Treaty Education Project Reflection

We recently took a look at treaty education in our subject areas, something I feel passionately about. Treaty education is important for First Nations and Non-First Nations students alike. It is something that is relevant to Canadian society and is a key part of our history. Treaty education should not be ignored. For our assignment we took a look at the Treaty Essential Learning’s (TEL’s), the Saskatchewan Treaty Outcomes by grade level, and at a particular piece of curriculum. My partner and I chose to do our assignment on Social studies 20, and made connections to the individual units; Human Rights, Population, Environment, Wealth and Poverty, and World Governance. We also came up with examples that could be taught in class that hit outcomes from the curriculum, the TEL’s, and the expected grade 11 Treaty outcomes. This project also included a lesson plan and a Treaty resource package.

I liked this project, it is something that I believe well be useful during Internship. I really feel strongly about including Treaty education and Aboriginal perspectives into my teaching, therefore, it is useful to me to practice this in a controlled environment. As a Social Studies Teacher it is even more important that I include treaties in my teaching, however, this is proving to not always be as easy as I want it to be. It might be easy to find something that connects the curriculum to Treaty outcomes; it is more difficult to make sure that this is done in a way that is meaningful and respectful. Teachers in other topic areas are going to of course find this much more difficult, but it is mandated by the province and it is important.

Feedback is essential; one thing that I need to work on is differentiation. Students have different needs, and as a future educator I need to make sure I am capable meeting the education needs of my future students. One thing that I took from this assignment is that I need to work on adaptive dimensions. The differentiations that my partner and I did include in our project were: using three different reading levels in the handouts, allowing time for discussion for oral learners, and finding a video for students who needed one.

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Classroom Management and Anti-Opressive Education.

I just read a blog post by Russ Skiba a professor of school Psychology at Indiana University. The post is titled Beyond Zero Tolerance: Achieving a Balance in School Discipline,  in summary the post is on the problems with suspension and expulsion as classroom management tools. Skiba claims that when we expel and suspend students from our schools and our classrooms, we end up creating future criminals. He also argues that suspension and expulsion lower school safety, increase drop out rates and lower the level of academic achievement within a school.

I agree with Skiba, if a student is misbehaving we must try and figure out why they are behaving the way that they are. Skiba argues that in many cases differentiation in instruction is what is needed in order to meet student needs and manage our classrooms. Instead of punishing students for not learning, we must try and help them to learn.

Expulsion and Suspension are negative for schools, students and teachers in other ways. Removing students who have disciplinary problems from a safe environment because they are disrupting learning is not going to fix the problem. That student is not going to learn outside of the classroom, and they are not going to be able to modify their behaviour. If a student is misbehaving because they do not want to be in class, suspension is rewarding them not punishing them.

Furthermore, removing students from the classroom can be incredibly harmful to them. In cases of abuse you are taking away a safe place for them to go, are destroying your chances of getting to know the student, and because of this you may never be able to give them the supports that they need. If students are not in school and home is not safe, you are sending them somewhere that is likely unsafe. They can get themselves into trouble because they do not have a safe place to be and do not have something constructive to do.

Although I do not agree with suspensions and expulsions I can understand when there is little else we as educators can do with some students. Students that are a legitimate threat to the safety of other students, may need to be removed from the classroom. In these instances there must be another option than to throw them out of school. When someone behaviour is threatening to others, we are not doing a service to them by removing them from school. If they are not in school they are likely being threatening to others somewhere else, and the behaviour is not being modified. At the same time if an individual is a threat to the safety of the school it is dangerous to both staff and students to keep them in the school. This is the dilemma that keeps me up at night. The lives and safety of students and staff should come first in our education system, but the students that are a threat to others also need our help. So what do we do. I like to think of public education as a right not as a privilege. However, there are students who pose a real threat to schools. How can we help these students, without putting others at risk? 

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Chapter 6 Response and Reflecting on Assessment

 

Assessment should be meaningful and authentic. It should not just exist as a way to create grades. The chapter argues that assessment should include four features. First students should feel comfortable with the assessment, it should be familiar to them and second chances should be provided. Secondly assessment should promote learning, and the content in which the assessment is based should be meaningful. Third students should have options and choices in how they show their successes. Finally students should receive enough time to successfully complete the assessment activity. The chapter also argues that teachers should use multiple types of assessment, make their expectations clear, and use rubrics.

