Teachers Are Students Too (Final Assignment)

Nicki Bannerman

Dr. S. Pete

ECS 110

December 4, 2012

Teachers Are Students Too

I have learned many things from this course, both about myself and about people who are different than I am because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or other reasons. I hope that this assignment conveys the emerging teacher identity I wish to have, which is an ally. In the future, I will work towards social change through my teaching, but for now, my goal is simply to learn about social justice issues, and the problems that arise from these issues. One of the things that this course has changed my opinion about is my idea of what it means to be a teacher. It has also made me change my views about the categories normality and different. I have learned through this course that teaching, schooling, and curriculum oppress people who are different, and allow for white privilege. Oppression is limiting what other people can do, and white privilege are privileges that white people take for granted because of their race. A valuable notion this class has taught me is about how I view myself as accepting towards people who are differentiated by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.

What does it mean to be a teacher? A. Bronson Alcot believes that, “The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence” (no source). I find this quotation to be inspirational for myself because I am constantly reminding myself not to push my own opinions onto other people. I also like what he says because I learned from the article “Teaching for Gender Justice” by Amanda Keddie and Martin Mills, that teachers can teach personal views in their lessons, whether it is intentional or not. That means that a teacher must be careful of what they teach because it may not always be beneficial to students, such as how Brad’s approach to engaging males in the class “promote[d] gender differentiation and hierarchical masculinities” (6). Without intending to Brad made this promotion through focusing on the males in the class, and excluding the females, and no doubt the boys noticed this attitude and replicated it. A teacher does not simply instruct a student to arrive at a specific answer, but also teaches about ideas to let students have their own perceptions of the concept. Teachers can also be allies for change. I believe teachers should address the issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability daily in lessons so that learning of these topics are not viewed as tokenism. It also helps to remind students that these issues marginalize people on a daily basis and we cannot ignore it.

This course has made me question why I want to be an ally, and what exactly that means. For me, being an ally means to be a friend to someone who is in need by connecting and uniting people together, and providing cooperation in a fight for a cause. I want to become an ally for my students who feel oppressed and marginalized because of their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or even religion. I want this to be a recognizable part of my teacher identity so that students who have a problem can feel they are able to approach me and find help. I feel that if people recognize me as an ally they will take my example and join the fight for equality and recognition of all people, no matter what the differences are that have marginalized them.

A continuing goal that I have for my career as a teacher is to work towards social change in my teaching. This is because I want my students to feel they are in a comfortable safe space where they will be appreciated and valued for their differences. I want my classroom to be a learning environment where these topics are discussed freely without prejudice or a condemning attitude. In the article “Schooling and Education in North America: Recentring Indigenous Knowledges,” George Jerry Sefa Dei writes, “ transformative educational change must address the challenge of integrating social and cultural values that promote alternative and multiple readings of the world into classroom pedagogies, instruction, and school curricula” (48). I will include these topics through my teaching methods in readings, lectures, and guest speakers. I want my lessons to reflect ideas of social change for gender equity, race, and sexuality. The article “Accountability and Aboriginal Education: Dilemmas, Promises and Challenges” by Rita Bouvier and Bruce Karlenzig, stress that not only the teacher is accountable for a student’s learning, and I hope to include family and community involvement. Bouvier and Karlenzig also state the importance of taking “a much more holistic position by recognizing that, rather than simply being an ‘add on’ to the more familiar curricula and pedagogies, Aboriginal education can involve a qualitatively different and transformative process for teaching and learning” (17). This means that it is important to teach the Aboriginal ways of knowing in everyday learning, not simply a unit or Native Studies class. There are also benefits of teaching this way, as it allows students to see “the big picture” instead of focusing on individual topics. These issues are addressed in everyday life, yet it is sometimes difficult for students to recognize what they are learning about them. I want to create involvement in my class through discussion and asking thought provoking questions for reflection.

I feel that my role as an educator has already evolved because I used to be ignorant and thought that if I did not promote it I was not racist, sexist, or homophobic. Now I realize that by ignoring or being unaware about these issues, I am being oppressive, and now I see that I need to learn more to become more accepting. I feel this class has not only broadened my knowledge of these differences, but also made me become aware of the issues I did not previously identify with being different from normalcy. Now I feel a sense of duty to help people who cannot stand up for themselves because while they are marginalized, I am still provided with white privilege. The authors, R. Patrick Solomon et al, of the article, “The Discourse of Denial: How While Teacher Candidates Construct Race, Racism and ‘White Privilege,’” discuss white privilege, and the “multiple ways in which white privilege is experienced and rendered invisible to white people… [and] the ways in which relations of dominance and power can be concealed, to the extent that oppression and privilege… are rendered impalpable” (151). My role as an educator must include addressing white privilege, and showing how white people oppress others without even knowing it. Once people recognize the injustice others face, we can work towards a solution for equality between races. I hope this view continues into my working years, and that I continue to strive for social justice and equality in my classroom, school, and community.

An interesting idea that this class has taught me is that normal is different. So many things can set a person apart as different that there are more people who are labeled different than those who are labeled normal. In addition, simply having the idea of normalcy leads to exclusion and marginalization of others. In “Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness,” Eli Clare writes about being marginalized because she is queer and has cerebral palsy, “it’s not our bodies that need curing[; r]ather, it is ableism … that needs changing” (360). Clare thinks that it is wrong to be marginalized because of her differences, and suggests, “locating the problems of social injustice in the world, rather than in our bodies, has been key to naming oppression” (360). Once the oppression has been named, we can work towards eliminating marginalization based on differences from normalcy.

