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“ Having the resolve and commitment to see change happen: ” Becoming and being an ally of Aboriginal education. Learning From Practice: An Exchange of Teacher Knowledge and Research Saskatoon, SK November 20, 2010 Verna St . Denis, Ph . D . University of Saskatchewan
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Learning From Practice: An Exchange of Teacher Knowledge and Research
November 20, 2010
Research Funded by CCL, CTF and member organizations
Address the urgent need to improve and promote Aboriginal education in public schools.
Promote on-going dialogue and learning about Aboriginal education within teacher organizations and the broader educational community.
What can we learn from the professional knowledge and experiences of Aboriginal (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) teachers who teach in public schools about how to better promote and support the success of Aboriginal education in those schools?
Professional Knowledge and Experience
What counts as ‘professional’ is related to the way in which teachers relate to other people (students, colleagues, parents) and the responsibilities, attitudes, and behaviors they adopt as well as the knowledge they use which are, more or less, outside themselves. (Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004, p.125)
1. Philosophy of teaching
2. Integrating Aboriginal content and
perspectives into the curriculum
3. Racism in education
4. Allies of Aboriginal education
How a group of people that share some feature or features (Morse & Richards, 2002, p. 53), see their own actions, others’ actions and the context (Punch, 2005, p. 150)
Aboriginal teachers self identified as First Nations, Metis or Inuit
Had a minimum of 5 years of experience teaching in grades 4 – 8
Teaching experience in public schools with a presence of Aboriginal students
59 Aboriginal teachers (49 female and 10 male)
9 groups of Aboriginal teachers [41-49]
One third had twenty or more years of teaching experience
One third had ten or more years of teaching experience
Half of the participants were graduates of Aboriginal programs
Two methods of data collection
Open-ended questionnaire [individual and writing]
Focus group interviews [audio-taped]
One full day of data collection per group
Techniques of ‘grounded theory’
(Miles & Huberman 1994; Charmaz, 2006).
1. Describe the professional and personal qualities of a non-Aboriginal colleague who you found to be effective in supporting your work as a teacher.
2. Describe the strategies of non-Aboriginal colleagues and/or administrators who you regarded as supportive and generally making the school an affirming place for Aboriginal teachers, students and families.
Is a member of a dominant group [race, class, gender etc], who acknowledges and uses their position of power and privilege to create institutional and cultural change
(Broido, 2000; Reason & Broido, 2005; Jenkins, 2009; Kahn & Ferguson, 2010; Lopes & Thomas, 2006).
They learn about patterns and effects of oppression, including unlearning the invisibility of privilege as well as making connections between multiple forms of oppression
(Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997; Bishop, 2002; Hermes, 2005; Kaomea, 2005).
Acknowledge that unlearning oppressive beliefs and actions is a lifelong process
(Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997; Bishop, 2002; Rogers & Jaime, 2010).
Inspire and educate dominant group members to unlearn oppression
(Bishop, 2002; Broido, 2000; Jenkins, 2009; Reason & Broido, 2005).
Take risks,stepping outside their comfort zone
(Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997; Bishop, 2002, Kahn & Ferguson, 2010; Rogers & Jaime, 2010)
Are actively self-reflective and admit to and willing to learn from mistakes
(Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997; Kahn & Ferguson, 2010)
Work collaboratively and in alliance with oppressed groups
(Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997; Broido, 2000; Jenkins, 2009; Kaomea, 2005; Lopes & Thomas, 2006; Reason & Broido, 2005)
Listen closely to the wisdom of oppressed groups
(Adams, Bell, Griffin, 1997; Bishop, 2002; Kaomea, 2005).
Avoid the trap of knowing what is good for marginalized groups
(Bishop, 2002, Kaomea, 2005)
Allies Are Difficult To Find
often alone (47)
Encounter colleagues who just didn’t care(46)
Maybe it’s getting late in the day, but it’s almost like our Native students are like shadows. They come and they go, they’re invisible, they are usually not behaviour problems, they come and they go, they either do their work, or they don’t do their work, they’re in school, and they are not in school, the connections aren’t there. (43)
Colleagues who say all the right things, they know what to do, .. but it’s ‘the look’, the body language (46)
It’s like you’re from another planet and yet they’re working with Native students or they won’t look at you or they will say things without saying anything, but body language says a lot (43)
I didn’t get the message through very clearly unless it was done by a non-Aboriginal person, because they were willing to listen to the non-Aboriginal person (47).
Working With Aboriginal Communities Could Also Pose Challenges
We’re a bridge to the community but…the community keeps pulling the pillars out from the bridge. …After a while you end up getting confused and do not know what you are doing (45)
Being a professional involves relating to:
Being a professional also involves:
Develop that friendship.. [your Aboriginal students] are little human beings. They understand when they are wanted. I think that’s the missing part in our education, the connection between the teacher and the student (42).
who are learners and not just teachers; they are individuals who get to know children and families. It’s not just ‘another September’ and we file another group through the room and they’ll leave, and then ‘next September’ comes. Instead these teachers can actually tell you about each of those kids, they are people who themselves listen, ask questions and listen some more, they will challenge themselves and challenge you as well. (48)
Open to different views and they remain positive in light of adversity; [they] . . . remain committed to finding the light, always (45)
I thought of a non-First Nation teacher, who was very, very involved, very understanding, and positive. Even though some things didn’t work, she still stayed positive… they seek the goodness and pass that on to the children (45).
Non-Aboriginal people in the communities who are effective talk about our children in a positive manner all the time. I’ve worked in many small communities and generally there are those non-Aboriginal teachers who walk in and are always negative. And then there other ones that really make a difference, and they are the ones that actually see the good things in that child and were positive all the time. I was never sad to see those ones that were negative leave (41).
aware of the historical traumas and events, so they’re more aware of the Aboriginal students plight. Those kind of teachers are making a difference in students’ lives (46).
Sometimes in our community things are very tough. If you take the risk of becoming part of a community, then you get the joy but you also get the sadness (41).
We learned a lot of valuable stuff together (43).
We give our [non-Aboriginal] ally ideas and she’ll fly with it (48).
Want to see me succeed as an Aboriginal educator. They are going to do whatever they can do to help further Aboriginal education, to help you bring up the issues. However, they know is it is your voice that needs to be heard and not theirs. And so they do whatever they can to lift you up on their shoulders. (47)
I have to stand up for Aboriginal people in our country who do not have a voice. It is not something I would have chosen to do. I would rather not have to stand up and talk. However, it is something that I feel I have to do. I am passionate about it, because someone has to do it. It is about time somebody stops and listens to us. (43)
PDF of the complete report can be found at:www.ctf-fce.ca/ Priorities/Aboriginal Education