November 28th, 2014
Sheli Wallace-Stoltz, a Grade 5/6 teacher at Sandowne Public School, along with Lisa Weiler Haskins, an educational assistant, Maaz Ghazi, a Grade 5 student, and Khai Philavong, a Grade 6 student, attended an unlearn. poster project presentation by Abhi Ahluwalia, founder and owner of unlearn. at The Family Centre. The purpose of the learning and leadership opportunity was to deepen understandings around the importance of embedding equity-related discussions and social justice in the classrooms and schools; create awareness of the importance of student voice in school; foster and build teacher and student leadership capacity; integrate equity, inclusion and diversity across the curriculum using critical thinking strategies; and develop strategies and skills for collaborative leadership.
The Sandowne PS group was so moved by the presentation and the activities they participated in, they decided it was important to share the unlearn. posters and message with their entire school.
Once they returned to school, students and staff were invited to come down to Room 14, class by class, and look at the unlearn. posters. They were encouraged to write their thoughts about the unlearn. posters around the images, answering the question, “What Does It Mean To You?”. After everyone wrote their thoughts, the group took the posters and hung them in the gym.
For the assembly, staff and students were asked to enter the gym quietly and read the comments on the posters from the whole school. To remind everyone to be silent, Wallace-Stoltz’s class made posters that showed the key of silence, then, held up their signs in the gym so that all of the students could see the signs and be reminded. Music about peace and love was also playing in the background as the whole school filed in class by class to look at everyone’s interpretations of the unlearn. posters.
After everyone came in and sat down, the assembly started and the group shared the true meaning of unlearn, to provoke thought in the hope that it will encourage positive change. They asked the school what posters they liked the best, followed by the Red Hair video. The group asked what happened in the video and one person said, “A little boy got bullied because he had red hair and one of the boys didn’t use any words, he just dyed his hair red to stand up to the bullies.”
As everyone left the gym, they were asked to file out quietly and reflect on what they had read, seen, heard and learned. During the assembly, the group talked about how one person can make a difference and asked each student to make a difference in their classroom, their school and their community – “You can be the change!”
The assembly left Dana Nanton, a Sandowne parent and Designated Early Childhood Educator (DECE), very inspired through what her daughter experienced, “The assembly was so powerful! My daughter had some very insightful comments and viewpoints about what she “saw” or felt in her interpretations. She was especially in with the posters that depicted what could be acceptance/skin colour/races…we are an interracial family!! My words are: insightful, eye-opening,inspiring, and hopeful…in regards to the array of interpretations from all ages of the unlearn. posters!”
Here are some reflections Wallace-Stoltz’s Grade 5/6 class wrote about what they learned and felt about the school’s unlearn. day:
“We should all stop racism because it hurts everybody around us. We shouldn’t judge people by their colour, race or culture, because in the end we are all human.” ~Ahmed
“I learned that people are bullied because of their different religions, fleshtones and where they’re from.”~Wahhaj
“The day of unlearn. was great because you got to put your feet in other peoples’ shoes and learn how other people feel.”~Brooke
“My favourite poster in unlearn. was the fish poster and it meant to me that you can choose your own path.” ~Kacee
“The unlearn. day was very fun and exciting, seeing everyone writing down their ideas. I wish it could be like that all the time and it wouldn’t matter what skintone or anything.”~Jessica
“I learned that there are many ways to stand up to a bully. There is a way to stop bullying by just using your actions.” ~Khai
“If people don’t accept you, they could be missing out on a very good friend, so just be yourself.” ~Erica
“We don’t fight who we love.” ~Eric
“I hope we can change the world by unlearn.ing things.” ~Samantha
“unlearn. day was so fun. I got to learn about how we should be respectful.”~Daniel
“unlearn. is about getting rid of bad thoughts and being nice to each other. It was inspiring.” ~Erica
“My favourite video is the one where the boy had red hair and the other boy stood up for him without even talking.” ~Lia
“Helping kids unlearn. bad things that they have learned.” ~Rebecca and Khai
“It’s about not judging people by their religion or what they look like.” ~Dasha
“It showed me that everyone can make a difference even you. Not only that but it feels really good to know you’re helping out.”~Alex