The Meaning of Safety in Common Spaces

I work at a university as a teacher of intercultural learning and development.  That means I work with students to learn about their own cultures so that they are better prepared to understand other cultures.  You see, we want to graduate students who are globally marketable and are able to think past their own identities.

I have developed many workshops over the years to address such learning outcomes.  One of the developmental workshops/classes is called Safe Zone.  It was developed by Anthropologist, Dr. Susan Allen, among others, originally to address sexual minorities, and then began to include intersectional identities deemed, “Not in the mainstream.”  That was back in the 1970s, and we continue this important work of building allies today.

With the recent focus on inequities across all social constructs, there remains a focus to help institutions build community, foster a sense of belonging for all, and address emotional well-being.  As I continue to say, it’s a life-long journey.  When one asks me, “How long with this take?”  My favorite answer is, “A life time.”

I have a class called, History of Exclusion, Implicit Bias, Aggression, and Language.  I present this here as a way for us to think about the environments that we build in order to exclude, which is the opposite of building community.  Here is a quick primer:

Justification:

As with any intercultural learning processes, all students , no matter who you are,  must understand and internalize the benefits of being globally aware, confident and competent. This learning is not a “check box,” nor is it a “once and done” process.

The goal is for a us to move toward “allyship,” with historically excluded groups with “Authentic Allyship.” For example:

  • “Performance Allyship,” i.e. extrinsically motivated and tends not to be sustainable. Rather is tends to be “a means to an end.”
  • “Authentic Allyship,” intrinsically motivated and tends to promote positive and sustainable change in systemic exclusion.

If we are asking ourselves and teaching our children to function in a global society, we must model that same “self and other” awareness.  Here’s a way to begin:

  • Learn about your own identity and the characteristics that make up your culture.
  • Learn about the identities of others and what about those identities that make up their cultures.
  • Internalize how this understanding contributes to cohesion and the equitable representation of multiple identities in the class (room), in community, and in  societal settings.

Intended Outcomes: Participants in this practice  internalize their personal journey in Authentic Allyship with persons who identify with populations not part of a dominant.  Practitioners of allyship understand how their own stories influence how they view the “other.”  Practitioners of allyship find common ground to learn the stories of “others” and build relationships.  Ultimately, practitioners of allyship advance the concepts of “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being” for all.

As you look for readings, look for key words in the following topics.

Topics Covered:

  • History of the exclusionary acts that contribute to racism and other “-ism” constructs
  • Understanding Implicit biases and its effects in building relationships
  • Understanding different types of aggressions: how do they affect the relationship between the aggressor and their “targets,” including:
    • Micro-invalidations
    • Micro-insults
    • Micro-assaults
  • Understanding the language that further “minoritizes” and separates one group from another.

Again, we promote: “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being”

This is what I want for us:

Jumbo Ball Pit with 10 students

Thank you for reading.

Emotional Pain in Crises and Self-Care

One would have to live under a rock in order not to acknowledge the global pain and suffering at the moment.  Since early March we hear the daily COVID-19 reports from countless sources.  Some we believe and send us into the realms of disbelief.

My featured image, this week, shows the baby bunny, a kit, living in my backyard.  His favorite nourishment appears to be crisp, dandelion greens and dandelion stalks.  Since both our dogs died last year, I am delighted that this little creature stays in our yard.  Watching him (I really cannot identify his gender) gorge himself on clover and dandelions while viewing the world around him, reminds me to engage in a quiet pace, enjoy my surroundings, eat my food contemplatively (Okay, I’m anthropomorphizing said bunny!), and be aware of my surroundings with its joys and its, possible, dangers.  Good advice from the bunny, considering world events of late.

My goal, here, does not center on my judgement of the current world and U.S. events.  I assure you, I have the full range of emotions around the effect of COVID-19 and senseless killings.  You don’t need to read those.  Rather, I hope to offer comments regarding self care and how we may focus on ourselves in a healthful way.  I’m sure you’ve read lots of information on mindfulness.  Here, I offer another resource.  A couple of friends wrote an Extension publication called, Everyday Mindfulness.   It comes complete with the “Fact Sheet,” which the actual publication, and with a leader’s guide, in case you want to teach it.  If you want more information on how to gain free access to the publication, just let me know in a comment.

