Author Archives: bcapalad

New Teachers: Sparking the Birth of Social Justice Warriors

The English classroom can be a platform for current events and social justice issues. There are a lot of multi-modal resources to use in an English classroom (social media, videos, novels, short stories etc.) that can spark debate and expose students to injustices in the world. However, it is difficult to start implementing this social justice lens, especially as a new teacher. Here are some things I’ve kept in mind when planning to add social justice into my English classroom:

Be Passionate & Be Involved
In order to spark any students in wanting to learn about the content provided to them, the teacher themselves has to be passionate about the issue. Even more important than that, you have to show your involvement with the issue. Ask yourself, if this is an issue I want my students to be interested in, what are the ways that I can prove I’m passionate about this topic? Have I been involved in any community events lately? How have I appropriately engaged with this issue? Why am I teaching this issue? 

Example
If you are passionate about SOGI rights and policies, find opportunities to support the LGBTQ+ community within your school. Demonstrate what it looks like to be an ally and implement ways to show that within your classroom and lessons. Students know when something matters to you and will be able to connect with the lesson if you show your passion and involvement.

Do your research
Students soak up everything like a sponge. Your classroom is a powerful platform which means you need to be careful in what you teach. Do your research on both sides of every argument. Be prepared to engage in all perspectives and understand the complexity of the social justice issue within the global context. What we do not want to teach our students is that it any issue is a one-way street with easy solutions.

Example
Rather than going to pick up garbage at a park and patting ourselves on the back, find ways to research with your students about the effects of plastics on the environment. Find the benefits AND the downsides of the #plasticfree trend. 

Furthermore, in an English classroom, you can relate complex issues back to the text (novel, podcast, etc.) and characterization, and the understanding of the complexity of people. People are complex therefore they contribute to complex issues.

Open up a safe conversation
Use your voice as a guide to their conversation. Allow a safe space for everyone to speak and explore ideas or burning questions. Remind your students about the etiquette when talking about touchy subjects. Demonstrate what respect looks like not just for their peers but the people involved in the injustice. The aim is not to encourage the concept of “Us vs Them” which may result in distancing oneself from the issues. It could be very detrimental if your students came home even more disconnected from the people who are directly involved in the topics you have discussed.

Example
When teaching about special education and diversity rights, educators should not tokenize or separate the classroom students from the world. Present the interconnectedness of diversity rights as human rights, and how it affects their own lives. Humans should care about other humans.

Channel their curiosity
In order to spark their interest, students need to be involved. Create a project that they can pour their own research and passion into, then let them share it. There is something effective in supporting students to tackle inquiry-based learning. A curious mind is a strong and growing mind, especially when they are able to contribute to something bigger.

There are multiple ways to channel curiosity and hook students in. One very effective way is through simulation. If you involve students in the learning and show them through concepts, stories, and metaphors that they can connect with, it can spark their attention and their passion. If our goal as educators is for our students to believe in the issues and its complexity, then we cannot just tell them, we have to involve them so that they can actually feel something.

Example
Create a simulation in class before starting a unit about Privilege. Then guide them through a project about the issue. In this unit, create a project that involves research and action. Give time to present their research to the rest of the class or to the rest of the school through a gallery walk or mini Ted Talk. Have them make sure they add their personal perspective and connection with the project. How did they get involved or interested in this topic? What can they take away after the project is over? What else are they curious about?

Make Local Connections
Lastly, although there are so many issues throughout the world, sometimes it can get really overwhelming for students. Find ways to look at local issues and relate it back to the content in your English classroom. This way, they can feel connected to the social justice issue presented.

Magnifying and presenting the local issues are important in stepping away from the ‘western saviour’ complex like North Americans, traveling to places to ‘save’ people from poverty. Relating back to the previous point, we do not want to encourage the “Us vs Them” concept. There are multiple ways to provide aid in other countries but it is also crucial to understand local issues because it emphasizes that you cannot run away from problems, it is intertwined in our everyday lives.

From personal experience, I felt really attached to things I could understand and connect with. As a student, I was fully engaged in “other people’s problems” without really understanding what is happening around me. Once I started to figure out local social issues, I felt the need and obligation to be more invested and involved. I was able to proceed with action rather than just engaging with conversation or yearly projects. If we want to make a long-lasting impact on the students’ mind, we have to start here, at home.

Example
Text: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Social Justice Issue: Racial Injustice in America, Black Lives Matter Movement
Local Connection: Indigenous Injustice in Canada, and how America’s Black history and current events can compare.

———

I write this blog, as a new teacher myself. This is my framework for what I feel like I can do within my classroom. There is so much more to consider when teaching social justice but I believe this is a good place to start. I think as a teacher, all we can do is provide what we know, and show our humility within these topics. Our main goal is to inspire action and create empathy because our students are future little adults who will be voting and making decisions for the society that they want to create.

Practicum Reflection

My Practicum Experience
It was extremely difficult to blog during my ten-week long practicum but here is a snippet of my experience:

The first few weeks were difficult as I was really nervous and terrified to start. I realized how hard I’ve worked for years to be in this program and I felt the pressure from myself to not just do well but to be perfect. Little did I know that trying to be perfect was probably the worst (and best) thing I could do for myself.

