24 Feb 2015

Week 7- Shape of a Girl and Homophobia

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No easy themes this week!

We had an incredible opportunity to witness Megan Carty‘s (Cart Before the Horse Theatre) presentation of Joan McLeod’s Shape of a Girl.  See our article in the University of Ottawa Gazette.  The Shape of a Girl is a powerful one-woman show that was inspired by the Reena Virk story.  Megan brought along 3 of her chorus members, all students at Canterbury High School and this brought an excellent dimension to the story- especially making for such an insightful talk-back session.  It really reminded me how important it is to have students share their experiences with future educators- they provide such an important dimension.

Here is a great link to a Shape of a Girl unit plan for teachers working with this production from Theatre for Young People (Green Thumb theatre).

We had a lot to digest after this production in our literature circles and I, of course, through in another challenging theme- the role of race and homophobia in bullying.  I can’t believe how it always feels like I just don’t have enough time in these classes.  So much to unpack.

The readings that anchored the class were the following:

  • MacLeod, J. (2002). The shape of a girl. Talonbooks.
  • Byers, M. (2010). The Stuff of Legend: T/Selling the Story of Reena Virk. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 41(3), 27-48.
  • Jiwani, Y. (1999). Erasing race: the story of Reena Virk. Canadian Woman Studies, 19(3), 178-184.
  • Walton, G. (2004). Bullying and homophobia in Canadian schools: The politics of policies, programs, and educational leadership. Journal of gay & lesbian issues in education, 1(4), 23-36.
  • “Homophobia: It’s getting better” (Mar. 3, 2012) The Economist.
  • Supplemental Resources:

The class activities were the following:

Opening Circle- Student led

SPIDER WEB.  Using the biggest ball of yarn I have ever seen, we made a circle outline and then tossed the ball across the circle after answering the question “Who did you connect/reconnect with over the long weekend?”  It was a great way to check in with each other after 2 weeks with no class.  It was really nice to see where people were at and the headspace we were in.

I like using this in class to embed content- vocabulary, story building, what do you remember about this unit, etc.

Inclusion Activity:  2 Truths and a Lie

One of my favourites.  Each student comes up with 2 true statements and a lie and shares with the group (or small groups in our case).  As a group we are to try to guess the ‘lie’.  Once again, although it is important to reconnect as a large community- we also needed to take some time to reconnect in our small groups before we dove into these thorny issues.

Literature Circles:  Week 4

It is so amazing to see people so engaged.  I really wish I was able to jump into the conversations- and normally would in my classroom- but want to respect the discussion as I know I have a tendency to take over discussions.  This happened in the feedback session as I really wanted to share my own opinions.  This is probably where I am having the most difficulty in the facilitation role– how to balance my own input and highlighting of key issues.  I find it so interesting to see the level of engagement in the small groups and how quickly I lose people when we start the class discussions.  Working from the social-constructivist framework (or at least that is where my head is at during these comps exams) I know my goal is learning and I am struggling to see how I can enhance my delivery to have that conversation.  I am certainly enjoying the use of the reflection journal as a main source.

Discussion around the themes

Many excellent points were raised in the lit circles- here are a few of the points:

  • How can some of these difficult issues be brought into the curriculum/content- sexuality, gender, race, cultural norms?
  • The power of language and the use of homophobic slurs- how can we address this as teachers?
  • What is happening in the Catholic schools?  How are they responding to Bill 13 and the new sex.ed curriculum?
  • How do we handle parent complaints- topics addressed in class, school or curriculum?
  • What if your beliefs do not match with your school culture?
  • Should there be a law to make bullying illegal? What is the effectiveness?  What does it teach?
  • What is the role of the media in bullying?- thinking about the Reena Virk case
  • How do we unpack bullying as a relationship problem and a social behaviour?  How do we teach/model healthy social interactions?
  • How do we teach beyond the binary- race, culture, sexuality, gender?  What is the role of heteronormativity, etc?
  • Is homophobia really getting better (see required reading)- are students really beyond this issue as they sometimes say or are we making assumptions?

Energizer- The Human Knot

This is such a fun activity, and we really did a great job of knotting that there was no getting out.  This was a first for me.  We suspect it was because we all crossed hands- but really there was no way of movement.  Our group also had the difficulty of not talking.  In the end, we had to surrender to defeat- but it certainly made us more comfortable in each others’ space.  The debrief was around the issue of communication and the ‘knotty’ situation of bullying.

Closing Circle- Values we hold dear

We were asked to write 5 values that we hold dear in ourselves onto 5 cue cards.  Once completed, we paired up and labelled ourselves A and B.  From here, we made inside/outside circles and had to choose one value to discard (prioritizing).  We would then share our rationale with our partner.  Once done, the circles would move (different circles moved each time)  We went through this process until we were left with one final quality that we held most dear.  These words and the rationale for why this is important as an educator was shared in a final community circle.  It was powerful to see these qualities and something to keep in mind as we travel through the school system as teachers.  In the interest of full disclosure, I chose integrity…something I struggle to enact daily.  Luckily, I have a lot of role models to keep me in line.

Until next time…off to continue my studies.




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