Protecting Your Peace in a Culture of Martyrdom

Recap time!

In a world where caregivers are expected to shed blood, sweat, and tears beyond their capacity, it’s hard not to become a martyr for the people you serve. Education, health care, and social services are all industries that rely on employees to completely surrender their own needs to serve the greater good – without recognizing that the system in itself is flawed, and is NOT sustainable by exploiting our labour this way.

And yet, here we are, begging the question, “How do we protect our peace?”

We spent half an hour a couple of Wednesdays ago during our second discussion panel chatting with two incredible individuals: Gabriel Malquisto, who works with street children in Manila, Philippines; and Michelle Gordon, who’s worked in America’s Title 1 schools, sojourned to the United Arab Emirates to learn work-life balance, and is now teaching in Texas, USA. Both had wisdom to share about how they deal with the trauma that comes from their work, and both had so much to say about how they unapologetically protect their peace.

The key takeaways:

  • Set strong boundaries, both physically and mentally.
  • Leave the trauma at work; don’t bring it home with you.
  • Make time to rest, or you will lose your passion for your work.

Obviously much easier said than done. In order to actually implement the aforementioned wisdom, there needs to be a complete shift in mindset for us – heck, even to BELIEVE we deserve to be at peace, even when the needs of our students are so pressing, requires bravery on our part. We cannot do our work if we burn out. Period.

So how do we protect our peace?

Click here to have a listen to the recording! We hope you get as much out of it as we did. We will update the blog post with the transcript once it’s ready 🙂

Enjoy!

How do you care without burning out?

Dearest ECN community,

Tell me: how do you care without burning out? Send me an email or leave a comment; I read every message.

It wasn’t too long ago that I burned out hard.

I crashed so hard that I was forced to take time off from work in order to rest and unfrazzle my frazzled nerves. This happened officially in April of 2018, though I had been burning out for years before that and didn’t think anything of it. I mean, come on. Wasn’t everyone working in education completely burnt out by mid-year? What was so special about me?

BY THE WAY, it’s a red flag when feeling burnt out is normalized in your industry.

The fatigue I experienced back then was deep and heavy. On top of being the eldest daughter from an East Asian family, I was also a teacher with a saviour complex, and that was 1000% a recipe for high anxiety. I ate up all the toxic messaging, including Ellen Gruell’s Freedom Writer mentality – EVEN THOUGH Ms. G’s personal life fell apart when work completely consumed her. There’s caring, and then there’s THAT.

This was my ol’ mug back in January of 2020, unable to get off the couch because my organs felt like they were dying. Yes, a year and a half after my bout with shingles and I was still randomly hit with this fatigue.

It actually took burning out for me to finally realize that my need to solve everyone’s problems perfectly in every way possible was making me sick. Articulating it this way makes me seem like I was insane, but there you have it. My close friend Helen even called me from San Francisco, California the week I got shingles. “Kay,” she yelled at me, “do you really need to drop dead in front of your classroom before you give yourself a break?” It’s one of Helen’s favourite moments, because it was the kick in the arse I needed to finally put my health first and get my head right (thank you, squidgette).

It’s now 2022. 4 years later, I’m healthier, calmer, and happier than I’ve ever been.

It took a lot of hard work in therapy, deep introspection of who I was going crazy for and why, untangling self-worth issues, and reimagining the kind of person I want to be. But I did it. 

And I’m still me. Just… 2.0 ☺️

Happy me!

I tell you this story, dear community, because it’s one that is so common in our profession. We’re worked to the bone and told we do it for the kids at all cost, even if it’s to the detriment to our mental and physical health. It’s the same with nurses, social workers, PSWs, and many other caregiving frontline workers. The guilt imposed on us when we try to live a rich life is overwhelming.

(And the impacts of this are ever amplified when you consider the intersectionality of marginalized identities in North America, aka everyone except middle-upper class cisgendered straight white men.)

So we normalize endless sacrifice. We normalize burdening ourselves with the problems of those under our care. We normalize becoming martyrs for our work.

Something has to change. But how?

If you’ve been following along on our socials over the last month, you’ll notice that basically all the content has been geared towards making sure y’all take care of yourselves this summer. Because you deserve the rest. And on top of that, our next Discussion Panel is all about how to care without burning out, aka fighting the Culture of Martyrdom that pervades the education industry. Everyone who’s caught wind of the discussion topic had the same response: “Whoa. That’s quite a topic.” And it is.

