America is Not a Melting Pot

by Punita Rice Culture

America is NOT a melting pot. This art is based on "Crowded" by Mari Orr (@meandering_mari), available on Society6.

When I was growing up, the term “melting pot” was used a lot to describe America. As I’ve been wrapping up my book on South Asian American experiences in schools in America, I’ve been thinking more and more about that larger context — America — and whether or not it’s still fair to think of it as a melting pot at all.

The term “melting pot” was popularized in the early 1900s by the writer Israel Zangwill, and it had quite a different implication from the melding together of cultures and ethnicities that happens today (or even when I was growing up).

For one thing, the influx of immigration in the late 18th century was primarily from European countries, and while they had distinct cultures, languages, and denominations of religions, they were, for the most part, European White people with common language origins, and arrived in this country for similar reasons (escaping religious persecution, leaving behind famines, searching for new opportunities). In that time, the “melting pot” was a term used, essentially, to describe something that was considered desirable: complete assimilation.

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Find your weird and run with it

by Punita Rice Teaching

weird ed

Last month, I shared a guest post about one of my favorite weird lessons, over on the blog of Doug Robertson writer of “He’s The Weird Teacher,” and the usual host of the weekly #WeirdEd Twitter chat (Wednesdays at 10pm EST). Weird Ed is a chat for teachers and other education leaders to come together to chat about all things weird that they do in the classroom. As Doug says,

“You just gotta find your weird and run with it as hard as you can.”

Doug Robertson, aka The Weird Teacher

One of the ways I ran with my weird as a teacher was through teaching one of my favorite lessons — a lesson about the theory of the technological singularity, and applying major concepts from our curriculum to that theory / using that theory as a lens for engaging more deeply with the concepts from our curriculum. Definitely weird stuff. As a guest blogger for Doug’s site, that’s the lesson I wrote about (and then co-hosted the Twitter chat about! Visit the #WeirdEd hashtag to peruse some of the conversation).

You can read my guest post over on Doug’s site here. I’ve also written previously about this lesson (you can read more about that here), and about why I think teachers will have to do more to teach students “philosophical thinking skills,” especially in the future (you can read that here).

Thanks Doug for having me on your site! You can follow Doug on Twitter here.

On Cultural Proficiency – Radio New Zealand Interview

by Punita Rice Teaching

Punita Rice for NinetoNoon Radio New Zealand

Last week, I chatted with Kathryn Ryan, host of Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon (live!) about the importance of cultural proficiency in education, name pronunciation, and why teachers should understand their students’ backgrounds.

The gist of our conversation was this: My saying your name correctly is a way of showing you respect… that empowers the student. 

(More here).

You can listen to our conversation here. Or, you can click here to directly download the mp3.

Thank you Kathryn, and thank you Radio New Zealand for having me, and for highlighting the importance of cultural proficiency!

The Spokesperson Phenomenon – EdWeek

by Punita Rice Teaching

Education Week Teacher Punita Rice Spokesperson

Last week, Education Week Teacher published an essay I wrote about the spokesperson phenomenon — that thing that happens in a classroom, where a student (almost always, a student of color, though other minority and/or marginalized identities also experience this) is expected or positioned to serve as a representative for their entire culture, race, or other category of people.

(I’ve also touched on the spokesperson phenomenon in Brown Voices — read more about the project here.)

In the article, as a general rule, I advise against this behavior on the part of teachers, but there’s some nuance there (I definitely don’t prescribe that culture be ignored):

This is not to say teachers should never ask about students’ backgrounds or invite them to share their heritages with their classes. But there is a fine line between inviting them to share, and pressuring or positioning them to speak as representatives of their culture.

Read more here.

3 practical tips for how to support students’ cultural backgrounds without positioning them as spokespersons:

  1. Treat students as individuals – get to know them, understand their backgrounds and their comfort level (and/or ability!) to share.
  2. If inviting students to share something, do so ahead of time (plus this lets you vet what they’re sharing and put it in a broader context) — and also lets you avoid putting them “on the spot,”
  3. As a general rule, avoid singling out POC students.

