Social/Current Events 7/8

Subject: Social/Current Events                                              Grade: 7/8

Essential Question (guiding overall unit of study):

Current Events (as preface to larger outcomes)

Guiding Questions (specific to lesson):

  • Whose news is important?
  • Is one type of news story more important than the rest?

Outcomes (what should students know, understand, and be able to do as a result of this lesson?):

Compare the sources of power for individuals, nations, and regions in a selection of Pacific Rim and circumpolar countries. PA7.1

Indicators – assessment evidence (what will students do to show what they have learned?):

Students will recognize the differences present within such close proximity to Regina

Assessment Strategies (formative- before, during, and summative):

  • use “set” to think about global news articles and the value these have in our society
  • during “development” discussion, allow students to dialogue casually by using the turn and talk method, bringing these ideas forward to the whole class
  • upon exit, students will hand in their exit discussion question handout

Instructional Strategies (specific):

  • have both news articles printed to be used as reference in class
  • have exit questions prepared and printed prior to class
  • allow for wait time as this lesson is based on questions rather than activity
  • to clarify information in news articles while reading, provide support by circulating classroom

Differentiated Learning/Adaptive Dimension (what adaptations in content, process, product, and learning environment will be provided to meet diverse student needs?):

  • provide support in answering exit discussion questions by first asking the questions to the whole class
  • clarify words or passages in the news stories that may prove to be difficult prior to, or during silent reading

Preparation (materials, resources, equipment):

  • local, current news stories printed as handouts (one per student)
  • laptop and projector to display both news stories (potentially)
  • exit questions printed as handouts

Set (5 min):

  • ask students a couple questions to gauge prior learning: Have you looked at current news articles/stories before? If so, what were they? Have students summarize and list these on the board. Where did these stories take place? Do we notice any similarities? (none of them happened locally)
  • students and I will conclude that although these stories are important and relevant in our lives, it is important to be aware of what is going on around us locally as well

Development (15-20 min):

  • students will read both articles individually
  • as students begin to finish the readings, I will hand out exit questions for them to fill out as we discuss
  • after reading both articles, ask questions including: Why do you think each of these stories made the news? Do any of you know where Piapot First Nation is? South End Regina? Do either of these local news stories effect you directly? Even if the news story doesn’t affect you directly, is it still worth knowing? Is knowing local Regina news better or worse than knowing national/international news?
  • make sure separate questions are asked about each article as to not lump the issues together

Closure (5 – 7 min):

  • ask more questions to inspire deeper thought: Would you rather safe, brown drinking water or unsafe, clear drinking water? When referring at the Piapot article, do you know why the reserve has no firefighters and has to rely on other towns for this service? What other services are missing on reserves?
  • this last question could be used as lead up for a more thoughtful lesson on resources in our province and the inequities we see specifically on reserve land. What was promised through Treaty?
  • have students complete their exit discussion handout before they leave class

Articles used:

State of emergency declared at Piapot First Nation after fire claims water treatment plant: Piapot First Nation declared a state of emergency Tuesday after the reserve’s water treatment plant burned down overnight.

Brownish water from some Regina taps not a health risk, says city: Some residents in southwest Regina have noticed rusty water flow from their taps recently, but the city is assuring the public that it’s safe to drink

Example questions for exit slip:

How is the story relevant to your life? If it isn’t, who might be affected by it.

How does this event make you feel? What is making you feel this way?

Does this event tell you something new about the world or celebrate an achievement?

Does this story highlight a problem? If so, what are some possible solutions?

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One Living Teaching Philosophy: Relationships and Truth and Reconciliation

Although separate in many cases, I believe that there should not be a disconnect in how one treats Relationship Philosophies and Truth and Reconciliation Philosophies in the classroom. I believe that care and kindness needs to be taken in approaching both philosophies as to build a classroom community that strives to disrupt commonsense ideas confidently. I feel that in order for both philosophies to positively take shape in the classroom, the lines between Relationships and Truth and Reconciliation need to be blurred as I believe I would be doing my classroom a disservice by completely separating the two concepts presented.

The following illustrates how I would begin to connect the two philosophies in what I believe to be a comfortable way by introducing a practice based on critical pedagogy.

