And as my heart beats

“I am, I am, I am.” -Sylvia PlathDSCN7427a

I’ve already address some of these ideas on some of my other social media, but being my own person has become something wonderful and frightening all at once.
It’s been so long since I’ve been happy alone. Dancing late into the night, yoga, wine, reading for class, eating omelettes with all the vegetables. I can drive late at night and be without my phone.

I was with someone recently and I was checking my phone. I think mostly out of habit and fear. He asked how things were in the phone world and I tried to shrug it off claiming I was checking the time.. but I wasn’t. I had an embedded fear that I would get in trouble, when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. He knew I was bullshitting and laughed, “what’s going on? got somewhere to be?” I replied no sheepishly, and he said “then why does the time matter? All that matters is that we’re together.”

So I am, I am, I am. I swear to be present. The past few weeks have been trying. Grad school, man, it’s a lot to digest, but I’m doing it. I have amazing classmates, wonderful students, teaching all the time, and time for me. I’ve been present for all of it. Almost as if I’ve come out of a fog.

I’m 25, young, passionate, full of love and being loved, wild about human rights, hungry for change (and pizza), and capable of taking on just about anything.

Those beautiful humans above, and a few in particular have gotten me through over a year of struggle and bring a smile to my face always. I don’t know how many of them have held me or kissed my head while I was crying, or laughed at my horrible jokes (as well as the awesome ones, I’m actually hilarious). They see me as strong and ferocious. I want to live up to those expectations. My students look to me for answers, and more importantly compassion. I feel I have grown with them and we can play while getting work done together. It’s a beautiful thing to build knowledge together.

I recently subbed for the 2nd grade English teacher. With 45 minutes to prep and mentally prepare myself, I realized this was what I was meant to do. Teach and teach and teach. I adapted to the class, we learned math, we laughed, joked, and wiggled. I read out loud to them. I got hugs and never have I smiled as big as I did that day (except with one other person;}). My heart was beating so loudly I could feel it in my fingertips, my ears were red from excitement and stress. It all quickly disappeared when I began teaching, or maybe sharing what I had to give with the students. We worked together. And turns out I can teach math!

I am, I am, I am so present. I’m there for every hug, kiss, tear, and sigh I have yet to experience.

Politics in the classroom

No really, have you ever heard 2nd and 3rd graders discussing politics?

So I like to count myself lucky, that I live in a rather liberal part of the country. In comparison to the area I grew up in and the number of Facebook friends I’ve deleted over the past 9 months, my life in western Washington has been quite blue.

With the past few super Tuesdays and the run for the presidency going on, I hadn’t really thought about how this would affect my students. As I work with the YPK-5, I didn’t really think I would hear too much political talk from them. Possibly the 4th-5th graders, mostly regurgitated remarks from their parents, but these kids have some other thoughts going on.

So, we all know I work at a French Bilingual school. Our student population is one of the most diverse I’ve ever worked in. Many students have one parents or both parents coming from another country or they themselves are not american. The issue of immigration has never been so real to me, than the moment I heard a pair of second graders discussing what they’ll do if Trump is elected and their mom gets kicked out of the country.

Umm I’m sorry, shouldn’t you be worried about your spelling test tomorrow? Not the fate of your family and how they’ll be treated by the US government?

Woof.. I’ve tried to defuse some of these conversations, but they’re hard to avoid. I feel like both extremes of the spectrum (left and right) are quite vocal and kids pick up on these things. They’re always watching (no matter how creepy that may seem). They’re listening and learning. Worrying. I’ve encouraged them to discuss their thoughts with their parents or even their homeroom teachers. When the older kids ask me whether I like certain candidates, I say that’s a personal question or depending on how they ask it, I reply, well I didn’t say it, but… Or they just read my facial expression.

I stress the importance of accepting all opinions and being able to discuss these issues constructively and safely. Although, most students hold the same opinion of many of the candidates and harbour the same fears.

Where was I when Clinton was being elected for his second term? I don’t remember being nearly as vocal or worried as my students are. Although, to be fair the two terms of Bush became very apparent to me as I became more aware of the world outside myself and Alaska.

Politics can be discussed to an extent in the classroom, but how!? Especially, with such worried opinionated kids? Never have I seen more kids without a healthy fear of adults.. I mean..

