Saturday 9 July 2016

Using Education to Change how Students See Themselves- the Redesigned Curriculum

As #BCED moves towards full implementation of the Redesigned Curriculum- it is important to highlight one of the most pivotal attributes- allowing multiple perspectives, ways of learning, knowing and seeing the world from our students OWN eyes.  The integration of the First Peoples Principles of Learning forces all of us as educators to challenge our norms, beliefs, and understandings of ourselves as educators in a primarily dominant industrialized system that focused on one view and one way of teaching in our educational system.  

I remember as a young child learning in British Columbia schools- the plethora of times my parents would share an experience, or a way of knowing from their country in Trinidad and Tobago; that when I brought that knowledge back to school, some of my educators pointed out that this form of knowledge was wrong.  As a student of color, I felt as though my experience, my parent's knowledge, and my intelligence was thus second class to what the westernized curriculum, textbooks and teachers were teaching me in class.  As a student there was a sense of confusion- an internal tension of anger and embarrassment and guilt, as if my parents were some what not good enough.  My experiences going back to Trinidad every year cemented to beauty and love of my Caribbean heritage- but many of our students lack the #SEL skills and opportunities to filter those emotions through strength and resilience.  

I am writing about this experience to highlight the how this redesigned curriculum- if truly embraced will allow students to grow not just their curricular competencies but develop their sense as a learner, as an individual and more important as a socially aware and competent citizen.  Allowing students opportunities to learn about themselves is so crucial to the development of their identity.  Introducing students to the Moors of Spain and their influence of medicine and culture during the medieval period, finding the early writings of Kalidasa and sharing them with the class, introducing the perspectives of the Haitian soldiers in their fight for independence will allow students to see themselves in the curriculum and in the development of strong, driving societies all over the world.

It is so disheartening to see what is going on in the United States of America at this moment.  Hope was given with the Voting in of an bi-racial "African American" president.  But the latest turn of events has truly awoke a sense of consciousness to force people to challenge their beliefs and the systems they have created that are embedded in inequality, violence and privilege.  How this affects us as educators in BC is that many of our students look at hip hop/black culture and adapt (mostly negative) features of that culture to their daily lives.  Students use the N word on a consistent basis because it is what they hear in the music, but don't understand the struggle and tension that comes along with the power of the word.  Because our students are introduced to American Mass Media and Social media with a click of a button, we as educators have to be even more cognizant, aware, and respectful to our students backgrounds and areas of interests.

We as educators can battle the senseless acts of violence, and misinterpretations that these students are seeing on an hourly basis by using our learning time and opportunities to show them the integrity, grace and love of their people, cultures, religions and values.  We need to take the time to learn about our audience, their fears and passions and dreams.  It will take more time, but the redesigned curriculum allows students to learn about themselves within the curricular competencies allowing them to develop a sense of who they are not just as a student, but as an identity in an already fragmented and challenging world.  Over the next couple weeks this summer, I will spend time sharing developing ways of integrating multiple voices and perspectives in the classroom- so stay tuned!