July 16th– Thoughts on the discussion with guest speaker Shauneen Pete
A lot of great questions arose in our discussion with guest speaker Shauneen Pete this week, many that need further thought and consideration.
Think about whether we are making race-based decisions in our everyday practice?
I think that we try sometimes to be so culturally sensitive that we miss the mark altogether. I often struggle with ensuring that I am providing the most authenticated materials, however I may be making race-based assumptions about what I think is culturally appropriate for my classroom without really having the full understanding of what constitutes culturally appropriate curriculum.
In addition, when it comes to how we develop our curriculum we also need to think about how we are setting the bar for our students. We should have the same expectations for indigenous learners as we have for all learners, however I feel this has not been the case for many indigenous learners.
Last year for part of our professional development, we read the novel They Call Me Number One by Bev Sellers. This speaks directly to this notion of educational institutions making race-based decisions. Bev spoke in her book of often not feeling valued throughout her educational career and not feeling that she received the same treatment as non-indigenous learners. She speaks to not feeling that her teachers were confident in her abilities, did not push her and therefore this effected the level of effort she exerted during her school years.
There is a new study exploring how race influences teacher’s perceptions of their students academic abilities and the implications and findings are troubling. For more information on this article visit: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2015/8/19/9178573/teacher-students-race-study
How can we enhance the learning of indigenous students to ensure their success?
At my current elementary school the indigenous population is 67%, so it is paramount that we ensure that the indigenous perspectives are heard, and also that teachers feel comfortable with the indigenous content they are expected to teach. I personally feel that often time’s teaching staff are not comfortable with the indigenous content, because they don’t feel that they have a solid understanding or don’t feel that they will do it justice. In not teaching this perspective, we are robing our students of this learning experience. I studied side by side with my students this year while teaching the crests and clans unit as part of the Social Studies component. I think we have to be willing to take risks with our own professional development. Shauneen spoke about reciprocity vs. the burden to teach, this idea that it is not up to indigenous peoples to teach settlers about the indigenous histories of Canada. She talks about the importance of dialogue as a supplement to self-study or professional development. Indigenous educators should not be burdened with the responsibility of teaching everyone else, rather contribute to reciprocal conversations with non-indigenous educators.
How do we make education accessible and create a learning environment where indigenous peoples do not feel like outliers in their own community? This notion that we need to look at the concept of intelligent indigenous labor to ensure that all people feel that they have a place in education. This makes me think about the longstanding arguments in academia, where academic orality and oral histories have not been previously considered primary resources due to the fact that they are not written down. This needs to change as much of indigenous knowledge is about the sharing of stories and experiences through dialogue and should not be devalued.
What kind of acknowledgement do we offer as a reaction to moving forward towards reconciliation?
We need to have the belief that Aboriginal people are integral to the social fabric of Canada, and that providing these educational opportunities which lead to success for Aboriginal learners are vital in education.
Lastly, I enjoyed the section in Shauneen’s article, Idle No More: Radical Indigeneity in Teacher Education that speaks to her efforts to indigenize her own curricular practice through self-study which guides her research and allows her to reflect, look at various artifacts, examine and engage in conversations about her own learning. Some of our best work, when looking at indigenizing our own curricular practice will happen through self-study and professional development. Many of us learn best through experiential learning. We gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the historic content that we are bestowed to teach, and in taking more responsibility and being open and vulnerable to it, we will see a greater connection to the content and the overall experience for our indigenous learners.