I remember in France, with the whole concept of Laicite, most political issues were not discussed and government and politics were taught only in regards to theory and historical practice. How can the US get some of that?

How should we address politics like this in the classroom? Simply deflect or redirect their questions or thoughts to their parents or homeroom teachers?

How can I help my students deal with their worries when I have similar worries?

Teaching Acceptance: “Odd Velvet”

I recently read a new book to my garderie class that I had never seen before. It was titled “Odd Velvet” by Mary E. Whitcomb. Based off the title I quickly assumed it was about a quirky girl and her little adventures. Not quite! I was pleasantly surprised to see it was about acceptance and not being a bully.


Velvet is new to town and has different hobbies and habits than the other students. They don’t welcome her into the group and don’t play with her in school. They aren’t mean to her, but they also don’t reach out.

Until the class art competition. She draws the most beautiful apple the class had ever seen. And moving forward they learn that her uniqueness is a gift and she is a loving caring person.

I read this out loud to my Kindergarten garderie and engaged them in during reading discussions. I’d prompt them with, why won’t they play with her? Would you play with her? Are they being nice? Is it kind to call someone odd?

This of course lead to so many anecdotal stories I had to redirect back to the story. However, following the story, many of the students brought up how well their classmates were doing helping, drawing, and cleaning.

My awesome coworker has started a clip chart. They all start in the middle which says they’re ready to learn. They can clip up or down depending on their actions and helpfulness. If they reach the top they are Superstar Students and receive a gem on their clip. After 5 gems they get a little prize. Now I’m not one for rewards based incentives, but this day warmed my heart. We had students saying extremely kind things about their friends, even some students they wouldn’t normally comment on. “So-and-so was really helpful during clean up” “So-and-so walked the entire time in the hallway” “So-and-so helped me clean up the blocks and they didn’t even play with them.”

Velvet in the story was always kind and wanted to share her talents and help with her classmates.

By the end of the year her classmates could see that those things they thought were odd were actually special and made the whole class better. (Talk about Neo-Confucianism!)

This wasn’t a planned lesson, but that’s the beauty of teaching. There are always teachable moments.

Maybe at first glance something is odd, but it takes a stronger mind to be open to that oddness being beautiful.

Teaching Love as Love- “Worm Loves Worm”

I want to start a short series of blogs about topics that younger learners are cognitively ready and prepared to discuss. Within reason of course.

The first in this series is about love. With Valentine’s day having just passed the theme in the library last week was love! Including, not being a bully, sharing, marriage, and many forms of relationships.

The librarian read a wonderful picture book to the First graders titled “Worm Loves Worm” By J.J. Austrian, Illustrated by Mike Curato. (Published Jan. 5th, 2016, Balzer + Bray)


So, two worms fall in love and want to be married. The insects around are overjoyed and help plan the coming nuptials. The only problem is, which worm is the boy and which worm is the girl?

The surrounding insects, Grasshopper, Bumblebees, and beetles all struggle with the fact that each worm takes a piece of clothing that was a gender assigned to it: One wears the veil, the other wears the dress, the first with the veil wears the suit, the one in the dress wears a top hat. Cross dressing worms?! Oh my! How will the first graders react!?

They took it amazingly well. Before the clothing was introduced in the story, the students were already pre-deciding which would be the boy and which would be the girl.

Their reactions were mirrored within the story by the bugs attending the wedding. A bit confused, but upon seeing the happiness and love between the worms they found they didn’t care who wore what, as long as they loved each other.

Shouldn’t this be our reaction to most situations? Love is love, and that’s all that should matter.

Following the story, the classes engaged in a lovely conversation about love and marriage. Many students bringing up the fact that gay marriage is possible, or that their aunt, uncle, cousin, etc. were married to a person of the same sex. They did all of this without anyone getting upset or reacting negatively (save one teacher, who thought the librarian had some hidden agenda, haha).

This topic was approached in such a way, using worms, that made assigning gender-roles laughable (which is the case always).

Some extension on this idea could be talking about other non-traditional weddings and gender-roles, or overcoming gender-roles or stereotypes: girls do the cooking or aren’t strong, boys play sports or don’t do art.

Hopefully, this was an interesting topic to read about. I could probably go on and on, but this is just a test.

