How does diversity work at school?

What diversity are we hardwired to see?

I had a really interesting talk with my dissertation supervisor yesterday. We were talking (when we weren’t talking about my paper) about this idea of diversity in school. Her argument was that diversity in our local context is usually seen by teachers as academic readiness. So if you asked a local teacher about diversity in class, they would talk about how prepared a student was to take a new test, how academically ready they were and how they taught through differentiation.

They got me thinking about a couple of things. The first was an article I read recently. “What can diversity possibly mean when school curriculum is unabashedly standardized and managed as official knowledge? What becomes of diversity when schools isolate – by law and often by lock, key and sometimes barbed wire – teachers and learners from the wider community of which school are only a small and homogenous part? ” (Gruenewald 2010, p.142). Can we really only talk about diversity when we create a world where there is only one answer, one community, one solid identity.

This connected, through Gruenewald, how important sense of place is, and also how important diversity is in creating a sense of place. Place can create a shared identity, especially when looking at this through a human perspective. However, millions of living things take part in the development of most places. We need these things, they help form and shape where and who we are.

So I guess what I’m wondering is how do you see diversity in your school? Are you wondering about academic readiness, economic diversity, cultural diversity, religious diversity, social diversity, what other things do you see? And how do you teach for or to those different groups.

Gruenewald, D. A. (2010). Place Based Education: Grounding Culturally Responsive Teaching in Geographical Diversity In D. A. Gruenwald, Smith, G.A. (Ed.), Place Based Education in The Global Age: Local Diversity. New York, New York: Routledge.

Taking time

Looking for some food

I’ve been re-reading some of the papers for my literature review, specifically ones that might help me more when I take my new position next year. This quotation seemed to fit well with where I want the program to go. “Teachers determined that extended time was required to experience the place, to value it, and to harbour the disposition to teach about it; they learned in- depth content from spending time on-site, and they learned skills to extract knowledge from site through reading the landscape.” (Morris 2017)

From what I’ve read so far (and it seems like a lot) time helps people understand, helps them develop curiosity and drives them into a deeper relationship with the land. I’ve taken half the kids to the hawker center down the street, we’ve had some interesting conversations and this week we are formalising some of our primary source feedback. But for the second half, I think I’m going to take them to the other side of the school. Across the road a new park has been developed, I think this is a great time for us to think about the “What happened, what’s happening, what should happen?” set of questions. So today we are going to spend a significant (I hope the rain holds off) amount of time pondering these questions.

Ronald V. Morris (2017) Five Star Teacher: In-Service on the Move, The Social Studies, 108:5, 175-191, DOI: 10.1080/00377996.2017.1342159

Revisiting Coyote’s Guide

Coyote’s Guide

This is a book I often go back to, I often wonder about, and I often try to bring back into my teaching practice. With my focus on sense of place research right now I’ve been thinking more and more about how I (and maybe man others) don’t really know my directions.

I live very close to the equator right now, and I wonder about how easy it is for people to tell north from south. I have a hard time thinking about cardinal directions here and often wonder if they are important for navigating city life. What I really like about this book is that it introduces directions as a way to engage learning in the activities. It helps us think about where things come from and why the directions are important.

We often use stories of our place to bring us closer to the community, but over the next couple of weeks I really want to focus on directions and intentionally sharing the importance of knowing where we are, where we are facing and where we are going.

Three questions we can ask our kids

One of the books I’m reading

One of the books I’m reading right now, by someone I really look up to in my field of study, is Place Based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity.

Three big questions popped out of David’s work and he said (I also agree) that we can ask these three questions of any student. What is happening here? What happened here? What should happen here?

Our current unit of study is on leadership, and what it means to be a leader, I’ve been hitting them pretty hard with the environment, but I think tomorrow I will take some to one of the hawker centres that burned down last year. It is currently up and running again and serving the community. So I think I can start asking them these questions and maybe we can connect what should happen to action we can take as students to make our community a better place, I wonder what other actions they can come up with?

Gruenewald, D. A. (2010). Place Based Education: Grounding Culturally Responsive Teaching in Geographical Diversity In D. A. Gruenewald, Smith, G.A. (Ed.), Place Based Education in The Global Age: Local Diversity. New York, New York: Routledge.

Stories in Places

Sharing our stories.

We’ve been talking a lot about leadership in our class. How do we become leaders, what does that mean, and how do we move knowing we have this responsibility?

Part of this is looking for problems, and I wonder if we find problems in the stories we tell. This week we’re looking at the problems we can find in stories, and then seeing how that applies to how we can find problems in real life. Moving from there we can use the human (or empathy) centred design cycle to work on solving problems for all those involved.

I’m going to see how this goes, but I think it will have roots based on how we identify with where we are. Already I’ve had some students think that their problems live outside of the community and are looking overseas, but I think we need to pay more attention to the stories here in order to fully understand what’s happening in our place.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Where do we find joy in our work?

I was struck by this quotation earlier this week, “Nothing in the world can make up for the loss of joy in one’s work” (Weil 1952, p.81)

This quotation, I think, is talking about how just the system of working has taken away our intrinsic opportunity to take joy from what we do. We are compensated in other ways. These ways may bring some sort of joy, but Weil seems to be arguing that not many of us (and this was in the fifties) takes joy from the actual work we do.

As a teacher, I might have to disagree. I love my work, well most of it, there are some significant aspects of my job that don’t “spark joy”. However the main thought is the same when attending meetings, or going through PD. I often wonder, where is the joy in what we do, how often are we satisfied with the idea that we did the best we could?

I know that teaching is hard, and almost every day we fail someone or something in some small way. We can’t be perfect at this, but we can work towards mastery, and I hope we can find joy in our work. For me, I love the daily interactions I have with the students, I love learning more about them and what they know. I am so proud when I watch them move from understanding to understanding and start to link ideas together and make connections to their world. I often find joy every day, and I hope the people around me do as well.

So then I started thinking about this from a different perspective. Do the kids find joy in their work every day? Are they proud with just doing something the best they can or are they also looking for some extrinsic reward? Do the grades really matter to them, or is the feedback good enough? I know sometimes my students appear to be less than joyous throughout the day, so how do we work on that? What do we do?

I’m not sure I have answers, like most of my wonderings, just wondering if anyone has any thoughts? What actions they take? Do we all find joy in what we do?

Developing good questions

When I think about all the things I don’t know, I picture water

I just finished another paper, a huge one, one where I don’t feel comfortable with the writing, or the research. Hooray right? Anyway, it got me thinking how important a quality research question was.

In class, we often talk about think and thin questions. How do we get a question that answers facts and stimulates thinking? I was watching a library lesson today where they were going over their questions, and the students really wanted to get to the research. They were rushing through the questions (and many of them didn’t make sense). So I wondered how often I did that in my life, wanted to find a question to answer a quick problem, and not address a deeper underlying issue. I feel like the paper got away from me because I was trying to write a paper, not wonder about a problem.

So how do we take the time to question? What does that involve? How do we know if it’s good?

This unit for us is about leadership, we need to think deeply about how leaders in our community influence change, and we are first looking at what are the qualities of a leader and who these people really are. Is who we are important for change? Can anyone create change? We’re hoping to take a different approach this year. Instead of looking at governments and government systems, who are the people that disrupt what is happening? How did the find the questions to start those disruptions? How do they know something is wrong? What can we do to think about the problems in our community? How do we question what we’re living?

Hopefully it works.