Blog Post #2

Language Standards: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (4) (pg. 71)

Reading Standards for Informational Text 9-10: Key Ideas and Details; Craft and Structure (pg. 48)

Speaking and Listening Standards 9-10: Comprehension and Collaboration; Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas (pg. 53)

The bolded standards above are found in the Alaska ELA and Mathematics Standards, adopted June 2012.

Reflection:  In my English 9 classes last week we worked on a Ray Bradbury story – The Pedestrian – which addressed the standards above. This is the second Bradbury story the kids have read this year. I like his short stories because they are very short, yet extremely evocative and dramatic, with humanistic/futuristic themes that often resonant more today than when they were written.

I started off the class with a game of hangman using vocabulary taken from the story. Language Standards: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (4) (pg. 71)

Next, I read the story aloud while the kids followed along. Then, I played a youtube clip of another narrator reading the same story while storyboard drawings played, thereby giving the visual learners a cognitive hook. (Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas #5)

Then, I passed out posters to the table groups with different questions based on the text. Every group had different questions. They had to work in their groups to come up with answers and write them down (Speaking and Listening Standards 9-10: Comprehension and Collaboration) (Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure).

Finally, the following class period I passed out a sheet of all the questions that had been on the posters. Then the table groups presented their answers orally to the rest of the class (Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas). I would lead a short discussion or clarification of the table groups chosen answers. The rest of the class was required to fill out the sheet, so they had to pay attention to all of the presented answers. (Key Ideas and Details; Craft and Structure) Then I collected the sheets and the posters.

Place Based Learning

Place based and/or culturally responsive learning:  In my literature classes, so far the only place based learning is in AK Lit.  That course is divided up following an Anthology of AK Lit into seven categories.  Right now we are starting at the beginning:  deep-time indigenous narratives.

I told a story I had read (Inupiaq I think) about ground squirrels turning into brown bears and vice versa. Then I related a story by a white author who wrote about mistaking ground squirrels for brown bears at a distance. I told this to some young guys who would rather be in shop class.  They laughed, but then I told them how the tundra is a lot like the ocean (something these guys know well) in that it often doesn’t lend itself to much perspective because there is often nothing against which to judge distance or size.

And then I told them my story about waking up in a foggy, pre-dawn in a tent while caribou hunting. I was with three friends when I woke to the sound of splashing in the creek we had hiked to the night before.  I peeked out the tent and peered through a sea of fog toward the sound.  There, standing on the edge of what must have been an island in the creek, was a bear.  The bear’s feet disappeared into the fog that hid the island but the rest of it’s brown fur glowed wet and shining in the grey gloom.  I gingerly woke up my friends in the tent and hissed at them to be quiet: there was a grizzly about 70 or 80 yards away. A big one.  A boar no doubt. I described this bear and what it was doing for many minutes until suddenly the sun came up, the fog parted a bit and I realized that I was looking not a large grizzly on an island in the creek, but at a fat little beaver at about the same distance on the other side of the creek.

Outside of that Sitka High has an outboard repair class (that to my own personal woe is not being taught this year).  An entire room is filled with outboards to be worked on.  Pretty relevant in this sea town for sure.

There is another LA/History teacher who teaches a History of Sitka course. He recently had the kids log onto Google Earth and locate various historical and/or prominent geographical locations around Sitka Sound. Then he gave the kids a Tlingit language key for all of the place names in Southeast that were cross reference with White names (some places had no White names I believe) and then label them with both names. Every Tlingit name had a translation I believe, which was pretty cool.

Parker Palmer and Alan and Eric

I honestly couldn’t remember anything about this essay (even though I read it just yesterday) until I went back and reviewed it just now.  Perhaps because so much of it was abstractions and generalizations.  Perhaps because my brain was full today and things I learned yesterday had to fall out to make room.

However, upon review, the stories of Alan and Eric struck me on a personal level. The call to “know thyself” is the ancient call for every sentient being to figure themselves out; to realize their true identity.  Many of us eventually reach a very good understanding of ourselves.  And that’s great. But that’s not enough to find true happiness, you also have to follow that other ancient maxim: “to thyself be true.”  We all have to find a life, (which means mostly you have to find work), that complements your own basic integrity.  PP talks about how your basic integrity is that part of your identity that is essential to you, that which makes you special, your life-force and then you have to let that dictate your life’s path, your life’s work.  And that path is natural and it comes from within you, and not from what society/family/false friends (and whatever of their opinions you have internalized), then it won’t feel like something you dread, something your forced into for lack of any “better options.”

