Maxine Greene is an educational theorist who was part of the Reconceptualist Movement that began in the late 60’s. Greene places emphasis on the importance of the arts in education. In her article “The Turning of the Leaves: Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education” she discusses the impact of self expression on an individual’s ability to connect with the world around them. She brings up the metaphor of tree leaves turning colours in the fall, noting that “there are two parts to the idea of "turning." We connect with the world, but we also make sense of our experiences in the world and make them our own.”
Greene discusses the importance of arts in schools because it provides a relatively free medium for students to explore self expression, develop critical thinking, and expand on their worldviews. Art in schools is threatened by the standardization practices in schools, “If we are going to affirm, extend, and expand the role of the arts in education, we must give up the kind of standardization that wipes clean the diversity, richness, and humanness that infuses the arts as well as human beings' individual - and sometimes collective - responses to the arts.”
In my paper, I would like to include a summary of the Reconceptualist Movevement that Greene was involved in. I would like to further this research with how her views and ideals appear in classrooms today and how we could improve how we design our programs based on some of these ideals.
The Tyler Rational is widely used across schools in Canada because it provides an easy and seemingly “clear cut” method of teaching children. This is because it focuses on specific questions that we ask ourselves when we build on a curriculum or plan activities for the students to complete.
This rational falls under the Product Model of Curriculum and places a lot of focus preparing students for future jobs and careers. Ralph Tyler believed that “the real purpose of education is not to have the instructor perform certain activities, but to bring about significant changes in the students’ pattern of behaviour,” and in this way, students could be moulded into perfect working adults. Students who do well in specific classes are encouraged to take classes that will help them get into colleges or universities after graduating and others were guided into more immediate practical classes like shop or wielding to be useful to the workforce with more expediency. This can sometimes lead to programs (like art) being pushed to the side or even cut completely if they are not seen as being valuable to the work force
These key questions can be very helpful as a starting point for any learning activity, but it does tend to provide a very “stiff” outline with little to no room for student and teacher voices. It does nothing to acknowledge the outside world or the experiences of the youth and expertise of the teachers. This rational looks at students as an entity of raw energy or resource to be moulded into a defined shape. I believe this is the largest limitation. This model is made up of “cookie cutter” and “one size fits all” programmes that do not leave much room for inclusive education, different learning styles, socioeconomic backgrounds, the community, or the funding of the schools into account and end up being less effective for everybody involved.
Commonsense, as defined by Kumashiro, is an accumulation of the normative customs and beliefs that are built by collective societal knowledge of what we see repeating in our day-to-day lives. They help us to make sense of and feel one with the world around us. Such as how “My neighbors taught me much about the facets of life in the [Nepali] village that many of them seemed to take for granted as ‘common sense’ or what everyone should know.” These ‘common sense’ facets included things like the purpose of the well water at various times of day, or how they prepared their two meals each day. In the schools, it was seen as common sense to listen and speak only when spoken too, to divide the class by gender, and to study only in ways that they felt would prepare them for the tests to the extent that they felt any other method of teaching would jeopardize their chances of success.
It is clear that what I view as ‘common sense’ is different from the Nepali people. Kumashiro listed some things we take for granted as being ‘normal’ in North American culture, such as how we generally structure our school systems. Throughout the reading, I frequently caught myself thinking that the methods used in Nepal sound outdated and ineffective in comparison to the methods we use here in North America that have been slowly built upon and improved based on research and trial and error and are much more flexible and therefore “better.”
Kumashiro's assignment in Nepal was to “introduce schools to different and presumably more effective ways to teach.” This is not problematic an and of itself, it is beneficial for all teachers to be exposed to different methods of teaching to better help their students, “what [is] problematic [is] our failure to unearth the ways that U.S. [and Canadian] values and priorities and ideologies where embedded in our approaches to teaching and learning.”
Our common sense is full of underlying bias and oppressive views that we never question because the common sense formed around cultural norms have made it easy to overlook oppressive behaviors.
We have talked a lot about teaching as a profession. Education does not fit perfectly into the parameters of a usual profession, but it does have a hierarchy. This hierarchy is responsible for keeping the whole system accountable. This is important for education because the profession is under constant scrutiny. Within this system, I would like to talk a bit about the role of the administrator. An administrator is a principal, superintendent, board member, etc. who work more on the legal side of things. They deal with things like hiring, contracts, salary, working conditions, and firing of teachers.
This weeks reading talked about the position of principals in schools and the effects of their method of leadership can have on a school. The difference between a manager and a leader, for example, can change how a school looks. The type of authority that the principal holds is another factor. Is the principle a traditional leader who gained power from the social position they hold from being principal? Do they have a legal/rational authority, enforcing rules and law within schools? Or do they have the charismatic authority that is naturally given to people with a personality and charisma that people want to follow? I am not saying that these three types of authority are exclusive either. In fact, I believe that the principal of my own high school had a combination of all three. She was always aware of the position she held, but at the same time made an effort to have positive relationships to all of the staff and students. She was always giving teachers feedback and advice.
