Category Archives: Social Justice

Reflections of Treaty Ed Camp 3.0

On Saturday October 24th 2017, I got up super early, came to the University of Regina where I joined 400 other educators, university students, and professors to learn about the importance of Treaty Education and integrating it into our teachings. I had two roles throughout the day; the first was as a session leader, and the second was as a learner.

I came to the day, as I have for the past two years prepared to take notes, fill my twitter feed, and discuss. As I look back at my notes, I cannot help but notice that I have only a few lines written down, and none of them are exactly inventive or outstanding; but yet I feel as if I took away more this year as I have in past years. At some point I stopped recording what was being said, and just started to listen and internally reflect on what was being said.

Charlene Bearhead was the keynote speaker, and she did a fantastic job. Not only did she demonstrate her understanding of why Treaty Education in Saskatchewan is so important but she also gave a viewpoint of how the rest of Canada sees Saskatchewan in connection to Treaty Education. Saskatchewan is viewed as being a leader in teaching Treaty Education, I would have never thought this until is was stated by Charlene Bearhead, I will elaborate on this later from a rural Saskatchewan point of view. Other things that Charlene made a point of mentioning was how using the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Report to aid in our teaching, as well as to work with the whole community when teaching Treaty Education.

Since I have spent the past 6 years being a student at the University of Regina, I have a good understanding of how much emphasis there is on the importance of Treaty Education. I have also gotten to collaborate, and network with many fantastic and devoted teachers within the city of Regina who work hard to integrate Treaty Education into their teaching. However, I have spent my own primary and secondary education in rural Saskatchewan, as well as my internship and first teaching contract. In 2007, the Government of Saskatchewan mandated that Treaty Education be taught in all classes, to all grades. I was in Grade 6 when this was introduced, and yet it was not until my first year of university did I know that I lived on Treaty 4 land, I had no idea Residential Schools were a thing, and knew nothing about colonialism. It has been six years since I finished high school, yet the school I graduated from still has teachers who do not teach, or teach a limited amount of treaty education. The school I interned at did not have a large focus on treaty education. The thing is that this is not solely on the teachers, yes it is the teachers responsibility to teach treaty education, but where is the recognition of it being taught. There is no spot for Treaty ed on report cards, school divisions do not commonly have a treaty ed consulted like they do for literacy, math, other core subjects. I am sure there are many rural teachers who do teach treaty ed, who bring in Indigenous content, who focus on reconciliation, and I want to hear from them, to meet them, to collaborate with them. I am sure there are school divisions (for example Northern Lights School Division)  has a variety of great resources for Treaty education, but how many teachers use them, is there ownership of where schools and teachers are integrating treaty education? I know there is more work to be done with Treaty ed, and I am excited to see where we will be in five or ten years with it, but I am also aware that change will not happen without the push from government, school divisions, and fellow teachers.

After the Keynote speaker completed her presentation, it was time for our first session. It was in the first session that I was scheduled to lead. When I was first approached about leading a session, I actually did not feel like I was the right person to be teaching others. I am not currently under a contract, and did not teach a lot of treaty education in my first contract. However, I did use a lot of it in internship. I turned my own experiences, of dealing with resistance in rural communities into my topic. I expected to have maybe five people attend, especially considering there were so many great presenters and topics; I was shocked when I had a full room of like forty people. I was even more shocked when I realized people did not come to the room by mistake, or leave because they were bored. I have no idea if it was the fact that I am a young teacher, or because so many others are also struggling with resistance. The feedback I got back made me realize that while the university has a solid understanding of treaty education, not all their students do. My focus was on community resistance, but I also included personal resistance and I think that resonated with more students as many of them did not get taught treaty education during their schooling experience. By teachers choosing to not teach treaty education, it adds to the generations on confusion and secrecy surrounding the treaties and treatment of Indigenous people.

The discussions I had with many educators and students allowed me to find some comfort in knowing that there is a pedagogical change occurring. Teachers want to aid in the reconciliation of the country/province but they need to have access to support from administration, provincial/federal governments, as well as colleagues.

Charlene Bearhead stated that the rest of Canada looks to Saskatchewan and Manitoba for leadership with Treaty education; this is a responsibility we need to take seriously. It is well known that a single teacher can change a child’s life, that a single teacher can make a difference. Responding to the TRC calls to action, encouraging others to respond, and fighting for equality/equity and fairness is one of the many responsibilities of the teaching profession.

At the end of the day, we were asked to reflect on how we were going to contribute to reconciliation. The truth is I do not have an answer, there are hundreds of things that need to be done, things that I can do, and things that I cannot do. But to achieve the difficult, I have to start with something manageable. I have to pay attention to how I react to the treatment of Treaty 4 land. I have to learn to be uncomfortable in my teachings, to challenge my beliefs, and to allow my future students to experience their learning journey at their own pace, with guidance, not force. I hope that the thousands of educators in Saskatchewan join me in this journey.

