Monthly Archives: October 2013

Kumashiro Reading


I think that for the most part, we don’t include our race, or gender, sexuality, or any other form of identity because we assume that it wont make a difference in who we are, or how we developed. After the reading, and after class, I had left feeling uncomfortable with myself because I had no idea what was expected of me. I started to really think of where I came from. I grew up on and around reserves, went to school in a small place, didn’t practice religion, I never really thought that growing up where I did would have affected my way of teaching, or the implications it may have towards the class. I also came to the conclusion that our backgrounds and history’s are different for everyone, and those markers make us who we are.

I also realized that how people judge us depends on their initial markers they make on us. For example, I am white and female, therefore, the individuals who meet me for the first time are going to form impressions and opinions based on their perception of me. They will assume that because I am female, I will be hormonal, caring, and I will either be extremely nice, or I will be perceived as a horrible person. I am expected to be sympathetic and motherly, unless of course, I start acting outside of the norms constructed by society in order to assert my dominance as an equal to other people. Being white introduces the assumption that I am probably a good Christian, and that I am upper class. As a white person, there is also the assumptions that I have never been the victim of a hate crime, and whether true or not, I will always be the oppressor and never the victim. People will assume that I will never be able to relate to international or First Nations students, I will speak English. As a perceived white person, I would have never run into the law, or have been to jail, and if I have, it would have only been because I was having some ‘lighthearted fun’. The list of assumptions can go on and on, and unfortunately, we live in a society filled with stereotypes, prejudice, hate, discrimination, and so forth, which makes counteracting any of these judgments extremely hard.

Why do these assumptions matter? As I go into the classroom and teach the students, I will have to realize that these students will be basing their ideas and assumptions about me from what they perceive me to be. I also have to be aware that these assumptions are not just about me, but extend to every individual in the classroom. Whether I mean to or not, these hidden messages and assumptions re-create the classroom environment which can hinder the learning of others. I also have to realize that because of these identity markers we carry, it affects what we teach in the classroom, and what the students will get out of the lessons we teach. It is important that we understand where we came from and what we understand of the world today – we need to teach from both parts of the story. We also need to focus on multiple aspects of learning. Of course, my upbringing will be different from the next persons upbringing, and it is important that we as future educators, understand the different implications we may have when we stand in front of the classroom to teach our lesson about History, or English, or Health. 

I think that Kumashiro is correct in his ideas where when we teach, we consider the students are learning only when they can reiterate what we placed on them. I hope this is not the case for me, and I would want my students to question and engage in their learning in my classroom. Hopefully, I can push past the political implications of the knowledge and skills, and encourage my students to be radical thinkers prepared for what society has to offer today and in the future.


What Makes a Good Student


After doing the readings for class, and after discussing what makes a good student, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a perfect or ideal student. I would hope that my students would come to class being prepared and wanting to learn – being enthusiastic, and engaged in their learning. I would hope that they would listen, and question what they are learning. I know that this isn’t going to be true in all cases, but I guess that is part of the challenge of becoming a teacher. We need to make the students want to be there, want to come to class everyday excited, well rested, and ready to smodelshe next task at hand. We need to be the role models and we should inspire the students, encourage them to be themselves and want to excel.

How Stories Shape Our Lives Part Two


Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year

By: Dale Weiss

            As new teachers, it is incredibly hard to not only prepare for the year ahead, but also to know what to expect in regards to the students, the classroom, the environment and culture, and the colleagues. I feel that it is extremely important as teachers to be open minded, and diverse in everything they do – whether that be in regards to race, culture, gender, religion, or any other social justice concern. Dale Weiss article “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year” brings up many different, and interesting points, on becoming a new teacher while educating for social justice.

            Something that really resonated with me was the letter that read “Rights for Homosexuals next?”. I could not believe that providing a suggestion as to make the school more culturally diverse would produce homophobic comments. As an upcoming future educator, I feel it is imperative that we all be open to LGBTQ Rights. Further than that, whether we as teachers agree or disagree with any social justice issue, such as LGBTQ rights, should be irrelevant and we should focus more on the students’ needs rather than that of our own view points, perspectives, values, and opinions. In Mary Cowhey’s article “Heather’s Mom Got Married”, it shows that even at a young age, children are capable of understanding anything, including diversity or social justice. Developing openness within the classroom is a huge part of education and learning. Deciding what to teach based on personal views is, in a way, similar to the refusal to extend equal rights to anyone – both send an implicit message that somehow one group of people is inferior to the other group of people and therefore not important.

