Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Journal of Curriculum Studies 35:4 (2003), pp. 409–423.

doi: 10.1080/0022027032000122494


Copyright © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd. Used by permission.


Multiculturalism has been identified as the key educational issue of the epoch. However, despite studies acknowledging the importance of multiculturalism and multilingualism in school contexts and research that attests to the importance of teachers learning about individual students’ experiences of culture rather than generalizing knowledge about culture groups to individual students, there exists only a small, and mostly recent, literature examining ethnic identity experientially. In the spirit of work done by Phillion (1999, 2002), He (1998, 2002a, b), and Hoffman (1989) examining the complexities of factors shaping a sense of ethnic identity, I examine here the experiences of first-generation Chinese Canadians as they interact with their peers and teachers at Bay Street School. I reflect on stories of Chinese New Year experiences, both personal experiences and stories gathered through observations and conversations with members of the Bay Street School community during school visits, to demonstrate ways in which the school contexts of first-generation Chinese Canadians may have contributed to a sense of ethnic identity as changing and shifting across landscapes of difference. I ask: How do individuals born in Canada to immigrant parents and educated in Canadian schools with children of diverse ethnic backgrounds think about and express their sense of ethnic identity? How are cultural differences addressed in the curriculum and in interactions in a school context? How do my experiences of ethnic identity across time, place, and circumstances shape my interpretation of the experiences of my participants? I interweave my personal stories of experience as a first-generation Chinese Canadian, former classroom teacher, and educational researcher with those of my first-generation Chinese-Canadian students, their peers, and their teachers. I use my own stories of experience to demonstrate the idea of ethnic identity in transition across different contexts and situations over many years.