 

White Like Me

“White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, The Remix: Revised and Updated Edition” by Tim Wise provided me with a lot of questions. When I first started this book it was during my summer before my third year of university started at the University of Regina in the Faculty of Education, but I did not finish the book until the first few weeks into my internship, starting my fourth year.

I am not a slow reader, but I could not finish this book in one go, like I do with most books. This one had me starting, and after a few chapters needing a change, needing to reflect. This process continued until I finished the book, more than a year later.

I have no idea what made me pick up this book in Chapters, and decide to buy it, maybe it was the conversation with friends earlier that day about White Privilege. Or maybe it was because I was in a faculty that focuses on diversity and eliminating the society norms, yet being from a small town in Saskatchewan I had until that moment put little thought into my own thoughts on white privileged and racism.

This book gives evidence that racism is taught not generic but that it is not always taught intentionally. Simple things like crossing the street when someone of a different race is walking towards you, or clutching your purse tighter, or turning away when someone of a different skin color looks at you. We are not born to notice skin color but we watch how other people behave, we learn from watching, we learn from overhearing, and we learn without ever realizing what we are learning. University was my first real experience getting to know people that had a non-white ethnic background. It was also the first time I ever seen racism happen to someone I knew. I grew up hearing thoughtless comments about Indigenous people, or Africans, or Asians, this list can continue hitting almost any person who is considered a minority in Canada, but I never realized the impact that they had on a person. The more I branched out my group of friends, the more I seen out racist Canadians can be, and the more I seen how I have an unspoken amount of white privilege. “White Like Me”, gave me a chance to think about the experiences that I have faced, and take notice in other issues around me, without even realizing it I had (and in some cases still struggle with) my own racial stereotypes and racist thoughts.

The more I read the book, the angrier and more frustrated I became, because there seems to be such little progress happening in the world, it may be directed towards a different group of people but their is still bigotry, and hatred directed at people who are different than the majority, as if it is acceptable to judge people because their voices are quieter or  lesser in quantity than the majority populations.

Changing the way people think, especially when they are unaware of their own inner thoughts, opinions and struggles, is challenging. It starts  with their education, it starts with the lessons they receive both in and out of the classroom. Having students identify their own values, and prejudices is hard at a university level, it is way harder with middle years students, because not only do you have to take into account the students beliefs but also the parents, grandparents, and all of the people who influence the students. Open discussions, honesty, and personal thoughts play a part in the lessons, but keeping your own emotions in check because the students are still learning and may have conflicting feelings, even more so if no one, or very few people in their communities are of a minority.

Besides using this book to talk about racism in society, it can be linked to the colonialist history of North America, using stereotypes and assimilation to make connections with Treaty education, and struggles that are found in Canada. This book may not be based in Canada, but similar beliefs are found between the United States and Canada, meaning that material in this book still carries wait when used in the right context.

Reading this book gave me a starting place for Social Justice, but it also made me more passionate about teaching students about social justice and they role in society. Teaching students that their voices matter, that they can make a difference is a starting point for students. One of the reasons I got into Middle Years Education is because someone once told me, “if you get middle years students passionate about something they will plan to change the world, and if you encourage and support them, one day they might”, early primary grades are sometimes to young to understand bias and unjust situations, while secondary students have seen too much failure to believe the world can be changed, this only gets stronger with age.

At some point I will likely re-read this  book, because I am still learning, I am still gathering more questions, and I am still wanting answers, ideas, and solutions to work with problems that occur in classrooms, communities, and in society. How can I preach the idea of a diverse society? I am not sure if I have a full understanding of white privilege, racism, and internalized biases. I am not sure if I will ever fully understand, but I am willing to keep learning, to keep researching, and to do my best to be aware of my own biases, the more I understand the more I can work on teaching students to question society norms, and to think about their biases and actions.

A Knock at the Door

A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools” was put together, written and edited by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This  book is a very short summary of the original Truth and Reconciliation report. The book is the  perfect starting place for every teacher to start with before teaching treaty education, especially before educating students on residential schools. The book includes a full time line, survivors’ stories and tons of information that can be used to educate yourself and students on the events of residential school. The last chapter of the book focuses on moving towards reconciliation, which is the entire goal of why we teacher treaty education and have such a big focus on learning the real history of Canada. At the end of the book there is a list of the 94 calls to action created by the TRC commission, these are the actions that the public should be taking to create a path of reconciliation, many of which are able to be integrated into a classroom and allows the students to contribute to the process of reconciliation.