Today’s episode is the ORIGIN STORY you’ve all been waiting for–what is Brown Teacher Reads? Who is behind it? What was her journey toward reading and teaching multicultural texts like? Hear about all of these questions and more when you listen to this podcast episode!
[NHIE] Teachers Pt. 2: Mr. Shapiro & Mr. Kulkarni – Brown Teacher Reads
A summary of the different phases of my education:
High school: We read books from dead white men. We had no diversity in our readings. I became increasingly frustrated as I realized that my peers who had Christian backgrounds could understand novels and poems better than I did simply based on the overlap of their and the texts’ faith traditions. I stumbled into the theater to watch The Namesake out of loyalty to my Indian-American crush, Kal Pen.. I realized this film was based on a novel and once I read it, I finally realized–there are books with SOUTH ASISANS LIKE ME in them??!!–for the first time.
College: After flunking out of Plant Bio at UCI, I took African Lit with Ngugi wa’Thiongo on a whim. I fell in love with English all over again, but this time it looked different. It looked like me and the rest of the black and brown world. I switched over to Comparative Literature and it was a fulfilling educational experience that opened my eyes to a new world of literature. It also helped me explore one of my favorite topics: decolonization.
Grad School: “So, Comparative Literature, what do you DO with that exactly?” Um…teach high school English? I went to UIUC to get my master’s in Curriculum and Instruction for Secondary English. I was told for the first time: students should be reading texts from diverse authors. It was a revelation, although it was so simple and rooted in common-sense. I started fantasizing about the amazing books I’d teach my students as I saw what students in my field placements were reading in real high school English classes at the local public schools. I might add that Urbana-Champaign is very progressive in many ways due to the echoes of the university’s influence, even though it is a tiny college town in the middle of nowhere and was very difficult for me to adjust to after coming from the behemoth beauty of Southern California.
Student Teaching: I was given a brand-new course, British Literature, to create the second semester’s curriculum for. WAIT, THIS IS NOT WHAT I SIGHNED FOR WITH STUDENT TEACHING!!–my screams and sobs as I hyperventilated at the prospect of adding this unexpected duty into the already demanding student teaching experience. Instead of following along with the British history-approach my cooperating teacher had initially created, I asked her if I could just explore the British Empire with my students instead. We spent a few weeks here and there throughout the empire, and you can find free teaching resources from that here! I got to teach on British India and my whole life was made in that experience, or at least my hopes of what I would be able to teach once I started working as a teacher.
Tell me your experience with reading in high school and beyond. Teachers, tell me what your education was like and tell me how you came up with your teaching philosophies, especially related to multiculturalism and diversity.