I am sad that this semester is at an end. I looked forward to the EC&I 831 Tuesday night Zoom sessions and catching up with my classmates/colleagues on Twitter each day. I’m sure the Twitter relationships will continue, but I am going to miss having our weekly session! It would be fabulous to just open my classroom door and go visit these amazing folks to see what they’re doing with their students and collaborate on a more frequent basis. Our PLN has been an incredible gift the past few months.
Continuing my journey
One thing that I know will not be coming to an end is my major learning project, because there is simply no end to my journey for truth and reconciliation. There are important milestones to reach within the journey I have undertaken as an educator; what I have learned thus far has changed my approach to learning and teaching. Since deciding to undertake this journey (which I blogged about in Can I be a Witness? and Starting a Journey of Reconciliation) I have immersed myself in history and witnessing all I can possibly witness within the time I have available.
Here, then, is a brief summary of my learning journey…
I re-read large sections of Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy – books that I read years ago during my undergrad degree. Simply put, I have found these two books to be quite an extensive history of the Residential School System in Canada, and they are excellent primary sources for any questions I have (or my students have) about the schools.
I also read a variety of novels and plays and began incorporating them into my teaching. Some of my new favourites:
- Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story – David Alexander Robinson (graphic novella)
- Will I See? – David Alexander Robinson (graphic novella)
- Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story by David Alexander Robinson (graphic novella)
- Indian Horse – Richard Wagamese
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
- The Marrow Thieves – Cherie Dimaline
- Toronto at Dreamer’s Rock – Drew Hayden Taylor
- Someday – Drew Hayden Taylor
- Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth – Drew Hayden Taylor
- The Education of Augy Merasty – Joseph Auguste Merasty and David Carpenter
- Secret Path – Jeff Lemire and Gord Downie
I’m also reading Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline… and it is likely to be on my favourties list in the near future.
I enrolled in a MOOC through the University of Alberta entitled Indigenous Canada. I have completed 10 of the 12 modules (13 out of 15 course hours) and am really looking forward to finishing the course. In my research and my curation of content for my Wakelet collections, I’ve found another MOOC through the University of Toronto that I intend to enroll in for next semester entitled Aboriginal Worldviews and Education. I’m very thankful for the Open courses that are allowing me to learn so much from the comfort of my home without high tuition charges.
I joined a Truth and Reconciliation PLC (Professional Learning Community) in my school division, thanks to Curtis Bourassa and our FNMI consultant Raquel Oberkirsch. We met for a full day of sharing and working together, with more meetings to come over the course of the year. We are, collectively, working with resources and developing connections to curricula. The high school (grades 10-12) teachers in the PLC have been tasked with examining the Treaty Outcomes and deciding which course(s) they best fit with to ensure they are thoroughly and respectfully embedded in appropriate content areas to provide meaningful treaty education.
There were two major cultural events that had a large impact on me during the past few months – the Jeremy Dutcher concert on October 19 and the chamber opera, Missing, on November 8. I blogged about the Jeremy Dutcher concert in Enrolling in MOOCs and Enjoying Live Music and discussed the opera in Where are they? MMIWG.
A new thing I learned is the making of Tobacco Ties or Prayer Ties. Raquel (our FNMI consultant) demonstrated how to assemble the ties, discussed the colours of cloth and string, and we talked about the preferences a knowledge keeper or elder may have surrounding these. The basics of making Tobacco Ties can be found HERE. The most important piece to remember is that the making of Tobacco Ties or Prayer Ties should be done with reverence and respect, with good thoughts for the intended recipient.
Another treasure I found is the movie The Grizzlies, based on a true story. In a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America, a group of Inuit students’ lives are transformed when they are introduced to the sport of lacrosse. (source) With suicides among First Nations in the recent news, the movie is an excellent vehicle to get students to think about this critical issue. The movie is powerful and moving. Besides being an excellent film, the story about how the film was made is also inspiring. Everyone involved in the project was committed to portraying the story in as authentic a manner as possible, from choosing the setting to casting the actors. (To learn more about the making of the movie, see the article HERE).
With my love of writing and stories, which I’ve discussed in numerous blog posts over the last few years, I was thrilled to meet and listen to Ernie Louttit.
“Indian Ernie” – a name he was given on the streets – is the author of three books. In his talk with our students, he described how:
- he joined the military and became a police officer despite being on his way to the bar!
- language is power and he has a huge love for learning.
- to be a good law enforcement officer, one must be a good story teller and have the ability to use words to recreate and tell the story about an incident.
- being able to communicate effectively is important for ALL future goals and career aspirations.
As one of the key figures in seeing that justice was served in the Neil Stonechild case and who was instrumental in bringing down the “big guys” in the solvent huffing epidemic in Saskatoon, Ernie stated that he “doesn’t care who gets the credit, just so long as the job gets done.” He challenged our students to “Be a Leader every day! Encourage the people around you!”
Learning about Wakelet has been an absolute game changer for me both personally and professionally. Saving tweets, teaching ideas, resources, articles to read, coaching ideas, Instagram posts… I have 25 collections right now with over 366 bookmarks. I’ve downloaded the app on my mobile devices and added the extension to my Google browsers on each computer I use.
The collections I curated to document and enhance my learning project are all set to “Public” and can be copied for anyone wishing to use the resources I have collected. I am adding to the collections as I discover new resources that I can use with students in my classes and would love to have contributors to my collections – please reach out to me if you would like to be a contributor to any of my collections and I would gladly add you!
Here are the links to each of the Wakelets that relate to my learning project:
- Starting a Journey of Reconciliation
- FNIM Education curricular resources
- Land Acknowledgements and Treaty Education
- Residential Schools
- Orange Shirt Day: Phyllis (Jack) Webstad
- Celebrating Indigenous Arts & Culture
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- Mental Health Awareness & Suicide
- Indigenous Literature
- The Plays of Drew Hayden Taylor
- Traditional Knowledge Keepers, Indigenous Languages, Oral Traditions
It looks like a long list, but quite honestly, I feel like I have only scratched the surface and there is so much left to learn. But, I have a lifetime in which to learn and I know I will continue to add to the collections as part of my ongoing journey.
“When we know better, we do better” as the saying goes. I don’t know if I’m a “master” teacher yet or if I will ever get there. I still make a LOT of mistakes, lessons sometimes flop, I lose track of time, my pacing isn’t great sometimes … but I’m pretty good at learning!
The truths I have learned and the amazing stories I have witnessed over the past couple months while on the journey of my learning project will be shared with my classmates, my students, my colleagues, and anyone who wishes to use my Wakelets. I hope that the collections can teach others and help them with their own learning journey.
As an educator committed to truth and reconciliation, I will use what I have learned to aid in building students’ capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.
Thank you for this opportunity to learn.
P.S. Visit me on Wakelet!