Creating Counter Narratives

Hard Working Play– Melayne’s Story

Courtney’s Camp Story

Capture the Flag– My story

My Artist Statement

Courtney, Melayne and I all had the privilege of attending some sort of camp when we were growing up. Although all of our experiences were distinctly different, camp was influential in developing our identities and making us into the people we are today. My story about my favourite game we played at camp was meant to disrupt the idea that because it was a girls only week of camp that meant that we were restricted to activities that society dictates as ladylike. I wanted to show that girls are capable, that they can strategize, and that we are athletic. I wanted to present this story because “built into storylines are subject positions from which we are able to make sense of ourselves as gendered beings” (Martino, 125). In telling this story I wanted to highlight the freedom that women feel and their ability to thrive when they are not faced with the oppressive expectations of how their ender should be performed.
Through this shared freedom found at an all-girls week of camp a sense of community was created that may not have been true of everyone’s camp experience. We were forced to work together as a team in order to win the game. This story of teamwork silenced any notion of division that may have existed within our team based on other factors such as class, race, or even age. While this was my experience it does not mean that it is true for everyone. Through telling my camp story and hearing of Melayne and Courtney’s experiences I have begun to examine my memories of camp from a different perspective. Camp influenced and continues to play a role in influencing my identity and how I view myself as a person. I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend there cannot wait to see how my experiences there continue to shape my ever changing identity in the years to come.
Martino, W. (2012). ‘Undoing’ Gender and Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity: Embracing a Transgender Social Imaginary. Critical Voices in Teacher Education, 125-138.


Reading Response: Seeing Ethnicity and Seeing Our Students

The first thing that struck me from the article by Ninetta Santoro “Teaching in culturally diverse contexts: what knowledge about ‘self’ and ‘others’ do teachers need?” was the line that spoke about how teacher’s “identities are constituted through and by ethnicity” (34). Prior to taking this class I had never considered myself as a person of ethnicity. As we have examined our social positions within the course over the last few months I have generally found myself falling into the dominant narrative category. As a middle class, Caucasian, woman that was born and raised in Saskatchewan my ethnicity is represented all the time in the world around me and so I do not see it as being as vibrant or interesting as the ethnicities of the people who do not fall under the dominant narrative. I think that because we are exposed to our general dominant Canadian ethnicity all the time we fail to see it.
I think that this blindness is something we need to be aware of as educators. If we are going to teach a multicultural student body we need to honour every student’s own individual ethnicity and story. We also need to empower them to be both proud of their own heritage and accepting of those whose stories are different from their own. In honouring the non-dominant narratives of ethnicity within our classrooms we need to ensure that we do not undervalue or diminish the significance of each student’s own unique story. Every story is has value and needs to be honoured.
In order to successfully teach in a diversified setting the focus needs to be on both the self and the other. An educator must first examine themselves, the way they present themselves, and the way they may be perceived by others based in their social positioning. To reflect, in a brutally honest way, on the preconceived ideas and prejudices we have learned to accept and to interrupt them in order to treat our students as individuals.
The most valuable passage in the article for me says “it is necessary to really see, to really know the students we must teach” (36). This is what being a teacher is about for me. It is about being that one adult that a child can trust and go to for help when they may have no one else to go to. In order to teach effectively we must be in relationship with our students. Students can tell when teachers truly care about them or not and this has a huge impact on a child’s ability to thrive in a learning environment. We must get to know them on a one on one basis and see them as they truly are, not tainted through the lens of societal and racial prejudice.
Finally, I think that as educators it is important to honour the stories and ethnicity of every student that we have the opportunity to interact with and influence. Awareness of the students we are teaching and their stories is important but it is key that we also reflect on ourselves and our own personal positioning and how we interact with the people around us. Even though we may not be aware of it our social positioning will show through in how we teach. We can make the choice about whether our positioning will affect our ability to teach students in either a positive or negative way. Educators are called to a higher level of conduct and need to personify acceptance of all peoples as people, not based on race or ethnicity.

