Treaty Ed Camp 2018

15 Oct

This weekend I had the privilege of taking eight students to the UR S.T.A.R.S. Treaty Ed Camp. It was a fantastic event, filled with amazing sessions. This day is not only beneficial to myself as an educator, learning new things to apply to my own practice, but is beneficial for my students who we amazing enough to attend a conference on their weekend! We had one grade nine, two grade tens, and three grade twelves attend the event. At the beginning of the day I explained to them how they could utilize social media throughout the day, and showed them how to use the #TreatyEdCamp twitter hashtag. Throughout the day they were tweeting what they learned, and had amazing things to say. I was incredible impressed with their leadership, confidence, independence, and thirst for knowledge throughout the day. At the end of each session they would rush to find me, and tell me all that they learned. They took pages and pages of notes, and the conversation on the drive home was the most engaging discussion I have had about Treaty Education in a long time.

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Treaty 4 students with keynote speaker Erica Violet Lee

I wanted to be able to share some of the key themes that I learned throughout the day. One of the things that stood out most to me, as it came up from nearly every presenter I listened to, was language. Since taking my Cree class, I have noticed more and more, how much the topic of revitalizing Indigenous language comes up in talks about reconciliation. Language is a carrier for culture, and it is so crucial that we protect it! The beginning of the keynote speech, by Erica Violet Lee, began with a greeting in Cree. I was extremely excited when she began, because I recognized that I understood every single thing that she had said! This was the first time that I have ever actually understood another language (aside from bits and pieces of French) when it was actually being spoken to me. Language has been lost in my family for numerous generations, so I felt very empowered being able to understand what she was saying, and confident that I myself could deliver the same greeting. I clearly have a long way to go from here, but you have to start somewhere!

The keynote address was packed full of information and thought provoking statements. Lee often name dropped different authors, and I found myself adding books to my amazon cart as we went, like #IndianLovePoems by Tenille K. Campbell, and Nationhood Interrupted: Revitalizing nêhiyaw Legal Systems by Sylvia McAdams. She stated that it is “important that we are using the word genocide, because they don’t want to go there.” She talked about death, and mourning of that death, and being able to mourn without being weak. A powerful thing that she discussed was the idea of archives, and how the person who decides what goes in the archives is literally defining what knowledge is. She urged us to be conscious of this, as we are making our course outlines and deciding what content to teach, because we are also defining that knowledge. She shared stories of her time in high school, and the work she did to decolonize the racist mascot that she was told to identify with for so many years. So many powerful things were said during this keynote address, which will be available to watch through UR S.T.A.R.S. online!

“I wish I didn’t have to talk about colonialism everyday – What could we do if we weren’t always defending our humanity” – Erica Violet Lee

The first session I attended was Interfacing Indigenous Knowledge and Mathematics Education Through Math Fairs lead by Shana Graham. She discussed different ways we can assess mathematics that is more culturally broad. She discussed the idea that 1 + 1 = 2 is a Western way of thinking. When thinking about mathematics, the western viewpoint is that there is a right answer, and only that answer can be correct. She explained that this representation is not universally correct. She used an example of two paper clips. If you add one paper clip and one paper clip you end up with two paper clips. We could all agree that the logic made sense. She then grabbed a container of play dough, and had one ball of play dough and added one ball of play dough, and when she put them together she had… one ball of play dough! In that perspective 1 + 1 = 0. She challenged us to think that the way we are teaching mathematics is limiting our student’s creativity. She also shared a resource on math fairs, with examples of what she has done in her university classes.

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Treaty 4 students share their work from their session Colonialism on Canvas.

The second session I attended was Smudging in Schools by Jeff Cappo. He shared knowledge on smudging, the importance of smudging in schools, and then we participated in a smudge. He spoke on how important it is to make a connection with our Indigenous youth, and to make smudging more normalized. He explained about how smudging takes the negative out of you and leaves it with positive. I participated in this session with one of my student’s and we both discussed how smudging makes you feel grounded. Cappo spoke about the reasons why we smudge, and how we have to be doing it inside the schools… not outside, because that leaves the wrong message. Smudging outside is saying that it is not something that is inclusive to the school, and does not have the spirit of reconciliation.

