Monday, 15 December 2014

Blog Week 8: What I Have Learned

One hope that you have when you think about working with children and families who come from diverse backgrounds (any format and any length)
I hope, and it is my conviction that I will do all that I can do in order to ensure that all children and families within my care and classroom feel as though they are respected, seen and valued. I want to ensure that I create partnerships with families so that together we can meet the needs of every child.

One goal you would like to set for the early childhood field related to issues of diversity, equity, and social justice (any format and any length)
As a result of the learning I have gained from the past eight weeks of this course and through my learning within this program in its entirety, I understand and appreciate the need to teach diversity and anti-biased education in a more profound way than ever before. A goal that I have and maintain is the desire to develop a deeper awareness of issues that involve diversity. As I mentioned in my discussion post this week, a goal that I have for myself is to remain current and knowledgeable through professional development and my own study. In my first diversity course, I reflected and realized that to me, culture was based solely on a person’s race. I have discovered and now have a deeper understanding that diversity encompasses much more.
A brief note of thanks to your colleagues
I want to thank you all for a great eight weeks of learning and professional growth. I wish you all much success in all of your future endeavors, and hope that our paths cross again. Thanks!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Blog Week 7: Start Seeing Diversity- Creating Art

My “art” this week was inspired by John Lennon’s song Imagine. I used photos and clipart that to me, convey the meaning and importance of diversity and anti-bias education.
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

-“Imagine” by John Lennon

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Blog Post Week 6: "We Don't Say Those Words in Class!"

A time when you witnessed an adult (or yourself) reprimand or silence a child after he or she pointed out someone they saw as different (e.g., "That lady talks funny," " That man only has one leg!" "Why is that man so pretty!"). Include what the child said and what the adult did or said in response. (Note: If you cannot think of a specific time ask a friend or family member.)
                A few years ago my friend and I took her daughter (six years old) to the Mall of America in Minneapolis during a long weekend. Coming from a smaller city center she was rarely exposed to different ethnicities and cultural diversity. A group of Indian woman wearing bindis walked by and she asked us “What’s wrong with their heads”? Her mom hushed her to be quiet and no conversation took place afterwards.
What messages might have been communicated to this child by the adult's response
                I believe that several messages could have been communicated and misconstrued as a result of my friend’s response. First, she was shamed about asking a question about people who are different from her. “Young children need caring adults to help them construct a positive sense of self and a respectful understanding of others. They need adults to help them begin to navigate and resist the harmful impact of prejudice and discrimination (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.11). Secondly, not answering her question made it seem like associating with people different from her is bad or inappropriate. “Learning about culture and fairness involves two dimensions: children’s development pf a positive cultural identity, and their comfortable, respectful interaction with the cultures of others” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 55).
An example of how an anti-bias educator might have responded to support the child's (or classroom’s) understanding.
                I think that the situation could have been better handled if my friend just explained the culture of the group she asked about. She could have also explained to daughter that curiosity and questions are normal and encouraged but that she should ask more discretely.
“What children, ask, say, or do about any aspect of their own or others’ identities and differences are the wonderful “teachable moments” of anti-bias education. How you respond to these opportunities is a central part of effective teaching with young children. When children make comments that reflect discomfort, stereotypes, or rejection of an aspect of diversity, they may stir up your own hurt or anger about prejudice and discrimination” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.32)


Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Blog Week 3: Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation

Gender, gender identity and sexual orientation are very complex topics and diverse experiences related to them are crucial to a child’s healthy development. “Gender is the first core identity that gets young children’s attention. It develops very early: By age 2, children begin to describe themselves as boys or girls, although they are not yet sure what that means” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.90).

Children are growing up in a world full of contradicting ideas. They are taught that all people are created equal and therefore should be treated as equals and yet they live in a world in which this is definitely not the case. It is important that diversity is discussed and explained in the classroom therefore I want to ensure that I am prepared to do so in a way that it is honest, just and ethical. I want to provide an environment that is safe and understanding and teaches diversity in a way that is rich and meaningful to my young students. As a teacher I hear often, “You can’t play at this center, this game is for boys” or “I don’t want a pink sticker they’re for girls”. I want to ensure that I am taking the time to address and talk about these assumptions openly with my students in a way that feels safe and secure. I really appreciated the way in which the media segment portrayed the teachers asking the children questions about their thoughts. “Why do you think girls cannot be doctor’s?” or “Has anyone ever seen a female doctor?” I also loved the way that the children were always part of the learning process. They were not just told, “Girls can be doctors too”- the learning came from them collaboratively. They even went out into the community so that the children could see for themselves that gender roles are not only linked to what they perceive. One boy even caught himself using a stereotype which showed his ability to reflect and realize that his thinking was incorrect (Laureate Education, n.d.).

