Conversations with my mom

This past weekend, I was talking to my mom and during our talk; I had a realization about teaching. In the faculty of education, we love labels. We refer to ourselves as ” anti-oppressive educators, lovers of inclusion, helping professionals” the list goes on and on. I just realized that using these labels have the capacity to be destructive. When we use these labels, they pacify us and make us feel a little bit better about the work that we’re doing. When we use these labels as markers of identity, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of believing that we aren’t capable of hurting others. That’s terrifying. We all have the power to hurt others. How can we remedy this challenge? How can we make sure that we’re teachers that aren’t hurting others. Know who you are and ensure you’re actions conform to your values. In addition, making sure that you’re caring for yourself. I’ve noticed something about people over the years. I know that people hurt others for a whole variety of reasons. But!a lot of the time when people hurt others, they are illustrating how they have been cared for in this life. Instead of being offended; this is an opportunity for some kind of understanding.

What does this have to do with Treaty Education? What I’ve learned is that when it comes to these values that we claim to have; we can’t teach them. We can be them, though; and that’s pretty cool. I don’t think we can educate the hearts of children and make them change. We can’t make people change and that’s not our job.  Can we be advocates for inclusion and not have relationships with members of this community? I don’t think so. The same can be said of Treaty Education. Can we value treaty education while carry eurocentric beliefs about education?

In the current climate, things are getting a lot worse for educators in the province. Resources are scarce and people are getting scared. This does not make people bad; it makes them human. But if we know who we are; and trust in our judgement; that will alleviate some of that fear.
These are some things that I realized during my chat with my mom because she’s the bomb.com.

Reconcili-action or whateva

During the course of the term, we talked about reconciliation. Alright, let’s just get real. This less- than inspired pun does little for anyone; least of all the communities that are directly involved.( I.e all of us)

If it hasn’t already been painfully obvious; I’m quite jaded when it comes to things like these. I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and I’m done with fighting with people to acknowledge the dignity of others. If people don’t care about these social challenges, boy bye.

Instead of preaching to the converted, I think it’s important for teachers to become aware of the political power they possess. We teach in highly political environments. Teachers can impact major change, granted they are politically literate. As teachers, political illiteracy is a luxury we cannot afford.

In my Educational Foundations course, my instructor made a point about as teachers we need to have nerve when addressing these social issues that don’t acknowledge the dignity of other human beings. I like that. I like that, a lot. During the course of this treaty walk I’ve had a lot of conversations with other teachers and teacher candidates that is filled with melancholy. I’m not here for melancholy. I’m here to do the work.

Racial Identity and Worldview

While this was not my intention; it seems as though blackness serves as a constant in terms of a theme of my blog. I think that’s because in order to be aware of one’s treaty identity; one must be oriented in their sense of self. One must know who they are, where they come from, and what on earth that might mean.

          In terms of my racial identity, my mother is from Grenada; a country that was colonized by many countries of Western Europe. My father is from the southern United States. He was born in a time where racialized segregation was as popular as people deciding who he must be.

When I have to articulate my worldview it’s really hard. It’s challenging because blackness is not a monolith and I don’t want to suggest that there is one way to articulate a “Black worldview”. Due to my background: Love, Strength, and self determination contribute to my worldview.

Love( at the risk of playing into the pedagogy of palatability), is something that my family has always practiced. This is not like anything depicted in the media. It’s not always sweet, not always delicate, and most certainly, is never one thing. It is rooted in sacrifice and understanding. Strength plays a role in my worldview due to the fact that institutions have been telling people who look like me what they must do and who they must be. This is sobering, frustrating, and defeating. In order to maintain one’s sense of self, one must be resilient. Finally, self determination is something that contributes to my worldview. Something that I appreciate from my parents is how they live their lives on their own terms; not according to what society deems to be appropriate from a man or woman of colour.

         In terms of my teacher identity, these are values that play a role in my practice. Students will usually ask for love in unloving ways. This is why we have to take kids where they’re at. It’s hard and it usually sucks. But, that’s how people work. You can’t change them; you can only love them.  In addition, I have zero interest in teaching victims. The students in my class will have a safe space to express what they feel and to have their feelings acknowledged. There is a time limit for this, however. The students that will be in my class are stronger than they realize and in order for them to discover that they need to take risks.

Finally, self-determination, I have no interest in telling my students who they must be. That is not my job. There will be expectations and they will accomplish them in relation to their work. At the end of the day, they will choose who they want to become.

        When I think about the values that are informed from my racial identity; I realize that some ideas are similar to some Indigenous communities. Perhaps being myself in the classroom could be considered an act of decolonization? Or at least an act of resistence?

