Out With The Old; In With The New

Co-written by Meagan Dobson and Raquel Bellefleur

Originally posted on UR S.T.A.R.S. blog.

This year has flown by. It is hard to believe we are wrapping up our term as the Executive Directors of UR S.T.A.R.S. When we stepped into this position a year ago, we could never have imagined what a positive impact this experience would have on our lives.

UR S.T.A.R.S. has propelled us towards so many great things both personally and professionally. Developing close relationships with our mentors, other educators, and members of the community; participating in ceremony; learning about and teaching alongside Treaty Education and decolonization; and navigating anti-oppressive education and reconciliation as a framework for both teaching and life. We have shared many successes and a few late night tear-filled phone calls; this work is messy and we have made mistakes, but we have (un)learned so much in the process and it has been exceptionally rewarding.

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Presenting at Ed Camp YQR (Fall 2015)

Treaty Ed Camp 1

Opening Treaty Ed Camp 2015

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Presenting at Investigating Our Practices (IOP) Conference

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Presenting at Teaching and Learning with the Power of Technology (Tlt 2016)

At this time we would also like to introduce you to the amazing individuals who will be stepping into the role of Executive Director come fall: Amy Martin, Cassandra Hepworth, and Jasmine Korpan. These ladies will undoubtedly guide UR S.T.A.R.S. through many more successes. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to work and learn alongside them this year and we cannot wait to see what the future has in store for them.

We are both really looking forward to our next steps – internship in grade 8 at Sacred Heart Community School for Meagan and teaching grade 6 at W. F. Ready Elementary School for Raquel. We will definitely continue to draw on the experiences we have had and the relationships we have developed through our work in S.T.A.R.S.

This past year has been literally life-changing for us. We are sad that this chapter is ending, but we are looking forward to continuing this journey and seeing how our growth through S.T.A.R.S. will transfer into our personal and professional lives in new and exciting ways. Our story is far from over; we hope that you continue to walk alongside us.

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Meagan and Raquel xx

The Problem(s) with Disability Simulation

Co-written by Raquel Bellefleur & Meagan Dobson

For one of our classes this semester, we were asked to engage in a disability simulation assignment. The purpose of this assignment was to develop an empathic perspective of what it might be like to be challenged by having an exceptionality or difference in the classroom environment. On the first day of class, we each received an envelope that indicated the difference or disability we would be given the opportunity to “experience” throughout the course. One of us received “LGBT” and was given a rainbow bracelet; the other received “hearing impairment” and was given an earplug. We were instructed to use these implements to help us “experience” these differences on “disability days” throughout the course. Although we know our instructor had good intentions with this assignment, we were both extremely uncomfortable with the idea of reducing someone’s entire identity to a single simulation experience.

How can what amounts to a game of pretend enlighten a person about something that has shaped my entire life? Of course, I realize there are several people and organizations out there that are trying to do their best to use simulation activities to create positive change. But at the end of the day, the temporary glimpse into disability that such exercises provide are just that — temporary. It is simply impossible to fully immerse yourself in another person’s being. – Emily Ladau

Simulations do not dig into the root of discrimination, nor do they do justice to a person with a lifetime of experiences alongside disability and difference. We were wary that this type of simulation might lead to empathy (or worse – sympathy) but not to a deeper understanding of disability/difference. We recognize that our privilege affords us the ability to remove ourselves from this experience as we so choose; we can decide, at any given point, to disconnect physically, mentally, or emotionally – especially when things get tough. People who identify with our assigned disability/difference cannot simply ‘take off’/’turn off’ their identity. Yet in this case, we can.

The socially constructed categories of ‘LGBTQIA+’ and ‘Hearing Impairment’ are complex, incredibly diverse, and non-homogenous – every individual’s experience is unique to them. As a result, we chose to approach this assignment by learning alongside authentic personal narratives. The purpose of our altered process was to avoid identity appropriation, as making ‘blanket’ generalizations are exceedingly problematic. We shared what we learned via our collected narratives; existing alongside them, but not assuming them. In our efforts to NOT reproduce harmful stereotypes, other, make assumptions, portray experiences as tokenistic, devalue/diminish/trivialize someone else’s lived experiences, we have learned the following about disability and difference.

Ten Things We Have Learned About Disability and Difference

(1) Someone’s identity should not be defined by what is “different” about them. We need to resist the temptation to classify other people based on their disabilities or their challenges. We should focus instead on their abilities and the ways we can help them realize those abilities.

(2) It is not anyone’s job to educate us about their identity. Asking or expecting someone to constantly explain their disability/difference is placing a hugely unfair burden and responsibility on their shoulders.

(3) We need to educate ourselves on specific disabilities. It is our job, as teachers, to recognize what we do not know and to make an effort to learn by reading, reaching out to experts, and taking part in professional development opportunities.

(4) It’s okay for students to do things differently. Fair and equal are two different things. We need to strive for equity – providing students with what they need to be successful so that everyone can receive what they need as an individual to thrive and to be successful.

(5) Inclusive practices don’t only benefit students with exceptionalities, but all students. Universal strategies (including ‘Tier 1’ interventions) such as sensory regulation, visual schedules, and social stories can benefit all students. When supportive efforts are solely focused on students with exceptionalities, it can lead to further segregation.

(6) Don’t equate challenges with limitations. All students will have challenges and it is our job to support them and help them find ways to overcome those challenges. We should never put limitations on what our students can do.

(7) Each student has a unique set of learning needs. This includes students who have the same disability. For example, not all students with ASD will need the same accommodations in order to be successful in the classroom. Our students know what they need better than anyone else, so let’s not forget to ask them and keep them involved in conversations about their learning.

(8) We need to ensure that we consistently bring in resources that provide inclusive and diverse representations of students. Students need to see themselves positively represented in our classrooms and our curricula. This is vital for students to develop a positive self-concept, which has huge effects on their overall mental health.

(9) We need to create safe classroom spaces by using inclusive language. This means using the pronouns students prefer as well as being able to talk to students about using inappropriate language (ie. that’s so gay, the R-word, etc).

(10) Although we often think about the ways we make adaptations for students, it’s important to recognize the multitude of ways our students are constantly accommodating us. For example, when students with hearing impairments do their best to lip read (even though only 30% of English language can somewhat clearly be read on the mouth), they are accommodating us. When a student who identifies as transgender feels the need to explain their identity/preferred pronouns, they are accommodating us. When a student with ASD uses self-stimulating behaviors to help themselves self-regulate (in a classroom environment that may be over or under stimulating), they are accommodating us.