Giving a Voice While Supporting Multiple Narratives

I believe that each student should first, be allowed an opinion and second, be afforded the opportunity to express this voice in a manner and space the individual feels safe and comfortable in. Through critical pedagogy and the inclusion of multiple viewpoints in the classroom, my hope is that my future students gain a well-informed voice that they feel confident in expressing.

I will make sure multiple stories and viewpoints are present in the classroom even if these don’t completely align with popular opinion. By allowing a space for narratives to overlap, we can help to build critical, questioning minds and confident learners that are open to narratives unlike their own.

Community of Learners Through Love and Hospitality

In order for positive relationships and learning to happen, as mentioned above, I believe that a safe space needs to be built in a classroom to support this. By introducing a pedagogy based on love and hospitality, learners can feel comfortable and respected in their learning journey together.

By modeling empathy, compassion, love, and respect for all, the classroom community can feel comfortable experiencing these emotions together without judgement. I believe that only through understanding can we strengthen the classroom community and build relationships that allow for vulnerability and expanded learning.

Challenging What We Believe to Be True

I believe that much can be taken from acknowledging where our beliefs come from. In becoming aware of these individual biases we can begin to disrupt binaries we have come to see as normal.

By challenging what is considered normal in our lives and in the classroom, students will come to realize that their truth might not be the single truth. In doing so, the classroom will grow critically in their learning identifying the reasons as to why they think in a certain way and how to examine these biases further.

Maybe Common Sense Isn’t So Common?

Specifically, Kumashiro defines common sense as a “set of assumptions, expectations, and values” (Kumashiro, 2009, p. XXXI) one has learned through their lifetime. This is knowledge you may take for granted – knowledge that you are “supposed” to know. As we see in Kumashiro’s lived experience in Nepal, common sense can look different in different people and cultures. Reading his account made me think of the term culture shock and this unsettling feeling that this somewhat innocent term describing a feeling is also a way to pit cultures against each other in their ways of knowing. I have always believed culture shock to be as the definition states; a feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. But as much as I agree with this definition, could we also think it correct to define culture shock as not just an overt feeling, but an unconscious way to validate our own common sense’s as the correct ones. If our common sense is being challenged by experiencing a new culture then it makes sense that our reaction is shock or panic.

If common sense is learned throughout a lifetime as Kumashiro suggests, many of these ideas would have to stem from family, schools, clubs, teams, as these are the places, as a culture, the majority of our time is spent as a child. Given that schools typically have the most standardized ways of teaching, this gives us an idea as to where many of our similar ways of knowing come from. I feel like this learning, or lack of, is vital to be aware of moving forward as a future educator as a lot of this learning is placed on my shoulders both formally and informally.

As Kumashiro mentions, “although the status quo may be comforting for its familiarity and for providing a sense of normalcy, it is also quite oppressive” (Kumashiro, 2009, p. XXXV). As I sit here as a student with no formal classroom teaching experience, all I can see is this vicious cycle that educators fall into. As class sizes are growing and less help is being offered in different ability classroom settings, how am I to help a child to become aware of their common sense ideas to avoid this almost defensive panic when challenged? Am I limited to the confines of a curriculum that reinforces western ways of knowing and potentially teaches an us versus them attitude as a result?

Kumashiro, K. (2009). Introduction. Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI. New York, NY: Routledge.

SS3: Mom, I Have Some Questions

My routine hardly changed. Every day from 3:15 onward looked quite similar, but today was a bit different. Readied at the door behind several other bus kids, I unzipped my backpack to double check that I have everything I need for a successful sleepover. Pajamas – check, toothbrush – check, stuffed animal that I didn’t want anyone else to see – check. The four of us had been planning this sleepover during our recesses for what seemed like months and the anticipation was killing me.

I waited patiently with the others as the hands on the clock seemed to drag on and on. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask if I could leave early to meet my friends at their classroom – as I knew our itinerary began as soon as the bell rang and I didn’t want to miss out on the action because I was in a lower grade. But not unlike any other day, my request was denied. “You’ll wait like all of the other kids.”