Some final words from the piece:

When we invite our students to share their backgrounds and values—all of our students—then we foster inclusion and respect for diversity. But when teachers position students of color to serve as spokespersons for their culture, we risk making them feel othered and we detract from their own opportunities for enrichment, learning, and growth.

Read more here.

You can read the whole piece here, and you can read about another piece I wrote for Education Week Teacher here.

Why Pronouncing Students’ Names Correctly is Important

by Punita Rice Teaching

Teachers - Pronounce Names Correctly in the Classroom

There are a million names from as many backgrounds, so it can feel overwhelming to expect teachers to get every single name right. But pronouncing students’ names correctly does matter. Here, I’m sharing YouTube video I recorded on why pronouncing names correctly is important, and I’m also sharing my list of practice ideals for how teachers can get names right. Read on for the why and how of getting students’ names right.

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5 Reasons You Should Be Blogging

by Punita Rice Career

Why blog? 5 Reasons you should be blogging

Have you ever contemplated starting a blog, and then thought, eh, why blog, what’s the point? Then read on, because there are definitely reasons why blogging can be great for your career!

Blogging can support your career because it can let you help others, it can help you establish yourself professionally (online), it can create new career opportunities for you, it can improve your communication skills, and it can even make you money. So why blog? Because all of these are good things, and all of these things can be beneficial to your professional life long-term. Read on for the 5 reasons you should be blogging.

Why blog?

On my own blog, I share content about my work with my outreach organization (you can learn more at ISAASE.org), or my research around South Asian American experiences, or even my experiences during my doctorate program. This has had a lot of benefits for me professionally.

First, I’ve gotten to share a lot of my knowledge and expertise, and therefore help others interested in obtaining that knowledge. Second, my blog (and website in general) have kind of become like my business card. Because of that, I’ve been able to position myself as a person who others (like people interested in my area of research) can connect with. This has had the added bonus of helping me in my own efforts to contribute to said area of research. Third, because I’ve been able to connect with others, I’ve stumbled onto unexpected opportunities to work on a lot of exciting projects (that I might not otherwise have been exposed to). Similarly, because of expanding my network of connections, I’ve also been able to connect with people both in my field of research and in fields adjacent to it, — which has been immensely helpful in my conducting further research for my book. Fourth, blogging has also helped me hone my skills in communicating about my research in a non-academic way (and has certainly helped me sharpen my overall writing skills further). And finally, blogging has been able to serve as a (modest) stream of income. Below, I’m listing these advantages blogging has provided me as 5 reasons you should be blogging to support your own career (and to answer the question: Why Blog?).

5 reasons you should be blogging to support your career

5 Reasons you Should be Blogging
5 Reasons you Should be Blogging

So why blog? How can blogging help your career? As I’ve outlined in the infographic above, here are 5 good reasons:

  1. Blogging can help you help others.
  2. Blogging can help you establish who you are professionally.
  3. Blogging can create new career opportunities for you.
  4. Blogging can improve your communication skills
  5. Blogging can let you make money.

Why blog? To help others.

First and foremost, establishing a blog where you share your knowledge and expertise — particularly if you’re just “giving it away for free,” is a means of helping others who might benefit from what you know. Blogging lets you share your knowledge and expertise with an incredibly wide audience — which means you can help countless others who might benefit from what you know.

Why blog? To establish your professional self.

Establishing an internet presence (especially through an ongoing blog) helps you cultivate and present a professional persona, and share your story. In so doing, you can also establish your authority and credibility, and present yourself in a way that showcases the professional self you want to share with others. Plus, because you’re creating original content, you might even stand out from others within your field. Blogging lets you establish and share who you are: Your narrative, and your authority within your field. Regardless of what field you’re in, you can probably help others within your field, grow your network, and at the very least, build your own personal professional bona fides as a content expert by starting a blog.