Inclusion and Settler Identity

This week we were provided with a questions about how can we be more inclusive in our understanding of settler identity. It’s an interesting idea. I think it’s possible. I don’t think it’s possible to do with a binary way of thinking; which is a very colonial mindset. I feel like in order to have these conversations we need to have a stronger understanding of who we are. In addition, I feel like we need to be less willing to label others. I feel like that’s a part of the problem. Being a person of colour in this course I’ve noticed that people are very willing to speak to my experience; which I find interesting because, it’s my experience. Moving forward, in order to be a Treaty person, I need to reimagine my identity as an educator. Before I began in the faculty of education, I had a clear vision of who I was going to be as an educator. I was going to be an educator that was committed to social justice. My classroom was going to be filled with posters with quotes from prominent women of colour who have impacted change in western thought and words of wisdom from Indigenous leaders. The more I learn about how things really work in the classroom; I don’t think that’s who I am anymore. I’m not sure who I will be as a teacher; but it’s not a teacher that is going to teach people to see the humanity in others. To be honest, I think that’s a really arrogant attitude I had. I can’t teach that. I’m 25 years old and humanity has been around for millennia. In addition, I’ve noticed that in this discussion, there’s a habit to compartmentalize different parts of who we are. I can’t do that. I contain multitudes. Just like anyone else.

How to confront racism in the classroom

In today’s class we talked about the importance of confronting racism in the classroom. This week’s seminar facilitation addressed this topic by using Jane Elliott’s model of the blue eyes/ brown eyes exercise. While we were provided with a more relaxed version of this exercise, the impact was felt, slightly. I’m not going to say that we understand the complexity of internalized racism, but the point was made. This exercise made me uncomfortable to be honest. I understand that was kind of the point of the exercise; but what made me uncomfortable was how the concept of racism was presented. Racism was presented as sentiment. While racism has a social dimension, the nature of racism is that it is a system. It goes beyond biases and hurt feelings. When we present racism in a way like this; it reduces a complex system to hurt feelings. During our course, the concept of the pedagogy of palatability was presented. I feel like this is a trap that teachers often fall into. We want to explain racism in a way that is accessible and developmentally appropriate. As a result, we perpetuate a narrative that isn’t true. As a result, people of colour, or anyone considered to be an “other” are expected to serve as learning opportunities to confront this shallow understanding of racism. This also perpetuates racism. To be honest, maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’m missing the point of the course, but recently I’ve become very tired of identity politics. For the past few years I’ve been militant when it came to issues of gender and sexual diversity, treaty education, blackness in the west, etc. I’m no longer interested in explaining my humanity or the humanity of others. If teaching has taught me anything; it’s that we can’t teach people who don’t want to learn. We have to take people where they’re at. I feel like in this course, many of us are preaching to the converted; and that’s awesome. We should care about confronting racism in the classroom. But, we also need to committed to doing the inner work that entails. It’s not easy, or pleasant for that matter.

Confronting racism in the classroom is interesting. On the one hand, as teachers, we perpetuate many racist ideals that were designed to exclude. This is the consequence of being an agent of government. But, there is a silver lining. If we know who we are, and are willing to identify the humanity in others; that is a form of resistance. No one can take away that self knowledge.

Reflections with Life Speaker Noel

Last week we had the chance to experience a smudging led by Life speaker Noel and his grandson. It was a peaceful and reminiscent experience. When Life speaker Noel made mention that this practice is used to purify; it reminded me of my faith based education. During the course of my education, I attended a faith based school in Saskatoon. When I was in high school we had smudges and traditional religious ceremonies. When Life Speaker Noel’s grandson lit the sweet grace to initiate the ceremony; it reminded me of the ceremony of Reconciliation. The practice where one purifies oneself in the face of the divine. During the course of the smudge, I thought it was interesting that these two worldviews have a commonality; yet these worldviews have the experience great conflict over the course of time. It just reminds me how members of various cultures and members of these culture require spiritual purification. We all need that rebirth; in order to become a better version of ourselves.

Introduction to Treaty Education

Good afternoon,

My name is Jason Shamel. During the course of my undergraduate education I took a few Indigenous studies courses that addresses the importance of acknowledging that we are all treaty people. While I’ve embraced this identity; it wasn’t without confusion. While I registered in these classes, my instructors always addressed the class as “white settlers”. I am not a white settler and because I’m not included in this address, Do I not matter? Am I not a Canadian? Am I not a member of this community? To reimagine Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, ” Ain’t I a Treaty person?”

In terms of my background, my mother is from Greneda, a country colonized by Great Britain and France. My father was born in Tenesssee. An area that has a history that is rooted in colonization, bondage, and imperialism. My parents knew how their children would be treated if they remained in the United States; which is why they moved to Canada. They came here with hopes that their children would have a chance to live their truths in a space that would be safe.

As a person of colour, as a Canadian, am I not included in this discourse. It is not my aim to take up space or to make the conversation all about me but the question still remains ” Ain’t I a treaty person?”

 

Welcome to my blog!

 

Welcome to Learning with Mr.Shamel! It is my aim to create an online portfolio that illustrates my experiences in the classroom, my philosophies of education,, and my commitment to life long learning. In addition, it is my goal to connect with other educators that believe in the value of student centred practice and to share ideas and resources. Please join me on this journey as I discover what kind of educator I will be. In this blog I will illustrate the challenges, the successes, and everything in between in my time in the classroom. I encourage you to comment. I look forward to having a dialogue about all of our experiences.

Keep on smiling,

Mr.Shamel