History is Cool

A few months ago, I completed an internship at an awesome organization called ALPHA Education, whose goal is to get people thinking about social justice issues through the lens of the Asia-Pacific War (WWII in Asia). It was a weird change being away from loud kids and moving to a tiny, quiet desk, but I learned a lot in my time there! I wrote a little testimonial thing for ALPHA’s website/facebook page, and I thought I’d share it here!

5 things i learned while interning at alpha

1. History is personal.

One of the things that drew me to intern at ALPHA was the fact that it was something I could relate to. Though I didn’t know much about the Asia-Pacific War before I arrived, I knew that I would be able to make connections to the content because of my Chinese ethnicity. When I was in grade 10, learning about World War II in history class, I never thought that it had anything to do with me. At ALPHA, I realized that the war actually hit very close to me – the first Canadian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWII was killed in the same Hong Kong neighbourhood that my father grew up in.

2. There are so many ways to raise awareness about this history.

I really appreciated how diverse ALPHA’s work was. The organization creates teacher resources, organizes and speaks at student conferences, engages people through social media, and is holding an art contest this summer. (If you’re in the Toronto area and visual art/performing/writing/video-making is something you’re good or just okay at, apply! Details here.)

3. Teaching DOESN’T just belong in a classroom.

I interned with ALPHA as part of my alternative practicum. This meant that my only requirement for choosing a place to intern at was that I could not work at a public school in Ontario. The goal of the practicum is to show teacher candidates the wide range of things we can do with our Education degrees. I did a huge range of work at ALPHA, including things that I definitely will not need to do as a classroom teacher. In terms of the more traditional teaching, I led workshops at the History Meets Humanity Conference, as well as York University’s Change Your World Conference. But I spent most of my time translating and creating resources for teachers to use in the classroom, and I also spent some time updating the ALPHA Facebook page, and playing around with graphic design to create a newsletter for students. I really enjoyed getting to do so many different things, and I think that these new experiences will help make me a better teacher in the future.

4. Teamwork is awesome!

One of the great things about interning at ALPHA was the people I worked with. Since ALPHA doesn’t have many staff, everyone has to pull their own weight and be committed to the work. Even I was given important responsibilities, and I really felt like I was contributing to the organization and to the cause itself, achieving peace and reconciliation for the victims of the Asia-Pacific War.

5. It’s important to care.

Even though ALPHA is still a pretty small organization, it has already done so much in making people aware of the atrocities of the Asia-Pacific War. I think that is because the people who work and volunteer for ALPHA truly care. Reading students’ responses about what they learned and how they feel about the war showed me that ALPHA is truly making a difference! I have definitely been inspired to continue telling people about what happened in Asia during WWII. Because of this internship, raising awareness about the Asia-Pacific War will always be a cause that is important to me.


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