Moving Towards Reconciliation: Why Planting Trees Is Not Enough

Co-written by Raquel Bellefleur & Meagan Dobson

Originally Posted via UR S.T.A.R.S.

What does ‘reconciliation’ actually mean?

Like many, we entered our post-secondary education with limited information about Treaties and the ways in which the two of us are positioned in society as a result of our privilege. We have spent the past three years learning and unlearning alongside mentors (professors) and like-minded peers – all of which has contributed to our personal and professional growth during our time in the Faculty of Education. We established S.T.A.R.S. (Student Teachers Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppressive Society) Regina in 2014 as an outlet for our exploration as socially just, anti-oppressive educators.

Despite progression towards change in our hearts and minds, we continue to struggle with the disconnect between thought and action. Yes, we are our own toughest critics; however, it is important to be critical of ourselves because that’s how we will continue working through our privilege/push ourselves to keep doing this work.

We know reconciliation is important, but how can our inner changes translate into outer action?

False Facade

In the work we have done, one thing we have struggled with is our ability to switch off or walk away from the work, especially when it becomes most discomforting. We can do this because of our privilege.

Although performance (meaning the ability to “try on” an identity as an anti-oppressive educator) can be a positive thing, there is a fine line between using performance as a starting point and completely abandoning anti-oppressive work while continuing to receive recognition and praise for it.

For example, although we both believe that meaningfully engaging in ceremony is part of the reconciliation process, there have been many times that we have turned down opportunities to participate because we were “too busy” or had other things to do.

Ultimately, our lists of priorities that prevented us from participating was our privilege in disguise.

Our privilege means that we can say and think things like: I don’t need to go to this; this doesn’t affect me; my life won’t change whether I go or not. Yet, even when we have participated in ceremony the potential to be unaffected by the experience is a reality – we can cut ourselves off from it just enough so that we are not personally affected by it.

What is being an ally?

We would love to be able to say we are allies of our Indigenous friends and colleagues; however, we realize that we cannot give ourselves that status. Showing up to ceremony does not make us allies; putting ourselves in a physical space is not enough. We need to make a consistent effort to authentically work towards reconciliation rather than superficially and periodically visiting the idea – committing to being witnesses, not tourists.

Receiving Cookies

Something else we’ve struggled with is receiving so much praise for our work with S.T.A.R.S. Regina. Noel Starblanket often wears his S.T.A.R.S. t-shirt and often commends our group when he speaks. Our #TreatyEdCamp event was recognized in the Legislative Assembly. Dr. Jennifer Tupper, the Dean of Education, sends out tweets like this:

We are grateful for any recognition we receive, but it is still problematic. Due to our privilege, we are positioned as “good white people” and praised for doing very little. Dr. Michael Cappello calls this kind of praise “receiving cookies.” We’ve been really uncomfortable with being positioned in this way and are unsure of how to respond respectfully.

Moving Forward – ReconciliACTION

This post started with us asking each other:  What have we ACTUALLY done? We provided opportunities for learning through PD events like #ReadtheTRC; we brought teachers together to learn about integrating Treaty Education into all subject areas; we’ve had many conversations about power, privilege, and reconciliation. But what effect is that ACTUALLY having on us and others? How do we move from talk to action?

Although we are still wrestling with these questions, we’ve tried to identify a few of our next steps:

  1. Listen to Indigenous colleagues when they say this is good work. 

Although it’s important to be critical of ourselves, we must be careful to not fall into a cycle of cynicism. We won’t dismiss encouragement and praise from our wonderful allies, but we will not to take it as more than it is. We cannot allow these ‘cookies’ to lead to our complacency or tempt us into apathy. We must remember that our Indigenous allies are happy to see these starting points, but also expect much more from us. While we are grateful for any recognition, the feedback and input of our Indigenous colleagues and friends is most important because they have been directly impacted by this history. It is these relationships that are central to reconciliation and our movement forward.

  1. Start with conversations.

We know they are ‘Calls to Action’, not ‘Calls to Conversation’, however, we need conversation to guide us to the right ways to do this work. As Gary Edwards explained at Taking Up the TRC Calls to Action, we know we’re in a time of real change because nobody knows what to do or how to do it.

We also need to have conversations with our peers, colleagues, profs, siblings, parents, grandparents, and anyone else who might not know about the horrific historical injustice, or the painstaking work put into the TRC, or what the Calls to Action mean for reconciliation. Although this conversation may be uncomfortable and difficult, we must commit to it. It’s far too important to remain silent and our silences will not protect us anyway. These truths must be spoken.

  1. Build relationships.

We have often heard, “Reconciliation is about relationships,” but wondered how we could go about springing up relationships out of nowhere. The best we can come up with is putting ourselves in spaces where there is potential for relationship building. We will participate in ceremony and seek out public events, like the lecture by the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair and the roundtable discussion Taking Up the TRC Calls to Action, where connections and relationships might start to form. We will listen to the advice of Emerging Elder-in-Residence Joseph Naytowhow, who encouraged us to use laughter as a way to enter into relationship.

  1. Take responsibility. Pick a Call to Action and commit to it.

After Sinclair spoke, many people stood up in the lengthy line for the microphone to ask questions that sounded like: “…So what do we do?” to which he replied, “I just wrote a 5000-page report. What are you willing to do?” He urged us to read the report, or at least some of it:

He encouraged us to pick a Call to Action, to work to make it happen, and to never stop.

Sinclair used the metaphor of planting trees to describe the importance of starting to do this work and never stopping. We will not see reconciliation fulfilled in our lifetime; our kids may not see it fulfilled in theirs. But we need to start with planting seeds and teaching our children to water them so that their children might see the saplings and then their children might see the roots deepen, the trunk widen, and the branches fill out. We need to commit to this work for future generations.

We commit to Call to Action #62. We will teach about residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada. We will continually learn how to integrate and utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into our classrooms and we will provide opportunities to help our colleagues do the same.

The Choice

We’ve realized that instead of carrying the weight of undoing colonialism and achieving reconciliation, we need to start with planting seeds. Is planting the seeds enough? Not even close. But we have to start somewhere. And for us, it starts with the decision to commit to this work for the rest of our lives.

