TMC6 Khokhar

Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy in a Racially Homogenous School 

by Rabia Khokhar

This paper outlines the rationale, learning experiences and resources developed in a school library research quest to engage students in critical thinking and reflection regarding cultural relevance. In particular, the author outlines experiences created for developing critically conscious citizens focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.

Read the Paper

Rabia Khokhar is a Long Term Teacher-Librarian with the Toronto District School Board currently serving the Indian Road Crescent school community. She is passionate about ensuring schools are inclusive spaces where all students with their multiple and intersectional identities are reflected, represented and included. Rabia believes one of the main goals of schools is to help students become active citizens who are aware, care a lot and take actions to make their communities better for all members. She is a strong advocate for the school library and believes it plays a central role in raising students who are critical thinkers and committed to issues around equity and justice.

16 comments:

  1. Hi again Rabia,

    Reading your paper was such a pleasure! I took a few notes as I read your reflections and insights and I'll share them here.

    An "asset-based approach" = Thanks for highlighting this important tenet. I agree with you that it is so important to start with this first. I need to find the name of the scholar who discusses about the order of sharing stories, because she also indicated that we need to begin with the "this is the great thing about X" first before the "this is the terrible thing that was done to X". What I find challenging about the timing of Orange Shirt Day (although I totally understand that the day is significant because that's often when children were forcibly removed from their homes to attend residential schools) is that it is so early in the school year that we often don't have enough time to delve into the wonderful parts of various First Nations cultures, heroes and accomplishments before diving into the horrible history of atrocities committed against First Nations children at residential schools. How did you ensure the asset-based approach came first before dealing with Orange Shirt Day?

    Indian Road Crescent Public School = I've always wondered about your school's name. I know it's the name of the street your school exists on. Has there ever been talk of changing the name? How do staff, students and the community feel about the name of the school?

    Junior Inquiry Question = I love this inquiry question (for those who haven't read the paper yet, it's "What does meaningful reconciliation look, sound, and feel like?") It's so powerful and concrete!

    Treaty Recognition Week = My school got funding to invite 2 speakers in to teach our students about Treaty Recognition Week. 1 cancelled and the other 1 spoke far, far above the heads of the audience (even though we explained that our school community was very, very new to our understanding of treaties, reconciliation and First Nations issues). When I saw your tweets at the time, it sounded like your students got so much more out of the experience you offered them. Our worry at my school was that we (the teaching staff) were so ignorant about the issues and ill-equipped to properly explain it that it was better to get someone from the community to help out. How did you overcome any "impostor syndrome" you might have had and what was the best resource you found for your own learning on the topic?

    I look forward to talking with you more about this paper in person at TMC6!
    Diana M

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    1. Hi Diana, thank you so much for reading the article and your insightful responses!
      In terms of changing the name of our school, the conversation has often come up with different members of our school and wider community. Last year we are very focused on thinking and trying to change the name. But this year with the work we have been doing around reconciliation we had many conversations with students about the importance of thinking critically about the name. We asked students if the word "indian" is respectful? Where does it come from? should we change the name? what would we change it to? I feel the conversation with getting students to think critically about the name of their school was useful this year. I wonder and hope that this work can continue!
      In terms of treaty recognition week I must say we did a lot of unlearning and relearning of our own personal part! We then tired to get students to think about these questions: What is a promise? why is it important? how does it feel to have a promise broken? These questions helped our students connect personally to the topic and then we launched into the treaty part and connection to Indigenous peoples.

      Hope this helps! Thank you for your comments again!

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  2. Hi Rabia
    Thanks for putting your thoughts and actions into writing for us for all to learn from. As Diana mentions in her comment above, I too. was struck by the term "asset-based approach." I'm thinking about how that is similar or different from the term we use in our school division "a strength-based approach." Correct me if I'm incorrect but I think asset-based is more about communities and culture and strength-based is more about individuals. Regardless, you have me thinking about thinking about schooling from an asset-based lens.

