Follow-up to OCT 28 SJ post

As part of the ED 808 class I have just finished completing, we were to take action towards a social justice issues important to us. You can read more about this from my October 28th post: Social Justice: Taking action GSAs

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

I though I would share the response I received regarding the letters I sent about gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs) in schools. I wrote to Premier Brad Wall, Bill Hutchinson, Rob Currie and Don Morgan – the same letter sent to each person individually.

December 11 – I received a response from Don Morgan, Minister of Education in Saskatchewan. I found it interesting that he states that he is responding to the letter sent to Brad Wall and not the letter I sent him. While his response tells me nothing new (he references many things I researched in order to compose my letter), and no action that will be taken by the government, I do appreciate receiving a response.

December 21 – I received a response from Premier Brad Wall. His response is very similar to Don Morgan’s; none the less, I appreciate hearing back from him regarding my letter.

Letter of response from Don Morgan

Letter of response from Brad Wall

 

 

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Measuring

Why indeed is there still so much emphasis on measuring – moving from “what we can measure” to what “we care about”? What is it that teachers care about and wish to measure that they are already not measuring? Measuring and moving towards standardization is the problem. What do standardized assessments really tell you? – that students can regurgitate what we teach them? That if we teach to the test, then hopefully students can past the test? There is no feedback for the student other than a grade. There is not much feedback for the teacher or the school either.

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Photo Credit: cfdtfep via Compfight cc

I remember school goals being: “By the end of the school year, ___% of students will be reading at or above grade level.” The same holds true for math as well. What do these school goals really tell the school – do they reflect the students? Do they reflect the teachers and how well the teach? Do they reflect the way in which students are taught? I hope that there would be more important goals for a school to measure over the course of a school year than reading and math scores/levels.

As Kumashiro (2015) tells us,

[I]t is not possible to say exactly what the students were learning. And therein lies the uncertainty of teaching.

 

Second post for ED 808

Our assignment was to:

Step 1. You are encouraged to revisit Dr. Joel Westheimer & Dr. Bill Ayers’ recorded Skype presentations with our class.

Step 2. Answer the following questions:

Using Drs. Westheimer & Ayers as a starting point, how do you, as an educator and/or citizen, view the role of the education system?

How do YOU connect or make personally relevant the broad social justice themes discussed in your first post vis-a-vis Westheimer & Ayers as well as your own new thinking on the matter?

And finally, How has your position, as evidenced in your initial post on social justice, changed or been further confirmed? Provide concrete examples.

 

I created a my response for this post by using Pixton, an online comic creator.

I apologize for the comic being small, but I couldn’t get the embed code offered by Pixton to work properly. Check it out here (in a size you can read) via the Pixton site.

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I chose to make a comic, in order to not only try out an online program, but to tell my narrative using a different form of communication as opposed to traditional text. Throughout the comic, I believe that I share my views on the role of the education traditionally and what I envision it as, I incorporate ideas shared from both Dr. Westheimer and Dr. Ayers, as well as referencing ideas from my introductory post, and expanding on them as my understandings of social justice have continued to develop.

In regards to the prompt,

How has your position, as evidenced in your initial post on social justice, changed or been further confirmed? Provide concrete examples.

this is the one area that may not be as clear from viewing the comic.

I believe that my position has further been confirmed through insights from both guest lecturers, in that social justice does indeed belong as part of the curriculum. I take the view that it is up to each individual educator to take up teaching about and for social justice within their practice and to their students. Even though our school system calls for testing and accountability, teaching the curriculum and measuring student success, I think that this can all be done through teaching about social justice issues and concern. I think the notion that social justice topics can be taught in schools is an important one, especially when educators face challenges from schools or parents for example when reading stories with LGBT characters, or talking about queer history. While this can be hard for a teacher, if they know that what they are doing is important work, and that they believe their students should learn about social justice topics, I hope they can remain “hopeful” and know that what they are doing matters and can make a difference not only to students in their classrooms, but in working to question and bring change to larger systems and structures.

 

Social Justice: taking action GSAs

For ED 808, we are to,

practice agency in trying to ameliorate, solve, or otherwise begin to improve an issue of your choosing involving a social justice cause. It may take the form of a petition, a letter to a politician, a personal/group action, setting up a website, volunteering some of your time somewhere where it’s needed, or other initiatives to foster positive local, regional, provincial, national, or global change.

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

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After I mailed the letters to the following people:

  • Rob Currie – Director Education, Regina Catholic Schools
  • Premier Brad Wall – Premier of Saskatchewan
  • Don Morgan – SK Minister of Education
  • Bill Hutchinson – Local MLA

I was pointed to these articles, which offer information regarding GSAs in schools.

