Category Archives: #education

Standing Up Alone > Sitting Down in Company

Texan news reporter Dale Hansen made a bold decision to defend gay rights on national television, putting himself out there while fully aware of possible destructive repercussions to his actions. His discourse was in response to the negative backlash football star Michael Sam has received by admitting to being gay. Michael, a talented young man who would be a strong asset to any team in the league, will be the first openly gay man to play in the NFL. Before publicly announcing his sexual identity, he was pegged to be chosen in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. However, he is now expected to go in the fifth round – for a player of his skill level and stature.. shocking how quickly things have changed, no?

“A gay player would not be welcome in a NFL locker room; it would be uncomfortable because that’s a man’s world.”

Seeing as this has caused such uproar, let’s look to some who are currently representing their nation by playing in the league. Men who have been involved in domestic violence, murder, drunk driving, illegal drugs, prostitution, rape, and obstruction of justice are ‘welcome’ in the league, yet Michael Sam is being scrutinized? As Dale Hansen says, these men are WANTED in the league – they are accepted and are looked up to by many. So I ask, what is wrong with this picture? I do not understand how one can honestly believe being gay is WORSE than committing horrendous crimes – I am at a loss for words.

“You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far.”

Ellen DeGeneres was inspired by Dale’s willingness to speak out and invited him to be a guest on her show to further spread his striking message to the public. Experiencing similar public backlash when sharing her sexual identity with her fans, she knows the importance of advocating for equal rights. Together they agree on one common objective – you do not need to be LGBTQ to advocate for equal rights, advocating is advocating. Either way, the message is powerful. It is also not expected for you to understand and feel comfortable with other’s identities that differ from your own – you do not live their life, however, they are a PART of your life. That being said, love and respect are reciprocal notions – you cannot expect to receive it, if you are not willing to give it!

Although our society has evolved over time – and some may argue we have made great progress – heterosexual relationships are still viewed to be the norm and ‘that’s just the way it is’. I find it extremely difficult to understand and refuse to accept the high value placed on success in our society, where this success is only attainable to those who fit the norm. Why should someone’s success be hindered based on their identity? Like Dale, I would like to believe there will be a day where differences will be celebrated, not segregated – success will not be determined by superficial perceptions of identity. However, I think our society has a long way to go to get there… We need to stop sitting down, ignoring the discrimination around us, and stand up – what are we waiting for?

“It is not our differences that divide us; it is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde


Spoonful of Learning, with a Dash of Negativity.

I strongly believe that as future educators, we must always be mindful of what we say and how we act. In a school setting, we are constantly being observed by students, administrators, colleagues, families and community members – what do you want their opinion of you to resemble? I feel as though the saying “actions speak louder than words” rings true here. Our body language is a huge indicator of how we are feeling, whether we realize this or not. So I ask, with thirty pairs of little eyes staring at us on a daily basis, do we really want to portray to them constant negativity?

That being said, I am finding it hard to ignore the amount of negativity present in our teacher education program. Individuals are passing judgement and discriminating others based on their passion to learn. I struggle with this concept, as I would never discredit the opinions of my peers. I view their personal narratives as learning experiences and appreciate the ways in which they encourage me to think critically. Discrediting someone on these terms just does not make sense to me. As educators we are taught the importance of collaboration, and creating a classroom environment where all students feel safe to share their thoughts and opinions. This is where it becomes difficult for me to understand – why are we not embracing and practicing these values in our university classrooms?

It sounds trivial or childish to preach “treat others how you want to be treated” to adult learners who are working towards becoming professionals, yet I do not think we are reminded of this enough. The negativity individuals are expressing overtly and inovertly cause tension in the room that could be cut with a knife. It does not just affect one person’s experience, it affects everyone’s opportunity to learn. As educators, we want to see our students be successful in their lives – would we judge them negatively based on who they are? No. So why are pre-service teachers doing this to each other? The lack of respect and honouring differences I am seeing daily really makes me question whether or not all of our future students will be given the inclusive learning experience they deserve.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

This message is so important for future teachers – the way we treat others can affect them indefinitely. We need to make sure we do not spew words of hate, but rather words of love and encouragement. Individuals often internalize criticism or disrespect received from others. Those who are bullied may forgive the situation, but they will NEVER forget how the hurtful words used against them made them feel. We need to be the positive role models our students need us to be – admire those around you, be grateful to know each and every one of them, make life enjoyable for everyone – would we not want this for our students?

Becoming a leader does not occur at the moment you walk into your first classroom. It begins now, deep within yourself, by choosing to do the right thing


Spoonful of Learning, with a Dash of Negativity.

I strongly believe that as future educators, we must always be mindful of what we say and how we act. In a school setting, we are constantly being observed by students, administrators, colleagues, families and community members – what do you want their opinion of you to resemble? I feel as though the saying “actions speak louder than words” rings true here. Our body language is a huge indicator of how we are feeling, whether we realize this or not. So I ask, with thirty pairs of little eyes staring at us on a daily basis, do we really want to portray to them constant negativity?

That being said, I am finding it hard to ignore the amount of negativity present in our teacher education program. Individuals are passing judgement and discriminating others based on their passion to learn. I struggle with this concept, as I would never discredit the opinions of my peers. I view their personal narratives as learning experiences and appreciate the ways in which they encourage me to think critically. Discrediting someone on these terms just does not make sense to me. As educators we are taught the importance of collaboration, and creating a classroom environment where all students feel safe to share their thoughts and opinions. This is where it becomes difficult for me to understand – why are we not embracing and practicing these values in our university classrooms?

