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.
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?
By Heather Watts – Design Researcher at the Innovation Hub
Last year around this time, I wrote the following post on my Facebook page:
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).
As a child with a visible disability growing up it was really rare for me to find media and written content about children with a disability. As a mother to a toddler, I am now finding it challenging to find content that addresses parents and caregivers with disabilities. Often when me and my little girl go somewhere together, I am the only wheelchair-using parent. Representation matters. It mattered for me as a child. I needed to see disabled children being and succeeding in the world and it matters now. I want my child and others to know that parenting with a disability is a valid way of being.
“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.