As the blaring sound of the chalk brush cleaner filled the air, the thick cloud of chalk dust wasn’t far behind. This was always an indication of home time and just as soon as the dust cloud reached our doorway, the bell rang! What usually took me atleast two minutes in the boot room took me about thirty seconds today. And as I ran out the school doors all I kept thinking was, did she tell me third or fourth bus from the front?

As we pulled up to my friend’s house, excitement started to build as this would be the first time we got to sleep over since she moved to town. As we entered, the first thing I noticed was the smell, which wasn’t bad but different. The first person to greet us was her grandma. She was sweet and caring like my grandma but was introduced to us as Kookum; which seemed funny to me in the moment but as I call my grandma Little Gramma I didn’t think much of it. We followed Kookum’s directions as she instructed us to put our backpacks in my friend’s room before we go outside, and as we made our way to the stairs we are introduced next to her Mooshum (and I apologize for the spelling of these titles if incorrect) who was relaxing in the living room as we passed. As we climb the stairs to her bedroom I see beautiful decorations on the walls that seem quite different to what I am used to.

After all housekeeping and introductions were concluded, we didn’t waste a second before going outside to play. We weren’t going to let adults get in the way of our long awaited sleepover activities.

And although nothing had changed between our friendship that night, as my mom turned up at the door the next morning to pick me up, this time was a bit different. I had questions.

RR4: Bathroom Break

I recently had a night out that celebrated differences in gender as I attended pride at a local bar with some friends. It was amazing. As you scanned the room you could tell that everyone was enjoying themselves in this moment and could truly be who they wanted to be in this space. One specific point in the night, however, led to reflection the next morning. The male and female washrooms were labeled  as neutral for the night and as I walked in on a person who I perceived as male I automatically turned around thinking I walked into the wrong bathroom. This in the morning troubled me as I knew that I could use any washroom but I chose to turn around because of the individual I saw in front of me. And as I think about this, all I can see is the systematic way of thinking I have been trained to follow. That there is a gender binary – and they use separate washrooms.

As I continued to think about my somewhat embarrassing reaction in that moment, I realized that this way of thinking about gender is just another way our society automatically oppresses “the other”, a way of thinking I did not choose, but learned as I grew up. I felt that Scott Turner Schofield in his TED Talk, Ending Gender, touched on this and describes quite well how western society has come to create “these invisible walls to slam up against, to keep people out, to box ourselves in,” and suggests that in order to end gender as viewed in this highly heteronormative way we would have to tear down those walls. And although my choice to stand in line with anyone who had to use the washroom (post first bathroom break) was instantaneous and voluntary, the unconscious feelings that came with might take some time to disrupt. I believe that being in a place of privilege as a heterosexual, female, in a society where these identifiers are common and valued in comparison to many others, unlearning becomes just as important as learning as I am one that potentially puts up these walls.

This minor detail of a neutral washroom where I knew to be separate male/female washrooms quickly shifted my idea of gender as everyone in the building became neutral in the simplest sense and as Schofield said in his talk, “if we are all other, can any of us be othered?”

RR2: Willful Ignorance: When Do We Stop?

Being white is synonymous to being willfully ignorant. I say this because as a person that identifies as white, my experiences have always given me the choice to ignore whatever and wherever I feel necessary. This is something that I only recently recognized as a privilege that only affords white people.

It shocked me to think that I am only acknowledging these inequalities correctly now as I’ve obviously found this white path through western society an easy one to take. In the article Whiteness is a racial construct. It’s time to take it apart, it was mentioned that “western society maintains that racism is an act that individuals do, not a system that all of us exist in.” And I think this is a statement that needs to be told and retold as it is easy to take a defensive stance when talking about racism to white people, myself included. It’s less likely for me to automatically suggest a rebuttal if I know that I am not the only one being called out as racist.

This fragility I experience, and as many white people experience is another example of this willful ignorance I spoke about earlier. I can see that it’s less troubling to maintain innocence than to face what’s truly in front of you.  I read another article referring to cultural appropriation in the context of festivals, and without going too much into this, it said “ignorance is no longer an adequate excuse” and I believe this to be true.

SS2: Vodka Special

I dropped my mitts on the bar, snow falling from the space between where my mitts ended and the arms of my jacket began. I proceeded to lift my helmet off my head and fasten it to the back of my chair. I hear an unfamiliar voice ask if I wanted to start with a drink but I was currently tending to my fogged up googles. “Sorry,” I instinctually replied, “I just need to get myself sorted quick.” He set down a water and laughed; as usual, I was unsure about what I was saying sorry for.

