Category Archives: EC&I874

I “Adora’d” this week! Week #8

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Hello everyone,

I will start this weeks post by saying that I have so enjoyed being able to explore and appreciate local art of ALL kinds throughout this course.  Being able to learn the history of drag and listen to Adora Diamond share her story, reminded me of the importance of appreciating and viewing all art.  There are so many creative, powerful, amazing people in our community and I was honoured to be here tonight.    I was blown away by some of the things I have learned about drag from the readings this week and how they tied into the contemporary issues we had been learning about in previous classes, or about other art forms – I didn’t realize how competitive drag was/is in the bigger hubs around the world like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  Adora was telling us that in Regina, because the scene is so much smaller, it is very supportive and performances are more about sharing your art than competing…although she did say Queens are always trying to “outdo” each other. 😉  In the A History of Drag Balls, Houses and the Culture of Voguing by Tim Lawrence it says, “Modern balls, with their judging panels holding up numbered score cards, petty jealousies among lifelong rivals, and partisan crowds booing their favourite low scores, have all the flavour of great sporting events.” (Valenti, p. 6).  We spoke last week about the idea of drama for sport or drama games, and this seems like a crossover – there are competitive roots in drag too.

Second, I was shocked to find out that Madonna didn’t invent Voguing!  That might seem silly but it tied directly into cultural appropriation and “using” a culture for financial gain only.  I was horrified to know that I had grown up accepting that it came from one place, when Queen’s had worked so hard in their scene to grow a movement.  “Madonna parachuted into the voguing scene in order to build her single and piece together a cast for the video.” (Lawrence, p. 8).  She moved in and because as we have learned, culture does not have to relate to race or location, it can be a constructed culture, she stole the pieces that she thought could be trendy and then left.  “Madonna never came back to the Sound Factory after the tour,” says Vasquez.  “She was over vogue.” (Lawrence, p. 8).

There were two really important things I got from this article, aside from the history of drag, which I loved reading, was how important allowing people to tell their own story is.  We can’t truly appreciate stories until we analyze who is sharing them.  Drag queens telling the story of Drag queens is very important – not Madonna, not mainstream cultural guru’s, but the Queen’s who lived the life.  Second, was how integral the houses were to the survival of some of their family members.  “From the onset, there has been a need for gay people to have a unity.  Being a homosexual, a lot of these kids have been ostracized, beat up by their families, thrown out of their homes.  It’s no different now than when I was a kid.  Some of these kids are homeless and struggling.  They don’t know how much talent and ability they have going on.  So, if they join a house, they can belong somewhere.  They can be part of team.” (Lawrence, p. 9).  These youth and people need one another – family isn’t always blood, lots of times it’s chosen.  The houses worked as a home away from home and I don’t think I realized their importance.

 

During the facilitation we had the opportunity to view an episode of Canada’s a Drag and relate it to the article about subversiveness in drag culture, “It Has No Color, It Has No Gender, It’s Gender Bending”: Gender and Sexuality Fluidity and Subversiveness in Drag Performance” by Justine Egner & Patricia Maloney.  I chose the video of Sapphoria from Edmonton who was a pre-op trans man performing drag as a woman.  It was really interesting to hear his story from a very unique standpoint.  During our discussion after having an opportunity to view our chosen video, Jacq asked me if I thought Sapphoria was an example of subversiveness in drag.  It was a hard question to answer but I said no.  Once learning about Sapphoria I think he was doing drag for the sake of himself only – he was able to explore and celebrate the things he loved about femininity, but then take it all off at the end of the day and be male as he always felt like it was.   However, I almost wish I would have answered yes and no.  I think in some ways, Sapphoria was trying to subvert systems by stripping on stage and having his pre-op body, that is not the body that people expect when a drag queen takes their clothes off…that being said, I feel that, although he doesn’t feel female, his biological form is still female and feeding into the fetishistic view of the female body.  It’s a tricky situation.  I don’t know where I stand 100% but I was grateful to explore my thoughts.   “Studying drag can present us with a unique perspective because, through examining how gender boundaries are broken, we can examine how drag performers construct gender and sexuality and thus gain a better understanding of not only drag constructions of gender but traditional gender constructions as well.” (Egner et al., p. 877).  The more we study about gender, the more we can begin to see that gender is a fluid scale that we may slide along through our lives.

It was very cool to explore the art form of drag this week.  Ru Paul said, (and I won’t get started on Ru Paul but if you’re ever interested in my view point…let me know! 😉 ) “We are all born naked and the rest is drag”.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.” – Aristotle

 

 

 