We will need help along the way to ensure we do not give in to our privilege, which will tempt us to apathy, to smugness, to being tourists rather than working towards witnessing. Will you challenge us when we set foot there?

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” -J.R.R. Tolkien.

This is life’s work, and we must choose it every day.

CRP & Teaching For Social Justice: New Understanding

Discuss how what you’ve learned link together to create a more socially just approach to education and instruction for students marginalized by the education system.

I am continuously re-evaluating my educational philosophy and shifting my perspectives surrounding social justice and anti-oppressive education. My experiences in ERDG 425 thus far have significantly impacted my overall understanding of culturally responsive pedagogy, as well as what CRP ‘looks like’ in a classroom setting. One of the most meaningful ‘realizations’ I have encountered surrounds student funds of knowledge with a focus on differences: “The rush to sameness can result in failure to draw upon student particular strengths and ways of knowing, disenfranchisement of students as active learners in the classroom, and in a lack of motivation to participate at all. Learning entails risk; risk depends on trust; and if students cannot trust that they are appreciate for who they are, they will be unlikely to take risks” (Farr & Trumbull, 1997, p. 16). Accessing and honoring students’ funds of knowledge allows us to structure learning around individual experiences – the lived curriculum. A pedagogical and relational focus on funds of knowledge allows us, as educators, to bridge the gap between home and school – developing interconnectedness, relationality, reciprocity and trusting relationships with students and families where dialogue and learning can occur (Gonzalez, Moll, Tenery, Rivera, Rendon, Gonzales & Amanti, 1995, p. 108). Rather than focusing on student deficits (what they do not know), we should be focusing on what they bring to the classroom – their funds of knowledge. When funds of knowledge are brought to school, they serve as social and intellectual resources for teaching and learning (Gonzalez, Moll, Tenery, Rivera, Rendon, Gonzales & Amanti, 1995, p. 108) – allowing for ample opportunities to honor and include multiple perspectives/narratives in the classroom.

As discussed in my previous responses, it is evident that I find severe discomfort amongst the institutional inequities prevalent in our education system. However by utilizing the nine principles of culturally responsive pedagogy (as described by Gloria Ladson-Billings, below), I truly believe that educators can challenge said inequities, thus providing all students with the educational experiences they deserve. I believe that the first step in disrupting the dominant narrative is recognizing the injustices some of our students are faced with on a daily basis at the hands of the education system: “Until the assumptions and practices that perpetuate inequities are recognized, only trivial progress can be made.” (Farr & Trumbull, 1997, p. 4). From there, we can use Ladson-Billings’ principles of CRP to critically reflect on our current practices and adapt our pedagogy to reflect equity.

Nine Principles of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (Gloria Ladson-Billings):

– Communication of high expectations

– Active teaching methods

– Teacher as facilitator

– Inclusion of culturally and linguistically diverse students

– Cultural sensitivity

– Reshaping the curriculum

– Student-controlled classroom discourse

– Small group instruction and academically related discourse

– Equality (Equity??) is not equal to sameness

As Fatima shared in our ERDG 425 lecture on January 12, 2016, in order to adapt our practices to reflect CRP, teachers need:

  • Sociocultural awareness: awareness and understanding of the impact of social, cultural, political and historical influences on learning and behavior (ideas of social justice).
  • Affirmative Attitude: understanding of the impact of teacher expectation, developing caring relationships, ongoing critical reflection, respect for student/family/community cultures, and commitment to issues of equity on teaching, learning, and behavior.
  • Collaborative Skills: need to be able to collaborate and problem solve with students, families, communities, and other professionals, and to understand their own areas of influence within the larger educational and social systems.
  • Pedagogy Diversity: teachers need specific knowledge and skills around culturally responsive instructional, accommodation/modification, management, assessment, and curricular strategies and resources. (Voltz, 2007)

Finally, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which one can shift their own perspectives, ultimately enabling them to develop socially just practice structured around Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Proceed carefully and gradually, develop a relationship with your students, work with your students’ funds of knowledge, learn with and alongside others, create an action plan, be prepared for doubt and anxiety (they are signs of change and growth), and share your work with others (Fatima Pirbhai-Illich, lecture, January 12, 2016).

I am currently thinking back to my ECS 210 course taken in the second year of my degree; I remember spending a lot time learning (and unlearning) alongside Kevin Kumashiro. Through this reflective process I came to understand the process of becoming an anti-oppressive educator is simply that – a process of becoming. Kumashiro reminds us that this is a process; an anti-oppressive educator is not something one can ever ‘be’ (2004). Rather, it is something that one is always working towards – through consistent learning, reflection and shifting of perspectives and practice (Kumashiro, 2004). I think that this same idea can be applied to culturally responsive pedagogy; every year, we will meet different students who bring different experiences to the classrooms. We will need to build relationships with them, access their funds of knowledge and learn alongside them. Most importantly, we will need to approach teaching and learning through a culturally-responsive lens – with equitable learning experiences for all students at the heart of our practice.

Discomforting Dynamics: Who Holds Power In The Classroom?

How does Ryan Gosling’s character raise awareness of power with his students? Who has power in classrooms? In what different ways can and do teachers and students enact power as individuals? In what ways is institutional power evident in classrooms?

The power of opposites – “two things that push against each other from opposite directions

I strongly connected with the way in which Ryan Gosling’s character in Half Nelson discussed the concept of ‘power’ with his students by referencing opposites – specifically, student and teacher – and the power ‘struggle/dynamic’ existing between the two parties. Allowing students to discuss and see themselves within the ‘machine’ (the institution of schooling) was a powerful entry point into the content. Students are continuously affected by power at the hands of the machine and as Gosling states, they “may be opposed to the machine, but are still very much a part of it”. I think that it is important for students to understand the hierarchical nature of our education system, as it is structured around a Westernized, dominant narrative. Additionally, I think it is important for students to understand the ways in which their educational experiences are affected/impacted (both positively and negatively) by the power exuded by the ‘machine’. Included within my teaching philosophy is the importance of empowering students to develop agency. Despite politics involved, I believe students should be able to advocate for their own learning; in order to do so, students need to understand the ways in which power is exuded/exchanged/enforced within schooling as an entire institution (as well as where they ‘fit’ within the ‘machine’). Gosling impeccably shares his interpretation of the tensions of power in education with his students, “Inhale/exhale – every time you do that, you are a little different than the time before – always changing. It is important to know there are changes you cannot always control, but there are others you can”.

