Over the last year and a half I’ve had the privilege of co-moderating #tdsbEd – Twitter chats for TDSB Educators. It has become a community of teachers – well beyond our board – who are sharing their thoughts and ideas around trends in education in order to ensure student success, well-being and achievement. Throughout this time, I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing educators who have been guest moderators for our chats.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Christina Saunders – a TDSB Indigenous Education Instructional Leader – on a chat entitled, Courageous Conversations: Indigenous Perspectives In The Classroom. Last Thursday we had our chat and it was refreshing to take time to both reflect on my own practice as well as be inspired to take specific actions to evolve in this area. Our chat had 7 questions that focused on Indigenous knowledge in the classroom as well as reflecting on our practice and learning spaces through checklists.
Treaties Recognition Week is coming up and we also took time to reflect on how we are unpacking the land acknowledgment with students. I must admit that I often found myself being able to recite the TDSB land acknowledgement but truly understanding the diversity of the Indigenous groups represented or even having an understanding of the Toronto Purchase, eluded me. If this is true for some of our educators, how much more so might this apply to our students? I decided to unpack it with my students by asking them to research the different groups of Indigenous Peoples, the Toronto Purchase and using Google My Maps, students had a chance to visualize the parcel of land referred to. This was an extremely beneficial learning opportunity for my students because they now have a deeper understanding of the peoples, the land and the agreements that set out the rights, responsibilities and relationships of Indigenous Peoples and the federal and provincial governments. If you are still looking for information on Treaties Recognition Week, please check out this amazing article written by Christina in ETFO Voice – Getting Ready for Treaties Recognition Week.
In my class this year, I’ve made it a goal to ensure that Indigenous perspectives are reflected in both my teaching and in our learning space. In the past I’ve struggled with months or days to celebrate a particular heritage or cultural group because I find that it leads to tokenism. While there is value in that celebration, I wonder how we might be able to go beyond and infuse this learning into our everyday experiences with students. I’m learning the importance of valuing inquiry as students start to investigate for themselves diverse experiences within Canada. Earlier this year, we read Jenny Kay Dupuis’ I AM NOT A NUMBER as we heard discussions around Orange Shirt Day and the experiences of Indigenous families and residential schools. Seeing my students question the actions of others based on ignorance and not respecting difference was invaluable. My hope is that this leads them to consider the way in which they treat others and ways in which they can become change makers to speak up when they see injustices.
One of the biggest takeaways from my chat was to ensure that I have contemporary representations of Indigenous Peoples in the reading materials that I introduce and that are a part of our classroom library. I’m learning to ensure that the stories told are being told by Indigenous Peoples rather than being told for them. I’m learning to take the time to do author studies to find out more about who is writing and the influences that impact and inform their writing. I have a long way yet to go but I think that beginning to have these courageous conversations is a step in the right direction.
If you are interested in finding out more about our chat on Courageous Conversations: Indigenous Perspectives In The Classroom, here is the archive.