diversity (4)

Major Points of Learning

As my time at my practicum school comes to an end this week, I have been reflecting on the most important aspects of my learning. I have been extremely fortunate in my placement; I have designed and taught a full unit to several 8th grade Mississippi Studies classes. The experience has greatly impacted me as a teacher and given me lots of opportunities to grow. In particular, I wanted to reflect on two major points of my learning:

1.The value of enrichment.

The cohort of students I teach are all enrolled in the AVID program, and are considered to be highly motivated, and high achieving, students. As a result, there are very few students with learning disabilities, behavioural IPPs, or ELLS. When planning instructional differentiation, I typically focus on students who struggle and need extra help. However, I quickly learned that advanced students require a  special focus in differentiated instruction as well. Throughout my placement, I have learned that with in one class you will have many levels of students and you need to be ultra-prepared for students at both end of the spectrum. Although these are concepts that we have discussed in classes before, the real-life experience made it clear to me how important differentiation is, and how it is not just important for students who struggle. 

2.Diversity needs to be celebrated, not just tolerated.

As we discussed in Diversity in Learning and Indigenous Education, we do see race and it does have social meaning and consequences (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2014). In education and social justice, it is important to recognize this so that we do not “trivialize the realities of racism” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2014, p.14). 

One of the reasons I applied to teach in Mississippi was to observe how the legacy of institutionalize racism has impacted schools. Mississippi has an extremely divisive history, for example:

  • MS succeeded from the United States to join the Confederacy in 1861, with the aim to maintain slavery as the principle institution in society.
  • After the civil war, MS was the first state to create the Black Codes in the 1860s - laws which acted to confer the civil rights of African Americans. 
  • In 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs Board of Education that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. However, it was not until 1962 that the first African American student, James Meredith, attended the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). In response, segregationists led a massive riot which ultimately required the federal military to intervene.
  • In 2012, the University banded the sports chant “the South will rise again”, which led to a protest, led by the KKK, on University property. 

This complex history still impacts Mississippians today. Especially in the classroom, it is important to recognize how the legacy of institutionalized racism affects students. However, I have noticed a trend in society, as well as in schools, towards “colour-blindness”. This is a dangerous ideology - it may promote a tolerance towards diversity, but I believe that in order for our students to reach their full potential, diversity needs to be recognized and celebrated. I saw this in my placement - when student’s unique experiences and perspectives were embraced, they were better set up to succeed. I had the opportunity to teach a lesson on the confederate states in Oxford*, and each student wrote a letter to the Mayor explain their position and whether the statues should remain where they were, be moved, or be removed. It was an interesting experience in creating an inclusive learning space for all my learners and making sure that the conversation was meaningful and respectful. My learning in Mississippi has impacted my perspective as a Canadian - particularly in terms of Reconciliation, as we have a long journey ahead of us to ensure that our diverse students are celebrated and given every opportunity to succeed. 

Overall, teaching in Mississippi has been an eye-opening and endlessly rewarding experience. I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had and all of the wonderful people I have met along the way.

Hotty toddy!



*these monuments have been discussed in detail in previous blog posts.

Literature Cited:

DiAngelo, R. & Sensoy, O. (2014). Leaning in: A student’s guide to engaging constructively with social justice content. Retrieved from: g/Leaning_In__A_Students_Guide_To_Engaging_Con structively_With_Social_Justice_Content.html

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Sapporo! Hajimemashite!

Sapporo! Nice to meet you! 

It has been about two weeks since I have arrived in Sapporo, and it has definitely been an interesting experience so far. The past two weeks have been spent attending Japanese Language classes in the morning and in the afternoon we either go on school visits or attend seminars. The rest of our time is spent, immersing ourselves in Japan’s culture, by spending time with our own individual host families. During our school visits, we are always asked to pay special attention to the differences and similarities between Japanese and Canadian schools, in which multitudes of comparisons were made. However, for this post, I would like to focus on what I found to be the biggest differences which is diversity.  

As a Canadian, I feel very proud to live in a country filled with multiculturalism in which it has provided me with many opportunities to learn about and experience various cultures. I feel proud that I come from a diverse background where I am a young Canadian woman, half Hong Kong and half Singaporean, from an upper-middle socioeconomic class. I have never felt ashamed for being different and rather I was always told that I was an unique individual. I also loved that about Canada, and additionally I have also always loved the numerous fresh perspectives that come hand in hand with living in a diverse country. 

