Open Window: Melody Barclay on Feminist Pedagogy

Posted by Admin on March 25, 2021 at 8:41 PM

At its core, a feminist pedagogy advances beyond traditional patriarchal constructions of the teacher/student relationship by creating a learning environment in which students are encouraged to develop knowledge through their own thinking and classroom discussions, and where they are valued for their individual contributions as “knowers and thinkers.” At Linden, such co-creation of knowledge happens within a framework of intersectional feminism, whereby faculty and students consider course material from an anti-oppression and anti-racist lens.  

The Linden School’s Grade 5 homeroom and French teacher Melody Barclay has integrated these ideas into her curriculum with a series of projects that act as excellent exemplars of Linden’s pedagogy in action, and are also socially relevant for students and the wider community on a grassroots level.

To learn more about Melody, and to see her full presentation on feminist pedagogy at The Linden School, please play above video or click here to view in PDF format.

On Thursday, January 7, the school introduced Open Window, our latest edition of parent information meetings designed to keep the Linden community connected during the Covid-19 pandemic. In our first Open Window meeting, Melody gave a meaningful presentation, illustrating in detail the ways in which Linden faculty implement the values of feminism and feminist pedagogical practices—including inquiry-based learning and co-construction of knowledge—into their daily teachings. 

Linden teachers combine their own specialist knowledge of academic subject matter with knowledge of different “ages and stages,” as well as research on how girls learn most effectively. Students are encouraged to explore their own ideas and how they can relate to the world around them. Linden’s approach embraces a set of epistemological theories grounded in feminism and activated using classroom strategies that build critical-thinking skills as well as strong student-teacher relationships. 

For example, in a presentation demonstrating how Linden students learn via discussion in “knowledge-building circles,” Melody described how her Grade 5 students led the entire school in an All-School activity for Orange Shirt Day on September 30th, 2020. 

Using a number of varied texts ranging from fiction to primary historical sources—including Nicola I. Campbell’s Shi•shi•etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe, a stranger at home by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton, and  I AM NOT A NUMBER by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer—Grade 5 students studied and shared the vocabulary and stories of resistance through and by which individuals challenged the residential school system, creating space for themselves and others. 

Each Grade 5 student hosted a different grade, created activities, and wrote scripts for their presentations—thus co-constructing knowledge about the value of the lived and recorded experiences of other persons, not just within their own classroom and cohort, but with Linden students both younger and older than themselves.

Melody also provided concrete examples of how she’s been successfully integrating activism into climate change education. The Grade 5 project “Melting Ice and Paper Making” enabled students to conduct experiments with ice and recycled-paper trees and lead their own inquiry-based construction of knowledge about the impact of, and connections between, “properties and changes in matter” in our natural world.

Melody’s work in the classroom—which also includes work in art and math through explorations of historical and contemporary systems of resource allocation and voice empowerment—provides us with the perfect answer to the question of what feminist pedagogy looks like, and accomplishes, when it’s put into action. 

After finishing her presentation, Melody opened the meeting to participants, who exchanged insightful conversation about Linden’s feminist history and the success of the school’s unique pedagogical approach. Parents heard from Linden teachers about some of the more sensitive conversations they’ve had to have with their students over the years, and how these interactions have had an impact on the way they facilitate their classes. 

The Linden School looks to our faculty and staff to provide excellent leadership for our students and community. Individually and together, our teachers and administrators are working to keep our students happy, healthy, and educated, whatever new challenges continue to come our way during these uncertain times. 

For the duration of the school year, Linden will be hosting more Open Window meetings to highlight how our talented and creative teachers embody the school’s values, and actively work to fulfill the school’s mission. Watch our Important Dates weekly e-blast for details of future Open Window conversations.