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“What Makes Me Who I Am?”: Using Artifacts as Cosmopolitan Invitations

Author: Tiffany DeJaynes

DeJaynes, Tiffany A. "“What Makes Me Who I Am?”: Using Artifacts as Cosmopolitan Invitations" English Journal, November 2018, pp. 48-54.


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As a classroom researcher, Tiffany DeJaynes revisited the curriculum of an English elective she helped design and found students using artifacts to investigate personal identity and create community

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Objects surely don’t talk. Or do they?
—DANIEL MILLER, THE COMFORT OF THINGS

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In her artifact presentation, Sara held up a ring her father gave her from Guatemala and said, “It makes me feel like I have my family with me wherever I go.” As she walked the delicate silver ring around the room, she explained that the figure of a quetzal, a brightly colored bird with an iridescent green back and red chest, represents freedom and independence in the country her father hails from. Her peers followed with “warm fuzzies,” verbal and written feedback her teachers had set up to give her peers a chance to reflect on what they learn about peers from their artifacts and to offer encouragement. Afterward, Gretchen shared her favorite records, and Peter pulled his first football out of his backpack, a worn and beloved hand-medown from his father. One peer’s “warm fuzzy” was “I love when it’s a generational pass-down thing, I’m a sucker for that.”

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Jul 5
Jill S (Jul 05 2022 8:47AM) : Identity is the base of so many classes. more
I often think school should be about discovering who we are, what are our beliefs, where do our beliefs stem from, and how do we want to contribute to the current world. Sharing one’s most precious objects is step one in revealing who you are, and it makes for important and relevant conversations among peers. All content should start with the student at the center.

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Ashley I (Jul 05 2022 11:02AM) : This reminds me of some of the community-building exercises used at the beginning of the year in elementary classrooms. Young students love sharing about themselves, I wonder if there is the same buy in in the older grades?
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Deb C (Jul 05 2022 12:15PM) : community building high school more

I teach 2 electives at the high school level and I find the do not buy in to the “community building exercise” in the same way as younger students and I struggle with it. In other classes (typically English and Social Studies) they participate.

Our librarians invested in an online escape room that has an entire collection of team building and getting to know you options, so I am going to try that and see if it gets them talking. I’d also like to hear from others in secondary schools for their opinions.

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Jill S (Jul 06 2022 2:55PM) : I find we have to start with us and be super vulnerable. It shifts the environment when they see you as human.
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Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:56PM) : I think most teachers are not trained with enough activities to build community, therefore, it's not part of the culture in most schools. Sometimes it's because of the pressure we often feel in covering curriculum.
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Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:06PM) : I agree with both Jill and Clemencia. more

If WE model our vulnerabilities, those in our purview will feel safe to do so, also. NOTHING in a classroom can happen – learning or otherwise – without trust. With trust comes buy-in. Schools these days try to fit too much into too small a bag. They have to focus on the reading and writing of the curriculum because of course they do! But then they try to add soft skills and other aspects to the curriculum and it becomes just too much to cover. In this instance, the teacher is left to decide what to get to and what to leave out. In my experience, whichever is done seems always to be wrong and leads to teacher apathy and then burn-out.

Another piece of this, on a different note, is the label. “Community Building” sounds like something you would see in an office on an old TV show, colleagues getting together to catch one another through trust falls in a wilderness setting. My HS kids would laugh me out of the room if I pitched this buzz word! My ELLs would take it literally and look at me in confusion. However, do it authentically, as I think everything should be done, and it WILL catch; everyone wants to belong.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 7:43PM) : I love the idea of identifying objects that represent our identity and what we hold deer to us. Sometimes, we through through life and do not take a moment to look around us and think about the objects that represent our past or beliefs.
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Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:09PM) : I agree! At first, I found choosing my identity capsule items challenging. Now that I am done, I keep thinking of other options and find myself making new choices! It's that 'taking time to smell the roses' idea.
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Young people who walk the same halls, pass through the same scanners, eat lunch at the same pizzeria, and sit in classes together often know relatively little about one another. In my role as a classroom researcher and participant observer, I see the artifact presentations in this tenth-grade class as something of an interactive, New York City version of anthropologist Daniel Miller’s The Comfort of Things—a study of the home objects valued by thirty Londoners living on the same street. The meanings made of objects by the students in Christopher Curmi’s English classroom are as surprising as those made by multiage, polyglot Londoners. The artifacts they have chosen to share with each other are both extraordinary and quotidian, objects they cherish and take for granted. Miller noted that, “increasingly, people’s lives take place behind the closed doors of private houses” and asked, “How can we gain insight into what those lives are like today: people’s feelings, frustrations, aspirations, tragedies, and delights?” (3). Artifacts are material traces of stories, perspectives, and experiences. Working with artifacts—writing about them, composing multimodal stories that explore their materiality (i.e., sounds, smells, textures), and sharing them with co-learners and educators—grows self-knowledge and builds community. In this article, I posit that artifactual literacy invites the cultivation of cosmopolitan habits of mind by asking youth to reflect on their own values and thoughtfully consider the values of their peers and teachers.