One thing I did not know, is that the principal does not do the hiring. They can suggest certain people and play a role in choosing who they think would fit well in their school, but the actual hiring is one by the school board.
Back in elementary and high school, I never had anybody with a visible disability amongst my peers in the classroom. Students who struggled in class were taken out of the classroom to take lessons from educational assistants who could work with them in smaller groups or individually. I noticed this, but never gave it much thought until high school where all students who had some form of disability that made academics challenging had been set aside in their own wing of the building. We had very few interactions with these students unless they came around to the classrooms to collect attendance or take the recycling for their work experience. I did have the good fortune to get to know one of the girls during an afterschool program called “Cooking Club” where we were taught how to make different recipes. She was slower to respond to questions, but if given enough time to answer questions, she always had something interesting to say. She is an extremely kind and compassionate girl and I was happy to get to know her. I came to understand that she often had trouble in conversations because some people didn’t like to wait for her responses or became uncomfortable around her due to minor differences.
In Dan Habib’s talk, he discussed the positives of having inclusive classrooms and the downsides of segregation. When a youth feels included- like they belong- their self esteem increases along with their social skills and academic performance. This is true for all students; able bodied or not. Those who are differently abled are aloud to find purpose for themselves and the students around them also benefit from the collaborations and friendships that occur. Inclusive Education classrooms are effective because all students have more motivation to help each other and be engaged in the learning. On the other hand, youth who find themselves cut off from social interaction get no benefits from being alone. If they are unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings, they become trapped in their own minds. This can also be related to how expectation can affect the achievements of an individual. For example, if the expectation for a student is higher, they will try to rise to meet that challenge. However, if the expectation is lower, the student isn’t given room to grow. This is an issue that can be easily fixed in most cases if the knowledge of this factor exists.
Why do we find dealing with disability so difficult? People often fear what they do not know. I feel like this is a large factor in why there is still such large percentage of youth who are segregated from the classrooms. Guest speaker Kelsey Culbert stressed this knowledge that humans avoid what they don’t understand, she also tells us that having a disability does not make them any less human. I agree with her. I found in my own experiences that I did not always know how to talk to somebody with impaired sight, hearing, mobility, etc. for fear of offending them in some way. For this reason, I really enjoyed reading Kelsey’s blog because she details a few of her own struggles and then details what she called “Disability Etiquette” which reminds the world that they are human too and gives tips for minor changes in conversation that will help everybody to engage in conversation more fully.
My Question: What are we waiting for? Inclusivity is a benefit to everybody involved.
Volunteering at William booth most weekends has allowed me to get to know some of the residents who participate regularly. This meant that have been able to identify a few patterns within the workings of the home and adapt what I did in small ways to be more helpful. For example, I have been able to confirm that, yes, we do tend to make decisions for people if we do not think they are capable of making those decisions themselves. This is becoming a noticeable theme within caring professions that work with vulnerable sectors: children, elders, and people with disability. There are times where taking the initiative to help the residents is necessary, but if they are able to speak for themselves, I found it was better to ask what they needed first such as the bingo situation I mentioned in my last CBSL blog.
“I noticed how we will, at times, judge others incapable of doing a task. When this happens, we tend to overcompensate for their perceived inability. I had been told that to help these women, it was my job to place the pieces for the lady on my left and place the chips in the hands of the lady on my right. Not two rounds into the game, they both proved this information wrong.” (CBSL blog 1)
The severity of our assumptions is different with every person as well as how strongly they react to it, so the line between helping and stepping on pride can be difficult to distinguish.
I surprised myself with how quickly I came to learn who the regular participants were for the bingo and church services. I began to learn some of there names and where their rooms where. I knew that some of the players preferred certain types of bingo cards and I learned who liked to attend which service. Some would only attend the first service run by the salvation army, some would only attend the catholic service that was held later, and some would attend both just to do something. By the end of my volunteering there, I also knew which rooms to avoid because they didn’t play bingo or were not religious.
I feel like this volunteer placement gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I interact with others and taught be how to adapt to the needs of different people.
Why a Climbing Tree has an Impact
Who I am today is influenced by my experiences in the past. I was a conscientious youth who loved to spend time outdoors. My favorite thing in the world to do was climb up to high places and read. This usually meant that I could be found nestled in a tree somewhere. The Climbing Tree is very prominent in my childhood memories for a couple of reasons. It was one of the larges trees I have climbed, and my cousins, sisters, myself would ask to go out there often. We were always driven there, as it was a fair distance from the farmyard, but sitting on the back of the truck was always fun. I did a lot of my exploration of the world in the small area around the tree. Catching frogs, learning about berries and burrs, picking cattails, and examining the world around me from a taller viewpoint.
