Hi all! I have almost completed my first week of internship in Churchbridge, Saskatchewan. Although students don’t start class until the middle of next week, teachers have been taking part in PD, meetings and prepping all week. I love the town of Churchbridge so far as it kind of reminds me of my own hometown. There are so many recreational facilities, such as a fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, and dog park. Etta (my border collie) and I have been spending almost every night at the dog park. It’s beautifully maintained and has quickly become our second home :). Churchbridge is also only 40 minutes from Yorkton, so if I need to get my city fix, I can go in on a Saturday and grab a Starbucks!
As for teaching, I will be teaching the following subjects: Wellness 10, Health 8/9, PE K & 1, and History 20. I will be helping coach senior girls’ volleyball. I am really looking forward to getting to know the students and trying out some new teaching strategies. Internship is all about trying new things and finding what works best for you and your students. I am blessed to have an amazing co-op teacher/mentor. She is also principal of the school and is teaching an outdoor leadership class (which she created herself!) this fall, so I’ll be able to learn from her through that as well.
I’m still settling in here at my place. Unpacking is always an interesting process and I have yet to find a couple things, including my headphones and fitness watch charger. Let’s hope they reveal themselves soon. September is going to go quickly for me because I am making two trips to Regina for PD-related events. Soon after, it will be Thanksgiving and I will be making my first trip home since July.
I’ll be updating this blog weekly, so please stay tuned and follow along. Click the subscribe button if you don’t want to miss anything.
Until next time,
I am incredibly excited to announce that I will be interning in Churchbridge this fall. I can’t explain how much I am looking forward to getting back to small town life. Growing up on a farm, I told myself that I was “made to live in the city”. Seven years of city life later, I am so done with it. Being able to move to a small town for four months is going to be a much needed breath of fresh air for me.
While I’m excited for a change of scenery, I am of course nervous for internship. Admittedly, I don’t have very high self efficacy for – well, lots of things. Although I have done some cool things in my life, I still often doubt that I will succeed in many things that I do. Interning will be a very important stepping stone in helping me to gain self confidence and the belief that I can be successful as a teacher.
As I prepare for my internship, I am trying to set a healthy mental foundation for myself. I’ve begun decluttering my home in order to make the move easier and to reduce the stress of having so many material possessions. I have also begun setting intentions to help stay balanced (or as close to balanced as possible). One intention I’ve set is to read one non-PD related book per month (September to December). I suspect that most of my reading time will be on weekends, but who knows, I might surprise myself. I have three books paved out so far, and am keeping an ear and an eye open for a fourth. Stay tuned.
While I plan to be immersed in my internship, there is only so much I can do until my sanity goes by the wayside. I plan to commit to one extra-curricular activity. After committing to one, I will decide if I am mentally and physically up for anything additional. I, of course, also plan to do as much running as possible and have already scoped out some gravel roads that will provide me with many much-needed runner’s highs.
I plan to treat my blog as a journal throughout my internship so please subscribe to it or check back occasionally.
Until next time,
What is restorative justice?
As its name implies, restorative justice aims to restore relationships. It moves away from traditional discipline, which responds to an offender with a punishment meted out by an authority from above. By requiring wrongdoers to face their victims, consider the impact of their behaviour, and come up with a way to make amends, it holds them accountable for their actions and gives victims a voice. The focus is on long-term healing for all affected and reintegrating offenders back into the school community. (McCullough, 2007)
How can I practice restorative justice through building positive (trusting and caring) relationships with my students?
Observations of positive relationships within my school:
I was able to observe many meaningful examples of positive relationships being fostered during my pre-internship: student/student, teacher/teacher, and student/teacher.
Below are some examples that helped me better understand the practical nature of building positive relationships:
- One of the Physical Education teachers chose to coach a school basketball team, even though he had no prior experience (and frankly minimal interest) in basketball. Although it was only his second year coaching the team and teaching, they ended up being city champions. The teacher/coach took a risk and invested in his students/team. He told me that basketball is now one of his favourite sports and he absolutely loves coaching the team.
- School staff attending students’ extracurricular activities. For example, many staff members went to watch the basketball team at city championships. When students see staff members taking time out of their evenings to come and support/cheer for them, that goes a long way.
- Teacher presence. I noticed that teachers would be in the gymnasium or classroom prior to students entering the room, so that they could tell them hello or ask them how their day is going. The teachers would also be present in the gymnasium or weightlifting room during breaks and noon hours. Instead of time spent chatting in the staff room, teachers knew where students wanted to be (in the gymnasium), and so they made themselves present in those spaces. Knowing that a teacher is excited and prepared to be there certainly helps to foster positive relationships.
- Teachers sharing personal examples of their life in order to help students resonate with them. Teachers used appropriate and relevant examples that have occurred in their own lives during classroom instruction. Students were very engaged because they were able to catch a glimpse of what their teacher’s life may look like outside of school, and that it may not be so different from their own. When a teacher opens up to students (appropriately and professionally), that tells students that their teacher trusts them and makes their teacher more relatable.
