Today I was going to write about team mascots, based on something I read online today. I was mad though and decided to leave it be. Suffice it to say, my last teaching position was in a school with an Indian logo and team name. I did bring it up with the Principal but have no idea if anything was done about it. One of the challenges of taking on the administration is knowing how far out you are willing to stick your neck and the precariousness of my position (temporary, term-specific) meant that I was not feeling all that confident. I will try and write a proper piece on the general topic when I am up to it. Would like to do some follow-up research as well. My students last year did a great unit and project on the subject but we were at a different school. Anyways...
On Monday, I start my teacher inquiry project at the BCTF. I submitted a research question on behalf of the Aboriginal Education Association PSA (provincial specialist association), which is a different entity than the AEACommittee, which I usually work on behalf of. I know, SO MANY acronyms that are essentially the same ones, with slight differences...I know a lot of people that confuse the two groups. It doesn't help that many of the same people hold both committee positions and executive positions in the PSA. The nature of the beast. At any rate, what follows is our initial research question and the rationale for it. The question will evolve as the inquiry meets and discusses it, becoming more focussed and perhaps less broad, I hope. I am waiting to figure out the best methodology and documentation of the inquiry (I want to film it, but my resources are committed and I didn't book the BCTF's in time for the initial meeting. I am also not comfortable just showing up and setting up a camera for the group without their prior consent). It will probably be better to gain a consensus from the group on how to proceed rather than impose my own wishes upon it. I will also wait to hear what they have to say before I blog too much about it.
How is the learning of students affected by the health and well-being of Indigenous teachers who are streamed into enrolling and itinerant categories?
Indigenous teachers are burning out, equity needs to be met and aboriginal students’ needs are not being met. The association would like to explore the implications around this issue and look towards making recommendations to ensure needs of indigenous students and teachers are being met.
It is a fact that there are few indigenous teachers. So much needs to be done, it is hard not to feel the need to do it all, taking on all cultural work and assisting all teachers involved. Indigenous teachers, whether itinerant or enrolling, often feel pressured to step up and meet the diverse needs of indigenous students and their communities. They are often streamed into being a cultural broker, asked to balance the needs of a western education system with the different pedagogical needs of an Indigenous way of life. While the general term for this challenging position is “living in both worlds”, it may be more accurate to say that these teachers are living in the space where these two worlds collide, which may be resulting in the loss of some present and experienced indigenous teachers. The differing value systems, as well as the ongoing legacies of colonization (lack of sense of belonging, little appreciation of cultural values, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, high death rates, high suicide rates) have resulted in a decreased sense of well-being and belonging in both worlds for the Indigenous teacher.
Additionally, the streaming tendency of the education system, the use of targeted dollars to hire Indigenous teachers to work in itinerant, Aboriginal education settings, removed from the classroom, creates issues that affect Aboriginal students’ sense of self worth. How their role models are viewed by the education system does have an effect on their own view of themselves.
Within the school system, students need support, where these issues can be addressed. Students need to see aboriginal teachers in core classes, not only itinerant staff supporting aboriginal students. Each group of these teachers are often isolated from each other and their low numbers deny them a strong voice to advocate for their needs and the needs of Aboriginal students. The Association wishes to research this issue, determine the extent of these dysfunctional experiences and develop strategies to create cohesive worldviews. Acknowledgement and respect for the diversity of different ways of knowing leads to a strengthened sense of self-worth in teachers and students.