Perfection should never be an end goal of an educator. We never want our students to be perfect at everything because we encourage mistakes, failures, and mess ups so that we can continue to grow and take risks. However, for some strange reason, I thought that I could or had to be a perfect teacher at day one of my practicum. I even bought some fancy pants, thinking that would help me stand out. After a few weeks, I felt exhausted trying to keep up a persona that was not my own natural self. I kept rehearsing my “lines,” going to bed stressed, waking up tired, and focusing on the little “mistakes” I made that day. 

It was not until the five-week mark when I had my mid-point meeting where I really heard the realistic facts of how I was doing. At this point, I was given really useful advice on how to manage my stress and where I needed to put my full energy and focus on improving. I felt my body and mind relax a bit more, as the weeks went by after the halfway point. I reminded myself to enjoy my time with my students, and when I did I felt so much more comfortable at being my own version of being a non-perfect teacher. I felt more myself.

People to Thank
I was blessed with an amazing trio-team of my SAs and FA who gave me their full support throughout my whole process. It was a privilege to work alongside them and to see their strategies in dealing with a variety of students and issues. Their grace and confidence in their classroom were amazing to witness. I appreciate and want to thank them for believing in my growth and pushing me daily to become a better educator.

I also wanted to thank my fellow teacher candidates, as their laughter, honesty, and company helped me feel that I was not alone.

Lastly, I wanted to thank the entire McMath Wildcat community. The students, administration, teachers, teacher librarian, and support staff have all been incredibly welcoming. I can’t thank them enough for being wonderful to all of the UBC teacher candidates.

 

Inquiry during Practicum

Inquiry Question:

“As a foundation to talk about uncomfortable subject matter, how do we introduce the topic of white privilege in a predominantly white classroom?”

Practicum Experience
During my practicum, I was provided with an opportunity to teach and tackle my inquiry question.  In my unit Power, Justice, and Freedom in English 10, I was able to introduce the concepts of privilege through various exercises.

In this unit, they had a choice of three novels: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hate U Give, and The Memoirs of a Geisha. All three novels discuss themes of feminism, racism, ageism, and classism. Each student was responsible for discussion in literature circle meetings, writing an essay, and participating in multiple activities in class that tackle these themes and topics.

Here are some activities that I found useful:

  1. Lesson on class, power, and influence:
    The students had to take these cards that had items, people, races, cultures, etc. and they would have to sort them through piles of low class, high class, middle class. The kids would go through various rounds of sorting through different categories, that revolved around class, power, and influence on our society. The message behind this lesson was that the items placed in the low-class society had very little chance to have high power or influence in the next round of sorting. It also allowed some conversation within their group to ask “why does this person/culture/item have high influence? are we sure?”
    *Note: In this lesson, I introduced the activity with a warning. This warning consisted of telling the students that some people might feel uncomfortable with these topics and that we need to create a safe, respectful and open space for everyone to speak, as they needed to argue and then agree with their peers on which category to sort these cards.*
  2. Lesson on privilege and power
    The students had to fill in a worksheet that was a diagram of a flower. Each petal had a category like “race, class, ability” etc. They had to fill in each petal with a + sign to indicate they have privilege, and – sign to indicate that they have a lack of privilege in comparison the rest of society. The lesson behind this was on tackling one’s own privilege and discussing why they feel they have more privilege. It was to acknowledge their personal experiences.
  3. Final Project and Presentation
    The students had individual presentations on what the most important thing they learned in the unit, a symbol or object that represents this, and what their social justice action is moving forward. The presentation lasted about two minutes for each person.

Reflection

I was honestly quite nervous in introducing these topics to my Grade 10 students. Having already had a unit about the Civil Rights Movement, the students were already prepared to talk about the issue of race which helped with the lessons and activities above. They already had some background information about the history and why we are talking about this topic again. My focus in this unit was to show the students the types of privilege that exists in our society and how their novels and topics can relate to their own lives.

When I created and collaborated on this inquiry question, I kept in mind the sensitivity that I would have to handle carefully in my classroom because it consisted predominantly of white, high-class and male students. I think my biggest fear was that my students would think I was using my authority as a teacher to push my own beliefs on them, especially as a person of colour. However, I found that most of the privilege topics we discussed, the students already knew and were accepting of. What I had to do next was challenge their ideas about diving deeper than the concept of “racism is bad” and how they can be aware of the things that are happening daily within our own Canadian society. What I found difficult was to teach students to be aware of our own privilege. What I started to do, was to put myself in the situation where I talked about my own privilege and then express my own oppression. This way, the main message was that we ALL have privileges that we need to be aware of. I found this to be really effective in providing that sensitivity towards my students, especially in regards to race.

Overall, I think the unit went well and that most of the students understood the point and purpose of the lessons. In the future, I would love to dive deeper and tackle their discomfort and why it might make them uncomfortable. Or even, argue the other side of it, and prepare the students on how to have a disagreement with someone but still maintain respect.

I was really thankful for this experience in tackling this inquiry question during practicum. My sponsor teacher was really helpful in providing resources and support throughout the whole experience.

