I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and thank you for the opportunity to share this discussion with everybody.
My name is Robert Genaille and I am mixed Stó:lō and Anishnaabe (Plains Ojibwe) ancestry and I am a teacher working in the Fraser-Cascade School District in British Columbia. I am, primarily a secondary teacher and have taught in several high schools, covering a variety of courses: English 8-12, Social Studies 8-11, BC First Nations Studies 12, Planning 10, Art, Foods, and Resource Room. Currently I am teaching Tourism 11/12, and modified versions of English 10, Planning 10 and Earth Science 11. I am also a Special Education case manager and also handled a caseload of First Nations students, while in a previous position. In addition, I currently sit as Chair of the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee for the BC Teachers' Federation, sit on the Fraser-Cascade Teachers' Association Executive as the Aboriginal Education Rep, a position that I have held since it was originated three years ago. Finally, I represent my Band on my local Aboriginal Education Council.
I also own a film and television production company with my brother, but that is a topic for another post.
I know that we need Aboriginal Education, my two previous posts did sort of address the issue. I am planning to explore the definition of Aboriginal Education as time goes on and I will attempt to lay out for you what I see as the necessary elements for its success as well as try to develop a vision of what we want to accomplish. There are three elements to Aboriginal education that I see:
1) Success for Aboriginal students
2) Understanding and acceptance of the Indigenous lived experience by non-Native people.
3) Equitable and fair treatment of Aboriginal people in Canadian society, which in the situation I find myself includes the employment equity program I am working to achieve in BC.
There is no agreement within Aboriginal communities on what success for Aboriginal students looks like. Different things are important to different partners in the education of our children. I have, from time to time, felt this to be a negative, but there are also huge positives that go along with this, as the conversation that we can have has the potential to be deep and give birth to innovation and real transformation.
My first post Why do We Need Aboriginal Education?, addressed the the second element that I will be exploring as time goes on. The post itself will soon be released as an article in the BCTF Aboriginal Education Association's journal. There is so much more that can be added to that article, so much that is ignored by Canadian society about Aboriginal people and their lived experience in this country. I hope to uncover some of it and explore some of the myths surrounding the First Nations people. This is something that needs to happen, otherwise we reinforce stereotypes and continue to avoid understanding difference and truly coming to know and accept the uniqueness we all bring to the table.
The third element is important if we want to break the cycles that we all live in. I know that there is a lot of talk of being treated equal, but how are you equal when you come from such a disparate situation? There are voices that argue for the abolition of "special status", but I do not believe that that is fair at this time. Many First Nations people are already on the bottom of society as it is, removing that "special status" and treating FN people equally only further reinforced the inequality that is embedded within society. This society likes to find fault in the other, likes to condemn the vulnerable for the situation they are in. This is not fair when the situation is the making of someone else and the continuation is the result not of the vulnerable but of the dominant society's policies. I will be focusing on employment equity for the time being, I suspect. It is an issue that I am deeply involved with in the BCTF and the FCTA in my school district and it is one that I think is necessary for all the other elements to be achieved. Teachers of Aboriginal ancestry have to fight to be recognized by their colleagues as "real" teachers. This is ongoing and really sad. I am still often mistaken for a support worker, despite having my teaching certification and a Masters degree in Education. How teachers are treated by their colleagues is reflected back by the students who see this and copy it. How an Aboriginal student sees the Aboriginal teacher treated (if, indeed there is one around), is how the student feels they are expected to be treated as well.
At any rate, issues that will be explored and I hope will start conversations. I will be attempting to get some other teachers and advocates to comment or post on my blog, as guests to present their thoughts on issues for you to hear and experience. We'll see if that works or not. As I said, I will try to lay out what Aboriginal education is to me, what it could be and what it is. I have been asking Aboriginal teachers or contacts around the province of late what they see has been accomplished here and what they want to see in the future. I am hoping to do that here.
I haven't forgotten about language and culture as a necessity to Aboriginal Education. I will be exploring that as well. One of the ongoing debates I have had with other teachers of Aboriginal ancestry, is the centrality of this one to student success.
At some point, I will also explain my blog's title.
And maybe talk about resources and research. And share some of the stuff I see as potential avenues for success and cultural identity development. As you may have guessed, I like film and I am also very interested in how our youth, our people can use the media of popular culture to preserve and evolve their cultures and develop an identity for themselves. Maybe I'll post my M.Ed final project, which explores Native identity construction through hip hop, with you here. Plus I may just reflect on what I am doing from time to time.
I do want to thank you for your patience with this blog, I am still figuring it out, some of the posts are looking a little weird, I like the look of the blog, but am having trouble with the colour of the text and different links. I also want to thank you for your tweets to me regarding my family's hurts. They were much appreciated. I had been able to distance myself, somewhat clinically from suicide, but that is hard to do when it is family, and so many in such a short time.
Anyway...That is the plan at the moment. We'll see how it turns out. It may be intermittent from time to time, the life of a teacher is somewhat hectic. Hope your holidays are going well and you had a Merry Christmas. Have a Happy New Year everybody.