NadiaOne day during Grade 5 Social Studies we were asked to create a collage of what we anticipated our lives would look like in 20 years.  We were to include our dream homes, dream cars, and an image of ourselves using cut-outs from magazines.  While every other girl in my class chose images of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford as their 'future selves', I couldn't find a single female figure who represented my skin tone from the magazines the teacher provided.  Reluctantly, I brought this to the attention of the teacher who seemed annoyed and, with exasperation, told me to "just choose someone who's black".   I'll never forget that moment of complete shock and embarrassment.  To this day, as a fellow teacher, I share this story with my students and talk about how I will always remember how she made me feel: unimportant and undervalued.  I promised them I would do my best to never make them feel that way and to honour each students' differences and make each person feel special, because I always felt 'special' for what felt like the wrong reasons, for example being the one who didn't order pizza because it had pepperoni on it or the one who couldn't eat lunch because I was fasting or the one who didn't have a 'what I got for Christmas' story.   I love that now, 20 something years later, the kids in class share about their heritage with such confidence.

Nadia Ali