Pages

Monday, March 7, 2011

Some Inspiring Moments this Past Week

Hi everyone,
I hope this post finds you well.  There is still snow on the ground outside, and considering it is March and it showed up at the end of February after a winter of no snow, I am impressed with it.  A short twenty minute drive away, there is no snow whatsoever.
 
I just returned from Prince George where I had the opportunity to visit the Aboriginal Choice School.  I went in my official capacity as Chair of the BCTF Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee.  I was very happy to have been able to do this and while I would love to write a more in-depth story about the visit, I forgot to ask permission to do so.  Suffice it to say, the school is going through some growing pains and faces many challenges, but I was impressed with what I witnessed and the ideas that the Principal shared were exciting.  I went in there wanting to like the school and I came out liking it.  I asked the questions that needed to be asked about curriculum and teacher training and development and got the answers I expected.  It was positive.

There was no answer to the last question I had for them though: How can I support you?  I am going to report to the AEAC what I witnessed and encourage the committee to find ways to support the teachers and students at the Aboriginal Choice School.  They are trying something different and I hope it is a success.

While I was in Prince George, I was also tasked with presenting a couple of workshops at the North Central Zone Professional Development Day.  I was very pleased to see the turnout (27 in the first session, 22 in the second), I almost didn't have enough room in the class I was given.  I was intimidated by the numbers, but I am thrilled to report that it seemed to go very well both times.  I even had a few teachers from the Choice school in attendance.  The groups were thoughtful, articulate and willing to learn, teach and share. 

I did the Working with Aboriginal Youth workshop that was designed at BCTF, although to be honest, I don't use any of their material, I have tried to make it my own by throwing out the facilitator notes and asking the group, in a circle, what are they hoping to learn by coming here today.  From there we explore the history and lived experience of Aboriginal youth that could be called shared and then move into more specific needs.  This workshop has always vexed me a little bit.  I worry about the stigma of needing a course to explore strategies for working with our youth, but I am happy to point out that the teachers present are recognizing that it isn't the students that need to change or be strategized about, instead it is the teachers and the system that needs to change to become welcoming and safe for our youth.  The feedback seems to indicate that all youth benefit from this.  The workshop is less a workshop than it is a conversation.

I also had a chance to see my Grandma and an Aunt and my cousin and her family, whom I haven't seen, or really spoken to, in years.  I almost didn't contact them to tell them I was coming, I am not good at family things, or small talk, or being social in general...  I am glad I did though.  It was a great reunion, and Grandma was very happy that I had visited (at least I think she was happy to see me).  Plus the snow in her yard was higher than I am tall, it was so cool.

In other news, I wanted to share with you that I participated in a short interview with Brian Barry, a teacher and blogger from Nunavut, for his "A Short Conversation with..." series on his blog Against the Wind.  If you are interested, it can be found here.  It was fun to be a part of it.

I want to thank Starleigh for her wonderful guest post, Where are the Berries?  It was thoughtful, exciting to read and inspiring.  Her story is an excellent reminder of everything we take for granted and the need to be open to listening and learning about all that surrounds us.  Her blog is Twinkle's Happy Place.  I did provide a guest post for her as well, and I hope that we are able to collaborate that way again.

Finally, two posts on Shannon Smith's blog Shannon In Ottawa, "Tell New Stories" and "What is your 'Why'" have been haunting me a little bit.  Part of that is because she completely stole my thunder on a planned post about Thomas King's The Truth About Stories, but also because I have been considering the importance of stories and the new means of storytelling that are available to share what we have learned and what needs to be learned for our youth, cultures and identities to survive and flourish.  Thank you Shannon, for mentioning me in your post, but also for reminding us of the need to learn and share as we do.  As well, you also have me thinking about my "why" as well.

So, all in all, I was very happy with the week that was.  Thought I'd share.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Robert,

    Wow, I am so honoured to be mentioned in your post. You need to write your piece on the importance of stories - I need to read that. The notion of narrative and the transformative power of story is stuck in my head right now. I find myself going back to Thomas King again and again. Stephen Hurley has also written on the importance of story, and he also used the Tom King quote. I don't know if you know Stephen's blog (probably do), but just in case - it is http://teachingoutloud.org.

    Thank YOU for writing that makes me think, moves me and reminds me of why we need to connect.

    Shannon

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Robert,

    Thank you once again for facilitating the Working with Aboriginal Youth workshop in Prince George! Using your own style made it feel so much more real and comfortable despite the sometimes uncomfortable places and truths we need to examine. I came away feeling so positive and truly appreciate your comment that it is not the youth but the system and schools that need to change to be more welcoming and safe.

