As I was reviewing some documents in preparation for the new school year, it occurred to me that a couple of our new teachers may have never been to a First Nations community especially one that is accessible only by ferry or plane travel. And now, they are settled in and ready to teach our children. An Information handbook for Teachers New to First Nations Schools provides some very helpful information for new and for veteran teachers. Author Barbara Kavanagh provides a thorough overview of the rewards and challenges of working in a First Nations school. She points out the importance of learning about the history and current reality of the community in order to gain an informed appreciation of the history of the Heiltsuk and also to recognize opportunities for making curricular connections between BC Ministry of Ed PLOs and local culture.
As important is the need to reach out to parents and the community as much as possible. Phone calls home to introduce yourself to parents can go a long ways toward establishing a respectful working relationship. Elina Agular’s short article is a worthwhile read to understand the power of a positive phone call to parents early in the school year. Being proactive helps to build relationships especially when there may be a need to address challenges in the future.
As a follow up to that, the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre offers itself as a resource. As in any new cultural context, learning about and valuing the history and traditions is integral to creating meaningful learning connections for students. Our first professional development day will provide important opportunities to begin the journey of gaining an informed awareness of what resources are available. More information on that will be forthcoming.
The Heiltsuk are one of 196 distinct diverse First Nation communities. What each community has in common is the desire for the children to meet with success in classrooms. Fostering a supportive and welcoming environment where children will feel secure, safe, and supported is something that staff must plan for and strive toward. Ensuring that their heritage and culture is reflected in their classroom curricula will help students to understand and feel positive about being who they are. Attending the first pro d day will be a step in creating awareness and understanding.
An ideal teaching and learning setting has as its foundation, the development of relationships that nurture the learner and the community of learners in classrooms. Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nation Learners is a lengthy but worthwhile document to peruse. Also, have a look at a youtube video where Aboriginal role models discuss an important theme: “Now is the Time”. Ambassadors like Wab Kinew bring the global Aboriginal world into your classroom so that students may see glimpses of what they “can be” if they have a goal to aspire toward. If you watch the video long enough, Wab Kinew talks about the value of education and why studying math is important. He is young, edgy, and educated and can provide important insights to new and even veteran teachers.
On one of my evening walks, I observed a young man so engaged with his task that he was oblivious to the world around him. This morning, I saw the gillnetters fishing in the early morning fog. There is lots to see in and around the village, so please take the time to explore the community to get to know where things are and who the people are.