The classroom activity outlined in this week’s gender media segment showcased the stereotypical thinking children exhibit about gender at a very early age (Laureate Education, n.d.). I also really liked the reflection piece that the media representation brought into perspective as well. “Are we more likely to view boys work as important?” It is important to instill diverse learning experiences for the children in our care and to provide anti-bias education to all students. This therefore means that as educators, it is our responsibility to reflect on our actions and unconscious biases so that they are not impeding our judgement and the development of the children in our care.
Much like Tina’s experience in using racial slurs unintentionally and without recognition, so many people today use the term “that’s so gay” without even realizing the meaning and connotation strung behind it. It has become so common place that people say it negatively without remorse or thought. We need to teach children that words can hurt and even they hurt unintentionally they still have a huge impact and often consequence. It is important for all children to see their culture in their classroom. “…when children’s life experiences are invisible, and they hear and see negative, stereotypical, or untrue representations of their lives, shame, confusion, and low self-esteem will likely result (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.123).


Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Learning from Another's Life Story. (n.d.).  Tina. Retrieved from:

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Start seeing diversity: Gender [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Start seeing diversity: Sexual orientation [Video file]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Communicating and Collaborating in the Early Childhood Field

Hello Dear Colleagues! 

Week 8 is upon us and we are preparing to complete yet another course. I am so grateful for the learning and collaboration that has yet again taken place throughout the discussions and blog responses over the past eight weeks of this course. I have learned a lot about effective communication strategies and methods for successful collaboration that I will continue to use in both my professional and personal relationships. It is amazing to look back at where we began and how far we have come. Many of you have been in many of my courses and I am amazed at the learning that has taken place alongside all of you. 

Thank you all very much for another eight weeks of learning, growing and collaborating! I look forward to another course full of professional growth and am even more excited that the light at the end of the tunnel is fast approaching!


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Blog Week 6 Team Building- The Adjourning Phase

At all of the meetings I have participated in within the education field, the adjourning phase usually consists of summing up and restating what was covered during the meeting and also confirms the date for the next meeting or session if applicable. At times, we have also discussed what was not yet addressed and that it will be part of the agenda at the next date. Depending on the sort of meeting, at times “minutes” are recorded by a designated person and these are also looked over and made available to other staff members and committees. When staff members retire, have completed their contract or are moving to another location, often a party takes place to celebrate and say goodbye. We often have speeches, give a gift, and take some time to mingle and reminisce about the year.

When teams are adjourning that will continue to see one another, for example, during summer vacation a smaller celebration often takes place. We usually have an end of year BBQ at my school so that parents, students and staff members alike can get together. We also have a staff golf tournament and potluck at the end of each school year where we celebrate the year and take time to adjourn for the summer. At this event, our school principal often thanks teachers and staff members for their contributions and achievements throughout the year. This includes academic achievement results (test score results) and coaching and extracurricular efforts. Our principal also gives out recognition to staff for years of service with the school Board. I believe that adjourning is an important phase for team building because it allows all staff members time to either celebrate successes, say farewells or reflect on what was achieved and what we are still working towards.  

With regards to adjourning from the group of colleagues I have come to meet and collaborate with during my Master’s Degree, I hope that I will stay in contact with many of the professionals I have met along this journey. After every course we have made a point to thank those who have really helped us grow and who have impacted our learning in responses in our blog responses. I would love to extend an invitation to my colleagues to continue to communicate, share ideas and ask questions within our experiences as early childhood educators.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Blog Week 5- Resolving Conflict with Communication Strategies

I am currently in the role of assistant coach for the girls’ basketball team at my school. The other coach and I have very different ideas about coaching and our styles do not jive. I am a very linear thinker and need to have things planned out and organized in order to feel comfortable while the other coach is able to do things with less structure and organization. As I mentioned previously in this course, I am a person who does not like confrontation and as a result, sometimes I shy away from voicing my opinion.  

