620 Post #2: Big Ideas

Blog Post #2: Research the GLE’s (Grade Level Expectations) and Alaska State Student Standards for content and performance for your discipline. What are you teaching at the moment that might be considered a big idea? Why is it a big idea? Anything that might be considered “worth being familiar with” or “ Important to know and do?”

Alaska Standards – History

A:) A student should understand that history is a record of human experiences that links the past to the present and the future.
A student should understand historical themes through factual knowledge of time, places, ideas, institutions, cultures, people, and events.
A student should develop the skills and processes of historical inquiry.
A student should be able to integrate historical knowledge with historical skill to effectively participate as a citizen and as a lifelong learner.

This past week we have been reviewing Ancient Civilizations in world history through a variety of methods and topics that touch on the standards above.  It started with a timeline where students placed tools/inventions/scientific accomplishments on a large calendar which allowed them to gain an understanding of the links between past and present and the role innovations played in civilizations (A).  They also did a project learning about historical inquiry processes by going through teachers ‘trash’ to study them, learn about them, and figure out who’s trash belonged to who (C).  This lead into students working in group’s to study and ‘retell’ origin stories from different cultures/civilizations and then discussing similarities, themes, and their role in history, connection to place, social structures, people, cultures, etc (B).

A big idea would be understanding perspectives of/on history, connections between past and present.

CRT/Place-based Education @JDHS

My host teacher is a part of the C.H.O.I.C.E. program and the Early Scholars program at Juneau-Douglas High School – 2 programs that incorporate culturally-responsive teaching and place-based education as a norm so I’m pretty lucky to be a part of it and have my own experiences and perspectives I can bring to the classroom valued and validated (which I think is one of the most important parts of CRT).

English 10 read ‘Into the Wild’ together, I was able to bring in my brother-in-law’s moose rack to show the students (the moose was taken in Kake so there was a great connection to the Petersburg bumper sticker reference in the book) to get an idea of how big a moose is and explain how difficult it is to process.  Hopefully they’ll never forget one of the pivotal moments in that book.

Mr. Hopkins’ Outdoor Biology class then used the Moose rack to do an activity where they had to learn to measure and apply hunting regulations to determine if the moose was legal, and where it would not be legal.  I think everyone should be required to take this class – the teacher incorporates more CRT/Place-based teaching than you will ever see in another classroom.

English 10 got to do a field trip on the last day that the Shakespeare First Folio was in town.  That was pretty awesome, there was lots of great information and student generated questions.  It will serve as a great reference point for them to bring in personal experiences when they attempt to grapple Shakespeare in the future.

An English 11 class in the CHOICE program is reading Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which has been routine for years upon years, but got some great supplemental CRT when the Hoopa Valley High School team (from Northern California) was in town and staying in the HS.  The teacher invited the students and a coach/art teacher in to talk to explain their reservation and their thoughts on the book/Sherman Alexie.

I coordinated a couple days for our US history class to talk about Indigenous history through oral narratives.  Instead of just touching the surface on some of the indigenous groups pre-columbian history, we focused on Southeast Alaska knowing we will be able to go into more depth throughout the semester with other indigenous communities.  We focused on history, values, oral narratives, songs, etc. to give students a deeper understanding of the history of the Tlingit and how history is learned through the culture (which is similar for many indigenous communities).  We were lucky enough to have Heather Powell (Chookaneidi – Eagle) give approval to show a video of the story of Kaasteen and the glacial advance that forced clans to migrate to the Hoonah area.  We did a google hangout teleconference with her HS Tlingit class and had Michelle Martin (T’akedeintaan – Raven) in the classroom to introduce, wrap things up and give some personal examples about learning history.  I created a worksheet with the southeast tribal values and the students worked in small groups to link the story and what the guest speakers talked about to pull meaning and connections to those values.  I’m happy to say that most can now appreciate, understand and look at our regalia and designs as HISTORY instead of just a piece of art.  It was hard at times, and a stretch for some, but we’ve definitely been able to pull from that small unit ever since as we have reviewed colonization, land rights, and talked briefly about the Dakota Access Pipeline (that barely made CNN student news last week finally!).

We also spend some of time in our classes reviewing the internships that students do as part of the program as well, every thursday afternoon sophomores and juniors are out in the community working at a variety of non-profit or government entities.