Writing the Self #5: Capture the Flag

My feet crunch on the puddle strewn path as I pull my dark brown hoodie over my head and make my way towards the green where the girls are gathering. Thursday evening is always the best part of girl’s week. When I tell people I spend a whole week at camp with only girls they often smirk or make comments telling me not to forget to pack my nail polish. What they don’t know is what we really do at this week of camp. We do all sorts of things that would not fall under the category of girly.
We gather around the bell, busily tying up running shoes and spraying ourselves and each other with bug spray the way that women in perfume commercials mist themselves with fragrance. Preparing for battle. I have been coming to girls week since I could walk, so I know the drill for capture the flag; Line up in your cabins, then we get numbered off, the ones get the girls half of the camp and twos get the guys side. I am assigned as 2 and handed two neon orange strips of cloth. These are my lifelines. I tuck them into the tops of my jeans, one on each hip, ensuring they hang to mid-thigh. Any farther would be total suicide, you may as well hand them over to the other team before the game even starts.
Once we’ve been split up we go to our own side and huddle up to form the perfect battle plan. We vote and decide that we will all go into the bush together then under the cover of the trees we will pass the flag around so no spies from the other side will know its true resting place. The clang of the bell signals the five minute hiding period. We stash our flag in the unrecognizable remnants of a long abandoned fort that is hidden in the overgrowth of the fallen tree. As soon as it’s tucked away safely our squad fans out and we emerge in perfect formation so no one will know where we have hidden our flag. Strategy is key.
The bell is rung twice and war is declared. The more oblivious girls that haven’t played before charge at the dividing line, flags flapping from the unprotected perch in the girls’ belt loops. Those of us that are more experienced however know that there is strength in numbers so we form a pod and sneak through the trees as quietly as we can in order to scout out the opposition’s flag. We inch our way through enemy territory barely allowing ourselves to breathe. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as I listen for even the tiniest sign that there is someone lurking in the grove. I feel the dew that clings to the long grass invade my runners as I take my next squishy step. Out of the corner of my eye I spot something yellow and flapping. I just barely point it out to my friend Victoria when someone comes crashing through the trees towards us.
By instinct and in a surge of adrenaline from the surprise attack, I take off through the brush and run as hard as I can to draw whoever is coming towards us away from Victoria. I swat at the tree branches that seem to grab me and hold me in place. I feel like I am on the run from a dangerous predator, I can feel her getting closer and closer. I burst through the tree barricade and onto the green. Instantly I am converged upon by the other team guarding the border. I charge through the wall of girls and try to dodge their attempts to steal my flags I hear one of them holler and I know that I have lost a life. I leap across the divide as my only remaining lifeline slips through the fingers of the girl behind me and I am safe once again on my side. I lay on the sweet earthy smelling grass, attempting to catch my breath, and through my gasps I hear the clang of the bell and my team cheering. That unmistakable sound of victory.

Reading Response: Transgender and Gender Binaries

How did Laura’s talk challenge you and your preconceptions regarding gender and deconstructing it?
To be completely honest, as I walked up the stairs to class last week I was a little unsure about how to feel about the upcoming presentation. I have had little to no exposure to people that do not fit within the gender binaries society dictates. I was nervous as I sat down about what Laura would say. But as soon as she walked in my worry left me. Hearing her share her story was a really valuable experience for me because it made me think about transgenderism in a way that I hadn’t before. And more importantly it humanized the subject. Instead of talking about transgendered people as though they were a foreign and alien group of people it gave us someone to relate to and for me it made the topic as a whole more relatable and made me feel more empathetic and less quick to judge.
I also really appreciated Laura’s honesty and that she just told her story. Her presentation was an awesome example of what Singleton and Hayes talk about in their article about courageous conversations. One of their tips was to speak your truth and that is what Laura did. I also really appreciated that in sharing her story she didn’t sugar coat anything. Her honesty and bravery in coming in and saying essentially “This is me” was really powerful.