We’re going to unpack it with Michelle Gordon and Gabriel Malquisto during our Discussion Panel on Wednesday August 17th at 8pm EST/5pm PST.

Our hope is that you won’t feel so alone in your struggle. Please send us your questions for our panelists when you RSVP and we’ll do our best to answer them! And if you’ve got any tips for us that work well for you, feel free to share in the comments or email us. We’ll be sure to pass it along to our audience.

We’re all very excited to be hosting this much needed conversation. We hope you can join us.

Until August 17th, we’re sending you Love in the name of Peace and Justice.

Have a wonderful rest of your week 💖

– Karen and the Educator’s Coaching Network

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❤️

Life and Lemons: Michelle Gordon

Our #FeatureFriday Series serves to honour educators and stakeholders of education in their ongoing hard work. Creating a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through an anti-oppression framework is not easy, but the work IS being done. Every day folk are not getting the recognition they deserve, so inevitably, we feel isolated in our grind. Our hope is that this series can be a reminder to you that we are NOT alone. Let’s connect and do this together.

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Mother of 3, wife, teacher, newly transitioned back to the US from teaching in Dubai. Michelle Gordon is quite a force to be reckoned with.

She reminds us that even such forces need to be fierce in protecting our peace and finding balance. We are so lucky to have her as our second panelist on August 17th for our talk on “the Culture of Martyrdom: how to care without burning out”.

A Story of Strength and Vulnerability

When Michelle first welcomed me to my video conference room (yes, it was MY link, but I felt welcomed by her), we clicked immediately. There was something about the smile in her eyes, something about how happy she was to meet me, that made me feel immediately comfortable in her presence. It also didn’t hurt that she offered to support our network without a second thought. My cousin Janice was the one who introduced me to Michelle; they taught together in Dubai. I kid you not when I tell you that Michelle said to me, “Karen, I love Janice. And so I love you too. I’m happy to help!”

(Can you imagine how loved she is able to make her students feel? One dreams of such a capability.)

So of course, while I was grateful for this kind soul, I also wondered how well she was able to maintain her boundaries between supporting others and ensuring that she didn’t burn out. And during our conversation, she didn’t disappoint. Michelle is the perfect embodiment of what it means to fall, push through, get back up, fall again, and relentlessly find ways to take care of herself so that she doesn’t end up a martyr for this system of ours. Her gentle strength and resolve had me in awe.

Didn’t I tell you she smiles with her eyes? Kindness and self-assurance flows from her.

Michelle is originally from Illinois and currently teaches Gifted and Talented students in Texas. She taught in the United Arab Emirates for 5.5 years, the first 3 of which was spent teaching Al Ain’s local children English in math, reading, and science. The last couple of years was spent at an international school in Dubai. Both experiences were so unique and rewarding, and as you can imagine, both dramatically different from teaching in North America.

But those are just the checklist of her recent repertoire. Her journey takes a much deeper dive than this.

Life and Lemons

My cousin Janice and her husband Jake both agreed that Michelle would be the perfect person to speak on the Culture of Martyrdom and what it means to maintain boundaries. Janice explained, and I quote, “[Michelle] works so hard at her job. She’s the one who will put 120%, and yet at the same time she recognizes how important it is to have an outside life. [This includes] her kids, her friends – she cares a lot about them… She holds true to her values.”

Isn’t this what we all wish to achieve? Excellence without sacrificing our own lives?

Sometimes though, life throws you lemons, and sometimes those lemons are just rotten. You really need to sift through the rot in order to find ones good enough to make lemonade.

In Michelle’s unique case, her teaching job was NOT where she was expected to martyr herself; it was dealing with the culture shock of an uncompromising, xenophobic American credit system that made transitioning back to the US from Dubai a near nightmare. Somehow, the American system made it so that it was easier transitioning overseas than it was coming home. “I felt like a foreigner in my own country!” she exclaimed.

Between paying a disproportionate amount in rent compared to her salary, her family also found it difficult to lease a car without a credit card, even though they were able to pay cash. These simply were not issues in the UAE. “The list goes on and on,” she said, “Needless to say, my anxiety hit the roof. I ate everything in sight, clothes no longer fit and I lost sight of what I was passionate about. It took me losing my cousin to remember that we are not promised tomorrow. I have to make sure I take care of my mental and physical health to continue to thrive.”

