In school, I can recall many efforts to incorporate citizenship education into our learning. Between kindergarten and grade eight, the main type that was focused on was the personally responsible citizen. there were many events organized by teachers that we were able to participate in and contribute to such as food drives and various fundraisers. These were often in the form of a competition in order to motivate students to participate. One that I specifically remember is our annual penny war. The penny war was used to raise money for various organizations and was always successful in our school. Each class had a bucket outside their class where they would try to collect the most pennies. Classes would place silver coins and bills into other classes buckets as they counted as negative points. Although we were raising money, I think that many students were more focussed on the class party that could be won rather than who they were helping.
In high school, there was more of an attempt to focus on the participatory citizen. Each year we were required to complete 20 volunteer hours. I think that this assignment had the potential to teach much more about citizenship than it actually did. We were given very few guidelines for our service projects and could basically complete the hours in any way we chose as long as we were not paid. We then were to write a reflection about our experience, but it was often recycled from the year before. I think that there could have been much more emphasis on citizenship, but since it was a Catholic school, the focus was always on religion.
Math is often taught in a way that supports only one method and one correct answer. Many people begin to believe that this is simply the way that math is, but that is not at all correct. There are many parts of mathematics that do not need to be directly told, and that students can come to learn through exploration and problem-solving. It is not uncommon for these things to be taught directly to students without allowing the students to first explore the concepts. I also cannot recall any time in elementary or high school where Indigenous perspectives and worldviews were meaningfully incorporated into math class. Only western ways of knowing and western worldviews were acknowledged which is oppressive to students who did not identify with these worldviews.
Inuit mathematics is very different from western mathematics. The first difference that I noticed while reading was that Inuit people had an oral counting system rather than a written one. Typically in Canada, math is primarily written rather than spoken. I also noticed how Inuit people emphasized the relationship between math and their lives. Their math is learned by experience and by using it. There was never a teacher writing equations on a blackboard and asking students to copy and complete them the way that math is commonly now. Inuit people used a base 20 number system while we typically use a base 10 number system. There is nothing wrong about using a base 20 number system, but it is not commonly thought of or considered when doing mathematics.
I think that the it is very interesting that some people think that they do not need to teach Treaty Education if there are no Indigenous students in their class. In my elementary and high schools, there was a very low population of Indigenous students. I can even remember thinking that if people wanted to learn about Indigenous peoples that they should just take Native Studies as an elective. I have now learned that it is important for everyone to learn about because it is an incredible part of Canada’s history. I think that it is important for all students to understand that Treaty Education is not only for Indigenous students and that it is something that is ongoing and relates to everyones lives. I find it interesting that we teach about ancient societies that are hardly relevant to the lives of any of our students and are not criticized for it, yet teachers are reluctant to teach about Treaty Education.
The phrase “we are all treaty people” is still something that is fairly new to me. I heard it for the first time about one year ago and I think that I am still developing what it truly means to me. Treaties are a huge part of Canada’s history and the signing of them has greatly impacted the way that Canadian society is today. I think it is important to recognize that Canada would be completely different without Indigenous peoples and the signing of treaties. As people living in Canada, we are affected by treaties and all people living in Canada in the future will be affected by treaties no matter what their ethnicity is.
At TreatyEdCamp I was able to attend a session on mathematics. Math is the subject area that I major in, so I was very interested in learning about Treaty Eduction in terms of mathematics. Many math teachers try to teach treaty education by comparing a teepee to a cone. A teepee is not simply a cone, so it does not make sense to teach students that it is. It is almost like an easy way out for teachers; they are attempting it, so they can check the box off. It is extremely important to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into western teachings. I am excited to explore ways that I can do this in my own math classes someday.
1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
Decolonization and reinhabitation can be seen throughout the narrative in a variety of ways. Decolonization is not only done by resisting colonial ideas, but also upholding traditions and traditional indigenous way of knowing (Restoule et al., 2013, pg. 74). There is a great emphasis on the land and in specifically the rivers. Reinhabitation can be seen in the narrative when they are exploring the river and visiting the burial sites of their relatives. This is not a colonial practice, so keeping this specific tradition is a method of decolonization.
2. How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?
As a math major, I have often thought that it may be difficult to incorporate treaty education. One method that can be used is using the land in lessons. There are many ways that students can explore nature while learning mathematics. I could also incorporate indigenous languages such as teaching numbers in Cree. I have taught one math lesson outdoors where the students made graphs in the snow. The lesson as we taught it did not have a strong connection to indigenous perspectives, but I think that it could absolutely be adapted to have focus more on Indigenous ways of knowing and to teach students about decolonization.
When thinking of what makes a “good student” we think of a student who follows all the rules and never causes a disturbance. A good student always shows up to class on time and pays attention. They never speak out of turn and always raise their hand. Good students submit their work on time and always make a strong effort to do well in their classes. students are all expected to act in the same way, but this is not realistic at all. It is impossible to expect every student to act the same because no two students are the same. Students are discouraged from being unique and thinking outside the box. Thinking of students being either good or bad also seems completely unfair for many students depending on their lives outside of school. Students are judged by how they appear at school without their lives at home being considered at all. Teachers do not know what a student is going through at home that could be impacting their performance in school. A student may seem disengaged in class because they have a sick family member and they can’t focus, but they could still be labelled as a bad student. It is incredibly easy to label students as good or bad without knowing everything about them. Teachers see a very small portion of students’ lives, yet they still form judgements about them.
Todd Whitaker said, “The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day”.
I found this quote to be very interesting because the meaning of it without any other context could go in many ways. The first way that I perceived it is that teachers matter to the students and their relationship is very important. I strongly believe that in order for students to learn at their full potential, they must have a positive relationship with their teacher. I remember always liking certain classes based on who was the teacher, not what the class content was. I was more excited to learn when I had a positive relationship with the teacher that when I didn’t.
Teachers are role models to their students and they leave lasting impressions. The student may remember something that a teacher said 30 years later. It is very important for teachers to always be “on”. They often don’t know exactly what is happening in a students’ home, and school could be the only place where that student feels safe. A student may not feel safe or comfortable talking to their parents about specific things and they choose to turn to their teachers. It is important for that teacher to be that person in case a student feels as though they have nobody else to turn to. The teacher becomes more than just a teacher and I think that that is extremely important.