Being outdoors and having these experiences is important and more so now than ever before, because being outside gives us so many opportunities to be critical and thoughtful and creative. In my story, I mention how “I feel a sense of pride up here. Not because I made the climb or because I was so high up, but because, here, I am part of a larger picture. One that does not end beyond my immediate contact.” And I feel like this has stuck with me. I have always felt as though having fun is more genuine when we are away from digital screens. This is a philosophy that I use in any of my interactions with children, from babysitting to running activities.
Experiencing nature is a large part of outdoor education, and I am convinced that this needs to be practiced more. Not only incorporating the environment into the curriculum but also incorporating into our daily lives. There is something about nature that manages to be paradoxically energetic and lively, but also calm and peaceful. In my story I noted in the tree that, “Most of the branches are sturdy enough to hold our weight as my sister and I race to the top, supported by the rough bark that grips the soles of our shoes, and it seems the tree plays with us as we duck to avoid its clumsy efforts to grasp at our hair.” I also took note of how “it is peaceful, and I feel ready to tackle the world again.” Both aspects are necessary for a person’s well-being as well as critical for youth to learn first-hand.
The last point I wanted to mention about my time here at the Climbing Tree, is that it helped to connect me to past generations. My parents had climbed this tree, and my grandparents watched it grow. This is a meaningful connection for me in my personal life, and it helped me relate to the area better. Listening to other’s stories in class, I was a little struck by how different everybody’s stories were. We each interpreted the assignment a little differently, and it gave me a perspective of how the outdoors interact with each individual in a unique, and meaningful way.
My CBSL placement is at the William Booth Special Care Home. This senior care home is in conjunction with the Salvation Army and their mission statement is: “to provide comprehensive services for the spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological and social well-being of the individual.” * The home provides a wide range of activities for the inhabitants to participate in if they so choose, and if they have no desire to join, they are free to spend time in any of the lovely commons areas playing board/card games, watching TV, or talking with each other. As a volunteer, it is my job to help those who wish to participate in getting where they need to go as well as helping run the activities. At my first volunteering opportunity here on September 30th, I helped clear away their lunch and then set up for a game of Bingo. I followed one of the workers to inform regular bingo players that the game was going on and push their wheelchairs if necessary.
During the bingo, I sat between two women whom I had to help play Bingo by pointing to the squares on their boards as they were called out. It was here that I experienced first hand that Seniors have reduced mobility and fine motor skills. The woman on my right would occasionally place the bingo chips on top of one another so I would move them to the proper spots and continue with the game. It wasn’t that she lacked any intelligence, only that her arms would not always cooperate to put the pieces where she wanted them to go.
This brings me to my second point: I noticed how we will, at times, judge others incapable of doing a task. When this happens, we tend to overcompensate for their perceived inability. I had been told that to help these women, it was my job to place the pieces for the lady on my left and place the chips in the hands of the lady on my right. Not two rounds into the game, they both proved this information wrong. I discovered that the lady to my left could mark her squares on her own if I pointed to the one that was called and gave her the time to do so. On my right, she could pick up the pieces from the container on her own; it was only the chips on the table that she had any trouble grasping. This reminded me of a friend in high school who had been held back from regular classes because it was perceived that she could not keep up, however, the lessons she was taking after where far too slow and unstimulating. I feel as though we as educators do this more often than we would like to think.
I learned a few other things as well in my time there. For example, not everybody who participates in the activities here are residents of the home, many of them live nearby or drive in to visit and join in or have come to visit loved ones and friends. Another example is that seniors have lower immune systems, so we are required to sanitize our hands after leaving every room we touched something in. This prevents the spread of germs.
The last thing that is of note to this blog is that all of these people are very resilient. In a conversation on the way back to her room, one woman talked with me for some time about her family and her travels when she and her husband were young. It was a conversation I enjoyed having with her, and we talked comfortably for nearly thirty minutes past when I was due to leave. The people living here have all gone through good times and hardship alike, they kept going through it all and are still going.
So, my question of the week is how we can help others and ensure that we are not encroaching on their pride or their learning opportunities?
The Climbing Tree
The day is warm, but not hot. A beautiful mix of wispy and fluffy clouds hang in the sky as the wind takes the fluffier ones over the sun at irregular intervals. My hair flies around my face as the gold truck I am sitting in the back of bounces down the carved dirt path to the climbing tree. My middle sister and my mom sit with me as we dangle our legs off the edge of the truck, trying to drag our feet along the overgrown grass as we move. A particularly large bump sends me careening into my mom’s arm, laughing, as she steadies my sister on her other side. I look around again as the truck dips signaling we are at the little ditch that makes this path completely unpassable when wet. We are almost to the tree.