Let the Voices Ring Out – Week #7

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Hello everyone,

This week was extremely thought provoking for a variety of reasons.  I was completely stumped with the concept of agency – who has it, who can use it?  When can they use it?  These questions are certainly not easy to answer at the best of times, let alone when you are searching for a specific definition of agency that encompasses the true meaning of the word for ourselves and our students.  Image result for agency to chooseSo, from what I could find as a proper definition on dictionary.com, agency is, “a thing or person that acts to produce a particular result.”  At it’s root, I suppose that is exactly what it is – someone fighting to get what they want, after deciding that, that is what they want.  Children try and do this, adults try and do this and I still don’t really know if we have agency at all…we always have some kind of higher up, whether that is a physical higher up like a boss, parent, teacher, etc. or a metaphysical higher up that you choose to subscribe to, and therefore, are we really ever free to act how we might without those constraints?  Another piece I liked about this definition was that it encompassed a “thing” as well as a person.  I was very intrigued by the concept that animals, plants and landscapes all have agency.  For sake of the argument, I am on the side that they do.  I don’t know if plants and landscapes are acting intentionally to produce a particular result, however, once the powers that be start those changes in motion, whatever the result will be…will be.  The example I gave in class was that if the polar ice cap is melting and breaking off, there is nothing we could do to stop it – regardless of the fact that we know it will cause damage.   I think in some ways, this ties directly into the “School to Prison Pipeline” idea.  The powers that be have set those kids in motion, and they sometimes feel that whatever will be will be, regardless of how they act because their agency is gone and people already have preconceived notions about who they are what they are capable of.   The concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, why do better when no one expects anything otherwise.  It’s truth in many communities, but so heartbreaking.

Image result for relationshipsThis week I really feel like it comes back to relationships and how important relationships are to our students and their success.  Government cuts budgets, we can’t offer what kids need, it destroys relationships.  Police and heavy security are present in our schools, it shows we don’t trust our kids, it destroys relationships…with the police too!  We discredit the importance of children’s home lives, the importance of supporting families and parents and it destroys relationships.  As it mentions in the video, we are setting our students up for failure with bad environments, unclean schools and lack of nutrition in our buildings, I would argue lack of trust as well.  Although the School to Prison Pipeline video is featuring students from the United States, there are so many parallels to our students here in Regina.  Kids are building records in schools that will follow them the rest of their lives, making it hard for them to better themselves as they get older – how does this make any senses for education?  The whole point in my opinion is to have school set our kids up for success in their lives and this is literally the exact opposite – we are sending them into the world without trust, without confidence and at a deficit in a lot of ways.

We CANNOT treat kids like adults and expect a positive result, they are not adults.  In the video it drives home that punishment is not a solution as it doesn’t help people grow or change.  For our youth, that is what we want, for them to learn from mistakes or successes and grow.  Children do not understand things the way adults do and therefore we MUST approach educating youth differently.  We need to understand how important our expectations of students are and how we must always meet them where they’re at, build confidence and then show them that they can still make it over the bar when you raise it.  Relationships are key, positive school culture is key.

Poppyn reminded me how important representation is and how much language matters.  To empower youth they must be able to see themselves represented in a positive way.  If you can’t see yourself somewhere, it is much harder to picture yourself ever getting there.  “POPPYN was created in 2011 by a small group of college students frustrated with the disproportionate amount of negative representation of black youth in the local news.” (p. 80).  If you don’t like what you see, we need mentor our students and kids to change it.  Everyone deserves to see themselves in a positive light.  Later on in the article it speaks to how important language is.  We can use our words to, “build trust and amplify voices” (p. 80). or diminish and silence them.  We owe our youth more than the later.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.”

Aristotle

Inspiration: Foster it, appreciate it and watch yourself flourish – Week #6

Hello everyone,

To start – can I say that Brad Bellegarde is AMAZING.  I found his whole talk completely engaging and really powerful.  The connections he made with Indigenous culture and Hip Hop are so apparent but did not feel accessible to me until his talk.  I snapped a very poor photo of his board because I was drawn in by how he compared cultures and spoke to the fact that culture is not just where we come from and what is associated with that, but it can be the cultures we create and choose to associate with.  The way Brad tied the circle of courage into this messaging was also really amazing – his Indigenous culture was seamlessly woven into his pedagogy and it was everything and more than I aspire to in my classroom.  You could see and hear Brad’s passion and inspiration shining throughout this entire presentation and it was really beautiful.  Brad also gave me hope that it doesn’t need to be perfect – we are all a work in progress and we can have permission to grow and change and let what inspires us, push us to the next level.  He also (and he probably didn’t realize it) but he gave me permission to allow negative things to push me forward to – when he was confronted by the reporter at the Olympics and was asked questions that he thought weren’t phrased properly, he took that fire and changed the direction of his life with it.  That is such a powerful message…not only for me, but for the kids I teach – they need to know that no matter how much negative there is around them, they need to take that as fuel to do better and be better than those negative things.  Brad was so incredibly well spoken that it truly did inspire me to go back to my classroom and tell my kids that they can follow their passions and something good will come of it.  It may not be the exact path they planned, it may not be the exact passion they expected, but they can make it work. I’m excited to show my students Brad’s song, “I Remember” and show them that dreams do come true when we hang in there and beat adversity.  Not every dream we have will come true, but we can work hard and see where life takes us and be proud of our accomplishments even when they aren’t exactly what we expected.

In the article by Kim Picard, she says, “I was still not convinced about a career in the field of fashion: I was scared.” (p. 59).  Although I recognize that we can’t tell kids that they can be whatever they want to be if they just dream it and work hard because that isn’t realistic, however, I think it’s important to fan students passions and have them approach them positively with realism.  Picard could have had someone in her corner encouraging her not to be scared and to look at all her options.  I think our job as teachers is to encourage and support our students in a safe way.  Picard says, “I always found it important to encourage young people to pursue their dreams.  This made me realize that I’d put my own childhood dream to the side.  That is when I decided to start my own business.” (p. 60).