It sounds trivial or childish to preach “treat others how you want to be treated” to adult learners who are working towards becoming professionals, yet I do not think we are reminded of this enough. The negativity individuals are expressing overtly and inovertly cause tension in the room that could be cut with a knife. It does not just affect one person’s experience, it affects everyone’s opportunity to learn. As educators, we want to see our students be successful in their lives – would we judge them negatively based on who they are? No. So why are pre-service teachers doing this to each other? The lack of respect and honouring differences I am seeing daily really makes me question whether or not all of our future students will be given the inclusive learning experience they deserve.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

This message is so important for future teachers – the way we treat others can affect them indefinitely. We need to make sure we do not spew words of hate, but rather words of love and encouragement. Individuals often internalize criticism or disrespect received from others. Those who are bullied may forgive the situation, but they will NEVER forget how the hurtful words used against them made them feel. We need to be the positive role models our students need us to be – admire those around you, be grateful to know each and every one of them, make life enjoyable for everyone – would we not want this for our students?

Becoming a leader does not occur at the moment you walk into your first classroom. It begins now, deep within yourself, by choosing to do the right thing


We are all Treaty People.

“Now is the time for all people to come together and build a new relationship. If not, things could get a little awkward. After all, First Nations peoples are Canada’s fastest growing population and more than half of us now live in cities. It’s time to meet the neighbors.” (Wab Kinew, Indigenous in the City, 8th Fire – CBC Documentary)

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to engage in a lecture on Treaty Education with Moose Jaw teacher, Claire Kreuger. She shared with us her journey through a fairly challenging inquiry on Treaty Education, reminding us that despite any obstacles, we must never give up on teaching this topic. Through integration of technology in the classroom, her students created outstanding representations of their learning. The connections they made to their past, the present and their future really hit home for me, reminding me the importance of the relationships embedded in Treaty Education – we do not own the land, we SHARE it. Their words were inspiring, as one child claimed, “We need to own what we have done.” – a very powerful statement, for a child who was obviously not present at the signing of the treaties, yet is taking ownership for the actions of her ancestors. How can we move towards a peaceful future without mending damaged relationships?

My professor once shared her encounter with an elder where he asked: What do we do if we are studying oceans and we do not know something? We look it up. Why are we not doing this with Treaty Education?

As soon as culture is involved, it seems to automatically become a touchy subject. I often hear, ‘I don’t want to offend anyone by teaching it wrong” or “I don’t know anything about it”. As educators, we are not EXPERTS; we do not know everything there is to know about the world we live in. I believe that making mistakes alongside our students makes for authentic learning – showing our students that we too are vulnerable and learning something new everyday. That being said, our excuse should not be that we do not know anything about it. We should be realizing that making mistakes makes us human – our students will appreciate that and value the learning experiences they encounter through error.

In order to understand our place in society, we need to understand the agreements made through the treaties, as well as how we benefit from this today. We would not be living the life we have, on the land that provides us with so many opportunities if it were not for the treaties. This is valuable information that our students deserve to explore – it is part of their identity, and will be part of their future.

“As long as the sun shines, grass grows and river flows – we are all treaty people.”


Powerful Beyond Measure

Living the journey of becoming an educator is challenging. We are continuously pushed outside of our comfort zones and forced to explore our identity – our values, beliefs, opinions, goals. At a time when we often find ourselves feeling vulnerable, we must remind ourselves of one thing: why we are here.

I received an email from an individual whom I significantly admire, reminding me to continuously believe in who I am, and more importantly, who I am becoming. The message included a quote – inspiring:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela


Speaking Out Speaks Volumes.

When scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed today, I came across a post that I found quite unsettling – why are people still using the ‘R’ word to insult or belittle others?

Powerful message from an inspiring man: “Being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honour. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.”

“After Ann Coulter referred to President Obama as a retard in a tweet during Monday night’s presidential debate, Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens wrote this open letter:

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet,
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger & Special Olympics Virginia” (Sue Fitzmaurice, 2014).


Teaching Toward Social Justice

As part of the readings for my Educational Core Studies 210 course, I will be reading Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice (2nd edition) by Kevin K. Kumashiro and The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope During Your First Years in the Classroom (2nd edition) edited by Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. The first reading that I will be reflecting on is from Against Common Sense.

In this text Kumashiro defines common sense as “the assumption that improvement comes when schools are put in competition with one another, like businesses in a so-called free market” (page 22). This assumption typically favours middle-to-upper class families because they are being offered choices of the best schools while low income families do not have these choices available due to the expense of travelling or the tuition needed to attend certain schools.

This “common sense” has been created and promoted by business and conservative forces in North America. While this education reform based on standards and testing may have started as a Conservative proposal, Liberals now shape their ideas based on these concepts that are now referred to as “common sense”. Although teachers may recognise that this system reinforces social hierarchies, they may fear going against standards due to the threat of school closure, teacher turnover, student non-promotion, and other repercussions. One of the ways to work around these standards is to teach students to search for gaps in the standards and attempt to see these standards from different perspectives.

Within schools, teachers need to find the balance between teaching standards and teaching students to think independently about the school system, the gaps that exist, and how they can better their educational experience. Part of the role of a teacher is to teach students specific mandated standards, but there must be more learning within the classroom environment in order to motivate students to rise above this mandated learning to find their own truths.

It is important that students and teachers pay attention to “common sense” because this thinking regarding education oppresses many students within the school system by reaffirming social hierarchy. While policies such as “No Child Left Behind” sound wonderful as proposals, many students suffer due to school closures and not having enough resources to engage in the education system and advocate for change. As future teachers, it is our role to speak for these students who are being systematically oppressed within the school system by teaching with social justice in mind.