There is a prevalent hierarchy of power within the institution of schooling – acting as its backbone, at times.Curriculum (government decides what is taught – which perspectives are included, which are left out), institution(hierarchy – director of education, superintendant, admin, teachers, students), resources (again, which perspectives are included, which are left out; certain schools having more/less access to quality resources), hiring (who are the teachers in our schools?) instruction (which students/learning styles are ‘catered to’), ‘achievement’/’success’ standards (graduation ceremony; competition), language (English), supports (allocation of funding) and assessment(standardized tests).  In most cases, support is allocated to cater to the ‘majority’ population of students, then the ‘others’ – and often, the ‘others’ do not receive support as resources are already allocated and exhausted by this point. Institutional power and inequity continues to widen the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’, while perpetuating a binary of dominance – who deserves the most support (Farr & Trumbull, 1997)? Every aspect of education is structured around the dominant (White) narrative/perspective – making learning possible for some (privilege), while impossible for others (oppression). It is troubling to know that our education system is so exclusive; students who do not ‘fit’ into the mould of dominance, often do not see their identity represented within schooling. As a result, existing inequities are often ‘perpetuated, if not multiplied’ (Farr & Trumbull, 1997).

Power dynamics exist between student and teacher; at times, it can be extremely difficult to navigate through such power relations. Teachers are often positioned as having ‘authority’ – ‘giver of knowledge’ – while students are often positioned as passive – ‘receivers of knowledge’. Teachers have a significant amount of power in the classroom: which instructional strategies they choose to explore, how learning experiences are structured (differentiated), what resources are used, how social/peer interactions are structured, the ways in which student learning will be assessed, how/if relationships are formed with students, and how/if ‘classroom culture’ is created/honored/fostered. HOWEVER, students hold power within the classroom, as well. It is so important for students to advocate for themselves and their learning – having agency is their right (in my opinion). Resistance (in many forms) is a way many students communicate power – if/when students feel discomforted/disrespected by the power relations existing within the classroom. I think that co-constructing learning experiences is an effective way to honor power held by both teachers and students – a collaborative process to learning whereby choice and agency exist. It is so important that we take the time to truly understand our students – build trusting relationships – and demonstrate our efforts towards relationality within the classroom. Such efforts include structuring learning, assessment and the classroom environment around the uniqueness of each student (differences) – accessing funds of knowledge and catering to individual learning needs, as the most effective way to reach (and teach) students.

An excerpt from a previous blog post I had written when contemplating power/privilege in the classroom (after our first ERDG 425 lecture) rings true here: This experience as an opportunity to think about power (and privilege) in relation the dynamics of the classroom and the influence of said dynamics on building relationships with students. Immediately, I started to reflect on the ways in which students are continuously oppressed by the education system – an institution entirely structured around the dominant narrative. The hegemony nurtured through the reproduction of oppressive resources, materials, spaces, and legislation is disturbing and despite change, it is still prevalent. Now, where do you think all of this positions educators in relation to power? Educators have the power to decide whose voices are included in the classroom and whose are left out (whether intentional or not). Without critical reflection, the dominant narratives continue to be reproduced and oppressive practices continue to exclude (other) certain students. When we then consider the importance of relationality in connection with learning, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate the dimensions/dynamics of power in the classroom – power influences the ways in which we discuss narratives, as “stories are defined by how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person” (Adichie, 2009). Whose stories are valued, and the attitudes towards such (de)appreciation, can significantly impact the formation and fostering of trusting relationships with (and amongst) students.

Brown Brother

In what ways does Joshua Iosefu demonstrate that his colour matters? How does he show the relationship between an individual’s life chances and the system that privileges some while oppressing others? Have you any examples of this from your own experiences in school – whether as a student or a teacher?

Joshua Iosefu used a powerful approach to address the concept of power and privilege (in relation to colour) using spoken word as an expressive avenue to access such an important message. He started off his speech by describing things that are brown: ‘bark on the palm tree, which supports my heritage’, ‘table, which my family sits and eats upon’, ‘the paper bag containing burgers and fries, which my people consume’, ‘mud on a rugby field, on which my people play’, ‘coat of the guitar, which my people strum’, ‘sugar, crust, grain, or nut – whatever ingredient you want to use to mix up and around’…’I am brown’. The way in which he describes his identity as viewed by society (and the identity ofhis people – however in reality, not homogenous) is solely structured around colour. He is brown; he does not describe himself beyond that. Society approaches human categorization based on a similar process; colour dictates one’s access to equitable opportunities in all aspects of life. As a result, any aspect of one’s identity beyond colour does not really matter – our society privileges some (White people) while oppresses others (everyone who is not categorized as ‘White’). Sadly, in our society colour does matter, especially in regards to access to opportunities (privilege). I was unaware of what white privilege entails until I entered university and was asked by one of my professors to ‘check my privilege’. I was extremely discomforted by such a statement – did I have privilege? If so, what did my privilege afford me? Little did I know at the time, I was so tightly bound up in my own privilege that I could not even see the ways in which my privilege afforded me a multiplicity of benefits. In my opinion, this is by far the most dangerous position one can be in (in relation to privilege) – deeply immersed in one’s own ‘bubble of white privilege’, benefiting from, enacting on, and perpetuating inequality at the hands of said privilege.

I feel as though some individuals (or groups of individuals) are ‘pushed’ onto a life path solely as a result of colour. Society (systematically and institutionally speaking) has lower ‘expectations’ for certain individuals based on colour. Assumptions are made about one’s ability to succeed, one’s motivation, based on – you guessed it – colour. We see examples of such systemic and institutional oppression prevalent in our society on a daily basis – from access to education/employment opportunities, resources (i.e., drinking water), and funding, etc. – racism (in many forms) is alive and thriving, today. One’s ‘life path’ is, inevitably, decided upon on their behalf at the hands of a system that privileges some and oppresses others. (Example: equitable access to education for children in Canada – funding and quality of school (i.e., structurally) is significantly different for ‘white’ children and FNMI children – why??…). When we think about the repercussions of ‘lowered expectations’ and tainted perceptions of ‘capability’ playing out in our classrooms, such inequity becomes increasingly problematic. I truly believe (as a result of past conversations had with colleagues) that some students are ‘labeled’ as a ‘problem’ before they even enter the classroom. I have heard people make comments about capability and motivation; I have witnessed lack of effort put into building relationships with students and their families because they ‘just do not care’ as much as other students/families do. Whether implicitly or explicitly stated, students are very aware of the expectations we hold for them. As a result, educators must put their own personal biases aside and provide every student with the equitable (authentic & meaningful, also!) learning experiences they deserve.

