Black History Month: Beyond February

By Heather Watts

Heather standing in front of a colourful background wearing a teal long sleeve shirt, smiling to the camera.

When I graduated from Columbia University with a Master of Arts degree, I held the belief that teachers with similar educational backgrounds as I, serving the same student population as I, would hold the same beliefs about the importance of teaching diverse world-views in this country, and teaching about the history that is often erased to maintain a Euro-Western perspective. 

The Importance of Meaningful Land Acknowledgements (Part Two)

Our land acknowledgements series highlights important stories and teachings from each of the Redefining Traditional team members – Heather, Shamim and Kaitlyn. Through these posts, we aim for our community to think about how land acknowledgments are immensely important, and…

Beyond Thanksgiving

How educators can authentically honor and engage with Indigenous heritage and perspectives — all year long.

By Heather Watts

At Redefining Traditional we aim to share resources, stories, and experiences from a scope of virtual communities and educational spaces for student parents and supporters. This week, we’re excited to share a post by Heather Watts from Harvard’s ‘Usable Knowledge: Relevant Research for Today’s Educators’ blog series with the Graduate School of Education. We welcome you to take a look at many of the other important pieces they post at:

The Importance of Meaningful Land Acknowledgements

Our land acknowledgements series highlights important stories and teachings from each of the Redefining Traditional team members – Heather, Shamim and Kaitlyn. Through these posts, we aim for our community to think about how land acknowledgments are immensely important, and to ensure we engage in teachings about specific cultures beyond a day or month of recognition. We also highlight important questions to support our community so that an acknowledgement moves beyond a ‘script’ and towards an ongoing conversation.

Our first installation is by Heather Watts!

What my Son Thinks About His Mom Being a Student

By Heather Watts

It feels like I have been in graduate school for quite some time. I can remember crossing the stage at my commencement from Columbia University Teachers College back in 2014. I was graduating with my first master’s degree, in Literacy Instruction. I was four months pregnant, and with a growing baby in my belly, was filled with excitement, wondering what opportunities were ahead for us. 

Fast forward four years and that growing baby was now a growing toddler, and we found ourselves at yet another higher education institution as I was working toward my second master’s degree. We made some big changes to be at Harvard. We sold our house in New York State to move to Massachusetts for a one-year program, and my mom even moved with us to help care for my son, Nico. He was not of school age and daycare costs were outrageous; we were so grateful to have my mom living with us during this time. 

A collage of images of Heather Watts graduating from her first two degrees, and a final image of her and Nico playing in the leaves outside.

There’s something you should know about me – I love getting involved, in clubs, causes, work, everything. I’ve always had a tough time saying no to an opportunity as I want to be involved in impact work and love learning from team environments. During my time at Harvard, I was a full-time student, Equity & Inclusion Fellow, co-chair of an Indigenous student organization (shoutout to FIERCE!), worked as a Research Assistant, Social Media Manager, and Curriculum Designer. Like I said, I LOVE being involved and hadn’t learned a lot about the concept of overextending oneself. Something I constantly struggled with was this question: 

Am I a bad parent when I choose school instead family time? 

Share Your Story: A Can of Soup on a Halloween Eve

By Kaitlyn Corlett – Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub

Our Share Your Story Series highlights individual’s stories in the Redefining Traditional community – and aims to bring in different perspectives by student parents and supporters. If you have a story you would like to share you can submit your story here!: Share Your Story Submission Form

Kaitlyn Corlett smiling at the camera

I was raised by a single mother who pursued her education throughout my childhood. Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on memories of when my mother was completing her Master’s degree online and we were navigating this reality in our home. Today, I share with you one memory that has always stuck with me.

Reflections on Orange Shirt Day

By Heather Watts – Design Researcher at the Innovation Hub

Last year around this time, I wrote the following post on my Facebook page: 

Icon of an orange shirt with the text 'Every Child Matters' on it.
Orange Shirt Day Logo: learn more at

A lot of feelings as I dropped Nico off this morning, sporting his orange shirt. Today is Orange Shirt Day, a day designed to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today. 

This system was assimilation and erasure packaged and tied as ‘education’. What do we mean when we use this word? What are we teaching? What are we intentionally leaving out? What narrative are we working to maintain? 

As I walked my little love to his school here in Toronto, I reflect, what narrative continues to be the one that is upheld? What constitutes knowledge? Who is taught about and in what way are they remembered, revered, and celebrated?  

Let us not just be performative on this day, or any day for that matter. Beyond shirts. Beyond land acknowledgements. Let us be critical. Let us be systemic and institutional change agents. 

Over the past twelve months since I posted these words, I have engaged in the topic of Reconciliation on a scholarly level, as well as on a personal level. As an Indigenous woman with family members who are residential school survivors, there is a lot to consider when it comes to this journey of Reconciliation. I still very much believe that there is a dominant narrative that our institutions of learning work to maintain, and in large part, that narrative omits, marginalizes, and misrepresents Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).  

Maintain Physical Distancing, But Enjoy A Healthy, Balanced Life

Written by Shamim Ahmed The last pandemic we faced took place almost a century ago. COVID-19, a deadly disease caused by coronavirus, has emerged as a catastrophe and completely shifted our world in every way possible. It has infected millions of people and…

My Son Will Know Multiple Stories

Written by Heather Watts

“The single story creates stereotypes…They make one story become the only story”.  When I heard these powerful words spoken by renowned author Chimamanda Adichie, it brought me back to a day in my twelfth grade Canadian Politics class. It seemed as if it was just another day. The same students. The same teacher. The same posters celebrating the “cultural mosaic” that is Canada lining the walls. But something would happen during these seventy-five minutes that would change the way I saw myself, forever.  

Heather's son smiling while holding a book, looking up at Heather. They are sitting on a set of stone steps and are both wearing graduation caps and gowns.
Heather and her son getting graduation photos taken (2019) in celebration of a Master of Education program and pre-school! 

A Glimpse into the Lives of Disabled Student Parents at the University of Toronto

Originally published by the University of Toronto’s Innovation Hub. Written by Lead Writer & Editor, Terri-Lynn Langdon.

Terri-Lynn and her daughter smiling

I am a wheelchair- using mother and a PhD student at OISE in Social Justice Education. When the lockdown in Toronto began we lost access to daycare and we also lost more than one support person (Nurturing Assistants) who felt that their own lives were too disrupted by the pandemic to continue to provide ongoing support to us. Without this direct support neither myself nor my child can shower safely, and I have no means of taking my twenty-one month old outside on my own. On top of which our building has been plagued with significant apartment maintenance issues all summer which has meant I have had to solve big family pandemic issues for 4 months and counting….