First, let us look at what mindfulness can be:

» Living in the present moment/awareness of the present moment — paying close attention to thoughts, physical sensations, and our surroundings (Like the bunny in my backyard!).
» Observing personal experiences of mindfulness, being completely focused on a project
reading a book, doing a hobby, or playing a sport. This heightened awareness is mindfulness.
» Taking a few deep breaths — becoming fully aware of the present moment.
» Having nonjudgmental awareness in which each thought, feeling, and sensation is acknowledged and accepted in their present state. This steady and non-reactive attention usually differs from the way we routinely operate in the world.
» Paying attention, precisely, to the present moment without judgment

Sometimes, delighting in the little things can help us to be more focused, though we can benefit from setting aside specific time for expressing anger and other emotions.  When we “schedule” such time for judgement, anger, sadness, and guilt, we can focus our energies for the difficult times.  The next step would be to schedule time for joy, celebration, and the plan-of-action for addressing the events that bring on anger, sadness, guilt, and judgement.  When we call ourselves to action, we address the helplessness that often accompanies injustices and inequities.

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This photo is meant to help us imagine a peaceful scene to promote mindfulness.  It’s three of my four grandchildren enjoying Canada geese swimming while an elder feeds them.

Back to mindfulness. We follow seven principles.  They take practice, but it’s worth the effort in your journey toward self-care:

  • Non-judging: Be a neutral observer to each experience.
  • Patience: Allow each experience to emerge at its own pace.
  • Beginner’s mind: Avoid bringing in what you know to the current moment and try
    experiencing it as if it is the first time.
  • Trust: Believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way.
  • Non-striving: Avoid the need for winning or losing or striving for a purpose — it is about “being” and “non-doing.”
  • Acceptance: See things as they are in the present moment.
  • Letting go: Take the time to detach from your usual feelings and thoughts.

You may ask, “How can we do this when the world is hurting and in crisis?  My answer: We can better serve others and be the best for the world once we have addressed our own physical and emotional needs.”  It is not selfish.  It is good practice.

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I snapped this shot on one of my walks not far from my house.  In a world of pain, suffering, and ugliness, somedays, I have to focus on beauty.  Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Our Granddaughter, a Wonderfully, Gifted Soul!

When one thinks of an 11 year old female, one, often, does not think, “old soul.”  I find myself thinking that often, especially when she requested a weekend with “Grandma and Grandpa.”  “Can we have a, sort of, special Thanksgiving dinner with just the three of us?”  Of course I answered, “yes.”  It was the following  that surprised me.  I suppose I was thinking a traditional U. S. American Thanksgiving meal with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie!  So, I asked “Sammy” about her preferred menu.  “Let’s have grilled beef steak, fried potatoes and asparagus.  Also, I want root beer floats for dessert!”  That’s easy!

We just had one full Saturday with her, so we wanted to make it special.  We began the day with her requested breakfast of Honey Combs breakfast cereal.  I checked the ingredients.  Because of the name of the cereal, the consumer is led to believe that it has honey.  The product lists its ingredients as: corn flour, sugarwhole grain oat flour, modified cornstarchcorn syruphoneysalt, turmeric (color), wheat starch.  We were feeling indulgent, so we allowed her to have this allegedly healthy breakfast food.

After breakfast, we made our way to thrift stores (her old soul showing) and the mall (her pre-teen soul showing).  We followed that with lunch at an Asian themed fast food place having to do with a panda.  We knew we’d have a healthful dinner, so we moved forward.  Here she is by a colorful mural on a wall downtown. Getting both her face and that of the mural’s subject meant that I had to sacrifice a close-up.

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She actually tired of the activity, so we went home for a relatively quiet afternoon to prepare for our feast.