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Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 7:52PM) : Looking at objects and thinking about their past reminds me of the original old books I have seen in libraries and museums written by writers of their time. It's now I am realizing that objects from home carry a history and a story.
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Jill S (Jul 05 2022 8:51AM) : Habits of mind more

I love how the artifacts can become the sparks of reflection and the seeds of many writing pieces to cause students to dig deeply into who they are and what they believe, which in turn can make them understand that all people are a conglomeration of their environments (culture, family, experiences, religion). It creates empathy and a desire to understand where a peer’s beliefs stem from rather than inviting an argument because of a difference of an opinion.

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Jul 11
Mary Lea C (Jul 11 2022 8:31AM) : I love the word "traces" here -- objects offer us so much story background.

“Artifactual literacy,” Kate Pahl and Jennifer Rowsell explain, “is about exchange; it is participatory and collaborative, visual and sensory. It is a radical understanding of meaning-making in a human and embodied way” (134). Using artifacts in the literacy curriculum creates opportunities for students to bring their home cultures into school. By tracing personal stories through artifacts, youth and their teachers connect, share, see, and learn to value each other. They also have the opportunity to develop alternative perspectives, think more critically about systems of belief, and question assumptions and biases—core characteristics of a “cosmopolitan” view of the world.

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Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 7:54PM) : I do believe artifacts can serve a way to exchange culture and understand the other within the context of voices coming from those cultures.
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Heather M (Jul 10 2022 10:49PM) : This reminds me of a specific cabinet I had in my HS classroom years ago (when I had my own classroom and didn't shuffle around on a cart!). more

Half was for “Present Pets” and the other, “Passed Pets.” It began when the beloved dog of one of my kids passed away and she was devastated. Soon, others were bringing in pics of their pets, as well. Someone asked if they had to have passed, and that was when we created the two sides. What started as a tribute morphed into a wall of love for four-footed family members, as well as some fish! It was almost the original cat and puppy videos, just still-life!

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Educational philosopher David Hansen writes that cosmopolitan-minded people “hold their values and beliefs in ways that keep them open to the concerns and perspectives of others” (87; italics in original). Teachers recognize that the young people in their classrooms will encounter increasing cultural differences and changes in their lifetimes, given the rapidly widening arc of globalization. A cosmopolitan orientation offers a way of approaching our shared humanity and the confusion that forces of globalization sometimes create.

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Jenna C (Aug 09 2022 11:24AM) : Cosmopolitan versus Globalization and SEL [Edited] more

Cosmopolitan (definition: including or containing people from many different countries) is different than globalization (the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale). The crux being inclusion versus influencing. This reading is so interesting because I see a huge connection between SEL and this idea of cosmopolitanism using artifacts. As we “globalize” it does not mean we empathize, try to gain understanding of the unfamiliar by listening to experience, stores. Many times, perhaps because of the focus on the curriculum and content, students aren’t being taught to engage difference and keep on values and beliefs on “hold” or open for a new perspective. We see this in the banning of books, controversy about CRT and other critical lenses.

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In 2018, invitations for compassion, connection, and solidarity in classrooms stand in contrast to the
often-divisive political rhetoric youth are exposed to and are actively engaged with as citizens of the world (DeJaynes and Curmi). Despite the displays of caring in the classroom vignette I share above, I do not wish to propose a simplistic vision of learning spaces affected by the realities of globalization. Instead, I acknowledge that cultural exchange can foster democratic ideals such as collaboration and belonging and it can also lead to tensions. Nonetheless, a reflective process that involves students and teachers curating, writing about, and sharing personal, familial, and cultural artifacts can foster a kind of “everyday cosmopolitanism,” a daily, lived sense of openness to divergent perspectives (Hull et al. 267).

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Jill S (Jul 05 2022 8:57AM) : I agree 100%.
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Jul 10
Heather M (Jul 10 2022 10:58PM) : I agree, as well, but can only do so to an extent. more

I’m glad the author acknowledges both the “democratic ideals” AND the possible “tensions.” Far too often, it seems that the floor is open to ALL thoughts, only to have someone with a divergent view be attacked for sharing it. Then when others have a divergent view, and they’ve seen what could happen if they share, the classroom unwittingly becomes “of one mind,” even through there are other views. I know discussions I’ve had in past classes – open and honest – could NEVER happen in today’s classroom.

