Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 15, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet


So much to learn. So little time.

I am quickly realizing why teachers retire long before they turn 70. The work is physically and mentally draining. Of course, I shouldn’t complain. I did take forty years off between teaching stints so it’s not like I have been wandering the halls of academia for decades. To use a figure skating analogy, for those of us who have had the privilege of teaching in the north, I think the “degree of difficulty” is a notch up from schools in other parts of the country.

The challenges of the north are well documented, and I don’t plan to expound on these in this piece. Any teacher considering teaching in an indigenous community in Canada’s north should become acquainted with its history through books, films and lectures. Flying blind is not a great option for a pilot or a teacher.

I watch the behaviour and attitudes of students inside and outside of the school. In many cases, it is like night and day. Sitting in a classroom studying continents is nothing like going hunting with your grandfather. I continue to struggle to deliver a program that is culturally relevant. This is not a knock on my school board but curriculum in northern schools still has a Eurocentric bent to it. It is a little late in the game for me to change course but by continuing to educate myself, I hope I can do some meaningful teaching with my young charges in my remaining time in Kangiqsujuaq.

I have been reviewing a number of documentaries lately trying to get a deeper understanding of the north. I continue to read books and, of course, I have met and become friends with many Inuit people who are the best educators of all, especially those who lived through very difficult times. The Inuit are incredibly resilient people.

A colleague loaned me a book recently. Thanks, AMB. I believe it should be mandatory reading for anyone coming up north to teach. “Teaching Each Other” (Nehinuw Concepts &Indigenous Pedagogies) by Goulet and Goulet is not light reading. From the back cover of the book…” The result is an alternative teaching model that can be used by teachers anywhere who want to engage with students whose culture may be different from the mainstream.”

Here is one passage from the book that says a lot. “Curricula remain problematic in teaching indigenous students. Mainstream academic knowledge, used as a basis for the development of curriculum materials for schools, seldom recognize or identifies the inherent bias, assumptions, perspectives, and points of view that have victimized people of colour while normalizing identities of whiteness.”

There are many days when I second guess myself and feel conflicted trying to teach a curriculum that is not particularly culturally relevant. There are many great teachers who have been able to adapt the curriculum, but this can take years, something that I don’t have. There’s a lot of trial and error involved and I’m guessing that there is more error than trial before becoming a really good educator. I’m doing my best, but it is not easy trying to put that square peg into the round hole.

Now, I’m not beating myself up here. I am sharing my music and story telling with my students along with math and science. The pen pal project has been a great success. Many thanks to those of you (you know who you are) who have shared your personal stories with my students. They are very excited when they come to school and see a letter on their desk.

I believe that to be a really good teacher in the north two things are essential. Firstly, showing up to work every day is so important. Consistency and stability are very important. Secondly, one needs to have empathy. I should have said three things. One needs inordinate amounts of patience!

There is a great deal to be learned from the Inuit. I will continue to drink deeply from their well of knowledge.

Have a great week.

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Highland Hearing Clinic

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