Inquiry Proposal

Ms. Capalad’s Inquiry Proposal

Index:
Inquiry Question
Resources
Reflection

 

 INQUIRY QUESTION

“As a foundation to talk about uncomfortable subject matter, how do we introduce the topic of white privilege in a predominantly white classroom?”

 Sub Questions:
What makes a subject uncomfortable? What is going on emotionally, when discomfort is involved?
What activities can we use to scaffold the understanding privilege?
How can I as a person of colour, be vulnerable with my students to create a meaningful discussion without getting too personal?

 

RESOURCES

Defining “White Privilege”

Kendall, Francis E. “Understanding White Privilege .” https://www.cpt.org/files/Undoing%20Racism%20-%20Understanding%20White%20Privilege%20-%20Kendall.pdf  

For this inquiry question, it is important to identify the term, white privilege. This article starts by stating that it is difficult to understand this term, especially for those who it is addressing. Privilege is a concept that revolves around the feeling of power, which can offend people who do not notice their status in society. The definition provided in the article states that it is institutional, and not a personal term. I think this acknowledging it is institutional, already eliminates a lot of problems or drawback when discussing this term in a classroom environment. “Greater access to power and resources” (1) is mentioned when defining privilege. However, how is “power” determined? Does power refer to monetary power or social power, or both?

The article continues with a section on the history of White Privilege and focuses on the concept that this term comes from a system that is created. Again, this emphasizes that it is institutional rather than a person to person based term. The article bullet points key moments in history where people of colour were suppressed for their race or when opportunities for only white people were created.

The next few sections define the various ways on how to use the knowledge of white privilege to eliminate the myths that white people might have around the term. This part is useful because it provides ways to counter these myths and why these arguments are not valid in regards to the definition of the term or given the history. This might be extremely useful for the drawback or comments that students might have when discussing this topic. 

Another section of the article exclaims the need to take the idea of race seriously.

 

Delano-Oriaran, Omobolade O. and Marguerite W. Parks. “One Black, One White: Power, White Privilege, & Creating Safe Spaces.” Multicultural Education, vol. 22, no. 3-4, 01 Mar. 2015, pp. 15-19. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1078762&login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

The article is about two professors who taught white privilege in white institutions. This resource is helpful because it provides a very clear example of when the topics were discussed within the school. I think this is incredibly useful because the article also focuses on the classroom climate, and emphasizing on the ideas of safe spaces. The article also discusses the resistance of students with the discussion of the topic. I found that this article is useful because of the personal stories from the teachers.

 

 Scheid, Anna Floerke and Elisabeth T. Vasko. “Teaching Race: Pedagogical Challenges in Predominantly White Undergraduate Theology Classrooms.” Teaching Theology & Religion, vol. 17, no. 1, 01 Jan. 2014, pp. 27-45. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1029554&login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

This article is about teachers addressing the issue of race and white privilege in theology classrooms. The article starts with acknowledging that many students come to university without knowing their racial identity or anything about racial hierarchy. It states the the classrooms they studied were predominantly white/caucasian.

This article may be a little difficult to attain information because the classrooms are in the United States, where the politics of race is quite different from a Canadian classroom. However, it does provide a narrative to what happens in a politically driven space.

 This article covers these topics:

(1) the “common sense understanding of racism”

(2) “culturally entrenched racism.”

 The reactions of the students within the classroom are split into two categories; “Emotional Responses,” and “Cognitive Dissonance.” In the Emotional Responses section, the article states “Students used words like “fear,” “anger,” “guilt,” “shock,” and “surprise” across a variety of assignments that asked them to respond to films or readings”  From this plethora of emotional language, we distilled two emotional motifs that seem characteristic of a wide swath of students’ experiences: feelings of insecurity and feelings of frustration (31-2).

 I think this article can speak on how difficult it is to bring up this topic, especially if they are feeling sensitive about the issue, or feel like it is an attack.

 

 “How Legos helped build a classroom lesson on white privilege.” The Globe and Mail, 17 Oct. 2017, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-legos-helped-build-a-classroom-lesson-on-white-privilege/article36610854/.

This article is about a grade 8 teacher who asked the students to brainstorm most important jobs and who in media (real or fictional) had those jobs. The teacher starred all the names on the board that were caucasian. This was her hook in order to talk about how society revolves around white privilege. The article continues on speaking about a student who thought the “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” activity, an activity addressing white privilege as offensive. This student stated how he’s encountered the term before, but believes it is used to “shut people down” and make people “feel bad for being white” (Lum).

 The BCTF has been trying to develop a plan to be able to address issues like white privilege but has received some pushback from parents as well as other teachers. The article also mentioned universities like UBC, that address white privilege in their education classrooms and how uncomfortable students can feel when the topic is brought up.

 This article was really useful in the way that it addresses a very large and difficult topic, with something familiar to the students. The article covered the high school students opinions, the pushback with other educators, UBC education students, and parents.

 

“Confronting White Privilege.” Teaching Tolerance, 31 July 2017, www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2012/confronting-white-privilege.

“White Flight” is addresses in this article and the ideas the racial segregation. “Bursting the Bubble” is one of the sub headers of this article. This part talks about the study of Vernon Sloan, a teacher who wants to influence his students to see the “artificial line that separates the poor form the affluent” (Swalwell). The article talks about the students who are sheltered and only live within the suburbs. This article talks a lot about the gap between affluent people and people who live below the poverty line.

