Inspired by years of settlement work in Toronto schools and research work at the Halton Catholic District School Board, Filipino Talks is an initiative that builds bridges between Filipino families and educators.
Since 2016, this groundbreaking initiative has been a key part in secondary schools across four school boards, and has become a mandatory training session for school administrators, curriculum consultants, and support staff. Filipino Talks approaches cross-cultural education in a way that has been called grounded, hands-on, well-rounded, creative, hilarious, and emotional, and, most of all, “the best Filipino workshop I could’ve ever hoped for.”
After collaborating with school staff and settlement workers to get a sense of what difficulties need to be addressed, Filipino Talks can be implemented in the form of staff professional development sessions, student workshops, parent workshops, and family events, and can be adjusted for the specific needs of each individual school.
Filipino Talks Includes:
1) Two-Page Survey - Created with teachers and support staff to address each school’s unique needs, this anonymous survey is distributed to the Filipino students by school staff. Past surveys have included questions on separation, academic achievement, isolation, community involvement, post-secondary aspirations, and more.
2) School-Specific Data Analysis - The survey results are compiled and analyzed for presentations to educators and Filipino students.
3) Professional Development Session for Teachers. Repeatedly rated as “The best PD we’ve ever had,” this two-hour professional development session encompasses the immigration contexts that set Filipinos apart from other groups, cultural issues that can impact student and parent success, a virtual tour of Toronto’s Little Manila neighbourhood and a Filipino public school, success strategies that have worked in other school boards, and much more. Each segment uses school-specific survey data to create an effective, engaging, emotional, and memorable experience for staff. At the end of the presentation, schools may request a copy of their survey results, the slide deck, and an up-to-date “Filipino Resources in Toronto” contact sheet of frontline workers in mental health, settlement, youth programming, and more.
4) After-School Workshops for Filipino Students. Using the survey data to determine topics and activities, three after-school sessions are developed for Filipino youth. The first is Separation and Reunification, and includes the development of the Letters to Mama video (scroll below for example). The second workshop is the Role Models Talk Show, where participants will meet Filipino-Canadian professionals in the careers of interest that they had chosen in their surveys. Past talk show panelists have included Filipinos in medicine, the arts, academia, social work, and more. Lastly, in the Community Partners Talk Show, participants meet frontline community workers who encourage the youth to join a variety of free programs: cooking, basketball, music, leadership, and settlement programming both in the school and the community.
5) Letters to Mama Video. This video is completely written by the students and used to open up discussions about family separation and reunification that almost every Filipino student faces upon arriving in Canada, and demonstrates to students that their difficulties are more common than they might have realized. It is used to illustrate the impacts of separation and reunification, and as an example of a culturally-responsive curriculum piece that educators have implement in their own classrooms.
Bonus: As part of the Professional Development segment, school staff can request a complimentary segment called “Tagalog for Teachers.” Participants will learn how to effectively encourage, praise, and even discipline Filipino students in Tagalog. As a final portion of Professional Development, it is absolutely, positively guaranteed to make the entire staff burst out laughing.
Reviews from School Staff
“Excellent! You opened my eyes to the home life of the Filipinos. I couldn't help but start bawling-- but in a good way. Your presentation helped me to see my students beyond being 'students' but as sons and daughters. Thank you!”
“Thank you for bringing this community to life for us. Discovering the secret lives of these students is a very beneficial exercise for us. I especially appreciate the insights into the mentality and the need for career counselling. Please keep bringing this message to schools across Toronto. Salamat (thank you)!”
“Jennilee, you have put together an amazing presentation about your community. Your vibrant, effervescent personality makes listening about it so much more enjoyable. Your enthusiasm and love for your community certainly shines in your delivery. The videos you created were so touching.”
“I learned so much. Especially about the history of the culture. Jennilee was absolutely engaging. (I didn't even feel like I needed to sneak in any marking.) This was the best PD speaker we've ever had.”
“Touching, inspiring, heartwarming & heartbreaking presentation by a lady as full of information and practicality as warmth and hope. Best presentation I’ve seen in a LONG time. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us.”
Reviews From Students
“The project was an amazing experience, it felt like home. I never thought that most kids felt the way I felt. Thank you!”
“The program is very useful and to help me learn things that can help me to achieve my goals and to learn more about the Filipino programs especially when I don’t know much about them.”
“The pinoy program for me is excellent. It help us a lot about Canada, they introduce many program to help us participate in Canada and to help us communicate to other people.”
“Excellently excellent. I couldn’t ask for more; it was full package and amazingly amazing. Just so WOW. HANDS-UP :) KUDOS! :)”
Letters to Mama
A highlight of “Filipino Talks” is always the Letters to Mama project. Here is one version written by a group of Filipino students at the Toronto District School Board, that was published in a digital anthology through Project 40's Diasporasian Mythologies project. As the children of caregivers, the students were asked to write a letter to their mothers, and then write back to themselves, pretending to be their mothers.
With a line out of every student's letter, this Letters to Mama video is a tribute to the difficulties of being reunited with a mother who has worked abroad for years.
For bookings and inquiries, please click here.