“S0, Why Are You Here?”

As I prepare for an exciting new semester, I also prepare for an exciting new leadership role with UR S.T.A.R.S. A group dedicated to anti-racist/oppressive education; a group of inspiring, influential, and incredible colleagues and faculty members from the University of Regina. As I began introducing myself to the Executive Director role I will share with Cassandra Hepworth, I was asked about my journey here: How did you end up here? Why did you end up here?

I believe Indigenous peoples of Canada should not have to mentally prepare how to act around Caucasians; I believe we should be able to share smiles, handshakes, and equal education and career opportunities. I believe all individuals should be able to apply to any educational opportunity-there should be no exceptions made to the individuals with autism. I believe the stigma surrounding mental health needs to be removed; no one deserves to be labeled “crazy” or “pathetic” because they are fighting an invisible illness. I believe new Canadians should be welcomed with open arms, and not expected to meet the arbitrary “Canadian” list of values defined by the same government who maintain “The Indian Act.

It is the work UR S.T.A.R.S. does for these oppressed groups in society that drew me to join and work, and now lead, alongside great colleagues to provide resources, professional development opportunities ,and open panel discussions to make these topics less awkward and to influence others to provide anti-racist/oppressive education.

My obvious passion for education, an inclusive learning environment and society provided a strong foundation to my path. As my awareness of our history and relationships with First Nations peoples increased, so did my interest in learning and working to share this important information- sharing these truths to work towards reconciliation. The wise words “once you see it, you can’t un-see it” stuck with me, and I believe this is information and learning that must be seen.

Furthermore, as a friend it is an important component of my relationships. I do this work as the work of a friend. I work towards reconciliation and and inclusive society with the constant thought of my friends who, with their ancestors, have fought for this for hundreds of years; my friend whose transgendered child was terrified to share who he really is; my friends and family who refuse to be labeled “crazy” so they silently deal with anxiety and depression.

There is a strong personal element behind every step I take; these personal relationships continue to push me through the roughest terrain on the journey. While I know my steps are small, and I will be wrong and make mistakes, “if it is worth doing badly, it’s worth doing.” If our message positively affects one person out of 1000, that is one more person taking our message to 1000 others.

There will no doubt be difficult days with resistance and frustrations; it is in these moments we must remember to continue to learn. I look forward to building and forming many new relationships, as well as sharing many opportunities to learn and grow with Cassandra, the UR S.T.A.R.S. team, and each and every one of you!

 

 

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Random Reflections on the Day it Began

November 9, 2012. The day it all came together. The day I hesitantly accepted a contract as an educational assistant to pass the time as I worked my way into nursing. Little did I know that day, that hesitant first step into an elementary school would also be the first step onto the path of education I am now cartwheeling down excitedly. This week, as staff and students excitedly prepare for new fall placements and the summer holidays, I can’t help but feel somewhat sad as my days at this school, in this position dwindle down. It is a fact, at twenty nine, I am retiring from my first career to complete my degree and fulfill my career dreams as a middle years teacher.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I did not expect 50 crazy seven year old students to jump into my heart and ignite my passion. Nor did I expect the many colleagues to spark the fire beneath me to return to university to just do what I am meant to do and teach.

But it happened. Not a day goes by where I am not told “Jasmine, you are a teacher in every sense of the word.”  How is this so? Well, my teacher voice is phenomenal. As are the tears that well when I celebrate a student’s success, or when I identify with the student when they are frustrated.I share the excitement when a student receives an A, wins a trophy at a tournament or reads their first chapter book. I beam with pride when students include the special needs student, or when that impulsive, defiant student finally identifies with the emotions of another child. I realize the full potential each student has and I research as much as I can to ensure I can unlock that potential in each student. If it means brushing up on my hockey trivia, or watching Star Wars for a weekend, I do it. I value the importance of relationships to foster a learning environment and I stop at nothing to ensure I can reach all the students I work with.

As I reflect on my past three years as an educational assistant and prepare myself as a teacher, I am thankful for the experiences, memories and colleagues I have had the pleasure of spending the last few years with. I have gained beautiful insight working with various teachers and I have developed my education philosophy from watching my colleagues as I assist in their classrooms.

Despite feeling emotional about my departure from the staff and students I have spent the last three years with, I am also excited to think the next time I work alongside these great people I will be in my own classroom.

To think of where I would be now, if I had never taken that first step.