Here is an article that Global recently put out that highlights some of what I see in our area: http://globalnews.ca/news/2822741/why-children-as-young-as-12-are-joining-the-surrey-drug-trade/?sf30903409=1
This year our school participated in a pilot program called "The Next 100 Years (N100Y)". It was built in response to stakeholders finally noticing that our community is at risk. Safe Schools, Surrey RCMP, and the Surrey School District have all been on board to help make changes as the program has members of these working together to find solutions.
It started out with meetings where we met with Safe Schools members (Mandish Saran and Yousef Nasimi) to discuss areas of concern at our school. I wasn't really sure what we were even doing when we first started, but it helped to talk about some of the things that broke my heart about teaching at my school and the things we saw the kids get into. It was also good to discuss problems that we saw in our classrooms and the surrounding school community on a daily basis. Mandish and Yousef took our notes and went to our feeder highschool, L.A. Matheson, where they met with Annie Ohana and Gurpreet Bains who helped develop the curriculum and lessons for the program, as well, they used their students as mentors.
The program would focus on building community and identity through knowledge of their culture and heritage. Students would learn about and build respect, self-esteem, confidence, and awareness of what is going on in their community so they can take pride in who they are and where they come from. It has been shown that students who feel connected do not get involved in gangs and drugs as readily. Also, students who are better informed about their past, hardships faced by their ancestors and the sacrifices made, will have better respect, appreciation, and connection with their idenity (paraphrased quote by Manjinder Sidhu). As well, the guest speakers and stories helped outline role models that share a similar background to the students. We did activities, read stories from the book "The 100 Year Journey", and participated in events within the community. Students definitely learned about who they were individually, and who they were together as a community. Emphasis was made on the connections we have to each other, so that even those who were not Punjabi could see how we help shape and fit in with this community.
Some of the Activities:
1. Footprints: Students wrote about where they come from and where they want to go. They were asked to think about what kind of person they want to be. They had to talk to their parents or grandparents to find out information about their ancestors. For some of them, this was a first conversation about their heritage they had with their families and I think both parents and kids got something out of sharing this information.
2. Circles of Respect: We discussed what respect meant. Then students were asked to think about the people in their lives that they looked up to in terms of at school, in their families, in their community, in the world. They had to give reasons why they looked up to these people. Reading some of these was eye opening to me as a teacher.
3. Iceberg: Students identified the characteristics that people saw and didn't see that shaped them as people and defined them culturally, and also other people from the book. They discussed racism and how they could fight racism. Students had to come up with a sentence that described how they wanted to be treated or something that they didn't want others to say onto them. I typed these up and we put them on the wall of our classroom. Other classes made a more artistic version of their sentence to display.
4. Respect Charades: Students discussed different levels of respect and then broke into groups to act out scenes that would not be considered respectful, afterwards they discussed how they would change the scenario into something that was respectful.
5. Komagatu Maru apology: We watched Justin Trudeau's apology to the Indian people for this incident in Canada's history. We discussed what that meant and made connections to other peoples who have received apologies.
6. Web: We made a web using the string outside to highlight the connections we have to each other. to show that we are all connected.
7. Stereotypes: We discussed stereotypes people have for us and how we can work against this. We also talked about the realities of living in our area.
8. Mixed Media Art: Students created art based on what they had learned through the program, something that had stood out to them.
9. Create your own country: In groups they had to create and name a country and then decide on rules for your country and what your country would be like.
10. Friendship, Kindness, Mentorship Chart: They worked on defining these words using written or artistic expressions in the various columns. They could use examples and make connections.
11. Reading Pioneer stories from "100 Year Journey": Stories were read as a class and then discussed. We talked about connections and how this helped shape their lives and community today. This helped them become curious and ask questions to their families and share their experiences.
Some of the Events and Presentations:
1. Buncy and Raj Pagely visit: Students were visited by 2 of the people who's stories were featured in the book, "The Next 100 Years" and were able to ask questions to them directly and hear about their experiences as a pioneer.
2. Sikhs and WWI/II: Students were introduced to the shared history that Canada and India have when it came to fighting in WWI and WWII. Manjinder Sidhu and Stephen brought artifacts like pictures, flags, medals, as well as huge displays for students to look at outlining the history. He also discussed the role that Sikhs played in shaping Canadian history and allowed students to ask questions. They were passionate and engaged in their topic and that helped the students get excited about it. I know for me, this was all new information.
3. Film Festival at L.A. Matheson: This was an optional weekend event held at our high school and it featured student made films featuring real issues that Punjabi people face. Students, parents, and community members were invited. Some of the issues highlighted were gang violence, elder abuse, marrying outside their caste or religion, debts created by big weddings, alcoholism, etc.
Here are some of the films featured:
4. Film Festival at Bell Centre: Students all were invited to watch and discuss student made films. This was a half day field trip. Some of the issues highlighted were gang violence and elder abuse, etc.
Here are some of the films:
5. Parent Night on Gang Violence: Surrey RCMP members from the gang squad came and talked seriously to parents and students about what the risks are. They discussed the myths and realities of getting involved in gangs. This was presented in Punjabi and English to make it accessible for all.
6. Parent Night with Guest Speakers: Manjinder Sidhu brought his display for parents to see, Kashmir was a counsellor invited to discus parenting and creating healthy dynamics in the house, and she was very blunt with them. I found myself nodding to a lot of what she was saying. Jessy Sahota talked about the role of Safe Schools. Students there were encouraged that they should ask questions if they can't engage with what they are learning or can't see themselves in the curriculum. Parents were encouraged to be involved in their children's life every day, to ask questions.