In order to confront this situation in a way that would remain positive and would achieve my overall goals I looked to both the 3 R’s and the principles of nonviolent communication in order resolve this conflict. As stated in Corso’s text, healthy relationships are created through respect and open communication they “…do not come automatically but are instead built over a period of time through respectful, reciprocal, and responsive interactions” (Corso, 2007). I believe that for this very reason I should plan out what I want to say so that it remains respectful and does not seem like a personal attack. I also need to ensure that I after I present my opinion in a way that is constructive, respectful and concise, that I ensure that I take the time to listen to his ideas and opinions as well. This means really listening to his ideas and not just formulating a rebuttal during our discussion. O' Hair, D., & Wiemann, M. (2012) explain these two forms of listening as “monopolistic listening” under the category of selfish listening. I need to be sure that I am prepared to listen to and consider my co-worker’s ideas and opinions in this situation in order to solve this problem. The final strategy I learned about from this week’s readings that I can put into place in this situation is to state what I want in a way that is clear, rather than what I do not want (The Center for Nonviolent Communication, n.d.). Finally, I believe that it is important to give someone notice that I would like to speak to him one on one at his convenience. That way he can choose a time and place that is convenient for him and does not feel like his back is up against the wall.


Corso, R. M. (2007). Practices for enhancing children's social-emotional development and preventing challenging behavior. Gifted Child Today, 30(3), 51–56. Retrieved from

O' Hair, D., & Wiemann, M. (2012). Real communication. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication. (n.d.). The center for nonviolent communication. Retrieved from

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Week 4 Blog : Who Am I As a Communicator?

This week I learned that I often have a very different communication style with work colleagues in comparison to the way I communicate with my friends and family. For the purpose of this week’s task I asked my boyfriend and one of my work colleagues to evaluate my anxiety level during communication, my verbal assertiveness level as well as my listening skills. I was a little bit sad to note that often the strategies I put in place to be an effective communicator and listener in my workplace, I do not use in my own home.
Several of the test questions are directed at formal contexts (small group meetings, time management etc.) so I believe that these questions changed the context as well. For example, my boyfriend said that during the anxiety survey, he had to base his answers on what I have shared with him at home. He made comments on presentations, public speaking etc. that he said he knew I probably did well on but at home “was a total mess” in preparation for such tasks. I wonder if responses would have changed had I asked another co-worker and compared the two or if I had asked a girlfriend outside of work rather than a female co-worker. When I looked over the results from a co-worker with regards to the anxiety test, she said that I seem very at ease during meetings and is often impressed by the way I communicate my ideas and opinions in a way that it concise, polite and to the point. When I shared with her that I am very uncomfortable and nervous communicating with others she was shocked. I try very hard to keep my nervousness to myself during meetings, presentations and training but my boyfriend sees the meltdown (Ha!) or nervousness before I head into work.

   I noticed in reviewing all of the evaluations that my perception of my communication skills and listening skills differed from home and work and changed depending on what I "allowed" others to see in a professional context versus the comfort of my own home. Chris also mentioned that it was a difficult task because for the anxiety test he thought of me with regards to work while in completing the other two tests he was able to relate to the way I communicate with him. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Communication Growth

Cultural diversity exists within my school, in my neighborhood, within my workplace and even within my family. Culture is made up of different cultures which include race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, varying abilities and even individual family cultures.

I definitely communicate differently with people from different groups and cultures. For example, when working with my autistic students, part of our life skills curriculum goals is to carry on a conversation using various strategies. We are working on using eye contact, nodding and gesturing to show presence within a conversation, having a “two-way conversation” involving questioning about one’s interests and what is being said and not repeating the same ideas over and over again. When talking with these students I model this behavior and give elaborate praise when these strategies are put to use. During everyday conversations with friends and family I am more natural and am not taking on the role of a teacher. When working with young children I speak to their level and tend to gesture a lot especially when teaching French to learners as a second language. With that said, being bilingual, I speak French in my work place as I teach in a French community and Francophone school but have friends and family who only speak English. While speaking with close friends who are bilingual, I tend to switch back and forth between both languages, however, in my role as a teacher I only speak French to my Principal and with my students because it is a cultural expectation. When participating in professional development opportunities and collaborating with other professionals, I use language that is appropriate for the content and context while in other situations I am not concerned with formality. I love talking to my boyfriend and we share a lot about our individual professional lives but because he is not in the same field I feel as though he does not understand in the way that my friends who are teachers do. I tend to talk differently and in more detail with them than I would with him.