“The primary objective of smudging in schools are aimed at:

  • Promotion of health and balanced lifestyles of those we are with
  • Creating cultural awareness and aiding in the process of gaining a sense of cultural identity”

– Jeff Cappo

The third session I participated in was a session I have done before, but still learned new things when I attended. I listened to Edward Doolittle speak on the Peach, Stone, Bowl game. I was urged to attend this session because one of my grade ten students wanted to learn the game so that she could teach our math class this semester! I was excited for this to happen, and figured I could use a refresher on how the game works. Doolittle spent a great deal of time speaking about the intent of the game and the importance of language. He spoke to us in Mohawk, and explained that we do this best with what we have available. He spoke on the creation story, and how all comes from that. Last year he shared the Iroquois Creation story, and told us that before we begin we have to remember that all comes from here. During this session he explained a cultural perspective on math from Alan Bishop  that focus’ on 6 areas: measuring, counting, locating, designing, playing and explaining. This was a common theme, as it came up in the previous session on math I attended as well. Doolittle, like Graham, also discussed how our perspectives need to change. The game he explained was about probability, and he used this idea to show that our world is so much more complex than the theory that mathematics over simplifies.

“This was the best that I could do – people are scared to do Indigenous teaching in their classroom because they are scared they won’t do it right – that shouldn’t stop us from trying” – Edward Doolittle

The last session of the day was spent with Info Red, aka Brad Bellegarde. He shared his session Rap as the New Buffalo. This was a fantastic way to end the day because he was very funny and we were all excited to hear him rap. Again the topic of language came up, as he began listing the five dialects we have in Treaty 4. He greeted us in numerous languages and showed us how easy it is to be more inclusive with our language.

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Treaty 4 students with Brad Bellegarde

All together the day left me filling full – my mind was full of new information, my heart was full watching my student’s passion, my soul was full because I felt like I was truly participating in what I was passionate about, and my stomach was full because we made a quick stop at the Bannock House on the way home for Indian Tacos and Maple Bacon Moose Ears. Days like this are so incredibly important for all involved, and I strongly suggest participating in future years. If you would like to learn more about what happened at the Treaty Ed Camp you can follow the hashtag on twitter for more snippets of what was learned!

“It is precisely because education was the primary tool of oppression of Aboriginal people, and mis-education of all Canadians, that we have concluded that education holds the key to reconciliation” – Justice Murray Sinclair

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Orange Shirt Day 2018

30 Sep

 

As a teacher, September is a time that is very busy for me as I begin to get ready for the upcoming school year. September is filled with change – from new classes to teach, and new students to meet, clubs to plan for and events to run. It can be very stressful for me, but it is also a very exciting time as I, and I hope the students, begin to get back into the swing of the school year. Today, September 30th, I am taking time to reflect and remember that going back to school has not always been an exciting time for many members of our society – going back, or beginning to attend, a residential school would have had a significantly different feeling.

September 30th is recognized as Orange Shirt Day, and it honours the story of Phyllis Webstad. If you have not listened to Phyllis’ story, I encourage you to listen below.

The voice of the First Nations people in Canada has been long silenced. I am very fortunate to work in a school where I am able to have discussions on reconciliation with some of the youth in our city. Our school recognized Orange Shirt Day and we participated in a liturgy to focus on the voice of Residential School Students. Last year I had a group of very passionate grade 12 students who began our Treaty 4 group with me and a few colleagues. This year, I was concerned that there would be lack of interest, but our group increased in size. They took the leadership to lead our school and educate them on reconciliation, focusing on how they will use their voices this school year.

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Some of the members for the Vanier Treaty 4 club this year.

Our liturgy took place in the gym, and had a much different tone than other liturgies. A main difference was that we seated the students in a circle on the ground, rather than in our bleachers. Taking time in the day to talk about Reconciliation, to share knowledge, and give voice to students who have been long silenced in our country, was a very powerful moment.

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I wanted to be able to share our presentation as a resource for other teachers, or anyone who is interested in further educating themselves. The slideshow includes resources beyond the document that can even further your education. You can find this slideshow here.

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Some of the staff and students at Vanier who participated in Orange Shirt Day.