So what has she tried to do in order to find balance through all the chaos?

“Being a mother of 3, a wife, teacher, etc, it’s challenging at times, but I attempt to find balance when I exercise or read. You have to do it; you have to find time. Otherwise, you’ll just get lost.”

And that’s the harsh truth of it. There is no Hogwarts wand to wave, no special lavender potpourri to sniff, that will magically keep you from burning out. You have to do the work and figure out what works for you, and be relentless and uncompromising in protecting it.

We’ll dig even deeper and talk more about how during our Discussion Panel on August 17th.

The Lemonade

As she processed her grief over the loss of her cousin, Michelle took a breath and reflected on what it was that she enjoyed about her vocation. As much as the inanity of thinking about work during such a big loss makes you feel like you shouldn’t, it was still a nice moment to remember her passion and her why for what she does. “I teach because I want to make a difference.” She said to me, “I want to be a role model for children, be a shoulder they can lean on, as well as for their parents. I also teach because I honestly adore working with children.”

And in this way, Michelle is working away on the lemonade. Through her grief, through the messy transition back to America, through the responsibilities of being a mother and a wife, she is actively searching for ways to find balance so that she doesn’t become a martyr within an uncompromising system. Thankfully, her job gives her the autonomy and time to figure out her role, so in a rare case of teaching in America, Michelle’s job isn’t adding to the pile of rotten lemons (do you see how not being dbags to your employees can be such a make-or-break for them??). This is something Michelle is so grateful for, and absolutely does not take for granted.

What’s Next?

We take a deeper dive with Michelle (and our other panelist, Gabriel Malquisto) on how they came to recognize that protecting your peace is an absolute must as educators and caregivers. Thank you so much Michelle for joining us, even through all of your own challenges, to support our community as we go through the toughest years in all our careers. We appreciate you so much!

To our readers: don’t forget to join our mailing list for updates, as well as RSVP to our Discussion Panel in August!

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[IDs: Michelle sits by a window with the sun shining over her face. She is smiling brightly, her face propped up by her hand with her elbow on the window pane. Her hair is partly covered with a yellow and orange scarf, and her wrist sports colourful bangles.]

Setting Strong Boundaries: Gabriel Malquisto

Our #FeatureFriday Series serves to honour educators and stakeholders of education in their ongoing hard work. Creating a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through an anti-oppression framework is not easy, but the work IS being done. Every day folk are not getting the recognition they deserve, so inevitably, we feel isolated in our grind. Our hope is that this series can be a reminder to you that we are NOT alone. Let’s connect and do this together.

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As soon as I met Gabby over video call, I knew he was something special.

There are people in this world who are remarkable without really trying to be. Gabby had this quiet wisdom about him that reached out to me from the other side of the world through the glowing screens on our computers. I longed to learn what he knew. Discussion Panel #2 couldn’t come soon enough.

Who is Gabby?

Gabriel Malquisto (he/him), who goes by Gabby, is an individual with many talents. He’s a hip hop dancer, a musician, a motorcycle enthusiast, a tattoo artist, a program coordinator and teacher with IT Tender, a pastor, and a loving father and husband.

Oh and did I mention he’s also a pastor?

It’s not everyday that you read tattoo artist, hip hop dancer, and motorcycle enthusiast, in the same description as pastor, and yet here we are with Gabby. He’s also a lover of karaoke, but really, I think it comes with the territory of being Filipino.

He’s the one crowd surfing because of course he would.

Gabby’s Work

Our next Discussion Panel in August is about the “Culture of Martyrdom: how to care without burning out”. Who better to talk about this than the people who work with the most vulnerable children in the world?

I reached out to an old friend of mine, John Coffey, who is currently the Executive Director at IT Tender in Manila, Philippines. In tandem with local Filipino staff, the mission of the IT Tender team is to empower Manila’s urban poor communities with access to education, relevant skills training, and mentoring. One can imagine how difficult it is to find life balance when doing such important work, and I knew that if the staff at IT Tender figured out how to care without burning out, then so could educators here in North America. I hoped to learn from them and invite one of their staff to join our Discussion Panel. John connected me with the best person for the spot: Gabby.

Not sure what Gabby’s looking at, but that space he’s in is mad cool. Check out Mr. Potato Head in the background just hanging out.