Image result for kim picard indigenous artistKim says, “By studying the patterns, colours and techniques used to make these (the designs of her people) clothes, I gained knowledge that would one day help me to realize one of my dreams: to revive the clothes of my ancestors by giving them a contemporary form.” (p. 62).  This quote inspired my final project with my art class for this term.  We can use art to bring things unseen to life.  I know my students have so much to share about themselves and no outlet – what if we gave them a contemporary form to put it in???  Our lives inspire our art whether we are conscious of it or not.  “We all have predilections, depending, I think, on the time of our lives and the things we experience at the present.” (p. 64).  Kim says her ultimate goal is to connect the modern world with that of her ancestors – my goal for my final project is to connect my students and I’s outside world, with the one we have going on within.  Kim encourages us to “look with the eyes of the heart” (p. 70). and I loved that.  We can see and feel with our heart and that is potentially the most incredible part of art.  Art (in any form) gives us the ability to see it with so many more facets of ourselves than or eyes.  I think it’s important for kids to understand that they can look for inspiration and drive in the positive and negative  things they endure and to stick with their passion – even if it turns out to be a hobby in their spare and not their main job.  We deserve to do things we love.

I also chose to read the article, “Flipping the Misogynist Script: Gender, Agency, Hip Hop and Music Education” by Evan S. Tobias.  As I read through this article one of the main points that jumped out at me was the section on women in Hip Hop.  My question, why do we always put or pit women against each other???  “When it comes to females they make it seem like there can be one and they try to put as against each other.” (p. 55).  “I already have enough going against me in this game.  I don’t need other females also hating.” (p. 55).  I struggle to understand why we continue to do this to each other.  What is stopping us from enjoying each other, from celebrating each other and for the love of god, just being a little nicer to one another.  Later on page Keyes (2002) says, “female rappers perform in ways that refute, deconstruct and reconstruct alternative versions of their identity.”   Although Keyes goes on to say that it often appears that women rappers are performing in response to men, it doesn’t account for the other issues they are choosing to portray and the space they create in which to share them it still has me thinking, are we missing out on the true appreciation of the art of women rapping because we are seeing the response to men first?  Is that the art form that women rappers would choose if not always having to combat and answer to a male dominated, misogynistic world?  It made me think of the conversation we had when Jill and Tessa facilitated, what would art look like if Indigenous people didn’t create artwork for white people or for social justice reasons.  I see many parallels here similar to those and similar to the ones that Brad was drawing in his presentation.  Rapper Ranking Ann says I am, “critical of the women who just ‘step into the men’s shoes’: all they’re doing is getting into the mic and chatting the typical male lyrics in a women’s voice.”   This view indicates a need to move beyond gender norms or expectations within the Hip Hop world.” (p. 56).  This point echos that of allowing Indigenous people to step beyond the role of educator, facilitator and make art they love for any reason they choose.  Female rappers should feel empowered by the rap community to share their truths and stories in any way they choose and be shown respect.  MC Lady Luck says regarding being labeled, “I don’t like being put in a box.  I don’t like being called a rapper.  I don’t like being called a battle rapper.  I don’t like being called Black.  I don’t like being called a lesbian.  I just want to be Luck…I don’t like a title.” (p. 59).  So why we do we label everything??  Is it a need for control?  Is it that we can’t accept art for art sake and making decisions because we believe in them?  I don’t know.  I just know that we need to acknowledge our differences, acknowledge that we all have power and acknowledge that we need to support each other so that we can succeed and be happy however we choose to exist.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.”

-Aristotle

Duality: The Unbearable Likeness of Being – Week #5

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Art is powerful.  Art is trans-formative.  Art is in us.  As Sara said this week, “I can’t imagine a world without art”.  Me either.  I loved in the “Verbing Art” article by Monique Mojica it says, “My mother recently told me that I was born an artist and that was how she knew she had to nurture and support what she recognized in me.” (p. 15).  Imagine if we all had this unwavering support to be who we are.  I think the world would be a lot more peaceful. Image result for peace It comes back to the question, “what if Indigenous Art wasn’t affected by colonization?”.  I think art would be more peaceful – not passive, but peaceful and joyful and for themselves.  You wouldn’t have to create art as a defense, because you wouldn’t have anything to defend – it could just be.

Art is being used for healing.  Mojica says, “living as an artist has required me to be fearless in search of cultural recovery and to reclaim those missing pieces.” (p. 16).  “As an Indigenous artist, I feel it is my responsibility to do so.”  We can find those pieces of ourselves and try to heal.  We can embody our art.

“As Ngugi (1998) explains, [decolonial] art arms silence with voices that, even when the bodies that carry them are crushed and ground to powder, will rise again, and multiply, and sing out their presence…art in this sense is silence that screams.” (p.28).   This analogy makes me picture a phoenix rising from the ashes.  When I was searching online, I came across this beautiful painting by Sioux artist Maxine Noel from Manitoba.  Image result for indigenous phoenixBeauty and strength can be formed from nothing and I loved how the painting showed someone transforming into the phoenix, looking strong and confident.  When we were having the conservation in class, and the question is was posed, why do you make art?  What does it mean to you?  Well, I think this quote really speaks to why many Indigenous people make art – to have their voices heard.  Jaq and I were saying that Indigenous artists have the ability to say things in their art that Indigenous activists would have a harder time saying.  Art screams in silence…but it can say SO much in that silence.

