Over the last few months, life took its course and I landed a contract gig with the Mosaic Institute’s Global Citizenship Project (East Asia focus). The Mosaic Institute is a “’think and do’ tank that creates platforms for learning and dialogue among diverse Canadian communities to advance justice, promote peace, and reduce conflict“.
As it would happen, the Next Generation project team conducted a community consultation that I attended earlier in the summer. Taken from its website, “Next Generation is a dynamic initiative aimed at developing tomorrow’s global citizens. We developed curriculum that allows high school students to see themselves reflected in their learning and practice their global citizenship: the two key pillars that help them navigate the ever-changing landscape of global priorities.” I left the consultation feeling excited at the prospect of supplementing BC’s current social studies curriculum with more diverse holistic perspectives and issues through this project, but also with a few questions of my own about how the project would proceed.
Later, I was generously offered a contract gig as a curriculum developer on the project, and was energized at the opportunity to do so. (Thank you to Angela Brown, curriculum developer on the project, for bringing me in!) With my background in Asian Canadian & Asian Migration studies and teacher training, I have always been keen to work within and beyond the BC Curriculum, particularly in the social studies department. Even with my teacher training, I’ve always looked to explore curriculum development and alternative education opportunities to supplement classroom learning. This was an awesome opportunity to expand student exposure to lesser-known issues and narratives of often marginalized or non-dominant communities.
Working with the Next Gen team on their project structure, I offered feedback on the workshops that would be facilitated at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary school this fall, and would write 10 of the 20 workshops relating to diversity, anti-oppression, and East Asian histories and issues. The full set of workshops & project schedule include:
I enjoyed being able to employ more recent and less-traditional sources of knowledge as I create the workshops in tandem with community consultations. I will admit that working in somewhat isolation was not what I had in mind, and am very appreciative to members of the community who took the time to share with me previously existing resources or suggestions to incorporate into these workshops. That said, I wish I had more time to do so (beyond a month!).
I was excited to join the team of Next Gen facilitators and meet likeminded individuals who are concerned and passionate about the education our youth are getting in schools, with the hopes of expanding students’ worldview beyond the classroom textbook.
And so, here’s a little bit of what Day 1 of the Next Gen 2016 project looked like!
Day 1: Taking a Look at Canada
Having been outside of the classroom teaching world for some time, I had forgotten what it was like to have late nights of prepping and early morning wake ups, fuelled by caffeine, of course!
The morning is chaotic as we’re getting introduced to Charles Tupper Secondary, the school community, and the schedule for the day. It’s been awhile since I’ve been at Tupper. I used to be there every afternoon when I was in undergrad as part of the Kababayan Academic Mentorship Program. Please check them out, they are such a vital part of young Filipino student success. (Perhaps a post on this later, but KAMP was a pivotal experience that shifted my thinking and positioned my love for outside of classroom /experiential learning!) So it was kind of surreal to be back here.
Just as unconventional as the project is in terms of traditional content and pedagogies, so was the space that we would facilitate workshops in! I was assigned the school library and am sharing the space with another facilitator (and our 30 students each!). We were concerned about how we would make the best use of the space without disrupting each other and the students, along with AV set up and such.
I was lucky to be able to access the nearby open space in the library where I set up a circle of chairs. Finally, an opportunity to get students out of their structure desks and seated so that they could actually see each other- a simple sign of respect and good community building practice!
The morning began with an opening keynote welcome from Indigenous community member, Kat Norris and local film maker Karin Lee (producer of Cedar & Bamboo— the first of iteration of Indigenous – Chinese history in BC recorded, please check it out!!). I ducked in and out of this first session but was mainly in the library getting all set up for the students.
But any teacher knows you can’t ever rely on the AV and so backups on back up plans are necessary.. more of the behind the scenes at the ‘classroom space’ is being set up! Originally intending to show CBC’s 8th Fire documentary, the video unfortunately would not play at the school. Instead, decided to do a list minute ‘chalk talk’ activity to triage initial student knowledge on Canada’s Indigenous relations and histories.
A quick peak at my white board before a lot of different edits went into the schedule, but no surprise here! I seriously need to practice my board writing!
