I have a love/hate relationship with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). I live on reserve and have always been suspicious of Aboriginal organizations who are working in my best interest with the blessing of the federal government. Plus I've had ideological differences regarding education with people from the organization. I am not trying to tear them down in this post, however, I am actually praising their work. (I have yet to examine the tripartite agreement they recently signed but I am hearing positive things about it). At any rate, there is a lot of good work done there on behalf of First Nations people in fighting for the right to a good education for our children.
The annual Aboriginal Education conference is an excellent program they roll out each year which brings together hundreds of people from around the province to network, share and learn on the subject of Aboriginal Education and how to improve the system (public, private, reserve) for First Nations and Aboriginal students. Part of that does entail the integration of Indigenous into the system to teach others about the experience.
At the last conference, in addition to a brilliant presentation by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, FNESC presented an excellent panel, bringing together District Aboriginal Principals, from three very different districts, to talk about what they are doing in terms of Aboriginal programs in their districts.
I was spellbound. The programs were thoughtful, innovative and well received (I wish I could detail them but some personal challenges have dominated my time this year and the details have faded from memory). I recall that the three districts had three different circumstances and had designed their programs to meet their specific needs. And they sounded incredible.
I am grateful to FNESC for bringing them together to share so that we could learn and think.
How many of those leaders of education went back to their districts and reported on the conference? Did they present these ideas to their boards and say, "we should consider some of these or something similar in our district?" Or did they say "I learned a lot," and then left it there?
I sat in on a workshop presented by my colleague and friend, Chris Wejr, recently, on social media and it's power to inspire connections and relationships. He mentioned that ideas not shared are ideas that just stop right there. One of the advantages of social media is that if I share my idea with you, it can evolve and change, and other people can grab it and grow it as well.
Did the ideas presented at FNESC go beyond that first sharing in the conference room. Were they brought around Board tables or advisory committee tables and talked about?
I want to say I hope so, but I am pessimistic. I will put this forward though: you are our education leaders. You are our advocates. Aboriginal children face many challenges in Canada, schooling is only one of them. As the school year begins, please remember to respect who they are and where they are coming from. Honour the fact that they are there and they and their family want this education, even if they can't show it the way you would recognize it. Listen to the child, young or old. They will tell you what they need. Share with them, learn from them, keep an open mind to different pedagogies and epistemologies. Communicate with those who are trying things to improve our students' worlds.
And go beyond just listening.