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Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:00PM) : I have a diverse group of students, having them share an artifact can help me as a teacher and my students learn something new about their culture and traditions.
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SETTING THE CONTEXT

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The classroom described in this study is a tenth grade course called Qualitative Research, a required English language arts elective at a small public high school in New York City. The course is part of a four-year research sequence, which includes core quantitative and qualitative courses and upper-level electives such as sociology and epidemiology. I taught the course for its first two years and have been a mentor and teacher-researcher in the class for the past four.

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The curriculum begins with a semester-long “Where I’m From” auto-ethnography project, which explores the questions “Who am I?” and “What makes me who I am?” while also training the students in ethnographic research methods such as artifact collection, observation, and interviewing. The final product is a “Where I’m From” film that combines multimodal artifacts (e.g., images, songs, short film clips), reflections on the self-study, and lines of poetry drawn from data. The films are then shared with peers in class and with the larger school community. This project reflects pedagogical commitments to multimodal literacies and to creating learning spaces where youth see themselves as researchers and generators of knowledge. As a research genre, ethnography is rooted in descriptive writing, primary data collection, and looking closely at objects, places, and stories we think we know in an effort to understand them better or view them differently.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:08PM) : In my school we have Social Emotional Learning (SEL), I am thinking, this activity can serve as a way to create community in middle school classes.
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Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:15PM) : This reminds me a lot of the life maps we did, just SO much more! more

I did life maps with my classes and they really enjoyed it. However, when it came time to share, they were reticent to do so as the information they included was very personal. Perhaps it was because it was the beginning of the school year and they hadn’t really yet built that class rapport. But if done later on in the year, the purpose of engaging with oneself for the purpose of writing would have been defeated.

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Jill S (Jul 05 2022 9:04AM) : We should strive for essential questions like this for the 12 years of school and all course subjects.
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The school brings together a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse cohort of learners who also performed well on state middle school exams. Learning from diverse others is more acute in an urban classroom with youth whose global reaches extend to Albania, Colombia, China, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, and Vietnam.

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Danyel C (Jul 09 2022 9:16AM) : Diverse was once "code" for urban more

I don’t see urban as more diverse anymore. I worked in a suburban district (regional) and students came from everywhere on this list and more. I am in an urban district now and I don’t see that list anymore.

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Jul 31
Deb C (Jul 31 2022 3:38PM) : I think it depends. Living in Madison, an upper middle class suburban town and teaching in West Orange, an economically diverse urban town, I definitely see more diversity in the latter. And more importantly a celebration of that diversity. more

Madison barely acknowledges the diversity in the schools – and tries to ignore it in many instances.

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LOCATING “EVERYDAY COSMOPOLITANISM”

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This article is informed by six years of involvement in this course, first as a teacher-researcher and later as participant observer and mentor. From 2012–14, as a teacher, I kept a blog, journal, and audio recordings of classroom noticings as part of a practitioner inquiry study. In my notes, I recorded pedagogical choices, student responses to curriculum, moments that puzzled and delighted me, and moments of disconnection. Since 2014, I have been a participant observer and mentor for the course; in this role, I have collected artifact blog posts from forty participants; kept field notes on in-class lessons and artifact presentations; and collected the students’ written feedback to peers and their final reflections on the “Where I’m From” project.

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As an element of my analysis, I wanted to better understand the impact of the cultural exchange fostered by artifactual literacy work in the classroom. Cosmopolitan habits of mind are formed by (1) nurturing one’s familiarity and attachment to one’s own history and heritage, what Hansen calls cultivating “reflective loyalty to the known,” and (2) responding with openness to the stories and experiences of diverse others or cultivating “thoughtful receptivity to the new” (1). I coded the data for Hansen’s concepts to better understand the moves teachers and students made that cultivated invitations to knowing and being known. For “reflective loyalty to the known,” I coded for themes such as “pride,” “heritage,” “memory,” “family,” and “community.” For “thoughtful receptivity to the new,” I coded for “openness,” “curiosity,” and “connection across difference.” Notions of “belonging” cut across both categories as I observed the students’ connections to their home cultures and the sense of “us” they were forming as a classroom community.