Gabby is one of the program coordinators and teachers on the team. He first started as a Street Educator, teaching street children how to read and write, and discovered the kind of passion in his work that dreams are made of. He knew he had to dedicate his life to this service, and to this day, he continues to work with children in poor communities through IT Tender. One of the programs he recently championed is the Sponsor-A-Child-Now Music Therapy program. Children would come to learn guitar, healing through the power of music, taught initially by Gabby himself. As the children grew and learned how to play, Gabby switched to mentoring young people so that they could become guitar teachers themselves, thereby empowering the youth to become leaders in their community.

Sponsor-A-Child-Now Music Therapy program at IT Tender.

Setting Boundaries

Something Gabby and I have in common was that at one point, we both went too deep into our work and burned out. We crashed hard. We took on the heavy burdens of the children we served, and our bodies absorbed all of the stress. We got sick, we had to take time off of work to heal, and we were forced to face what we knew all along but wouldn’t allow ourselves to reconcile.

It is impossible to fix other people’s problems. We can only offer our best, guilt-free. The rest is up to them.

What a devastating realization for fixers like us. Because how could we not hope to try and protect these kids, to give them everything, to feel as though there was always something more we could do to help them? In accepting this truth though, in accepting that we simply cannot do it all, we also found freedom. Where we didn’t know how to protect our peace, we learned to fortify so we could remain healthy. We care deeply for the children we serve, and yet there is no reason to bear the burden of guilt if it is not within our capacity to fix their problems. It’s a bit of a contradiction, one that we’ve both come to terms with.

So Gabby and I will be talking about how we came to reject the culture of martyrdom and set strong boundaries so that we could continue to do the important work that we are passionate about. It was a journey and a half, with lots of prayers and therapy between the both of us, but one that we’re grateful to have survived and from which we’ve emerged stronger.

We hope that in sharing our experiences, others will feel hopeful that it’s possible for them too.

The most important people in Gabby’s life: his daughter Raya and his wife Jizza.

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Stay tuned for more #FeatureFridays! Our other panelist for Discussion Panel #2 is next!

Until then, don’t forget to join our mailing list for updates, as well as RSVP to our next Discussion Panel in August!

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[IDs: (1) Gabby lying on his back on the laps of 2 of his friends while yelling into a wired microphone. The 2 men are laughing hysterically while Gabby scream-sings into the mic. (2) Photo of Gabby wearing a grey fitted cap looking upwards, sitting casually on a motorbike wearing black jeans and a white tee. (3) Gabby, his daughter, and his wife are lying down on their backs, looking up at the camera that is pointed at them in aerial view. Their last name, Malquisto, is in block letters on the bottom left corner of the image.]

Laughing through the Absurdity: @TeacherMisery on IG

#ToolboxTuesday highlights a variety of intriguing resources for educators and beyond in support of our ongoing journey towards a more mindful, trauma-informed practice. Resources centre the dismantling of anti-oppression, and come in many different forms: novels, articles, teaching resources, and so on. If you have a resource to share, send us an email!

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How many times have you witnessed some bull throughout your journey as an educator and had some choice NSFW words for it?

Have you ever wished there could be a platform where all of the absurdity can be put on display with alarm AND humour so that those who don’t work in the system can understand?

Enter Teacher Misery.

Three best-selling self-published books of miseries plus annual teacher planners, all stuffed full of humour and no-bs insights into what it’s like to be a teacher these days. We don’t get any commission from linking them. They’re just so good, we had to share. Check them out at https://www.teachermisery.com!

This is a classic meme right here:

Now, let’s call a spade a spade. Obviously this is a major departure from the kind of resources that have been shared in our network thus far. What does this satirical IG account about the miseries of teaching have to do with anti-oppression? What does this have to do with being trauma-informed and mindful?

Well. Everything, really.

Aren’t so many of the unrealistic expectations placed on the shoulders of educators a direct result of everything to do with systemic issues in society at large? Consider all of the things: poverty, classism, racism, sexism, queer phobia, etc. We aren’t just charged with teaching curriculum; we’re charged with raising children who come with trauma. We’re charged with raising children who come from a home that isn’t safe for them. Who cares about calculus if the kid doesn’t have lunch that day? And we’re charged with doing all of it while spending our own money for basic resources and giving free labour in order to just function in our jobs.

