Throughout my journey in the school system, I grew up around many who had been affected by Residential Schools. Situated around my hometown were 3 reservations, many having survivors. Throughout school our teachers would bring in Elders to come talk to us students about their experiences. The story of “Muffins for Granny” was emotional and heart breaking, examining the unfair treatment of Indigenous people and their culture. Controlled by the government to assimilate the children into the European lifestyle.
This documentary covered the story of 7 elders who survived the horrors of residential schools. Many of the survivors were ripped from their homes as early as 4 years old, leaving their loving families behind. Facing assimilation and abuse as they attended the schools. Turning to violence and addictions to cope the resentment and intergenerational trauma. Many facing anxiety and PTSD from the long term effects.
The documentary covered the topics of physical, emotional, mental, sexual, and cultural abuse implemented from the Canadian Government. Facing the challenges of stripping away their culture and their families. Sharing the struggles and abuse that many faced and still face today.
The title of the film comes from the directors grandmother, where as a child of the residential schools she could not eat muffins but the white children could. She was made to eat the papers from the muffins that the white children had left behind.
Schools should be perceived as a safe space for children and not an area of assimilation and control. These past traumas effect how the school system is viewed and a fight for reconciliation is still prevalent.
Placement Week One:
Getting to the school I was rather nervous of what to expect and how small the children will be. Our teacher welcomed us into the classroom and introduced us to the Grade 1 students. Everyone was super excited to meet us and greeted us with open arms. The students began the day by going to the carpet in the front of the classroom and listening to announcements and “O’Canada” sung in an Indigenous language. The environment is loud and energetic as the children talk and play, Ms. F trying to get their attention. We helped them make a bird feeder in their social studies class in the library with another female educator. Recess began shortly after we finished the bird feeder and we got to talk with Ms. F and get to know more about her life and journey.
The classroom had posters and decorations all over the room, the major board that stuck out to me was the one that had a Treaty 4 flag on it and a poster that said “We are all Treaty People”. There was also plastic chairs that the students could use on the carpet while they were reading. The walls were covered in projects they had done, brightening up the room and making it feel welcoming.
Upon meeting the principal of the school and our placement teacher, our conversation was very welcoming and she made the classroom comfortable for us. She was surprised that all of us were Secondary students placed in an Elementary classroom, but she was excited to have us nonetheless.
The classroom reminded me of my elementary schooling, the carpets in the corners of the room for play time, reading or classroom meetings. The small pods of tables sectioned throughout the room for the students to sit and learn throughout the class. As I was helping with the centres, I felt comforted by the students and thought to when I was being helped at the centres I had to do when I was in elementary. How the teachers assistants must have felt when they worked within our classroom when I was young. The inclusivity of the classroom stood out as well, how there were posters about treaties all over the room, and their society studies class was based off of Indigenous culture, learning at such a vital age.
Placement Week Two:
Walking into the school of Dr. L.M Hanna we were greeted with smiles from students, staff and parents. Parents dropping off their children at the school. Teachers conversing, sipping on cups of coffee/tea waiting for the students to come inside from recess when the bell rings. The cold air drafting in and children running around outside the school. Today, our usual teacher was away and a substitute teacher and substitute educational assistant took her place. The children are greeted at the door by the teacher, the lockers filling up with everyone's outdoor wear.
I was excited to be in the classroom with a substitute as throughout my years of school, the classroom tended to go awry. Children often not paying attention and fooling around while the teacher was talking. Mrs. M was able to pick up the class as if Ms. F was there, it was interesting to see the tricks she used to keep the class in order and allow the students to get their tasks done. The community in the school is welcoming, everyone greeting you with “Good morning” as you walk passed them in the halls. Students coming into the class to greet you with a hug and an “I missed you”. The school is situated in a small crescent, a small mall being renovated across the street and a community center connected to the school. As you are driving to Dr. Hanna, you pass by school after school after school, all through out the area. Children lining the roads and parents dropping them off.
The children talk of their families, of their home lives and it shows within themselves. Their personalities growing as they begin to socialize into their lives. The communication key to connecting and bonding with other classmates and their teachers. Creating links to connect themselves to the community, as young as they are.
Placement Week Three:
If I had to summarize today in one word it would be, hectic. All around the room children were yelling and running around off task. Ms. F was in the hall doing reading tests with the children so it was our group and the EA, Mrs. H. They were placed doing centers, a normal routine for them, but they continued to run about the room. After talking to multiple students about behaving, they continued to claim they did not need to do their work. After some convincing I was able to get them partially on task and start working on their center.
With some sorting I was able to hide the distractions that caught the students attention over their task. In my center the students were to write their sight words (help, them, all, just) with googly eyes, some had colours in them and the students would fight over the coloured ones. I removed them from the pile and the students began to work more. At the end of our class, the children said goodbye and many hugged us and would not let us out of their grasp.
Within the classroom Ms. F manages her classroom with confidence, getting their attention with claps and sayings (i.e,Tootsie roll, lollipop, we were talking and now we stop). We discussed during recess of how she enjoys doing more inquiry based learning and prefers explorative methods. She does not use much of the projector and uses worksheets to allow the kids to share their ideas and knowledge, most sheets containing colouring properties, to help with their creativity. She uses iPads in the centers, allowing the students to read on them using apps.
Ms. F relies for support by her students and helpers to create a working and organized classroom. Their cooperation allowing the lessons to run smoothly and efficiently. I believe a teachers' professional knowledge is built by experience. Whether that be from conferences or working within the classroom to examine and learn from arising problems. Or to gain insight and knowledge from peers who have overcome obstacles. Relationships with those around you allow you to see a new perspective and learn new ideas. Even as a teacher you are constantly learning. Every teacher has their own unique way to teach and I feel as if you can only grow more knowledge from obstacles that challenge your ability to teach wholeheartedly.
