Remember those days where you would walk into your school to find everyone wearing matching pink shirts? As you start making your way to class, you too are handed a pink shirt and bribed to wear it with a sucker. Because everyone else was wearing them and they were in fact for a good cause (and you would get a sucker), you put it on and became a clone of your peers. If this still doesn’t ring a bell, you either never had Pink Shirt Day at your school, or your experiences with that day were more positive than mine.
To begin, I am not against the Pink Shirt Day campaign in any way, in fact, I encourage you to support it. So far, it has raised over $1.2 million that goes towards anti-bullying programs! So where is my seemingly negative attitude coming from? My issues are not with the campaign itself but with how my school neglected it. When it came to Pink Shirt Day or AntiBully Day- as my schooled called it- my school never did anything special. We never had guest speakers come in, we didn’t do activities that raised awareness, we didn’t even talk about bullying. Sometimes teachers would sell pink ice cream floats at lunch and then donate the money, but when it takes an ice cream float to get a kid to give a dollar for a good cause, that isn’t what going in the right direction looks like. When AntiBullly Day was done and over, our school may have spent a ton of money on pink shirts for a good cause, but bullying was still an issue within our school that had yet to be tended to.
Another incident where social activism was not used to its fullest abilities within my school, was during the boom of the Idle No More movement. In Native Studies, our teacher assigned the class to make picket signs that supported the movement. We never fully discussed the issue but rather the teacher had us “look it up” online. We had also planned to go beyond our classroom and walk the streets of our community in protest… but when that time came, our teacher opted for short essays on our feelings towards the movement.
Looking back on these memories, I am left wondering why some teachers backed away from social activism. Were they scared to allow students to take a stand, even when it was the right thing to do? Was it just easier to pretend that we were supporting good causes? Whatever the reason may be, this form of slacktivism did worse for us students than not doing anything at all. Today’s technology has created a world of its own where we don’t even need to leave our bed to tell the world what our opinions are. With something as simple as a hashtag we trick ourselves into thinking that we are making a difference. If all schools depicted social activism the way my school has, these coming generations won’t understand what it means (and feels like) to actually make a difference.
With hopes of learning from the past to grow as an educator, I have started researching other teacher’s resources used to bring social activism into the classroom and school. Here are just a few examples that I found from one of my new favorite sites called Teaching Tolerance:
- Students will experience discrimination and develop a sense of fairness and equity.
- Students will apply literature to real life experiences.
- Students will become empowered to take responsibility for their environment.
- explore the role of photography (and the photographer) in documenting activism
- examine different kinds of activism in photography
- analyze how photographs can be persuasive
- Understand the significance of Morgan’s speech as part of the civil rights movement
- Make the connection that modern historical events and issues are directly tied to past events
- Assess when is the right time to take action or to speak up
Like I said, these are only a few examples amongst many others on the Teaching Tolerance site. Though the site follows an American curriculum plan, the activites are perfect (or else easy to change) for students anywhere and everywhere. I love that the resources include full lesson plans and how impactful they are. Most that I have found are directly linked to social activism. I may even make a blog post specifily on this site, but for now, here are a few resources for you to take!
I knew exactly what I wanted to do when my ECMP 355 prof. proposed a learning project that would entail learning something that I had very little knowledge of. Immediately, tattooing popped into my mind. My next door neighbor is a tattoo artist who had some old supplies that I could use and I was set! or, at least, I thought I was set. My first tattoo lesson was given to me by my neighbor himself and it was easy. To incorporate some technology into my learning process, I watched several videos of other people tattooing or learning to tattoo, on youtube. I thought everything was fine and dandy until I went for my second lesson with my neighbor. I wanted to show him how much I had learned from the videos and began a technique that I had learned from my technological source. I was concentrating hard and holding my breath, I didn’t want to mess up. I took the tattoo gun in my hand and slowly began to move it towards the fake skin (fake skin is a piece of special rubber used to mimic skin when practicing tattooing). Before I could even touch the needles of the tattoo gun to the fake skin sitting on the dining room table, my neighbor shouted, “WOAH WOAH WOAH!”. I jumped out of my seat and my knees hit the edge of the table. I looked up at my neighbor, unsure of what I could have possibly done wrong. He explained, in his gruff voice, that the angle of the tattoo gun was incorrect for the type of needles in the gun and that if I were tattooing a real person, it would have hurt like hell and looked horrible. He then went on a rampage about all the tattoo artists who try and teach themselves how to tattoo from apps or youtube videos and then screw up on the first real skin they tattoo. I was terrified and promised that I would no longer use technology as a source for learning how to tattoo.
