Socially Transforming the Classroom

What does it mean to be normal? How can we tell if new and innovative tasks and pedagogies are truly authentic – or just considered authentic because it fits into our privileged views of what normal is?
Innovation. New Pedagogies. Digital literacies. 21st Century Learning Skills. How do we make sure we are not just perpetuating the same values, ideas, knowledge, experiences etc. of dominant culture?

Education is essential to empower those who are ‘othered’, or oppressed.

Oppression exists across many different axes in our schools and society, and includes (but not limited to) sexism, racism, classism, heterosexualism, gender and more. How these axes intersect very much depends on the social dynamics of any given context. But white, male, settler privilege continues to prevail as dominant culture. While we all experience oppression and privilege across different axes, our public education system is harmful to those who are oppressed.

Sometimes, we see the ‘oppressed’ as ‘not normal’.

What is normal?

It is the way we think people ‘ought’ to be. It is the way we think things ‘ought’ to be. It involves what we choose to include and not to include in our curriculum, which leads to the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum leads to exclusion, invisibility, marginalization and more.

We simply cannot afford to continue to make assumptions that our students are all ‘normal’, or should fit in to the normal.

We simply cannot afford to assume that our innovations, new pedagogies, digital literacies 21st, century learning skills, etc., could do anything but promote dominant cultures of privilege. Critically thinking about our worldviews around our innovations is essential. My hope would be that new innovations and new pedagogies etc., will help us to promote equality, and not privilege. But this is really hard work.

Oppression also goes beyond our ideas and knowledge, values etc., but also spills over into our physical environments.

I think about all of the structures and policies around us in our educational settings, and how they promote oppression. One thing that I think about is ‘lates’, and policies to deter students arriving late to school. Perhaps this shouldn’t matter if we are demonstrating empathy and understanding of the needs of families and learners, ie., not assuming that being late equals laziness. This just reminds me of that white, male, privileged, protestant work ethic. Therefore, the practices for deterring lates can lead to shame, and further oppression that perpetuates schools as harmful places for those who may already be oppressed.

I also think about how to create welcoming environments. What do parents see when they drop their kids off at school? There are pylons, people on duty and signs. Signs telling us not to enter, not to park. I understand this is all for student safety, but for those already oppressed by the school system, it can feel quite intimidating. At the front door, there are many signs on the front door. You must buzz in for permission, you must sign in, maybe the Principal doesn’t say hello, there may even be a sign telling parents to stay out of the hallway. There are no spaces/rooms for parents to welcome them in a neutral space in the school.

All of this can feel unwelcoming, and can further oppress those who may not already feel trust and safety with our schools. Even though the majority of education workers are just trying to do our best, and do what we believe is ‘right’. We just don’t yet understand what or how to promote equality, and help make schools truly ‘safe’ for the ‘other’, and not just the privilege.

 

I am not sure that we have the services and supports available to help educators and learners handle the emotions that go along with changing one’s worldview.

This means we have to unlearn what we have previously learned as normal. This can be very upsetting. Our privilege is disguised as authenticity. It means that we may have to have others help us to ‘check’ our innovations, and make sure that we our ideas are not disguised as authentic. Therefore, we often unknowingly promote racism, sexism, classism, heterosexualism and

Guiding Questions:

What would it look like if we could have spaces in our learning environments that are supportive, empowering, with lots of information available?

How can we incorporate home cultures into our classrooms and pedagogies that are culturally sensitive, and culturally relevant?

What strategies serve to create culture of power for the ‘other’, so that they can understand themselves better. Beyond merely seeing them reflected in their teachers and other education staff.

How can we make sure that our New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, and Innovations are not promoting white, male, straight, settler perspectives that continue to oppress the ‘other’.

What if we changed the idea of what it means to teach? Without perpetuating dominant culture? 

How can we integrate the curriculum?

How can we understand that the curriculum is more than a document we follow.

In what ways am I privileged? In what ways am I oppressed?

What is my worldview? How can I change it?

What are the implications of answering these questions?
Deborah McCallum

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