This week we learned about cultural myopia and the platinum rule. Cultural myopia is when "Individuals who fail to consider other cultural perspectives are said to suffer from cultural myopia, a form of nearsightedness grounded in the belief that one's own culture is appropriate and relevant in all situations and to all people" (O'Hair & Wiemann, p. 45, 2012). The platinum rule asks us to treat people the way that they wish to be treated in comparison to the golden rule in which we are asked to treat those the way that we want to be treated. I can definitely use this information in order to communicate more effectively with the people and groups discussed above. While teaching French as a second language it is important to remember that the language is new to the students. I need to slow down while speaking. In this week’s part one of our discussion forum I shared an experience I had with a family from Afghanistan. As part of the family’s culture I was only supposed to address the father during meetings, conferences and interviews. I explained that I found these wishes degrading, sexist, discriminatory and quite frankly infuriating. Although I adhered to the family’s wishes at once, I struggled with these guidelines internally. It took a lot of reflection and time for me to finally say and realize that I was using my own personal cultural beliefs as a reference for what was right to judge someone else’s culture as wrong. This is both an example of cultural myopia and the platinum rule.


O'Hair, D., & Wiemann, M. (2012). Real communication: An introduction. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Deciphering Non-verbal Communication

For this assignment, again consider what you have been learning about communication skills and styles. Then record an episode of a television show you do not normally watch. Watch the show with the sound turned off.
For the purpose of this assignment I watched an episode of “Criminal Minds” which I had never watched before. The show seems to deal with pretty dark themes associated with criminal activity and for that reason I have never been interested in watching it. It is pretty graphic and I scare easily.

What do you think the characters' relationships are based on the ways in which they are communicating?
From the information I received watching the show on mute, there are a number of people working together to solve crimes, all of which have different roles or specializations. One of the male characters seemed to be in charge of the case and of all of the professionals/ police officers. The characters are all at work at police headquarters and therefore are acting very serious within their roles.

What are they feeling and expressing based on the nonverbal behavior you are observing?
The characters are doing little to no smiling, laughing etc. because the tone of the show seems to be serious. A girl’s body was found murdered and the police have chased evidence and have brought in two suspects for questioning. A girl is interrogated first and she is shown photos and therefore begins crying. I am not sure what her relationship is to the victim just from watching her reactions without sound. She looks nervous and upset while the police officer doing the interrogation seems hard and emotionless.

Now, watch the show with the sound turned on.

What assumptions did you make about the characters and plot based on the ways in which you interpreted the communication you observed?
As I have never watched this show before I not only had to attempt to decipher the character’s roles but also the content about the overall plot. I used their body language to decide who was in charge, even after turning on the sound I am not sure who was because there seemed to be two men with different roles who are in charge of the other police officers and investigators. I believed that one man was a psychological profiler because he wasn’t dressed the like other officers. When looking at the two people brought in for questioning without any sound it was very difficult to judge their relationships to the victim. With the sound on I found out that the female suspect was actually the girlfriend of the accused rapist and had no knowledge of the victim. With her reaction to the photos of the victim, I thought she was her sister or friend but her reaction was to the accused and not the victim.

Would your assumptions have been more correct if you had been watching a show you know well?
I think my assumptions would have definitely been more correct had I known the tone of the show as well as the roles of the characters. I would know and understand the way that the show normally plays out and would understand their typical characteristics.

Write about your experience in your blog, including what you learned about communication from this experience and insights or "aha" moments you believe would be helpful to your colleagues.

I found it extremely frustrating to watch a show without any sound. I was struggling to decide who was who and what was going on the entire time. I made some accurate assumptions but also was missing a lot of key information that I would have otherwise been aware of had I watched the entire episode with sound. Furthermore, this type of show often uses music as a way to convey information, emotion and intrigue. By watching this show without sound I was also missing this important aspect of communication between writer and viewer as well. I think that the type of show one watches can definitely change this type of task as well. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

What is Communication?

For your blog this week, think of someone (e.g., family member, celebrity, politician, friend, or professor) who demonstrates competent communication within a particular context. What behaviors does this person exhibit that make him or her effective? Would you want to model some of your own communication behaviors after this person? Why or why not?

This week’s readings and tasks have really made me think and reflect about what effective communication looks like. I am sure that we have all experienced a breakdown in communication at one point or another in our lives. You feel like you are being clear and yet someone is misinterpreting what you are saying. Sometimes we communicate and we ourselves are unsure of our goals and reasons for feeling the way we are feeling. Sometimes we think that we are being rationale, are listening to the other person speaking and yet we are conveying body language that suggests we are not being receptive. I have experienced all of these, and many other breaks in communication and I am sure I will experience many more.