The Treaty 4 group made many challenges to the staff and students during the liturgy. They challenged everyone to become familiar with the 94 Calls to Action, and to listen to listen to Read the TRC Report. They also challenged Vanier to fill their social media with facts on Residential Schools, and to share what they have learned with at least one other person. We already had a Twitter begun, which has documented their journey for the past year, but we also began an Instagram page to help spread the awareness further. We challenged the school to use their voice for something important this year, and had them fill orange shirts with how they plan to do this (pictures to come). The last challenge we proposed to the school was to learn 100 days of Cree. We discussed the importance of revitalizing Indigenous languages. Since our presentation focused so strongly on voice, it was very suited to begin this challenge. Taking Cree 100 this semester has also motivated me to help the Treaty 4 group do this, as I myself am focusing on learning Cree this semester. The group made their first video, and will be posting each day to learn a new phrase or word. You can follow our journey on twitter or on instagram!

In closing I would like to quote Justice Murray Sinclair when he stated, “Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out.”

What is Ownership?

24 Sep

The first assignment for my Cree 100 class is to respond to the Ted Talk given by April Charlo on Indigenous Language Revitalization.

Language is a powerful tool that is a component to the foundation of all cultures. The way we use this language is also very powerful. Language helps us communicate and it helps to pass on knowledge. Taking Cree this semester has been very important to me for numerous reasons. The first reason is that I am a teacher, and as Charlo mentions in her Ted Talk, it is important to revitalize the language so that this knowledge does not become lost to us. The second reason is that my ancestors spoke Cree, and this is a knowledge that has been lost in my family. My aim this semester is to regain some of this knowledge so I may pass it on to my students and family.

Since Aboriginal Traditions put great focus on Oral Tradition, it is obvious that the language holds much more than just literal translation. Last semester I took INDG 228 which was a class on Reconciliation and Indigenous Resurgence in Canada. Through this class I was able to listen to Willie Ermine speak on education and the Cree language. He spoke of how the language was sacred, and that there was knowledge embedded in it. When looking at learning Cree I have kept this in mind.

Resurgence and revitalization of Indigenous language is one step that can begin to repair the broken relationships we have in our country. Whenever we discuss broken relationships, immediately I begin thinking of Treaties. Everything in our society today goes back to the Treaties, and the promises that are not kept within them. When talking about the importance of language, it is easy to make connections to the Treaties. When the Treaties were created and signed, issues were much greater than just a language gap.

In the Ted Talk she speaks about how First Nations traditions did not have a concept of ownership, which in turn affects how we can use the language. It is difficult to understand, then, how Treaties could have been fully understood by both parties at the time of signing. Of course, Treaties are not the first time in Canada that land was now “owned”. The idea of ownership was introduced early with the Doctrine of Discovery, but couldn’t even be comprehended by the First Nations people.

Charlo speaks about how she learned that you cannot own things that are from nature. In order to understand Indigenous languages you also must understand the culture. You can’t merely translate words, because the meaning and knowledge that goes with those words might become lost. When listening to Willie Ermine speak, he discussed how there are knowledge bundles that encompass all things and how they relate to the world around them. There is a deeper richness to the words then, as they become more descriptive.

I am very excited to begin my journey learning Cree. Revitalization of languages, and in turn commitment to learning and understanding the First Nations culture, is an important step in Reconciliation. It is important that we begin teaching and learning these languages in the education system as it has been mandated to be done so by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles:

iv. Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.

Cree 100 – First Blog Post

10 Sep

Hello!

My name is Samantha Douglas and I am a teacher in Moose Jaw. I am currently working on my second degree in Indigenous Studies through the First Nations University. I have been teaching at a high school in Moose Jaw for the past seven years, primarily Math, Native Studies and Catholic Studies. I am excited to begin learning Cree so that I can hopefully pass on this knowledge to the students that I teach!

As a teacher I am involved with the Student Leadership Council, the yearbook, and our school Treaty 4 club. I began taking classes next semester so I am still learning to balance my life as a teacher and as a student.

