I hope that anybody reading this post is doing well. On Saturday, January 21st I had the pleasure of working at OISE’s Educating for Peace & Justice conference. I was there to help run the event, & to document it for this blog! ^_^
A picture of the itinerary for the day.
The day began with an Opening Plenary in the OISE auditorium, from 9 to 10:15 AM. OISE’s Dean Glen Jones started off the conference with a welcome & opening remarks. Merlin Charles, who was one of the organizers of the conference, served as MC. I wasn’t present for most of the Opening Plenary since I had to help register participants for the conference, but was fortunate enough to catch about 15 minutes of it. I thought that giving participants name tags to wear upon registration was a good way of promoting dialogue and helping people network with each other.
Imagine my surprise when I saw some of the participants I had helped register up on stage, reading lines from a script. They were participating in a performed ethnography called Hong Kong, Canada. I was initially confused, but quickly caught on to the meaning of the presentation after a few minutes. It was about how immigrant students who use languages other than English at school might experience racism & discrimination. The performance was about a high school setting where English-speaking students felt frustrated that immigrants from Hong Kong were seemingly getting preferential treatment. I think that the topic addressed was a very relevant one in a country as diverse as Canada, and very appropriate to the theme of the conference.
After the Opening Plenary, participants went to the first workshop of their choice from 10:15 to 11:45 AM. Workshop topics included being an ally in the social justice process, anti-bullying, children’s health, creating an inclusive classroom, and various other issues of interest. I didn’t get to attend the first or second round of workshops because I was needed to help run the conference, but I hope that all the participants enjoyed themselves & learned something useful.
There was a lunch break from 11:45 AM to 12:45 PM
Conference Organizers Merlin Charles (bottom left) and Sheldon Grabke (bottom right) having lunch with presenters.
Presenters having lunch together.
I think it’s absolutely fantastic that Sheldon & Merlin arranged for so many knowledgeable people to educate future teachers & community members on the same day! Educating about topics such as racism & how to be more inclusive ought to start young, and now so many participants are more informed about how to best support young people.
There was also a Resource Fair going on in the OISE Library from 10:15 AM to 4 PM. I got to meet & take pictures of some of the exhibitors.
Exhibitor Rogue Witterick introducing people to resources in the 519 in Toronto.
An exhibitor educating people about the Indigenous Education Network at OISE.
There was a second round of workshops from 12:45 to 2:15 PM. Topics included things like identity, stress reduction, and how to educate students about sensitive issues effectively. During this time, I was helping registering the last few participants who had come to the conference late, & registering presenters for the third & final session of workshops.
The third round of workshops went from 2:30 to 4 PM. Since I was going to be covering the conference for this blog, I got to attend a workshop called “Sit Still, Look Pretty”: Exploring Notions of Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom, Amongst Students and in the Community facilitated by Meccana Ali & Tamika Royes.
It was exciting for me to finally attend a workshop, and I used the opportunity to increase my knowledge and awareness of the topic presented.
I learned about why people leaving unhealthy relationships are in the most danger, that girls as young as 12 years old experience unhealthy relationships dynamics, and that it’s important to frame things in a positive light when trying to convince a vulnerable person to access resources.
I think both Meccana & Tamika brought a lot of experience and insight from working in the community that workshop participants really benefited from. I especially like that they included various scenarios that participants discussed in small groups, to give everybody there some ideas about how to effectively deal with students experiencing sexual harassment & discrimination. They were also very in tune to the fact that some of the material discussed could be triggering for some participants and encouraged us to step out of the room and/or check in with one of them if we felt unsettled.
OISE’s Educating for Peace & Justice Conference is definitely an event that I want to fully attend next school year, as a participant. The organizers & the presenters all did a fantastic job, and I am proud to have played a (relatively minor) role in this event. It can be hard for educators & community members to help students dealing with harassment and discrimination. It can also be difficult to educate students about sensitive and/or controversial topics. Thankfully, OISE and various other organizations run workshops & have resources available to help with these monumental tasks. Together, everybody can help ensure that young people are more informed about how to treat others with respect and handle challenging situations.