their students and the subjects they are teaching.

Progressing through the reading, the importance of identity, integrity, and heart are focused on in great detail. It becomes apparent to me that the key to self-discovery as a teacher is found through the exploration of ones identity and integrity. Parker makes it clear that knowing who you are and accepting both your strengths and flaws are vital in becoming connected with oneself. Reading about the importance of understanding ones limits really impacted me, as it is something I feel many teachers struggle with in the profession, leading to what Parker refers to as a loss of heart due to a sense of vulnerability. Through his explanation of the importance of heart, Parker writes something that initially left me speechless. He defines the courage to teach as “the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able” (8). This statement is the most influential and inspiring thing I have read throughout my entire university experience and will stick with me as I continue on my journey to becoming a teacher.

After considering everything that is discussed in the reading, I feel motivated to purpose the question as to whether or not there are more qualities to being a good teacher that the reading does not mention? In my opinion, everyone has different ideas of what it means to be a good teacher, but Parker’s writing accurately pinpoints the most critical areas of concern that many people overlook. I myself have been enlightened by this reading and feel inspired to achieve a better understanding of who I am as a future educator and how I will integrate heart into my teaching methods and classroom.

 


 

 

Reading Response #4

A Division of Worldviews

            This week’s reading, Jagged Worldviews Colliding by Leroy Little Bear, focused on the opposing worldviews that exist between Aboriginal and Eurocentric populations. Not only have these differences lead to mass dissension, but also oppression and discrimination. Leroy contrasts Aboriginal philosophies, values and customs with those of the Eurocentric society. The points made throughout the piece are both insightful and thought provoking, leading me to question how the worldview I have today has been influenced and in what ways it may change in the future.

The Aboriginal worldview is described as having a focus on everything being alive and connected, leading to a holistic and cyclical view of the world. Little Bear uses a series of similes to describe Aboriginal worldview, much of which I had not know about prior to reading this piece. The reference to Aboriginal organization being seen as a “spider web” of relations highlights the belief of interconnectedness. The belief that everyone can be connected to each other in some way is fascinating to me, as I have always grow up with the thinking that only blood relations mattered. The idea of wholeness is also central to Aboriginal worldview, with strength, sharing, honesty, and kindness being the foundation of success. It is believed that by embracing these four qualities, balance, harmony and beauty can be achieved. It was at this point in the reading where I began to realize that the Aboriginal Worldview is much more complex than I had originally understood.

One thing that really stood out to me was in regards to how Aboriginal education is passed on. The belief that everyone in a community has the capability and responsibility of educating the youth is inspiring. I find that the Aboriginal worldview is one with many positive practices and outcomes, and I have now come to understand Little Bear when he wrote about how Eurocentric society has oppressed this worldview for a long time. Aboriginal and Eurocentric worldviews have conflicted and contrasted with one another for centuries. With a focus on a linear, singular, and objective worldview, Eurocentric perspectives have relied on materialism and the need to verify everything as being either right or wrong, the exact opposite as Aboriginals. While diversity and equality are celebrated in Aboriginal communities, Eurocentric communities are not as accepting of these differences and believe that conformity is needed to succeed in getting things done. While Aboriginal worldviews focus on equality, Eurocentric worldviews are more about doing what is best for the individual rather than the group. These are just a few of the examples used throughout the reading of the contrasting elements between the two worldviews, many of which I had not recognized before.

Through reflecting upon this reading, I am puzzled as to why we as a Eurocentric society have felt the need to put our worldviews above others? I personally feel that there is nothing wrong with numerous worldviews coexisting with each other. I also believe that the Aboriginal worldview has much to teach us in terms of acceptance and diversity. Not only have they continued to embrace their customs and beliefs, they have not looked down on others for their different worldviews. This is significant in my eyes, as I believe that the only way different groups of people can exist with one another is by accepting their differences and approaching them with an open mind.

 


 

 

 

Reading Response #3

White Privilege: The Unavoidable Truth

           Peggy McIntosh’s article titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” is an extremely eye-opening piece in my opinion. Throughout the article, McIntosh addresses the idea of white privilege and what all it entails. Being a white individual herself, she defines white privilege as being an “invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious” (1). McIntosh write about how white individuals have been taught not to recognize their privileges in relation to those of another race. Although I had not thought about it in this way before, I cannot deny the accuracy of the message her article delivers.

McIntosh identifies a list of the daily effects that white privilege has on her life. Through examining this list, I was introduced to the extensive number of privileges that exist in society today. At this point, I felt it was necessary to stop and ask myself what white privileges I take advantage of in my life and it is through the asking of this question that I was able to further add to McIntosh’s list. The sheer number of privileges I was able to identify was both shocking and somewhat upsetting. Through this exercise, my eyes have opened to the level of inequality that exists in this world today. To think that something as minor as the color of ones skin can be used to identify the type of person the world perceives them to be is unbelievable, yet it is the reality we live in.

I feel that McIntosh’s motivation behind writing this article was not to place blame or shame on those who benefit from white privilege, but to bring to attention the idea itself. Prior to this reading, white privilege was not a topic of discussion in my personal life. As mentioned by the article, the reason I, along with others, haven’t given much thought to the idea of white privilege may be due to an overall lack of understanding of the issue itself.

