As I left my childhood home and drove back the University of Regina for the last time I was feeling particularly sentimental and reflective. In general, reflections have always been difficult for me but I would like to think, after the practice I have gotten these last few months, the metacognitive process is getting easier for me. As my jeep and I took the journey down gravel roads and highways that would eventually lead to the university parking lot I thought of my own own educational journey thus far and where I hope it continues to lead. In particular I thought about this course and the new path it has taken me on.
When I registered for ESCI 302 I had no idea what to expect. While I have spent plenty of time imagining myself as a teacher and thinking about the kind of teacher I want to be, and I have spent plenty of time outside and would consider myself an environmemtal enthusiast, I had never considered myself as a future environmental educator. For some reason, my ranching background and my love of nature where seperate from my dream of becoming a teacher . That is why David Orr’s words “All Education is environmental education ” has really stuck with me. I needed that reminder that all I say and do as well as all I do not say and do will send a message. I can not be a completely unbiased , subjective entity and my previous, “western way of knowing” assumption that I could be was naive.
In order to realize how this journey has effected me I had to consider where the journey began. And therefore, I was brought back to my family ranch where my educational journey began nineteen years ago. This is where I first began to create assumptions of my world. While I was home this past weekend I went out to do chores with my dad. This is something I have done many times and many of my fondest childhood memories occurred in the front seat of Dads pickup truck. While we were feeding some very cold cows this past weekend my dad said something and unintentionally summed up my new feelings about education. Dad said “I am getting kind of sick of these hay bales. I spend all summer making them and all winter unrolling them.” I think that hay bales can be used as a metaphor for my assumptions about education. I have spent my whole life unconsciously making all these assumptions about education and my roles as a student and my as a future educator. Then in my first year of university these assumptions were very abruptly challenged and I was forced to unroll them and make new ones. Now, this year, in this course I was forced to unroll the assumptions from last year and make more new ones yet again. Like assumptions, sometimes hay bales unroll quite easily. Other times they are so frozen that you need to get out of the tractor and unroll them by hand. Similarity, I have encountered some ideas that were easy to incorporate into my previous ideas while other ideas were much more difficult to accommodate . For example, adopting the identity of a “white settler invader” was easy for me. It aligned with much of what i had been told and while it was uncomfortable to take on such a negative sounding title I felt like it fit. However, taking on the identity of a treaty person was much more difficult for me. I was faced with internal question like how can I be both an invader and a treaty person? Aren’t they contradictory? And how can I be a treaty person when the treaties happened so long ago? Another struggle for me was the idea of finding a balance between hope and despair. For most of this semester I liked to focus only on the romantic side of the environment and of my relationship with the environment. I liked tof focus on my experiences on the ranch with the cows, and the horses and the immaculately preserved native prairie. Because I have had a lot of positive, wonderful experiences and connections with nature that I am so grateful for. Then all of a sudden, I was hit with all this despair about the negative things that are happening and what this will mean for the conservation of our earth. Suddenly I felt really small and guilty and helpless. By the end of the course, I have now come to the conclusion that both of these perspectives are useful and I will need to find a way to balance them.These experiences forced me to unroll my assumptions of my role in our country’s history and future and create new ones.
I have come to the conclusion that like dad who creates bales all summer and unrolls them all winter, I will need to be prepared to create new assumption and beliefs with the goal of finding information that will challenge these. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating and unsettling but also rewarding and necessary in order for me to become the best educator and the best person I can be.
Never, in the history of my educational journey, have I ended a class with more questions then answers until this class. I feel unstable and like I know less about my role as an environmental educator then I knew before this class. Whereas previous to this class I was comfortable with my brief knowledge about the environment and in my ability to portray a subjective eduction to my students, I am now overwhelmed by the immense uncertainty I feel. I now feel like I need to find a way to portray a balance between hope and despair and discover my own biases. Suddenly I feel the weight of the power I will have as an educator and I feel personally responsible to inspire and educate and coddle and expose and influence all my future students. This seems like a daunting and impossible task. I am overwhelmed but I am also inspired.
