13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

Photo 2012-11-12 10 39 36 AM

The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.

In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.

We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.

After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:

13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.

As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.

As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.

Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.

Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.

According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.

I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.

Deborah & Ian McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Classroom Line Up: A First Nations Perspective

I recently broached the topic of the ‘Classroom Line-Up’ with my husband, who is of First Nations descent. I was interested in learning if First Nations communities may have different perspectives about the act of the classroom Line-Up.

I firmly believe that we as educators, all need to work to integrate First Nations, Metis, & Inuit strategies and perspectives into our classroom. We also need to understand the historical and present day influences of the Indian Act of 1876, and the Residential School System within Canada. I think that it is also interesting to understand the practices and mainstays within our school system, and the impact of other cultures viewing these practices in different ways.

So when I brought up the question of how would First Nations communities view  this concept of having students ‘Line up’ in the classroom, I learned something very important about his culture.

First Nations communities are just that, very community minded, and community based. You have heard the expression ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’, and First Nations Communities are no exception. An inherent belief is often that children need to be explorative, without boundaries.

Where mainstream culture would place a lot of importance on having that straight line-up at the door, many Traditional teachers would allow students to explore, and choose how to walk from one point to another. This stems from a deeper belief that people need to find their own paths in life. You walk along those paths that are set out for you in life, and you never deviate too far from those paths. If you do deviate too far from your main path, this is when you will face the most problems.

This caused me to reflect on how we as educators can all work to help students find the best path for themselves, and to try different things out on their own, rather than having it dictated, lectured, or prescribed. It also made me reflect on how we as educators can make the Education system a safer place for not just students who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit descent, but for everyone.

Creating real change in our Education System goes beyond implementing strategies such as restorative practice, talking circles and other holistic and culturally relevant teaching practices. It also extends to how we implement our everyday school rules, policies and procedures. We need to help empower all students to find their own paths in life.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It’s a good thing to be Humble: Humility in our School Systems

 

‘It’s a good thing to be Humble’, my Grandmother once said many years ago. Sounds simple enough, but I always come back to that statement in my life. How can something so simple, have the ability to affect our lives so greatly? Humility one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, and is basically the act of behaving modestly, and respectfully toward others, is something that we may not see enough of today. Especially in this Digital and Information age of online networking and Social Media, with the purposes of self-promotion.

However, this is also a concept that can become lost within our schools. With the education system firmly entrenched in teaching skills that help students survive in the global, and greater culture, we can often forget to consider the stakeholders of our education system, and the real populations that attend our schools.

Humility is a cornerstone of many cultures, including the First Nations, Metis, & Inuit population. The concept of humility has always been firmly entrenched within the cultures that exist today among Aboriginal peoples since time immemorial, including today. Teachers need to keep this in mind when they are working with the Parents and students of First Nations, Metis,  & Inuit descent. Despite the fact that the last Residential School closed in Canada in the 1980, schools can still come across as hostile places for families with Aboriginal backgrounds, who often still feel that assimilation is necessary in order to succeed. However, inclusiveness and humility are necessary to help all families feel welcome and important.

Humility is an important concept to embody when dealing with students and families with special needs as well. It is certainly easy to forget, especially when Educators feel overwhelmed. Educators do not have all of the answers, nor do they have better qualifications than any other parent who is a part of the school to advocate and help their children. It is this aspect of our Board-level Improvement Plans, and Provincial and Federal initiatives that we need to put first on our list, in order to teach the ‘whole’ student, and learn from and with them as we continually co-create our classroom communities. It is important to ensure that teaching practices and strategies both overtly, and covertly, embody humility and respect for everyone involved. No one knows their child better than the parents. Lets express our Humility to all families, and work together in holistic ways to educate our children.

 

 

D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 Reasons to Integrate Indigenous Knowledge into Science Curriculum

Although science values legitimate doubt, The ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

According to the ‘Seven Grandfather Teachings’ what we teach our children now, will have an effect for the next 7 generations. What can Educators teach this generation of students right now, that will help our planet and environment for the next seven generations?

The Science Curriculum is an excellent place to integrate Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and teachings. There are many places to learn about IK, including Cultural Centers and Band Offices, and Ministry of Education Documents. However, Educators also must understand that any IK knowledge to be used in Education, must be approved of by any of the following: the Ministry of Education, Elder, Senator, Traditional Teacher, or prominent Aboriginal community representative! Once we have a firm understanding of the knowledge that we can impart on our students, Educators can begin to infuse this knowledge into our Science Curriculum and create rich learning experiences for our students.

