This three-day workshop was all done via Zoom & actually worked better than I could have imagined (ah technology!). There were a diverse amount of speakers and topics so it always kept us moving through without feeling stagnant.
Monday, July 20
Morning sessions were focused on more general welcome and overview to the workshop itself and the lay of the land. We heard from two speakers in particular before lunch:
Religious Literacy in Education by Benjamin Marcus, Religious Literacy Specialist at the Religious Freedom Center, Washington DC
Benjamin was a phenomenal speaker, I cannot express how great he was! A few years ago while attending a 3-week summer workshop on NEH Religious Worlds of New York I was introduced to this topic of religious literacy and diversity within the framework of the First Amendment in American public schools. It is such a fascinating, and often misunderstood topic, one that sadly many teachers are afraid of.
I need to do a larger blog post on this topic but here were some of my major takeaways:
- Although the United States is getting more religiously and culturally diverse, we see a rise in hate crimes post 9/11 and increasingly after Trump became president
- Protestants often conflate belief and religion and that colors a majority of America’s teachers understanding of teaching global religions, but that lens is not applicable to every religious tradition (actually it really doesn’t apply to ANY of them)
- Religions are not stagnate, they change with time and place so it is inappropriate to teach them as unmoving monoliths
Learning and Teaching About the Dharmic Traditions in K-12 Classrooms by Shivi Chandra, K-12 Education Researcher
Another great lesson! This was partly a lecture on what some of our goals can be as educators on dharmic traditions (from low exposure on “multiculturalism” to higher exposure with “cross-cultural citizenship”). One of the most helpful aspects about this session is that we will not necessarily always deeply engulf our students in the highest levels of knowledge of history all day every day & that’s more than ok.
We then had a great Zoom activity where we were given a PPT slide with 12 images “of America” and we were put into small groups to select 5 images we would curate for a “world’s fair” for aliens. Needless to say it was an impossible task (on purpose). But it really hit home that whenever we teach about “Hinduism,” for example, in a one day lesson we are curating one view of it and we need to be intellectually aware of the voices we include and, therefore exclude. It would be impossible, especially as a world history teacher, for me to spend months on any one topic but it is imperative that we do our baste to make students aware that we are not teaching the “one true” lens on any topic.
Teaching India in K-12 classrooms by Sid Rundle, principal at Crestwood Middle School in Douglas County, Colorado
This is the man you want as your principal! He got to travel to India with the Uberoi foundation (something I am very much hoping to get to do) and has used that experience to emphasise meaningful PD for his teachings.
Common Problems and Solutions: Deepening Lesson Plans on the Dharmic Traditions by Shivi Chandra
This was a much more “practical” lesson on how we can take the knowledge we gain to actually create lessons that are impactful and truly teach the diversity inherent in the dharmic traditions. She laid out examples of “chauvinistic sources” we should be wary of using in the classroom:
- Underscores the identity of a particular religion with a country or vice versa
- Locates its analysis at a one point in history and stays there
- Presents a suspiciously neat narrative
- Failure to allude to the existence of alternative narratives
- Is uniformly positive or uniformly negative
- If it invokes a populist perspective, when you can’t tell who “these people” exactly are
- Words like “pure, original, true, timeless”, etc appear anywhere
- Seem to want to convince you that believing or practicing something is good, right, something anyone would do, etc.
Cultural Humility by Swasti Bhattacharyya, professor at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa
Swasti provided us with really illuminating examples of how to imbube your teaching with humility. You can’t reasonably “know it all,” but you need to make sure to teach a variety of voices and perspectives. Be humble enough to be aware what you don’t know and allow the voices of others to speak for themselves.
This evening we had an optional cultural hour with music on sitar and a demonstration of Bharat Natyam dance style.
Tuesday, July 21
We started off the morning with a 15-minute meditation/yoga session. 🙂
The Four Dharmic Traditions – expert panel & lived religion panel
Oh there was so much good info here! We got to listen to those who practice their religion/dharma. I am just going to include my biggest takeaway from each speaker, otherwise this post will be way too long 🙂
- Sikh – Religion is relational; Sikhs are not meant to go off into the mountains to be alone. Charity to other humans is the highest way to be connected to God.
- Buddhist – The foundation of the universe is beyond our understanding. Buddhahood is not being all-knowing but released from the burden of suffering.
- Jain – No one created the universe, and therefore no one controls or influences our actions. “I am a soul, not just a body.”
- Hindu – Hindu is not an organized religion, it is a quest into knowledge for the fulfillment of life.
Perspectives on the Dharmic traditions – youth community panel
This part was very unique to this program! We got to hear from students, elementary to late teens, and could ask them questions about how has it been to grow up in the dharmic traditions in an American culture. I loved this one, because all of us are teachers and to get the perspective of “our constituents” was incredibly humbling.
After all this, we had quite a bit of free time this afternoon to work on our lesson plans. I decided to do a hybrid AP Art History/AP World History plan on the spread of Buddhism using the art images from AP Art History. The lesson plan will be in a separate blog post.
Wednesday, July 22
I sadly could not participate in this mornings activities (I got permission ahead of time don’t worry!) because I was teaching a district virtual PD. But the morning started off with yoga again & a session “busting myths” of the dharmic traditions, all the sessions were recorded so I can watch it later.
We got about 2 hours midday to work on our lesson plan again and then went into Zoom small groups to share our thoughts with others who teach similar subjects. I will have a seperate blog post with that lesson plan on the blog soon!
I was nervous about doing a 3-day conference all via Zoom but it was excellent! You could tell the program planners put a lot of thought into the flow for each day and how the presentations built upon each other. Bravo!