“It is in this sense that transgender theorizing involves an examination of the individual’s relationship and understanding of their embodied experiences of gender identification and is, therefore, ‘more attuned to questions of embodiment and identity than to those of desire and sexuality’”  -Martino (p 6)

This idea of gender performance and that being separate from desire and sexuality is an idea that I had never thought about before we started addressing it in class. I had always been confused by the idea of being transgendered. It made no sense to me until we started talking about it in terms of performance and identity in relation to gender binaries. First off I thought it was an interesting exercise to list things that fell within the male and female gender binaries because these binaries are so deeply engrained in us that we don’t truly question them until they are in front of us in such a clean cut way. Another point from the Martino reading that helped me to understand this idea was the quotes listed above. This way of approaching the idea of transgenderism being related to identity and performance rather than sexuality makes the subject more relatable to those of us that have never experienced those feelings.
I think that this was a very valuable part of the course for the way it tested our comfort zones. It gave us an opportunity to have discussions and to meet Laura so that now when we go out into the world as future educators we will have a new awareness and sensitivity to those that do not fit within societal gender binaries.

Martino, W. (2012). “‘Undoing’ Gender and Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity: Embracing a Transgender Social Imaginary” Critical Voices in Teacher Education, 125-138.

Storied Self in Relation: Race

Part 1

Reading other classmates blog posts in order to prepare to write this assignment was a really interesting experience. Despite the fact that there were similarities between the stories we told there was also noticeable difference between them. Two stories I found to be quite similar to mine was Willow’s story A Room Full of Fun and Kelsey’s story Discovering Ethnic Diversity. Both of these stories are told from the perspective of young girls and tells of their first encounter with people of colour. The thing I loved about Willow’s story is the innocence of childhood that comes through how she has chosen to tell it. The reader doesn’t find out until the very end that the child playing Lego with her is a coloured person. Similar childlike innocence is found in Kelsey’s story when she writes “I came home from school that day and asked my mother why she was didn’t look like my other friends, why she was so pretty”. In both these stories the fact that the other kids were of colour wasn’t a negative or scary thing at all. I can relate to these narratives because they are similar to the one I wrote about being young and first meeting a person whose skin was much darker than mine (The Kids Song Leader). Instead of fearing the difference we were curious about why we were different and thought the difference was beautiful.
As adults recounting these tales we tell them in a way that supresses much of the childlike wonder that was likely experienced in the moment because we have been taught that marveling at and pointing out difference is dangerous. We are scared to honour the differences in the people around us because we don’t want anyone to be offended. We tell these childlike stories through adult filters and so all of them have a similar theme that the difference found in our skin colours was interesting but not something to emphasize too much. Instead of honouring the diversity we find in the world around us we are taught to not see colour. By living in this way though we lose the value that is found in our diversity. It is the differences between us and others that makes this world an interesting place. Though the dominant discourse of not seeing colour and the innocence experienced in childhood meetings are common it doesn’t mean they are the only stories.

Part 2

When we first posted these stories about race a few weeks ago I got the chance to read Courtney’s blog post and it has stuck with me ever since. Courtney’s story The Bench is an honest account of an instance when her childlike innocence was supressed by the need for a grade eight girl to do the cool thing. I really appreciated how bravely honest Courtney was in sharing this story. In telling this story she went against the dominant narrative of acceptance that is perpetuated in Canadian society and told the story that usually goes untold, the story of discrimination.  As I read her story I began to think of times that I had personally treated people of different race in similar ways or when I had seen this kind of mistreatment at the hands of others. Though we may try our best to be accepting we all have stories like this that we could tell but choose not to because we are embarassed by them.
I believe that is extremely important that we tell these stories of exclusion even though it may be an embarassing and shameful experience. Singleton and Hayes’ article Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race says “Third, speak your truth. A courageous conversation requires that participants be honest about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Too often participants are afraid of offending, appearing angry, or sounding ignorant in conversations about race and fall silent”(Singleton & Hayes, 21). I feel like that quote says it all. Through telling these stories we are opening the door for dialogues to start about race and racialization. It also acts as a method of healing and coming to terms with our actions both personally and as a race of people. It is only through overcoming the fears listed above that we can allow these conversations to occur in our future classrooms and hopefully impact the minds of the young people we will teach.
The stories compared in part one all share the theme that when we noticed the difference it didn’t have an effect on how we viewed the people, while Courtney’s story interrupts that narrative by showing that she recognized it and allowed herself to treat Jane differently because of it. This interruption of the dominant narrative is important so that we can grow and move past our inability to accept people as they are. Telling these stories allows us the opportunity to find a way to strike a balance between recognizing that the colour of people’s skin does not make them different than us in a negative way and recognizing the beauty that is found in our differences and celebrating that diversity.