I continued to gear down, realizing just how exhausted I was after my six runs that morning. I could feel the sweat beading at the base of my neck as my out of practice body met the heat blasting from the vent above me. As I finally reached sitting, I knew exactly what I wanted to drink. I get the bartender’s attention again as he sees I need something. “I’ll get a Vodka Special, please!” I’d imagine I was acting comparable to a kid that has just decided which flavour of ice cream to get. He looked at me oddly. I wasn’t in the mood to be telling him what I considered to be bartending basics and I could tell from his accent he was as new as I was in this place. “I’ll just get a Ceaser then please,” thinking this was ultimately a better choice anyways. In a joking manner he replied, “you must be Canadian.”

As I got settled, I noticed the bar was completely empty except for a few older couples sipping hot chocolates in separate corners. I think we both knew this interaction was going to be a common occurrence so I ordered a poutine and we exchanged names and shared a few laughs at the expense of each other’s accents.

My seat became prime real estate quickly though, as the bar was swarmed by drained skiers and snowboarders about to take advantage of apres ski. I wasn’t in the mood to be reached and yelled over, nor was I ok with beers being spilled on my new jacket this early in the season – so I decided to call it – dreading my soggy outerwear as I stood from my chair.

I grabbed my tab and although the bar was filling by the second, this new bartender found time to ask what I was doing that night. I knew this was in his job description, but being my rambling self I capitalized on this and in the time that it took for my payment to go through I told him my life story along with a detailed description of what my order would be at Tim Horton’s on my way home.

“By the way, that bunny hug is awesome!” I called out to the bartender as I was turning to leave.

SS1: Lit Up

As I walk in through the front doors I am greeted by a combination of smells. The smells consisting of what I could only imagine to be hamburgers, old man cologne, and this oddly, comforting smell of damp hockey equipment. Just as I get used to the smell, the nicest woman stamps my hand as I enter and also gives my parents this long, brightly coloured ribbon of tickets that at the end of the night become mine to keep. I separate quickly from my parents as if they don’t exist and race to the other side of the lobby where my friends have already started playing. I hold tight to the five dollars my parents gave me debating which chocolate bar and five cent candies I would be getting for supper later. I hear my mom call after me, “have fun, don’t hurt yourself!”

Just as soon as I take off running, my toque is ripped from my head, starting an all-out wrestling match. My brothers taught me that just because I was a girl didn’t mean people could get away with that kind of thing. And my mom’s forewarning became a distant comment as I didn’t mind hurting myself if it proved that I wasn’t a wuss.

The building starts to get quiet, which is our queue to quit the game of tag we inevitably started and get to our seats; the best seats in the house. Through the second set of doors, you see that everyone has a place in the rink. First we walk past the dads that stand right near the door, leaning over the metal hand rails with their coffees in one hand and game program in the other, ignoring everything that isn’t hockey. Then it’s the moms, all cuddled up in their blankets gossiping, somehow managing to catch every important part of the action. From here I can see our spot. Just behind the penalty box at centre ice. As the group of us make our way down to our seats, I glance up at my brother in the cool, older kid section as he returns my smile with a glare.  We both were forced to come watch our oldest brother play that night.

Eagerly awaiting the tractor to finish, I line up with the rest of the kids in our designated spot, pushing and squishing to get to stand by the home team’s penalty box. All the while our moms look down at us, wondering whose winter jacket will be the victim of the protruding nail tonight. Then along with everyone else, I hear it. Buckcherry fills the rink. At that age being on a plane with cocaine sounded perfect when it was paired with our team hitting the ice! The rink was electric, and everything was just how it was supposed to be.

This place wasn’t my house, but our family spent countless hours here alternating which kid was on the ice each night. In this place I learned how to tie my skates and shoot a puck, I learned that chicken fingers can be dipped in almost anything, and I learned that home doesn’t have to be a house. It’s a place that I rarely make it back to, but every time I step through those doors I feel “all lit up again!”

