In all honesty, how many teachers have the time to answer this question? Nevertheless, I am one of the lucky few to ponder this question after work on Mondays when attending grad school. I have the privilege to be a student in the Master in Science in Teaching and Inquiry (MSTI) Program led by Dr. Steven Wolk at Northeastern Illinois University. I began this journey a year ago during Fall 2016.
Let me explain my journey.
Although my days start and 6am and end at 10pm every Mondays, I must admit, I always leave class fired up and enlightened by the highly rich discussions we have about education. Today, we read an article titled “Decolonizing Curriculum” by Christine Sleeter and discussed about about what it meant based off the current histories we teach in schools. Reflecting on my school education, I remember learning how Abraham Lincoln was a revolutionary leader who abolished slavery; after watching a Ted Ed talk by Aaron Huey, I realized I never learned how he had the opposite impact on the Lakota tribe-a group of indigenous people from our country.
Moreover, I believe that so many times and based off of my school experiences as a student, history has always been presented as an event that happened in the past. Textbooks rarely or even never relate on how history influences the present let alone include current events that impact students today. Moreover, textbooks are often carry Eurocentric ideologies and nationalistic views–a student asked me today in school: “How come we learn only about history in the U.S in social studies this year?” True statement, as all of our students are required to take U.S. History in 8th grade.
Wolk @stevewolk_ presented two awesome Ted Ed videos that I recommend every educator should watch. This allows us to reflect on our current teaching practices, curriculum, and decide what histories are missing and what needs to be incorporated in our classroom. Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, one of my undergraduate professors at UIUC wrote it beautifully in one of her research papers by asking: what windows are we providing for our students to see? Right now, I think we are just presenting one window for our students: The White American Window. And some awesome teachers are reinventing this norm recognizing that textbooks only present one window for students. I recall my World History teacher freshman year in high school scratching the textbook and presented inquiry based questions such as: What is the Cause of War? How does religion influence culture? in which students selected topics that they were interested to answer the focus question and presented their findings after researching primary and secondary sources. The entire year we had about 5-8 big questions that we brainstormed as a class and selected for our Inquiry Based Project. I thank James Sabathne for teaching me how to be a researcher, writer, and critical thinker which makes researching a natural endeavor when I was a 14 year old who had no idea that she would be writing a literature review on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in the Mathematics Classroom as a graduate student.
What does this mean for educators? As a mathematics teacher, I find myself stuck in Nepantla- this messy space of tensions between tensions. Not black; not white, but a grey area where I am trying to decide what to do that is best for my students. The messy space is a place I know that I have a curriculum and standards to teach based off of a timeline. But I recognize that my students are human beings/thinkers, and my job is to help them critically analyze the world to make it a better place. However, the mathematical goal at the end of today was to apply the Pythagorean Theorem. How do I begin to reinvent the norms to make sure my students learn the math skills to score well statistically but at the same time help them become thinkers and not robots? I not only want them to learn math, but want them to use math to critically analyze the world and use mathematical evidence to support their ideas. I understand that it is not always easy to incorporate mathematics into bigger ideas, but if I am truly an expert in my field, I know that it is possible. Today after I taught students how to apply Pythagorean Theorem to a baseball diamond, they started on their Access Project in which they are answering the inquiry based question: Which ward in your community has the best access to resources? After they answer that, they are going to explore which community is lacking resources and how can we help that community? If you are interested in this project see my previous post to get the directions page and also stay posted for my reflection on how the second year of implementing the project goes.