Someone that demonstrates competent communication is my eighth grade teacher. I am sure that this sounds like a strange example, but I also had her as a mentor because she was the student success coordinator for the former school board I worked at. I have therefore experienced communicating with her as both a student and co-worker and mentor. This teacher was very engaging as a teacher. She made learning fun (even the boring stuff) and made everyone in the room feel as though they mattered, were valued and could accomplish anything. She was the reason that math finally clicked for me. I always struggled with math, even though I was a strong student in many other subject areas. She set the bar high for all of her students but because we respected her so much we wanted to reach her expectations. She took the time to work with me individually when I struggled and found a way to reach me and make something that was at one point so abstract for me, clear. As a co-worker she handled meetings and disagreements with poise. She was calm, never talked down to her staff members and asked for reasons and opinions from everyone. We really felt like our concerns, opinions and ideas mattered. I also loved that she had faith in her staff. We would come up with a plan together and then she would allow you the opportunity to go forward without being micromanaged from a distance. I felt comfortable seeking advice from her and knew that she would help find a resolution without being condescending.

I would definitely want to model these communication behaviors because both as a student and as a co-worker I knew that my voice was heard and my opinion mattered. Communication was open and encouraged in both situations which made her classroom and school run smoothly. She was well liked and respected by students, staff members and parents alike because she was able to be direct and firm but was fair and was able to listen to the opinions and ideas of others openly.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Professional Hopes and Goals

As a result of the learning I have gained from the past eight weeks of this course I understand and appreciate the need to teach diversity and anti-biased education in a more profound way than ever before. As I have already discussed a goal that I have and maintain is the desire to develop a deeper awareness of issues that involve diversity. Drawing from my own educational experiences both as a student and as an educator, I firmly believe that the role of the teacher is more relevant and necessary than ever before. As I have learned from first-hand experience, teachers can leave an indelible impression on a young person. I want to be more in-tune and aware of issues that involve diversity that can affect and impact a child’s development, view of themselves, their family and the society at large. I have learned a great deal during the past eight weeks; I have learned in greater detail what diversity entails from all of the isms we discussed but also considered each child’s unique and individual family culture as well. I have also learned about microaggressions and found myself reflecting upon my own biases and ignorance and ways in which I may have unintentionally marginalized, stereotyped and offended others.

As a result of the learning from this course I am encouraged to keep growing with regards to diversity and anti-biased education. I want to be able to use this deeper understanding and awareness to find strategies and ways of teaching diversity in a way that is rich and meaningful to my young students. In our week one reflective journal I explained that as a teacher I hear often, “You can’t play at this center, this game is for boys” or “I don’t want a pink sticker they’re for girls” or “You need to use the white baby, your skin is white”. I want to ensure that I am taking the time to address and talk about these assumptions openly with my students in a way that feels safe and secure. Far too often I get wrapped up in other things that are taking place and miss out on these important teaching opportunities.

One goal that I would like to set for the early childhood field related to issues of diversity, equity and social justice is to not allow teachers to become stagnant in their roles as educators and leaders in the classroom. I believe that it is essential for early childhood educators to have continued professional development within the realm of diversity and anti-biased education to ensure that as a collective group we are providing each child with care and an education that relates and speaks to them. Every child should feel a connection and as though they belong to their school environment for the sake of their development, their home life, their view of self and their overall view of the world at large. We need to ensure we are providing this to every child.
        I would like to take a minute to thank each and every one of my colleagues for their support during the past eight weeks. I have learned and have grown as a result of the dialogue and rich discussion that has taken place through both blog posts and the discussion forum. I appreciate that we are able to share ideas and to agree and disagree professionally in order to develop ideas and learn from one another. 

Thanks again, and best of luck in future courses and endeavors!


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Welcoming Families From Around the World

  •          About 195 different countries exist in the world today.
  •          According to the U.S. census bureau, the United States’ population includes individuals and families from 150 different countries.

 It is certain that as an early childhood professional you will encounter children from diverse backgrounds whose families may have come from many different countries. In what ways can you prepare yourself for working in early childhood settings which represent such diversity?
 For this assignment, imagine the following scenario:
You are working in an early childhood setting of your choice—a hospital, a child care center, a social service agency. You receive word that the child of a family who has recently emigrated from a country you know nothing about will join your group soon. You want to prepare yourself to welcome the child and her family. Luckily, you are enrolled in a course about diversity and have learned that in order to support families who have immigrated you need to know more than surface facts about their country of origin.
                For the purpose of this assignment I decided to use Ojibwa culture as “my family’s” ethnicity rather than use a different family of origin. I work with Aboriginal families often and am truly ashamed to say that I still do not know very much about their culture. Throughout this course’s materials, resources and learning, I am now more determined than ever to learn more about the diverse needs that are often present in my classroom. In completing research for this task I discovered several things that would be extremely useful with regards to being culturally responsive to Aboriginal needs. First, I learned that in Ojibwa culture, often names are not used. Children are often named things important in nature, but when speaking to or about one another they use the person’s role in the family (i.e. grandmother, daughter etc.). I also learned that there are manners in Ojibwa culture that are very important to their people and beliefs that are not necessarily understood by others. Children were taught bravery, patience, and self-control from the time they were born.  Here are some of the things the Ojibwa taught their children:

You may not walk between an older person and the fire.
You may not interrupt an older person who is talking.
You may not laugh if something unusual happens.
You may not go to the neighbors at mealtimes and look wistfully at their food.
You may not make eye contact with an elder who is not part of your clan.

The Ojibwa call themselves the Anishinabeg (or if singular, Anishinabe) for "first" or "original people." Native culture contains some very important myths, legends and stories that tell of their culture and religion. The website, tradition Ojibwa beliefs states that: “Christians and Muslims presume that man is created in the likeness of god, but that there is a separation between the two. The Ojibwa don't have a word or concept that separates man from his environment. The universe in which we live is alive with the spirit of the Manitou”. Ojibwa people value family, nature and the environment above all else, they do not only represent an important part of their culture but are a part of who they are individually.
I believe that knowing, understanding and appreciating the diverse cultures in your classroom is important to knowing and understanding the children and families you are trying to reach, educate and inspire.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression

“We have all felt like an outsider in some way, and in that way, we are all the same”
-Brian Steel

What memory do you have of an incident when you experienced bias, prejudice, and/or oppression, or witnessed someone else as the target of bias, prejudice, and/or oppression? Keep in mind that one can encounter such incidents in real contexts, including online environments, as well as in fictional ones, such as movies, books, television shows, and the like.

I have already discussed several different examples in which I have witnessed or experienced prejudice, bias and oppression first hand during previous assignments and discussions of this course. For this blog task I decided to discuss an example that I have not yet described.
For two years I worked on contract as a core and immersion French teacher at a public high school in my home town. I was shocked and dismayed at the cruelty and torment some students faced and were subject to on a daily basis. They were ridiculed for the clothes they were, where they lived, who they were friends with even things as ridiculous as the color of their hair. Now bullying is not anything new, we’ve all seen it happen during our lifetime in one form or another. What has changed however, is how easy it has become. Social media, cell phones, YouTube etc. have been placed at almost every teenagers fingertips. I had one student how had a learning disability. He could not step foot into the school without feeling harassed and victimized. What really baffles me is how or why others choose targets. This boy was so kind, bright and athletic. He used assistive technology to help with reading in all courses and had a laptop provided to him by the school. Students would shout names like “retard” “dumbass” etc. on a daily basis. Teachers, his parents, guidance counsellors and even administrators intervened. It stopped during school hours but he expressed that he was still receiving cruel emails and Facebook messages daily. He began refusing to bring his laptop to classes for fear of being ridiculed. He once told a panel of us (teachers, his parents and administration) that: “I wish I was fully retarded instead of just slow and stupid, maybe then they would leave me alone, no one picks on someone who is really retarded do they”? This comment brought tears to my eyes. This poor child wished that he had a severe mental handicap to avoid being tormented. After this comment the police were called in to do a school wide presentation about cyber bullying and its repercussions and consequences referencing both suicides due to harassment and criminal charges for offenders. I believe that the harassment stopped after that presentation but I cannot be too sure. The family moved shortly after so that their son could have a fresh start for his three remaining years of high school. I’m sure he was glad to move. No child should ever have to face such torment and cruelty. No person should ever be exposed to such torture and lack of compassion and empathy. I was truly dismayed that such actions could occur relentlessly. Although action was taken, students’ suspended etc., children need to be taught about tolerance and acceptance early on so that such things will not happen.

In what way(s) did the specific bias, prejudice and/or oppression in that incident diminish equity?
          This act of prejudice and oppression diminished equity with regards to one specific student’s abilities. This is an example of ableism. The student referenced felt unsafe in his learning environment and therefore withdrew himself to the detriment of his self-esteem, his education and his overall well-being. He became very depressed and even was discussing suicidal attempts and self-harm. He stated on numerous occasions “I hate myself”. His parents and sister were also victims due to this act of prejudice and oppression because they were watching their loved one suffer and felt powerless to help. This act diminished equity in that this poor young boy was pushed out of his school because he was truly in danger. Everyone no matter race, gender, ability, sexual orientation etc. deserves to be able to attend school in a place where they feel safe, secure and like they belong and matter. This poor student did not receive any of those things.