Why blog? To create career opportunities (and connections).

Building a presence online through blogging can widen your reach and can create opportunities for your career. Through blogging, you might connect with new people, expand your professional (and maybe even social) network. Almost ten years ago for The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan wrote about why he blogs; as Sullivan discovered when he started blogging, having a blog lets you connect with others around your topics of interest, which means a lot of new connections. For instance, readers of your blog might reach out and share links, stories, and facts that might add context, nuance, and complexity to the blogger’s understanding of the world (and might even contest it). Therefore, having a blog can give you the opportunity to expand your horizons, connect with others around your interests, put your own input, knowledge, and/or expertise into the ongoing discussions around the things that most interest or concern you, and essentially, take part in a global conversation. And as I mentioned earlier, through my own blogging, I’ve also been able to connect with others either within my field of research or in fields adjacent to it, which has been great on a personal level, and also immensely helpful in my work (and also in my conducting further research for my book!).

But even if you’re not driven to build your professional (and social) connections for its own sake, it can also be fantastic for the growth of your career. Widening your network and reach means, by default, more possible opportunities for potential collaborations, exciting projects, and possibly even new jobs.

Why blog? To improve your communication skills.

Blogging and writing for an internet audience can help improve your ability to communicate through your writing. And, it can help you organize your thinking better (I wrote about this previously here).

Why blog? To make money.

Blogging can be a way to make extra money. Though it’s not super common, it is entirely possible to generate a good stream of income through blogging (or at the hopefully, generate enough money to cover the costs of running the blog itself!). It can also, through leading to new career opportunities and connections, result in an entirely new career path, or new chapter in your current career path.

So… if you’re still asking yourself, “Why blog?” It should now be clear: Blogging can be great for your career! Again, here are those 5 reasons you should be blogging to support your career: (1) to help others, (2) to establish yourself professionally, (3) to create career opportunities, (4) to improve your communication skills, and (5) to make money. And for your pinning pleasure, here’s another pinterest friendly version of the 5 reasons listed on this post, in another color scheme.

5 Reasons you Should be Blogging
5 Reasons you Should be Blogging

A Note about Bluehost Webhosting

By the way — if you are looking to establish your own professional website, and if you want to do everything yourself, I can’t think of a better route to go than to set yourself up with Bluehost Webhosting.

bluehost Punita Rice
I recommend Bluehost!

(This isn’t a sponsored post, but if you decide to click through and end up actually making a purchase / becoming a Bluehost customer, they will give me a referral fee for sending you their way, which means you’ll be supporting this website.) My experience with web hosting is limited to some stressful interactions with GoDaddy and mostly excellent interactions with Bluehost. They have excellent customer support and competitive pricing (I’ve had almost entirely great experiences with their customer service, minus the extremely rare occasions where someone on the phone hasn’t been able to walk me through complex questions — but that’s not the norm — which is saying something), and that’s why I love them, and why I’m a Bluehost affiliate. 

And by the way, if you don’t want to build out your site yourself, hiring out is an option. There are a lot of web developers and designers who will create a clean, custom looking, professional website for you, with a built-in blog that you can easily update (built on a blogging platform like WordPress.org — not WordPress.com). Also, if you’re in the tech industry and you’re looking for work, my sister-in-law’s company, Knak Digital will help place highly qualified folks in tech, digital, or marketing industries into amazing new careers. 