Ways that I endeavoured to live out my inquiry question:
As mentioned above, I was lucky to have had amazing role models that showed me some ways that positive relationships could be fostered. Here are some specific ways that I tried to practice creating positive relationships with my students:
- Learning students’ names early on is HUGE. This was perhaps the most significant factor to creating positive relationships that I practiced. I had many teachers comment to me that it had taken them weeks or months to learn those same students’ names. When I saw a student and used their first name, it helped me to further connect with that student on a deeper level.
- Although some people may shrug off the power of using someone’s first name in conversation, I believe that we tie a great deal of our pride and identity to our name. When a teacher intentionally learns students’ names, this tells the student “They care enough about me to not only learn my name, but to remember it as well.”.
- Ways that I practiced memorizing students names included: having the class list handy at all times for the first week or so, playing a name game as a brain break in the classroom, and having students wait to tell me their name until I practiced saying it.
- Yes, there were times when I accidentally mispronounced or used an incorrect name. However, I apologized and make an extra effort to ensure that did not happen again.
- I never knew the power of a simple “hello” in the hallway or cafeteria. I intentionally would walk the hallway that I knew my students frequented, just to say hello to them and let them know that I wasn’t hiding away in the office or staffroom. In the cafeteria at lunchtime, I would see one of my students in line and ask him which kind of cookie I should try. I tried my very best to include my students’ voices whenever possible and ensure that I was focused on creating positive relationships with them. At the end of the day, I chose to be a teacher not for my own satisfaction, but so that I can be a constant positive mentor to children and youth. And if I can achieve and continue working toward that goal, then I will receive abundant personal and professional satisfaction.
- I attended the basketball team’s city championship game. I sat with some other staff members who were in attendance. One of my students saw me as he was walking by and yelled, “Hi, Ms. Orange!”. That moment will always hold a special reminder to me that students DO notice when their teachers go the extra mile to connect with students not just inside the classroom, but beyond school walls as well. The following week, I congratulated the players on the team that I was lucky enough to call my students. I acknowledged their success and I hope that they felt cared for and valued at that moment.
- While teaching a body image lesson in the classroom, I opened up about a personal story. I remember seeing all students’ eyes on me, none of them talking over me or to their friends – I had their full attention. They even clapped for me after I was finished telling the story. I had clearly resonated with some of them and they seemed to respect that I had trusted them enough to share such a personal story (that meaningfully related to the lesson content).
- During a Physical Education dance lesson, I had my students dance in a dance circle (AKA a “dance off”). I played some pre-selected popular wedding dance songs (e.g., Rasputin, Stayin’ Alive). I also took suggestions from my students, because if they related to the songs in some way, they were more likely to be involved and engaged. During other PE lessons, I asked my students which songs they would like to warm up to. I found that this increased their enjoyment because the music was more relevant to them.
- During a different PE dance lesson, I incorporated the use of basketballs in a dance because I knew that many students in that class enjoyed and/or played basketball. My co-op teacher told me that they seemed to love it! He said that they were very engaged with the dance (I relied heavily on his feedback, as he knows the class better than I did, and sometimes I was so focused on teaching the dance/lesson that it was difficult for me to gauge every student’s interest or engagement). Meaningfully and intentionally including students’ interests into lessons can go a long way when creating positive relationships.
- I earned my students’ respect by being a quiet leader. I did not shout or yell at them. I had an assertive and calm demeanour, waiting until they were all silent rather than yelling over them. I found that this worked well. My students (hopefully) knew that I respected each of them, and that I deserved their respect as well.
It was difficult to encapsulate all of the key learning from my learning process through ECS 210. However, I did my best to tell you my story in the timeframe allowed to me. I hope you enjoy it.
“As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke.
The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.”
This is a real issue in schools. As you think about what TreatyEdCamp offered, as you listen to Dwayne’s invitation/challenge, as you listen to Claire’s lecture and as you read Cynthia’s narrative – use these resources and your blog to craft a response to this student’s email. Consider the following questions:
- What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?
- What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
Information I would include in my response:
- Equity: in regard to standard of living, Indigenous peoples receive inequitable funding for education, healthcare, and other essential services. It is crucial that non-Indigenous peoples know these inequities and the reasons for them, in order to help bridge the gap for a more equitable and sustainable system.
- Relationships: relationships is one of the guiding ways of knowing for Indigenous peoples. Building meaningful and genuine relationships with Indigenous peoples is a step toward reconciliation. When we build relationships, we not only show that person trust, patience, and loyalty, but we are able to gain an understanding of what we can do to work together. Whether that be addressing an issue or simply being there as a friend or companion, relationships are crucial.
- Understand the past and present so we can reconcile for a better future: when we know the traumas and injustices of the past and present (i.e. residential schools, foster system and overrepresentation in jails), we are able to understand our role in reconciliation to create a better tomorrow for everyone. It is important to look to the future in a positive light because otherwise, we will not get anything accomplished.