Thus, following those school visits, I began to reflect back into our own schools and classrooms. Diversity in our classrooms is happily met with accommodations for various students who may be English Language Learners, or individuals who all may come from diverse cultures, religions, ethnicity. Not only do our classrooms accommodate for the above, but we also accommodate for various learning styles and learning needs in Canada. Thus, following my realization of the monoculturalism of Japan, this has actually led to my desire to learn more about how diversity in the classroom is met. Whenever we presented on multiculturalism to our Japanese elementary and middle school students we always highlighted the fact that even within our Japan Teaching Across Borders group multiculturalism is very prevalent. Each of us all come from unique backgrounds and heritages. Every time we talked about it to our students and fellow teachers, they would look at us in awe.

In Japan, however, diversity is less commonly found. In a sea of Japanese people, all of us stood out like a sore thumb. One of the things that I noticed was that in tourist spots such as Tokyo, Kyoto, or Hiroshima, for example,foreigners were a more common occurrence. However, during my stay in Hokkaido, which is the more rural region of Japan, foreigners were seen less often. Thus I began to notice during our five school visits that in the classrooms, I have yet to have found a student that was non-Japanese. Japan is very mono-cultural however, everyone was still incredibly friendly towards us. 

In conclusion, I look forward to moving on to phase two of my Teaching Across Borders program in which, Taryn and I will be moving to Kushiro to learn more about the Japanese educational system where we will also be actively participating in Japanese elementary and junior high schools. I look forward to learning more about diversity and many other things in Kushiro. 


Mata ne! 

See you later! 

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Home Away From Home

Having not lived the full university life back in Canada, that is typical residential (village) living conditions and lack of personal transportation, I feel like I am adapting in I can still count on my fingers the number of bus and train times misread, have had to run for, or missed all together. Patients is key here, as we've learned that the Aussie way of life is severely relaxed. The nice thing though is that many people are overtly kind; help you read your maps, direct you to the right train platform, or just offer up a nice "how ya going?".Perth, like Calgary is very spread out so a great deal of time each day is spent on public transport and wearing down the souls of your shoes. It is a great way to slow down and enjoy what is around you.Days are spent venturing off Murdoch Campus into Fremantle with fellow villagers where you can enjoy a cup of coffee around any corner, stroll the Freo market full of food, buskers, and shops, or catch a movie. While this laid back life seems ever so enjoyable, it gets a little pricey: a movie ticket itself (student price)-$23; croissant sandwich-$10; and the luxury of ketchup-$2.Living on campus has become a great support system especially socially. We've enjoyed our first authentic Aussie BBQ at the uni where residents also gathered for beach volleyball, basketball, and the hit bubble soccer. Every day the village hosts some sort of small social gathering, offer tons of free food (who doesn't like free food?), and an overall enjoyable atmosphere.The similarities between Australia and Canada makes for a lack to write about in our everyday living, as nothing seems too notably different. We are however witnessing extreme ends of the educational spectrum. After visiting Kalgoorlie today we had our first day at an all boys private school, where we will only attend for five school days. After reading some of the other blogs I can't help but feel like we are missing out on actual teaching experience. Our roles here, since we will be spending relatively short amounts of time at each school, are less demanding. For example, my role this week will be small group or individual instruction, spending one on one time with a couple boys with scribing difficulties. Their assignments and work is very laid out for them and easy to follow, I will simply guide them keeping them on track. Although missing out in hands on aspects, with having only three days so far in schools I feel as though my mindset and perspective on different educational settings has been greatly impacted. Three schools, three completely different atmospheres and educational focuses, and I slowly but surely am becoming more aware of the school settings in which I can imagine myself working and thriving in and those that I would rather not commit myself to. The first day impression of this school is one in which I don't particularly envision myself being part of, but I am curious to see how the week plays out. It is a constant reminder dancing in my head that of what we see, at any moment or given day, of any individuals behaviours or actions is just that...a moment, a snap shot.
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Konnichiwa from Japan!


My name is Jo-Anne and I'm enrolled in the Bachelor of Education program at the Werklund School of Education. I am currently in Japan for the third semester, as I am part of the Teaching Across Borders program.

 I have been in Japan for two weeks, so I have been exploring and learning about the culture, including the school system. Knowing this, I am excited to volunteer in schools in October as I learned that the school culture is different from Canada's. I believe this experience will help me be more open-minded and understand another culture at a deeper level. I genuinely believe that being open-minded and acceptance of diversity are important characteristics to have, especially as a teacher because we will encounter diverse students from different backgrounds and cultures. I hope this experience will help me connect with students from different cultures and backgrounds (especially Japan, since I am here) in a profound way and build pedagogical relationships.

Additionally, participating in the TAB program allows me get out of my comfort zone since I am in another country not knowing the language, culture etc. I hope this invaluable experience will broaden my outlook, both at a personal and professional level as I become a teacher.

Arigato gozaimasu! 

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