There were many inspiring pieces that Hannah Claus presented at the “trade – treaty – territory” exhibit at the Dunlop.  Once I had some time, to think about it, what I took away most from the exhibit was the idea of duality.  Mojica says, “What has not changed are the power dynamics and our ability to have control over our image, our cultures and our history when we are performing within mainstream institution.” (p. 23).  There is a sense of duality here as well – the want to tell your own stories while battling with settlers who either miss-tell them, or use power that isn’t there’s, to speak them louder.  First, the Wampum belts – what a beautiful idea.  This was duality in such a powerful, positive way.  Two people coming together and creating together to show commitment to the promise they are both making.  Whether you are agreeing just to inhabit the same space and nothing more, you are coming together as one.  Next was the cups and cedar leaves.  This was the most direct representation of duality to me – Hannah was represented the duality within herself.  She is English and Indigenous, both being shown at this exhibit.  I loved how she chose to to melt the wax, I read that as her two sides melting into one although still standing on their own.  Duality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just highlights two or more sides of ourselves.  The blankets titled “Invaders” shows the painful, dark duality that Indigenous people face in Canada.  Indigenous people viewed trade as ceremony, something beautiful and sacred, and settlers took it as an opportunity to sabotage Indigenous people.  Blankets were given to Indigenous people covered in the Small Pox virus and it wiped up communities.  Indigenous people went into trade with a pure heart, ready to “polish the silver and keep it untarnished” and this was how they were re-payed.   Settlers were, and are still not putting in the time and care to keep our relationships shiny.

Finally, I saw duality in the map series “the route that ocicahk preferred” (2017).  This piece was literally the overlaying of dual views.  One of the settler, and Hannah choosing to portray ocicahk’s over top of it.  I think we often feel this push and pull of direction and truth.  “To destabilize the pervasive mythology of colonialism (and its aesthetic) is to re-constitute and re-narrate spaces beyond and elsewhere.” (Martineau, Ritskes, p. 111).

My favourite idea of Hannah’s was bringing rebirth to lost art by using the pictures of the beaded skirts and dresses to create the hanging piece.  This is a powerful way to pay homage to those that came before us in a modern way.  If we can’t have the original pieces on display (keep fighting that fight) then this is an option to let lost voices be heard.  “Art is a defense and an action.” (Mojica, p. 27).  The “I Art” poem at the end of the “Verbing Art” article was profound.  There are so many reasons we art and there is no right or wrong way to do it – we were asked at the end of our class facilitation to write our own “I Art” poetry and I have included mine.  I art for lots of reasons and I am so grateful to have the opportunity.  So many people do not have the avenue to have their voices heard and I recognize my privilege.

Thanks for reading,

Dani ❤

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle

 

“Look Up at the Sky and Watch the Moon” – Week 4

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This week was all about girl power, family power, empowerment and telling stories that are important to us and our communities.  Watching Leah Dorian speak to her art and tell her story of why she painted this series was really powerful – I loved how passionately she spoke about the feminine energy and the need to empower women and celebrate coming together and reclaiming power and space.  I was taken aback when I walked into the gallery space – the whole exhibition together was breathtaking.  The combination of colours and imagery, although not significant to my own culture, was so strong and powerful.  When I walked in, I felt represented and safe even though it was not my story or my peoples story.  Leah made her life and community accessible to all and I feel like that is what “good” art does – it may not make us comfortable, happy, cheery, etc. but it invites us in and tells us a tale.  I had so many favourite pieces from the show but I have chosen to focus on 2 and how they connect to the readings from this week.   I have chosen 12th Moon and 5th Moon.  


When I was reading the conclusion of Life Stages and Native Women, “Building the Layers: Building on the Strengths of the Past to Take Us into Future” by Kim Anderson I couldn’t help but see the immense power of women in Indigenous culture and then saw that come to life in Dorian’s work.  In Anderson’s article it even specifies that women who have gone through menopause “are given a new kind of respect that allowed them to move in and out of male and female jurisdictions, and they were recognized for their leadership” (Anderson, p. 4).  In Western culture I feel like this is not the view of most and that as women age, they lose respect in our communities.  In 12th Moon you can see the female power resonating – each woman is participating in ceremony, supporting each other, telling stories and rising up.   “We live with the legacy of our colonial history today, and many of our families and communities continue to to be in a state of crisis.  In spite of it all, we have avenues of hope and vision, avenues which are cultured and advanced through the oral histories of our elders.” (Anderson, p.1).    I felt empowered looking at this piece as it felt like you could hear the women’s stories meshing together to tell one story – much like the activity we did with the braid.  Our stories, although still separate were one – entangled but not lost in one another.  In the context of the Donald article, “the ‘look’ of the braid will reflect the particular research context under scrutiny” (Donald, p. 544).  The ‘characters’ weaving the braid are all very different but knowing them and their situation and position in society is important to fully understand the story the braid tells.  A common thread through our readings so far is the importance of situating yourself but recognizing our connectdness- “despite our varied place-based cultures and knowledge systems, we live in the world together with others and must consistently think and act with reference to these relationships”. (p. 536).