Not to mention that in Ontario, we’re about to head into another round of contract negotiations, and my God – just wait for the blatant disparaging of teachers in order to justify the defunding of public education. Raise your hand if this has happened to you. Yes? You too? Yup.

It’s completely asinine.

So don’t we have the right to find community and laugh about it so that we don’t lose our minds?

And thus, once again, I introduce to you Teacher Misery, where gems like this and this are in abundance. Don’t forget their books too, which can be found at www.teachermisery.com!

Enjoy. Maybe cry a little at how ridiculously common these issues are. And then give yourself a hug, on behalf of the entire Teacher Misery community.

Because we’re all part of this garbage system, fighting for it to be better, together.

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Equity vs Inclusion – Manjit Minhas

#ThoughtfulThursday was created as a space to challenge our assumptions, stretch our imagination, and discover something new. If you’ve got some thought nuggets to share, feel free to send us an email!

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How many times have you been invited to the table, but found you were not given the space to speak? To contribute? Or worse, you would speak – but no one cared for what you had to say, or were openly hostile?

Manjit Minhas has been there, in a big way. She is one of Canada’s top entrepreneurs, best known for investing in small Canadian businesses as a Dragon on Dragon’s Den. She co-owns and runs a family business, Minhas Brewery, with her brother. To make it this far as the daughter of Indian immigrants in predominantly white male industries takes guts and grit, both of which Manjit clearly has. Check out this power pose – it’s actually what drew me to her in the first place. And then the content of her character sold me.

Seriously – look at this power pose! Image sourced from CanadianBusiness.com.

In her podcast, “A Wealth of Women’s Stories”, Manjit takes this episode to speak with Fate Saghir about overcoming adversity. They share their experiences, not only as women in business, but as Indian women in business.

Unfortunately, their stories are not so far off from the experiences of BIPOC folk in education. From being told that the company where Fate was just hired rarely hires women, to Manjit growing up facing the racism of being told to change her name, they had no shortage of stories.

And while both Manjit and Fate acknowledge that as individuals, we must push forward in the face of discrimination and use our obstacles to fuel our resolve, they also demand change in the system. Inevitably, equity and inclusion come up in their discussion, and one thing in particular that Manjit said stood out enough to be worth a good ol’ quote:

So I ask you again: how often are you invited to the table, but are discouraged from speaking?

Better yet: if you are in a position of privilege, how often do you invite folks to the table, and yet get annoyed at their “audacity” to challenge you, as if they should feel lucky to have been invited in the first place, so how dare they challenge you?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

Change begins within. Equity vs inclusion. It’s time to do more than send or accept invites.

It’s time to dance.

Check out the recap post about our Discussion Panel on “Equity at Work: Northern and Virtual Schools“. We’re just getting started.

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Centering Community: Nelson Lew

Our #FeatureFriday Series serves to honour educators and stakeholders of education in their ongoing hard work. Creating a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through an anti-oppression framework is not easy, but the work IS being done. Every day folk are not getting the recognition they deserve, so inevitably, we feel isolated in our grind. Our hope is that this series can be a reminder to you that we are NOT alone. Let’s connect and do this together.

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Nelson and I worked together years ago when I signed my very first permanent contract. I was this weirdo new teacher who didn’t quite know how to carve out a place for myself at my new school, and he was stuck with me as his new grade partner. He must have warmed up to me though, and to his credit, quickly and easily. That’s just the kind of person he is: open-minded, willing to see the best in people, and accepting of folks for who they are (unless, of course, you’re a world-class douchebag – my words, not his).

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Nelson’s Work

Nelson’s kindness was central in the way he was with our students (yes, even the not-so-kind ones). Our most challenging students have declared without skipping a beat that “Mr. Lew is like the nicest guy ever!” So when Nelson’s bio included “Nelson is also a father, husband, uncle, brother, son, and overall good dude 😁”, I chuckled at this cheeky line, but did not hesitate at all to include it. Because it’s true.