Singleton, G & Hayes, C. Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race (p. 21)

Writing the Self #4: SUV

It was one of those days in the middle of summer when the air is thick with heat and the sun shines down on you and makes you want to do nothing but laze in the shade with a glass of iced tea. We were doing just that in my aunt’s backyard. Lying in lounge chairs and watching the occasional airplane drift lethargically across the sky. My aunt Jenny piped up from across the patio, “If your immediate family was represented by vehicles, what vehicle would they be and why?” she read aloud from her book of 1000 questions.
My dad was first in line to answer the question and as he sat there pondering I wondered how it could possibly take him any time to decide. My mom, my sister, and I were obviously cherry red Ferraris. When dad did finally give his answer we didn’t know exactly how to respond. He looked us all up and down once and then said decidedly “The girls would be SUVS”. After a sufficient amount of teasing about it being a fat joke of some kind he proceeded to explain, “All three of them would be SUVs because they all know how to work hard and well. They aren’t afraid to get dirty and they love hiking, being outdoors, and being adventurous. But at the same time they clean up well. Like an SUV you can clean it up and you wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive it to a fancy restaurant, you can take it out and be proud.”
At the time I didn’t think much of his response. But now that I think about it this was the perfect choice. I have come to know myself as gendered largely through the example set by my mom. My mom is the type of woman that is very strong, fiercely independent, and hard working. She is not the type of wife that makes a “honey do” list for my dad ad sits back while he checks things off. Instead she is always right in there working alongside my dad. Through her example I have come to learn so much about things like changing oil in vehicles, dry walling, and shingling roofs. But despite my mom’s independent spirit she still knows how to make my dad feel like he is still the leader of our family. She was the one who taught me about plucking eyebrows and how to apply makeup and who would braid or curl my hair anytime I asked so long as I sat still. Even though I thoroughly enjoy all sorts of things a “girly girl” would not enjoy that does not mean that I don’t enjoy being a little girly from time to time. I enjoy getting dressed up, getting my hair done, and pampering myself by going for massages. I like to think I am able to strike a balance between the two.
My dad’s response is the only response I remember from that day and it has stuck with me ever since. I think it has stuck with me because it was such an accurate description of how I identify myself as a gendered person. I am a girl but I am also an SUV.

Reading Response: Popping the Protective Bubble of Study

Throughout this last week we have been talking about race and racialization. We read many very good articles and watched informative videos on the subject. But none of that affected me or changed my thinking like listening to Evan Taypotat’s talk about his experience and his home in a raw and bluntly honest way did. We can read all we want on the subject, we can “educate” ourselves on all the facts and statistics regarding racism. We could read up on it for years and keep ourselves in the protective bubble of study, where we read and talk about these issues but never really witness the true effects and the real stories of people’s everyday lives as a result of racist treatment. But that won’t affect people’s hearts nearly the way hearing someone share their story will.
A portion of Evan Taypotat’s talk with us that I really appreciated was the portion where he discussed and dispelled some of the myths surrounding Indigenous peoples and the rights they have been granted as a result of the treaties. This portion was really informative to me and I think that it was the most valuable portion as it changed my perspective by witnessing the ways in which Indigenous people are stereotyped that I was unaware of. These people face more persecution than I realized for many reasons including ridiculous ones such as the stigma regarding First Nations people not paying taxes. Other things such as how housing allowances and the way that works is something I have wondered about often as I have driven through First Nations reserves. This type of dialogue is vital in beginning the process of dispelling racism in our country. It is only through gaining a clear understanding of how things really work and through hearing first-hand accounts that we can begin to understand the extremely harmful effects of racism and can discount the racist lies that persist in our society regarding the rights of First Nations people.
Part of the reading this week was Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race by Singleton and Hayes and I felt that it had some valuable points. The portion about speaking your own truth is very valuable because if you just agree with what is assumed as the dominant narrative than that is allowed to exist and be perpetuated in the classroom. I think though that there needs to be a fifth agreement of courageous conversations added to the list though. I don’t know precisely how to word it but I think it needs to be something along the lines of “make the subject human instead of theoretical”. By asking people like Evan to come in and share their stories and experiences it gives context and it fosters empathy in the listeners that they may not have been able to develop through reading about some removed subject in a scholarly article. By bringing people into the classroom students can build a sense of relationship with people which in turn fosters understanding and makes it harder for prejudices to thrive in the lives of our students.

