680 Final Reflection

  1. How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

Understanding culture and power impacts my teaching greatly because the classroom is a battleground where unjust power structures fight to maintain their dominance, and cultural understanding is the key to inclusivity in education.  Understanding that a dominant monoculture controls everything from what information is taught in school à to how students are expected to learn and behave in the classroom à to how students are expected to interact and behave in the social world à to how students are expected and influenced to view themselves and the world around them à spurs me as an educator to question our current education system and challenge the injustices I see being inflicted and perpetuated.  Unjust power structures in education and society prevent students from achieving their full potential, from feeling valued, from being respected and honored as human beings.  From understanding that power and oppression go hand in hand, I know that I want to strive to take the power out of the hands of the oppressors and help students to grasp empowerment that lies in their hands.  Some of the ways I can strive to dismantle these oppressive power structures are through: creating inclusivity, practicing and teaching critical thinking, using culturally-responsive teaching, encouraging teamwork, fostering multiculturalism, and embracing diversity.  As Ernestine Hayes said, “If you are not combating colonialism, you are contributing to it.”  I strongly believe her words, and I feel that we must think and act radically, critically, and actively as educators in order to push education toward progress and multiculturalism.  I can start in my own classroom by honoring the diverse backgrounds and experiences of my students and by including local cultural knowledge in my lessons in an active effort to move away from the Euro-centric, monocultural education model.  As a music teacher, I will start by challenging the Euro-centric notions of the hierarchical orchestra and the western music notation system.


  1. The three words I chose from the word wall are: 1) uncomfortable, 2) self-reflection, and 3) tolerance vs. transformation. I chose these words because of their significance as steps on a path toward positive change in education.  Uncomfortable means “feeling slight pain or physical discomfort” or “causing or feeling unease or awkwardness.”  Self-reflection means “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.”  Tolerance means “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”  Transformation, however, means “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.”  Change starts with being uncomfortable.  We must be uncomfortable with our privilege and address it before we can look outward and make change.  We must be uncomfortable with our situations before we can question them and make change.  We must be uncomfortable with the status quo and the power structures in place before we can challenge them and make change.  Being uncomfortable is one small step toward transformation.  Practicing and teaching self-reflection is key to our ability to analyze ourselves, our feelings, and our motives.  When we can reflect as teachers, we can make sure that we approach all teaching situations with sensitivity, respect, perspective, and reduced personal bias.  When we teach our students self-reflection, we can help them to be better citizens and more thoughtful and sensitive peers to their classmates.  Change starts from within, whether you are the teacher or the student.  Once we look within, we can look outside of ourselves at the larger situation.  Tolerance is the first step toward embracing and honoring diversity, but it is not enough.  Tolerance does not imply enough growth.  Transformation takes change to the next level.


  1. I plan to teach in a culturally responsive way by incorporating traditional Tlingit music into my music lessons. I will be teaching strings and general music both in the traditional music classroom and for the El Sistema-inspired string program, JAMM.  I hope to invite Elders into the classroom to teach traditional songs and prepare my students for performance.  I also intend to incorporate more learning through oral tradition in addition to reading music with western notation.  I will help students to put knowledge in their own hands through self-guided learning, project-based learning, peer mentorship, and team activities.  I aim to use place-based learning as a way for music students to get in touch with the musical landscape of their local environment.  One way I can incorporate place-based learning is by having students engage their local community to share and teach a diverse repertoire of local music.  Another way I can incorporate place-based learning is by having students listen deeply to the sounds of their natural landscape and then use those environmental sounds as inspiration for their own compositions.  One way I want to make strings class more culturally responsive is by turning the role of the orchestra on its head.  Traditionally, the orchestra has been a place of hierarchy, inequality, and deeply entrenched power structures.  I aim to use the El Sistema model to reinvent the orchestra as a tool for team building, cooperation, and collaboration, and as an expression of respect, unity, and diversity.  We can be inclusive in the orchestra to include players of all backgrounds and experiences and to present music from a wealth of diverse places, not just the western world!