There were two quotes from Iosefu’s speech that struck me right at the core – I physically cringe (hurt) at how true, yet how heartbreaking his words are here.

1. Using soap, “trying to scrub away the fat I have added to the brown statistic”: Society oppresses those who do not fit into the ‘dominant’ (White) group – not just based on colour, but on sex, gender, class, religion, ability, etc., as well. I believe that Iosefu is referencing the societal ‘scoreboard’ with these words; meaning, if you are not white? That is one point against you. If you belong to any other ‘minority’ group (i.e., any of the ‘isms’ previously listed)? Add another point against you. Society, then, privileges those with the least amount of ‘points’ against them. Those ‘points’, then, act as barriers to achieve/access opportunities…sick, right? It is heartbreaking, not only that he references such a problematic ideal, but that he acknowledges the fact that he has been ‘set up to fail’ (based on the way power and privilege is afforded in society). Due to being ‘brown’, he is already starting out ‘behind’ his white counterparts – such injustice is why I struggle with the concept of ‘equality’. I often hear people say that the ‘fix’ our society needs is equality; however even if every individual is provided with equal opportunities, some are starting out ‘behind’ others due to colour, sex, gender, class, religion, ability, etc. – everyone, then, is not truly equal. (I believe in equity – everyone receiving what they need as an individual to thrive and be successful.)

2. “Will there ever be a time when representation means more than putting our people to shame? I am sick and tired of my people believing they belong at the bottom of the food chain”: The power behind these words is overwhelming for me; I truly believe that our society is its own catalyst of oppression and racism. As a result, individuals who fall victim to such oppression and racism often begin to see themselves through degrading lenses. They see themselves as nothing more than the stereotypes perpetuated about their people; they view success and opportunity as unattainable. Due to systemic and institutional oppression/racism, a vicious cycle has been created – how are individuals supposed to see themselves as anything other than ‘belonging at the bottom of the food chain’ when society continuously tells them that is all they are worth? Additionally, how can one challenge/break through systemic/institutional barriers when those who hold power provide no supports/prevent supports from being established? Yet, of utmost importance, Iosefu (powerfully) challenges this by encouraging his ‘brown brothers’ to not allow the barriers put in place by society prevent them from change – within and of mindset: “Brown brother, do not be afraid to be the first. The first to graduate, the first to climb, the first prime minister, or the first good wife. Brown brother, do not be afraid to be the change. Not in skin tone or colour, but a change in mindset. From one brown brother, to another.”

Throughout his spoken word, Iosefu shifts the conversation to stereotypes (single stories) of his people – people who are brown. I strongly resonated with his statements here, as I believe they accurately reflect the thought processes of many individuals who identify with the dominant (White) narrative. We continuously see single stories being constructed for (on behalf of) groups of people in our country – past and present. Who tells the story (power & privilege), from whose perspective it is told, and what is (intentionally) included/left out significantly affects the ‘message’ portrayed to those receiving said story – such as, ‘if we start with failure instead of colonialism, we have an entirely different story’. Colonization has played a significant role in constructing a single story of FNMI Peoples. As a result, individuals who ‘fit’ into that cultural category of identification are often ‘painted with the same brush’ – as a result, they (word used broadly) experience the negative repercussions (consequences – ‘robbing people of their dignity’) of the danger of a single story on a daily basis (reproduction of stereotypes, systemic & institutional racism/oppression). When discussing the dangers of a single story, Adichie states that “if you show a people as one thing, only one thing over and over again, and that is what they become.” As part of our responsibility as educators (and as human beings), we need to challenge/disrupt said single stories in our classrooms. Treaty is a part of who we are; Treaty is a part of who our students are. Treaty Education is mandated as part of our curriculum. “We are all Treaty People” – we need to honor the TRC’s Calls To Action, especially surrounding education.

 

Rejecting A Single Story.

Make a note of what thoughts the Chimamanda Adichie video raises for you while you watch it. In what ways does this affect how you think about culture and how we ‘read’ each other in intercultural conversations

Watching The Danger of a Single Story allowed me to critically reflect and make connections with emotions I was feeling during our first ERDG 425 class. Dr. Fran Martin asked us to complete a collaborative activity where we were required to ‘brainstorm’ aspects of a culture of our choice. This quickly led to feeling discomforted (for myself anyways), as I did not think it was appropriate to be making assumptions about (or placing stereotypes on) people/cultures we knew nothing about. It was problematic to say the least… yet our group continued; as the conversation progressed, our suggestions began to structure themselves around extreme stereotypes often portrayed by agents such as the media – thus, we were creating (or perpetuating) a single story. Laughter ensued, as we knew what we were creating was ridiculous. However, the fact that we were able to ‘laugh’ about the process we were undergoing (whether intentional or out of discomfort) speaks for itself – our power and privilege allowed us to position ourselves in ways that not only reproduce (absurd – in my opinion) stereotypes and perpetuate othering, but also allowed us to remain unaffected/unharmed by our destructive words/actions – a powerful realization.

Having the opportunity to be put in a position of intentional othering (via the brainstorming activity) led to powerful discussion surrounding culture. In her article entitled Thinking Differently About Difference, Dr. Martin challenges the way in which we view difference (specifically in relation to ‘culture’). Culture is often viewed and constructed from a Western perspective of ‘whiteness’ (object-based association of cultural identity reflective of ‘normality’); such a perspective positions those within the dominant group as holding power – ‘differences’ and ‘similarities’ are then dictated based on the values embodied by the dominant group. Therefore, similarities categorize individuals based on their ability to reflect the norm and differences are viewed as an inferior quality. However, Dr. Martin insists our focus should instead be structured towards relationality (Eastern perspective): “Understanding culture in this relational sense, as existing in the interaction between people, shows that culture is not something that is static; rather it changes, evolves and modifies itself as it is challenged by people from other cultural backgrounds (by difference). I would suggest that such a perspective would lead to a more open-minded and positive disposition towards difference” (2012). How we are able to relate to people is directly reflective of our personal connections with historical, cultural, social and political contexts – all of which influences one’s continuous process of becoming (Martin, 2012, p. 3). Our conversations were then shifted towards the concept of ‘difference’ as the focus for building connections with (and amongst) students while fostering the overall development of a positive classroom culture. Until recently, I was unaware of the importance/significance of a difference-focused approach to building connections in the classroom. I think that we often see ‘getting to know each other’ activities structured around similarities – ‘what do you have in common with each other’. I now understand how problematic and exclusionary/exclusive this can be and how students whose identities do not reflect the norm can be negatively affected by this – specifically in regards to their self-perception of ‘belonging’ within the classroom space/culture. When our focus is entirely on similarities, it creates a binary of dominant group/other, which is entirely problematic as it shifts focus away from individuality and frames culture/identity as autonomous.