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head.  My course load at the school is tough but it’s definitely worth it for learning/teaching experiences like this.



Palmer quote response


There is a lot you can pull from Palmer quote, and throughout the text, but the words I keep coming back to are “heart”, “courage”, and “community.”  As a student, I look at this as the core of our first days of student teaching and takeover in the classroom – weaving ourselves into the classroom community so that we can learn from the students and the teachers.  To use our hearts, in our teaching and how we interact with students, to open doors and build bridges for learning, inspiration, and empowerment.  And to have the courage to be vulnerable, and to stay vulnerable for the greater good of the classroom – to be an example for importance and the respect we should have for the community in our classrooms.  Everyday to connect with students and weave content into our lives, we have to wear our heart on our sleeves.  It has to be out there to be seen, to be believed, to be accepted by our students – and we have to create a classroom where it is respected.  Everything we do is ‘for the kids’, it’s how I’ve approached any job I’ve had – making these connections, having courageous (truthful) conversations and weaving a fabric of community.  I think a lot of it comes in response to my experiences in school, which was a stark contrast to this.

In my experience, I honestly can’t say if I had a middle school or high school teacher that taught in this way or connected with me.  I respected all of my teachers, as I was raised to do, but it never went beyond that.  I was always the outsider – whether it was a place I was put, a feeling I could never shake, or a place I stayed to survive, I can’t really say.  I never made the effort to speak with them or engage in conversations in or out of class, I never asked for help, and I definitely never hung out in their classes or spent time with them outside of my assigned class period.  Any efforts they made were either to ask if I had an older brother or an occasional personalized hello when I walked into the classroom, which I always responded with eye contact, a charming smile, and a “Hi Mr/Ms/Mrs…”.  I was pleasant.  I never expected more from them and they never expected more from me.  I was perfectly content with my ‘satisfactory’ citizenship marks because I was quiet, or because I didn’t raise my hand or participate in classroom discussions.

From my perspective as an MAT student and working in a high school setting, I do agree with Palmer, and making vulnerable connections with students about who I am and what I’m passionate about is something that I’ve always done.  But when I read the text from the perspective of me as a high school student I don’t know if I was as impacted.  I went to good schools, I had very knowledgeable teachers who were passionate about teaching and their content areas.  I had good teachers, great teachers, cool teachers, funny teachers, and a lot of teachers I can’t remember, but just because I didn’t connect with any of them doesn’t make them less of a teacher in my mind, or take away from what they taught me, or the connections they made with any of my peers.  My personal identity was so grounded in my cultural background and my family life that I don’t think it would have made a difference or impacted my education in anyway.  I’ve always stayed true to my own identity and my knowledge and confidence of who I was never wavered.  If anything, my experiences made me appreciate the opportunities I had in college to connect who I was with what I was learning – which probably wouldn’t have been as easy for me without some of the educational tools they taught me.

ALST 680 reflection

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 =)

ALST 600 Reflection

This was definitely a different approach and a very intense three weeks of project-based learning.  Thankfully when I look back on my education I have had the chance to do project-based learning that was a full semester long, with lectures, short essays, presentations, small group projects, community service, social events, and tasks all mixed in.  It was a class I truly enjoyed, and what I reflect on when I have a chance to dream about what my ideal classroom and courses would look like one day.  Similar to how this class was set up, we were definitely at different levels of commitment to the class, with very different perspectives that we brought into the class and what we felt we could gain from the class.  Some did bare minimum, some stayed in their comfort zone, some went above and beyond, others sought out leadership roles, while others focused on doing a little bit of everything to help out.  There was a lot of frustration, but all of the different tasks involved throughout the semester built on each other and built towards the final product and creating a cohesive cohort of students.

For this project-based class there was less time to complete the task as a whole group and it was the first time this was done for the MAT program.  There were some things I wish had been done differently or on a different timeline – some things felt more reactive than proactive, but that all comes with it being the first MAT ibook.  I appreciated the effort and collaboration between the two classes and instructors, as a student the shared level of collaboration and individual passion in the subjects they were teaching did compel me to work harder to infuse the two and match those levels of critical thinking and application.  As a teacher, this solidified that one day (when all the rookie teaching years are out of my system) I would love to pursue a chance to team teach or do block period classes with another content class, as well as partner up with classes in lower levels  (middle school and elementary).  The teacher in me saw that creativity takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, but it pays off.