Multicultural Education Final Reflection

  1. How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

    It impacts my teaching because it affirms my beliefs that my role as a teacher is to provide opportunities for accessible learning. I think this attitude is important especially for the students living in the margins because they may have experienced a loss of culture and thereby a loss of power. Someone in class said that as a teacher, we should not say statements outwardly supporting trans students, because we might also offend those who are Christians. I am tired of hearing that my advocacy for the oppressed ought to be silenced for the fragility of those in power. Too long have we taught the history and culture of the privileged and we ought to strive towards understanding the cultures we do not see, or perhaps, we are blinded from seeing.I think we must understand culture for ourselves, so that in knowing ourselves, we can see how our lives are not always by choice, but by the influences that others have had on our lives, both personally and institutionally. I think understanding ourselves brings empowerment, and I hope that by providing a space for students to explore their own stories, they can come to be respectful not only of each other, but of themselves.
  2. Pick three terms that resonate with you from the Multicultural Education word wall. Define the terms and discuss why you chose these three terms.Tolerance vs Transformation.
    I really enjoyed this term that was put on the word wall, because I think it challenges people to critically examine their own use of vocabulary. Tolerance is a word that is often used in cases of cultural training/education (I mean, there is even a book called “teaching tolerance”), and its intentions may be benign, but its impact is not. Our differences should not be tolerated, but celebrated, and engaged in. Tolerance gives the option for those in power to disengage, a privilege which people in power always have had. Transformation on the other hand, provides opportunities for continuous learning and for Metanoia. Metanoia is a change of heart, and not just a developed skill-set to ignore differences. I think that recognizing the difference between Tolerance and Transformation is crucial in understanding ourselves and where our goal as teachers may lie.

    To be honest, in the past few weeks, I have struggled emotionally. The discussions that we have had were triggering, and some of the comments made were cringe-worthy for me. Everyday seems like a fight in various ways, to have to justify my experiences and to defend my understanding of racism as a person-of-color. That fight is not going to stop when I enter the school. I do not think Angie taught us with the expectation that our co-workers or our administrators will be on the same page about anti-racist education. That is why this word is so important, because in order for positive change to occur, to break through the school-to-prison pipeline, systems must be challenged. A revolution must take place, advocated by teachers, students, parents, community-members, lawmakers, etc… I grow more and more impatient everyday with systems that actively benefits some but disadvantages many, but I brew this frustration into a revolutionary movement that is working towards disrupting oppression in the education system.

    The last word I chose was hope. Hope is a beautiful word for me, and a word that resonates with me. Through my anger and frustration and my trauma, I challenge myself to find healing, and my hopes have always kept me pushing forward. One of the hardest things to witness in classrooms is self-abuse, whether it manifest physically or emotionally. How do we as teachers help create a space in which a student may develop a sense of hope for their future? How can students bring themselves to hope for goodness, and not expect for results? I hope that my experiences as a student teacher will help me explore some of the answers that I am looking for.

  3. Describe your plan to teach in a culturally responsive way in the coming year. Include teaching strategies you might employ as well as content/units you will implement.Some concrete strategies for me include the following:
    1. Block the clock. Especially at Thunder Mountain where there is a class bell, and even if not, I think that our western perspective on time can be very detrimental to active learning. Discussions happen organically, and learning takes place at different speeds for every student. I think that if we compare ourselves and our work to a clock on the wall, it may result in lower self-esteem. I want to see if there may be a different strategy to approach time-keeping.

    2. Arrange the seats in a circle/U-shape. I mentioned in my post about BH&H that there may be a perceived hierarchy in a classroom where the teacher is the ultimate power and authority. When thinking about my experiences, most classrooms are shaped to exert such a power dynamic, with ordered seats facing the front, where a podium stands. I think that the more that we can become supporters of peer-led learning and communal engagement, the less there will be chances of students “falling through the cracks.”

    3. If I become a teacher, the first thing I want to do is disassemble everything (boards, posters, chairs, tables) and explain to the students on the first day of school that I want the classroom to be arranged in the way that we, as teacher and students, would find most engaging for our learning. Allowing students to have ownership over the space can provide for safety, empowerment, and mutual respect.

    4. Use of Elders. I think that it is crucial to allow Elders to share their experiences and see how they may have helped pave the road towards justice for future generations.

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Reflections on Multicultural Education

1. How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

I think one of my main concerns as a teacher will be to make sure that my students are conscious of some of the dynamics of culture and power that we’ve been talking about over the past three weeks, and that they feel safe discussing them in class. I think one of the greatest opportunities of discussion-based classes is the ability to encourage students to ask critical questions about the messages they are receiving from the world around them. As a language arts teacher, I hope that my students will be able to make their own judgments about the dynamics of culture and power in the works we read for my class.

