Recently I wrote a paper on the American Indian artist Fritz Scholder. His art collection I focused on was titled “Indian/Not Indian” and this meant a lot of things to me. Firstly I learned of how he was brought up by a father who was ashamed of being an Indian. He never defined himself as an Indian artist, others had done that for him, even before he brought real Indian content into his work. It is a part of who he is, but it is not the only thing, and through his work he explored the idea of stereotypes. His art reflected on the stereotype of both what Indian art is and what and Indian is. An issue within Indian Art is that society has stuck it with one stereotype and defined it as one style of art, and unlike every other art style, it isn’t given the freedom to change or develop. I feel that this is the same with stereotypes of First Nations people in society in general.
I think about stereotypes a lot, especially when I think of the ones I will see in the classroom. My biggest concern is making sure that every student feels integrated in the classroom, and with so many students who are different I wonder if these stereotypes will hinder that. People automatically make judgements about many things, not just race, and decide how they feel about a certain person before they even know them.
I believe that learning isn’t peripheral. By this I mean that in order for students to find information relevant that information needs to be fully integrated into the lesson. For instance I find that when myself and my peers try to incorporate Aboriginal content into lessons it becomes a side note, and for a student they will just regard it as something on the side and unimportant. I believe it is the same with students, and if they are thought to be on the side lines of the classroom they won’t be fully engaged in the learning.
Stereotypes can associate people with anything, but the most serious issues are when it pertains to race and gender. Being female I often find myself in positions where I am oppressed because of my gender, and it something I can’t even imagine trying to approach as a teacher. There are so many ways that males and females are stereotyped. I recently read an article about gender specific schooling. This article talks about how some schools have tried separating the genders within coed schools. I have an interesting outlook on this subject as I was part of a project that separated the boys and the girls in my elementary school in grade eight. I have mixed opinions on how this would work. The positives seem wonderful, because the girls weren’t afraid of doing things in front of the boys and vice versa. From the perspective of a student, however, I found socially it was a huge strain on myself. I don’t know if anyone else has been a girl and walked into a room filled with thirty other girls, and was asked to be around them for an entire school year, but I have, and at some moments it was very unpleasant. A huge question that I have is that why would we separate the males from the females. Not many places in society do we see males and females separated, and if a goal is to integrate every student in the classroom, why would it be beneficial to aid in the separation of males and females?
Another stereotype that i find affects me greatly is the stereotype of First Nations people. Being of aboriginal descent, yet not being visabally so, I find that I hear a lot more of the stereotypes vocalized. People are so focused on the negative stereotype, which is what is promoted, that they can’t see the positive. I understand that people form stereotypes based upon what they see, and for some people they only see these negative stereotypes, but I don’t think it is fair to assume people do not change.
I come from a family that breaks stereotypes. My mother’s side of the family, and even more specifically my grandpa’s side, has some of the strongest influences on my life. For instance, the reason I am catholic is mainly because of my grandpa, who went to a residential school. I have learned that my grandpa went to a residential school by choice of my great grandparents. On the reserve they would have starved, and in the schools they were given a means of survival; both by food and by education. My family went along with assimilation, yet there is a cost. Because of this decision, and all that was given up, there are things I need to do to repay my family. Schooling is the most important thing in my family. An entire culture and way of life was given up mainly for it, so I take it very seriously, as did the rest of my family. Every person on my grandfathers side has gone to some form of post-secondary and gotten a descent job. My grandfather is an x-ray tech, there are government workers, rcmp and teachers from that line of the family. All functioning members of society, who worked hard to get where they are. I am doing my best to continue on with this. If that doesn’t break stereotypes, I don’t know what does.
OH! Wait. I have a cousin who has blonde hair and blue eyes…
Stereotypes are unfair, and really unrealistic. People are made up of many things, saying they are one thing doesn’t make sense. I find often that because people make judgements initially on people, first impressions make a huge difference. I am not going to say I don’t judge people on a first impression, because I do, but I work very hard to remember to be open to learn more about that person. I find that I am often judged initially by people, and really underestimated. I find that because I have a very bubbly personality, and I have a very odd sense of humour, people think of me as a ditz. I do joke around a lot, it is part of who I am, and it is part of my need to make the people around me feel comfortable with me. My humour has often made it easier for people to warm up to me. I am a very social person, completely an extrovert, but that does not make me a ditz. I find people are often surprised when I say things that are intelligent in class like it’s something I shouldn’t be able to come up with. If someone chooses to judge me on that, that is their concern not mine, I am very willing to prove them wrong.
I guess I am a supporter of the underdog, I want to work for people’s respect. I want people to respect me because they know who I am and want to respect me. All in all I want people to know me before they judge me, and I am very willing to let them do so.