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Jill S (Jul 05 2022 9:06AM) : Curious about this word -- cosmopolitan "habits of mind". I get habits of mind, but cosmopolitan? [Edited]
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Danyel C (Jul 09 2022 9:24AM) : I had to look up the definition of cosmopolitan to consider the different meanings and connotation--which helped me see her ideas with greater clarity. more

Definition of cosmopolitan (Entry 1 of 2)
1: having wide international sophistication: WORLDLY
Greater cultural diversity has led to a more cosmopolitan attitude among the town’s younger generations.
2: composed of persons, constituents, or elements from all or many parts of the world
a city with a cosmopolitan population
3: having worldwide rather than limited or provincial scope or bearing
… his cosmopolitan benevolence, impartially extended to all races and to all creeds.
— Thomas Babington Macaulay
4: found in most parts of the world and under varied ecological conditions
a cosmopolitan herb

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Mary Lea C (Jul 11 2022 8:34AM) : I love the term "reflective loyalty to the known." So often we are loyal to what we know based on our own comfort and familiarity. The term "reflective" helps us stop and consider why things are important to our identity.
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Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:27PM) : I've experienced this most with my students in Dover. more

The majority of my students were from Spanish-speaking countries, and each country was vastly different from the next. At first, pride in one’s country took precedence and a hierarchy was sought. With immediate understanding established that we were all in this together and respect in ALL aspects was expected, a true community formed with the differences being celebrated. We all learned new things on a daily basis, from different words to different names for similar foods, and customs both similar and different. My more recent arrivals to the US were more apt to share and not try to compete while those either born in the US, or having been here longer were more apt to make heritage a competition. By the end of any given school year, each class was a tight community that often crossed class boundaries to include anyone who was in one of my classes.

Identity work is an explicit goal of the curriculum. Mr. Curmi has refined the curriculum in which objects can, as Miller notes, “talk,” that is, reveal information that will support youth in answering their research questions, “Who am I?” and “What makes me who I am?” Through a series of assignments, students examine their cultures and think carefully about the ideas, people, objects, habits, and communities that inform their lives. After students have completed a teacher-guided literature review on identity from an anthropological perspective, they move on to data collection. To introduce the data collection part of the “Where I’m From” unit, Mr. Curmi shares a lesson slide that defines artifacts as “any product of social beings or their behavior (objects, texts, visual media, buildings, machinery, audio, music, folktales, myths, pottery, documents, laws, books, poems). The list literally goes on forever!” He explains in his discussion that artifacts help us to understand the practices, habits, and cultures of people, including ourselves in an auto-ethnography unit.

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Jenna C (Jul 21 2022 1:35AM) : Identity work is an explicit goal of the curriculum. I teach based on SEL. I really like how objects are being used through an anthropological lens. more

Something that I am really interested in, especially for my practical application, is how to get SEL components and artifactual/historical literacies into Math.

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Jenna C (Aug 10 2022 12:23PM) : Objects as agents of change/rejection [Edited] more

This part about identity work really resonates. It also makes me think of the artifacts of embarrassment/rejection of my own family’s values. For example, (I write about this in one of my pieces for this class) about these knives my dad passed down to my from ancestors that fought in a war— the knives are from the Philippines— I reject/am embarrassed of these objects in my lineage as they are not allowed to be a part of my identity (although I begrudgingly acknowledge it is a part of history), and go against the idea of nationalism, etc…

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Classroom activities include naming and discussing artifacts found in student backpacks, neighborhood walks to identify artifacts significant in the community, and creative noticing activities (i.e., mapping cracks on a sidewalk or creating museums of tiny objects) adapted from Keri Smith’s How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum. These activities foster a spirit of discovery and make the practice of “doing ethnography” active and engaging. Readings of anthropological analyses such as excerpts from Miller’s The Comfort of Things, photo analyses of artifacts such the fashion choices of everyday New Yorkers featured on the blog Humans of New York (humansofnewyork.com), and photo stories of the objects carried by refugees provide models of how artifacts teach us about the world.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:14PM) : Artifacts can definitely tell us about the world we are unaware of.
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MAKING OBJECTS TALK

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In The Teacher and the World: A Study of Cosmopolitanism as Education, Hansen asks, “How do you encourage your students to engage in ethical work—to carry themselves in ways that draw out their aesthetic, moral, and intellectual capability?” (46). Cosmopolitanism encourages “reflective loyalty” to local concerns, commitments, and values; it espouses rootedness, that is, an attachment to values close to one’s heart and mind. This groundedness operates in tandem with a mindful openness to the wider world and its possibilities for learning and transformation. To model this kind of thinking for students, the teachers cocreate the curriculum by sharing their own artifacts and stories.

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Jill S (Jul 06 2022 7:30PM) : Engage in ethical work! more

I love this question. Today, I sat in a staff professional development and spoke with a history teacher. She said the kids sigh when she opens the history text book. And, I just thought, why do you need the textbook and she said that they need to know how to read textbooks for school. This classroom here, clearly is relevant for students and will engage them in meaningful learning.