The first is an article, “Catholic schools ahead of push for gay-straight alliance support groups: Students needs forcing issue, bishop sayspublished October 28. This article is a step in the right direction, however the central problem remains: students are forced to “come out” or to specifically ask for a GSA to be started, and many times, these groups are not approved by school administration.

The next article was a document just published by the SK Ministry of Education – Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity.” This document is also a step in the right direction, but as with the previous article, the central problem still remains. The other area of my concern is what is meant by the term inclusion. While well meaning, this term still “others” LGBTQ youth and I question as to whether the information presented in this document while help the inclusion of LGBTQ youth in our schools. This document does however works to support staff, offering them information to help understand LGBTQ youth, to work to support these students, and links to the SK Curriculum. On pages 28-31, the area (which I am concerned about) that discusses GSAs, I believe not much has been offered holding schools accountable to make sure that GSAs are approved and started. It is recommended that students are questioned as to why they would like a GSA to be started and there is no mandate that an adviser will be made available. Regardless, the document is positive, and I hope schools take the time to read through it and adopt the practices it is suggesting.

 

 

disrupting the norm p2

This post is a continuation of Disrupting the Norm P1 – a post about last night’s class which created discomfort for some when we began talking about LGBT students and issues that they face in schools.

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This is me – Cynthia. What do first see when you look at this picture of me?

I walked into one class and the professor said, “What’s your name?”

I replied, “Cynthia.”

The professor paused and looked at me with a puzzled expression.

I said, “I am Cynthia.”

I think she was expecting me to have a man’s name, even though I am a female, but my gender performance is more masculine.

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When you look at a picture of Caitlyn Jenner, who do you see? Do you see Caitlyn or do you still see and refer to her as Bruce?

Woman Looking at Reflection --- Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis
Woman Looking at Reflection — Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis

When you look at the person next to you, or in the mirror, who do you see?

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Why is it that one of the first things we think about when we see someone is whether they are a boy or a girl? Why does it matter to you if I am a boy or a girl?

Gender is a social construction, and if you look at Judith Butler’s work, she suggests gender is a performance. An important distinction needs to be noted, gender does not influence one’s sexuality. Because one’s performance of gender can vary, someone might not fit into societies stereotypical image of who a woman looks like or who a man looks like. Likewise, stereotypes about people’s sexuality are also not accurate. A gay man be ‘flamboyant’, or he may be very masculine. A lesbian may be very feminine in appearance and actions, or she may be more masculine, more ‘butch’.

Just because a young girl may appear to dress as a “tom-boy” or more masculine in appearance, this does not indicate that they are transgender, or that they are a lesbian. For myself, I know that I dress the way I do because this is how I feel comfortable. Are there times when my appearance becomes more feminine, certainly, however I do not always feel comfortable in those situations.

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I met another professor and I said, “Hi, I’m Cynthia.” I later found out that she began to question my gender. She told me that after a while, she thought to herself, “why does it matter what gender you are?” – Indeed, why does it matter?

This professor happens to be my course instructor. After class, I talked with her for a bit and we had a great conversation, where she shared the above information. We also talked about how I felt during class, whether I was able to talk within my small group, etc. I told her that the small group discussion was hard, as people are set in their beliefs. I also told her that in the large class discussion I did not say certain things that I wanted to bring up, partially because a few classmates were mad that we were talking about LGBT topics, as well as the fact that I questioned how much do I tell about myself? Do I need to “out” myself? Should I have to “out” myself in order to impact my classmates viewpoints, or for them to realize that what they are voicing may be hurtful?

The professor and I talked through these points, as well as others. I appreciate her showing me first that she cares about me, and second that she was willing to continue the discussion.

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The ultimate question our class was left with at the end of the night was:

How will LGBT students be supported and defended without resorting to something that constructs them as outside the norm, or something that labels them as ‘others’?

Excuses from teachers of “I don’t know enough” or “my students aren’t LGBT,” can’t be seen as valid or acceptable responses anymore. Everyone knows someone or has heard about LGBT rights. As well, I believe that religion can no longer, nor has it ever been a valid excuse for the homophobic treatment by Catholics towards LGBT people. If we are taught to love one another and to treat others as we want to be treated, I believe that we should do so.

While progress has been made, there is so much further to go. We often talk about race and culture, and avoid topics such as LGBT rights, because it is easier to talk about culture. Culture is what society likes to talk about – look at the media. Why do we put up walls when talking about / to LGBT students, families, health, etc?