What feelings did this incident bring up for you?
        This incident made me feel powerless as his teacher. As an educator, it is my responsibility to protect my students so that they feel safe and valued. I only taught this student one block a day out of four. I had him for 115 minutes and during that time I made sure that he felt welcome, that he was never victimized and that in my space everyone belonged and mattered. We spoke one on one occasionally and during that time he confided in me. I brought matters forward to the guidance counsellors and to the school administration and spoke with his parents regularly. They were very grateful for my action but in a school of almost 1000 students I found it very hard to police everything at once. To this day, four years later, writing about this boy’s turmoil still brings tears to my eyes.
For the purpose of this task I did some research on teenage suicide. Here are some eye-opening and saddening statistics.
  •       Every day 14 young people (15-24 yrs of age) commit suicide
  •          1 teen commits suicide every 100 minutes
  •          In North America there is a suicide attempt every 42 seconds
  •          1 out of 5 people suffer from depression  at some point in their lives
  •         More people die from suicide than murder
  •          10 % of high school students have made a suicide attempt

Statistics for the facts referenced above were found using these two websites:

What and/or who would have to change in order to turn this incident into an opportunity for greater equity?

        I believe that children need to learn at an early age that everyone is different and unique. We need to ensure that children receive this message and are exposed to and are given the opportunity to interact with as many different cultures (abilities, gender, ethnicities, races etc.) as possible. We need to learn with and grow with one another and teach children about empathy and compassion. Children are born “good”, it is the media, and the world at large that change this. Secondly, what happened to the student above should not have to happen before presentations and conversations about cyber bullying, discrimination, harassment, prejudices etc. are made and had. Perhaps if these students were taught explicitly about such things often they would think more about their actions and the consequences that these actions can cause. Furthermore, I believe that it is important to have a zero tolerance for bullying approach within the school system. Students need to be aware of policies and when they are broken immediate action needs to take place. I strongly believe that if harsh consequences were doled out quickly to those victimizing others fewer would have followed. Everyone deserves a space to feel safe and valued where they can learn and grow without fear. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Practicing Awareness of Microaggressions

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
-Nelson Mandela

This week we learned about microaggressions, these include microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations. In the media segment from this week’s course resources, Dr. Sue explains that microaggressions are defined as brief everyday indignities, they may be verbal, behavioral or environmental and are communicated intentionally or unintentionally. He further states that microaggressions have an insulting message and often cause severe psychological stress and harm because they portray views of inferiority/superiority and inclusions/exclusions towards minority groups of people (Laureate Education, 2011). Dr. Sue explains that microaggressions often occur unintentionally and without intended harm or malice however, there is still a consequence to the person being subjected. These occurrences happen cumulatively, he states: “it is constant acts of marginalization that affect one’s self-esteem and cause individuals to feel displaced and on the rebound continuously” (Laureate Education, 2011).

An example of microaggression that I witnessed firsthand, occurred when I was at the mall with two of my girlfriends. As we were walking outside there was an Aboriginal man begging for money with a sign that said “Have no money and starving- please be kind and help”. I would not have even noticed him, he was quietly tucked away in a corner, if it wasn’t for a group of teenagers who intersected us. One of the girls said “How do they need money- they don’t pay for anything?!” While another teenage girl replied “I don’t know he probably just wants booze”. I remember wondering if the reaction would have been the same if it were a Caucasian man sitting with a sign asking for money. In this scenario the man was marginalized into a stereotype that Aboriginal people are drunks and have no reason to be poor. My best friend’s daughter is Aboriginal and I worry about the stereotypes and discrimination she will face growing up. For a city of 100,000 people, we have one of the highest rates of hate crimes in all of Canada. Here is a link for the CBC article if interested It is disheartening that a country that claims to be proud to be multicultural can exhibit such close-minded thinking, stereotyping, discrimination and racism.