2. I chose three words from the word wall that I’m still working on or trying to figure out.

Place-Based Education: This is something that I believe very strongly in, and I’ve tried to give my students place-based projects in the past, but I’ve always found it a little bit difficult because I move around a lot and I’m rarely in a place that I know a lot about. My cousin Sally, who also teaches in Fairbanks, and who grew up there, is brilliant at coming up with place-based projects. In her first week as a TA, she took her class on a field trip to the reuse section of the dump, and that’s now a standard field trip for composition classes, because it turns out you can learn a lot about Fairbanks by careful observation of the dump’s reuse pavilion. My favorite lesson of Sally’s is on citations – students can plan a trip anywhere in Alaska, using an unlimited imaginary budget, but they need to research it thoroughly, write it up, and cite everything. I’ve stolen many of Sally’s assignments, but I’ve never quite been able to imitate her creative flair for place-based education. This class has given me a good sense of the variety of place-based projects that are possible, though, and I hope I’ll eventually be able to stop stealing assignments from Sally.

Safe Space: This is a tricky one for me, and the reason why it’s tricky came up during our class discussion about David Katzeek and trans issues. That discussion highlighted a complicated question: how do you balance different kinds of safety? How do you make sure a space is safe for every marginalized group, for instance trans students, while also making sure it is safe for open and thoughtful discussion? If an authority figure makes a remark, as David Katzeek did, that comes across as transphobic, how does the teacher deal with that so as to keep the space of the classroom as safe as possible for as many people as possible? This is something I’m still trying to figure out.

Eurocentrism: I chose this word because the reality is that my own tastes in literature are pretty Eurocentric. I was raised in a family that reads a lot of Victorian novels and turn-of-the-century children’s literature, and that’s still a big part of what I read for fun. Since I started teaching, I’ve made an effort to make my reading more multicultural, but I know I still have a long way to go.

3. My plan for the year – well, it’s hard to say, because my conversations with my host teacher have been quite brief so far, so I don’t know how thoroughly she has the year planned out. In the future, I will certainly aim for a lot of diversity in the authors and the readings I assign my students. I think it’s important to represent writers of many different cultures, and to make it clear that they are on the reading list because they are good writers that the students can learn from. I also hope to assign my students a lot of writing by Alaskan writers – Alaska Native writers, whenever possible. I’ll be at Mt. Edgecumbe, working with students from all over Alaska, so one challenge – assuming I get any say in the reading material – will be finding enough material from different parts of Alaska that all of my students feel represented. I will also, hopefully, be able to use oral histories from all over Alaska, which will allow my students to do some place-based investigation of an area they are from or have a connection to.

“Teachers: Most Important People in the World”

  1. “How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?”

I think that culture and power can be different but similar and can impact my teaching also in similar but different ways. Culture can be very powerful to an individual or a group and can provide one with much power to move forward or to stay upright on their feet. Power can also be the force that takes away culture from individuals for reasons that are intentional and hurtful or for reasons that are unintentional but still hurtful.

As teachers, we have the power to empower students with the ability to embrace their culture and to help them learn and understand other cultures. By using this power as a teacher for good, I think it will create power within the student, class, and community and create a new culture of understanding and compassion.

Power can be used for good and bad reasons and there is not enough power being used for good. I hope to build a culture in my classroom that embraces other cultures which will create a powerful wave that carries others that may be stranded, to shore.

2. Pick three terms that resonate with you from the Multicultural Education word wall. Define the terms and discuss why you chose these three terms.

Determination: To break through the barriers and deterrents to achieve a goal or a desired outcome. – I believe that all teachers must have determination in order to strive for 110 percent within themselves and in their students.

Influence: To change the outcome or pathway of something or someone. – Mr. Fred Rogers said that “The most important people in a child’s life are that child’s parents and teachers. That means parents and teachers are the most important people in the world.” Teachers and parents have a huge influence on a child for the rest of their lives! The direction that students are pointed at an early age will shape their journey in a big way.

Uncomfortable: To feel out of place, or uneasy. To be unsettled or bothered. – I believe that teachers must put themselves in an uncomfortable situation for the benefit of the students. There are times that a teacher may feel comfortable with a situation in regards to a sensitive topic dealing with race, culture, gender or other topics. When the teacher is comfortable, there may be a student that is falling between the cracks. There may be a student that is not heard or understood. As a teacher, we must be uncomfortable on put ourselves in front of the firing squad. After all, a teacher is one of the most important people in the world.