Chimamanda Adichie’s video is powerful; she adds perspective to our understanding of ‘culture’ that is vital to our practice as classroom teachers. Throughout our lives, we become deeply immersed in our own experiences. Such immersion can create barriers (binary) to understand lived experiences different than our own. We often come to see our own experiences as ‘normal’, in turn viewing difference through an ‘us’ and ‘them’ lens (othering). As Andoretti explains in Some Thoughts About Culture, “fixed ideas of culture are connected to the binary ways of thinking that set things up as ‘either-or’ – like/unlike, us/them, same/different – in a way that it is not possible to be ‘both-and’, thus creating a distance between cultures…A relational logic…is proposed as an alternative way of understanding culture and identity that leads to a more open-minded, non-judgmental stance towards difference” (2011). How we relate to one another via intercultural conversations relies heavily on one’s ability to move beyond ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality and focus on relationality – developing a deeper understanding of self and others via relationships built upon difference. As a starting point, it is important that educators consider their own differences (through fostering self-awareness), and understanding about ‘difference’ in general, before we can begin this journey alongside our students. Additionally, understanding power (and privilege), how this plays out in the classroom and the effects this can have on student learning and building/fostering positive relationships is vital. Defining students (and difference) by a single characteristic is problematic, as it perpetuates homogenous narratives – as reflected in Chimamanda Adichie’s description of the danger of a single storyAs Dr. Martin explains, “Relational understanding challenges our single stories and, as such, suggests we listen, relate to and learn from multiple perspectives” (Martin, 2012, p. 8). Thus, inclusion of multiple perspectives in the classroom is imperative as it allows us to challenge intersectionalities amongst the concept of ‘difference’ within the various contexts/spaces in which we live. Ultimately, it requires us to think differently about difference.

Making assumptions about students based on a singular aspect of their identity is equivalent to creating a single story of who they are. When describing the negative effects a single story has had on her own identity construction, Adichie shares that “all of these experiences make me who I am, but to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me.” Educators need to ensure the use of diverse selection of resources/literature (of quality) used in the classroom (this includes providing equitable access to said resources for all students) – students will not develop single stories about certain identities/groups of people (assumptions). As Adichie describes, her access to literature as a child (“impressionable and vulnerable”) significantly impacts the ways in which she views the world (and more specifically, people who are different than her). Our classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse; it is our responsibility to ensure equitable access to quality learning experiences (and resources, including literature) reflective of each student’s individuality (narratives, funds of knowledge, etc.). Accessing student funds of knowledge allows us to authentically honour the vast amounts of experiences brought into the classroom – danger of a single story is to allow only one story to define the student, while discrediting the remaining vast amount of stories that contribute to the remaining vast amount of stories that contribute to their identity. Using funds of knowledge as a central focus to guide instruction, assessment and learning allows us to challenge existing/prevent future single stories from being perpetuated and nurture the growth of relational (shared) stories in our classrooms. Adichie asks, ‘What if we had a balance of stories?’ – because ‘stories matter, many stories matter’. Stories (narratives) empower people, humanize people, and can repair broken dignity felt at the hands of the danger of a single story. Adichie explains, beautifully: “When we reject the single story, we realize there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

 

(Note: The bolded portion of this question response is taken directly from previous writing on my blog.)

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy – A Starting Point

(As a component of the online learning in ERDG 425, we will be engaging in reflection and collaboration via forums and discussion prompts. Such an avenue for communication will allow me to navigate through my own thoughts surrounding culturally responsive pedagogy, while also participating in a process of reciprocal learning alongside my peers. To expand the collaborative network in which I outline my thoughts, questions and concerns, I plan to share said knowledge via blogging. Please feel free to comment, challenge, question, and invite further conversation surrounding my posts – I look forward to engaging in this content alongside all of you! ~ Meagan)

I started this semester in ERDG 425 optimistic about the personal growth I would experience throughout my time in the course; additionally, I felt excited as I knew the course work would challenge me deeply, while inspiring continuous critical thinking, analysis and reflection. Week one of our class is complete and I can already say that ‘wheels’ are turning…

The most important learning for me this week (‘big idea’) – ‘one size does not fit all’; honoring multiple perspectives, viewing the learning through more than just one lens. The following is a breakdown of some of my ideas/perspectives in relation to this week’s big idea.

I found it really interesting how teaching and learning were described using the analogy of ‘cultural filter’ in Teaching Tolerance’s video ‘Introduction to Culturally Relevant Teaching. Our entire education system as an institution (including curriculum) is structured around the dominant narrative. This presents a multitude of challenges/barriers to learning, especially when students do not fit into the ‘mould’ of the dominant group. This is increasingly problematic, as our classrooms are becoming progressively more diverse. I appreciated how the video placed the responsibility for a shift in efforts (pedagogy/perspective) on educators: rather than forcing students to adapt/change their ‘filters’, we must adapt/change the ways in which we are sending messages (teaching) our students (as reflective of their individualistic identity & learning styles/needs).

In my opinion, an integral aspect of culturally responsive pedagogy that we as educators must consistently consider is the individuality of each student. Every student brings an abundance of prior knowledge and experiences (including those intimately intertwined with culture) into the classroom; part of teaching in ways that are culturally responsive, then, is making connections between what is known and what needs to be taught – building off of their existing understanding of the world in which we live. However, I do think that it is vital for us to critically consider the ways in which we approach culture alongside our students; meaning, we cannot become stuck within a pan-culture framework whereby assumptions of students are made (thinking that they are ‘experts’ or ‘spokespeople’ for their entire cultural group) as this mindset is extremely problematic – students should be viewed as individualistic in a multiplicity of ways, including their cultural identity. Discussions surrounding race, culture and ethnicity, as well as the selection of diverse/authentic/effective resources/materials are effective strategies to shift perspectives away from pan-culture ideals and towards intercultural understanding.