5 Ways Living in New Zealand has Changed Me (Guest Post)

by Maiera Mazelev Culture

How Living in New Zealand Changes You

[Ed note] Maiera Mazelev is not only one of my oldest (and best!) friends, but she’s also easily the most courageous person I know: A few years ago, she packed up all her belongings, and moved from Maryland, to the other side of the world (not literally, but almost!) to Australia, and now Auckland, New Zealand, where she happily resides (and feels at home), not least of all because she has learned to go with the flow (even when she’s getting rained on). And in so doing, she’s also changed as a person, from the logistical (how she gets from place to place), to the most fundamental parts of herself (she’s changed her pace of life, and learned to enjoy her own company through living in New Zealand). Here in this post, Maiera is sharing 5 big ways living in New Zealand has changed her: (1) she has learned to prefer public transportation, (2) she is able to be one with nature, (3) she’s become way more patient (and is slowly adjusting to a slower pace of life), (4) she’s learned to be a “tourist” in her own home, and (5) she’s learned to embrace being alone, and even doing nothing. Even if you have no intention of packing up all your belongings and moving to another country (or ever living in New Zealand yourself), you might enjoy this peek into how changing your environment can change you, and learn from what Maiera has learned.

Here’s Maiera on how living in New Zealand has changed her…

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Developing Thick Skin

by Punita Rice Career

developing thick skin

Last year, I started writing a little bit about topics that are (apparently) up for debate, including this op-ed in The Baltimore Sun about the travel ban, that, all things considered, isn’t really even that polarizing (in fact, I took an extremely moderate stance — no pun intended), and YET, I got some strong reactions (including some polite emails expressing disagreement, and a handful of decidedly less polite messages via twitter, like “GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY!” because, you know… the internet) to it. And it got me thinking about thick skin.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • It’s not that offensive when people respectfully share disagreement. After the op-ed came out, I got some emails from people respectfully expressing their perspectives. (I responded, and in two cases, actually had some quality conversations.)
  • It’s also not that offensive when people send ridiculous / hateful messages on Twitter (including the occasional *%#& you! message) because some people are just idiots, and it isn’t really about you, KWIM?

But then again, I wasn’t getting that much hate. I wasn’t speaking about controversial things on national tv or something, so it’s easy for me to talk about not getting offended easily about people’s reactions. But the people who do go on tv and share polarizing viewpoints do get a lot of hate. Like Dr. Wendy Osefo.

Dr. Osefo is a professor at Hopkins (where I’m an adviser), and she provides liberal commentary on some of the most conservative leaning shows and segments on Fox, which is already conservative leaning station. She definitely deals with plenty of ignorant and hateful commentary from all kinds of people. So I reached out to Dr. O and I asked her for her advice to other women* on “developing thick skin” when speaking their opinions in a space populated by those at odds with their point of view.

*I said women rather than people, because while men with polarizing stances are also attacked for their viewpoints, I think that women are disproportionately targeted; especially women of color.

Here’s what she had to say:

“There is not one single answer. It is hard to do work when you are met by naysayers and those who for no other reason but to be confrontational decide to undermine you.

I would say that the best response is success. Keep forging forward, keep building momentum around your issue, and keep advancing. That is the best way to silence critics.

People will ALWAYS question you and try to deter you, but you have to remain focused and know that what you are doing has a far greater purpose then any one person’s opinion.”

(Here’s another post with more great advice from Dr. O).

P.S. – Here’s the original post about the op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, and here’s a post about Apu, and why he sucks, for The Establishment.

An Interview with a Broadway Star

by Punita Rice Culture

Vishal Vaidya Broadway ISAASE

For the ISAASE Be Inspired project, I interviewed Vishal Vaidya, who you might know from his recent run as Larry the Cameraman on Broadway’s Groundhog Day (or from #Rifftober). I’ve also known Vishal for over 20 years (we even performed a duet version of Christina Aguilera’s I Turn To You in our middle school talent show together, and acted in plays together in middle and high school)! In the interview, he chatted about how he got into performing on Broadway, what it was like for him growing up in Burtonsville (my home town), what’s next in his career (and the need for stability in performers’ careers), and the importance of diversity and representation for South Asians in performance spaces. ALSO, he chatted about why he hopes Monsoon Wedding the Musical or Bend it Like Beckham the Musical become big hits.

If you’re interested, you can read the full interview now over at ISAASE.org/inspired, or ISAASE.org/vishal-vaidya.

P.S. – More about ISAASE’s Be Inspired project, and a chat with Natasha Sumant of Gundi Studios.