The second header of “Disturbing the Comfortable” talks more about a teachers approach to the privilege issue. She teaches the “historic and contemporary injustices” (Swalwell) and inspires her students with “social-action projects” (Swalwell). 

The article concludes with stating that it is not easy to address these issues and that the reaction from the students depends on how the teachers frame their method of teaching the issue. The article states “ Students from a public school in a middle-class, majority-white suburb demonstrate significantly different thinking about themselves than do kids in a big city attending an expensive private school that serves a mostly upper-class white population” (Swalwell).

The article even has a “do’s and don’ts” list in the end, including the advice of “Do offer opportunities for students to “re-network” their diverse privileges with people from marginalized groups. (Provide time for students to participate in community projects related to issues of injustice.)” (Swalwell).  I think this was the most important to remember in my opinion, because no mater what you teach, you have the provide an opportunity for your students to continue what they learn and interact with that concept.

“White skin privilege is not something that white people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose. Unlike the more overt individual and institutional manifestations of racism described above, white skin privilege is a transparent preference for whiteness that saturates our society. “

This article provides a very clear definition of white privilege in the first few paragraphs (quoted above). It states the advantages that white people have within society and states that “White privilege is a hidden and transparent preference that is often difficult to address. Only on closer inspection do we see how it creates a sense of entitlement, generates perks and advantages for white people and elevates our status in the world.” The article talks about the drawback and why white people might feel offended with the term. The article mentions that the feeling of entitlement and how that gets in the way of understanding the concept of white privilege. The article also provides multiple questions and ideas that students can think about, when trying to understand race.

This article is by Katy Swalwell who addresses the multiple ways that teachers have addressed white privilege in the classroom. One method was “bursting the bubble” which entails exposing privilege within society. The bubble refers to the suburbs, which is void from exposure of poverty, race, and the “rest of the world” (Swalwell).

 

“All Activities.” Social Justice Toolbox, www.socialjusticetoolbox.com/all-activities/

This resource is an entire website of ways to bring up social justice topics in the classroom. Each activity is listed in alphabetical order and the activities list the learning outcomes and goals for the activity. What I really thought was useful with this, is the reflection questions for the activities. I think this is probably the most important part about introducing a social justice topic. Furthermore, there is a tab on the side for “further learning” which links to other resources that you can use, depending on the activity you have clicked. When I chose an activity about race, it led me to a video that was titled “A conversation with White People about Race.”

 This resource toolbox is quite useful in terms of that it is quite easily accessible. It is a simple website to use and browse through. I think what it might lack is more resources and tools for teachers. However, it is overall, a fairly good resource for this inquiry question.

 

Pimentel, Octavio, Charise Pimentel, and John Dean. “The Myth of the Colorblind Writing Classroom: White Instructors Confront White Privilege in Their Classrooms.” Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication: 109.

The colour-blind classroom is a classroom that does not address any diversity. The article talks about the diversity approaching when teaching students writing skills. The diversity approach is compared to the colour-blind approach. The main difference is that diversity approach is about the understanding of differences. More specifically, it is about how everyone is different, and therefore the same. Being different, is what people have in common with one another. However, the article states that the diversity approach is not effective without the “deconstruction of race and white privilege” (111). The main reason to why this is necessary, according to the article, is that race becomes “a biological term,” rather than “a social construct” (111). This definition of race as a social construct, provides reference to how to talk about it within a classroom.

The article continues to address an approach to teaching writing from an antiracist point of view. Pimentel et. al, states that teachers “must avoid the common assumption that racism is a set of beliefs and practices that only ‘racist’ individuals participate in” (112) because it creates the assumption that racism is easily blamed by certain individuals.

The article is really useful with facts to consider when speaking about race. One important take-away I got from this article was about how the classroom is a place where students “do not leave their race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender or class” outside the classroom” (112).

 

McIntosh, Peggy. “Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.” http://www.winnipeg.ca/clerks/boards/citizenequity/pdfs/white_privilege.pdf  

This activity was popping up in various articles that I found. This is the lesson plan that has made “unpacking privilege” quite famous. The lesson activity’s objective is to allow the students to have a personal understanding of where they are in relation to their classmates and also their place in society. What backfires with this, is that if the teacher does not know how to deal with the emotional support that some students might need, it can go pretty badly. It also isolates people and puts them on the spot. The students might feel attacked for being labeled as privilege or feel shaken by realizing that they are oppressed. The main reason for this is because the activity is very public. Everyone can see what everyone else is showing, and this opens up feelings of shame, guilt etc. where students might shut down and not contribute to the conversation any longer. I do like activities like this, that might allow my students to strongly think about who they are. However, there might be other ways to teach them this, but still feel like they are emotionally safe in my classroom.

 

Crosley-Corcoran, Gina. “Explaining White Privilege To A Broke White Person.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 8 May 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/gina-crosleycorcoran/explaining-white-privilege-to-a-broke-white-person_b_5269255.html.

