Saturday, 27 October 2012

What To Do When You Aren't The Right Person For The Job

     Yesterday I posted about how things have been progressing in my World Issues class (I will be posting about my Canadian History class on Monday). One thing I did not mention, however, is one of the difficulties I experienced.

     As you know, we have been learning about "Indigenous Peoples of The World" and have been comparing and contrasting the First Nations groups of Canada with Indigenous groups in Ethiopia, Kenya and New Zealand. On Friday I presented some information on First Nations people in regards to clothing, food, employment, and homes. I will note that most of this information was a repeat of information they had learned in the various Social Studies classes they have taken throughout school.

    I immediately noticed that two of my nine students became completely disengaged. They did not participate in our group discussions, write down important notes or attempt the assignment that we were working on. An important thing to know about these students is that they are the only two students in my class who have a First Nations background.

     As class was finishing up and I, admittedly, was feeling pretty confused, one of my disengaged students approached me and stated, "White girls have no right teaching about First Nations people" before walking out the door to her next class. It was an immediate blow to the heart and it hurt me to know that she was so upset by having me teach her this unit. On one hand, I am happy she walked away immediately because I honestly had no idea how to respond.

     Thankfully, I have a pretty good support team around me and have been able to talk this over with my cooperating teacher, fiance and my Aboriginal Studies professor at university. While I am still feeling pretty bad about the situation I am already thinking of ways to fix it:
- Reference the Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives into Curricula document to learn
  more about providing inclusive learning opportunities for Aboriginal students
- Try to build a relationship with my students outside of the classroom (visit
   their sports games, be present at student spirit events, etc)
- Focus on the inquiry-based learning opportunities in the classroom (move
  the teaching away from me and focus on the students interests)
- Plus, on Tuesday, I am having a member of the Speaker's Bureau  from the
  Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba come speak to our class

     Hopefully this can help provide learning opportunities that are more comfortable for all of my students. What are your thoughts? I would really like your opinions!


  1. I taught on a Northern Manitoba reserve for two years and sometimes felt like my students hadn't had much great exposure to their own culture. They had Cree class 3 times a week, but that was for language and culture combined, and there just wasn't enough time to expose them to everything.
    I made sure any posters I purchased had native children on them (
    I used the medicine wheel as part of science to show cycles.
    In art we drew the seven spirits.
    In social studies I always used their community as an example when comparing parts of Canada (ie- describe what it was like here 200 years ago, now and 200 years in the future)
    I bought read aloud books from a variety of native writers (for fairy tales, I read rough faced girl). I cannot bebin to count how many Nanabushu books I bought and borrowed to read.
    When using music to teach reading, I used My paddles keen and bright, amoung others.

    I'm having a 100 followers celebration, would you please consider linking up? I'd love to feature you.
    Mrs. D

  2. Mrs. D, I had forgotten you had taught in MB before moving! These are all really great suggestions. Thank you so much! I actually have a really good lesson plan on the seven spirits that I am hoping to incorporate when we start working on world view.

    PS, I am all linked up with your giveaway now :)

  3. Miss L
    This is such a tough situation that you are in. There is so much history that has shaped a comment that was made by your student. Although I will admit I have not had this instance exactly I have worked with various other cultures at including them into mainstream schools.

    I would suggest having a discussion with this student about their interpretation of the information presented. Acknowledge that you need more knowledge and that you want to use their expertise to help you present the information correctly. If the student perceives you as taking the expert role in this area you will lose credibility. Allow them to be the experts. Speak to them before you teach. Collaborate with them ensuring that your information is correct and that you have eliminated as much bias as possible. They are a great resource to you in this area, so use them. Therefore hopefully they see you as the vehicle in which their culture is being shared not the white girl telling them about their life and history.

    It may also be helpful to contact the local reserve or community leader to work with you to present this information. Their position in their community will help in the eyes of the student.

    Hope this helps, good luck!!


    1. Thanks for your advice Patti! Before we began our unit we discussed how the PowerPoints I was using were created in collaboration with one of my Aboriginal studies professors who is an Aboriginal elder from a community close to us. We also had a guest speaker from our provincial Treaty Relations Commission come in as well.
      I feel very confident on the content I am teaching and am not worried about bias as all of our topics are discussed from three points of view:
      - First Nations point of view
      - European point of view
      - Point of view from others outside of Canada

      I am working away though and I hope that we can work together so that everyone is comfortable in the classroom! :)


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