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When I observed his lesson modeling how to use an Artifact Analysis Guide, Mr. Curmi shared artifacts from summers spent in Malta with his family. Students giggled when he shared a photo from his teenage years, sporting spiked blue hair, arms around cousins wearing matching, hand-sewn floral costumes for a celebration in his parents’ hometown of Ghajnsielem, Malta. His writing described a festival, late nights eating “bready snacks” with cousins, and watching the sun rise on the beach. Students were delighted by his hand-sewn costume. When Mr. Curmi asked the class if anyone makes costumes for celebrations, hands went up all over the classroom.

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Jul 11
Mary Lea C (Jul 11 2022 8:36AM) : We grounded ourselves in our local concerns and values -- which helps us be mindfully open to the wider world. Great way to explain this!
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Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:37PM) : Students LOVE to experience their teachers in younger days! more

On any given day during my preps in the library, students would pour over the past editions of yearbooks. They searched for their current teachers, as students and/or earlier versions of their teaching selves. They looked at the raiment of decades past; they gleaned information about prior generations and tried to reconcile it with today. All of their searches stemmed, however, from searching for a specific teacher they’d obviously heard they could find in one of many years archived.

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Jul 31
Deb C (Jul 31 2022 3:42PM) : That happens in my district too - and each year they ask faculty for either a favorite song or food in high school, and to attach a baby picture - not everyone participates but it's a fascinating tell into the history and age ranges of different faculty more

I never looked at it from the lens of the object as text – but after having those discussions when we were in person, I have come to realize just how much there is to tell the stories of people without the use of language at all.

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In writing descriptively about his memories, Mr. Curmi was not only teaching artifact analysis, unearthing the stories and meanings to be found in objects, but also modeling Hansen’s cosmopolitan notion of “reflective loyalty to the known” or pride in one’s own culture and heritage. We often think of “modeling” curriculum as showing students how to write within a particular genre or engage in other academic tasks, but in an artifactual curriculum, teachers must first demonstrate a commitment to their own traditions and customs by making their identities visible with sensory descriptions of objects they hold dear. It’s important that teachers participate in curating their own treasured objects and sharing their own writing and analyses. Mr. Curmi’s id-drop sits alongside his co-teacher’s quotidian pair of striped socks and a tea tin from her father.

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Jul 6
Jill S (Jul 06 2022 7:32PM) : Teachers are learners also! more

I think it is essential for students to see us be readers, writers, learners, curious human beings sitting right next to them.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:53PM) : I love this point! Being curious about the other is a skill.
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Jul 10
Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:40PM) : It also is key in building that ever-essential trust! A teacher is a student as much as a student is a teacher. I sometimes think, seeing reactions to this idea from students, that some have never been privy to this idea. It blows their minds!
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Jul 31
Deb C (Jul 31 2022 3:43PM) : Totally agree - one of my favorite things to do in class is when I don't know something, to own up to it, and ask if anyone in the class knows - if yes then they teach it, if not, we look it up together. more

I am constantly telling students I don’t know everything and won’t pretend that I do which is a shock to them since many teachers won’t admit that.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:38PM) : I love this concept. Teachers, sharing their artifact to students, helps them reveal who they are and open a window to visuality the person behind the teacher's identity.
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Mr. Curmi builds “sociocultural conversations” about artifacts by training students to locate and analyze artifacts from their homes that hold cultural, personal, familial, even political significance. To support young people in making discoveries about themselves and their heritage, he offers a great deal of scaffolding for artifact selection. For example, he asks students to jot reflections about family traditions and celebrations, draw maps and write observations of familiar and important places (e.g., a bedroom, kitchen, or local park), and peruse family photo albums. He then asks them to identify artifacts significant in these places by circling them in their writing or on their maps. He also offers young people the option to describe or create artistic representations of lost artifacts that they hold in their memories. The time spent on artifact selection widens the ethnographic lens, inviting the students to interrogate memories and visually study spaces. When it comes time to make the artifacts “talk,” Mr. Curmi asks the students to read each one carefully, supporting their analysis with the Artifact Analysis Guide (see Figure 1).

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Jul 6
Jill S (Jul 06 2022 7:36PM) : I love how the artifact can spark so much personal research, engage students in exploring their beliefs and values, make them more self-aware and inspire them to think about what beliefs and values they still want to hold - what is logical and loving.
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Jul 31
Deb C (Jul 31 2022 3:45PM) : This is so important - the reflective nature of looking at artifacts is key to how we see ourselves and the world which in turn will definitely influence our decisions.
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Aug 9
Jenna C (Aug 09 2022 2:08PM) : This is a really detailed lesson and reflective inquiry. I wish I had experienced this in my primary and secondary education. Perhaps, it could have helped me be more reflective and aware of my identity, trauma, and empathy.