            Beyond just being open-minded, it is important to be knowledgeable in not only the subjects you teach, but in other cultures, beliefs, Treaties, the list is endless. The statement made by one of the teachers in Weiss’s article, “I just don’t feel comfortable teaching about something I just don’t know much about”, is a reality that many teachers face daily. The important thing to take from this statement is not the fact that we might not know much about a certain topic – which is in it crucial to succumb to – but instead, that we need to acknowledge we don’t always know everything and therefore should expand our knowledge and educate ourselves in other aspects. In this case, the particular teacher was commenting on other cultural practices during December.

             Curriculum is everything, both spoken and unspoken, and like we see with Weiss’s article, even though the decorations in the school do not at first appear to be curriculum, it is implicitly implying certain perspectives and values which can create a binary effect where one group of individuals could be superior to the other groups of individuals. Further than just the decorations placed on the wall, curriculum can be any and all interactions. As Rita Tenorio notes in her interview, curriculum can be the “attitudes, feelings, interactions” in which children are faced with. In Weiss’s article, it is explicitly shown that if students feel safe, motivated, encouraged, they will learn. If the security elements are not present, students can feel disrespected, neglected, and casted as outsiders, in a developing social world.

             As a future educator, it is extremely important to get to know, understand, and work alongside other staff and colleagues – supporting and helping each other, regardless of different opinions. It is important, moreover, to always put the student’s best interests first when planning any activity. When Weiss opened the article, he explained that with the strike at the beginning of the school year, he had thought that many of his colleagues and him had bonded. As soon as a comment was made in a staff meeting to be more inclusive in their educational practices, much of the staff blatantly disregarded and, at times, isolated him. It is important to note, here, that as a new teacher not only getting to know the area, culture, and colleagues is important, but also to understand other beliefs. I do find that Weiss was in the right to question his colleague’s actions, but I do think he went about it in the wrong way. As a future teacher, I would have asked around before coming to the conclusion that what the other teachers were doing was wrong and needed to be changed. Instead, I would suggest to make the school a more inclusive and multicultural environment.

               With that being said, I do think that it is imperative to create allies as teachers. As noted in Gregory Michie’s work “Teaching in the Undertow”, it is incredibly easy to begin drifting away from your personal beliefs and values into a more ‘conventional’ or ‘accepted’ way of teaching, deemed by Eurocentric views and ways of knowing. He goes further to state that one of the best things to do as new teachers is to create allies – both within the school as well as within the broader community of educators. Teachers whose philosophy and political viewpoints are similar should be deemed extremely valuable emotional and social supports for the battle faced ahead. As a becoming teacher, it will be hard to find the border line that exists between doing what is right in regards to social justice, multicultural inclusionary perspectives, and pedagogical ways, over what to conform to as deemed acceptable with the community of teachers, students, and parents.

             From reading the articles, I have come to the conclusion that teaching and educating students in regards to social justice will never be easy. I do think that starting, even if in a small way, is more beneficial to both you as the individual as well as the students in helping shape their perspectives and broadening their understanding as to the world they live in. Given everything we have learned so far, there is no set way to implementing social change. As future educators, we should definitely strive for social justice, even if it is starting with the posters we put up in our classroom, or implementing it into our lessons, at least it is a start to a better future.

