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.