This struck a cord with me because I don’t know how much I’m going to respond to teaching.  Listening to some of my fellow students, it’s obvious that they feel teaching is a “calling” for them.  That is so awesome.  I hope I get to the same place, but I don’t think I’ll know that till next summer.

I know I don’t want to be like Eric, who “…failed to weave the central strand of his identity into his academic vocation. His was a self
divided, engaged in a civil war. He projected that inner warfare onto the outer world, and his teaching devolved into combat instead of craft. The divided self will always distance itself from others, and may even try to destroy them, to defend its fragile identity.”

I suppose all I can do is continue to watch for clues as to whether teaching presents itself to me as a “life-giving choice”.  I’m optimistic but I’m also aware that it may not be as central to my integrity as it is to others.  And if that proves to be the case, I have to be accepting of that and then to plan accordingly.

The only thing I’m totally sure of is that Meta Cognition is some kind of a superhero and that Parker Palmer is clearly her/his mild mannered intellectual alias.




ALST 600 – Final

Project Based Learning: I suppose what I learned is that project based learning is a slower process than “traditional” lecture based learning. What I mean is that when there is no “expert” guiding the learning process, the learning group not only has to learn the subject, but they also have to research, locate and vet the learning materials as well. This takes more time, undoubtedly. It also creates uncertainty, even after source materials have been located because we aren’t 100% sure that what we’ve gathered is foundational, tangential or just plain wrong. Of course, most grad students have years of learning behind them, so individual research is certainly doable, it’s just less comfortable without an expert guide.

That said, this is also the positive aspect of Project Based Learning. We are teaching ourselves when we collaborate, research materials, synthesize information, try to form a group voice, etc. We are learning how people learn – particularly in collaboration. And that’s what we are in this program for.

Ed 680 Final

(1) At the heart of multicultural learning is the realization/understanding that everyone comes to a learning environment with a different background that has not only shaped all of their past experiences, but that continues to inform their understanding of the world. Background is everything – it creates your context and in a very real way, this subjective experience actually creates its own world.

Most humans default mode is powered under the assumption that their interpretation of events is just the way it is and most people probably don’t even think about their reality as actually BEING a subjective viewpoint.  Teachers however cannot do this and be effective with their minority students. Though it is the dominant culture’s privilege of power to not have to worry about how minority cultures perceive the same events, teachers cannot avail themselves of this privilege.

This blindness and assumption is exactly what happens within the American cultural tapestry, all the time. All of our threads, our subcultures, are interwoven, but many, maybe most of us can’t feel very far beyond our own individual cultural strand. We only become aware of other cultural strands in our grand tapestry when our lives wind around them.  Most times, we just run along the texture of our own thread.

It’s at these moments of interfacing, (which as teachers we will have every day) we must try to see the world as it is through our students eyes. My goal as a teacher is to try and introduce critical thinking and effective communication skills by reaching these students through my own embracing/understanding their own cultural backgrounds.  I will try to find their “nodes” of experience and use those to transmit these general skills and abilities.  To paraphrase the rapper 50 Cent, I’m going to get multicultural or die trying.

(2) Tolerance, Synthesis and Transformation:  this is more than one term, but it is one process.  I think that this is a good intellectual map to use to check up on oneself when interacting with student cultures that are outside of my own; Concrete, Behavioral, Symbolic:  this is kind of the Architecture of Cultural Consciousness and is a very good schematic to think about how deep one is going when interacting with another culture. Ex. Are you “just” having students draw their own totem poles, or are you talking about how those values embedded in the totem pole speak to Tlingit culture?  The symbolic level of understanding will be beyond most cultural outsiders (like myself) but is still a good descriptor to help understand the different levels of cultural depth; Background:  I talked about this above, but background is always key.  If someones background changes their perception about a given situation drastically enough, all of your assumptions about how to teach someone will be in error.

(3)  The techniques that I will use to teach effectively beyond my culture will come down to strategies like I outline in my lesson plan for the ibook.  My passions in life have been Alaska and foreign cultures, particularly in Asia.  Wherever I teach in Alaska I will try and find works of local culture (not always Native Alaskan necessarily, but quite often I’m sure) and compare/contrast those works with complementary cultures from abroad.  I hope that by showing my students how local culture and other further flung, but still somewhat similar cultures, are related/not related, that they will then be able to see the metes and bounds of their own local cultures much more clearly. I believe that we truly only learn about the depths of our own cultures by holding them up to Another Culture/Another World, to paraphrase the title of the book that started this class.