    In my school division, a question often arises about what we mean by Indigenous education and who it is meant to serve. Is the focus of Indigenous education to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students? Is it to educate all students about the history of Canada from a Indigenous perspective and respecting Indigenous ways of knowing, culture and societies. Through your CRRP framework, we can see that it is for both.

    One of our guest speakers at TMC is Garfield Gini-Newman. He just spent a day at one of the schools in our division working with teachers K to 8 on ways to approach their school-wide inquiry question on what meaningful reconciliation means. The amazing work you have done with all your grades is very similar to the work this homogeneous school is also working on. If you get the chance, you should ask Garfield his perspective on the inquiry questions your students have been working on. I think he'll be impressed!

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    1. Thank you for reading the article and for your response!!
      -Rabia

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  3. Hi Rabia,

    Thank you for sharing your journey around CRRP. This is a topic that I am very passionate about and yet a little nervous to teach at times.

    I am interested to learn more about asset based approach. This is something I don't know much about.

    Your focus on Truth and Reconciliation was very powerful. Your activities would definitely allow for students to explore, inquire and become more culturally conscious.

    A worry many educators have is teaching about other cultures/societies when they have no prior experience themselves. A concern is that of cultural appropriation. How do we overcome our fears of teaching such topics like residential schools? Is trying and perhaps not being “perfect” better than not trying at all?

    I would also like to learn more about your Grade 6 learning centres and other activities you have had students engage in around other subjects or CRRP related themes.

    In one of your paragraphs you mentioned learning, unlearning and learning and how it relates to staying current and connected to the facts. I am currently exploring the unlearn posters with intermediates and we have been talking about the importance of unlearning. Powerful stuff!

    Last year, I participated in a PLC with TL colleagues in my board. We developed a document called “Inclusive Design in Libraries: A Guide”. This document gives TL’s ideas as to how they can make sure their library spaces are equitable, representative and inclusive for all learners.

    Thank you again for sharing. I am looking forward to connecting with you at TMC and discussing further.

    Jess Longthorne

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    1. Hi, thank you for reading and your comments!
      You're so right, it is definitely a worry! I think the best way is to go forward and be as honest as possible with ourselves and students! We can say we are learning with them.
      Thanks again for your comment!
      -Rabia

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    2. I would love to see the document you created with other TL's! Is there a way to get a copy?
      -Rabia

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  4. Thank you, Rabia, for sharing your concerns about dealing with Reconciliation as a non-indigenous person and then the work that you and your school took on so courageously. Love the student's new word, ReconciliACTION! I am doing a keynote in Melbourne, Australia in March about social justice and cultural competence in school library contexts. Your work will be included and acknowledged! Dianne O

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  5. Your inquiry question intrigued me because I have often wondered what CPRR looks like when the homegenous school community is affirmed by the dominant narrative. Your conclusion is absolutely beautiful and truly captures the importance of nurturing critical, reflective advocates who will use their privilege for the betterment of all. I will be the keynote speaker at the BC Teacher Librarian conference in October and, with your permission, I would like to quote (and acknowledge!) you there.

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    1. Yes for sure, I am honoured and humbled!
      -Rabia

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  6. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful account of your experience working in a racially homogenous school while integrating a CRRP approach. I particularly liked the discussion about the need to break from the “single story” . We should integrate diverse texts with diverse stories through out the year. Too often do we focus on single
    Day events - day of pink - etc - and the discussions seem to percolate around the same narratives. This can be reductive and harmful.

    Thank you !
    Jane

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    1. Thanks for reading and your comment!
      Yes for sure! A question I often think about is: what role will we play to disrupt the single stories?
      Thanks

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  7. Hi Rabia,
    I often struggle with finding the right ratios in events, diversity activities and resources in my largely homogeneous school as well. How do you manage these things?

    Thank you for your transparency on this sensitive topic!

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    1. Thanks for such a great question!
      I think it is powerful to have all types of stories displayed and present all the time in our LLC/classrooms. That way the diverse lived experiences become an "everyday part" of the setting. I also believe then when we engage in highlight them for certain events it becomes more "normalized" and seamless. I hope this helps!
      -Rabia

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