Our grade team back in the mid 2010s dressed as LMFAO for Halloween. Nelson’s the robot in the middle lol…

As one of the best music teachers I’ve ever worked with, Nelson champions the way of meeting student needs through the arts and creativity. Year after year, he prioritizes building a strong, supportive learning community that values human integrity above all else. I remember when he voluntarily put in hours after school to run a highly successful band. Kids from all walks of life participated in numerous competitions. Sometimes they lost, most of the time they won. Regardless of the outcome, the kids always felt like they were part of a team, and they always thrived in some way from being a part of Nelson’s band. There was one particular competition at our local amusement park stage, and Nelson always advocated and negotiated with school administration to make sure his band members were given time after their performance to enjoy themselves at the park for the day in celebration of their hard work. The kids appreciated his recognition.

Nelson is also a realistic teacher. He understands that he can only do what he can, and he extends that grace to his students. During the 2020-2021 virtual school year, he worked hard to remain attuned to student needs, even through computer screens. When he and I signed up to teach virtually that year, and were discussing our classroom set-up and curriculum, he always circled back to how we could keep student mental health in check. He knew there was potential for that year to be particularly isolating, and was realistic about how that would impact student ability to focus on academics. He wanted to create the same kind of community that he always did within his classroom walls to help students fight off loneliness above all else. And he did. As a result, Nelson’s students came eager to learn, engaged with their classmates, and again it was a space where they could put their worries aside with the understanding that they were cared for.

I’ve always been astonished at Nelson’s ability to create connection and community anywhere he goes, and I’m so glad that our education system has someone like him to support our students. Thank you Nelson for your dedication. Thank you also for believing in the community here with the Educator’s Coaching Network, and for being one of our very first panelists! After a year of hybrid teaching, enjoy your well-deserved summer.

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Stay tuned for more #FeatureFridays! Our next panelists for Discussion Panel #2 are next!

Until then, don’t forget to join our mailing list for updates, as well as RSVP to our next Discussion Panel in August!

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A Complicated Love – Canada Day

#ThoughtfulThursday was created as a space to challenge our assumptions, stretch our imagination, and discover something new. If you’ve got some thought nuggets to share, feel free to send us an email!

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Trigger warning: readers may be triggered by the recount of enslavement, Indian Residential Schools, and the Chinese Head Tax. To access a 24-hour National Crisis Line, call: 1-866-925-4419.

The late Curtis Wilson, from the Kwakwaka’wakw Territories in British Columbia, is the artist behind the Canadian Indigenous Flag.

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Canada Day is tomorrow. Hands up if you’ve got mixed feelings about this day! *puts up both hands AND feet*

Being that this network is dedicated to helping educators create a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through the lens of anti-oppression, we will always encourage some real, raw reflection here (as opposed to not-real things like crypto.. ha!) – and it won’t always feel good.

As Canadians, especially with everything happening with the American Supreme Court these days, it’s very easy to say “I’m so glad we’re not living in Gilead!”

However.

The Handmaid’s Tale-style direction that Americans are afraid of right now has already happened to those who live on Canadian soil. In fact, it continues to happen, whether we like to admit it or not.

There’s no point mincing words: the first Europeans who came to colonize Turtle Island enslaved people and dragged them away from their families across the Atlantic Ocean. This happened on this land that we now call Canada too. These men also created a system of Indigenous genocide – 1920 Germany was designed after British colonialism. The last concentration camp in Canada, also known as Residential Schools, closed in 1996. Most of our network coordinators were in elementary school, oblivious to what was happening to children across the country, and oblivious to the fact that our peers were suffering enough trauma designed by our government to ripple across generations. And now, the foster system continues to steal Indigenous children from their families rather than provide the necessary support for healing. It’s continued genocide through intentional neglect and cruelty.

Oh, and by the way, less gory but not much better: July 1st was the day the Chinese head tax was implemented.

So where do we go from here?

Reconciliation in Canada is complex, and no doubt those who have found a way to build a home here will want to express gratitude and patriotism. We don’t have all the answers of course, nor is it our place to tell our members how to feel about anything.

So we’re giving folks space to share their thoughts. Here are a few.

Thoughts on Canada Day

“July 1 – Cancel Canada Day & September 30 – Survivors Day.

It is important to get your orange shirts from Indigenous artists and creators!!

We had our land, children, resources and lives taken away from us. The whole idea behind Orange Shirt Day is to spread awareness and to give back to Indigenous communities and we strongly believe that with TIHR (Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction).

So many of our relatives, who struggle and suffer with poverty and the impacts of trauma on the streets of Toronto, faced abuse at the hands of these schools. It is our honour to come to them weekly to offer ceremony and healing with the jingle dress dance, other dances and the sacred medicines. They continue to carry the songs, language and teachings themselves despite the forced and systematic assimilation they faced.