I struggle with the concept of ‘teaching about cultures’; the concept of culture, yes, but specific cultures, no. I just do not know how to go about this (or if you even can) in a way that does not appropriate the cultures and the diversity within said cultures. I feel the most discomfort with teaching about culture in regards to power and privilege – I do not want to position myself within the classroom as the ‘expert’ on all cultures, as this is overtly oppressive, especially coming from a white, upper-middle class female. I think that the most effective way to approach this is by having individuals share their own personal narratives (i.e., from the community). However, we do need to be careful about this – having students in our classroom continuously talk about ‘their culture’ can position them in discomforting ways. Additionally, I think personal narratives/voices can be brought into the classroom through the use of authentic materials (lack of access to such resources can be a barrier to accessing the learning, though). Lastly, I think it is important to think about inclusion of perspectives, practices, etc. Rather than teaching directly about what a culture ensues (especially if one does not belong to that cultural group), our focus should moreso be aimed towards helping students view the world through multiple lenses/perspectives (i.e., sharing circle, inclusion of materials in multiple languages, discussion of social justice issues/current events, etc.).

I strongly resonated with the ways in which Gloria Ladson-Billings discussed approaches to culturally responsive pedagogy in her video Cultural Competency, specifically the importance of getting to know your students on a deeply connected and personal level. Before meaningful and authentic learning can take place, trusting and respectful relationships with students must first be established. Such relationships can only be formed if educators are willing to approach said relationships with an open mind – acknowledging the fact that students are unique (and understanding that not all students who belong to a specific cultural ‘group’ are the same). We can learn so much from our students; it was really interesting to hear Gloria Ladson-Billings discuss this process as ‘studying’ them, as this is how reciprocal learning can take place in the classroom. I think such an approach is really significant in shifting the power in the classroom space – rather than the teacher being positioned as the provider of knowledge and the students as receivers of knowledge, everyone is viewed as teachers and learners (teaching and learning, then, becomes relational and reciprocal; authentic and meaningful).

I genuinely connected with Ladson-Billings’ discussion of student potential; I believe that all students are capable of achieving success in their own individualistic ways. It is our job as educators to support them in such endeavors – including pushing them outside of their comfort zone (challenging them) and empowering them to take risks. Of equal importance is sharing with students the ways in which we view their potential – simple gestures to show we care, such as telling them we are proud of their efforts goes a long way! Finally, I really appreciated the ways in which collaboration was discussed – ‘there is more expertise distributed amongst the classroom than within one single student’. I think that this idea connects with the creation and nurturing of a positive classroom culture whereby multiple perspectives are honored – an integral aspect of authentically practicing culturally responsive pedagogy!

This week presented ample opportunities for me to start my learning (and unlearning) alongside culturally responsive pedagogy and what this practice looks like in the classroom. However, despite the small steps forward in my learning, I realized one thing: there is so much that I do not know about culturally responsive pedagogy. I think that one of the most powerful things about education is the opportunities made available for educators to reflect, grow (both personally and professionally), and actively engage in life-long learning. There will always be things we ‘do not know’ or ‘need to work on’; however, I am thankful for the opportunity to explore such thoughts alongside like-minded educators!

 

(**Note: portions of this post were previously posted via an online learning forum.)

 

 

 

‘Home Sweet Home’

Prior to tonight’s class, we were asked to spend some time reflecting on the concept of ‘place’ in relation to our childhood by considering the following prompt and creating a response via visual representation:

Think about a place from your childhood that was special to you. Feel yourself in that place. Look around – what do you see? What type of place is it? Is it indoors or outdoors? What things can you see there? Are there other people in this place? If so who are they and in what ways are you interacting with them? What are you / they doing? What are they / you saying? If you are not interacting with them why is that? If you are on your own why is that? What is it about this place that is memorable and special to you? What does it enable you to do, be like, that you value so much? Maybe it is somewhere you go to regularly. Maybe it is somewhere that you only went to once or twice but that stuck in your memory for some reason. Spend a minute now in that place in your imagination. Feel what it was / is like to be there.

I chose to represent my memory by depicting an image of the red couch previously owned by my grandparents. Growing up, I spent a lot of time visiting my grandma and grandpa; as a result, I have many fond memories of my time spent in their presence. My grandpa is no longer with us, but I maintain and cherish a very close relationship with my grandma – someone who has had an important influence on who I am today. I connect with my memory of the red couch mainly through emotional avenues, reminiscing on all of the laughs had in its presence and the feeling of comfort and security it continues to offer me. When I close my eyes to mentally and emotionally go back to that place, I can feel myself connection on a physical level also – I vividly remember the color, the texture and the smell of it. I am instantly happy, feeling a warm sensation rush throughout my body; tears of joy streaming down my face. It is incredible how significant a single place, a memory, can have on us. I started to reflect on why this place held such significance in regards to its impact on who I am today; I am still trying to figure this out, but I am starting to think that the answer lies within my funds of knowledge surrounding the culture of family and relationality. The relationships I built with my grandparents in this space has influenced the ways in which I continue to build and foster relationships amongst my friends and family. The significance of said relationships has, then, influenced the ways in which I interact with the students in my classroom. Building relationships is important to me; I hope to empower such a passion for connection within my students.

Red Couch

Red Couch – Grandma & Grandpa’s House

The next step in this reflective process was to connect with one another in small groups, sharing our images and the value/significance of our selected images. This was extremely powerful, as we were forced to be vulnerable while sharing – an important aspect of discussing difference. As a team, we then were to create a ‘shoebox’ (physical representation) reflective of our combined experiences – focusing on differences first, then making connections/finding similarities as a result of said differences. This process allowed us to further explore our special ‘place’, our identity and our funds of knowledge in both collaborative and individualistic ways. Throughout the activity, we were drawing on our funds of knowledge, sharing our funds of knowledge, and creating something that reflected all of our group members – a collaborative venture. Beginning with differences was interesting, as all three of our shared experiences were quite unique. Some of our experiences focused on private spaces, while others focused on social spaces. However, it was within these differences that we were able to start making connections and finding things that we had in common – from emotions felt in these spaces to shared elements of experience (i.e. concept of ‘home’). Our conversation was structured around the ways in which we could connect our differences through symbolism – building a broader, more personal sense of community within our group. The conversation had amongst our group was of utmost importance, as it allowed us to deepen our understanding of each others’ funds of knowledge.

shoebox

“Home Sweet Home”: Memories of reading in backyard tents, spending afternoons on big red couches and playing hockey in small town rinks – all of which ‘feels like home’.