Placement Week Four:
The room was missing students and Ms. F was gone for the morning again, a substitute taking her place. The day was cold, snowing, windy and the roads were icy. Cars crept through the streets, hoping to not catch the ice. Many students were away from school, making the room feel cold and like the essentials were missing. We began the morning with our usual morning meeting on the carpet. This time Olivia was offered to do the morning meeting to the students as we had fallen into a routine with them. The children were ecstatic and participated fully.
We then began drawing the letter V and colouring pictures of a volcano. The students finishing faster than what was expected so we started doing some centers. The centers test the students motor skills and reading/spelling skills. It was then recess and snack time, following a worksheet and some more colouring.
The diversity seen within the classroom and school is everywhere. Students of different cultures and ethnicities lining the halls and desks. Indigenous flags, posters and bulletin boards are seen. You can hear in the halls students talking in their cultural language. The song of O’Canada sung in Indigenous language and sometimes English. Many even bringing food from their culture to the classroom to eat for lunch and snack. The diversity seen is eye-opening as coming from a small town I had not had much exposure to inclusive children and diverse cultures.
Inclusive practices are seen throughout the school, some bathrooms having gender neutrality, the floors are flat and all one level for those who use wheelchairs. The children are all treated equally and are included in all activities and learning throughout the classrooms. Some forms of diversity that may not be visible could be allergies to nuts, or perfumes and scented products. The school has multiple posters pasted around the school expressing the nut-free institute and the use of scented products is not allowed for the health and safety of the children.
Placement Week Five:
In our classroom we had another substitute teacher, Mrs. K. Ms. F was out for the whole day today and was also gone Friday as well. The classroom was bustling, the students learning about short “a” sounds. The morning threw the students off routine as the children had never had the sub and she did not know the exact order of the meetings and classroom. Another teacher from the Grade ⅘ class came into our room and asked the students if they wanted to work with their buddies.
At about 10am the other class joined us and the room became hectic. The students were doing centers and their buddies were helping them, although many just talked and distracted the students. After recess another grade 1 teacher came into the classroom and asked if the students wanted to go to the library for a book viewing. The students went and watched videos on what was coming to the Scholastic Book Fair. A staff member coming in dressed as a penguin and danced to an Elvis Presley song. Everyone laughing and engaging in the conversation. Although as the videos were playing for the students the teachers in the back of the classroom were talking loudly to each other, distracting not only the students but me as well. The students headed back to their classroom shortly after, talking about the books that they got to see today.
On the topic of diversity many students within the community represents how inclusive and diverse the school is. Signs hanging around the hall, showing that the classrooms are safe and inclusive. It gives the students an understanding that they are safe in the school community and that their equality, sexual and gender diversity are all considered and everyone should feel safe in their classroom. I provided pictures of some of the posters and boards that are posted around the school to promote a safe environment and diversity.
Placement Week Six:
The students were hustling along the classroom as usual. Many running around still buzzing from their recess and snack. Today our class had to finish up some conference books for the parent teacher interviews this Friday. We each got a handful of books to take them out into the hall separately and perform the tasks needed. Many of the tasks were identifying and sounding the alphabet, along with reading sight words and ordering numbers. The children I had helped were excellent and were always on task outside the classroom. Helping the students I realized how small and inquisitive they are. Some students needing assistance more than others, and others showing how their homelife truly impacted their school life.
The students are being taught their short sound “a”, along with their ordering pairs. The students are using booklets to do their work, lately, cutting and gluing their words and matching pictures to them. The students are learning from their peers and the tasks assigned to them. Many of the students compared the alphabet letters to how they spell their name. Often that’s the only relevance they are seeing with what they are learning. As they are young the importance of reading and writing will become more prevalent in their lives as they begin to adapt to it.
Ms. F tells the students a story of how important it is to engage and learn what is being taught to them. Doing this by; applying technology of stories and reading, booklets of learning separate letters of the alphabet, targeting words with the letter they are learning within their sight words, doing activities within the classroom based off of their booklets, reading stories that target letters of the alphabet and letting the students discuss the words in the story relating to the letter, etc.
It’s a very interesting concept to see how elementary school teachers apply their knowledge and embed it into the lives of the students.
Placement Week Seven:
The day was busy and action packed as the students began their morning. I walked into the classroom at around 8:35am to see that some tables had been separated and facing the wall. Noticing my confused look Ms. F explained that 3 of the children were acting out and 1 had been precisely bullying other students in the classroom, and children from other grades during recess. Lockers had also been rearranged as they tried to separate the students as much as possible. I was rather surprised by the severity of the problem as I had intervened only a couple times during our placement.
The students began to file in and they began at their carpet doing their morning meeting like everyday. Upon doing their calendar I learned that the students were travelling to agribition on Wednesday. After their meeting they headed to their desks and watched a video on farming. The video was about 30 minutes long and the students were constantly out of their desks asking to go to the washroom or get a drink. After the video finished they were given a colouring book with animals in it to colour and with help from their grade 4/5 buddies they were able to finish it.
Within the school I haven’t seen many areas of technology. The class has 5 iPads that they use during their centers. They haven’t been brought out any other time of the day during the placement and are often just used for reading books. The class also has a projector that they set up to watch the Magic School Bus at lunch, and aside from watching the farming video on it today it hasn't been of much use during the classroom. I have been searching through the school and much to my surprise haven’t seen any classrooms with computers, the library also doesn’t have any technology within it. Upon talking to some students and the teaching staff, many don’t rely on technology to learn. Using books and booklets to engage the students and teach them new topics.