Rose Couture

Aspiring teacher. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward


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The Headaches That Standardized Tests and Curriculums Can Cause

Standardized tests and curriculums are elements that have been the focus of many educational debates. Curriculums are made by the Ministries and authority figures, and are filled with standards that teachers and students need to meet in order to succeed on the standardized test, which is meant to measure the student’s capacity to retain the right information. These tests and curriculums send a message that if you do well, score high and have the right answer, then you are a good learner/teacher. This is wrong on so many levels for both educators and students. By having to meet standards and make sure that your students meet the test requirements, teachers are under constant stress and pressure. Knowing they will be evaluated on how well their students do, they will want to teach everything that could possibly be on the provincial test. To achieve this, they might have to follow a very strict schedule to ensure that everything that needs to be “learned” is taught and having little to no time for real learning, understanding and deep thinking. Under stress and pressure, educators might feel the need to have absolute control in the classroom and have a teacher-centric method, which rules out student-centric learning as well as transferring their stress to the student body, making the learning experience painful. Standardized tests and curriculums cause more harm than good, although some students are really good at memorizing information that will be on the test, allowing them to have high scores, but a poor understanding of the content. Teachers have a choice regarding what they want to teach in the classroom, but there is always the big test in the back of their minds that they need to prepare their students for and they need to adapt their content for it. “If the students score low, then the teacher is not doing their job properly” is probably what a lot of people in society think today. I firmly believe that, in most situations, those teacher consciously choose to drift away from the standards to prioritize actual learning, understanding and critical thinking of the students. 

Having lived in a province where I had to take standardized provincial tests, I can assure you that it is a very stressful experience, because if you do not have the right answer, you fail, you feel like a failure and you do not get to go to the next grade. It is not how I want my students to feel and I still do not completely understand why Ministries and governments think that standardization is the way to go. I’d love to know more about your experiences with standardized testing and curriculums and how it makes you feel. Please share!

 

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Class Curriculum, My Curriculum, And Learning Through Crisis

At the beginning of my ECS 210 course, we were asked the following question: What is curriculum? As a classroom, everybody raised their hands in turn to give a characteristic of their own definition of curriculum, what curriculum meant to them. The prof in front of the lecture theatre wrote these on the blackboard and came up with a group definition/representation of curriculum.
Curriculum includes multiple documents from the ministry of education that are mandated. These documents form the fundamental basis for teaching and provide a framework or guideline for what should be taught including outcomes and indicators for learning. Curriculum is provided/shaped by the environment – context and culture matter. While curriculum does change, and can be adapted it also facilitates continuity across education systems. In curriculum, time matters; material must be able to be taught/tested within a timeframe. Curriculum includes what we choose to teach and what we don’t teach. Curriculum can be directed more broadly to being inclusive and directed to different types of learners and can be thought as contributing to success in life and the development of a well-rounded individual.
This week, we were asked to rewrite this definition on our own, so that it reflects our own sense of the idea of curriculum.
Here is mine:
A curriculum is a set of documents containing outcomes and indicators that were previously agreed upon by educators, directors and the Ministry of Education, before finding its way into the classroom, where the teacher will have to follow the “mandated outcomes”, within a time frame in order to test the students’ knowledge. These documents are seen as the fundamental basis for teaching and follow the teaching norms, previously established by government, ministries, educators and directors. A teacher has the choice to follow learning indicators that will help reach the numerous outcomes, or to come up with their own methods to achieve the same objective. While curriculum has been implemented to assure continuity across education systems, curriculum is different in every single classroom, in every single school, in every province across the country. It is believed that if educators follow all these outcomes and fundamental rules, they will produce a well-rounded individual, a student filled with knowledge. Curriculum is formal and hidden, as what we teach and what we choose not to teach, sends different messages in our classroom community. We also have the possibility to adapt the curriculum so that we are inclusive of the variety of students present in our classroom.
SK Curriculum for Social Studies Grade 9

SK Curriculum for Social Studies Grade 9

In this definition, I will have to admit that there is no room for ‘crisis’ and ‘learning through crisis’, which is not a good thing. It seems to me that many people see education as a ‘production’ process. We have students in our classrooms, we want them to learn and to pass standardized tests, and go on to the next level, they graduate, and we feel accomplished. Schools should not be seen as factories. As we know, schools are much more than factories, they are where students will feel inspired, where students will want to learn, where they will be challenged, and given the right support and resources to surpass those challenges. Curriculums are pre-determined, they are constructed in a way where an instructor will have to follow a tight timeframe, not allowing any room for crisis. As every single minute of our lives are different, every single minute in a classroom should also be different from one time to another. If you are teaching something and a student raises a good question that sparks interest in his colleagues, will you just pass on that opportunity because you are on a “tight” schedule? Many problems, ideas, and events that would benefit student learning may occur in our classrooms, but we have not necessarily planned time for these and might feel obligated to continue on with the objectives that were pre-determined by authority. I am not saying that curriculum is bad overall, I am just trying to show how so many events that could benefit our students in their identity and knowledge construction are often put aside to follow the rules, the “more important things”. Maybe curriculum should be examined even more in-depth, what are these fundamentals and curriculums saying about the individuals who created them, about the individuals we are, and the ones we want to help shape? What are your thoughts on crisis and curriculum in general? And education, is it really a production process?


