Understanding culture and power plays a major role in my teaching, and is a primary reason why I am in the MAT program to begin with. I have stood on the sidelines for many years as the educational system has only validated different cultural backgrounds as an afterthought, or in the case of when I was growing up – it only acknowledged a ‘black and white’ version. And even when they are acknowledged in educational settings, it is often only at the surface level of presenting different cultural views. I have a deep respect for the values and beliefs and histories of different cultures, I hope that I can access and share this need for a deep level of cultural understanding with students and colleagues. As for understanding power, I agree with the readings that have taken the time to address the role and impact that power, and the power of the dominant culture plays in the education system – using their power to control the histories and knowledge taught to students, while also using the system as a means of social control to maintain power. My role as a teacher, as an educator and within the system to stay knowledgeable and aware of this power and control structure and analyze its role in the system I work in, being an advocate for those that it oppresses.
The three terms that I picked are ‘Background knowledge’, ‘False assumptions’, and ‘Critical Thinking.’ I think they all go together in some ways and mostly resonate with me as reminders for me during the school year and reminders about the classroom culture I would like to create with each student. ‘Background knowledge’ in this case refers to the information and knowledge that students bring with them to the classroom about various subjects. The goal is to find a way to teach that connects with the background knowledge that students tap into as a resource – thus empowering them and engaging their interest levels by validating their prior knowledge. To me it also connects with the next term I chose, ‘False assumptions’, because some of that background knowledge could be a reflection of their families, parents, peers, or other forms of socialization that have instill ‘false assumptions’ with them about different parts of history or different cultural groups. I think it is important to approach students background knowledge cautiously and respectfully and break down/challenge the false assumptions they bring to the classroom. This will take a lot of reflection and ‘Critical Thinking’ to accomplish, but something that is necessary for the true learning to occur. There will be students that have false assumptions, negative assumptions about different cultures – especially Alaska Natives, so I think it is important to challenge these in order to validate those cultures and ways of knowing, otherwise students will never really learn to appreciate them and the roles they play in society and history. For ‘critical thinking’, being able to reflect on history and society, to push students to see the world from different perspectives is a necessity. It also reminds me that I need to challenge all students to think critically about the world around them, not just the ‘advanced’ students, this is a quality that all students should have and have a chance to develop.
My host teacher teaches within two programs at JDHS that are diverse and makes substantial efforts to teach in a place-based, culturally responsive (and at times project-based) way, so I will definitely hit the ground running and will have a lot to learn as well as trying to find creative ways to supplement and enhance what is already offered. Throughout this class the many different, and dynamic ways of discussing all the readings – shoulder shares, group posters, peer reviews, jigsaw discussions, etc. – I hope to employ those strategies as naturally and as effective as they presented in class. I also hope to come up with a few creative project-based units, but will have to do some more research and ideas before I write anything down on paper. I enjoyed the WWII Unit focusing on its effects on Alaska, so I will definitely make an extra effort to make as much of US/World history relevant to Alaska’s history using this timeline as a guide/reference point (http://www.akhistorycourse.org/timelines/1959-present). I also want to focus on presenting history from different perspectives and the role power and control plays in it as well, I always enjoyed the book ‘Lies Across America’ (https://www.amazon.com/Lies-Across-America-Historic-Sites/dp/074329629X) that deconstructs historical monuments – so I’ll probably find a way to incorporate something similar, or use them as sparks for discussion. Besides that, I look forward to bouncing ideas off with anyone that will listen =)