5th Moon was the painting I was drawn to initially when Sara asked us to choose one, sketch the shapes and think about why it resonated with us.  Leah said in her interview at Sherwood Library, “women need to rebond.  How can we help each other and regain unity?”  I believe so strongly that we can’t help anyone else until we help ourselves and the idea of connecting our minds with our hearts as Leah suggests the 5th moon facilitates is beautiful.  5th Moon suggests a duality that I connect with as well, the idea of our shadow side is intriguing and encourages me to consider myself in another way.  In “Life Stages and Native Women” it says, “In the infant, toddler, and early childhood years, gender was apparently not a significant factor in terms of identity or experience.” (Anderson, p. 3).  Although I didn’t necessarily view the painting with that in mind, it was interesting to think of that duality within ourselves and how it seems like less of fixation in Indigenous cultures than Western culture.   5th Moon asks us to reach the point of self actualization and that’s hard work – to conclude, Anderson says, “one of the most devastating consequences of inter-generational trauma is ‘learned helplessness’.  Over time many of our people have lost the ability to see how they might change their circumstances for the better.” (Anderson, p. 10).  5th Moon to me, represents part of the journey to reconciliation by healing yourself from the inside out by confronting the dark and working through it to see change.

In this short Youtube clip where Leah speaks more about her art, she says that above all, even though she is a multidisciplinary artist who paints and writes and does music and movement, she is a storyteller.  She uses art as a way to share her stories and her communities stories with the world.  “Metissage, as research praxis, is about relationality and the desire to treat texts – and lives – as relational and braided rather than isolated and independent” (Donald, p. 537).   This is respect that stories deserve.  Leah has shown me that our stories can be told in many ways and that it is our duty to tell them and keep our people alive.  “I encourage each reader to dig out the medicines that suit his or her needs, and continue to dig, as there is so much more to learn.” (Anderson, p. 1).  Our stories allow us to filter the world through what we know.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle

Counter-narratives as Social Activism.

“African-Canadian students are harassed because they do not speak the dominant language in the school, and this is no longer an issue once they assimilate and learn the language of the majority.” (Schroeter, 2013) This is the sad truth in many Canadian schools – it’s a problem for students until it’s not, and they have given all of their identity away.

Hello everyone,

This weeks reading was really empowering – sad and challenging, but empowering.  It was amazing to hear the tales of students rising up and sharing their stories to incite change in their communities and within themselves.  In the article, “Performing counter-narratives and mining creative resilience: using applied theatre to theorize notions of youth resilience” by Kathleen Gallagher, Rebecca Starkman and Rachel Rhoades I really respected the fact that there was a trust relationship previously built with the shelter prior to going in for this project.  I believe that in order to see the most authentic results from a theatre workshop, or more intimate improvisation a safe space is the most crucial piece of the puzzle.  We have spoke previously about how much of an impact space has, and this is no exception.  Without the safety and comfort of a known space, youth would not be comfortable submitting to the drama and exploring these important social issues.  Im Okay Self Help GIF by MissAllThingsAwesome “Bernard offers a definition of resilience in 1991 which is still reflected in psychological approaches today, where resilience is understood as a set of qualities, or protective mechanisms that give rise to successful adaptation despite the presence of high risk factors during the course of development” (p. 219).  I appreciated how they also pointed out that there are factors that promote resilience in kids that are sometimes overlooked and left in order to find themselves and define themselves by their own resilience.  Although the clinical definition is neat and tidy, real life is not.  Bottrell and Ungar “reject the developmental assumption of a normative mode of behaviour against which all youth resilience should be measured.” (p. 220).  I think it’s so important to remember that every person is different and it would be impossible to have set standards.  Bottrell and Ungar go on to help us see that, “specific incidences youths’ decisions could be interpreted as resilient rather than as failures.” (p.221).

Image result for rainbow flag"There were others pieces of this text that stuck with me.  Evans says he, “rejects the notion that at-risk youths, such as homeless youths, are inherently vulnerable people, and instead views vulnerability as produced out of conditions of oppression”. (p. 222).  I have done lots of work with LGBTQ2S+ youth who would be considered oppressed youth, and they are anything but vulnerable!  They are strong, proud and powerful – they are resilient on their own terms and paving a path for themselves that they are comfortable with.  I agree with Evan’s rejection of this concept, and suggestion that societal pressure allows for our homeless youth to be so.

Future Health and Wellbeing made this amazing graph that I thought put into perspective the idea of creative resilience and where it can fit into curriculum and theatre exploration.  We can encourage youth to challenge their hardships and place in the world through safe, careful facilitation of improvisation and dramas.  We can allow them to feel feelings in a caring environment surrounded by safe people.