With my new gained knowledge on the topic, I feel slightly confused as to why there hasn’t been a stronger push towards equality and the abolishment of white privilege itself. McIntosh proposes the question “having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?” (pg.1). This is a question with many possible answers and interpretations. McIntosh herself goes on to identify the complexity of white privilege, as well as suggests that the first step in lessen the divide between those who do and do not receive these identified benefits is not only to bring attention to the topic, but also to accept that it is happening. There is a difference between understanding inequality and actually doing something to put an end to it.

I find McIntosh’s article to be extremely impactful, as she is addressing a topic that many others would fear to acknowledge. I believe that we as a society can achieve equality amongst races if enough people, such as McIntosh, are moved to act in a way that promotes change.

 

 


 

 

Reading Response #2

Muffins for Granny: The Power of Survivors

           In today’s lecture, guest speaker Anna Leah King spoke about residential schools, specifically in relation to her parent’s experiences and the difficulty they had sharing their stories. Her presentation opened my eyes to a new perspective on residential schools as a whole and the lasting impact they have on First Nations communities. Following her presentation, King introduced a documentary titled Muffins for Granny, which explores the experiences of numerous residential school survivors. Although this is a topic that I am quite familiar with, I was not fully prepared for the significant impact the documentary would have on me. As I write this reflection, I cannot ignore the series of emotions that I am overcome with. I have read about residential school experiences countless times before, but listening to real survivors sit down and tell their stories has a much deeper impact.

With numerous residential school survivors coming together to share their stories, a great deal of injustice is uncovered throughout the documentary, leading me to wonder how this level of cruelty was able to go on for so long without intervention. Subjected to all forms of abuse, these survivors outline the types of experiences they had as children attending residential schools. While each survivor’s story is unique, they all share common elements of mistreatment and inhumanity. These children were taught to be ashamed of who were and where they came from, as well as to live in a constant state of fear. Not only were they treated with a lack of respect, but also taught not to respect themselves as individuals. It is due to these experiences that many survivors are lead down a road of alcoholism, drug abuse, criminal activity, depression, and even suicide in order to cope with the reality of their past.

With consideration of how emotional I became while listening to these stories, I cannot imagine how the storytellers are feeling as they recount the darkest experiences of their lives. I think that it is important to not only recognize the stories being told, but also the storytellers themselves. As a listener, I am able to take a step back in order to contain my emotions, a privilege the storytellers do not have. To many listeners, including myself, these are sad and upsetting stories, but to the storytellers they are a reality that they had to live through and continue to live with each and every day.

Throughout the documentary, the words humility, respect, courage and wisdom are used to accurately describe the survivors sharing their stories. Towards the end of the documentary, one of the survivors said something that really stuck with me. Looking forward, he identified that the silence that once existed in regards to residential schools has been broken, and it is because of this that there is hope. I am inspired by these survivors and believe that society as a whole can learn a lot from them. Although they have every right to be angry and hold on to this injustice, they are choosing to move forward, to be brave, and above all, they are choosing to heal.

 

 


 

 

Reading Response #1

A History of Injustice Within Education

          This week’s readings focused on the history of education in Saskatchewan, specifically in relation to First Nation students and residential school. From reading and discussing ideas, I have been inspired to consider the impact that residential schools have had and continue to have within First Nations populations today.

Ken Horsman’s “History of Schooling in Saskatchewan” provides a very brief, yet detailed account of the evolution of education in Saskatchewan, with a focus on First Nations and their struggles to receive said education. Prior to reading Horsman’s piece, I had very little knowledge on Saskatchewan’s history in terms of education. If there is one thing that I learnt from this reading, it is that the history of education is one with many struggles and shortcomings, the most prominent being the development and implementation of residential schools.

Residential schools are one of the most talked about topics in the field of education today. “Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools In Saskatchewan” is a document that outlines the residential school experience from three very different, yet equally important perspectives: the parent left behind, the child taken, and a trauma survivor. Each perspective has taught me something in terms of residential schools and their lasting impact. One line that affected me emotionally was “what your education has taught you most is to fear” (pg. 8). This statement disturbed me, as I believe that children should never be put into a position where they are driven to associate education with fear.

The idea of knowledge was discussed in this week’s ECS lecture and the question of who decides what knowledge is valuable was proposed. What stood out to me in this reading was the idea that First Nation’s children needed to be “civilized” and the only way that this could be done was by taking them away from their families and placing them in residential schools, as they were not seen as being provided with the knowledge needed to succeed in life. I found this to be very puzzling, as I do not believe the government had the right to determine whether or not the knowledge being taught in First Nations communities was of value. In my opinion, knowledge can be found in many forms and is not to be constraint to a simple definition of valuable or invaluable.

Upon reflection of these readings, my eyes have been opened to the idea that residential schools not only affect the children who attended, but also their loved ones and communities. Above all, I have learnt that although residential schools are no longer in function, they still have a lasting impact in society today. As a future educator, I believe that it is important to reflect upon these residential school experiences in order to grow and learn from the mistakes made in the past.

The question I feel we need to ask ourselves is; how can we ensure that the mistakes from the past do not occur again? There are many ways to answer this question but I feel it can be most accurately summarized in the following few words: reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and work towards a future of equality for all.

 

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