I will be in Sitka in the coming year.  Hopefully I will be able to access Tlingit myths and history (including hopefully have an Elder come in) and compare those to other stories and history in the Pacific Rim.  After all, Sitka fronts the Pacific and faces Asia.  I think it would be fascinating for the students to compare the history of Sitka (especially from European contact on) with Commander Perry’s opening of Japan to trade withe U.S. with “gunboat diplomacy.”  Likewise Britain’s exploitation of China for the tea and opium trade, the incredibly bloody seizing of the Phillipines by the U.S. navy, the betrayal of the Korean emperor/people by the progressive President’s Roosevelt and Taft by giving the green light for the Japanese seizure of Manchuria.  It goes on and on really.  I want to show students that their local stories, their local history and even their art is not isolated, but that’s its part of a greater Pacific international human experience.

Culturally Responsive Lesson Plan – Western Maritime Region – Indigenous Understandings of Volcanos, Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Alaska, the Pacific and South-East Asia

Lesson Plan for Western Maritime Region – Ryan Hickel


Volcano, Earthquake and Tsunami Stories of the Unangax and Koniag Sugpiaq Peoples (Aleut Peoples)

Modern Day Tsunami Evacuation Story in Unangum tunuu and Sugpiaq (Aleut Languages)

Chenega Village Tsunami Photos

Hawaiian, South Pacific and Beyond

Moken People (Sea Gypsies, Southeast Asia)

Video Interview of Moken Survivor of 2004 Southeast Asia Tsunami

Cultural Standard Most Closely Related to My Lesson Plan:

B. A culturally-responsive curriculum recognizes cultural knowledge as part of a living and constantly adapting system that is grounded in the past, but continues to grow through the present and into the future.
1. Recognizes the contemporary validity of much of the traditional cultural knowledge, values and beliefs, and grounds students learning the principles and practices associated with that knowledge;

It was tough to choose B over D because indigenous oral traditions have repeatedly steered western science into directions (once those oral traditions were heeded as valid) that altered western scientific understanding of natural history/phenomena and that is kind of summed up by D’s maxim that: “A culturally-responsive curriculum fosters a complementary relationship across knowledge derived from diverse knowledge systems.”

But I didn’t choose D.  I chose B because B’s maxim that: “A culturally-responsive curriculum recognizes cultural knowledge as part of a living and constantly adapting system that is grounded in the past, but continues to grow through the present and into the future,” and particularly it’s first focus on: “the contemporary validity of much of the traditional cultural knowledge, values and beliefs…”  

Whether it is the Moken people of the Andaman sea knowing what it means when the sea goes out unexpectedly (and the ethnic Thai disastrously not knowing), or native Fijians or Hawaiians keeping accounts of unknown and unbelieved by western geologists (but later verified) volcanic eruptions in their myths, or Solomon islanders knowing just what it means when vegetation on the volcano’s slope starts to die, or a Unangax myth about a sparrow flying inland to tell about a coming tsunami turns out to mimic actual avian behavior preceding an event that like, or even western historians regarding Plato and Solon’s stories about Atlantis as not being rooted in some historical and cataclysmic event (until recent years)…my lesson plan is about revealing that all of these western mis-assumptions or knowledge holes were corrected by oral traditions/myths/ancient beliefs.

Reflection on Cultural Standards for Curriculum “A”

Well, our poster was quite simple.  But to be fair, Curriculum A is perhaps the broadest of the five cultural standards for curriculum, so it was hard for us (I think) to get a visual hook into it.


I wish I would have drawn my “Sea of Ontology” with the Three levels of culture (Concrete, Behavioral and Symbolic) within it as an Eye because that would have made more metaphorical sense.  Ie. the drawn Eye would be the lens that we view culture through, rather than the Greek idea of the sea of knowledge that bounds every life.  I also wish that I had drawn it right side up.

It was cool and insightful to see Mischa and Jasmine focus in on the ovoids.  They explained that in the Tlingit culture, drawing always starts with an ovoid.  Mischa said that other shapes can always fit around an ovoid (I guess because it has three curves and one straight side).  Mischa also said (I think) that she sees ovoids first in Tlingit art, while triangles or diamonds aren’t shapes that stand out to her, but tend to do so to people outside of the Tlingit culture and way of knowing.  I thought that was super interesting. Anyway, I think our visual representation did evoke these two parts of Curriculum A fairly well:

1. recognizes that all knowledge is imbedded in a larger system of cultural beliefs, values and practices, each with its own integrity and interconnectedness;

  • The ovoid of cultural ownership within a larger of ovoid of cultural context of some other kind speaks to #1.

5. provides opportunities for students to study all subjects starting from a base in the local knowledge system.

  • Obviously, our poster was centered around symbols that are deeply associated with the local knowledge system – #5.  All the other side drawings/text on our poster sprung up in the corners.