Case Study #2
After reading Janice’s letter, my group quickly realized that some of our previous assumptions on how the students may hold stereotypes against the First Nations children proved to be true. Janice explained how her students are just learning about treaties and that many of them believe them to be unfair, her letter shows that there is some tension amongst her students and their beliefs and ideas about First Nations people. Although this is a definite issue, we were happy to hear that Janice takes these comments seriously and is looking forward to working collaboratively with our school members. Along with the racism issues Janice explained that her class is very actively involved in the learning process; they like project based learning and to be a part of the evaluating and assessment process. Janice also shared with us some information on her students’ learning styles and needs; it is quite obvious that there is a vast variety of learning needs/styles between her students and our own.
Since students from both the schools are expressing racism towards one another, we believe it is important to address this issue immediately and “head on”. We feel that by beating around the bush we will only allow these negative beliefs about each other to go on, so we decided to start the first few visits with each other by talking about racism. This can be an uncomfortable situation for both the students and the teacher; however, it needs to be dealt with in a professional manner, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.
One activity that we thought could help alleviate some of the tension between the two groups of students is to share our thoughts, ideas, fears, and anxieties about the “other” through the form of a talking circle. We realize that this could end up in a heated debate, but we believe it might be necessary to really confront some of these issues and to starting asking each group “why” they have these ideas about each other. Another activity that we thought might be valuable is to have the students take a day trip to the reservation where the BFRN high school students are from. Many people don’t realize the poor conditions that First Nations people live in on the reserve and we believe it may be a big eye opener for those students who believe that First Nations people “get everything for free”. Most importantly as I mentioned before in the first case study, we as teachers need to make the classroom a safe place for each and every student to be in; I believe that by confronting and dealing with the racism problem within our classroom, we can make our classroom a safe and healthy place for the students to learn in.
Another obvious issue that was presented to us was the variety of learning styles and needs that the students have. This was something I felt a bit uncomfortable with, there were so many different learning styles to consider it seemed overwhelming to think of how we could accommodate each student. We decided that the best way to meet all of the students learning needs was through differentiated instruction, with the opportunity for a lot of group work and independent work (especially for those who prefer it). We also decided that it would be helpful t to use a lot of before, during, and after assessment for learning. By using several different forms of assessment we can see where our students need improvement and how we as teachers need to modify the way we teach. Although I understand the concept of using assessment to guide instruction, I am still a little unsure of exactly how to do this. How do I plan a lesson for all the needs of my students if they differ so greatly?
Something that may help my concern for meeting all the needs of my students is to teach through inquiry. Both teachers mentioned in their letters that their students enjoy project-based learning and the chance to show their learning through several different forms. I think that through experiential and project-based learning students are able to work at their own level, make their learning relevant to their own lives, and find out answers in their own ways; making the whole learning process much more rich and meaningful to the students. I think it would also be helpful to group students in ways that they can work productively. This is something my group struggled with for a bit because we have heard so many different opinions on the ways teachers should group their students. For example, if we group by ability then are we labelling kids as “good” students and “bad” students. I think the solution to this concern is to keep switching up the grouping and never keep it the same, this way it remains fair and it provides the students to work as a team and see each other as equals.
The issues presented to us through this case study have indeed proved to be challenging. Racism although a serious issue, can be a touchy topic for a lot of people, but it is our responsibility as teachers to face it and to make it apparent that it will not be acceptable in our school. It is also our responsibility to start challenging the way our students think of other races/cultures and to encourage them to critically reflect on where their biases and beliefs have come from. The wide array of learning needs that our students have is another challenge we as teachers face. By providing students with differentiated instruction, giving them several options, and by making their learning meaningful, we as teachers can come closer to meeting all those needs. There will always be challenges that teachers are faced with and I think the best way to overcome them is to always keep your students in mind, ask yourself am I providing my students a safe and equitable environment to learn?