This week I really listened to, and observed peoples’ interactions, reactions, facial expressions, body language and discourse in various environments while completing everyday tasks and errands. I was truly shocked at what I saw. I witnessed many people using terms like “that’s so gay” and “that’s retarded” in almost every area I went. I saw people walking slink far away from and Arab man as if they were fearful. What really spoke to me about this experience is that quite often the people making discriminatory comments were teenagers. This language has become so common place that people don't even realize the harm they are doing and the hurt they are causing. I believe for this very reason that the education system needs to do more to teach children about tolerance, understanding, awareness and appreciation of different cultures and ethnicities.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Microaggressions in everyday life [Video file]. Retrieved from

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

Male Aboriginal Age 30
I think that culture means that it is someone’s belief system. It could be their religion or their race, their language and their traditions and beliefs. Diversity is the differences that exist between all people as a result of different cultures. Some cultures are more evident than others when you look at society.
Female Caucasian Age 53
Someone’s culture is where they come from and who they are. It is the celebrations they celebrate, the language they speak, the colour of their skin and what they believe in. It could relate to religious affiliations, their heritage and their ancestral ties. To me diversity means that everyone is
 unique in their culture.

Male Caucasian Age 56
My definition of culture is a person’s ethnic roots and background. They are what shape the aspects of your life and outlook on society.
To me diversity means the differences. Diversity is the composite of all of the individual backgrounds and cultures in a society. It can lead to harmony or conflict depending on individual biases and preferences.

After discussing these questions with family and friends, I realized that each person included some ideas that were similar and some that were different. I believe that the differences are often related to their place in society (dominant or minority culture) as well as their prior experiences and prior knowledge concerning culture and diversity. In this week’s media segment Janet Gonzalez-Mena explained that she defined culture as a set of often “unconscious rules” that govern everything we do. She explained that cultural understanding includes different perspectives, world views, and different beliefs (Laureate Education, 2011). All of these aspects of culture were referenced while interviewing my three candidates. We have been learning however, about individual and family culture throughout the course. These are both aspects of culture that I had not considered before this course and I remarked that the people I interviewed did not discuss these aspects either. When discussing culture and diversity, people usually focus on heritage, race and ethnicity this was also evident while asking questions. Gonzalez-Mena explains that gender is heavily intertwined when discussing culture and that culture has a huge impact on the way that children are raised, perceived and educated (Laureate Education, 2011).

Other people’s definitions of culture and diversity influenced my own thinking about these topics as I realized how much someone’s personal story and viewpoint of the world and society at large has on such topics. Someone for example who is seen as the minority culture may feel as though he or she is not truly representing in what someone else may consider a very diverse workplace, classroom or community. Or someone who has seen war and destruction may understand that diversity can cause misunderstanding and conflict. This experience really shed light on the way that many people have different opinions and ideas about culture and diversity.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Culture and diversity [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thursday, 10 July 2014

My Family Culture

Blog: My Family Culture

Imagine the following:
A major catastrophe has almost completely devastated the infrastructure of your country. The emergency government has decided that the surviving citizens will be best served if they are evacuated to other countries willing to take refugees. You and your immediate family are among the survivors of this catastrophic event. However, you have absolutely no input into the final destination or in any other evacuation details. You are told that your host country’s culture is completely different from your own, and that you might have to stay there permanently. You are further told that, in addition to one change of clothes, you can only take 3 small items with you. You decide to take three items that you hold dear and that represent your family culture.

Wow! This week’s question was really difficult and emotional to imagine. I cannot even begin to really think about how stressful and intimidating it would be to leave my home, extended family and friends in such a rush unsure of the outcome. It really put into perspective for me what so many refugees have faced in fleeing their countries in times of turmoil and war. The three items I would bring with me if I had to leave my country behind are first a photo album I have that includes pictures of my childhood, my family, friends, trips I have taken and also pictures of my partner and his family. This item would be so important because it not only tells my individual story but also tells the timeline of our life together. The second item I would bring is a diamond necklace that Chris bought me on our first anniversary. It is not just a piece of jewelry to me but is a symbol of the commitment that we have made to one another. Finally, I would be able to house these two other items in a small wooden box that was made by one of my Grandmother’s friends while she was still living. It is a wood burnt box and depicts an Estonian landscape. I would explain to others that these three items represent a piece of who I am. They portray my family life with my parents and siblings, my family life with Chris and a part of my cultural heritage.

If I was told, upon arrival that I was only able to keep one of the items that I brought with me, I would feel divided. These three things are all very important aspects of my life and who I am and if I was forced to choose one I would feel as though I was being forced to let go of a part of my identity. This experience was very visual. I actually put my three objects in front of me and debated about which I would keep if I was only allowed to keep one. This was a very difficult and emotional experience but was definitely worthwhile in learning exploring the importance of family culture. It was very challenging to narrow my objects down to three and seemed as though it would be an impossible task to limit myself to one object.