Today’s problems cannot be solved if we still think the way we thought when we created them.
Many provincial school boards and schools in north western Ontario are fast approaching a 50 percent Indigenous student body and as a result are focusing ever decreasing resources in an attempt to increase the academic success of those students. The successful completion of secondary school and multiple disciplines in higher education is seen to be critical to the economic engine of the north and crucial to the ongoing movement to healing and self-determination of Indigenous communities. And yet this is not the case. Estimates suggest that 60 to 80 percent of Indigenous youth will leave secondary school early each year while the 2001 Census reports that only 23 percent of Indigenous people had a high school diploma.
Prompted by the release of the Ontario First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework by the Ministry of Education in 2007 many educators have participated in professional development (PD) opportunities in an effort to enhance their capacities to work successfully with Indigenous students in their classrooms. With few exceptions the focus of that PD has been on the historic – residential schools, the sixties scoop, Treaties, and the other historic realities of colonization. It is absolutely important to fill these knowledge deficits that exist in the Canadian consciousness, but the continued request that we hear from many teachers is: “Tell us how to teach your kids.”
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the social, cultural, and financial impact on a community where just sixty percent of the Indigenous students drop out of school before grade 12. What employment opportunities will exist for those young people? The answer is very few.
We all have collectively inherited a social, cultural and economic reality that we had no responsibility for creating. We see it in our classrooms we see it on our streets every day. We surely are not responsible for the past but we are responsible for now and what we leave our kids and our grandkids. Teachers can make a difference in the reality of Indigenous kids. A teacher can be an agent of change in a young Indigenous person’s life if they have the right tools for their teaching tool-box.
We have never met a teacher that didn’t want all their students to be successful. But let’s be honest, teachers have huge demands on their time, their energy and it seems almost impossible to add one more thing to their plate. What if we could show you a way to help your Indigenous students by just working with us and a group of other like-minded teachers for just 4 days a year?
The Maamaawisiiwin Professional Teacher Development Program (MPTDP) is a holistic response that works in a confidential, respectful environment with volunteer secondary teachers in grades 9 through 12 to enhance their practice that takes place four times each academic year and includes:
In addition, you will attend a day long Training Circle with other teachers and a dedicated group of MPTDP facilitators and Elders.
There is also an associated research study that takes place at the end of term and looks at student grades and engagement.
This is where the “tools for the toolbox” comes in. What if we could show you 7 solid teaching techniques that you can put into play in your classroom that will fundamentally change your relationship with your Indigenous students – increase their engagement, motivate them to learn, come to school, increase their academic success?
That’s what the ETP is, a comprehensive group of “tools” that have been developed through research with Indigenous youth in Ontario and was inspired by a similar program with a ten-year history of success with Maori high school kids in New Zealand. Check it out for yourself at http://tekotahitanga.tki.org.nz/.
The Maamaawisiiwin Professional Teacher Development Program works for three reasons. First, the ETP is the hardcore teaching techniques, the indigagogy, that you and your colleagues have been looking for. Second, because you are in control, it’s confidential, and nothing is shared with your principal or anyone else. Lastly, a Maamaawisiiwin team of educators and Elders will work with you in your classroom and during the Training Circles.
Reflecting on their MPTDP experience one high school teacher admitted:
One of the things that has happened as part of this project is that you forced me to view my own teaching strategies and make some really hard choices about what to do and what not to do in my classroom. So, I have taught way differently this year… the things that have worked I won’t just use with my FNMI kids. I will use on all of my kids.
Dr. John Hodson discussing Indigenous youth educational realities during his post-doctoral position in Aotearoa/New Zealand on 21 June 2010.
On this episode of Community Conversations, host Steve Mantis chats with Dr. John Hodson, Director of the Maamaawisiiwin Education Centre.
As educators our choice is simple, we can take up the challenge to change the school experience of Indigenous kids or, we can will the reality we see in our classrooms and on our streets to our kids, or our grandkids to solve.