I have also learned that I can personally be marginalized and labeled as other because I am female and I have a disability because of my hearing loss. The idea that I was “different” has never occurred to me before, and I have always taken for granted the features I have that display me as “normal.” I am not stating that I am marginalized in the same way as others, because I am still a white heterosexual person, and this gives me advantages others do not have. Still, it made me realize that I am not as “normal” as I thought, or was taught to believe. At first, I was upset about this, but now I understand that if I want to fight for equality, I need to embrace my differences and help others to do the same in order to change the idea of normalcy and prevent others from being marginalized. I believe that race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability do not affect a person’s point of view, allow them to be mistreated, or have stereotypes associated with them. This is another reason I want to be recognized as an ally.

This year I have learned that teaching, schooling, and curriculum oppress certain groups of people. I began the year thinking things were not as bad as the articles made them seem because I had not previously been taught about it. I was wrong. The phrase “curriculum is manipulative” was often repeated this year and somewhere along the way the truth of it sunk in. I had not been taught this before because other teachers had manipulated the curriculum to avoid talking about these issues. My school did not invite guest speakers or hold workshops for students to recognize problems in our society, or what had caused those problems. I had been manipulated to believe something else because my teachers had avoided the subjects or had been unaware of the issues themselves. A revelation I had about this was that it meant I can also choose what I want to include to teach about social justice and others.

The schooling system oppresses people who are different and allows white privilege to continue. Teachers need to incorporate more learning about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability in order to see a difference of opinion in schools and communities. Perhaps teachers cannot change personal opinion, but we can provide knowledge to allow for a more appropriate opinion based on ideas other than stereotypes. Since we cannot go into the home and change the way of thinking there, teachers must change the way of thinking within the classroom. The article, “The Canon Debate, Knowledge Construction, and Multicultural Education” shows that people have strong and diverse opinions of how knowledge should be taught in schools and that are different ways of knowing and teaching that can be beneficial for learning to other races and cultures. In Banks’s article, both the multiculturalists and the Afrocentrists want to see a change in curriculum. While the multiculturalists “contend that the curriculum should be reformed so that it will more accurately reflect the histories and cultures of ethnic groups and women” (4), the Afrocentrists “maintain that African culture and history should be placed at the ‘center’ of the curriculum in order to motivate African American students to learn” (4). Both groups want change, but the problem will be the extent of change in the curriculum so that neither group is oppressed by the schooling system.

The article, “Inclusive Education and Critical Pedagogy at the Intersections of Disability, Race, Gender and Class,” is able to connect to each of these groups. Anastasia Liasidou explains that people can be marginalized in more than one way, as Clare pointed out in her essay. Liasidou’s article states, “schools can play a major role in alleviating social inequalities and minimizing the achievement gap between privileged and disadvantaged groups of students on the basis of their ethnic, racial, linguistic, social class, and so forth characteristics” (170). Liasidou means that schools can choose to remove all the characteristics that would set students apart and teach them all the same, whether they are poor or rich, heterosexual or homosexual, white or coloured, and so forth.

The most important thing I have learned this year, and have conveyed throughout this essay, is that I am ignorant, not accepting. This course taught me about the views I held to people of “otherness.” I am not as accepting as I thought. I have work to do to inform myself before I can inform others. I used to think that ignoring difference was the same as accepting difference, but now I see that there is a distinction between them. If I am “colour-blind” or “otherness-blind,” I am marginalizing people, not promoting pride for difference. If I want my classes to be accepting I must show that I am accepting, an ally for others, and that I am working for change. I must also commit myself to learning more about each of these groups, and expanding my knowledge throughout my career.

This course has taught me a lot about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or other reasons, and what it means to be oppressed because of one or more of these issues. I hope the emerging teacher identity I will be able to create for myself is to be an ally. I want to promote social change through my teaching about social justice issues, and the problems that arise from these issues. This course has changed my idea of what it means to be a teacher, but I still plan to become a teacher because I am realizing that these issues are just as important as the curriculum material, if not more important. Now I view normality and different in a new way, and I plan to continue to learn more about this issue and how I can address it in my classroom. It has become apparent to me that teaching methods, schooling, and curriculum oppress people who are different, and allow for white privilege, and each in their own way can be manipulated. My goal is to become a teacher who is truly accepting towards people who are differentiated by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, and is able to teach students about these topics in a meaningful way, similar to I have learned.

 

 

References

Banks, J. A. (1993). The canon debate, knowledge construction, and multicultural education. Educational Researcher, 22(5), 4-14.

Bouvier, R., & Karlenzig, B. (2006). Accountability and aboriginal education: Dilemmas, promises and challenges. Our Schools, our Selves, 15(3), 15-33.

Clare, E. (2001). Stolen bodies, reclaimed bodies: Disability and queerness. Public Culture, 13(3), 359-365.

Dei, G. J. S. (2000). Schooling and education in North America: Recentring Indigenous Knowledges in Removing the margins: The challenges and possibilities of inclusive schooling. Canadian Scholars Press. 45-65.

Keddie, A., & Mills, M. (2007). Teaching for gender justice. AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION-HAWTHORN, 51(2), 205.

Liasidou, A. (2012). Inclusive Education and Critical Pedagogy at the Intersections of Disability, Race, Gender and Class. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 10(1), 168-184.

Solomon, R. P., Portelli, J. P., Daniel, B. J., & Campbell, A. (2005). The discourse of denial: How white teacher candidates construct race, racism and ‘white privilege’. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(2), 147-169.

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