This week in ECS 210, we were asked to think about what biases we learnt when we were in school and what ‘single stories’ did we learn during out schooling.
Thinking back to my upbringing, I grew up in a very forward thinking household. Throughout high school and later elementary school years, I knew it was okay to have discussions about the LGBTQ community with my parents without it becoming a hateful conversation. My parents tried to encourage me to be a person without a lot of biases, but they also tried to prepare me for the real world.
My parents, especially my mom, subtly taught me to cross the road to the other side if I felt uncomfortable with the person that was coming down the sidewalk. This other person was normally a tall, bulky, male with dark clothing on that we did not know. This subtle teaching is something that I know is still in the back of my mind today. I know that I am hyperaware of my surroundings at night and I will still cross the street if there is another larger person walking my way. I know this is a bias that I have and one that I was taught. I know that I was taught this as a good intention because my parents wanted me to be safe in a world that is not always safe for women my size and stature. This bias makes me fearful of anyone walking too close behind me with heavy footsteps and makes me walk faster when I see a larger male walking behind me. I know most of the time that I do not need to be fearful of this other person, but this bias prevents me from fully letting my guard down.
I went to Catholic schools when I was in both elementary and high school. I cannot think of a time in my schooling where a teacher taught me how to ‘read the world’, but I can think of many instances I was influenced by the ideas of other children’s parents that were spoken by their children. When I was in elementary school, many of the children that I went to school with had parents that worked at Evraz or in a labour intensive job. Most of the children had a parent that was part of the ‘working class’. I was one of the few kids that had two parents that worked a desk job. Many of the children that I went to school with vocalized that desk jobs were not real jobs and that those people really did not have to work for their money. This was something that bothered me because I knew that both of my parents worked hard and that their jobs mattered. Even though many of the students did not see the value in desk jobs, the schools pushed for students to do well in school so they could get into university and get a ‘good’ (desk) job. I was subtly taught during school that desk jobs were seen in a better light than hands on jobs. I was also subtly taught that students must go to university to make it anywhere in life and those that do not go into university are somehow seen as less than.
I know that my upbringing and schooling have helped me create biases that I will unintentionally take with me into the classroom. As a classroom teacher, I must strive to be as neutral as possible and not let the biases that I was taught govern my classroom. I must unlearn the bias that desk jobs are superior to hands on jobs. I must also learn to encourage students to see the importance of all jobs in society. Students must learn that the job of a CEO of a company is just as important as the job of a janitor in a school. Society needs different people with different skills to keep running smoothly and everyone’s job is worthy. As a classroom teacher, I must unlearn the notion that all large males are dangerous. This is something that I know I have gotten a lot better with. I am not nervous around large males at the university nor when I am out and about during the day. I still struggle with the bias at night but I do not know if I will ever be able to overcome this bias at night.
As a classroom teacher, the first step to overcoming the negative biases that have been taught to us when we were younger is to first recognize and acknowledge our biases. Once a person has recognized their biases, they must then go out and seek people that disprove their biases to help change their thinking. For example, I have a friend who is quite a big guy. He has helped me see that not every guy that looks like him should be feared, in fact, most guys that look like him SHOULD NOT be feared. Another way teachers can unlearn their biases is to get educated. Teachers can take classes to get informed about things such as the LGBTQ community, racism, and many other topics. Continuing to allow biases rule a classroom will not benefit the students that are negatively affected by the said biases.
As I mentioned above, I went to a Catholic elementary school and high school. Many of the classes were taught with Catholic values in mind. Most, if not all, of the teachers that I had growing up were white. I did not hear a lot about Indigenous perspectives or non-Catholic perspectives on most topics in school. I was taught through the truth of white, catholic people. I did not learn a lot about other religions and their stance on many of the important topics in society, such as family planning, family structure, the LGBTQ community, celebrations, and much more. When I was in school, the truth of white settlers was the truth that was most often taught, and thus I was taught this was the truth that mattered.
Thinking back to my schooling, it is shocking how little I learnt about other perspectives besides white settler knowledge, with a sprinkle of Indigenous knowledge here and there to fulfill curriculum content. I always could tell when teachers were forcing Indigenous knowledge into a lesson because I could tell the teacher was not passionate about it and they had the attitude that they had to teach it.
As a future educator, I want to incorporate more than just white settler knowledge into my classroom. I want to fully integrate Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing into my daily lessons and I do not want students to feel like Indigenous knowledge is being forced into the lesson. I want to be the classroom teacher that has little to no biases that affect my teaching abilities. I know that stating all these things is a lot easier than actually implementing my wants. I know as a classroom teacher, I will have to work hard every day to work against the biases that I have and not allow them to affect my teaching or interactions with students. Being a teacher that strives to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and not allow biases effect my teaching will be difficult at first, but then it will become routine and students will benefit from this.
Did you grow up with similar or different biases? Leave a comment below.
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