Writing the Self #3: The Kids Song Leader

The strong smell of wax crayon wafts up my nose as I finish my masterpiece in my well loved colouring book. Just a few more minutes mom had said when I asked her. Just a few more minutes until kids singing. Kids singing is always so fun. We get to all go up to the very front of the auditorium and stand at the front like we are superstars going to perform a concert. When I finally hear them call for the kids to come up I shove my coloring book aside and squeeze between my mom’s legs and the bench in front of me. I round the corner and bound up to the little raised stage at the front of the auditorium, my blue polka dotted dress swishing as I go. I stand at the front of the room playing with the satin ribbon on my dress as the other kids file in around me. I hope that Jeff is leading singing today because he always leads “Toe-Knee-Chest-Nut” and I love that song. I am the only kid that can do the whole thing without messing up, even when we are going really really really fast. But the voice I hear raised over the din of our talking and giggling is not a voice I had ever heard before. Its much deeper than any voice I’ve ever heard.

I look over at the man standing in front of us and I don’t recognize him at all. The man standing in front of us isn’t especially tall, at least not as tall as my dad. He has brown eyes like my mom but way bigger and way darker, almost black. And most strikingly of all his skin is much darker than everyone else in the room, way darker than anyone I’ve ever seen in real life. He looks alot like Gordon from Sesame Street I think to myself. I always liked Gordon, for an adult, he wasn’t as fun as Elmo. I look at him puzzledly, trying to figure out if he knows what he’s doing, after all he’s never led kids singing before, what if he doesn’t know the songs we like to sing.

“My name is Christian” says the man,”I am Jasmine’s husband and we are from Calgary and I want to teach you guys a new song.” That sealed it for me right there. If he had married Jasmine that must mean he was a nice guy.

He told us that he and Jasmine would sing it once through first so we could hear the words and see the actions and then we woud do it together. The moment he opened his mouth to sing I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His voice was so deep I felt it rumbling in my chest. It felt funny. That wasn’t the only funny thing though. The way he was doing the actions was funny too. He was so excited about it. It made me giggle and want to do the actions too, even though I didn’t know them. When it came to our turn to try out the new song he got even more excited and sang louder and danced with us as we did the actions. It was so much fun! The song was over too soon and I was sad because we had to go sit down again.

When I got back to where my family was sitting I turned to mom and said “Mommy, one day I’m going to marry a guy like Christian, he’s funny.”

Nation Building Jigsaw Reflection

I really enjoyed participating in the jigsaw sharing activity. It was very informative and our group generated some good discussion based on the stories that were being shared. Throughout the excercise though I was surprised by a couple of things. First I was shocked by how little I knew about the stories. If I did know something about one of the stories, I would only know one tiny portion of the story while the darker parts had been completely ignored or overlooked. For example I knew a little bit about the chinese immigrant workers that came to help construct the railroad but I had no knowledge of the riots and the violence that followed because of the wish to move the immigrant workers out of Canada to make way for British settlers.

I suppose that was the part that made me the most uncomfortable. Throughout many of the stories there was an overreaching theme of the government bringing people in to do the difficult work of settling, or building the railroad and then whene the work was completed turning around and essentially saying, “Get Out.” Our Canadian government has treated people as though they were expendable, simply in this nation for them to manipulate in order to benefit the nation. I want to ensure that when I teach the history of Canada these stories do not get overlooked and ignored because they are a part of who weare as a nation and we need to learn from these sad stories.