The following are reasons why students and future generations will benefit from incorporating Indigenous Knowledge (IK) into the Science Curriculum:

  1.  Indigenous Knowledge is inextricably linked to global sustainability. Our planet is facing ecological crises as a result of globalization. IK has valuable insights to implementing efficient uses of our land and spiritual relationships with nature. Educators can implement many of these insights into teaching practice.
  2. Students can be taught to sustain life and protect our planet, not exploit it. Conservation of energy and resources, and learning about sustainability is essential to teach our children now, so that they can pass along to future generations.
  3. Indigenous Knowledge can help foster equitable management of resources. Teaching our students to be responsible and economical with our natural resources, and to care to minimize our ecological footprint.
  4. We need to be aware of the human rights of Aboriginal peoples, traditional rights, & intellectual property rights. IK can help us understand how to protect those rights, land, water, and natural resources.
  5. Indigenous Knowledge and Western Knowledge can be taught together. Aboriginal and Western philosophies, beliefs, and spirituality do not need to be taught in opposition, or in isolation. It is only when we can teach our students to understand themselves and the world around them, that we can create true empathy, understanding, and hope for the future of our planet.
  6. Educators can strengthen the capacity of Aboriginal communities and other Canadian counterparts to participate in the conservation management of resources.
  7.  Indigenous Knowledge is an important factor in the preservation of the earth’s diversity and in fostering positive attitudes toward human rights and resource biodiversity.

Integrating IK into Science Curriculum right now, is a great place to start to help improve our planet and environment for the next seven generations.

By: Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

First Nations, Metis, Inuit Stereotypes in our Media

 

 

Who’s voices matter in our Canadian Society? Who’s voices matter in education systems?

The image you have of First Nations, Metis, & Inuit peoples has been impacted by many forms of media, government, society. If you truly consider someone to be an equal, then you cannot think of them as inferior and yourself as superior, or vice versa. So therefore, to think negatively about FNMI people, is really to think of yourself as ‘better’. If we think ourselves better, then we are less likely to be open to hearing any voices other than our own. This has dire effects in education, and perhaps no other education system in Canada has demonstrated this as the Residential School systems. However, First Nations, Metis, Inuit student and family voices are still not being heard or treated equally within our classrooms, curriculum, and pedagogy.

Distorted stereotypes and images of all Aboriginal people are damaging to ALL people (Doxtator, 1992). Most FNMI stereotypes foster extreme forms of thinking including:

a)    FNMI culture asSavage’, wild and uncontrollable: where Aboriginal people have no self-control and are wild or brutal.

b)    FNMI culture as perfection: where we assume that FNMI people have the answers to everything;

c)   ‘Disney’-ifying views: where anything in costume is immediately ‘game’ for photographers. Therefore, ‘Indians’ in ‘costume’ are comparable to ‘Mickey Mouse’ at Disney, or one of ‘Santa’s Elves’, or another storybook character at the local mall, and

d)   Reverse stereotyping, when Aboriginal peoples use stereotypes against each other to deem who is more traditional and ‘real’, and who has sufficient ‘blood’ to be real enough to be considered ‘Indian’.

e) You do not ‘LOOK’ First Nations, Metis, or Inuit, therefore you are NOT! I do not have to include you in my curriculum or pedagogy. No ‘special treatment‘ for you.

There are many more that can be added to this list.

All forms of stereotypes are equally destructive.

Most of our generation has been raised with the story that Christopher Columbus ‘found’ North America in 1492, and that is when ‘civilization’ began. This ‘Story’ was never really about FNMI peoples, because in this ‘Story’, Aboriginal people were just ‘there’, but in negative ways. This ‘story’ still functions today. Especially to the extent that whenever our Country finds itself in competition with FNMI people over resources and land, the images portrayed by the media are always negative, and work to create feelings of hate and anger.

Our school systems suffer from these stereotypes. In the school system, from day one, children are organized and ranked in a hierarchy according to academic performance, athletic abilities, and creative skills. Standardization is still highly valued. FNMI stereotypes do not successfully ‘fit’ with these schemas. To be at the top of the hierarchy, means that someone always has to be at the bottom. Someone needs to be superior, and someone needs to be inferior. Someone’s voice matters more than another. This cannot foster equality.

Whether we are looking at the school system, or conflicts over land and resources, negative stereotypes are continually being perpetuated through our standardized school systems, and media portrayals, thus ignoring the fact that we are all just human beings who deserve to be equal.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reference:

Doxtator, Deborah (1992). Fluff and Feathers. Woodland Cultural Center; Brantford Ontario.

First Nations, Metis and Inuit Stereotypes in Media: Part I

Josh Hallett (Flickr user hyku)

Impressions learned in early childhood can last a lifetime. Which is why stereotypes perpetuated in the media surrounding First Nations, Metis, & Inuit students are damaging. Books in particular invite students, and all people, to learn more about themselves, and the world around them. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all books and media in our schools and libraries work in concert to illustrate the fact that people from diverse cultures can live together, be educated together, play together, work together.

Media stereotypes surrounding Aboriginal people continue to convey many of the wrong messages that we want all students to learn. As educators, I believe that we need to promote multiple cultures, perspectives, and values, and we need to highlight the experiences of those who have been traditionally marginalized throughout history. Safe and inclusive Education is the key that can unlock personal success and well-being.

For aboriginal students, media perpetuated stereotypes can be devastating. It is the stereotypes that prevent opportunities, understanding, tolerance, and inclusiveness. Personal success and well-being can be nurtured when First Nations, Metis, & Inuit students can see themselves reflected positively in media, books and in positive role models.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.