Let me know if there’s a theme or topic I should use in this mini (or maybe major) series.

Also, go read this book. It’s stinkin’ cute.

Good White People

Oh hey! Long time no see! SORRY. Guess what life is a wild dynamic thing that doesn’t slow down for anybody. However, that being said, this post needs to be written. The past week left me feeling rather deflated and frustrated.

With Thanksgiving coming up I feel it is important to address some issues with the holiday and our representations of it. (Especially for you TAPIFers out there!)

But first I ask, what do you do if someone doesn’t know they’re appropriating someone else’s culture? How do you traverse cultural differences, as well as historical differences, to stress the troublesome nature of their actions? How, as a white american, can you/I appropriately explain their flaws and be taken seriously? Without feeling like the great saviour?

As educators, we always need to be open to new ideas. We must activity go out and seek them to be able to provide our students with the most appropriate information. It is our duty to support and empower our learners. We must set an example. We lead by modeling this behaviour. What do we do when parents don’t share similar ideas?

Last week, some parents graciously served the faculty and staff a lovely spread of thanksgiving foods! They always deck out the faculty lunch room and raffle off different items to the teachers. Now, as you may guess, as the theme was Thanksgiving, there was a pilgrim present, as well as, an Indian. The parents were raffling off a pilgrim hat, turkey hat, think that one episode of Friends, and a large feather headdress.

I was on my way to get a cup of coffee when I saw it. Beautiful as it was, it instantly put a pile of rocks in my stomach.

Recently, there have been many movements against cultural dress being sold as a costume. Hipsters at music festivals obviously come to mind for many. Now this is not to say appreciating other cultures in wrong, but if a group is saying what you are doing is offensive.. maybe just maybe you should stop.


Cultural appropriation as stated by James O. Young, “is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.” The same way it is offensive to make Black Jokes, or wear blackface, it is offensive to take cultural dress ( i.e. Bindis, Headdress, Hijab, etc.) and wear it as a fashion statement or a costume.


This is a hard concept for many to grasp, like this group of parents. They in their hearts they felt they were honoring the history and people involved. Being that the one wearing the headdress was French, it is understandable. They don’t share our history. They don’t know about the massive genocide of Native Americans that was caused by the European Immigrants. The forced removal from their native lands, forced education of their children in boarding schools where they’d be beaten for speaking their mother tongue. When Europeans first arrived to North America, there were over 300 indigenous languages being spoken, now there are 175 or less languages still being spoken as of about 2008. Many of them on the brink of extinction with fewer than a few hundred native speakers. (x)(x)

But then again, France was also a colonizing power. They had their fingers on the US for a time and helped us gain independence from Great Britain, but their knowledge of Thanksgiving is rather sparse. Logically, at least for me, if I were not in my native country, wearing the clothing of a peoples that had been colonized and potentially screwed over, I would listen if someone told me it wasn’t a great idea to wear it.

Back to the meat of it, the parent did not know it was offensive. Multiple admin members and faculty brought up their concerns and upset over the headdress. The wears reaction, however, was the most surprising. It took multiple times of being told it was offensive before they took it off. Personally, I would want to understand what was offensive in the situation, if I was them, so I could avoid it in the future, but that’s just me. They didn’t think they were offensive. They felt they were honouring the history and the people (and don’t get me started on how the headdress is not associated with the Wampanoag). Which can easily be chalked up to an honest mistake is an honest mistake, but being told multiple times by school officials to remove an object that causes offense should clue you in, not make you put up a wall.

It is understandable to be defensive. To have something pointed out to you, that you were unaware of can be a shock to the body. To quote my dear friend Jeana, who reviewed this piece for me:

Both those offending and those pointing out the offense need to be aware of this initial reaction, and work through it together through open communication in order for a shift and understanding to occur, which isn’t usually the case, and the offensive person just walks around with hurt feelings *ahem privilege. You are educated and aware enough to realize that a mistake made is not a reflection on your character or your value as a person, where as many people of privilege have never been made to make that distinction, and therefore get offended by what they view as criticism.

As humans, we make mistakes, how we react to those mistakes is what makes us good, or better. This situation turned into a large miscommunication on the part of many. It is apparent to many of the American teaching staff, that the French teaching staff do not hold the same idea of cultural appropriation we do.

