My new relationship with Treaty Education

My high school teachers did not see the value of teaching treaty ed to students who did not fit into the First Nations, Metis or Inuit peoples category. Therefore, in my school career, I missed out on getting the other side of the story. I missed gaining an understanding of the importance of the treaties and how they have influenced and continue to influence the environment that I am in. I missed the opportunity to explore the privileges I have gained as a result of the treaties. And possibly most importantly, I missed out on seeing my relationship with the treaties. To me, the treaties were for other people. Without treaty education, our students will not see themselves as a part of the bigger picture, they will not see themselves as being involved in the treaties nor will they see their own responsibilities to the treaties. For our non-indigenous students, treaties will always seem like something for other people, not something that they are involved in. Without treaty education our students will not see the common ground between all Canadians and our combined relationship with the treaties and therefore, reconciliation will be impossible.
Before I had attended the Treaty Education Camp at the University of Regina in October 2016, I had never heard the term “we are all treaty people.” Prior prior to the camp I had never thought about my own tie to the Treaties. Those five words have caused me to shift my worldview. As a treaty person, I have gained plenty and therefore I have responsibilities to the treaties. As a future educator, a large portion of my responsibilities will be preparing our children to take on the responsibilities that being treaty people will require of them. This has forced me to look at curriculum as a vessel for preparing students for the social justice responsibilities they will have in their lifetime. The weight of this task intimidates me. I just learned that I was a treaty person, so how am I supposed to educate students about what that means. It is Claire’s advice during her presentation that has brought me the most comfort. By sharing her own experiences, Claire helped me realize that I do not need to have all the answers. I am allowed to learn and explore alongside my students and I am allowed to make mistakes. It is not important that I  tackle Treaty Education with all the answers, but it is important that I do my best to meet the Treaty Education outcomes, and that I approach them with a willingness to learn more. It is most important that I embrace my responsibilities as an educator and as a treaty person.

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Learning from Place

This weeks article, Learning from Place, has many examples of decolonization and reinhabitation. This article is about challenging dominant ideas, “recovering and renewing traditional patterns” and learning to interact with our environment again (74). The subjects in this article are determined to reconnect the generations. They have youth conduct interviews with members of their community to re-establish intergenerational communication and create podcasts that can be shared with the world. Next, they hosted a 10-day river trip for youth, elders and the generation in between. On this trip, the group traveled on their traditional waters and land and learned from each other about their connection to the land. I found the worry about the misuse of the word paquataskamik particularly interesting. The article also talked about Cree word, paquataskamik which is a word that has been used to “describe natural environment and draws attention to the whole of traditional territory.” It was noticed that the current youth does not use this word properly and often they do not use it at all. They blame this on language loss and on the change in relationship with the environment.

 

But how does this apply to me and my future as an educator?

The biggest takeaway I got from this article was how important it is to take the community and what is important to the community into account. In this community, it is important to them that their children have a connection to the land and that they realize the cultural and historical significance of the river in their community. While a river trip may not apply to every community I teach in, there will always be something that is important to the community and that is something I should incorporate into my classroom in a big way. I also believe that a connection to the environment is important to the children of all places. It is also important to allow the community members to help educate their children. As an educator, I hope to remember this and bring in guest speakers, and go on field trips and just have a classroom that is open to the community. Intergenerational communication is so very important and as an educator I hope to be able to facilitate that for my students.

How is Curriculum developed?

Before Reading

I’m a bit embarrassed that I do not know with one hundred percent certainty how school curriculum is developed. You think someone who plans to be a teacher would have more knowledge about the legislature that will govern her career. And yet the answer I am going giving for the question “how do you think that school curricula are developed?” is going to be a complete guess. I would like to venture a guess that creating curriculum is a time consuming, and a lot of work. It must require the consultation of many people and groups such as the government, school boards and teachers. I believe that the government is very influential in the development of curricula as educating our future leaders is a political act. I had a high school teacher tell me once that the first thing a dictator will do once in power is get rid of all the current teachers and replace them with people who follow their political agenda. I’m not sure how accurate this statement actually is, but it makes sense to me. Educators have a lot of power on our youth.In Canada, luckily, they are not so drastic as getting rid of all the teachers with each new leadership. However, I would imagine that they would redesign what is being taught to our youth so that it matches their political agendas. I would also like to believe that curriculum is developed with the consultation of teachers in the field as that would make sense. These are the people who know how to work with curriculum and whose jobs  will be affected the most by these documents.

 

After Reading
This week’s article surprised me. It did not surprise me to find out how political building curriculum is. It did surprise me how many people have an influence on the curriculum. There were groups that this article listed that I never would have considered as having any influence. These included textbook companies, members of the community and church, businesses. I think having many different people and groups involved in the curriculum creating process is a good thing because the deciding what our children are going to learn  is very important. The more differing worldviews and philosophies that inform curriculum the better off our you will be.

I am the Good Student

When I think back, I was the perfect stereotypical image of the good student.On my very first day of school, I entered the kindergarten classroom with blonde pigtails and bright blue eyes, excited to be there and eager to learn. My parents put great importance on education and therefore, they read storybooks to me and taught me to count and recognize numbers and letters and helped me do crafts and cut with scissors and colour inside the lines. Therefore, I was proficient at these skills before I had started school. My first report  card in Kindergarten reflected this and labelled me as a good student. This label held throughout my school career and I was treated as such.  I am a rule follower who gets great joy from pleasing others. I do not like to “toe the line” and I take great care to avoid conflict. I have a passion for learning and spent my free time in high school either studying, volunteering in my school community or tutoring my peers. In short, I was the “teacher’s pet”.

Having this label was an advantage when it came to my grades. One teacher in particular seemed to give me great marks no matter the quality of my work. In fact, one of my friends and I worked on an assignment together and had nearly the same answers throughout the assignment. And yet, I, as the good student, received as substantially higher grade on that assignment. However, this label was also  disadvantage. It allowed me to be lazy and to ride my reputation to a good mark without putting much effort in.
I can say with confidence that I was a good student. I do not say this because I think I am particularly smart or designated to be successful. In fact, I do not think that the attributes that make me “the good students” will make me successful in my life as a productive member of society. I believe the students who were not afraid to toe the line and challenge the rules and think creatively are better prepared to be successful. Therefore, I believe the current image we have of the “good student” is not helping our students or our society as a whole.

Realistically I know that all teachers , including me, go into a classroom with biases and preconceived notions. However, as a teacher, my hope is that I can recognize the idea of who is a good student and challenge them. I hope that I will be able to recognize that all students are capable of being “good” students. And that it is my job as an educator to create an environment that enables all my students to be good students. Actually, to be the best students they can be.