“Decolonize the hearts and minds of our neighbours, our friends, our family members…”

I found Pam Palmater’s discussion quite interesting. I found her speech to be quite direct, and enjoyed that she was straight forward with what she was trying to say. I found it interesting when she explained that truth needs to happen before reconciliation can happen. I was stunned by the statistics that Palmater shared. I was at a loss of words when Palmater stated that that Indigenous Women were seven times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. This was hard to swallow, as I think of my Indigenous females I see at school everyday. This is a risk they face, just because of their culture.

 

When linking Palmater’s discussion to the Principles, I am drawn to Principle 6 – “Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians”. I think this is key in order to move forward. As Palmater stated in her speech, we need to “decolonize the hearts and minds of our neighbours, our friends, our family members…” (40:40). I believe that in order to create a more equitable and inclusive society, we first need to make sure that everyone sees the disadvantages Indigenous peoples face when it comes to social, physical, and mental well being. It is crucial that everyone confronts these disadvantages, head on. Palmater also states that, “Indigenous people shouldn’t carry the burden of educating everybody. There is a role for our allies to play” (41:38). When I think of my role in a diverse school, I think of how important this principle is. Our students hit every socioeconomic status, and come from almost every type of family imaginable. No two students are walking the same path. Therefore, I think it’s important we make all young people aware of the inequities our peers face on a daily basis, while still keeping the integrity of these people. 

 

Next year, our staff is starting an initiative called Following Their Voices. Although it is still in the beginning phase, and I am unclear of what that will look like, I’m already aware of how this program will affect my teaching. For example, some of the research this program is based off of shows that Indigenous students feel their teachers hold them to a lesser standard than their non-Indigenous peers. Hearing that students within Saskatchewan feel that way has challenged how I operate within my classroom. I already find myself aware of how much time I spend with each student, and that I provide as much one-on-one time with each student as possible. Although this is simple in theory, I find myself being pulled to the more vocal students. It is the student’s that ask for help, or have parents that advocate for their child, that sometimes take up more of my time. Since we looked at the Following their Voices research, I’m challenging myself to spend less time with those students, and more time with the more reserved students. I hope that by in doing so, these quieter students feel that my expectations are the same for them as they are for everyone else in my room.

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When you know your why…

This is one of my favourite videos around. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it.

  1. The man in the video can seriously sing!
  2. Michael Jr’s message I think is so important. When people know why they are doing something – whether it’s a job, school, to help someone, etc. – they’ll typically do it with more purpose and intent. I find this especially true when working with students on Math… If they can see how the Math concepts will help them in the real world, most of them are more likely to be successful.

How can the Blanket Exercise lead to Miskâsowin and Tâpwêwin?

Now that I know there is some Irish in my family, I find myself a little more intrigued in Irish culture. As I mentioned last week, growing up with no sense of culture didn’t really bother me until lately. I always thought it was cool how my friends celebrated Ukrainian Christmas, or were Scottish dancers outside of school. However, I didn’t really realize until the past couple of years what it really means to have that sense of culture. When I talk to my parents about this, they both said they didn’t grow up with any cultural traditions. Other than my one grandma saying her grandmother had a bit of an Irish accent, it doesn’t sound like any of my grandparents were involved in their culture.

Teaching at a diverse school, I constantly see my students practicing their cultural traditions. Walking around my school building, one can see girls walking around in traditional Ethiopian dresses, Drum Group and Bustle making happening in the Community Room, or boys playing Cricket out on the front lawn. I find it amazing how students from all corners of the Earth can all practice their cultural traditions at the same time in one building. I see students who strongly identify to cultures or religions, and how important that connection is to them. Seeing and hearing this from the students has inspired me to explore Irish cultural practices.

One tradition my family has is Sunday Suppers every other month. On one Sunday every two months, we all get together, make delicious food, and visit. My family is full of amazing cooks, so we use the creations of the cooks as an excuse to catch up with one another, while eating some amazing food. Since cooking is something that I enjoy doing, I plan to start with looking at traditional Irish foods. I’ll not only just go straight for recipes, but look at how meals are prepared, and what specific meals are prepared for particular events.