Menu:

Grilled Rib-eye Steaks

Fried potatoes (we mixed bintje and red gold potatoes, thinly sliced)

Buttered asparagus

Sparkling apple juice (instead of wine since the guest of honor is 11 years old)

Root Beer Floats

Grandpas purchased the steaks at a specialty meat shop.  He patted them dry and applied salt and pepper before landing them on the grill.

I sliced the potatoes (with skins) thinly and allowed them to sit in very hot water for 10 minutes.  I patted the tubers dry before adding them to hot sunflower oil.  Salt and pepper were applied along with a lid in order for the potatoes to steam for five to eight minutes.  I removed the lid after eight minutes to allow the potatoes to brown.  Once the potatoes began to brown, I added two pats of butter, which aided further in the even browning.  By the way, I fried the potatoes in a carbon steel wok, which aids in easy stirring.

The asparagus were simply steamed with added butter and salt toward the end of cooking time.

Here we are:

img_4242.jpg Here’s the happy menu planner, ready to tear into her special meal.

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Now, the root beer float has been a topic of discussion and debate.  Do you add the ice cream first or the root beer?  When you put the ice cream in the glass first, adding the root beer causes a great foaming!  Grandpa insisted that we pour the root beer in the tall glasses, first!  Then we added the ice cream.  It worked! No foaming!  Let me know your thoughts on this.  No matter, they were wonderfully creamy and delicious with the soda’s hint of allspice, ginger, sarsaparilla, dandelion root, and vanilla bean.   It foamed, but the foam never ran over the sides of the glass.  A great treat!

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By the way, the lovely dandelion, the featured image, was taken by Sammy while playing on her uncle’s farm.  She has a great eye for taking pictures.

Thank you for reading.

My Teaching Philosophy

Okay, so I’m not in a formal classroom anymore.  However, I do have a teaching philosophy through which I see an educational setting.

I think that every day humans seek to achieve personal, tribal, familial, institutional, and community well-being. Actions may differ from place to place because of varying cultural patterns, environmental conditions, geographical locations, political capital, natural capital, cultural capital, social capital, and other resources that affect human lives.  The teacher, be it formal or informal, affects the lives of his or her students’ thinking by leading them toward seeing the world through unbiased lenses, and to see each human being for what he or she contributes to the fabric of humanity.

A passionate teacher does everything in her or her power to build learners.  How can we make our classrooms a level playing field so that each learner engages within his or her own abilities.  Does that means that we have to employ a variety of methods that speak to varying types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  Do teachers have this luxury, or is their day proscribed for them?  I would like to see feedback for this notion.

Though the classroom, naturally, employs a variety of textbooks, I believe that students learn from encouraged self-discovery so that they see themselves in the contexts of educational settings, the family, the social arena, in cultural arenas, the workplace, the community, national arena, and the world.  These contexts help the students to visualize how cultures, ideals, and preferences are built.

Other concepts and questions:

I love geography, because it employs geographic inquiry, which helps students understand local to global issues in physical and human systems.  This inquiry also helps students to ask questions about the past, understand present issues affecting community, and to envision a future that includes individuals and families who are emotionally, socially, healthfully, financially, and civically-minded.

Other elemental themes in teaching could include meta-cognition tools that encourage students to understand their own thought processes that shape personal, cultural, and world thought.

Spatial orientation and thinking encourages students to think about environments, where they live, work, and play (habitats), and the world in spatial terms.  Spatial thinking gives students a sense of place in history, presently, and the future.  How do we go beyond thinking to describing our “spaces”, relationships of objects to one another, and going from the large (macro) to the small (micro)?  A possible question: Beyond thinking, can you describe your “spaces” using direction, employing mental maps, describing scale (size), and other relational vocabulary?

Places and Regions:  Does where you live affect how you interact with your environment? Does where you live affect your way-of-knowing?  Does where you live influence your health? Does where you live influence your economic well-being?  Can people have different points-of-view living in the same community, region, or family?  Do your places/regions change?  How does that affect you?

Not sure if I’m repeating myself, but I love education, and I hope that each students walks away better for it.