3. In the coming year and years, I plan on looking at my class as a color wheel. With the primary colors, one can create any color of the rainbow and can find its compliment or balance color(s). Understanding that there are students or all colors and backgrounds, I will try to bring together resources from the class, school, and community that will help us mix and add the colors that we have to create new colors that we may never have known existed. I will try my best to include a wide range of experiences, exercises, and lessons that bring in more than I know. I know that I do not know everything and we all need help to see the full rainbow of cultures and knowledge. I will also show to students that asking questions and being humble is a valuable method to understanding the unknown. To know and understand your neighbor is to first step to understanding the world.

I will try my best to include a wide range of experiences, exercises, and lessons that bring in more than I know. I know that I do not know everything and we all need help to see the full rainbow of cultures and knowledge. I will also show to students that asking questions and being humble is a valuable method to understanding the unknown. To know and understand your neighbor is to first step to understanding the world. To understand the world, one must understand oneself. To understand oneself, one must look to others.

ED680 Final Reflections


How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

The more experience we gain as educators, the more we will see that cultural differences do exist in the classroom, that power dynamics accompany these differences, and that these differences as well as similarities amongst our students impact each of their educational experiences.

What three words stood out to me on the classroom created word wall?

  1. Awareness.  Continually striving to become aware of what’s around us while recognizing that we are never fully aware of everything around us.  We all come to the classroom with our own biases, lenses we view the world through, various forms of privilege and differing ideas.  Thus, it’s a constant job- working on being aware.  Through this class we focused on the need and sometimes difficult task of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.  What is the background that someone is bringing with them into the classroom? What cultural norms does one hold? What are the power dynamics at play within a classroom? Who’s voice (or presence) is not being heard? Who is not being seen? Are we aware of our own biases, privileges and world views?  As David Katzeek so eloquently stated- how do we use this awareness to lift each student up and help them see their place in the world? This class was a wonderful reminder of how important in life, as well as in the classroom, it is to try to bring a deep awareness into each day, situation, lesson, assignment and activity.
  2. Place-Based Education.  I feel it is an effective educational tool to use the community you are in as the base for learning to grow and expand from.  One of the biggest learning’s of this class for me was how important and relevant place-based education is.  If a student in Anchorage, Alaska studies World War II, for example, but never learns about how WWII impacted Alaska, an opportunity to deepen one’s educational experience has been lost.  If a math teacher only uses word problems standard for students across the United States, and doesn’t incorporate the local community and surroundings into these word problems, a deeper learning has been lost.  It is important to connect one’s own backyard in history with the world at large.  And how amazing was our ED680 math lesson that incorporated totem poles, humpback whales and Tlingit art? Think global and act local.
  3. Critical Thinking.  Having the ability to view what is being taught with a critical eye and question its’ relevance to one’s own culture and life is important.  I hope to help my student’s recognize the need to critically think about what we are learning in the classroom.

My plan for this upcoming year:

I look forward to my learning and growth as an educator in the upcoming year.  The phrase that comes to my mind is ‘the more you learn, the less you know.’  As a student teacher, I should have ample time to observe, listen and get to know my students.  With this, I hope to learn more about their backgrounds and what influences (including culture) have shaped where they are today.  This will help me become more aware of what they are bringing to the classroom and to better facilitate their educational experiences.  I also look forward to using my community as a classroom- starting from our school, moving out to the community and then connecting what we see to the larger picture of ‘how this relates to our homes as well as the world.’ Lastly, I hope to introduce topics from different lenses, to allow students to look at subjects with a critical lens and begin seeing the importance of looking at multiple perspectives on a subject instead of taking something they read or hear at face value.

Reflections on 680 Multicultural Ed

Words have a powerful effect on students. As a teacher, it is crucial to be aware of word choice. Words can cause great harm. There is no pulling a culturally insensitive word back from the universe once it has been uttered. A student could be forever damaged if he or she feels unwanted or stupid in the eyes of a teacher. If a student’s culture is overlooked throughout his or her schooling, a student will start to believe their culture has no place in the world. This could lead to despair, worthlessness and even suicide. David Katzeek spoke about the power of words when meet with us on the first day of class. He said, “every child is special,” and “you are an intelligent human being,” and “[child] has the power within them”.  He translated these from Tlingit and had first heard them from his grandparents. There were so many precious gems to remember and apply to the classroom that had been put to use for thousands of years by the Tlingit People. The power of words can “lift up” a student to accomplish things they never thought possible.

As teachers, we must work hard to balance the perspectives the students receive, so a student’s culture is not overshadowed by the dominant culture’s world view. We must be honest with students about the hard realities that exist in our society. The more points-of-view we can see the world through, the deeper our understanding of the world can be. This is how we can empower all students to become great thinkers and doers of great deeds. Over the last three weeks, I have felt empowered. It has been the best feeling. If my students can feel the joy of learning that I am feeling, I will know we are on the right path.