This article is about the personal experience of an author in how she was taught white privilege, while living in poverty. This article focuses a lot on how privilege is a intersectionality and how that is important in addressing white privilege so that it doesn’t provide so much drawback and offense from the privileged person you are teaching. I was drawn to the title and its humour. However, I find that this article is just another article on how a white person dealt with their understanding of their white privilege. It does not speak about people of colour. I think this article speaks more to people who are having a hard time explaining to their friends about race rather than addressing it in a more educational manner. It was a fun read, but it wasn’t as useful as I would have liked it to be in terms of teaching privilege in a classroom environment.

 

Pike, Graham, and David Selby. In the Global Classroom. Pippin, 2001.

This book has provided me with a lot of resources on activities I can change and manipulate to meet my learning standards. I found this to be one of the most useful resources that I found during this inquiry proposal. It is a book of various worksheets and activities that introduce different kinds of topics that are difficult to discuss in a classroom. It scaffolds the ideas slowly to any age group. One activity I am wanting to implement, as an alternative to the previous resource stated above ( Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack), is the flower worksheet. The worksheet has a flower with various petals. The student would put their name in the middle and provide some information about their race, class, etc. and determine for themselves (based on their prior knowledge) if they have more or less privilege than others in society and why. I would probably want to repeat this exercise again either on the same day, after the lesson. Or closer to the end of the unit. This way, they can see and assess themselves in what has changed since they started the unit. I like this resource because it is practical and flexible. It also has a chart in each chapter so you can easily check what kind of social justice topics overlap in which activity and why it is useful to use these activities. It shows how you can further the conversation with your students, depending on how old the students are.

 

Capalad, Pamela. “White privilege doesn’t mean you’ve never had to struggle.” Medium, Medium, 27 Aug. 2017, medium.com/@brunchandbudget/white-privilege-doesnt-mean-you-ve-never-had-to-struggle-5b2633cbb151.

This resource has helped me in the past define privilege. Pamela Capalad is a writer, blogger, and financial consultant. She is also a person of colour living in America. I was hesitant on providing this as a resource, as yes, I am related to her. However, I have referenced and looked back at this blog multiple times when trying to discuss privilege with people who are sensitive to the topic. The most useful part is the understanding of the term of privilege. More specifically, the definition that “Privilege means there are a lot of things you’ve never had to think twice about that other people have to think about every day” (Capalad). I think this is the most powerful way to describe that discussing privilege is not about attacking and blaming someone or a group of people. This article helps with the understanding of empathy and how it is the main reason to why we bring up the term white privilege in the first place because everyone requires and needs empathy from others.


TEDtalksDirector. “Listening to shame | Brené Brown.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 Mar. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0&feature=youtu.be. 

As a bonus resource, Tiffany shared this video with me. At 10 minute Brené Brown, describes the importance of shame. She says “we can’t talk about race without talking about privilege, and when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.” She makes a really great argument about shame throughout the entire Ted Talk about how in order to be vulnerable, we need to address shame. I think during the privilege exercises that I choose to do with my students, I have to address the feelings of shame and really understand what that might feel like for my students. This is a great resource for understanding the social and emotional learning of shame and vulnerability.

 

REFLECTION

In the Inquiry 2 course, I learned a lot more about my question and found a lot of really interesting resources. This is my summary of the course.

  • Evolution of the topic:

My question’s wording has not changed since my first draft of my proposal, but my understanding and direction of my question has evolved. I have changed my sub-questions to match my understanding of what to do in the classroom. I’ve added the ideas of vulnerability and understanding emotions (Social Emotional Learning) of my students in order to bring these uncomfortable topics up within the classroom. I want to focus my question on the discussion and how to create a safe space for my students to share. In order to have a good discussion, I would need to focus on how to slowly introduce and scaffold topics like white privilege.

  • Synthesis of and Reflection on key ideas: 

What I found in my research was that it was difficult to find articles that are written by a person of colour. A lot of personal articles were describing ways in how a white person can teach and educate other white people to understand their privilege. I found a lot of ways in how people understand privilege from this perspective, which is different from my own, but I was disappointed that there was barely anything written by people of colour. According to my video resource, a big indicator for the lack of representation is shame. I found understanding shame to be extremely useful. In order to understand how to talk about uncomfortable topics in the classroom, we need to understand WHY it is uncomfortable in the first place. What about white privilege is really tough to understand or grasp our minds on, and why do certain people have more discomfort than others?

  • Impact of group discussions:

    The biggest impact that I have had with sharing my inquiry question with others (including the whole class) is that the conversation has started. My premise of my question is how to create meaningful discussion with students and part of my research is having these conversations with other people. I had a really rich conversation with my SA about my question and how she deals with large terms, and difficult topics in her Social Justice and English classrooms. She had a very passionate way of addressing the issues and terms. What I got from her is that, we can introduce these terms by just using them in our conversations, discussions in our lessons. We do not have to argue about the term white privilege with our students but we can have an open discussion about why these terms are important and why we should discuss it in the first place. She emphasizes that as teacher we need to provide the purpose of the lesson, and that specifically to white privilege and race, the point is not to put blame on ourselves, or the people around us. If we focus on the impact that white privilege has in our society, we provide the “so what?” to why we are discussing it, which might strip away the feelings of shame.