How Stories Shape Our Lives Part One


The New Teacher Book

Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual

By: Gregory Michie

            This article starts off with an anecdotal analogy about fighting against the undertow. As a teacher, especially a new teacher, it is extremely easy to lose sight of what you deem important and to, instead, conform to the social conventions and expectations teachers have placed on by the people that surround them. One of the best things you can do as a new teacher is creating supports and alliances both within the school and throughout the community, and by doing that, resist the negativity that may encompass you. When teaching for social justice, it is imperative to start small – remembering that the environment you create is just as necessary as the explicit lessons you provide – focusing on the details. Creating an open and democratic environment will help initiate the encouraging environment for social justice. In order to have such an environment, you must first be thoughtful and purposeful in creating structures that support the way you plan on running your classroom. Keeping informed around social issues such as race, culture, poverty, gender, and many more, is only one of the many steps needed to be taken when beginning as a teacher. In other words, self-education is key to a successfully run class focused around social justice.

Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children

By: Rita Tenorio

          Tenorio suggests that teachers should start educating children in terms of race early into the students first elementary years. This opens the doors for future social justice educational practices. Through a series of lesson activities throughout the year, Tenorio’s students come to realize that skin colour is not bound by societal assumptions. Even at an early age, students are resistant to talking about race and view it as a controversial and taboo topic. Moreover, they would rather avoid and at times ignore race, while being subconsciously aware of a skin colour hierarchy. One of her aims was to have the students recognize both the similarities and the differences between their genetic makeups.

What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?

By: Rita Tenorio

          Tenorio argues that the sexist or racist remarks made in the classroom can catch us off guard and our first instincts to either respond in a negative way, or ignore the comments all together, are both forms of hidden curriculum that send strong messages to the students. Tenorio suggests that instead of reacting to such situations, teachers must explicitly educate the students with the skills and strategies they will need to counteract such behaviour such as racism, or sexism, and learn how to take action against unfair behaviours, actions, or opinions both within and out of school classrooms. She proposed that counteracting put-downs, or derogatory comments towards others, should be an ongoing process within the curriculum both implicitly and explicitly.

Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers can be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations

By: Sudie Hofmann

          Author Sudie Hofmann conveys many interesting points throughout this article – one of which being that many families today are non-traditional families which is a fact that teachers often overlook while creating lesson plans. Hofmann argues that children come from all different types of families and backgrounds that may face challenges at home, school settings, as she says, should be the place that offers comfort, support, and should definitely validate all family structures. To counteract such ill-conceived notions, the author suggests that both parents and teachers work together to challenge activities and school events that might otherwise make children or parents feel uncomfortable. Further, she offers using nonspecific open terms to include a wide variety of families to avoid any feelings of insecurity or anguish. In conclusion, Hofmann shows that if we attempt to engage with our students and get to know each of them on a deeper and more personal level, as well as other teachers, we will find new information about other people’s realities as well as discover new information about ourselves in the process.

Heather’s Moms got Married

By: Mary Cowhey

           Author Mary Cowhey, a teacher located out of Northampton, Massachustetts, writes a great article describing in detail the LGBTQ issues that resonate within the society. Massachusetts was one of the first states to recognize the rights and needs of the gay and lesbian youth in schools. In Cowheys classroom, she says that issues of family diversity often rise spontaneously within the room, but continues on to show that even as young as grade 2 children understand the difference between fair and unfair, and further, understand and are open to any type of marriage including LGBTQ marriages. Cowhey uses both hidden and explicit curriculum not to impose certain ideas onto the children, but instead to open their minds up to different views and perspectives, which, in turn, opens up many opportunities for class discussion and therefor, a deeper understanding of the social issues that people face every day.

Out Front 

By: Annie Johnston

          Annie Johnston, author of this article, shows that identifying LGBTQ individuals are still being targeted both within the school and around the society. Homophobia is a constant struggle in schools, and even though as a society we have come a fair ways towards ending homophobia, there is still a long ways to go. Johnston states that students face constant ridicule and harassment – especially in regards to students who are viewed as ‘different’ in terms of what is deemed the norm for gender constructions created by, and within, society – and it is getting increasingly difficult for students who are unsure of their own sexual identities to either take the step to come out, or to stand up for what they believe in. Johnston goes further to suggest applying the anti-slur policy regarding language and behaviour. Teachers taking the first few steps, even if small, to create a safe and inviting environment, is a great start, but is not enough for the ever changing and developing society we have today. To take the further step, Johnston continues, teachers need to start implementing social justice issues such as LGBTQ rights, into the classroom and curriculum both implicitly and explicitly. Further than that, she shows that we, as teachers, need to be role models for the students, and actively pursue lessons and actions that resemble your ideas, values, and beliefs in regards to any social justice issues.