“We are all Treaty people” is more than just words. Acknowledgements are meaningless if we do not have the understanding and education to know what those words mean. Simply put, this phrase means that we all have right to uphold. If you own land, you are exercising a Treaty right. Treaties have not adjusted with the ever-increasing standard of living, which has created a significant gap in funding and provision of services. We must learn what Treaties represent so that we know how to responsibly and respectfully exercise our rights and advocate for an equitable system.
We are not fully engaged citizens until we understand our shared history, because it is a part of our collective identity.
The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to:
(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74)
- List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
- How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?
- Some specific ways that I see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative are as follows:
- Bringing generations of community members together on the land to advance the community’s recognition and reclamation of Mushkegowuk knowledge and culture.
- Creating an audio documentary about relations to the river and engaging in trips along the river, as younger generations were re-introduced to traditional
ways of knowing.
- Learning about the land in critical ways in regard to cultural identity, especially during a time during external forces seeking to impose a different meaning of land and its ‘utility’, upon the Mushkegowuk in the Treaty 9 region (i.e. the Ring of Fire mineral deposits being extracted by mining companies).
- Involving Elders and youth in intergenerational discussions about the importance of the land and river.
- Essentially, seeking to identify routes towards “decolonization” towards shaping adequate responses to problems arising in the face of externally-driven development and its implications for life and land in Mushkegowuk
- Youth were offered skill-building workshops in which participants made their own audio documentaries based on the interviews they carried out with community members.
- Names for places in the Inninowuk language were marked as an effort to bring the original names and Cree concepts to more common use among the youth. The words paquataskamik and Kistachowan Sipi (Albany River’s original name) were written along the fifty-foot long sides of the raft. The focus on the word is an explicit attempt to retain a relationship to the rivers, the lands, and the communities joined together by them.
- Some ways that I might adapt these ideas to consider place in my own subject areas and teaching are as follows:
- Have students use specific language and traditional terms to define meanings of place. Evident by ‘paquataskamik’, the use of specific words and language choices can have wide implications in relation to governance, land use, economic development, and social relationships. If the use of a specific word is deteriorating, that could be an indicator that culture is deteriorating (or working to be colonized) as well.
- The authors offer that decolonization as an act of resistance depends, in part, on “traditional, non-commodified cultural patterns such as mentoring and intergenerational relationships.” Thus, as an educator, I would work to foster intergenerational relationships between students and Elders/elders. Elders/elders have so much knowledge to share, and know of the stories and ways of life that existed before many of us were born. Without the transmission of stories, traditional culture and cultural identity could perhaps not exist. Our past is so much of who we are as individuals.
- Learning about the land, of the land, and on the land helps us to understand the context, and how we benefit from the land (it is not often anymore that the land benefits from us). I will without question focus much of my teaching about, of, and on the land. Students may find connection in the land that they are unable to find in/from anything else. Further, the quality of the land can tell us a lot. For example, in the article, the land was facing extraction from mining companies. The land can often serve as an indicator of the status of land rights and political autonomy. This is merely one way that my students would be able to tie deeper learning and connection to place-based education.
How do you think that school curricula are developed? This is an entry point to this topic and whatever you write will be fine.
How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?
Prior to the reading, I thought school curricula were developed by subject specialists along with the Ministry of Education, with input from parents and stakeholders that hold an interest in the subject (i.e. for physical education curricula, Saskatchewan Physical Education Association would be consulted).
After completing the reading, I learned that curricula is political because of the impact that politics has on public policy. Voters may very well decide the decisions about curricula that will be in place when they vote in a political leader. Political leaders will do what they can to make their voters happy, and if their base is highly conservative, well, the government will likely make decisions based on far-right views. That is, if the governing party has enough time to implement all of the changes they they had promised (the four-year election cycle is not as long as it seems in regard to public policy).
I am concerned that voters often do not know the detriment they may cause when they elect a new leader. For example, Doug Ford will likely do more harm to Ontario’s residents than Kathleen Wynne ever did, but because Wynne had been in a negative spotlight for her exuberant spending, many voters would have done anything for a change, even if that includes electing Ford. Voters can be short-sighted when they are outraged, and that is concerning.
Respond to the following prompt:
- What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the common sense?
- Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student?
- What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these common sense ideas?
I believe that according to the common sense, being a “good” student is being diligent, processing information that is given to us, and doing what is expected of us, and no less than that standard.
The students that are privileged by this notion of a “good” student are the students that are not inquisitive and do not want to learn through inquiry and self-education. Additionally, students who are armed with the tools in order to be successful and meet the expectations of them, are privileged by this notion (think students who are able to pay attention, and the ability to be at school and get their homework done on time).
What is made impossible to understand because of these common sense ideas is anything beyond the expectations that are placed upon us by our authoritarians.