 I am very thankful for my colleagues for being able to share their experiences with me, as well as resources that they have found. This question can get quite personal, and everyone has a very different perspective and way that they have dealt with their own privileges.

  • Links to Practice

I will be teaching privilege, race, class etc. through my unit of Power, Justice, and Freedom. I have highlighted in this rough version of my unit plan where my inquiry question will be explicitly introduced into my students’ learning. The learning outcome is related to the First Peoples Principles stated in the unit plan. My reasoning behind teaching them about their privilege is to understand their “sense of place” and their identity in the society that they live in.

Surprisingly in one of our assessment classes in the program, we were discussing how Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the development of intelligence, but also the development of character when it comes to education. I thought this was really fitting with my learning objectives to why I want to discuss social justice topics. If we focus on our “why” and the way is to educate and help develop the character of our students, then we have a direction to my inquiry question. And if there is a purpose, and we help students understand the purpose, then the students will invest and be engaged in the discussion and participating in the vulnerability and discomfort of the topic.

  • Linking to my Inquiry Partners Research

What I really enjoy about this inquiry question is working with Will, and seeing his resources in comparison to mine. His research and perspective are quite opposite as he is a white male speaking about white privilege. However, it is really quite interesting how the overall theme and conclusion revolves around the same themes of empathy, understanding and knowing how to be humble.

  • My Pedagogy

The way I want to carry my research of inquiry in my pedagogy is to always remind myself to the “why” and the “so what?” In order to understand how to do anything with my classroom, I have to keep in mind the core reason to why I chose to be an educator in the first place. I came into education, to make an impact and to change my students perspective of the world. I want them, to put into words they might understand, to be woke. To be “woke” is to allow ourselves to be self aware, and aware of the society we live in. I want my students to come out of their English classroom, knowing a little more about their own identity and how they can relate or empathize for the people around them. As educators, we are not just trying to create intelligent adults, but also fostering citizens in our community. It is in my own passion, behaviour, and attitude that will allow me to teach any uncomfortable topic in any classroom.

Costa Rica Week 3: Despedida

As we are gearing towards our last few days, I can’t help but feel reflective of my experience in Costa Rica.

The purpose of the community field experience (CFE) was “to push past my boundaries and comfort zone.” I am pleased to say that I definitely was pushed out of my comfort zone before and during my entire Costa Rican journey.

Here are some snippets of what I learned and where I grew the most:

  • Teachers are key factors in any students successful life. Even spending one year with them in your class can make a world of a difference. The impact that you have on students will never really fully show, until the very end, when you realize that your relationship with them has put a smile on their face. There was a younger boy who is known to be disruptive in the classroom. I saw that he was fond of my presence in his class and grew to maintain a friendship with him, even in the hallways. It went from “hello’s” to, hiding behind walls to scare each other. I saw him smile, and I thought to myself, maybe this will make a small impact in making his day a little less stressful.Photo: With some teacher friends at our Lunch Spot, where we watch each other’s backs (literally) for iguanas.

 

  • Growing is uncomfortable, and that discomfort is where you know that it is working. Most of the teachers in CRIA are from international backgrounds. They are Americans or Canadians that decided to move here for a year or more to experience a new life and setting. These new experiences are opportunities to grow as human beings and as educators. I could tell each person who told their story, felt uncomfortable leaving their home to move somewhere new. Growth is not supposed to be comfortable. Growth is pushing boundaries and being uncomfortable so that you can learn something.

 

  • When you forget what it felt like to be nervous, that’s when you know you’ve conquered your fears. Being afraid of using my Spanish language with native speakers has always been a large fear of mine. Practicum was tough because I came into my Spanish classes feeling terrified. I knew on this trip that I needed to conquer it. Not just for myself but for my future students. Somewhere halfway through the second week, I realized, mid-conversation, that I was speaking Spanish fluently with a Tico (Costa Rican) and that I forgot to feel nervous. It is easy to think that a nervous student presenting in front of the class, isn’t a big deal but for a 14-year-old, this is a big fear. It is only when they have practiced enough and learned how to calm themselves down that they will realize, that it’s not so bad after all. Like my speaking Spanish fear, I need to be aware that I need to push past my nerves and past my students’ nerves as well.

 

  • Pura Vida. There is an art to “letting go” and “worrying less” that Costa Ricans are experts at. The saying of “Pura Vida” or “pure life” is the idea that everything is going to be okay in the end. There doesn’t need to be any drama or worries about the little things that happen or don’t happen. Having a type-A-teacher personality, I found this the most difficult thing to learn during my trip here. This saying is built everywhere in their actions, social manner, school life, and work life. It is a relaxed approach to life that I know I still have to learn how to do. I think it is important as educators to care about the bigger picture rather than the little details. One teacher said to me the other day “It’s nice to only worry about the things that matter, y’know!” This stuck to me, as coming from my practicum experience, I was too worried and worked up about everything. I came into our Field Day that we’ve been planning since day one, in the morning extremely refreshed. I knew not all the details were in place but I also knew not to worry or fuss about them. It felt good to think “Pura Vida!” Whatever happens, will happen and being flexible is part of the experience. I think everyone needs a little more Pura Vida in their life, especially teachers.