Curriculum Is Everything That Happens: An Interview with Veteran Teacher Rita Tenorio

By: Rita Tenorio

          This article takes form of an interview with Leon Lynn (the interviewer) and Rita Tenorio (a teacher from Milwaukee) focusing on new teachers just staring out in their profession. Throughout the interview, Tenorio notes that although new teachers are well educated, they are not educated fully into what is really needed as a teacher. She goes further to say that as a new teacher, it is extremely important to not only keep an open mind but to also be willing and ready to learn new things such as social justice issues like racism, or the political and social effects that take place outside of the classroom that affect both the environment as well as the students within the classroom walls themselves. Tenorio implies that as a new teacher, it is important for teachers to know, and understand at a deeper level, the students in their classroom. She notes that curriculum is everything, not just the lesson plans and activities, but the social interactions, the building of relationships, attitudes, feelings, interactions, and life lessons. It is imperative, therefore, to make the students feel safe and secure. By creating a healthy, and positive, environment, students will be more susceptible to learning, and express their enthusiasm around their education and learning process throughout their experiences. Tenorio enforces the idea that teachers need to decide what is, and is not, important for the students, and although – as she notes – it may seem overwhelming at first, it is a necessary uncomfortable-ness that should be faced. For people who are new in the profession, making connections with other teachers, parents, and people in the community, and creating networks in general, will help with tackling issues such as social justice.

Working Effectively with English Language Learners

By: Bob Peterson and Kelly Dawson Salas

          As Bob Peterson and Kelley Salas would note, it is the teachers responsibility to deliver instructions to every student in a way that is relatable and understandable. As a starting point, the authors recommend looking into what services your school offers in regards to ESL students as a basic starting point. From there, they expand their knowledge to suggest several strategies to improve instructions to meet the students’ needs such as speaking slowly, using visual cues such as videos, posters, slideshows, using plays, and so forth. The authors also suggest becoming more culturally competent by learning the language, or even just a few words to show that you care about the student. Learning the culture of the students creates not only a bond with the students, but it also creates a more fun, open, and inviting environment which is crucial for students to learn. It is important to note, as Peterson and Salas show, that working with ESL students and learning the cultures is a lifelong process that not only benefits you as the teacher, but the student’s as well.

Teaching Controversial Content

By: Kelley Dawson Salas

          Kelley Salas wrote an interesting article that concerns most of the new teachers today in regards to teaching controversial content within the new classrooms. The article starts with revealing many of the fears new teachers have such as being fired, being isolated, parent confrontations, and so forth. Salas notes that although the fears are a reality that we all must face, there is a good chance that educating students around social justice movements is better for not only the students, but for the teachers and community as well, and with each year, it will get easier to teach against the norms. Simply put, after Salas had asked around the school about who had the authority to decide what to teach and what to leave out, she came to the conclusion that we, as the teachers, have the right to decide what we want our students to learn and take away from the lessons and apply it into their lives. Salas states that even though we may have the right to decide what we teach in the classroom, we also have to be prepared to explain our curriculum and methods to the school and the community, or even better, inform the parents and principal about what you will be teaching and explain how it ties into the curriculum standards.

Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year

By: Dale Weiss

          Author Dale Weiss experienced firsthand the conflicts that arise within the staff room regarding social justice issues such as holiday decorations within the school, library, and classrooms. Weiss starts her article with a brief summary of who she is and what she believes in – that being a political activist counteracting the biases and injustice and having an open mind embracing any challenge that comes her way. The article moved forward to her realizations within the school, where the majority of the teachers were very rooted in their traditions and conservative beliefs. Unfortunately, Weiss suggestion to become more culturally aware of other traditions that occur in December had a negative effect on the other staff. Weiss notes that misunderstanding – especially as a new teacher – can have extremely dissenting outcomes leading to outcomes and, at times, outrage and alienation. Weiss suggests that as a new teacher, one must first get to know the staff, and understand the values and beliefs of the school environment. She also shows that as a new teacher, it can be incredibly difficult at times to stray from what is viewed as the norm, but in the end, change – even if a small change – is a good thing. Keeping an open mind is a key aspect to have when becoming a teacher.