This is a powerful learning experience to pursue alongside students of all ages as a way to build community and make connections, creating a positive classroom culture. The reflective process begins on an individual level, progresses to small group collaboration and results in inclusive discussion as an entire class. The initial focus on difference is significant here due to the copious amount of opportunities made available; when focus is first placed on similarities, difference becomes a deviation from the starting point and is rarely explored – learning becomes rigid, here. Additionally, this activity helps students to expand their understanding of ‘culture’ – not just tied to race and ethnicity, as both of these entities are merely social constructs. Rather, focus is shifted to various aspects of culture prevalent in our daily lives (i.e., culture of athletics, culture of family, etc.) and the experiences such aspects afford us (i.e., co-operative skills, love, etc.). Finally, it is important to consider the roles of the teacher and learner within this experience – all individuals (teacher and students) are positioned as learners. Without fixed notions of ‘roles’ within teaching and learning alongside this activity, choice and creativity are able to flourish as students use multi-modal forms of literacy to create!

 

Thinking Differently About Difference

Over the course of the past week, our class has had the opportunity to learn alongside Dr. Fran Martin – Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Exer. Dr. Martin brought a fresh perspective into the classroom, specifically surrounding shifting the conversations we have about ‘differences’.

To engage us in critical thinking around core concepts related to understanding culturally responsive pedagogy (culture, othering, power, privilege, stereotypes, etc.), Dr. Martin asked us to complete a collaborative activity where we were required to ‘brainstorm’ aspects of a culture of our choice. This quickly led to feeling discomforted (for myself anyways), as I did not think it was appropriate to be making assumptions about (or placing stereotypes on) people/cultures we knew nothing about. It was problematic to say the least… our group continued; as the conversation progressed, our suggestions began to structure themselves around extreme stereotypes often portrayed by agents such as the media. Laughter ensued, as we knew what we were creating was ridiculous (see for yourself, as pictured below). However, the fact that we were able to ‘laugh’ about the process we were undergoing (whether intentional or out of discomfort) speaks for itself – our power and privilege allowed us to position ourselves in ways that not only reproduce (absurd – IMO) stereotypes and perpetuate othering, but also allowed us to remain unaffected/unharmed by our destructive words/actions. A powerful realization.

mexico

For myself, this experience was about more than merely dissecting the stereotypes continuously reproduced by our society (as reflected in each group’s mind map). I saw this experience as an opportunity to think about power (and privilege) in relation the dynamics of the classroom and the influence of said dynamics on building relationships with students. Immediately, I started to reflect on the ways in which students are continuously oppressed by the education system – an institution entirely structured around the dominant narrative. The hegemony nurtured through the reproduction of oppressive resources, materials, spaces, and legislation is disturbing and despite change, it is still prevalent. Now, where do you think all of this positions educators in relation to power? Educators have the power to decide whose voices are included in the classroom and whose are left out (whether intentional or not). Without critical reflection, the dominant narratives continue to be reproduced and oppressive practices continue to exclude (other) certain students. When we then consider the importance of relationality in connection with learning, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate the dimensions/dynamics of power in the classroom – power influences the ways in which we discuss narratives, as “stories are defined by how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person” (Adichie, 2009). Whose stories are valued, and the attitudes towards such (de)appreciation, can significantly impact the formation and fostering of trusting relationships with (and amongst) students.

Having the opportunity to be put in a position of intentional othering led to powerful discussion surrounding culture. In her article entitled Thinking Differently About Difference, Dr. Martin challenges the way in which we view difference (specifically in relation to ‘culture’). Culture is often viewed and constructed from a Western perspective of ‘whiteness’ (object-based association of cultural identity reflective of ‘normality’); such a perspective positions those within the dominant group as holding power – ‘differences’ and ‘similarities’ are then dictated based on the values embodied by the dominant group. Therefore, similarities categorize individuals based on their ability to reflect the norm and differences are viewed as an inferior quality. However, Dr. Martin insists our focus should instead be structured towards relationality (Eastern perspective): “Understanding culture in this relational sense, as existing in the interaction between people, shows that culture is not something that is static; rather it changes, evolves and modifies itself as it is challenged by people from other cultural backgrounds (by difference). I would suggest that such a perspective would lead to a more open-minded and positive disposition towards difference” (2012). How we are able to relate to people is directly reflective of our personal connections with historical, cultural, social and political contexts – all of which influences one’s continuous process of becoming (Martin, 2012, p. 3).

Our conversations were then shifted towards the concept of ‘difference’ as the focus for building connections with (and amongst) students while fostering the overall development of a positive classroom culture. Until recently, I was unaware of the importance/significance of a difference-focused approach to building connections in the classroom. I think that we often see ‘getting to know each other’ activities structured around similarities – ‘what do you have in common with each other’. I now understand how problematic and exclusionary/exclusive this can be and how students whose identities do not reflect the norm can be negatively affected by this – specifically in regards to their self-perception of ‘belonging’ within the classroom space/culture. When our focus is entirely on similarities, it creates a binary of dominant group/other, which is entirely problematic as it shifts focus away from individuality and frames culture/identity as autonomous.

As a starting point, it is important that educators consider their own differences (through fostering self-awareness), and understanding about ‘difference’ in general, before we can begin this journey alongside our students. Additionally, understanding power (and privilege), how this plays out in the classroom and the effects this can have on student learning and building/fostering positive relationships is vital. Defining students (and difference) by a single characteristic is problematic, as it perpetuates homogenous narratives – as reflected in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s description of the danger of a single storyAs Dr. Martin explains, “Relational understanding challenges our single stories and, as such, suggests we listen, relate to and learn from multiple perspectives” (Martin, 2012, p. 8). Thus, inclusion of multiple perspectives in the classroom is imperative as it allows us to challenge intersectionalities amongst the concept of ‘difference’ within the various contexts/spaces in which we live. Ultimately, it requires us to think differently about difference.

 

Martin, F. (2012). Thinking differently about difference. London, ENG: Think Global.