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In the article “The way it works” doesn’t: Theatre of the Oppressed as Critical Pedagogy and Counternarrative” by Sara Schroeter explored how our system is failing refugee children and how through theatre we can unpack some of the problems and help our students work through systemic racism.  On page 396 Sara speaks of staff not really wanting to hear if there are problems and they have made students feel marginalized, who would want to hear those terrible things??? However, it is apparent that in order for our students to feel successful, its the teachers obligation to adapt and create safe spaces in order for them to do so.  “Creating safe spaces is important if we take seriously Freire’s idea that in order for education to become liberating, students must be involved in examining oppressive social realities.” (p.396).  At Regina Public Schools we have our grade 4-8 students complete a survey called, “Tell Them From Us” so we can gather information about school, climate, the staff, the building, etc.  If you click on this link, it will give you some more information if you need it.  This section of the article made me think of this survey because it’s anonymous and kids are usually quite honest – we get the feedback as a staff and division and it never goes anywhere.  Why bother asking kids if it’s not our vow to do better for them?   This study gave insights into what refugee children were feeling in schools and “how the programmatic decisions made on their behalf enhanced their feelings of exclusion” (p. 396).   This ties in with our other reading this week as its another situation of someone else telling children how they feel – we assume we know what resilience is and looks like, in the same way that we are assuming what refugee students need and should look like in our schools.  It seems pretty ass backwards to me…just sayin’.

“Like critical pedagogy, TO aims to develop the critical consciousness of participants in a way that enables them to recognize and challenge social structures that oppress, so as to transform social structures”. (p.397).  We are giving our students the skills to deal with real life, in a safe, simulated space.  Freire asks us to challenge the idea of the traditional teacher-student relationship and “become co-investigators who join together in [a] quest for knowledge and social transformations”.  As a teacher I have so much to learn from my students and in order for education to do its job of creating well rounded youth, we need to be open to learn from everyone.  I love how Sara also makes reference to Boal and the idea of “spec-actors”.  I had also referenced this in another blog post because I believe that part of counternarrative theatre is to force the audience to engage with sticky subjects and face them head on in the theatre so they can recognize and acknowledge when they see these same situations in the real world.

“Literature on youths with refugee backgrounds reveals that racism significantly impacts the educational experiences of this diverse group”.  We know this.  We know that our systems of education are inherently racist – soooo….we know better, how come we’re not doing better?   The concept of placing kids into age appropriate grades rather than based on their academic experiences seems as though we are setting kids up for failure as it is shown in the conversation between the students and guidance counsellor forum theatre excerpt.  We have to remember that equality is not necessarily equitable.  Image result for equal vs equitable"Just because we do one thing for one student, does not mean that every student requires it.  By exploring these issues in a forum theatre format we are allowing kids to figure out what they need and how to advocate for themselves.

To conclude, teachers MUST, MUST, MUST above everything else believe in our students.  “This closely reflected comments made throughout the study by students of refugee backgrounds, who perceived that school personnel thought they could not achieve their academic aspirations”.  Sara quotes Delgado in the article saying that “systems of oppression are maintained by stories told by members of dominant groups to justify the persistence of inequitable practices.” (p. 407).  By using counternarritives our students can work through oppression and marginalization – this also gives our “spect-actors” a chance to be confronted with their own racism and hopefully recognize wrong doing and change practices.  Sara says, “this [the study] is significant because allowing students to express themselves and test out their theories about life (Gallagher & Lortie 2007) is important if they are to feel valued and empowered.” (p. 411).  I believe above all else, it’s my job as an educator to love my students and empower them to be the best, truest version of themselves – theatre and creative teaching practice is the gateway to this.  This week’s reading, as per the last 2 before them, have been eye opening and engaging.  Thank you for the opportunity.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle

 

Power in Performance – Week #2

 FNU Powwow – Photo by Jeanelle Mandes

This week’s reading was awesome and reminded me of the incredible power of performance.  We can say SO much by sharing our experiences in this medium and am grateful to read about these powerful people spreading their message of perseverance, reconciliation and finding belonging among one another.   As I mentioned in class, I am intrigued by Boal’s idea of spec-actors rather than spectators to theatre that is intended to ignite change.  In the reading, “DECLARATION: When Indians Act” by Andy Moro they share that each work day they offer a “Declare” session where the artist works and talks with the audience.  Afterward they are invited into an open jam space where they create pieces for the evening performance.  “The excellence comes in trusting the process and each other.” (p. 80).  By including the audience I think it removes the “easy out” that some proscenium shows offer because the audience is so disconnected being in that space.  Space is such an incredibly important part of theatre and situating ourselves in a space is crucial if we want to ensure theatre is safe for everyone.  We must remember all of the important questions such as, who’s story is this?  Who is telling it?  And why?  “Ever conscious of space, we honour the innumerable unnamed artists whose works appear in this and in other museums across the country…” (p.80).  We can honour those around us but being cognizant of whom has come before, and who will come after.  Theatre, such as the performance diorama’s from Deceleration can be used a strong voice to ignite change and start important discussions.  At the end of the article it spoke about the heartbreaking story of Chief Mi’sel Joe trying to get the remains of his people back to a sacred resting place and it made me think of the complete disconnect settlers have with the fact that Indigenous people are STILL LIVING!  Indigenous people and their varied culture are not extinct, are not just museums staples, but living, breathing, practicing communities and need to be respected and treated as such.  This inexcusable disconnect is what causes settlers to feel as though “artifacts” and “remains” and “findings” are there own.  I made the connection to the Residential School Cemetery here in Regina.  Image result for regina industrial school cemeteryYears ago, the city was going to run a large pipeline directly through the sacred burial ground but Indigenous people and ally’s fought back and in 2017 it was finally designated an official heritage site and therefore could not be torn down or disrupted.  If the application for a pipeline would have been made to disrupt ANY other Regina cemetery the public outcry would not have been ignored.  Why this double standard?  Work like Declaration is imperative in keeping hard, but crucial conversations going.  We need to heal together…through settlers listening and giving a voice to those who have had it taken.

