New Pedagogies Please!!

Despite what we are taught in Teacher’s College, once in our own classrooms, many educators ‘default’ to teaching in the same ways that we learned from our own days in school? It only makes sense – those experiences have created the schemata we use for how education should work. Many educators have very fixed cognitive schemata about what pedagogy and learning ‘should’ look like. The introduction of anything new, including new educational technologies, is often seen as an add-on or something to ‘add work’. Especially since PD is often given as an ‘extra’ and in isolation of the teaching process, ie., in a different time, place, space.

But society is changing, technology is changing. Further, we are finally beginning to recognize that we NEED to embed FNMI knowledge and our FNMI community members into all of our curriculum and pedagogy. Yet, our traditional pedagogies and school systems are not keeping pace with these necessary changes.

What is preventing the necessary change we need?

What is preventing us from co-teaching, collaborating and fostering deep engagement with other teachers and students? What is preventing us from integrating digital literacy? Edtech? Feedback practices? Testing? FNMI knowledge and values?

First of all, time is a huge barrier. It is not easy to build a ‘community’ that fosters collaboration because there is so little time. Especially in elementary where every minute of everyday is used teaching, supervising, etc. children.

However, collaboration is absolutely essential if we want to be able to create flexible, creative and student directed classrooms. Deep conceptual understanding is essential for our students.

Yet, there is something more too – I truly believe that we need to give each other permission to integrate new ideas and new pedagogies, particularly when it comes to building trust for our FNMI populations in education.

FNMI students need new ways of teaching and learning that can support not only the fastest growing population in Canada – but also the very people who have been here since time immemorial. This should not be considered an ‘add-on’ unit or lesson. We simply cannot teach FNMI content in isolation of the rest of the curriculum. How else will we be able to create trust between everyone who is a stakeholder in our children’s education?

What strategies or ideas do you have for enhancing our school systems and promoting change?

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

8 Steps to Integrate Science Curriculum in a Regular or Split Grade Class

Blue PloverIntegrating the curriculum in a split grade is challenging even at the best of times. Especially when we have been trained to not see any obvious links between the expectations. For instance, a Grade 2 science curriculum focusses on the states of matter, the Grade 3 curriculum focuses on structures.

For many teachers, the ability to do this does not possible. It just does not fit a cognitive ‘schema’ for how science can and should work among students. However, each does not need to be taught in isolation. The opportunities are endless if we allow ourselves to think outside the box!

Our world is changing rapidly with technology and in 20 years I am certain we will face a major upheaval and our traditional schools structures and ideas will no longer serve us. Even in today’s information age, we need to give ourselves permission to step outside of our previous cognitive schemata of how school should look, feel, run, behave, operate, produce, consume etc., and open ourselves up to new ways of thinking. Learning can be messy, loud, collaborative, explorative, and not conform to traditional ways of thinking.

8 Steps to Change our Schemata about Teaching Science:

1.  We need to give ourselves permission to move from inflexible cognitive schemas of how school traditionally works. We cannot hope to cover each and every expectation on the curriculum list, and that is not our ultimate goal. That will not produce deep conceptual learning in any topic.

2. Think about what is important to the students.

3. Enable them to create their own inquiries.

4. Provide choices for submitting summative work. For instance, provide a range of options for presenting.

5. Science is very hands-on. Provide opportunities for exploration, play, interaction, collaboration, inquiry. Consider backwards design strategies

6. Go ahead and have each grade engage in the same ‘summative task’! But assess on different elements. Extract the necessary summative feedback according to the learning goals for each grade. For instance, why not consider the grade 2’s who are studying states of matter, work as partners with the grade 3’s who are doing structures. Build a structure that will effectively hold a specific matter. The grade 2 student can be responsible for presenting the properties of the matter and the grade 3 student can be responsible for explaining why the structure is adequate for managing the ‘matter’ it holds. (I have not done this, but was inspired about this idea after talking with a colleague).

7. Science integrates very well with literacy, and any subject, but I don’t assess their grammar etc., for science. Therefore, I do not have them fill out worksheets or tests. I integrate ed-tech, and this also lends itself naturally to higher order thinking, digital literacies, and information processing skills.

8. Embed Indigenous knowledge into the science curriculum! History, knowledge, culture are all important to embed into the science curriculum. However, I also embed strategies that promote FNMI values including the use of talking circles, the seven grandfather and medicine wheel to just name a few. I have also had Elders and FNMI community members in as well. The students never forget these special experiences, and LOVE science even more for the powerful connections made.

The more we strive to integrate edtech, FNMI knowledges, and interdisciplinary work, the more we can promote a different type of learning environment. It is slow at first, but eventually we can build that kind of capacity for flexible, personalized and deep conceptual learning for our students.

 

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Teaching the Indian Act

 

The Indian Act of 1876 was the consolidation of other Acts that were created to begin to ‘Civilize’ and assimilate Aboriginal Peoples into Canada. It is still alive and very much in pace today, still mostly organized in its original form, despite dozens of amendments.