Tee had selected and photographed several artifacts: a sports pendant, a dance video game, a jewelry box with ballerinas, a Cabbage Patch doll, a sketchbook, a music player, and a statue of an Egyptian queen. When she interrogated the artifacts using the guide, she decided to write about the three that pulled most strongly on her identity and culture: her sketchbook, the doll, and the statue. Her sketchbook evoked stories of her grandfather’s murals in her neighborhood, political acts that “beautified” her African American neighborhood, which is being gentrified. She reflected, “I think I got my talent from him.” Her artifacts were situated among people and memories, physical objects calling up moments and stories that have influenced her life.

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Her childhood doll Nijah evoked Tee’s everyday life and personal history. She examined the doll’s materiality—the texture of Nijah’s hair on which she learned to braid, the doll’s role as an attachment object and a symbol of her parents’ care for her well-being, and the doll’s features, “chocolate brown skin and brown eyes,” as a source of pride. In interrogating the meanings and traditions the objects hold, Tee saw them as a prism into the larger autoethnographic research question into who she is.

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My childhood doll Nijah is familial and cultural; she is a 1986 authentic Cabbage Patch doll. She has long
black twisted yarn hair, and a brown face with chubby brown cheeks and light brown eyes. Ever since I got her at the age of 4 she has always worn a long red jeaned dress with white stars, and red flowers; two pockets are sewn on each side to fit anything we discovered from our daily adventures. When I was little I loved dolls like any other kid, but my parents were always picky with what dolls they wanted me playing with. It never made sense to me until I was older, my parents wanted me to have dolls that looked like me. Nijah was the first doll I had that shared the same skin tone and features as me. My mom believed that your first doll was always going to be the doll you remembered. It needed to hold a symbolic meaning to you that represents who you are as a person. Nijah had black braided hair, chocolate brown skin and brown eyes. Nijah helped shape my identity, helped me understand myself as an African American and what it is like to be a part of such a beautiful background.

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Pahl and Rowsell write that stories evoke space and time; “in telling stories about objects, the object becomes realized as material and sensual” (11).

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Jul 31
Deb C (Jul 31 2022 3:47PM) : The reaction I had here shows the impact an image can have. I don't think this is a Cabbage Patch Doll but that is what the face reminds me of. It brought images of getting one at Hanukkah, and then fighting to get more. more

We also saw the Cabbage Patch Kids being born at Babyland General Hospital growing up and then got to adopt one. Super happy memories of a goofy object.

Tee’s thoughtful writing is a consequence of the time she spent analyzing her artifacts for their material and aesthetic traits and unearthing the stories they tell. In analyzing, writing about, and presenting her artifacts, Tee honored her heritage and made visible parts of her identity. She “read” the objects’ form and shape. Her description of Nijah’s “long black twisted yarn hair” and “chubby brown cheeks” uses visuals, texture, and color to make her argument for cultural pride, demonstrate the importance of well-chosen dolls for Black girls, and acknowledge her now-mature understanding of her mother’s choices for her. Tee’s artifacts came to life as she interrogated their situated histories in her home and culture and considered how to share them with a diverse group of peers.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:44PM) : This story is interesting because it reminds me that in a cosmopolitan society, we as individuals get to rethink what makes us unique as individuals.
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Jul 11
Mary Lea C (Jul 11 2022 8:38AM) : I love how Tee's mother's choices for her helped her embrace her authentic identity and celebrate her own heritage and story.
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During a lull at the end of the final day of artifact sharing, she asked, “Can I share another one?” Granted permission, she went to the front of the room and projected a photo of a heavy white stone statue of an Egyptian queen from the classroom computer. She had written that the queen, her namesake, “was beautiful, a wise, powerful, intelligent leader; like the glue that kept her empire from falling.” The statue enabled her to deepen the argument she made with her doll, to explain the power and symbolism in her name. As she described the statue to the class, she offered a short history lesson and narrated how and why her family is drawn to Egyptian names. When a peer asked if she was Egyptian, Tee said, “Yeah, all the way back.” Her seemingly casual response reveals an understanding of heritage and a rhetorical capacity to share her mother’s lessons with the class.