I am uncomfortable that I don’t yet have any straightforward answers. Because of my assumptions of what it means to be educated I feel like I need answers to these unanswerable questions. However I simultaneously appreciate that these answers are the easily given or found. The end of this class does not mark the end of my search for answers on how to be an environmental educator. This is far from the end of my educational journey. Unlike my drive to the university, my educational journey does not have an end destination. I will not be pulling into the parking lot anytime soon. I have plenty of time to find temporary answers that can be challenged and recreated. In fact, I have the rest of my life.
A recreation of my first creative journal entry to include feelings of hope and despair
This course has been a semester full of learning and unlearning. It has been an opportunity to address my assumptions about environmental education, the environment and education in general. In order to fully appreciate my journey I looked back at where I was at the beginning of this semester. Hence my visual for this blog post. I recreated my first creative journal entry for this class but this time I tried to include both hope and despair in my visual. I think that is the biggest lesson I have learned this semester is trying to balance the hope and despair. Originally I only liked to think about the pleasant side of environmental education and the environment in general. When I thought about environmental education, I fell into the mainstream approach [that] tends to neglect sociocultural factors and fails to recognize the interconnectedness between environmental degradation and social injustices” that Ho refers to in the article (3). I thought about the typical canoe trip and taking students out to enjoy nature. I did not think about addressing the other side of the story. I didn’t think about addressing the effects of colonization or global warming. Now I realize the importance of addressing both. As an educator it will be important that I find the balance of addressing the uncomfortable topics while still allowing for appreciation of nature and hope for our future.
These are the discourses that currently apply to me
The puzzle was created from a picture that was leftover from my grad, a cereal box and scrap paper
As I have learned about discourse, the image of a puzzle has dominated my imagination. I have imagined the discourses one experiences as the puzzle pieces that makes up one’s identity. While you are occupying each “puzzle piece” there are different expectations for you. For my creative journal this week I have made a puzzle from a picture of myself and on the back of each piece I have written some of the discourses I have experienced most thus far in my lifetime. When I was determining what my discourses have been I thought of my identities, the way I may introduce myself.
Perhaps the first discourse I entered was that as the “eldest daughter.” This is actually a way I introduce myself to others and it has meant that I have certain expectations from my behavior. As the eldest I was expected to be a role model, a caregiver and a leader. Another way I have introduced myself comes in the form of where I am from. As a Canadian and Big Muddy resident I have been expected to enjoy the environment and find peace in nature. I am supposed to be an advocate for the badlands and its preservation. I am also a rancher. In this discourse, I am a conservationist with preservation of the Saskatchewan grasslands one of my greatest priorities. I am an advocate who would like consumers o be more educated. Yet this discourse classes with my jeep owning, carbon producing discourse. My jeep is not very environmentally sustainable and I drive a lot, this I am not as concerned with preservation as I might like to think. It also classes with my consumer discourse in which i blindly purchase many products. As a cowgirl and a rodeo competitor I am in the discourse of an animal lover who works closely with other species to achieve a goal. In this discourse I am a competitor. As a student I have many assumptions to what my role is. I am passive, I listen to the educator, I learn by following regulations and rubrics. I do not make decisions and the effectiveness of my learning will be decided by my teacher. As a future teacher, there are assumptions to me behavior. I will be expected to be neutral, and unbiased. I will guide students through their lessons and I will be responsible for their learning. Discourses I would not have considered my own until I took this course include the “white settler invader” and the treaty person. I am not completely sure how I fill this discourse at this point in my life.
According to Barrett, we should “attempt to gain some understanding of ways we have come to understand ourselves, question the legitimacy of these understandings” (80). How have I come to understand these identities and what has been expected of me. I think the simple answer to this is through the socialization process in which the people around me, unconsciously or consciously, told me these were my identities and then demonstrated and explained what was expected of me as a result.