 As we say goodbye to our friends, and celebrate our “Despedida” I am extremely satisfied and pleased with the work and growth that I experienced here in Costa Rica. The entire CRIA and Tico community has taught me so much about who I am, as an educator and as a friend.

Muchísimas gracias por todos mis amigos.

Ms. Capalad

 

 

 

Costa Rica Week 2: Falling into Place

Last Friday, Ms. Yaworski (teacher candidate) and I had the opportunity to work as a substitute teacher for a grade 3 class. Being both secondary teachers, we jumped at the idea of teaching the younger grades. 

Being in someone else’s classroom and seeing the routine that the kids have, was so incredible. The kids knew exactly what to do and when. They were so well behaved and focused on their tests and subject matter.

What surprised me the most, is their quiet nature. Coming from a summer camp background, I am used to elementary kids running around and yelling in a gymnasium. It was easy to get their attention, especially when we used something that they were accustomed to. For example, if you said the word “waterfall” the kids in grade 3B would have responded with a “shhhh” and give all of their attention to the teacher. It was fantastic! My day at with the 3B students showed me how routine and consistency is really important in a classroom, and how helpful it would be for children on the autism spectrum or with learning disabilities.

While we followed their regular routines, we also judged their “tread-a-thon.” The primary grades competed in the pool on which grade could last the longest. At least 2 (or more) from each grade actually lasted treading water for thirty minutes! Amazing! It was hot and sunny but they persevered and even cheered on their swimmers. It was cool to see an event like this. Most schools in Vancouver would not have certain resources like pools available for them, and it was nice to see CRIA using their resources to its full potential.

Yesterday, we finished our first project here at CRIA, teaching substance abuse to middle school students (grades 6, 7 and 8). I was surprised at how each grade was different from the rest. Each grade level gave something completely different to the workshop. Grade 6s were honest about their knowledge and knew way more scientific matters about substances (drugs and alcohol). Grade 7s were more curious and asked a lot of questions on how to say no. Grade 8s were very well behaved and eager to participate in a discussion. It was a good experience to teach something that I had to research myself. We really had to keep in mind the purpose of the workshop/lesson and the importance of backward planning came into play. There so much that you can say about drugs and alcohol but the most significant part was focusing and explaining the “take-a-ways” of the workshop, which was to know and educate themselves, be conscious of their comfort level and safety. I told all the students “our bodies know when things aren’t right. When were uncomfortable in any situation, we have to trust our gut and act appropriately.” I hope this lesson sticks because I value the idea of power and choice in each individual.

I’m learning each day more and more about different styles of teaching. Also, I am learning that we use what we have and we make the most of it. Everything this week seems to be falling into place. It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to Costa Rica. I’m already anticipating missing it.

Best,

Ms. Capalad

PS: Here are some photos from our weekend hike in the rainforest. The little frog is the official animal of Costa Rica!

Costa Rica Week 1: Ready for an adventure

 On Sunday, we arrived in Costa Rica and it was unbelievable. Our view from our accommodations is of Playa Flamingo and the Pacific Ocean. The sun sets in perfect view from our patio door. After an intense ten week practicum, a view like this from an infinity pool was a nice change.

Monday we woke up fairly early to catch our ride to CRIA. I felt myself have the very familiar, “first day of school” jitters. To celebrate Earth Day, it was beach clean-up day. It was exciting to see the kids get so excited about picking up garbage. I couldn’t complain that I was spending the morning at the beach on a Monday school day with enthusiastic primary kids.

The rest of the week, we fell into a nice routine. We got acquainted with as many teachers possible and asked to observe them in their classrooms. Our days were filled with both elementary, middle and secondary students. Here are only some of my highlights: 

  • Grade 8 English, was a discussion day, and I was shocked. I saw every single student put up their hand to speak. They were so engaged with the subject and their novel. They even went “overtime” during silent reading time. I can tell the teacher was extremely passionate and his energy has transferred to his students. His method seemed simple and revolved around being present in their classroom. Their deal is that they have to participate in the discussion, and the class as a whole must know the answers to his questions, or else there would be a quiz! That is a pretty good deal!   

  • Watching the Pre-K students colour and speak in Spanish, their routine and schedules were tight. They do their work and have some play time. I spent my time with a pre-k student who helped me build a tower of magnetic squares. He showed me his cool dance moves while the other kids spoke to me in Spanish during free time. It was adorable!

  • Algebra 2 class was really exciting. As someone who hates math, it was pretty wonderful to see an energetic math class. Her structure consisted of instruction, practice, and homework. However, she made it so accessible to check everyone’s individual work. Her notes were projected on the board, through a computer program where she can write on a tablet. In this manner, she could show them the process of solving the problem. Then it was practice time! The students solved math problems on whiteboards and it held up for her to check the correct answer. This gave her the opportunity to check everyone’s process and the students could erase and correct their mistakes multiple times. This was brilliant and totally applicable to my future Spanish classroom. Who knew Math could be so exciting!

I hope you enjoy the photos of the first week. I’ve been learning quite a bit and learning how to use different forms of my Spanish in both during and after school hours.

Pura Vida,
Ms. Capalad

Mini-Inquiry

In this mini-inquiry, teacher candidates were required to choose an object that meant a lot to them. Then we were asked questions about this object.