When reflecting on the Blanket Exercise, I left class feeling quite heavy. I’m a visual and kinaesthetic learner. Therefore, I found Blanket Exercise extremely impactful. It seemed that I knew about a good amount of the historical events that were discussed. However, the visual component of the blankets, the removal of the babies, and the relocation of my classmates was something I found quite moving. I found it hard to imagine how the land of Indigenous peoples was taken over so fast.

The day following the Blanket Exercise, I discussed my experience with the Social Studies teacher at my school. I expressed my concerns about what this would look like in a high school setting. We had a good conversation about how this exercise can help visual and kinaesthetic learners understand the trauma Indigenous peoples have faced. I mentioned that I was worried how students would react – would certain students be immature or take it as a game? She mentioned that she had done this activity with her University students and was quite upset with how it turned out. That really bothered me – how can the people who are supposed to educate our youth act so light hearted during an exercise like this? If they don’t see our history as serious and impactful, how will they not only help future generations understand the severity of our history, but also help these young people act? In order for current and future generations to be appropriately educated on Canadian history, we need to ensure that we as educators are sending the right messages, and supporting Indigenous peoples on the journey to reconciliation.  

I think the Blanket Exercise can help with tâpwêwin, as it recounted many historical events students learn about in high school. As previously stated, I think the simulation aspect of the Blanket Exercise can help students further understand the traumatic events that Indigenous families have gone through. I think this exercise can also help students of all cultures “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. I hope the events and emotions felt during this activity would help people understand what Indigenous peoples would have felt like during these real events from the past. Furthermore, I think the Blanket Exercise could leave students with further questions and inquiries regarding Canada’s history, which could open up a whole new opportunity for learning.

Miskâsowin – Who am I?

I have to admit, I quite enjoyed learning where I really am from. I had a good feeling my ancestors came from the UK. However, I didn’t know much more than that. By asking my grandmas, they both had to think long and hard. Our discussion turned into more than “grandma, where are you from?” Both shared stories of their childhood, or stories that their parents or grandparents shared with them. What I learned from both of them is that there isn’t much more to my heritage than British, with hints of Irish. My maternal grandparents were both born in Saskatchewan. My grandma is sure that her dad was born in Ontario, while her mom was born in Chicago. When I asked where their parents were born, she was stumped. “Somewhere overseas. Wales maybe”. When discussing with my paternal grandmother, she seemed to know a bit more. Most of her grandparents ancestors came from England, while her maternal grandmother came from Ireland. She’s not exactly sure where, but she remembers listening to them tell stories about ‘back home’. When thinking of my grandpa’s side of the family, I reflect on a family tree that was made roughly 10 years ago. This family tree has my families lineage starting back in 1698 all the way up until 1997. It is mind boggling to me to think about the last 300 years of my family. It was neat to see how the Hipperson name started as Hypperson. I also enjoyed seeing that the middle names Kemp and Ellen go back many, many generations. My brother’s middle name is Kemp, while my sister’s is Ellen. I just always assumed, “those are just traditional names in the Hipperson lineage”. I didn’t think about how far back both those names went. When looking at the tree, I can see that my grandpa’s grandparents came over from Norwich, England. Thomas Hypperson, who started the family tree back in 1698 was born in Norfolk, England. It’s safe to say that Hippersons are quite British!

My heritage has had little impact on my life so far. It hasn’t affected the holidays I celebrate, the religion I practice, or cultural ceremonies I partake in. It seems those cultural traditions were lost when my grandparents or parents were children. Although I don’t feel lost without a strong sense of culture, I am often curious about those who have strong cultural beliefs in their lives. Whether it’s specific holidays, certain religions, or traditional dances, these are things I watched my friends grow up with, while I never felt that strong connection to my heritage.

When thinking about how my heritage fits into Treaties, I’m unsure of what that looks like for me. Are my ancestors responsible for the makings of these treaties? Although they may not have been directly responsible for the creation of these treaties, some of them were part of Canada during a time that these treaties were made. I guess I have assumed that because I don’t identify as a First Nations, Inuit, or Metis person that the treaties don’t really have an effect on my life. However, when talking to my students about how the Treaties affect their lives, I start to get a better understanding of how these treaties impact the lives of everyone.