I agree that approaching assessment in the ways that the chapter outlines would be beneficial to students. However, I did struggle with the chapter in some ways. The chapter focused on forms of assessment that would help Aboriginal students, and depicts Aboriginal students in a certain way. This is unfortunate because I feel that the purpose of the chapter was to challenge colonialism and system racism. There is a deep history of racism and colonialism within this country, and schools have been deeply embedded in this process.

I recently attended a lecture in which the speaker claimed that in many instances we have replaced the word race with the word culture. This was an issue with the chapter, assuming that a certain group of students is going to learn a specific way based on race, is wrong. Do not misunderstand me, I believe in respecting culture, and different ways of knowing, and many of our students will have different ways of knowing. People brought up in a certain cultural context may learn in certain ways that are traditional within that culture. However, just because a student has a certain cultural background does not mean that they have been raised in that culture, or learn best in that context. So it is not ok to assume that someone learns a certain way based on their race/culture.

Our reflection questions were “Reflect on your understanding of assessment. Why is it necessary? How can we ensure that assessment benefits students rather than penalizing them?

Assessment is necessary because we need to know where students are at with their learning, if they understand the material, are reaching outcomes, and if they are being successful learners. Assessment should be beneficial to students, it should show what they know, and where the holes in their knowledge are. If we can identify gaps in knowledge then we can attempt to fill them. Assessment, especially pre assessment lets teachers know what students already know and allows them to plan accordingly. If we only use one kind of assessment and never give students second chances, we only penalize them for what they have not learned, and they do not get rewarded for what they have learned. I liked the suggestions that the article made about assessment, second chances, and options; they are good recommendations that would be beneficial to all students not just one group of students.

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Diversity in the classroom

We recently read this article for class. It is about the importance of knowing your students. In summary the article focuses on the ways in which students are diverse, and on ways teachers can address diversity in their classrooms. The article offered realistic advise on how teachers can meet the diverse needs of their students, and suggested that teachers should ensure they are educated on the different ways that people learn.

Overall I liked the article, it not only made suggestions on how classrooms should be run, but made suggestions on how to get there.  I want to have a classroom in which the learning needs of all my students are met, this article made me feel like that is a realistic possibility.  I would like to focus on how the students in my classroom learn, what skills they have that can help them learn, and what skills they need to acquire to continue their education. The ways in which students learn, is not the only kind of diversity in a classroom. The article does a good job addressing this. Students have different backgrounds, and the type of home lives they have can vary tremendously.

We are not always going to be able to be aware of what is happening to our students outside of school. It is important to remember that even if we know our students, there are going to be things we do not know. Some students are going to come to school depressed, abused, hungry, or scared, others are not. It is important to remember that these things are not always obvious, but the better we know our students the more likely we are to become aware of the challenges they face. I do not know my student yet, but I hope the students that come into my future classroom feel safe and accepted. I hope I am able to build an environment in which all my students are able to have their learning needs met.

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Differentiated Instruction in the classroom

As teachers we all want our students to succeed.  Differentiated Instruction allows us to help each student be successful. It’s all about doing what is best for the students in our classrooms, it forces us, as future educators, to acknowledge that our students are not going to learn in the same ways that we do. We make decisions in our classrooms on what we are going to teach, and how we are going to teach. Differentiated Instruction allows us to meet the needs of our students and to teach in ways that allow our students to learn.

Each student learns differently, we must treat them as individual people, not as a number in a classroom. This should be both challenging and rewarding. Teachers want (or should want) their students to be successful learners, therefore we have to address their individual learning needs. My concern with differentiated learning is that as a future high school teacher, I wont be able to get to know the learning needs of all my students. I want all my students to come out of my classroom feeling like they have learned successfully and that their learning needs have been met, however, I fear I will fall short of my own expectations.

So my question to current teachers is this: How do you work Differentiated Instruction into your classrooms, what does this look like in real life?

To my fellow pre-service teachers, how do you think this is going to operate in your classroom? Are you nervous like I am, a little skeptical, or super excited to get started?

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