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.