The Perfect Prescription
When a child gets fit for his or her first pair of glasses, it’s important that they get an exam done, so that the child can receive the most perfect prescription for their unique eyesight. That perfect prescription can be the difference between a child being able to properly walk, learn, interact and a child that has a difficult time. Without this exam, a child is blind to their true potential of reality.
Each part of a prescription is different for everyone. Their distant vision might be way different than someone’ Oculus Dexter (whatever that means…), so each child needs a prescription that perfectly matches each proper element of their eyes. I think dominant narratives can play a similar role in students’ lives. As teachers, what if we were to choose a child’s prescription? What if we said, “well here are your glasses, hope it works!”. THAT pair of glasses blinds that particular child to the potential his eyes can actually see.
When we exclusively give our students only dominant narratives to look at, learning becomes a lot narrower. This assumes that there is one perspective and one perspective only when it comes to historical topics that involve many different groups of people, whose stories are also important and should also be shared. As teachers, I think we have a responsibility to give our students the perfect prescription. Let’s allow out students to have full access to the truth, and to as many perspectives as we can provide for them, so they may see history shared in a fair and inclusive way.
My group’s topic for our toolkit project is the theme of Identity. I think this is such a cool topic for kids to talk about because it’s so different for everyone. Asking questions like, “What makes me, me?” or “Who am I, and what do I value?” are all important questions students get to evaluate themselves with. Such a cool topic to discuss diversity, and different perspective, and unique values. As I have discovered a bit about this topic, a theme that reoccurs is this idea of home. For some people, home is a feeling. For others, it’s a place, others, a culture. I found an incredible video titled, “Where is Home”, a TED talk by Pico Iyer on this idea of home. He talks quite a bit about his personal connection with this topic, and that although he is 100% native to India, he has not lived there for a day in his life, and cannot speak not even one word of the 20,000 dialects spoken there.
What defines "home?" Is it people, a specific place or the memories made during a certain period of time? These talks…www.ted.com
Home is often associated with where you were first born, or your personal ethnicity. Although these do make you who you are, Iyer talks a lot about how he feels like his home is elsewhere. For many of us, Iyer says home is not necessarily one thing. It might be an association of where your parents are, or a dream you have, or a place that feels like love. Iyer says that we end up taking different pieces and places and put them together to form a “stained glass whole”, creating home cultivated by many aspects, feelings, and places all in one. With this being said, we learn that maybe what makes us who we are isn’t just one thing. Maybe everyone has a story beyond where we come from that inspires our passions, and drives our values. Iyer says that home can even be a work in progress. Instead of home being something constant, for some, it may be the search for a long piece of soil or a piece of soul. Just this simple video opened my eyes to depths of someone’s being, and that the word home becomes less of simple location and more of a feeling and cultivation of beautiful things that feel good on our hearts.
With this image and idea of home being presented to us (in what I believe to be a beautiful way), I think Iyer’s input is something we can apply to dominant narratives. The idea of home is different to anyone and I think one historical period that sticks out to me as a moment that either demonstrated the importance of one’s home or search for home was the period of Columbus’ exploration and his interaction with the Native Americans. So easily do we see the side of Columbus and his desire to plant a new home in a new area. This area would be transformed according to his will. A hard working, long voyage that paved a way for a new home that would finally give him and his explorers a new home that would carry out all of his values. Initially, this sounds pretty cool to me! I’d reply with, “Dang! Cool dude! Creating himself a new home, and doing whatever he wants in regards to this new place! Good for him!”. That’s basically how I learned it. This dude discovers what we know now to be America, and here I am living it! But what if we start to question this idea of home? Who are all the people included in this new home of his? What values and choices make up this part of his identity? Most people stop here. But, thankfully I’ve learned that his choice of settlement stole the feeling of love and happiness that this home had already created for people who had already work so hard to develop this feeling of contentment filled with rich culture and unity.
Our dominant narrative here would be the view of Columbus and his white settlers. That’s usually what story is told, and the lens that students are looking through. Luckily, I’ve noticed a steady increase in the introducing perspectives outside Columbus, nonetheless still the dominant narrative. Questioning this narrative is essential for students to do. As we discuss ideas like home and identity, sometimes part of that is looking at who and what our idea of home is affecting. Instead of straight up telling our students that Cristopher Columbus is awful, and a villain, I think it’s important to first, tell the truth about him, but then use that truth to allow students to develop their own opinions on him that encourage them to dive deeper, question his motives, and want to learn about what Native Americans called home during this same time (Cowhey).
As for introducing Columbus, I have curated, what I think to be, the best information that allows for interpretation and analyzation of students in regards to Columbus and his search for his definition of home. Below are a few un-biased recourses I would use to allow my student to learn and interpret Columbus’ exploration.
· The first is the following picture. I think this gives a great opportunity for students to interpret and visualize the coming of Columbus in contrast to eh natives who were already there. Students can ask questions like, “Who is that?”, “Where are they coming from?”, “What are their intentions?”. I like this technique of learning because it reminded me a lot of the article we read in class about examining photographs and the importance of interpretation in the classroom (Barton).
· The next are journal entries written by Cristopher Columbus himself that discusses the sight of Native Americans, and his first interactions with them. The students can hear real words from Columbus and develop their own opinions.
· Lastly, this source shares transcripts of more journals from the settlers, again introducing the initial thoughts of the Columbus and his group.
After introducing the sources that would illustrate more of the Native American’s perspective of home is very important as well. The following sources I believe will allow students to see both sides of this place the natives called home.
· The first is a critique of Columbus Day. It is a very raw article supported by many natives and organizations worldwide. This might allow students to question Columbus and his intentions.
· The next is an article assist in giving background on the native people prior to European settlement. This is great for students to understand the concept of home and what it mean to be a native during that time.
· Lastly, this article gives more information on the Native Americans and the brutal truth of this time. I loved this source because it also shares the impact the home of Native Americans today. This way, students can understand that our actions have consequences, and they are able to see that the consequences last centuries long (Mitchell and Alderman).
With the help of these many sources, I would hope that my students could understand that home for Columbus was constant movement. It was not just a place, it was an idea of total bombardment and power. His vision has a large part of his description and yearn for his new home. For him to obtain this “home”, he had to wreck cultures, and split families apart… destroying what was home for many people originally. Home for the natives meant practicing their culture, it meant nature, and art and dance. All which were celebrated with each other in their land prior to the coming of Columbus.
Home is part of our unique identity, and the idea of home is different for everyone. In this case, the term meant something totally different for the two groups, yet it still affected each other greatly. What if we only taught about one? This is where I think our teaching could absolutely be improved today. Allowing our students, the opportunity to learn all perspectives is such an amazing opportunity we can create as teachers. Dominant narratives are important to teach, but questioning them, and allowing our students the right to addressing all perspectives can influences our kids in ways that illustrate critical thinking and can inspire them to learn more about their identity, and the values and opinions that they have (Rodriguez) . But, to do so, they have to have the perfect prescription, and us teachers can provide them with that if we willingly chose to.