“Breaking Down Barriers” was a great eye opening and affirmation process. So, I have been an ‘agent’ pretty much all my life as I belonged to the upper middle class, educated in an American Embassy school in Pakistan and sent abroad to college in the US. It was all comfortable until I came back to Pakistan and started work at a teacher education college, Ali Institute (funded by UNDP), Lahore, Pakistan (my first job) in 1993.
Personal Sense of Social Justice
My first nagging doubt that I did not live in a socially just world was at a government school in Pakistan at a teacher education workshop arranged by Ali Institute. The school had rudimentary chairs, desks, a principal who forced the teachers to attend, and teachers who were attending for a free lunch and a little bit of extra money.
I was struck by how privileged I was. This feeling was repeated when I dropped my colleague, a minority Christian teacher to her home. Her house was in an industrial area where the entrance to her alley was so steeped in garbage heaps that they looked like little mountains. Being educated with a scholarship by UNDP for a Masters at Cambridge, England still did not surpass being a minority, lower income and female.
Impact on Teaching Practice: Syrian Refugees
During 2016-17, while teaching 7th grade and discussing a unit on ‘Human Movement’ we came across the problems of refugees:
- Reasons why people are forced to move
- What happens to children when they move
- What problems do they encounter when moving
I brought home the reasons why people move by focusing on the Syrian Civil War and how there are thousands of children who have never known anything other than war by showing them the picture in the tweet: Twitter Picture of Omar Daqneesh and video:
Omar Daqneesh, was a 5 year old Syrian boy who was pulled out of the rubble by rescue workers during the air strikes in Aleppo, Syria in 2016. It forced the 7th graders to question themselves about what they can do to help Omar and others like him.
Beyond my expectations, many students volunteered to stay after school and brainstorm ways they could raise money to donate to UNHCR towards the Syrian Civil War. With minimum input from me, 7th graders (some who I was not even teaching) ran bake sales, a movie night, and a Color Run successfully raising thousands of riyals (I have forgotten the amount!). Of course, there were failed events also such as an inter district soccer tournament where the games never materialized!
During this unit, students also played a game that depicts why people leave their countries and the difficulties they face in the host country they migrate through by playing a simulation game ‘Against All Odds’ developed by UNHCR. This gave them a better understanding of a refugee’s life. It taught them the need for fairness for refugees, empathy and compassion.
Impact on Teaching: Rohingya Muslims
Then in 2017-2018 (two years ago) the 8th graders took on the cause of Rohingya Muslims after being motivated by my colleague, Nazli Ahmed who teaches 8th grade Science and Math at Dhahran Elementary Middle School.
I had shown them an image like this:
They again ran bake sales to donate to UNHCR. It seemed like every time that I turned around another bake sale was being organized during lunch recess or lunch time.
Reflections on Flipgrid
The code to my reflections upon reading the article: The Cycle of Socialization by Bobbie Harro is:
I loved reading this article because a lot of questions that I had about equality, equity, fairness even rule of law being equal for everyone have been answered though not put to rest. It was a great read because of that.
#COETAIL11 Community Flipgrid
Please add to this community Flipgrid because just like me I learnt a lot from my fellow COETAILERS. Their viewpoints may differ from me as we have different backgrounds, life experiences and ways of thinking. But one thing that we share in common is our optimism and our desire to make a change in our lives, our students’ lives and for others around us.
Using Flipgrid in the Classroom
I find Flipgrind a great tool to either start an individual inquiry process in a Social Studies unit to decide what a student wants to explore more or in English to decide a topic to write on. Second, it is also a valuable tool for reflection after a unit has been completed in Social Studies or after a Writing Celebration in English.
I used it at the end of the Social Studies unit on ‘Conflict Within Nations’ with 8th grade last year for a personal reflection of what starts conflicts, how do they end, and why do they not end. It was great to get individual reflections though I think that the responses would have been more original or different if the Flipgrid reflections had been done during the unit and not at the end.
What Groups I Belong To and Influence on My Teaching
I connected well to this article as I could fit into a ‘target’ group in the US and as an ‘agent’ (benefitting from rules of etiquette) in Pakistan. That is kind of bizarre. In the US I am a target group as a Muslim minority, born in Pakistan, brown, and female though, upper income. In Pakistan, I am part of the target group as I am fair skinned, well educated, upper income, Muslim, though a female.
Emphasis is that if you are female being colored, white, lower income, higher income, well educated, not well educated etc. still makes you more likely to be discriminated against. So being female is enough to be treated less fairly….
Something for us to think about….
In my classes, I had 12-14 different nationalities in a class of 25 students. There have been Christians, Muslims, Hindus and atheists, white, black and brown students in my class as well boys and girls obviously.
- So, any discussion on religion would always mention the Quran, Bible, Torah and Bhagvad Gita.
- I would also make a point to talk about worshipping God, gods or no god.
- We would openly talk about different color skins and what it means in our Social Studies units etc. (Rwandan Genocide with Hutus and Tutsis)
- And I would always address the class as ‘Boys and Girls’ or ‘Kiddos’.
A Politically Conscious Teacher
So yes, I am shaped by who I am, where I come from and my life experiences. It has made my teaching more politically aware and conscious which I value. I would like to end with the video below to share how much we still need to do for children around the world who do not have the advantages our children take for granted. It makes me grateful for what my children have and regularly reminds me to make changes for the ones who do not have these advantages.