If you’d like to support by getting an orange shirt or other swag made by Indigenous artists that supports our community please visit our website in our LinkTree or email nativeartssociety@gmail.com for questions or bulk orders.”

Nakurmiik//Miigwech. – Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction

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“There are as many types of people living here as there are types of salmon. I would like to see us coming together in the future, not only my First Nations people, but all of Canada.” – Curtis Wilson

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“My parents are immigrants to Canada. Canada offered them protection from war, stability, work, and more. Being first generation, and a white settler myself, Canada has offered me many privileges. But this has come, and continues to come, at the cost of Indigenous peoples livelihoods. My parents were only able to immigrate because of the colonization of Turtle Island and Indigenous Peoples. Canada Day for me should be a day of reflection and honest conversation, but also a day of action and support of Indigenous peoples and initiatives. It’s time to give back.” – Karah

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I’m still figuring out my relationship with Canada. Am I glad to be here? Yes. Did my husband choose to propose to me in Ottawa? Yes. Do I recognize what my privileges have provided for me? Absolutely. Do I also recognize that my parents suffered being immigrants here, that my brother and I suffered as children of immigrants? Yes. Do I also recognize that my parents were able to come here and carve out a life for all of us off the backs of First Nations Peoples? Also yes. Lots of “also” statements, because that’s just how layered and nuanced things are. I’m trying to figure out what reconciliation means for me and my family, and it’s work that we owe to Indigenous Peoples of this land. They give us so much. The least we can do is honour them, and figuring out how to do so will be an ongoing journey.” – Karen

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#MyFlag means an ongoing fight to make Canada a better place for everyone. Even though Canada is an inclusive country, we must not forget the injustice people faced and are still facing. #MyFlag also represents new opportunities and unity. Canada also accepts so many immigrants and refugees, giving these people hope and a new beginning for them and their family. – Anonymous High School Student

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“Over the past few years, as my understanding of the true history of this nation has deepened, Canada Day has come to be marked with great tension. 

I sit with the knowledge that my parents came to this land with hopes of building a better life, that they managed to do it, and that this life we have here has been afforded at the expense of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. I wrestle with the narratives I was taught about the Church’s missionary work on this land having been raised Catholic. I contemplate the ways my own ancestors’ identities were erased as they were baptized in the name of Jesus, and the way colonizers drew lines across their land creating borders in South Asia. I recall my father expressing with despair how he thought having been born here would mean my siblings and I wouldn’t have to experience racial discrimination like he did. I wonder how we could have expected acceptance in a place governed by those who subjected it to the violence that divided our ancestral land.

But, as I do all of this, acknowledging there’s “no pride is genocide,” I also dream of the Canada I thought existed as a child. We have to sit with uncomfortable truths and take action in order to repair relationships with Indigenous Peoples and this land.

The tensions felt today have rendered Canada Day an annual opportunity to recommit to learning and unlearning, to putting pressure on government officials to respond to all 94 Calls to Action, and to reconciling.” – Alycia

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Sci-Fi Reality – “The Marrow Thieves” by Cherie Dimaline

#ToolboxTuesday highlights a variety of intriguing resources for educators and beyond in support of our ongoing journey towards a more mindful, trauma-informed practice. Resources centre the dismantling of anti-oppression, and come in many different forms: novels, articles, teaching resources, and so on. If you have a resource to share, send us an email!

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Trigger warning: readers may be triggered by the recount of Indian Residential Schools. To access a 24-hour National Crisis Line, call: 1-866-925-4419.


Set in a future where the plundering of natural resources has rendered Turtle Island apocalyptic, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline weaves a stark reminder of the continued violent exploitation of Indigenous Peoples and of the land. Its genre is science fiction; yet the abuse and fight for survival endured by its characters are entirely believable. The theft of Indigenous lifeblood has happened before. When the world becomes desperate, there’s nothing to stop it from happening again.

Deep in its sorrow, triumphant in its joy, and hauntingly beautiful, this is an excellent story to work through with older students in high school and beyond. There are references to children’s concentration camps in Canada, also known as Residential Schools. There are also references to the strength and endurance of present-day Indigenous Peoples in Canada as they work hard to revitalize their culture, language, and communities post-colonialism. Though classified as a Young Adult novel, The Marrow Thieves is a must read for everyone across Turtle Island as we reconcile with the ongoing genocide of the First Peoples.