Granddad drives the truck in closer and the three of us sitting on the back scoot towards the front to avoid getting thrown off as the vehicle kerthumps over the bumpy terrain. The vehicle stops and I can’t help but wonder if this is the time we will get stuck as Granddad always jokes. I don’t think on it too long, however, because my sister and I have a mission; to see who can get to the tallest point of the tree first.
Dubbed “The Climbing Tree” for a good reason, the long thick tangle of branches stretches wildly up and out in all directions; it is easily the tallest thing for what must be miles around as there are no buildings or other trees anywhere nearby. The closest thing in height being the tangle of berry bushes that grow along the outside of the tree to the southwest, skirting around the marshy area the tree protects. There are four thick limbs that make up the base, connected near the ground at approximate shin height. The long expanses of wood spread up slightly before two of them stretch out over the marsh while the other two reach skywards, in competition to see which could catch the sun first. Smaller limbs and branches weave in eccentric patterns providing perfect foot and hand holds. Most of the branches are sturdy enough to hold our weight as my sister and I race to the top, supported by the rough bark that grips the soles of our shoes, and it seems the tree plays with us as we duck to avoid its clumsy efforts to grasp at our hair.
I am at the top now, and the sun has decided to show itself once more-it feels warm against my skin. I look over at my sister then, she is also at the top and standing on the same branch I am perched on. I won I think, but so does she, so we stare at each other in a silent standoff for a few moments before I roll my eyes. She smirks at me, thinking she has won- she hasn’t- and I let her. I had more important things to explore up here. The birds circle above our heads, chirping and squawking indignantly at having been startled away. Below, the gently rolling hills of the Saskatchewan prairies sweep out in all directions in a patchwork of yellows, golds, greens, green-blues, and browns. Small splotches of darker greens are the only indications of the surrounding farmhouses. I can see the farmhouse where my grandparents live, and from out here, it looks as though it would be suitable for a small family of ants. I close my eyes and take in a breath, the faint musty smell of the wood I am trusting with my life and the deep earthy smells from the marsh just blow me reaches my nose.
I feel a sense of pride up here. Not because I made the climb or because I was so high up, but because, here, I am part of a larger picture. One that does not end beyond my immediate contact. I came with my family today with the intent to play, to climb, to observe, but not necessarily to understand. Up here, I feel like I can go anywhere, accomplish anything, and suddenly, the Climbing Tree is more than just a great place to play. It is more than building cattail bouquets and picking Saskatoon berries and watching frogs and birds jump around. This feeling is not understood very deeply in my young mind, but it is peaceful, and I feel ready to tackle the world again.
Jumping back into the truck, I glance back at the tree. The birds are settling back into its branches. I find it a fitting end to our adventures out here for the day. Perhaps I can convince my grandparents to let us hide in the bales later…
This week’s readings are primarily based around development; socially, physically, and cognitively. The textbook posed questions such as how does physical development affect an individual’s social development and vice versa, what is the importance physical activity and its relationship to cognitive development, and even, can we multitask? The textbook discusses many things, but the above are a few points that stood out to me.
There were a few things that surprised me in this reading (Chapter 3, pg. 63-74 and Chapter 8, pg.258-291). First being that early maturation in youth can be the cause for issues- both immediate and distant. For example, females who begin their menstrual cycles earlier are at risk of mental health issues as well as a chance of higher body fat later in life. Males who mature early are often popular because they fit into the norms of “masculinity” because they generally are tall and broad-shouldered. However, these boys tend to have behavior problems when they grow older. On the flip side, males who mature late are picked on for their smaller stature but characteristically grow to be more creative, tolerant, and perceptive. While these statements may not be true for every individual, I did see these trends within myself and my classmates growing up, especially with the males.
Another thing I learned was that parenting styles could be summarized into four main categories. I had expected more to exist, though I do not know what they would have been. Authoritative (democratic), Authoritarian (strict), Permissive (friend), and neglecting (uninvolved). These parenting styles, and different combinations of said styles can have a broad range of impacts on an individual’s life. Personally, my parents fit into the authoritative category, and their support is the reason I am who I am today.
Lastly, I found the section on multitasking to be fascinating. In today’s world, everybody is constantly in a rush. We often think that multitasking is a helpful tool to get things done faster. However, there has been proving fact after proving fact that this is not usually the case. There are two types of multitasking according to our book, sequential and simultaneous. Sequential is when a person switches back and forth between tasks. We often believe this is allowing us to do things at once, when in fact, our focus is only on one task at a time. Simultaneous is when a person’s focus can overlap onto several different tasks, though this only works in cases where the tasks require various areas of the brain. (I.e.) walking and chewing gum).
My question for this week: Is it possible to have control over some of the things that influence our lives? For example, why do we allow ourselves and social media to continue enforcing strict social norms when we know it hurts many of our youth, continuing into adulthood.