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Jul 8
Ashley I (Jul 08 2022 10:23AM) : I think this speaks volumed that the student had such a positive experience with the activity that she wanted to share an additional item.
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FOSTERING EXTRAORDINARY OPENNESS

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The activity that asks students to share personal artifacts, which sets the tone for the auto-ethnography
project, emerged spontaneously from the process of developing the course. In the first year we offered the class (2012), my co-teacher and I noted the beauty of the artifacts about which students were blogging. We were moved by their writing, and our understanding of the young people we taught deepened (and in some cases was transformed) by reading about the objects they deemed important. We had a hunch that students would be similarly moved and shaped by hearing about each other’s artifacts. It was in this moment that we recognized some of the ways in which artifacts could be “invitations” to larger cosmopolitan habits of mind.

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In the 2017–18 academic year, Mr. Curmi refined his curriculum to help students locate hard to-spot cultural artifacts in their homes and communities. In our conversation about this revision, he noted that the artifact presentations “changed the tone of the classroom and got kids thinking about talking about one another’s experiences in curious ways, in ways that came from wanting to understand.” Similarly, the students noticed that their relationships with their peers had changed. “I knew no one in this class, and I feel like I know so many more people now,” one student wrote in a reflection on the assignment. The development of these deeper personal connections is not surprising. Artifact presentations often lead to “relational learning” and “empathetic listening” (Pahl and Rowsell 108) because young people share artifacts that are powerfully connected to their identities.

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Jul 6
Jill S (Jul 06 2022 7:47PM) : Power of creating community more

This whole activity created a real community of learners. Instead of superficial attempts with 10 minute activities, this sounded like it helped every student understand something about each human in their class.

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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:52PM) : I totally agree with you. It's a great way to encourage students cultivate the art of listening to the other and be open to the other's culture and background.
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To prepare the students for artifact sharing, Mr. Curmi explicitly invites openness and sets expectations for warmth and respect. I observed a lesson during which he and his co-teacher demonstrated what they were expecting of the class. The following excerpt from my field notes illustrates the camaraderie between the two teachers and also represents the tone of the conversation they were asking the students to emulate.

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Jul 31
Deb C (Jul 31 2022 3:48PM) : I think this is key - students are not always willing to share their personal stories. Having the teacher set expectations and then explain what that means is key. Teacher going first also lets the students know they will be vulnerable as well.
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MS. M: This is not easy for everyone. People are sharing parts of themselves that maybe they haven’t shared before. They’re taking a risk, so please be respectful of that. After each presentation, we’re going to ask people to share “warm fuzzies”—something positive and supportive. I also want you to be thinking what artifacts teach you about each other.
MR. CURMI: Cool, Ms. M, can you start us off with your artifact?
MS. M: (picks up tin off her desk) While I’m using this on my desk to hold pencils, it’s actually a tea tin. It used to be full of the Iranian black tea my dad makes. I grew up drinking this kind of tea every night with my family and eating a date. Persians love dates. They would be on the table. My mom would tell me how healthy dates are and why I needed to have one with my tea. I’d eat one mostly to please her. It’s still why I eat dates. (laughs)
MR. CURMI: An example of a “warm fuzzy” would be that I learned her family is Iranian and that tea was an important part of her evening routine as a kid. Drinking tea was a family ritual. It also is a thing that reminds her of her dad. I also like that it’s an ordinary, everyday object. It just sits on her desk.
MS. M: Sara was brave enough to volunteer to go first. Does everyone have the “warm fuzzy” hand-out? It’s kind of like putting down a “glow” and then what the artifact teaches you about the presenter.

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Jul 10
Heather M (Jul 10 2022 11:51PM) : I've used warm fuzzies, and identified their cold pricklies counterpart, since forever. I use them with my own children today.
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The “warm fuzzy” feedback form prompted, “Share some love! What did the presenter do particularly well in their presentation? Be specific.” And it then included a follow-up question with roots in anthropology: “What did you learn about who the presenter is or what makes them who they are from their artifacts?” With the “warm fuzzies,” the teachers intentionally created space in the classroom for “thoughtful receptivity to the new.” Hansen notes that a cosmopolitan orientation is agentive, participatory, and responsive; it bespeaks an “extraordinary openness to others and new ways of doing and being” (103).

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Jul 8
Ashley I (Jul 08 2022 10:26AM) : This is a great example of how to scaffold the activity when first introducing it. Having a clear form guides the students to ensure a respectful discourse.
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Jul 10
Clemencia A (Jul 10 2022 8:50PM) : I love your point! It also encourages discussion and dialogue among students.
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As they continued to share “warm fuzzies” and anthropological noticings, many students were moved by shared connections to popular cultural or geographic affiliations. Responses included: “I love that song too” and “I had no idea that Jess also celebrated J’Ouvert [a Caribbean festival] and had family from Barbados like me.” Even in this classroom in one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Marcy, a youth with Haitian roots, mused, “I didn’t realize everyone is as diverse as I am,” a commentary on the too often-invisible multiplicity of her community. Tee noted that she hadn’t realized a peer was “from St. Lucia” or another from “the Bronx.” As cosmopolitan invitations, artifacts harness collective knowledge and the cultural pluralism of contemporary classrooms.

