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Showing posts from June, 2014

Lessons from "At-Risk Youth" and Social Change

For those who aren't regular readers of my blog {btw, I appreciate all 12 of my regulars ;) }, I work at a school for "at-risk/marginalized" youth in inner city Edmonton. Students often come to my school because they are not successful in the traditional school system for a variety of reasons or/and because they are often dealing with many of the issues that are connected to poverty (addictions, violence, homelessness, etc.).

My school is designated as a special needs school to help accommodate students with high learning and behavioural difficulties. Because of this designation, my class sizes usually do not go over 15 students at any time. Most of the time my class size fluctuates between 5-10 students due to attendance issues for most youth. Again, issues of poverty trump coming to school for many of my youth as it is more important to find housing and access to food than coming to class. After all, you can't "eat" a high school credit.

For the students…

The Long Journey

At the end of this week, I will have completed my fourth year teaching. I've taught in  Edmonton, Alberta for three years now at Inner City High School and I taught for a year in Halifax, Nova Scotia at a school for students with learning disabilities. I could have never predicted back in 2009 that my teaching career would take me across the country in my journey to become a teacher.

Before I get to that, I should mention that my aspirations to become a teacher started specifically in grade 10 as a 15 year old kid in Math class. Historically, I never loved Math. To this day, looking at numbers causes me confusion and insecurity and despite what my former Math teacher said, I have yet to use Pythagorean Theorem in a grocery store. However, my grade 10 Math teacher was awful. He had little inspiration to teach but he did end up being my main motivation to become a teacher. Let me explain.

After failing the first test of the year (33%!!) he pulled me aside and told me to just drop th…

Education is Political

Everything we do as teachers is political. 

And I don't mean political in a partisan identification with a political party, but in a way that as teachers we have a choice to either reinforce the dominant narratives and ideologies of our time, or offer an alternative. 

For example:

- Teachers make a political decision when they choose to be authoritarian instead of democratic. 

- Teachers make political decisions when we view students as a mind to be "filled" rather than a student who has ideas to offer and knowledge to share. 

- Schools make political decisions to enforce a dress code to establish uniformity amongst the student body.

- Governments, administrators, and teachers make political decisions to decide what is to be learned within the curriculum and who has a say on its input. 

I believe that our profession needs to have a greater understanding of our political actions. Too often, schools have been places that have reinforced the dominant and sometimes oppressive aspec…

Edmonton's Inner City Youth

Edmonton's inner city communities have long been abandoned and neglected by the larger Edmonton society. You may often drive by without stopping or just read about the issues those communities are facing in the newspaper. However, if you haven't taken the time to stop and learn about your neighbours, you would be missing something really special.

If you visited Edmonton's inner city communities, you would see how resilient the youth are. You would be amazed that despite the barriers and obstacles that have been put in their way, many of them are overcoming these issues through education, the arts, and involving themselves in a variety of community programs.

If you visited Inner City High School or Boyle Street Education Centre, you would hear youth tell you horror stories of how they were treated in the traditional school system. You would hear how the issues of poverty have impacted their learning. But you would also see their determination to succeed despite the hand t…