Nation Building Jigsaw: Ukrainian Canadians 1896-1915

The article Ukrainian Canadians 1896-1915: A Case of Mistaken Identities follows the history of the Ukrainian people and how they have faced and overcome oppression in both their homeland and also in the newly formed country of Canada where they were seeking a new life. It began with Clifford Sifton’s efforts to colonize the west and the propaganda used to lure Ukrainian people to Canada to work the land and build the nation. They bought farmland and worked it, they took up jobs as unskilled labourers on the railway. As more Ukrainian people came to settle the west the more threatened British settlers felt. Anti-Ukrainian attitudes grew and were populated both in newspapers and even in churches. The Ukrainian people were subjected to racial hatred at the hands of politicians, the press, and even employers who would not hire them only because they were Ukrainian.
This racial hatred only intensified after the outbreak of the First World War. Because people of Ukrainian heritage lived in many parts of Eastern Europe including in Austria the Ukrainian people were mistakenly labelled as Austrians and treated as the enemy. Eventually internment camps were constructed across Canada to house people of enemy nationality. The camps were hastily constructed and located in remote areas. Prisoners of the camps were forced to do hard labour with little to no food.
At the conclusion of the war Ukrainian people were still treated with prejudice but as time went on the government slowly began to lift the restrictions that had been placed on them during the war. Some Ukrainian traditions were slowly lost and over time the people became more anglicized to avoid racial hatred. But through all of the hardships the Ukrainian people faced they never lost touch with their heritage.
“My wife’s brother went nuts in one of their camps. He was taken away and when he finally got back he was never the same again. They had broken his spirit up there in northern Ontario. He could never get over the injustice of his treatment, the falseness of his hope in this new world”

This article was an eye opener for me. If you had asked me if I thought the Ukrainian people had been oppressed and subjected to hatred upon their arrival to Canada I would have said maybe a little but not on a large or widespread scale. The part of this article that was the most shocking to me was the portion that talked about the internment camps that were set up during World War One.This is material that gets swept under the rug in high school history classes. I have been to a number of the cities that were home to these camps many times and I had never heard about this forgotten piece of Canadian history. The other thing I found unsettling about reading this article was how widespread and blatant the racial hatred of the Ukrainian people was at the time and yet none of this material is addressed in our education until we reach the first year of university.
By not having any knowledge of this story and others like it that go untold as a nation we lull ourselves into a naïve sense of “We’re good”. By not acknowledging the darker parts of our own past we lose an accurate view of our nation. We come to view Canada as a very welcoming and safe place for all people and begin to convince ourselves that’s how it’s always been. By holding onto this view we make it difficult to relate to people who have personally or whose families who have faced massive discrimination from Canadians and the Canadian government. We need to tell these stories so that as a nation we learn from our past and recognize when we are falling back into our old ways of racial hatred. Reading about the hatred and propaganda found in the press about Ukrainian Canadians at that time was very interesting and slightly alarming because it was easy to recognize similar themes of alienation found in the blatant quotes in this article and in the more subtle statements of our current press. And to think that people just went along with it. It makes me wonder what is being said in the press today, that we are either ignoring or just letting sllide, that future generations will read and be appauled that it was allowed to be printed and circulated.
As individuals not knowing these stories could cause us lose the compassion we need to truly understand where the people we interact with are coming from. In order to relate to people and to work and grow alongside the people we share this nation with we need to recognize that not everyone shares the same past and that not just one group of people was persecuted in the process of making Canada into a nation. And that these people that were treated poorly were Canadian citizens. This understanding of the more sad parts of our history can give us a historical humility that allows us to recognize the injustice that was done in the past and to challenge ourselves as individuals to change that. The biggest difference that can be made by individuals that now have this knowledge is to not let the story go untold. By telling these more painful stories we are able to recognize injustice not only in our past but we can ensure that the stories that we don’t necessarily want told are told so that future generations can grow just as we are growing based on the previous generation’s struggle.