After my near tattoo tragedy, I began to wonder what else one cannot learn from just the internet itself. I can tell you right now that I could spend a year studying karate and would be lost the moment I tried to physically attempt it. That could go for any sport actually. When it comes to learning anything, nothing can beat a good teacher and a textbook. Along with a good teacher, practice is vital. Unfortunately, not everything can be practiced using the internet, and the internet can’t always judge your progress- like in karate.
I tried to look for a list of things that can’t be learned from the internet, on the internet, but the only thing I ended up finding was that the internet doesn’t teach you what you can’t learn from the internet…
So I made my own list. I call it Things The Internet Can’t Teach You:
Wow is this getting difficult! I am only on the third skill and have learned so much yet I have sooo much more to do! This week was called Basics 2 and I learned plural forms of words along with some more objects and things. I have been having quite the time trying to remember the many forms of verbs and have decided that this week I am going to focus more on remembering the verbs that I have been taught so far and then make a video strictly on my progress with those verbs. For now, though, here is this week’s video:
Duolingo, Inc. 2016. Duolingo. [Mobile application software]. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/es/Basics-2
I had no idea how difficult it was to learn a new language, though Duolingo is a breeze, trying to memorize the spelling and pronunciation of some words can be challenging. Though I had originally thought I would be posting a video every week, I may switch to every two weeks as that is how long it takes for me to (almost) memorize each lesson. Seeing as I am a bit behind on schedule, I may try and sneak another video in this week or maybe post two next week, but no promises…
Duolingo, Inc. 2016. Duolingo. [Mobile application software]. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/es/Common-Phrases
Learning Spanish with Duolingo has been a breeze. It is easy to use and SO fun! Because it records which words you understand, which words you struggle with, and which words you down right don’t understand, the app changes to match your learning level. My favourite aspect of Duolingo is that it records your progress and reminds you to practice. Did I mention that it is completely free! I can go on and on about Duolingo so I thought I’d make a video showing YOU how it works and why I like it so freaking much!
Here is my screen recording of Duolingo:
Duolingo, Inc. 2016. Duolingo. [Mobile application software]. https://www.duolingo.com
Reaffirming, inspiring, and emotion evoking, is how I describe last week’s lecture best known as The Woodrow Lloyd Lecture, presented by Justice Murray Sinclair. As a white citizen of Canada, I can’t help but feel guilt and shame in regard to the discrimination and bigotry towards First Nations people. Sinclair’s lecture acts as a reminder that although Canada’s relationship with First Nations people has come a long way, we are far from where we crucially need to be.
I grew up in a town called Fort Qu’Appelle where the closest reserve was ten minutes away. In elementary and high school, First Nations students took up the majority of my classes, and Native studies was a mandatory class if you wanted that high school diploma. I am proud of this. I am proud that I was privileged to grow up in a community where First Nations culture was widely understood and accepted. But even in a town literally named by a First Nation’s legend, racism was still a factor that refused to vacate.