    Rebecca

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kwe Robert,
    I came across your name in the Indian Country news mag and was struck by your comment that Aboriginal Ed. is about educating everyone and how our esistemologies and pedagogies have a lot to offer - to put it mildly. I found your Blog, Where's the sheep and am in a bit of a shocked state after reading that the teachers and the system need to change to offer a education that is "safe" for our Aboriginal children & youth. Taking that further, we need to be self-aware of our colonial thinking. Why do we continue to try equate our white brothers' institutions of society. What is wrong with the value laden practices of being Aboriginal, Indigenous, Indian (you pick the word) in mind, body and spirit? Yes, we need to find a way to exist in this Western lifestyle that we can't escape but we need to remember that a balance needs to exist. I would say a more weighty balance towards Aboriginalness than the other way. We are becoming our own assimilaters. When I talk like this to some, the first comment is "We can't return to the teepees!". First of all, its not that black and white and second, be open-minded to the value of what made our people wise before the Western education imposed their benchmarks on worth. Not all Aborigianl people want to be Aboriginal. But let's not discourage those who find complete fulfillment in living, believing and thinking with Aboriginal perspectives and most importantly preserve the culture and language which co-incidently hinges upon our ability to assert our Aboriginal rights, nationhood & sovereignty. Some of our own people criticize us for wanting to maintain our Creator ordained ways of being. The sweat log that was "banned" in a Cree community is the perfect example. The Ab Min of Affairs Chris Bentley spoke of forging economic relationships between Aboriginal communities and the mining industry when asked about teen suicide in the north. He furthered this by saying he sent Laural Broten to 4 community to ask about the social ills and she will work with him on how to strengthen the approach to youth issues. Let's hope that she discovered that the high rates of suicide are a symptom of the imbalance in spirituality, the social marginalization, the removal of the choice to live off the land or cultural annihilation is the cause and plans to correct this with Aboriginal strategies and that the Minister is missing the target with providing "economic opportunities" to a very sick societal structure. Well, our perspective of the target. He's a hero to the corporations. He's right up there with Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Henry Hudson, Lewis and Clark. He will be haled for the same reasons. Swindling the 'Indians' out of what is theirs. It was in fact it was the economic opportunities or greed of the large corporations and the gov that created the psychological disparity. Forcing people to pick up and move to unfamiliar territory is inhumane but happens before the entire country of Canada and the world because they happen to be sitting on a money maker for them. This has happened to all Aboriginal people in North America and continues in the South America where untapped resources are the new battle ground for the greedy corporations of the world. How do we help them from being driven to state we're in today? So, I applause people like you who recognize that youth can target, direct and drive learning through a facilitator who can reach their destination with meaning and successful purpose. We should really rethink sending our children through and education system that was written with non-Aboriginal philosophies and values. Let's really value what our ancestors valued - FOR REAL - not just the clothes, jewelery and dancing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. From the Grand RiverMarch 17, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    I was struck by your comment that Aboriginal Ed. is about educating everyone.I was happy to read that its becoming apparent that the teachers and the system need to change to offer a education that is "safe" for our Aboriginal children.Taking that further, we need to assess and be self-aware of our own colonial thinking. Why do we continue to try equate our white brothers' institutions of society?What is wrong with the value laden practices of being Aboriginal in mind, body and spirit?Yes, we need to find a way to exist in this Western lifestyle that we can't escape but we need to remember that a balance needs to exist.I would say a more weighty balance towards Aboriginal-ness.We need to recognize that we have become our own assimilaters.Some comment,"We can't return to the teepees!".1st of all, its not that black and white and 2nd, our ancestors flourished before the Western education imposed their benchmarks on worth.They lived the "green" lifestyle that would save our earth from destruction today.Not all Aboriginal people want to be Aboriginal but we need to uphold those who find complete fulfillment in living, believing and thinking with Aboriginal perspectives and most importantly preserve the culture and language which co-incidently hinges upon our ability to assert our Aboriginal rights, nationhood & sovereignty.What's wrong when a sweat log & traditional practices are "banned" on a Cree reserve? The Ab Min of Affairs Chris Bentley spoke of forging economic relationships between Aboriginal communities and the mining industry when asked about teen suicide in the north! He sent Laural Broten to 4 communities to ask about the social ills and that she will work with him on how to strengthen the approach to youth issues. Let's hope that she discovered that the high rates of suicide are a symptom of the imbalance in spirituality, the social marginalization, the removal of the choice to live off the land and centuries of legislated cultural annihilation is the cause and recommends Aboriginal strategies instead of providing "economic opportunities" to a very sick societal structure. Bentley's perspective is to further assimilate because he believes we will be better off once we become a part of the economic system that has historically not benefited Aboriginals. He's a hero to the corporations. He's right up there with Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Henry Hudson, Lewis and Clark. He will be haled for the same reasons -- swindling the 'Indians' out of what is theirs. In fact the imposed Western economic structure, attainment of wealth for a few, is the direct reason for the psychological disparity amongst all Indigenous peoples of North America. We were coerced out of our land base because we didn't "develope" the land according to the Western definition. This continues in North & South America today. So, I applause people like you who recognize that education for our children needs a new approach and that the youth can target, direct and drive learning through a facilitator who can reach their destination with meaning and successful purpose. We should really rethink sending our children through and education system that was written with non-Aboriginal philosophies and values. Let's really value what our ancestors valued - FOR REAL - not just the clothes, jewelery and dancing.

    ReplyDelete