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Curriculum as (Online) Community!

First of all, I would love to say that this is a subject that I find very interesting as I am currently learning about many technological tools that I can use in a classroom in the course of my ECMP355 class. The learning process is currently shifting. As preservice educators, we are currently learning how to engage in social justice and anti-oppressive education in the classroom. In addition, having future students developing their critical thinking and creativity is another goal some of us want to achieve. Technology is a magnificent tool that is presented to us on a silver platter. (Note: As much as I am “for” technology, I believe physical activity is more important, finding a good balance is suggested.) This tool allows us to connect with people who can then share information or knowledge with us. From this new knowledge that is acquired, we are able to build upon this meaning or to create a new one, allowing us to grow. Both teacher/learner and student/learner  benefit from technology. By connecting and sharing, we are exploring the many possibilities that are underneath the surface waiting to be discovered. Inspiration is key to motivation.
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Learning with technology is something we can do anywhere. Literally. Nowadays, most of the population is able to access online resources and media through a portable device, at home or school, allowing us to learn on-the-go (anywhere we might be) and letting us choose what we want to be learning as well. Some individuals might be worried about how the online community and technology can be harmful or “too much” for kids to be able to handle on their own. The online world is accessible nearly everywhere, including away from parental or guardian supervision, another factor that can influence individuals’ openness to kids learning and having access to technology. As educators, we have the responsibility and opportunity to explain the “netiquette” (this link is from an education website and could be a good start to make up your own “netiquette” in the classroom) to the students in our schools. By offering them valuable resources to aid them in the online world, students will then be conscious of the “right” decisions to make online and to whom they can turn for additional support.

Overall, I think technology is a great tool for both teacher and student learner, in moderate ammounts, while following a good “netiquette”. It is available for everyone to access and to empower you into making a difference. What are you waiting for?

 

 


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Hidden Messages

As I read over my autobiography in the course of ECS210, I discovered, to my surprise, that there was indeed hidden messages and political implications in my work. Indeed, in the first paragraph of my autobiography I spotted the words “as a young woman living in the 21st century”, definitely telling the reader my gender and what kind of woman I am. I do not live in the early 1900’s, therefore, by living in the 21st century, I have many rights that women then did not, showing that I am different. I am aware of women’s past situations in Canada and their situation all around the world today, it might affect me in some ways when I can connect to these women, while a man might have difficulty connecting in the same ways I did. I did not include my race or my sexual orientation in my autobiography, as they are not things to which I can easily identify, but I know that because I am “white” some might think that I believe I am better than others, which is false. “White privilege” might influence some events in my life, but on a personal view-point, it is not my intention, in no ways do I think that “white privilege” should be something that makes me “better” than other people. I strongly believe in equal treatment of individuals, no matter who they are and from where they might be. As I was getting further in my text, I realized that, indeed my mom had introduced me to the English language early on as we resided in a bilingual province. She wanted me to be bilingual so that I could grasp more “opportunities” in life that she was not able to grasp herself because she is monolingual. As I read into this, I can see that bilingual people are favoured over monolingual people in my birth province, as well as in Canada and other countries. There are “common sense” reasons to this, but really, why should a monolingual person be penalized over someone who has mastered more than one language? There are many other things in my biography that I have seen differently as I acquired new knowledge, and put on different lenses. My point is, we do need to look more in-depth to something that is familiar to us and that contains many, many hidden messages, as this could tell us more about who we are and how we got here.


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Being a “Good” Student and Learning Through Crisis

In Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense chapter 2, we are introduced to different views of a “good” student and how it is possible for teachers to teach through crisis. According to common sense and mainstream society, a good student is a student who sits quietly in the classroom, who listens to the teacher and retains the information, someone who gets good grades, a student that gets along with everybody or is popular, who follows the rules, behaves, is always on time, and who says what the teacher wants to hear. In this “common sense” definition of a “good” student, we can clearly see that the society we are living in gives us this biased vision of what a good student really is. The same applies to the “good” teacher’s definition, coming from outsiders and from people who do not completely realize what the teaching profession really involves. In this representation of a “good” student, certain types of students are privileged and others are oppressed. Students who are privileged by this definition are the ones who directly identify to some of these preconceived labels, but the majority of the students present in the classroom will definitely be oppressed and left out by this definition if their “bad” characteristics overpower their “good” ones. In addition to that, the students who do not identify at all with the mainstream definition are definitely left out. A student who does not learn the same way other students do will be penalized compared to others. For example, a student that requires more hands-on situations and visual aids to grasp the concepts will be oppressed compared to the student who can understand concepts just by listening to the teacher and copying down the notes that the instructor writes on the board. Every single student will have a different learning technique, because we are all different from one another, we are unique individuals.