It is a very destructive Act that sought to abolish Aboriginal cultures by making ‘Indians wards of the state’, and banning Traditional Ceremonies, language use, extracting children from their families to send to Residential Schools, imposing governments, abolishing rights to vote, and taking over land and resources  just to name a few.

Assimilation and Civilization of ‘Indian’s’ has been tragic, oppressive, and paternalistic. Teaching this within our Curriculum can be quite difficult, especially with our younger students.

Nevertheless, it is important to find ways to make sure that this is not something that is forgotten. We need to understand the past, present and future of Canada, and to do this authentically, we all need to understand the Indian Act and how intertwined and entrenched it is within the rights and treatment of Aboriginal Peoples.

It is not an act created or ‘owned’, or only pertaining to ‘Status-Indians’. It is an Act that was created by our own Canadian government. It is still enacted today by our own Canadian Government.

It played a large role in Confederation, The Constitution, the Wars, Health Care, and Rights and Access to Education and Reserve land. It still plays a large role in nearly every aspect of the lives of First Nations, Metis & Inuit People in Canada.

Though dozens of amendments have taken place to the Indian Act, problems still exist, based on the values and oppression embedded within.  Many Reserves are still without clean drinking water, proper schools, high suicide rates, and other social problems including gas sniffing, alcoholism, abuse, and violence, built in by a past of oppression and assimilation.

Such a major part of the History of how Canada was formed, and how it still governs First Nations, Metis & Inuit to this very day. Yet much of our Curriculum all but ignores. Some may argue that our Curriculum is continuing to assimilate Aboriginal Peoples, continuing to promote Colonialism and Colonial values.

I believe that we need a curriculum that promotes a shared vision of education that strongly infuses values, knowledge, traditions, and languages of Aboriginal Peoples.

Yes, Inquiry based learning is amazing, yes, the use of technology is amazing. Yes, our Social Studies, History, and Geography curricula are changing for the better. BUT this content knowledge is also absolutely essential to understanding the values upon which Canada was built, learning about Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in the past, present, and future, and not merely in reference to early colonization.

  • Why is it that we do not allow for more knowledge about Aboriginal people, and the Indian Act, in our Curriculum?
  • How can we ensure that our Pedagogy and strategies are allow for this content? 

Education can be a powerful tool of restoration, restitution, and renewal.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

Photo 2012-11-12 10 39 36 AM

The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.

In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.

We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.

After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:

13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.

As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.

As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.

Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.

Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.

According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.

I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.

Deborah & Ian McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Helping our Children to ‘Walk the Good Path’ in life: The Seven Grandfather Teachings & Educating our Children

Photo 2012-11-12 10 39 36 AMThe Seven Grandfather Teachings tell us that you live your best life, when you can demonstrate toward others, the constructs of Truth, Love, Humility, Courage, Honesty, Respect, & Bravery.

From a First Nations perspective, you ‘Walk the Good Path’ when you demonstrate Truth, Love, Humility, Courage, Honesty, Respect, and Bravery.

The 7th Generation Principle also states that what happens now, will still have an impact 7 generations from now. So, it stands to reason, that the important leadership that educators provide now, should still be positively affecting our population 7 generations from now.

In difficult political times, when governments impose unfair laws and sanctions, and continue to marginalize groups, it changes a population of people. Human beings are not infallible, and a lack of respect and love shown toward others will have a negative effect. You reap what you sow.

Our Nation’s Leaders have a responsibility to help our Children to ‘Walk a Good Path’ in life. This takes Courage, and, according to the 7th Generation Principal, will help the next 7 generations to continue to ‘Walk the Good Path’.

In terms of our Education System, our Educators, just as our Children, are in need of the Seven Grandfather Teachings to continually learn how to create positive working environments, embed culturally relevant  and culturally responsive teaching practices for our students to foster confidence, and not fear.

Every single day, educators need supports to open communication networks with staff, parents, and the community. They, like all people, need Love and Respect to strive for a mutual understanding of our own diversity; Bravery to engage in Holistic Education each day and learn to live in harmony with each other; Courage to follow the very Educational Initiatives that are put into place for the betterment of our students, and our society; Humility to admit that we don’t have all of the answers; Truth and Honesty to help us understand initiatives such as the Aboriginal Education Strategy that are a great benefit for all students, not just those self-identified as First Nations, Metis & Inuit.

The Educators of today are the Leaders for tomorrow. We need to train our Leaders well, and treat them well, so that our Educators can turn around and feel trusted enough to Nurture our children, and prepare for a brighter future.

It is important to truly respect others, acknowledge cultural diversity, admit mistakes, strive to attain mutual understanding, create positive working environments, foster confidence and not fear.

Tens of Thousands of Educators have such an important leadership role in raising and educating an entire generation of children for the future. Just as it takes an entire ‘Village to Raise a Child’; Our children, Educators and other professionals also need Love, Respect, Humility, Courage, Bravery, Honesty, and Truth to grow as human beings, and continue to make the world a better place. Not just for now, but for generations to come.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.