Meta-Reflection: In the Middle of Things

I would never claim to know everything but I would consider myself to be a pretty grounded individual that looks at multiple perspectives in many areas of my life. But this is where I am troubled. When I look critically at my posts, I see a recurring naivety or ignorance in my thoughts. In my earliest post, I speak about my unawareness being what I learn from and when looking at my definition of an ecoliterate person through my poem Mom, I explain ecoliteracy simply as a connection between human and environment. I seem to have been, and am still living under this umbrella of whiteness that shields me from other narratives that could possibly be present in the spaces I’ve spoken about. I tell very Euro-western stories in highly anthropocentric ways. Not only do I tell the stories in this way but I tread lightly with the questions I pose; as if I would like an answer, but don’t need one as I am comfortable in my position of privilege. And this is what frustrates me, that although I am learning many new discourses through this course and others, I feel a shift in my attitude through new ideas but I face a lot of resistance within myself to change. I’ve been so accustomed to the ways of knowing I grew up with and continue to reside under that I struggle to make that change.

For however much I want to, it makes me nervous to self-identify as an ecoliterate person as I can look back on previous blog posts that show my complete lack of literacy in terms or environmental education. My definition of ecoliteracy currently stays unchanged and is stated in my Ecoliteracy Braid as “an understanding of your past, acknowledgement of your present, and awareness of the future, and how these three things can be the building blocks to a respectful relationship with the environment”. And as I go through my earlier posts and reflect on my embodying ecoliteracy project I can recognize that I want to become this ecoliterate person as I described but know I have certain biases and assumptions that will have to be continually reflected on throughout my journey towards ecoliteracy.

In my personal schooling experience, I haven’t had much of an introduction to environmental education in relation to difficult knowledge. I feel a reading that has resonated and one I seem to keep coming back to is Liz Newbery’s Canoe Pedagogy and Colonial History: Exploring Contested Spaces of Outdoor Environmental Education as it attempts to juxtapose two types of very different learning. I have found that I have become very defensive in many courses throughout this program as I felt almost forced to understand my privilege in a day and change my “harmful” biases accordingly without acknowledging what learning is being addressed. I’m also finding that I still struggle coming to a place where I can be critical rather than defensive because of this. This reading helps me to realize that there is another way of teaching difficult knowledge as “outdoor educators are able both to create a non-judgemental atmosphere and to ensure adequate time and space for students to feel and think” (Newbery, 2012, p. 41). And in knowing this, I can further look into my personal stories and narratives without becoming so frustrated as a result.

CB3: Staying Afloat to Avoid Difficult Layers

“Wilderness and nature are often represented in dominant discourse as spaces of leisure, as places to unwind or, alternatively, wind up for an expedition” (as cited in Newbery, 2012, p. 34). And through indoor and outdoor experiences, wind up for an expedition we did. As a class, we went to the Lawson to practice canoe safety, went to Echo Lake as a test run – this included packing and unpacking our bags, tent building, portage trials, paddling techniques, and we also did some in class learning about surviving in “the bush”. As a grade 10 student I loved this preparation, I wanted to learn more about this outdoor ed. experience as I had understood it.

As we set off on our canoe trip north of La Ronge, all I can remember thinking about was how great being off the map was going to be. I absolutely loved the idea of being in nature, in the wilderness, in this vast openness where no other people would be. What I didn’t realize were the contested meanings of the land that we were approaching. Prior to our trip there were no memorable, if any, teachings on the history of the land or who could have been there before us. We left our learning incomplete as we “paddl(ed) through only the manifest layer of it” (Newbery, 2012, p. 31) all the while singing Johnny Cash at the top of our lungs and making it a race to get to the next portage.

I chose to focus attention to the top layer of my drawing/collage with the bold colours representing what we see or choose to see in Canada and the traditional outdoor ed. experience. The lighter area below the canoe being the absence of historical teachings of the land – shown as underwater and invisible to the learner. We rarely think about the constructs we live under especially when we are enjoying the white experience of this “neutral, natural, and empty” (Newbery, 2012, p. 30) space. Although diving deeper would give a more thorough narrative of the land, not unlike my own learning, many Canadians are only exposed to the top layer of knowledge as this experience is considered adequate in the teachings of outdoor education.