When I think of who I am and the social positions I have, the first identifiers that come to mind are: I am female, I am white, I am straight, I am middle class. Admittedly, it wasn’t until I started my pre-internship at a very diverse high school in Regina that I really understood the privileges that come with the majority of my labels. I was seeing students of many different cultures who worked 12-hour shifts after school to provide for their family. I worked with other students who shared their worries of “coming out of the closet”. I didn’t fully understand until I worked with these students that the labels I had gave me advantages I didn’t really realize. Not once did I have to worry what people would think of my based off the colour of my skin or my sexual orientation. Fast forward to the past couple of school years. I see students that are completely unaware of the privileges these labels place on them. I often think, “Wow. Was I this blind?” This year has been filled with tension among races in our school building. It always seems to be the students who are perceived as privileged that have the hardest time accepting minority races. It seems that no matter what we as a staff do to celebrate diversity and recognize different cultures, we’re are faced with some sort of resistance. Having said that, our Diversity Week Celebrations always remind me how important people’s culture is to them. It is always an eye opener for our students to see how diverse our building is. For a building of roughly 600 students, we have over 40 countries represented! When we put all the countries on a map, some of my students were shocked at the different groups we have in our building, and how we all came to be here. These visual representations are a good reminder that it is worth celebrating who we are, and where we came from.

10-Day Countdown… :(

As tomorrow marks the 10-day countdown until Winter Holidays, it also marks the 10-day countdown until internship is complete.  To say the least, I’m feeling quite scared about the whole thing.  I know I learned so much and grew since the beginning of September, but I’m still shocked at the fact that I will be a certified teacher in four months!

As I put the final touches on my professional portfolio, I look back at all the fun I had over the past four months.  There were definitely struggles, but I am proud of the work I have done since the beginning of the year.  People always say that it goes by fast, but never would I have thought this fast!

I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks.  Tomorrow I get to go back to my Health 9 class as we move onto Mental Illness, Tragic Death, and Suicide.  Though this is a tough unit to get excited about, I think the teacher and I are setting it up in a way that it won’t be a dry or saddening unit.  This unit is full of guest speakers, and our very first Learning Agreement that we made together (a copy to come when it is completed)!  Tomorrow, we have the guidance counsellor coming to share his knowledge on these topics, and help students identify warning signs and strategies for someone who is coping with a tragic death or suicide.  A few days later, we have the two founders of Understand Us coming to talk to us about mental illness, why they think it is important to discuss, and how their organization is helping people with mental illnesses.  Just as our inquiry projects begin, we’re having the Kids Help Phone in to talk about how they can benefit someone who is suffering from depression, as well as many other challenges our students may be facing.  I really hope the students get as much as they can from this unit so that they know how to appropriately create awareness for these topics in the future.

This weekend also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Balfour Classic!  As the assistant coach of the Jr. Girls basketball team, I am so excited to be part of this tournament.  I remember playing in this tournament when I was in high school, and often think back on what a blast it was.  Since this year marks the 25th Anniversary, we have some “extra’s” going on throughout the weekend as well!

I am so grateful to be helping out with the Jr. Girls basketball team.  This group of girls are so much fun to work with, and I feel connected to Balfour in a whole new way.  I’m enjoying getting to know students I’ve never met before, or getting to know students I have taught a bit better.  Talking with my co-op the other day, we were talking about how nice it is that basketball season runs until the middle of March.  It will give me another reason to keep coming back to Balfour and feeling like I’m still connected to the school.

Here is to hoping the next 10 days don’t go by too fast!

Only 5 weeks left?!

First off, let me say – oh my goodness, I cannot believe there are only five weeks left of internship! People always say that it goes by fast, but never would I have thought it would go this fast.

I have had the opportunity to spend the last two weeks in the “Making Connections Everywhere” (MCE) classroom. This room’s focus is to keep at-risk youth at school. This room is made up of 47 students in grades 10 and 11. Although there are 47 students enrolled, there was usually about 20 students a day that showed up. It was really interesting to see how these two teachers in the program were working together to ensure these students succeeded.