          I drew some connections between the article “We can write it better’:  Theatre has a role to play in reconciliation” by Shannon Boklaschuk and “Native from the core”: Enoch students perform decolonial holiday hip hopera by Moira Wyton.  The first, was the conversation regarding the story, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, of an Indigenous woman, told by a white man.  What privilege to be able to profit off the troubled history of Canada and it’s Indigenous people.  When the production was re-staged 40 years later, there was more thought given to the fact that “nothing has changed for so many First Nations people” (Nolan, p.2) however, my main question is why?  Why has nothing changed?  Nolan recounts seeing her and her Mother’s experience on stage for the first time, but they were forced to relive their trauma told by a white person.  Image result for the ecstasy of rita joeAlthough theatre does offer Indigenous and non-Indigenous people a platform to work through and discuss issues, we must be so cautious that although there could be pure, good intent harm and un-safety can still be caused.  We must allow the oppressed to take the lead.  My connection to the Wyton articled lied in thinking about what could have been if the “Dr. Sioux’s How the Neech Stole Christmas” had been taken on by a slough of white teachers.  Although the intent of decolonization could have potentially been there, the oppressed would not have been taking the lead in their own stories.

My final takeaway is one that will resonate with me everyday as I teach – REPRESENTATION MATTERS!!!  Say it louder for the people in the back!  “We felt like nothing really represented the kids as native youth.” RedCloud, p.3).  If you can’t see yourself there, where ever there is, how do you know you can do it?  We need our kids to be able to celebrate themselves and part of that is seeing themselves in a positive light in the media and in the literature we use in schools.  “The set also depicts Oilers-themed tipi buildings, the nation’s Shell gas station, and the River Cree Resort and Casino, which RedCloud says were important for students to see represented”. (p. 4).  This ties back to how important place is – to feel truly seen and represented we must respect the spaces in which our students come from and understand that they too are an important part of representation.

Overall, “we really believe that through theatre, music, art – it helps break that wall down”. (p. 3).  I am grateful to work in a profession where I can use art in all capacities to reach my students and encourage them to proud of themselves and where they come from.

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❤ Dani

“Educating the mind, without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle

The Beauty of the in Between – Week 1

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“It is the look of someone who is the process of losing something of who she thought she was.  Upon encountering something outside herself and her own ways of thinking, she is giving up thoughts she previously held as known, and as a consequence she is parting with a bit of her known self.” (Ellsworth, p.16).

Hello everyone,

I feel super lucky to be a part of this course – I value the arts so much and see the importance of letting children express themselves not only through the arts for arts sake, but through a different approach to other subjects too.  The reading this week, although challenging, was rewarding and validated many of the practices I hold dear.  I think this reading asked us a class to think outside the box and consider that what we say to kids is not the only thing that affects their learning – the space in which they learn, our actions and often what we do not say is just as important.   I loved the image below by Juliahna Taggart because to me, it shows that for some kids, there world is grey until they are able to open their mind to art and expression and then it floods with colour.  What a beautiful idea.

After reading through Ellsworth’s Places of Learning: Media, architecture, pedagogy chapter’s 1 and 2, I realized that academic writing around pedagogy CAN be poetic and artistic its delivery.  Below my plan is to highlight pieces of this work that stood out to me and why they did so…come along for the ride!