To be honest, this class has overwhelmed me. The constant questioning of my previous assumptions and beliefs has been an exhilarating and sometimes frustrating experience. But more than anything, this particular assignment is very overwhelming for me. This semester, it has been painfully obvious to me that I am not good at expressing my thoughts. Thus, the idea of re-reading and re-interpreting my previous attempts at expressing said thoughts gives me hives. But to paraphrase Colin Harris, I will do my best.
Upon reading my blogs posts I have rediscovered that a large part of my life has been influenced by my parents ranch. I have also discovered that in my blog posts I have decided to only include positive anecdotes. With words such as “tranquility and harmony” I have chosen to describe the “rainbow of flowers all snuggled in together with no segregation”. I have chosen to describe my ride with Lola over sacred hills and my favorite childhood memories of “exploring” with my siblings. I have told the feel-good stories about roping and bonding with my family and insightful conversation with my father about land ownership. My Eco literacy poem about my grandfather romanticizes ranching and the common-sense idea of what ranching is. However, I have conveniently left out my negative experiences in the environment. I did not describe the dreary days were the grass is brown and the snow that is left is dirty and the world looks gross. I did not describe the cold days I spent outside when my feet were so cold that it hurt to walk on my tingly toes and the air bit at my cheeks and I couldn’t wait to go back inside and drink hot Chocolate. I have left out the experiences in which my equine partner was not so willing and chose to buck me off. I only talked about the Indigenous people and their history in relation to my own pleasant experience with looking at their left-over tepee rings and imagining what life was like for them way back then. I also outline a pleasant memory for me of a discussion with my father about land ownership and what it meant for Aboriginal peoples. But I leave out the negative aspects of the Aboriginal peoples history. This is not all I have left out in my posts during this course. Like Cole notes in his eco-literacy braid, I have considered my Grandfather an environmentalist, a conservationist and an eco-literate person without including the negative side effects to Grandpa’s actions and ranchers actions as a whole. I have romanticized his profession.
The aspects of the stories I included in blog post fit the common-sense idea of a romantic, peaceful experience with the wilderness and thus by leaving them out I am buying into the idea that “wilderness . . . [is] coded as symbols of the nation, symbols suggesting a just, good nation, with a history brimming with adventure and intercultural cooperation”.
This assignment reminds me of the Sesame Street game “one of these is not like the others”. The obvious answer would be my Blog Post # 4 which is the only one of my posts that I do not talk about my family ranch. Instead I talk about my assumptions around teaching and interdisciplinary learning including the idea that teachers need to “provok[e] passion for learning in students.” However, to me the answer is Blog Post # 3. This was my first attempt at an assignment after I received a head injury. Upon rereading this post, I see the incoherent long ramblings of a concussed student. Reading this post made me uncomfortable and embarrassed which reveals my ideas of what an assignment should look like. An assignment needs an introduction, an organized flow through ideas, and one or two references. Emotions and cliches such as the introduction to this blog post, should be edited out as an assignment is not the place for ranting or rambling. This blog post does not meet these expectations nor does it follow the model of my typical post or assignment. This particular blog post and the fact that this class was the first one I attempted to participate in after my injury also speaks volumes about my view of this course. This course has been a class that I can explore new ways of completing assignments and expressing my thoughts. This was a safe place for me to complete an assignment outside my normal thinking parameters and while I am not particularly happy with the results of this attempt I am glad I took the opportunity for two main reasons. One, I had to start doing assignments again at some point and this was a low-pressure way to start and two, it gave me insight into lots of my own thoughts. They say an addled brain is an honest brain. And although it was kinda difficult for my sober self to interpret these “honesties”, it was fun to see the memories and thoughts that I consider part of what develops my Eco-identity.
My past assumptions about reflections on my own work requires me to look at what I have done thus far and determine a way I can improve. For the next half of the course, I hope to see myself try harder to challenge my own previous thoughts. Thus far I have continued to use my previous assumptions to complete these blog posts and while I personally know this class has forced ,e to reevaluate these assumptions, I do not think my blog posts reflect this.