I found Grant Urban’s lecture to be really interesting. I enjoyed all of his stories that he shared with us. The main message I took away from his lecture is that you can’t judge a student by what their perceived “story” is. We do it so often in our lives, not only in regards to teaching students. Our whole society participates in the idea of judging someone by his or her outward appearance or his or her assumed “story”. What really caught my attention is the story Grant told about his Aboriginal student on the treaty fieldtrip. Of course, we as educators would think right away that as an Aboriginal student he would enjoy this experience, but in reality he actually didn’t want to partake in it in any way.
This made me think of a few instances in my high school education where we would be reading First Nation narratives in English, and my English teacher would point out the one or two Aboriginal students in our class and ask them, “what kind of traditions does your family do? Was any of your family involved in residential schools?” The entire class could tell this made that student feel so uncomfortable because he was specifically pointing this student out and putting him on the spot. This student did not want to talk about this, let alone speak to the entire class about it. This is an example of how sometimes teachers don’t realize that a student is more than just their perceived “story”. My old English teacher thought that since they had aboriginal ancestry that they would want to talk about how he related to that piece of writing. That student didn’t even identify as an Aboriginal because he chose not to. Perhaps that student would have liked to talk about their experiences as an Aboriginal student, but not in front of the entire classroom. We as teachers need to make sure we are not assuming things about students and pointing things out about students because of how they look or how they act.
Another personal narrative that Grant told us that stood out to me was the story about him telling his students to leave their “street” attitude at home because he doesn’t want to have that in his classroom. He probably thought that these kids were trying to get attention and act out. In reality, these students probably had no other idea how to act because that is the only way they knew how to act. That student might not want to identify as a “street” person, or even realized that they were acting in a certain way. Telling a student to be someone else in your classroom has implications to it, and I hadn’t thought of it in that way before.
What Grant Urban was trying to get across is that personal relationships with your students are crucial. Students are not just a number who you are forced to teach. One of the last things he said really stuck with me – that we as teachers learn just as much from our students as they learn from us.