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Jul 9
Danyel C (Jul 09 2022 9:28AM) : This made me pause--it's a shift to think of everyone as diverse even though when we promote diversity we are promoting inclusion. Often as a white woman, I feel excluded from the term diverse which is counterintuitive.
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Jul 11
Heather M (Jul 11 2022 12:00AM) : You are definitely onto something, Danyel! more

I think that sometimes in today’s methods, the initial kernel of truth and authenticity gets lost in buzz words and what is “supposed to be.” Admin, supervisors, teachers, etc. – adults – make their own interpretations and foist them on the students for the betterment of society. But if our students were ACTUALLY listened to first, the adult powers-that-be would be schooled. The conversations held in innocence BEFORE the ‘instruction’ of the children hold the answers the adults are trying to “teach” them.

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LISTENING TO OBJECTS

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If objects do indeed “talk,” as Miller has noted, then inviting them into the classroom creates an opportunity to listen to them. In her final reflection on the “Where I’m From” project, Tee wrote, “I think that [artifacts are] a powerful way to tell your own story because they create a completely different side to how people see you. It’s also interesting in what ways you show yourself in comparison to who people tell you you are.” Objects tell stories of lives in ways that language may not be able to; they help youth and teachers move beyond rehearsed stories and identity categories and into a richer sense of self and others (Miller).

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Artifacts invite the cosmopolitan practices of self-awareness and curiosity about others in part because they “expand the differences and similarities in view” (Hansen 54). Even seemingly homogenous communities are far more diverse than we sometimes recognize. By offering windows into students’ homes and communities, artifactual curriculum nurtures a sense of unity across wide swaths of difference.

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Jul 11
Mary Lea C (Jul 11 2022 8:42AM) : With artifacts students have an opportunity to show how they see themselves. This is becoming more and more rare in our society.
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Jul 7
Jill S (Jul 07 2022 7:49AM) : All content should be taught with this kind of relevance.
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NOTE

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All student names are pseudonyms.

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WORKS CITED

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DeJaynes, Tiffany, and Christopher Curmi. “Youth as Cosmopolitan Intellectuals.” English Journal, vol. 104, no. 3, 2015, pp. 75–80.

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Hansen, David. The Teacher and the World: A Study of Cosmopolitanism as Education. Routledge, 2011.

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Hull, Glynda, et al. “Cultural Citizenship and Cosmopolitan Practice: Global Youth Communicate Online.” English Education, vol. 42, no. 4, 2010, pp. 331–67.

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Miller, Daniel. The Comfort of Things. Polity, 2008.

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Pahl, Kate, and Jennifer Rowsell. Artifactual Literacies: Every Object Tells a Story. Teachers College P, 2010.

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Smith, Keri. How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum. Particular Books, 2008.

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DMU Timestamp: June 22, 2022 03:58

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Jul 5
Jill S (Jul 05 2022 9:10AM) : I like this as a starting point for our youth classes. Defining artifact in these terms for our students.
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Jul 11
Heather M (Jul 11 2022 12:21AM) : I love the ideas contained in this document, and they obviously have true merit! more

My concern would be that there are SO MANY good ideas out there! As seen during the pandemic as a classroom teacher, my supervisor and those above her and up the food chain found new websites, articles, ideas, and projects to try nearly every day. They tried out new and engaging platforms and programs to inform us of their findings, recording themselves being goofy in videos as they experimented with technology they now wanted us to try out. They fully expected these ‘newsies’ to be integrated into our plans. Meanwhile, we as teachers did not have the luxury of research as we were trying to navigate this new type of online teaching while the families of our students struggled.

To Clemencia’s point in Paragraph 3 concerning time in which to cover curricula, as well as my response, this would be another choice to make. And would it pass muster with my supervisor? Or would I have to go to war to get something new added in to try? With an already bursting-at-the-seems curriculum that never quite seems to be gotten through, is it really worth it? (Of course it is!!! But still…) And if it is implemented, can it really be given the time and attention as expended during the research completed for this piece? Or would it need to be boiled down to a several-day study with a product at the end to justify its relevance? And in doing this, that authentic kernel that could pop into a bag of community popcorn becomes just another checked box, or “maybe next year” that never quite happens. I don’t want to sound pessimistic as I really am ever the optimist! But I am also a realist and know that there is so much good that needs to be implemented, but something has to give in order for that change to take place.

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