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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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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So what is common sense exactly?

For my ECS210 class this semester, we will be taking the time to read Kumashiro’s Against Comme Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice. In this post, I will share my thoughts and my favorite quotes in the foreword and introduction part of the text.

As I first picked up this book, let’s be honest, I thought it sounded very complicated. But after reading just a few sentences, I was hooked. I cannot wait to pick up this book and start reading through the whole thing. In the foreword, Gloria Ladson-Billings from the University of Wisconsin-Madison gives us a wonderful taste of what this text has to offer, without “sugar-coating” it. She emphasizes the importance of pre-service and first year teachers to “build a network of trust with the parents and the community members”, a step that many new teachers seem to forget. This is where my ECMP355 class comes in handy. It is a tool to build an incredible network of people and resources online, using different applications and programs. Also, the examples and the choices in this volume are based on real-life experiences, which makes it even more interesting!

In the introduction chapter, we explore how the term common sense is defined. Common sense are “assumptions” made daily, in different contexts, i.e: common sense will be different from one person to another, from a household to another, from communities, etc. Kumashiro mentions that “common sensical ideas often give us some sense of comfort […] commonsensical ideas are often what help us to make sense of and feel at ease with the things that get repeated in our everyday lives” (p. XXXV). The first part of the text also introduces us to social justice, norms & standards, and teaching against oppression. “Teaching towards social justice means teaching students to think independently, critically, and creatively about whatever story is being taught” (p. XXV), therefore, by teaching against oppression, we are teaching students to have ideas and opinions of their own, allowing them to build their character, their self-esteem, and letting them know that it’s “okay” to be different and have different views on subjects.

Learning standards are also mentioned in the opening chapter and I wonder, who gets to decide what the standards are? Who gets to decide what is right or wrong to teach? Why are we only exploring certain perspectives and certain goals?  We should continuously be expanding our knowledge and we should be able to learn things that are not necessarily in the curriculum or the learning “standards”, giving students the right to be intellectually free.

 In addition to learning standards, the author briefly explains how teachers and teaching are seen in very “traditional ways” and how most people have this picture perfect or stereotype idea of how a teacher should be and what they should be teaching in their classrooms, because “teachers are seen as ‘professionals’ or ‘efficient’ when they teach in the ‘traditional’ ways” (p. XXXV). The same applies to the school establishments.

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I could go on and on about all I read in the first few pages. I learnt a lot already and I cannot wait to see what this book has to offer. I have a feeling it will be a very helpful teaching tool as to include different teaching techniques in my future career. “Common sense allows oppressions to go unchallenged in schools and society” and I hope to be one of those teachers that can think outside of the box and challenge these oppressions. I want my students to have an open mind about society and social justice, allowing them to break from having pre-conceived prejudices.

What are your thoughts on common sense?