Cultural Curriculum Standard A

IMG_0532So here it is, last post, and I’m definitely not surprised that I have avoided this one since I would have to reference the ovoid I drew for our poster.  We had such a good dialogue in the back that I don’t know if it did justice to those words, nor can I really remember what I said – it was the first time where I had a chance to just flow in the zone of who I am, where it was my ancestors – my mother and grandmother and beyond – whose words I was speaking.  Though I have understood that for years, I had never really felt it.  Thankfully my group members gave me the opportunity to speak that day, as my life has been full of missed opportunities like this.  And thankfully my group members remembered them, so I was able to cheat and reference their posts to jog my memory for this post.  I would also recommend reading their posts for a more eloquent look at the details of our standard strands and the conversations we had.

Cultural Curriculum Standard A:
A culturally-responsive curriculum reinforces the integrity of the cultural knowledge that students bring with them.

Drawing the ovoids to represent the cultural standard we were presented is exactly what I hope to get out of my students by the way that I teach.  I want all students to feel what I got to feel for 35 minutes (+7): my culture and my perspective were validated, appreciated, used as the basis for our conversations about the assignment – it wasn’t invisible and it wasn’t just a surface appreciation and acknowledgement.

I remember the conversation we had about what word to put in the middle, bouncing back and forth between ‘acknowledge’ and ‘ownership’ we decided that ‘ownership’ had a deeper level of understanding and respect than ‘acknowledge’.  And really that is a core of delivering culturally-responsive curriculum, we always have to acknowledge the ownership rights of what we are teaching, and validate intellectual property rights.  It’s a way to ground our cultural ways of knowing.

I have thought about how to use an ovoid in a classroom for many years, thinking of how to get it in the classroom.  Being able to explain what it means to a design; it’s weight and it’s importance.  It all lends itself to reminding students about perspective and delving deeper into our understandings of history.  I’d like to create a ‘worksheet’ with these two ovoids where students can analyze or visualize different historical events – the inside represents one perspective, while outside represents another perspective.  I don’t know if that’s really what I want or how to explain it, but something along those lines.  Hopefully I figure it out in the next 2 months…


Cultural values and oral history lesson plan

I chose to do my lesson plan as a way to connect cultural values, history, and oral traditions in the classroom.  I have looked at the poster of Traditional Values in Alaska for many years, along with our Southeast Traditional Values poster – they are up in my classrooms throughout the school district.  I’ve often wondered if it’s ever gone farther than that, I know that CCTHITA (Tlingit and Haida) has some dvd’s from a project asking elders to speak to this values which I’ve had the opportunity to watch bits and pieces.  But with no Tlingit teachers at the high school I work at, or few, if any, in the district, I wonder if any have ‘spoken to’ the values in the poster, or if there are up there as a symbolic representation that this is a culturally safe space, or some other reason I can’t think of right now to write down.  How do we make these values posters relevant to the teachers and students that walk past them everyday?

So with this in mind I created this lesson, I tried to do it in a way that I could use it as a unit to approach all of the different regions in Alaska during an Alaska History class – though I could pull different aspects of it to use in a Sociology class.

I could go on and on about the reasons behind my lesson but I always try to be mindful of what I’ve heard from different speakers on Native education:

“Don’t teach us our culture, teach us through our culture.”

This can be so tricky to navigate as an educator – we have to be so mindful of the language we use, the tone we use, and the manner in which we speak.  As we carefully facilitate and guide our students, we can validate cultures, values, beliefs, histories, technology, intellect, and ways of knowing.

I believe my lesson best exemplifies Cultural Curriculum Standard A.1.) recognizes that all knowledge is imbedded in a larger system of cultural beliefs, values and practices, each with its own integrity and interconnectedness.

I start my lesson with a discussion on values, cultural values of the Inupiat and then spend time with activities that I hope will allow students to see the integrity and validity of the oral histories and values of the Inupiat.  The final project is shaped in a way for students to create an oral history based on cultural values and perspective (I do my best to refrain from using ‘storytelling’ because I don’t think it does justice, nor validates, the beauty, power, and intellect found in a culture’s oral traditions).  Then, maybe, that poster won’t just be something they walk by anymore.

MPJ Arctic Region Lesson Plan

Inupiaq values page


Inupiat Photo Gallery