In the same chapter, we also see how learning should be a slightly uncomfortable process, that students will learn through crisis. Curriculum in many schools will be expecting the teacher to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for the children. Although that might seem like the common sense way to approach things, it is not necessarily right. As students learn, they realize that some of their previous knowledge is biased and that makes them feel uneasy and might even make them feel reluctant to learn. Our mission is to question and challenge oppressions, but by doing so, we are making students feel uncomfortable, therefore we are not providing a safe and comfortable environment. This is false. There are ways to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment, as well as an environment that will make the students feel uncomfortable enough for them to learn. We want to make them challenge oppressions, feel uncomfortable, but within boundaries. Teachers also need to realize that by making the students feel uneasy, it will trigger them to go through crises. Not every student will enter a learning crises at the same time as another student in the same classroom. It is also possible for a whole classroom to enter crises at the same time, but it is important to remember that no student will experience the crises in the same ways. Therefore the importance of adapting to the constantly changing situation in the classroom, and being able to provide sufficient information in order to comfort students. What are your thoughts on teaching and learning through crises? Is it the right thing to do? How are some students privileged compared to others?


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A History of Education by Painter (1886)

Reading the first 21 pages of Painter’s History of Education just blew my mind. And the fact that this textbook was used by Saskatchewan teachers in the early 1900’s is even crazier. Our teacher specified not to be scandalized in our lecture today, but I just could not help myself. Painter uses many racial terms in his work, “good” words about “his kind” and some other non-pretty words for anybody else that is underneath him in the racial hierarchy. Just so we are clear, I do not believe in racial hierarchy. He leaves us the impression that to him, being an anglo-saxon is just the best thing you can be. You are viewed as a noble man, you are the ideal of the human race, you are built to be the ideal of Christ. He then goes on comparing civilized people (like the anglo-saxon) to the barbarous people such as the Mongolians, the Chinese, giving us the impression that their ways are wrong compared to the western ways and that they cannot be smart/intelligent/knowledgable like the “child of the West”. The term “race” in the textbook highlights the negative differences between Westerners and Occidentals.

Why were teachers taught to think in racial terms? Mainly for assimilation. It was the government’s way of making sure that teachers would emphasize the importance of the Western ways in public schools and residential schools. Through “mandatory” texts about teaching/education that were written in racial ways, teachers believed it was “common sense” and “normal” to be teaching those views to the students in their classroom. I really hope that teachers nowadays do not unconsciously impose those biased values to the kids sitting in front of them in the class. What do you think? Are we still imposing white racialization unconsciously to our students in 2013? In what ways should we explore different cultures in class without it being seen as “racism” from the anglo-saxon?


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Commonsense and Curriculum Definitions

For this week’s reading assignment, we were asked to read and think about the multiple curriculum definitions on Leslie Owen Wilson’s website and see how Kumashiro’s idea of common sense applied to the definitions. During the lecture, we explored those definitions a little more in depth and were shown a short video of “Dangerous Minds” where we had to identify the types of curriculum we saw.

After those activities, I came to the conclusion that curriculum is everywhere; we are aware of some types, unaware of others and the other ones are just common sense, as they are “so obvious”. For example, in the definition of overt, explicit and written curriculum we can read the following words “is simply that which is written”, where the adjective simply implies the noun simple, which leads us to think of common sense. In another definition, the one of null curriculum, the author sides with Eisner’s statement as what message the board/educators and sending to students when they decide which subjects are worth teaching and which ones we need to excluded because they are not “as important”. I found the internal curriculum and the electronic curriculum to be the most interesting ones in the list since it is individual-based, meaning it is different from one person to another. It shows how different we are and how we each retain different information during the same lesson. I am currently learning about the electronic curriculum in my ECMP355 class and how we need to each develop the sense of “right”, “wise” and “correct” in the online community.curriculum-image

We also were assigned to read the “teaching for social justice” on wikipedia. From my reading, I retained that it is not so good to try and instil values onto people, they have to discover their own things to value and it is something that should not be forced upon someone. Teachers also need to learn and not only teach in the classroom. When it comes to equity, it is important to not make the assumption that equal means the same. That is where I came up with the following statement: “We are all different, we are all unique, we are not the same. We are equals which means that we are not better than anybody else”.

On the same note, the anti-oppressive education definition implies that teachers who want to teach against oppression have to be constantly challenging it. There are common sense ways of engaging into “education” which contributes to oppression and that is something we do not want to be promoting as preservice and regular teachers. We have to constantly be critical in order to explore the multiple facets of things, we need to aim for difference, uneasy and controversial. What are your thoughts on values, curriculum and anti-oppressive education?