  1. What is it?
    Where does it come from? Why is it meaningful?

    My object is my Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. I’ve had it since the first year I immigrated here to Canada. One of my godmothers bought it for me. I remember it was the first toy I got here from the store. It was expensive and I knew I needed to take care of it.
  2. Carefully observe your object:
    What do you notice about its texture, temperature, smell?

    Texture is very different from a regular teddy bear. The smell is non-existent as it probably smells like me/my bedroom, in which I cannot smell my own scent.Try to ‘zoom in’ and look at detail, pattern, texture. What does this different perspective on your object evoke for you, remind you of? What do these observations evoke for you? 

    I think looking at the bear in detail, reminds me of how old this is. I’ve had it since I was five years old and it is the definition of my home. I’ve travelled around with this bear in every place that I’ve left the comfort of my own bedroom and is a reminder that home is a feeling, not a place.

  3. Write the story of your object
    Where is it from? What is its history? Why and how is it significant to you? If you were to use this object as a metaphor, what would it be a metaphor for?  What do the story and significance of your object suggest about your beliefs and values? How might those beliefs and values inform your work as a teacher?

The story of my Winnie the Pooh teddy bear starts for when my godmother bought it for me when I was at a toy store. I remember pointing at it from the top shelf and my she immediately bought it for me, despite my mom resisting because it was expensive. This was the year that we first immigrated to Canada. I had a lot of other toys but for some reason I was extremely attached to this one. Possibly because I chose it, rather than it being gifted to me. It is significant because it became an object of comfort. Whenever we flew, or moved countries, I had this one thing at night to help me sleep and remind me that everything was going to be okay. In the midst of all the change I was going through as a kid, I had this one thing that never grew, and stayed the same. It was always a piece of home.

I think the metaphor for this teddy bear is that no matter how the things around me are different or can change, I will always have a piece of home with me. It is a reminder that no matter how many changes are thrown my way, I am able to change and adapt to my surroundings. Material goods and physical places do not matter as much as things like family, friends, and knowing my own identity.

My beliefs and values as an adult revolves around growth and consistently trying to improve aspects in my life. I have made it a goal, especially this year, to constantly strive for something better.

I think that valuing growth plays a huge part in my teaching. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to constantly adapt to my students and my surrounding. It is my duty to be able to grow in my profession and also in my personal life and be a good example of being a learner of life.

 

Teaching Kindness: Reflection

In our group discussion today, we started talking about peculiar cat behaviour and cute baby bunnies. Slowly our random conversation evolved into someone in our group saying, “Kindness is the highest form of wisdom” which raised the question “How do we teach Kindness in our classroom?”

Kindness can be an overarching team for questions that regard to uncomfortable conflict situations within the classroom. If we teach our students what kindness is, what it looks like and its power, then we can teach them what to do in situations of conflict or discomfort, and most importantly how to respect each other.

It would be unrealistic to force all our students to be friends. That’s not what happens in real life. We can’t all be friends. But what is realistic is to teach them that respecting others, and being kind to others even in stressful situations, can help us overcome the conflict.

Kindness can be learnt. It can be fostered and practiced and it comes from the ability to step back and self reflect. When faced with a situation where someone triggers anger in another student, the student can step back, and self reflect on why this makes them so angry. How can I respond in a kind way towards this person. This idea of self reflection also ties in with self evaluation. The ability for a student to evaluate their process in an assignment is teaching them the skills of being able to ask these same questions in their daily life. “How did I reach to my conclusion?” “What did I learn from doing this?” “How did I challenge myself” “What risks did I take?” “How did I deal with this situation with kindness?” etc.

The ability to ask these questions to ourselves and teach students to do so, could be a step forward in teaching them kindness and understanding of other people and also, themselves.

Inquiry Resources -Question #3

Question: How do you incorporate First People’s learning into a Modern Language/Spanish Class without categorizing all First Nation’s people under one category

Social Justice in Spanish

  • Grenardo, Jennifer. Latino Middle School Students Read to Learn Critical Literacy: Social Justice through Action Research. ProQuest LLC, ProQuest LLC, 01 Jan. 2008. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED567627&login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Teaching Culture in Language Classrooms 
  • Clark, Beatrice Stith and VA. Hampton Univ. Learning to Teach the Cultures of Developing Nations in the Foreign Language and Literature Classroom. 01 Jan. 1985. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED253091&login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
First Nations Principles in BC Curriculum
  • Halbert, Judy and Linda Kaser. “Learning to Be. A Perspective from British Columbia, Canada.” European Journal of Education, vol. 50, no. 2, 01 June 2015, pp. 196-213. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1060126&login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
    • There is a paragraph within this article about the value of First Peoples Principles. It starts off with the fact that the principles stem from the idea that “learning is for well-being — well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.”  (208). If this is the basic perspective of what the First Peoples Principles are, I can get the sense or idea that maybe teaching Spanish or languages to students could start with the idea of family, and community. There are lot of ways to develop vocabulary, and teach literature with this framework.

      The article ends with the sentence “There is much for us to learn and educators in BC are increasingly enthusiastic about doing so” (209). This line gives me hope in tackling in the incorporation of the First Peoples Principles in both my teachable subjects.