Works Cited

Cowhey, Mary. “Heather’s Moms Got Married.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 103-110. Print.

Hofmann, Sudie. “Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 95-99. Print.

Johnston, Annie. “Out Front.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 111-121. Print.

Michie, Gregory. “Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 43-51. Print.

Peterson, Bob and Kelley Dawson Salas. “Working Effectively with English Language Learners.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 183-187. Print.

Salas, Kelley Dawson. “Teaching Controversial Content.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 199-205. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “‘Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 83-91. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “‘Curriculum is Everything That Happens’: An Interview with Veteran Teacher Rita Tenorio” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 163-167. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “Q/A What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 93. Print.

Weiss, Dale. “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 317-326. Print.

Treaty Education


As a student graduated out of the Saskatchewan Curriculum, I can definitely argue that there was never any Treaty content within not only the school, but within the lessons we were taught. In Saskatchewan there are many classes offered to students including Native studies. Although this is great as a class to offer, and, at the time had great intentions, it instead marginalizes the lives and experiences of Aboriginal people. Having this as a separate course, many teachers feel that they don’t need to include Aboriginal content, which of course, is not true at all. One important reason to teach and incorporate treaty education into any and all subjects is to disrupt the Eurocentric ways of knowing and what is deemed knowledge vs. what is not considered knowledge. We are all treaty people; therefore, instead of hiding our histories, we should acknowledge them and be educated.

The reading we did focused on Treaty Education, or lack thereof, within our curriculum. I feel that many teachers today are uncomfortable teaching treaty education and therefore either disregard it, or push it aside. As a future teacher, it is imperative that we educate ourselves as well as the students in regards to Treaty’s. I want to provide my students with the opportunity to learn about First Nations content, cultures, and Treaty’s, as it will not only benefit the students, but it will help them understand the social issues we face today.

Further than incorporating and teaching Treaty’s in the classroom, the idea of curriculum being a “white-box” really stood out to me. I wish that our education system would take a more multicultural approach on a global scale. Canada is known to be multicultural, but if we are only learning the Eurocentric perspectives, then we can’t consider ourselves truly multicultural. Making a curriculum more multicultural would help make students more informed and open about the world.

Historical Journey of Curriculum


Curriculum has had a long history and is continually developing, changing, and evolving. The fact is, curriculum that we have today in Saskatchewan has been created and shaped according to the heteronormative and Eurocentric perspectives. Even further, common sense can be said to be the basis of our curriculum. In other words, curriculum is founded on the idea of common sense, and commonsensical ways based on one way of knowing, disregarding any other cultures or races. Unfortunately, because curriculum was developed and is still being developed with the common sense notions in place, curriculum tends to be restricted by culture and race. Curriculum values that the Eurocentric ways of knowing are the best ways of knowing; therefore blatantly implying that other cultures and races ways of knowing is rather unimportant or incorrect. The Eurocentric ways of knowing becomes dominant in the curriculum thus transforming their education or ways of living – their common sense in a way – into the normative way of understanding.

What we teach, how we teach, and what we decide to do with our classroom in regards to curriculum and race is our common sense which is, in turn, projected upon and imposed onto the students and into the next generations. We, as teachers, have to decide whether to take our cues from pedagogical theories that build upon or challenge common sense and stereotypes in regards to race and culture.

Painter’s “A History of Education” shows that 100 years ago, everything was in terms of race only because that was the common sense notion. Today we tend to ignore that only a few years back, race was a prevalent social marker. Both in the curriculum and in previous experiences, the opportunity to oppress was and still is ever present. Today, we are not necessarily taught in terms of race, but instead are still influenced by race. In a way, we are no better than we were 100 years ago. Years ago, they were honest about their oppressive and racist views. We, today, are stuck in our denial. Despite what some might think, our culture has just found another way to be oppressive – ignoring, or avoiding race all together is not the answer.