Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reflecting on Teacher Burnout

I will be, this year, leading a teacher inquiry project into the burnout rates of Aboriginal teachers and some of the reasons these might take place.  I am doing this on behalf of the Aboriginal Education Professional Specialists’ Association of the BCTF.  I have felt stressed in the job, to the point where I was ready to leave the profession, and was wondering how and why Aboriginal teachers deal with the stress and challenges we face daily in our positions.  What do Aboriginal teachers deal with?  How do they handle the challenges?  How does it affect the teachers?  What types of supports are available?  How does seeing Aboriginal teachers burning out affect our students of Aboriginal ancestry?  That is just generally the idea.  The proposal I submitted is far more in depth, but the nature of the Inquiry leaves a lot of room for the question to change.  It is the process, after all that is really important here.  I will be convening a group of Aboriginal teachers and, basically, carrying on a roundtable discussion on the topic.  From there, I hope the discourse evolves and we come to some conclusion.  If we, don’t that is okay too.  We may decide to do a larger research project, but I want to try this method and see what happens. 
I am using the document A Study of Aboriginal Teachers’ Professional Knowledge and Experience in Canadian Schools  prepared by Dr. Verna St. Denis for the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, as a starting source and building on it with the experiences of the teachers I will be working with  (FYI, the BCTF is not affiliated with the CTF).  The STARS Anti-Racism and Indigenous Education Resource Blog features a post about a presentation by Dr. St. Denis on the report.  It is well written and she builds her presentation historically.  I would love to see her present (I am a fan of her work, and have referenced her in this blog before and used her extensively in my grad program). 

One of the common themes I keep hearing is that of racism in the school system, systemic and otherwise and I am curious on how to deal with that.  I know that I do not always handle it well, I find it silencing and it is never dealt with satisfactorily.  Another theme I am interested in is the go-to guy idea, where the Aboriginal teacher becomes the problem solver for all issues involving Aboriginal students and the expert on Aboriginal history and culture.

The filmmaker in me wants to film the discussion, but that will be up to the participants.

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