  • “Each of these other looks hinges on comprehension of a particular kind of knowledge – a knowledge already gotten by someone else.  For  various social, political, economic, or pragmatic reasons, someone has deemed this knowledge to be in need of being grasped, passed on, and repeated yet again and in ways that are clearly mapped and understood” (p. 16).  My thoughts were, who’s knowledge is this that we value and deem important and “true” enough to pass on and teach?  This could be an example of colonialism sneaking into our classroom through privileged knowledge.
  • “D.W Winnicott’s notion of ‘transitional space’ as the time and place out of which experiences of learning emerge.” (Winnicott, 1989).  This tells me that all the pieces need to fit together to satisfy the journey of learning.
  • “Herbert Muschamp, architectural critic for The New York Times, also agrees that pre-and non-linguistic experiences of a place of learning are crucial to what is learned there.” (p. 20).  We must, must, must situate ourselves and remember how important place is to learning.  Our EAL students and students who struggle with language depend on us to understand this because that is how they see, hear and feel the learning we offer when language isn’t an accessible option. 
  • On page 22 in Ellsworth’s piece there are many nods to inspiring a sense of wonder in our students –  “wonder is deeply interfused with the experience of learning.”  Allow kids to wonder about the world around them inspires creativity and infuses art into everything we do.
  • “Some use theories of ideology and discourse to understand how social, cultural, and sexual differences mark bodies and position them differentially within relations of power.  These approaches have shown how some social dynamics make some bodies matter more than others, and that they make social and cultural differences figure in the human interests that shape the social constructions of knowledge” (p. 23).  This sounds like the beginnings of systemic racism in our schools and divisions.  Some bodies and cultures are valued and some are not.  Students shape their feeling of school on these social constructs and we MUST make changes so every child can see their value in our learning spaces.  It is crucial to feel our learning and every child should have the opportunity to feel it in a positive way.  Arts Education allows for celebration at working and looking at things differently. 
  • “Regarding pedagogy as experimentation in thought rather than representation of knowledge as a thing already made, creates a profound shift in how we think of pedagogical intent or violation – the will to teach.” (p. 27).  This idea would help break down colonial thinking and systemic racism in our schools.  We can view all knowledge as equal it is an experiment and not just some thought that already exists.  We can slow down and learn from what one another has to offer in the classroom and understand the importance without negative intent or violation as mentioned above.
  • “Winnicott’s transitional space is what makes possible the difficult transition from a state of habitual (‘natural’ feeling) compliance with the outside world, with its expectations, traditions, structures, and knowledge, to a state of creatively putting those expectations, traditions, and structures to new uses.” (p. 30).  This for whatever reason got me thinking about the fact that this could be the basis of mindfulness in the classroom.  We are asking students to take outside world and it’s expectations, suspend them and use them for new.  
  • “A field of emergence (of newness and self change) takes shape when our minds/brains and bodies pass through time, space, and events – and do so with undetermined directions and outcomes”.  This is what allows us to be who we are!  Arts Education is a field of self exploration from many aspects.  We form our worldview through not only our brains but our bodies and our spaces and the time in which we spend there.  They are interconnected and help us form all aspects of ourselves when given the chance. 
  • “Change website, gestures towards the pedagogical potential of Wodiczko’s work when he says that Wodiczko’s ‘ephemeral projection pieces only last a night or two, but they reclaim the city streets as places for discussion and heated debate.” (p. 41).  This is a pedagogy for slow, steady change as mentioned in the Villanueva and Sullivan article.  This is art for social change, it’s art to give people without a voice, a voice.  Art can move us regardless of whether the physical piece sticks around or not.  We can use this as a lesson to teach kids that art can be fleeting and it’s ok.  People will remember.

Essentially what I got from my initial reading of this article was that arts education engages all of our senses and that kids need more art.  It asks us to look at the world in a different way and celebrate how beautiful our world can be through everyday art like architecture, poetry, etc.  It encourages us to consider pedagogy in a new that we  hope can reach and benefit more and more of our diverse classrooms.

There were many take away’s from “Analyzing the Degree of Consensus in Current Academic Literature on Critical Pedagogy” by Catalina Villanueva and Carmel O’Sullivan.  Although this article was written in a dramatically different way than the first, there was value in it as well.  Please find my ideas below:

  • “They saw schools as places where dominant views and beliefs can be legitimized and normalized, while marginalized knowledge is silenced.” (p. 70).  This is very similar to how schools are here in Saskatchewan.  We still battle systemic racism, divisions based on dominant view and although marginalizing voices intentionally is getting better, by not recognizing knowledge and minimizing the effects of poverty and colonialism we are silencing our doing just that. 
  • “Through TO, Boal (2002: 15) promoted an active stance in spectators, who influence theatrical action directly, becoming ‘spect-actors’ rather than spectators.” (p. 71). Theatre for change!  Freire showed people that you could empowered through education.  Boal said that theatre can transcend demographic and language – what a powerful thing in diverse classrooms!  
  • “The literature seems united in that, in its current form, Critical Pedagogy aims to combat oppression of all kinds, including that based on race and ethnicity, gender, age, ecological factors, special needs, social class and also classroom roles.” (p. 75). Oppression doesn’t just come in a “one size fits all” model, many factors play into members of our society feeling oppressed.  Theatre is a wonderful outlet for evolution – be it slow or quick as suggested in this piece, the fact that theatre is a path towards it is amazing.  I just think we need to be cautious of that fact that Critical Pedagogy is not “invariably liberating” and that although we are exploring and evolving through this way of knowing, we want to be respectful and not have people relive their trauma to satisfy our want to evolve. 
  • “…transforming the traditional teacher monologue into a dialogue exchange of ideas, students become empowered to critically question knowledge.” (p. 76).  Our students must be given reason to question the world around them and they must be empowered by the dialogue to incite change. 
  • “Hence, a more encompassing concept of conscientization as it is available in the sample literature implies a notion of questioning and becoming “aware of the various levels of power and privilege operating on, in and through different aspects of [our] lives” (King-White, 2012: 390) This reminds me of the article  “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” by Peggy McIntosh.  “White privilege is like an invisible
    weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks.” (p. 1).   We must be aware of this and then decide what we’re going to do to lessen it.
  • “Evidently, underlying this view is the conviction that students ‘will take the critical path or will at least adopt some measure of criticality into their daily lives even after they have left the educator'” (Neumann 2011: pg. 602). (p. 80).  My hope and  goal as an educator is that some of knowledge students gain with me, stays with them as they move forward in their lives.  I would love to have an impact that transcends the classroom into the world.  I work tirelessly on kindness, patience and understanding in my class because I think those are skills that will make good people out of my littles and will be something that they will remember because it made them feel a certain way!

art satisfying GIFRemember – art is messy, the results might be messy but the feeling of freedom and belonging that it can give is our kiddos worth every second!

Thanks for reading,

Dani ❤

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.”   -Aristotle