Outside of school I spend most of my time following sports. I enjoy all sports but specifically enjoy watching the Blue Jays, the San Jose Sharks and the Oakland Raiders. I also enjoy travelling – especially in the summer when I have no teaching responsibilities – and seeing live music as much as possible. I spend most of my time hanging out with my two fur babies, Beau and Luke (they were adopted from the Humane Society… I am not a big Dukes of Hazzard fan, but someone else was!).

Last year I tried to read through the 100 Days of Cree with our Treaty 4 group, and struggled not being able to learn through dialogue with others… so I am very excited to learn with everyone!

Testing Technology – Grade Nines

22 May

Testing out using more technology in the classroom.  Students, please comment with your daily 5.

What am I learning?
How am I learning it?
How do I know?
How can I improve?
Where can I go for help?
Five things from yesterdays class.

Technology Troubles

7 Mar

This year I have been working really hard to create math videos for my lessons. I started in the first semester with Workplace 20 and Foundations 10 and found myself quickly giving up. I was very overwhelmed with all my work and was disheartened when the students didn’t use them as much as I had planned. Near the end of the semester I had positive feedback from the videos looking back and studying for the final, so this semester I decided I would try again and be more diligent.

I have been making videos for Precalculus 20 using the showme app for my iPad. I have found these videos to be effective for three main reasons:
1) I make the video before the lesson, so I practice teaching the lesson out loud before with a student which helps organize my lesson better.
2) I teach very involved students who often miss for sports and other activities, and there are also students absent all the time. When they miss they know to check the video online, which goes through all of the notes and they can fill it in. So far many of the students are coming to school already having watched the video for what they missed.
3) Time. There are so many students, and even without missing, it can be difficult to assist students who don’t understand concepts. The videos help when some students just need a refresh of the lesson.

What I have been trying to gear towards is a flipped classroom. I have been posting the lesson the night before, and a couple students have watched them before hand. There are a few difficulties I have been encountering that have stopped me from flipping my classroom. First I am very worried the students won’t watch the video beforehand. It is a different way of thinking for them so it may be a difficult transition. I have been trying to slowly transition, with the videos to work towards that. My second problem is with my own preparation. I am finding it difficult to have enough hours in my day let alone being extra planned in advance. I have been working on long term planning, and am a very organized person, but I’m worried that I won’t have a video ready on time or something will go wrong and mess the entire process up.

In all, I have seen many successes with the technology I have incorporated. Many students are using the videos and it is extremely beneficial in the classroom. I need to find the extra motivation to push myself to try more with my teaching.

There’s an App for That

4 Dec

Things that I thought I would continue to do once I started teaching: blog.

Things that I don’t do know that I started teaching: blog… sleep…

I really wish I could get into the good practice of blogging more often, so today I have decided to talk about apps.  In university I thought I had found all the most wonderful apps that are amazing and useful.  Yesterday I deleted 100 apps.  Today, I took a moment to realize how many apps I have downloaded since school has begun, and how I found apps that fit to supplement what I was teaching.  As I teach a course that requires curriculum outcomes that relate to games, I have found apps that work in each of my units.  Let me take a quick second to recognize the apps that I adore.

Crossmath! – This $0.99 game has been used more than anything on my phone.  It works for teaching factoring, balancing equations, deductive reasoning… and also when you are really bored.

Hexominoes – This app works for shape and space as well as logic! It costs $0.99

Rush Hour – All of my students love rush hour.  I even have a physical copy of the board game. Working in groups really is helpful as they communicate hundreds of strategies. Cost is $2.99.

Flow Free – This game is great for shape and space as well as logic, it is also FREE!

Tangram XL Free – Works for shape and space units, deductive reasoning, and is Free!

Vault Breaker – Tests your logic and deductive reasoning skills to crack codes.  It’s free and fun.

Battleship – Used this for review for graphs, plotting points, ordered pairs, deductive reasoning and strategy.  You can play against a computer, over Wi-Fi with another device, or pass and play.  It is free.

CribbagePro – Need I say more? Oh right, it is free!

And lastly, I had this app downloaded forever and not once had I used it or even thought about it.  Then I taught Pre-Calculus and I understood why it is a must have.

Free Graphing Calculator

These are just a few of the math apps that I have been using in my classroom, and felt like I needed to share them now that I am actually using mobile learning.