Title: The Marrow Thieves

Author: Cherie Dimaline

Audience Age: high school and older. Strong readers in grade 7/8 may access with guidance.

Format: Novel

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 231

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If you’ve read this before, what did you learn from this book? Let us know in the comments!

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Teaching in the Arctic: Karah Kushnir

Our #FeatureFriday Series serves to honour educators and stakeholders of education in their ongoing hard work. Creating a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through an anti-oppression framework is not easy, but the work IS being done. Every day folk are not getting the recognition they deserve, so inevitably, we feel isolated in our grind. Our hope is that this series can be a reminder to you that we are NOT alone. Let’s connect and do this together.

So, this is Karah Kushnir (they/them). They were one of the panelists in our very first Discussion Panel in April. Everyone, say hello to my friend in the Arctic!


I’ve known Karah for a long time. We met during the early to mid-2010s when I was hosting YorkSlam, York Region’s Slam Poetry Show, and they were just a teen searching for community. I remember them sharing their poetry through the stage name Wallflower; I remember them creating and sustaining the York Region Rainbow Umbrella nonprofit for a while; I remember them going through school to become a teacher; and I remember when they decided to dedicate their life to working in and supporting Canada’s northern communities. Throughout the years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Karah develop into a remarkable individual who is confident, yet humble, in their approach to life. So when I launched the Educator’s Coaching Network through our first Discussion Panel in April, I knew I wanted them involved.

Also, it helps that Karah lived with me the summer of 2020 between contracts up north, and I got to meet their doggo: Zack! How majestic is he??

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Karah’s Work

Karah has been teaching Inuit and First Nations students in Nunavut and Northern Ontario for the last few years, and is soon moving to the Northwest Territories. As we’ve mentioned, prior to being a teacher, they founded the York Region Rainbow Umbrella (YRRU) in 2014, a nonprofit support and social group for LGBTQ+ people in York Region. During this time, they also used spoken word as a platform to talk about love, mental health struggles, and social justice issues.

Karah has always put in the work to support those who felt unseen, and to challenge destructive social norms that alienate and hurt young people. Now as a teacher, Karah works alongside students to advocate around current issues and empower marginalized voices. Make no mistake, this is no “white saviour” trope; Karah makes a point to centre student voices so that students themselves can create space for their needs to be heard – as should be our priority.

As Karah says, “We all have a story inside of us, and as a teacher I hope to help my students express it proudly.

They truly enjoy facilitating learning, and is relentless in providing empowering educational opportunities for their students – even when it seems like the country has given up on these kids in the north (more on this later). They’re a gem of a human ❤

By the way, check out Zack’s derp face. While quite obviously majestic, this is Zack at his core. A derpy boopy shmoopy boy and we love him 🙂

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Karah’s Writing

Karah is also a blogger! Here are a couple of pieces from them that they wanted to share. The articles highlight wisdom nuggets from Canada’s north, and Karah really wants the world to see the beauty of it all.

  1. 5 Things I Learned From Teaching Up North | Humans (vocal.media) – “The incredible spirit, perseverance, and connection to the land and those around, have blessed the lens in which I’ve seen my students. I’ve never felt more honoured to share spaces with folks than when I’ve taught in Igloolik, Kimmirut, and Poplar Hill First Nation. These kids are superheroes, and I dedicate this piece to all those I’ve crossed paths with.”  
  1. The Modern Inuk | Wander (vocal.media) – “It is important to teach one’s culture and celebrate it. It gives individuals a sense of place and community. Our identities matter, especially when they are presented from our own personal narratives.

Thank you Karah for being a part of the Educator’s Coaching Network! Sending good vibes and blessings to you and your family as you make your way further north to settle in the Northwest Territories.

Stay tuned for more #FeatureFridays! Our other panelist from our first Discussion Panel, Nelson Lew, is up next 🙋🏻‍♂️

Until then, don’t forget to join our mailing list for updates, as well as RSVP to our next Discussion Panel in August!

Poster featuring one of our panelists, Gabriel Malquisto from Manila, Philipines.

Humbly yours in Love, Peace, and Justice,

– Karen and the Educator’s Coaching Network

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