In a conversation later in the day, a coworker of mine, who is first nations member, was talking with a French teaching assistant. The teaching assistant stated that they were not upset by the headdress, it didn’t offend them. To that my coworker replied (finally) that it doesn’t matter if you aren’t, it is to multiple other people. You aren’t Native American, should you be wearing their clothes? I wish he had spoken up sooner. It would have given credibility to our complaints.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. “Good White People” is referencing the teaching staff and faculty who were upset by the situation. It also references our struggle with this situation. How we want so badly to fight the good fight and empower all, but our voices are not theirs. When my coworker finally spoke up it was a huge sigh of relief. He had the power in the situation, he was protecting the representation of Native American peoples, not just of his own personal group.

I’ve recently been reading “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire, he addresses the tools necessary for educating oppressed students. He emphasizes dialogues and providing students with the language to reclaim their world. It is also important to notice that the teachers are not the most important part of the scenario, the students are. Their voices are. It is not the teachers responsibility to speak for their students, it is their duty to give them power to use their own voice.

When this issue was being addressed and not being taken seriously, I felt like I was being the teacher trying to voice the oppressed students’ needs. I want so badly to be a good white person. Do well by all and support those who need it. However, my support isn’t what many want or need. I’m a white middle class woman. My privilege could be written down on multiple pages. My voice is not theirs. They will never be the same, but luckily, I know this. I still feel I can raise my voice up with theirs when times of injustice and ignorance arise.

Where has this post gotten to.. I’m not quite sure anymore. I’m afraid I haven’t made any new discoveries, only I need to learn more. I need to work harder. I need to not be the saviour, but be the ladder. Be the support

So I leave you with this nice little piece of spoken word. She gets my feelings about being the right kind of teacher.

Olivia Fantini- “On Standardized Testing” (NPS 2015) -Via Button Poetry Youtube Channel

A sweet little throwback

I’ve had this poem buzzing in my head the past few weeks. I wrote it in Spring 2012 for a TESOL course I was taking.

The prompt was to write about where you come from.

This is where I’m from.

I come from dirt roads, dusty and soiled
Lined with raspberry groves, down the gully and snaking up the hills to the sky.
Skinned knees as tender as a first kiss
Lightly tracing the lines on a welcoming face.
Tickling blonde tendrils flowing with the dusty road’s wind carrying those summer sweet smells of sun tea and laughing family.
Dancing on back decks singing of sweetness, a euphoric hymn
Reaching every gods’ ears
Cascading and rolling in scratchy grass clippings

I come from the foothills of greatness
Only steps from tickling the stars and whispering sweet nothings into their twinkling ears.
Losing faith in what’s humanly possible and grabbing onto the rope of what’s possible with the help of star dust.
I have been dusted with stars, curry and bug repellent.
I have consumed stars,
Mutton momos so hot your eyes will drink up the snow packed Himalayas
Thenkthuk so filling the broth would do you in, put you to bed into a frantic dream over the mountains where we can only imagine.
Sandaled feet stepping on stars, freezing to the touch.
Freezing quicker than spit on a negative degree day.

Oh my land I come from
A free spring in a land so bruttle it suffocates the sun that thaws my frozen body.
The cloud of power squelching the light the mountains seek to consume

I come from a stolen childhood, gone too soon.
Snatched away like I was that day.
Dusty roads now soiled and raspberries forgotten.
With a crash and hands so harsh they crawled over my skin like poison ivy.
Leaving lines of hives that reached so deep my blood burned in my veins.
A river of fire being burned alive.

I am underestimated, though I have consumed stars.
Cultures more colourful than any garden and people more beautiful than the sun.
Underestimate me.
Let me overcome your doubts and abuses.
I’ll climb those mountains and lucky for me I was born to run.
Mountains are the play grounds of the gods.
So doubt me I dare you for I am heaven sent.
I have whispered to stars and drank sun tea on back decks.
Let me purge you of your doubts and reconcile your sinner’s heart.
Doubt is the symptom of fear and fear is a poison more vile than a snake bite.
Drink of the stars and lay in the garden around you.
Allow the sun to soak your skin.

I am from powerful women and men.
I am from unadulterated passion for education, whether traditional or playing on mountain tops.
I am from dusty dirt roads, dancing on back decks and being underestimated.
I am me and I believe in myself.