It wasn’t until later in my teens that I experienced, what I call, my first blast of racism -I describe it as a blast because it literally blew me away by how racist some people could be in this day and age. I remember the day vividly as my mom had invited several of my extended family members over which included my rambunctious, hillbilly uncles. We were happily sitting around our dining room table sharing old tales and current news when my dad mentioned that there had just been a shooting on the reserve near our town. My lovely uncles’ eyes grew wide as they delved into the topic with horrific stereotypical remarks on First Nations people. I was absolutely mind boggled by the prejudice and was about to leave the room when my mom jumped into the quarrel and began to lecture the family on her understanding of the matter.
As I was listening to Justice Sinclair’s message, I realized that it resembled the same lecture that my mom had given my confused uncles after they had unjustly announced their racist opinions on First Nations people. It wasn’t until I heard what my mom said that I fully understood why our relationship with First Nations people is the way that it is. Just like Sinclair, my mom explained that because of the generations and generations of aboriginal people experiencing annihilation, the effects have been long lasting and affect generations to come. These people are still healing.
I was given the opportunity in grade 11 to hear, first-hand, the effects of the horrid treatment my people gave First Nations people while on a travel experience in Mexico with the Native American Indigenous Ministry. In Mexico, a group of mostly First Nations young adults and I worked at an orphanage where children with horrific pasts now had a safe home. During the day, we had the chance to play and care for some of the children and were told stories of the children’s pasts. In the evening, our group met around a fire where we shared how our experiences have been. The more time our group spent together, the closer we grew and by the last couple evenings in Mexico, the masks fell off and we began sharing our life stories. I was blown away (yes again) by how similar my First Nations friend’s lives were to that of the children’s at the orphanage. They shared stories of abuse, rape, abandonment, suicide… I realized in that moment that the Mexico trip that I was on was not only to help children at an orphanage but to help my Native brothers and sisters. To make a long story short, the trip consisted of many tears but ended with an abundance of smiles.
Until my trip to Mexico, I was oblivious to how severe Canada’s historic events are affecting First Nations people today. I had no idea that even MY friends were still living with the consequences left behind by events such as residential schools. But even with this new understanding, until listening to Sinclair’s lecture, I was mindless of how, as a country, we can truly overcome this.
Let it be known that reconciliation does not have to be about forgiveness. “The key to reconciliation is the education system”, Sinclair stated in regards to how we will make the past known and make change for the future, “we have to learn to be patient and committed”. He also explained that a key part of life is being able to answer four specific questions:
Where do I belong?
Where am I going?
Why am I here?
Who am I?
If an individual is unable to answer these questions, how are they supposed to understand life? Unfortunately, my friends who I went to Mexico with were asking these exact questions and owing to the fact that they were in a state of not wanting to live anymore, I fully accept that answering these questions are vital for moving forward. Sinclair went on with saying “every society has an obligation to help our children to answer these four very important questions”. With the numbers of citizens who have yet to know their answers, society has failed its people. Canada NEEDS to take action. We need to educate ourselves and others on the steps necessary to move forward, out of our past of inhumanity, and into a future of reconciliation because if we don’t, our progress will be lost. Our First Nations brothers and sisters have suffered far too long.
Boy has this learning process been strenuous! From technical difficulties to having to change my learning process altogether, I have had an intense time trying to make this work but alas, things are now coming together! Though I had originally begun my learning project by learning how to tattoo, unfortunately, the process was going by way too fast, and using technology as my educator was next to impossible. Thankfully, I had a backup plan and now, here I am, learning Spanish. To begin, week one has treated me swell and I can say that I truly have been enjoying this fascinating language. As you will see in the video posted below, the Spanish language has several differences in the way they use their words vs how we use words. For example, one word in Spanish can translate into a whole phrase in English. This has posed as a struggle for me but I am excited -and nervous- to see what the next weeks throw at me!
Below is week one’s progress documentation:
Duolingo, Inc. 2016. Duolingo. [Mobile application software]. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/es/Basics-1
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"Success isn't just about what you accomplish in life, it's about what you inspire others to do." -Unknown Author
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