Raising Global Citizens in Today’s Classrooms: Meet Teacher, Author, Navjot Kaur


#BoldAndInspiring South Asian Women Series: Honours Author, Sikh Mom,  Navjot Kaur, Follow our hashtag, #mminspire for the conversation

Teacher, Navjot Kaur, spent most of her childhood nourishing her imagination in her own personal Faraway Tree (which strangely resembled her attic). Born and raised in England and of Sikh-Panjabi heritage, Navjot has always been fascinated and inspired by diverse environments and culture.

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to write. I would practice all kinds of typography as a child before I even knew it was a skill! I was pretty shy growing up so writing was my way of expressing my thoughts and exploring ideas.  Language inspired me and it wasn’t long before scribbled notes to myself emerged, forming the serifs of stories I have yet to write. ”

Today Kaur is an award-winning author and elementary teacher and believes that children can become advocates for social change. That’s why she uses her writing as a way to inspire them to become responsible global citizens.  As a teacher she’s developed tools to teach Sikh heritage that have garnered her national recognition including a Teacher’s guide to help talk about Vaisakhi.

Photo credit: SaffronPress Instagram

“Teachers tend to include holidays that they are most comfortable with. Today, teachers have to ensure they are providing a culturally responsive education to all their students. If that means reaching out to the community to find partnerships and resources, then that is what should happen.”

When she became a mother to a hard of hearing child, Navjot discovered the beauty of signed language.  She says this experience profoundly changed how she saw reading, writing and her own place as a teacher in that space.

Learning of our son’s profound hearing loss left us numb. There were so many questions, accompanied with an enormous sense of fear,” says Kaur.  “It was just like a wordless picture book at first – constantly inferring what might happen next. But with every gentle turn of the page, we captured a comforting realization. Each fear was being conquered, and our hearts filled with hope once again.

When it comes to teaching her child about cultural holidays, like Vaisakhi, she uses the same principle. She created a resource to help other moms and teachers expose kids to the holiday, called ‘The Countdown to Vaisakhi.’

“Vaisakhi holds a deep significance in our home because I feel the values of Vaisakhi are universal values that we can all share,” says Navjot.   “I believe my teaching background has been the greatest asset in this regard. I take a lot of time to prepare for and engage my son’s interest in this celebration. I often receive messages from mothers from different parts of the country asking me for help. This is one of the reasons why I created the Countdown to Vaisakhi resource.”

The resource is unique in what it provides parents. She’s also gained a great following of others in the Punjabi educational space via connecting online to bring together a community on instagram of inspirational tools for parents.

“I wanted to create a resource that was accessible and differentiated for children. I plan to keep adding to this collection.  For Navjot, keeping culture alive in her home comes easy. As a book lover, one of the most seamless ways she’s been able to do this is by ensuring her son is exposed to a diverse range of books and toys.

“I created a Teacher’s Guide for the book to ensure this diverse book for children could be included in a regular anguage arts program. One school’s parent committee used my Countdown to Vaisakhi handout to create a Phulkari for their Vaisakhi event.”

There are also ideas pinned to her  Vaisakhi board on Pinterest. 

On the site, there are tools for non-Sikh moms on elements of Vaisakhi as well. The goal Navjot says was to make it accessible.

“It really depends on the age of the child. Some parents wish to present Vaisakhi to their child’s classroom, so they have read A Lion’s Mane to the students and then, they have completed a follow-up activity like making a lion mask,” says Navjot. “Other (more musical) parents have included playing the tabla with their presentations. We created a claymation to educate non-Sikhs on the patka or dastaar too. Many parents share this with the classroom to encourage further dialogue.”

Her book, ‘A Lion’s Mane’ has been a popular choice for some classrooms during Vaisakhi. Her book, Dreams of Hope, was released in June 2011.

Kaur has a strong passion for empowereing children from a young age to become global citizens and her tools and books are a way to do just that.

I’m doing more school visits where I focus on why there is a need for diverse books. More importantly though, I emphasize the need for accurate representation so books we share with our little ones do not further bias and stereotypes. Prejudices and biases are formed as early as two years old. If these perspectives are not informed as a child grows, these views can fuel incidents of bullying and direct negative stereotyping. When children learn to think about everything they see and hear, they become better informed and this can lay the foundation for understanding and respect of all global citizens. What should the publishing industry do to better represent diversity and cultural identity in books? The publishing industry produces what it feels consumers want. The markets they gather that information from are where they direct their titles and sales. However, until diversity of thought and authentic experiences are represented within the decision-making process, the publishing industry will continue to reflect multicultural titles but not necessarily diverse and inclusive experiences.”

 Today Kaur also runs, SaffronPress, which provides a place for these types stories to grow. Their titles offer mirrors, so children may see their experiences reflected; and offer windows to conquer the unknown. A number of tools and books can be purchased here. 

“As an educator and story-loving mum, one thing I knew for sure, was that my child would need to see himself in the books we shared. He would need strong roots to grow and stretch. He would not only have his Deaf identity, but also his very visible Sikh identity.”

To learn more about Navjot, please visit her website at navjotkaur.com

For books, please visit saffronpress.com

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