Attending the Ontario Principals’ Council Leadership Summit on Social Justice was a great learning experience. It’s unfortunately rare that principals and vice-principals get a chance to talk with colleagues outside of their own district, let alone the province. This first of two posts about the round table discussions I participated in highlights issues related to expanding horizons for our First Nations students.
1) We need to make sure that the conversation around achievement of our First Nations students continues. In an era of political correctness it’s necessary to look critically at whether what we are doing is working or not, with regards to student achievement. In BC this is happening with Enhancement Agreements in districts setting and monitoring progress towards shared goals.
2) Changing the narrative – Interestingly, this echoed the discussion held at our Leading the Learning session in October in SD36. If we can move away from a deficit model to a strength, achievement, positive progress model then we can move forwards towards true equity for First Nations students.
3) Racism and stereotyping exist in a significant way in our schools still. We might wish it doesn’t, or try to ignore it, or want to deny it, but that isn’t the way forward. As hard as it is, we need to address and confront these when they happen. “Be relentlessly fearless.”
4) First Nations people have experienced about seven generations of colonization and generational trauma. How do we help our children and their families overcome the impact of this? Can we teach about the residential schools tragedy in our social studies and history classes? When is the right time, and who should tell this story?
Best practices, ideas, and supports from across the country:
Confront racism, assumptions and stereotypes. Don’t keep silent.
Ask questions to understand cultural nuances – we can’t be afraid to offend or be offended. The goal is just wanting to understand and combat ignorance.
Tap into student leadership – confront issues of equality that students are experiencing for a variety of reasons (Racism, homophobia, bullying, etc.)
One good resource that was shared is a youtube video – Justice for Aboriginal People – It’s Time. I would recommend it as a starting place for opening the conversation.