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Kerrie Craske- Teacher & Learner

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela

Month

March 2014

My Understanding of Standardized Testing and Standardized Curriculum

Following a standardized curriculum is becoming more common in education today, however the effects that it is having on teachers and students is demeaning and wrong. Standardization insists on only one set of correct answers and one truth. It does not allow for students and teachers to express their ideas, questions and opinions. Students no longer play an active role in their learning, and it disengages them from wanting to learn.

Standardization does not allow for students to make sense of the world around them. With increasing multiculturalism in schools, students do not know how to properly approach the issues and questions they may have, as the standardized curriculum only focuses on the dominant culture. “Test questions inevitably focus on discrete facts, but cannot address the deeper, multifaceted meaning of facts” (p. 173, The New Teacher Book). The standardized tests are culturally biased and are made close to impossible for success in students who are new to Canada and cannot understand the English language or North American culture.  

The standardization being introduced into schools can have a detrimental effect on both teachers and students. Teachers become overwhelmed and pressured to teach all material in a short period of time. They cannot go into detail or follow student’s interests in learning. They are unaware of what material will be on the standardized tests, and they want their students to be as prepared as possible. The tests degrade the teachers’ role as a teacher. They display to students that they should memorize the facts being taught to them, and if their teacher goes beyond and in detail on a topic, they are simply wasting the students’ time. The students become stressed as well, and may form anxiety and only retain the material being taught for a short period of time.

I believe that standardization of the curriculum and tests is wrong. But, if standardization is becoming more common throughout North America, how can we prevent it from occurring in the school’s we teach?

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{Burant, Terry. The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope during Your First Years in the Classroom, Second Edition.  Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 2010. Print.}

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Reflection on “Building Community from Chaos”

While reading the short story Building Community from Chaos by Linda Christensen, I felt connection with the issues that students face when learning throughout school. Many of the subjects and topics we are taught throughout school seem irrelevant and unimportant. Often we spend more time pondering when we will use what is being taught, rather than doing the work.

I find that the issues of not wanting to learn may seem more problematic at a middle to high school level. Although I am going to be teaching elementary students, this story makes me aware of the problems and struggles my students may face growing up. Therefore, it is important at a young age in school to let children know that they have a voice and an opinion that matters. I believe that it is vital for students to express how they are feeling and struggles they are experiencing, so a community among the classroom can be built. This community can be an inclusive and expressive place for all students.

“Each September I have this optimistic misconception that I’m going to create a compassionate, warm, safe place for students in the first days of class because my recollection is based on the final quarter of the previous year” (p. 68). This quote really stood out to me. We have to enter our classrooms with an open mind, being ready for any challenges or bumps we may face. It may take time to build a safe space for students, but to begin this journey we must start by building a community of learners.

{Burant, Terry. The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope during Your First Years in the Classroom, Second Edition.  Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 2010. Print.}

Teaching Hidden Messages

Kumashiro’s chapter three of Against Common Sense is very powerful and allows readers to deeply think about what it means to teach. As teachers, we should always expect that there is more to learn and more to understand than what we intend. However, people often teach based on their own knowledge and understanding. Therefore, every person has a different perspective or outlook on the material they are teaching. Kumashiro expresses, “…the goal is not to rid our classroom of harmful hidden lessons and the various lenses students use to make sense of them” (p. 41, Kumashiro). Although we may perceive something in one way, our students may look at the lesson being taught in a different way.

When looking back on my autobiography that I had written, I begin to think about the hidden messages that I left out, such as my gender, race and religious views. I believe that at times, people leave these hidden messages out of their lives for two reasons. The first reason is that people simply do not find these things important, and they believe that they do not influence the person they are as a whole. On the other hand, people may leave these messages out about themselves because they know that others may look at them differently or judge who they are.

 In order to overcome anti-oppressive education, we need to discover the meaning of hidden messages in our teaching. This will allow us to become more aware of possible alternatives to teaching material we would usually shy away from. “Ironically, we need to put front and center the very things we do not want in our teaching, the very things we do not even know are in our teaching” (p. 41, Kumashiro). 

{Kumashiro, K. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice. New York, NY; Routledge.}

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