When I was there, we spent a lot of time working on math. The good thing about this math was that students worked from booklets, so no one was behind/ missing a lot of instruction when they did come to class. It was also nice to see math that they called real-world math. We were working on grocery shopping on a budget, finding the best deals while shopping, and converting pounds of apples into kilograms. I thought at how good this would be for other students too – math that actually makes sense in their lives.

I have to admit, the first two or three days in MCE I felt a little useless. I found these students very reluctant to talk to me or work with me. After hearing bits about their lives, I quickly realized how hard it would be to trust someone new in their lives, especially an intern who they’ve never seen before. It wasn’t until the fourth day when we had a substitute teacher that the students actually talked to me. For once, they asked for help! I thought it was a huge step that some were starting to trust me and interact with me. It also helped that I have a brother similar in age who also listened to 2 Chainz. As soon as I started singing along to one of his songs that the kids were playing, some finally started to work with me.

This classroom was so much fun. I instantly noticed how relaxed the environment was compared to a regular classroom. The students were treated as young adults, and the teacher was super real with them. I’m not saying that this shouldn’t be the case in regular classes, I just felt that the kids seemed more comfortable and relaxed in this space.

I can really see myself working in a class like this in the future. I think it’d be fun to find neat ways to tie their interests to the curriculum. For example, for ELA they just finished analyzing Tupac’s lyrics, then had to write their own poetry. How much fun would that be?!

Tomorrow I start in the Shirley Schneider Support Centre. The SSSC is an program at Balfour for females who are pregnant or are already young mothers. I’m planning on spending the next week there, learning how teachers in there are tying the curriculum to things relevant to these young women, such as prenatal health. I can’t wait to see what goes on!

On a sport note, basketball season has officially started!! I could not be more excited to be in the gym assistant coaching an awesome group of girls. I think the head coach and I are going to have a great time, and hopefully the Jr. Girls feel the same way.

And so it continues…

As my three-week block is coming to an end (early next week) I’m finally starting to feel like a real teacher.  I’m finding myself busy and slightly stressed, but not stressed enough to panic.  I don’t mind the stress, because from what I hear, that’s normal during my 3-week block.  My two health classes have been quite an experience.  There are tons of challenges and interesting behaviours that I have come across over the past month, and I’m learning so much from these two groups of students.  My cooperating teacher and I were talking about it one day, as I felt deflated and like I wasn’t getting through.  She brought up a good point – I’m lucky I’m experiencing these challenges now with so many support people around me, as opposed to when I get a job and am teaching on my own.  It made me feel more comfortable and confident in what I was doing.

My grade nine tutorial class is my favourite hour of the day.  These 10 students are such a great group of kids and everyday I feel like I’m getting to know them better and better.  Though some days I have my struggles with some of them, most days are a lot of fun and I really enjoy it.  Eight of my ten tutorial students are also in one of my health classes, so I see most of them for another hour each day.  I’ve realized that by having these specific students in mind when planning my lessons, I have become more adaptive in my lessons.  For some reason, I almost feel defensive about these kids, and want to make sure they are getting what they need to be successful.  As it turns out, there are quite a few others who need the same supports, so most of my students are also benefitting.

My health classes are filled with quite a few defiant students.  I’m still trying to figure out how I can help them be successful.  I have to admit, I find it a little frustrating when someone is fully capable to do the work, he/she just refuses to work on it, then refuses to give suggestions as to how they would like to learn.  I think coming from the Learning Resource program, I find myself constantly trying to figure out what works for them, where some teachers may have already started to let things slide.

3-way conferences are coming up next week, and I’m looking forward to meeting the guardians of my tutorial kids.  I’ve exchanged e-mails with most of the parents, but it will be nice to finally meet them face-to-face and talk about how their son/daughter is doing so far in grade nine.

Man oh man, who knew this job came with so many meetings and e-mails?!  I feel like any extra energy I have throughout the day is donated to responding to e-mails or planning/attending meetings with other staff members!  Having said that, the many meetings in the past month have been quite beneficial!  I learned how to collaborate effectively, make semester/year long plans, and have been exposed to numerous ways of helping struggling students.