IMG_20160701_150520152  I choose whiteness, uncomfortable, and revolutionary from the word wall because together they tell a story of how we can begin to make changes in a flawed system. In order for there to be a revolutionary change in education, it is vital to understand that there exists a disparity between cultures. There is a whiteness that is most often not seen or recognized by white culture. The whiteness blinders must be removed in order to see the disadvantages that a multitude of culturIMG_20160701_150523802es face in our country. We must see that by design this system is made for an elitist white world aimed at controlling the masses through the fear of each other.

In order to change the system at root in education, we must embrace the uncomfortable topics such as racism. We must recognize that racism is still very much a part of our students lives. We must know that the very idea of race is a social construct. Discussing these issues and recognizing that they exist is the first step in deconstructing a destructive system. We cannot skirt around these often painful topics. We cannot fear stirring up emotions and tiptoeing around the fragile mindset of the privileged. This is the revolution that must happen for the world to be a better place. It will be uncomfortable and it should be. As Mahatma Gandi once said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”


My goal is to teach in a respectful, balanced manner. The classroom will be held to the same values. We will look to Traditional Values as a model for the classroom to follow. As a language arts/English teacher, we can apply Traditional Values to all the literature we read. By doing this, we can bring the mindset of a variety of people to any region and time period of the world

Talking Circle Guidelines PosterIt is my understanding that my student practicum at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School will be focusing their curriculum on world literature this coming year. By going far and wide, I want to keep subjects grounded and relevant on a local level.  We can do this by reading/hearing stories based in Alaska time and space while running parallel to the world literature. It could be very powerful to recognize that while Homer wrote the Iliad and Odyssey, the Tlingit people and other indigenous people of Alaska were passing down Raven stories as well their pantheon of knowledge orally.

I plan to incorporate as much of the Tlingit language as possible into the classroom on a daily level.  I realized that a Tlingit place name map could be a central resource to study the language.  With the help of cultural bearers and Elders, we can learn how to make the sounds in order say the words properly.  I want to challenge the way we make sounds and break the lazy habits that afflict most English speakers. Language holds the essence of a culture in my eyes. Even by making small attempts at speaking another language, a student can begin to understand another culture and have a broader world view.





Final Reflections: Ed 680

(Anger during protest. Source: WikiMedia Commons)

How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

A understanding of culture and power greatly impacts my teaching. The biggest way it impacts my teaching is by ensuring that I critically look at myself and the way that I communicate with children, parents and the community. It is also about knowing to listen and honor each of my students experiences. An understanding of culture and power means recognizing that everybody has a unique culture that extends beyond ethnicity; while being aware of the existing white dominance and privilege. For that reason, it is all the more important that I get to know and understand each of my students; and that I believe in each student’s endless potential.

Pick three terms that resonate with you from the Multicultural Education word wall. Define the terms and discuss why you chose these three terms.

I chose these three terms because these are the terms that I regrettably know the least about, and one of the most important things that I have learned about being a teacher, is to always look for ways to expand my knowledge.

Fragmentation: At the most basic level, it seems that fragmentation is the breaking down of the traditional senses of a culture. In the education system, fragmentation could be caused by a lack of a connection between a certain group of students and the school system. This lack of connection, or gap may cause poor interrelationships amongst the school and parents. At its core fragmentation is about structural equality, in that systems provide  something for one group of people that they do not provide for another.

White Fragility: White fragility is about a state in which white people may reach when faced with even a small amount of racial stress. White fragility may include acting defensive, angry, full of guilt or other actions including, leaving the conversation in a high stress situation or causing an argument.

Meritocracy: Boy am I ever glad that I looked into this word. Because it is something that I feel very passionate against. Meritocracy means that in society those  with natural (or predisposed) ability are rewarded.

Describe your plan to teach in a culturally responsive way in the coming year. Include teaching strategies you might employ as well as content/units you will implement.

It is necessary that  acknowledge and understand my own cultural values, so that I may understand how it impacts my teaching practices. It is so important that I recognize my cultural identity and then reflect on how I can go about reaching and valuing each and every child. A teaching strategy that is so important to me is bringing my students’ stories and words into my personal preparation, lesson planning and curriculum. This is only possibly by building lasting relationships with all my students and creating environments where students feel safe enough to indulge in taking risks and making mistakes in order to build richer and deeper understandings.