It was great to finally meet the students, who are grade 11s and are predominantly people of colour or children of immigrants. We soon found this commonality out when we did our round of introductions in different languages and ways to say hello, including sign language! The amount of diversity that exists in a single classroom never ceases to amaze me. After a round of icebreaking, overview, housekeeping, an introduction of myself and community agreement, there wasn’t that much time left! I will say that the topic of this core workshop, Canada’s Indigenous People, set a heavier tone to the students’ energy in the space. For some reason, I was happily surprised by the amount of knowledge students knew about Indigenous histories and presence in Canada, a clear difference than when I went to high school. Very glad to see this, and tipped me off that these students were clearly ready for a challenge (good to note for future planning).
Zipping through the morning sessions and right into lunch, (a much needed time to catch up on photocopying blunders and room prep), we headed into the afternoon elective workshop.
So, with literally 3 quick bites and 7 minutes to spare, we launched into the afternoon! Again, I had forgotten what it’s like to work through lunch! Granola bars, fruit, an essential washroom break to wash your hands are the way!
I was excited to facilitate a workshop that I had written myself of on the 1907 Vancouver Race Riots. I had taught lessons on this topic previously, but made some more adjustments given that this was only a one-time 90minute workshop with a completely brand set of students that I had never met before. Elective workshops are selected by the students, and are not the same group of students from the morning- it’s a total wildcard of who you get to meet.
We began with ‘video call’ telephone charades to get students active and moving after a full lunch, and to illustrate that a message can be interpreted differently based on the receiver, and changes very much over time. This exercise would illustrate the workshop’s main objective to emphasize the importance of perspective taking in the way we engage with histories and diverse opinions.
Of course looking back 90 minutes is hardly enough time to capture the nuances of lesser-known historical event in Vancouver, and pivotal in demonstrating the dynamics relationships between minority communities vis-a-vis power.. but seeing and hearing student feedback noted a clear understanding of valuing more holistic perspectives and the divisive nature of the white supremacy narrative of the 1900s.
Day 1 closed with a ending session gathering back the 6 different classes of students in their auditorium presenting about what they learned and recapping the day. Sitting there catching a breather, I had forgotten what a mad-dash full day teaching can be like. And in this case, workshop facilitation!
As the students filed out for the day, my mind was already spinning and reflecting on the day’s proceedings and what could be improved or kept for next session. I share some of those thoughts here.
Mainly, there seems to be some difference between being a workshop facilitator and a teacher. Just listening to fellow workshop facilitators as they shared about how their Day 1 went, there were a handful of observations that students tended to respond more actively to games and videos (agree), and were more likely to quickly disengage when anything ‘remotely school-like’ was presented (worksheets, small group collaboration and large group presentation share backs).. but I don’t know, I’m skeptical to totally believe this distinct divide between school classes and workshops. Why does there need to be such a distinction? It’s possible to do both games and worksheets in the same class, to do hands-on model making and teacher-centred lecture. It’s possible, at least I’d like to think so based on my own practice. More on this as the project progresses.
I will say I enjoy being able to build a different kind of rapport with students. As a relatively young person, being able to relate to students on a more personal level about my interests, pop culture references, and experiences as a facilitator engages a different power dynamic than that of student- teacher rapport. I find that my role as a facilitator involves speaking as a peer whose function is to create and sustain a safe community environment to have conversations and learn with others in the room. There’s a certain degree of comfortability that students seem to feel knowing that you’re not their teacher or traditional figure of authority that holds their academic future in their hands. As an outsider who doesn’t engage with the class everyday, and is facilitating workshop that are different from their typical social studies curriculum, there is a sense of cool detachment from what students are conditionally used to. Still, there is some tension as an outsider, somewhat hasn’t had months of opportunity to build trust and rapport with students. I’m here for a day, but who am I? It’s fascinating to observe how students interact and react to a new presence in their classroom. And even though these workshops are labelled as such, and not ‘classes’, still students are being taught, not traditionally, maybe a little unconventionally and whether or not they wish to believe it… education is still happening! And at the end of the day, as an educator, that’s all that matters.
I’m looking forward to Day 2 of the project on Wednesday October26! Fred Wah is our guest speaker, and our day’s topic is centred around migration and oral histories. And if you know me, you can’t imagine how much I’ve waited for an opportunity like this one. It’s the dream, really. Classroom or not, if I could talk diversity, histories, migration, and community everyday, that’s the dream.