7. After School Sports component: Students were invited to stay each day to participate in extracurricular activities like sports or team building activities. They were able to further develop a sense of community through having our students, high school students and Safe Schools staff participate in this.
8. Spring Break Sports Camp: Students were invited to come to L.A. Matheson to participate in all types of sports for a week at spring break. Mentors from grade 10-12, Safe Schools staff, and Surrey RCMP members were there to participate and interact with the kids. This helped build a sense of community and introduced them to some of the mentors that would be doing the Next 100 Years program with them. Also, it allowed them a safe place to engage in activities they enjoyed with their peers.
9. Vaisaiki Celebration: L.A. Matheson brought their celebration to our school. They had a DJ and their dance team come. Our school had a dance off and the kids LOVED it. We had gotten 13 new Syrian refugees in the weeks before it took place and the DJ put on an Arabic song and they got up there to dance. What an amazing welcome to our school, with all the other students cheering. What a way to build community!!
What I got out of this program:
I feel like I know more of what my students are coming with when they come to class. Seeing some of the films highlighting the issues that they face on a daily basis just really opened my eyes. Also, I thought it was great to discuss some of these issues openly and honestly. The student mentors were very real with my class. They did not sugarcoat things and my students appreciated them for that. Through this program, a community was built with our school and our high school, L.A. Matheson. This allows students to make connections to teachers and students at the high school, thereby reducing their anxiety about going there. Also, it helped them develop a relationship with Safe Schools and RCMP members that will hopefully help them stay on track and know there are people that they can turn to for help. In their grad bios, quite a few of them discussed wanting to be Surrey RCMP when they grow up. Also, I loved learning about their history and hearing the stories they shared about their families and the questions they would ask the guest speakers. I felt like I got to see this different side of them.
I feel like our community is tighter now, and that there are more people working together to help the kids in our area. Whereas before we were maybe able to all do a little something separately, I feel like I have other people to bounce ideas off of or ask for suggestions. I feel like we are all in this together now, elementary teachers, secondary teachers, Safe Schools, and Surrey RCMP. It feels like a positive step has been made to change things and that we are all a part of that change. I also am more aware of the positive and wonderful things that are going on at L.A. Matheson. I feel more confident going to some of these, becasue I belong to their community now. I think it is good for students to see this continuum where they see their past teachers care enough to show up for their plays, TedX talks, presentations, grad teas, etc. A dialogue has been opened and it has continued past the program's end. It feels good to know that there are teachers at Matheson who know my students and will look out for them. That there are student mentors who are setting good role models for them. I already had one of my students go with a grade 11 mentor downtown to help with a volunteer opportunity; this is amazing. This is community.
One of my favourite moments of this program was when one of our mentors asked one of my students, who has learning difficulties and does not like to speak orally, to read. I was in instant panic, but shockingly enough he started reading. Then one of my other kids gave him a high five. This just melted my heart to see them encouraging each other and taking risks.
Here are some quotes taken from reflections on the program written by my students:
"I learned that you should be respectful and hard working to be successful in your life."
"I get to learn new things about where my family came from and I can go home and talk about some cool things that I learned. Which is cool because I can actually go home and have a conversation with my family and it makes my family proud that I have learned so many things about my heritage... I want to go to school not worrying about where I'm from and what people will think of me, just because I'm from Surrey."
"I liked that we had to talk to our parents and what struggles they faced."
"They are trying to help out with our future to make us feel safe with our community because when we grow up we made the safe decision to stay out of trouble. The connection I have to this is honestly my family went through a lot with my brother. He didn't always make the best of friends in high school so his life had to change. I had always tried helping my brother even if he was wrong because I didn't want him to feel as if no one cared for him when he chose a bad life. He had now changed, if there is someone who shows care for someone it makes them feel like I can't disappoint them now when they care for me."
"I want to know about how not to get in gangs and drugs and the people you can tell if someone asks you."
"I think that the Next 100 Years taughts us the reality of everything like being in gangs, drug dealing, dropping out of high school. I liked that they [the mentors] were really straight forward and didn't hide things or try to sugarcoat it."
"Some of these topics need to be discussed, like respect and building community. A lot of the kids at S.R. don't have much respect for their teachers and friends."
"It helped us get attached to our community, religion/races, and traditions so that we can stay out of what's wrong in our community. The things that are wrong in our community are the gangs, violence, drugs, and not getting along with other people. The Next 100 Years teaches us a lot about our community and religion so we have something to stick with. I actually hope to do something like this in the future to help out other kids."
"The program connects to my life cause this neighbourhood is known for the bad side, for example, drugs, weed, gangs, weapons. They want to make the neighbourhood more aware and stop it over time."
"The Next 100 Years is guding me in the right way. I've learned so much about respect from them and Arjun and Gurnoor are role models for me because they are known as good kids and I relate to them in many ways like volunteering and sports, so I like listening to them."
"The Next 100 Years is helping me a lot in choosing my path in life. I stress out sometimes about what I'm going to turn into when I'm in high school. I'm also scared about what some of my friends can turn into. I can't stand watching them go the wrong path. I promise you I will try my best to keep my friends on the right path. This program has made me start thinking a lot."
"Respect is the main way to be successful because every person likes when they have respect from other people."
"I like how they are spending their time to talk to us about how we can make our lives better for the future."