The 2016 school year saw the launch of B.C.’s new mandatory curriculum and its strong First Peoples component for Kindergarten to Grade 9, with Grade 10 to 12 optional. Yet a new study suggests that while teachers may want to teach Indigenous culture and issues in their classrooms, they feel nervous about saying the wrong thing; many lack confidence.
According to Emily Milne, the author of the study, “There were educators I met who didn’t know about residential schools. They didn’t know about Indigenous people in Canada, Indigenous culture and heritage and history… Then there were teachers who knew a bit about it but still were unsure how to incorporate it into their classes, and maybe were too uncomfortable, and so didn’t.”
“The problem is that when you have people that are uncomfortable and intimidated, the result is that we have educators that may not be doing it at all.”
It has always been a challenge for teachers to keep up with changes in subject areas and curriculum. For Heritage Fairs teachers giving a free choice of topic to students for their project may allow Indigenous students in their classes and interested others to learn in greater depth on their own about First Peoples. “Building Success,” an early Ministry document, supports this: “By allowing students to pursue their own investigations and reach their own conclusions, inquiry should enable those whose experiences have not traditionally been represented in the official curriculum to deepen and expand their historical understanding rather than simply to remain distanced from school history.”
However, there is no avoiding the need for teachers to research and learn more. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of resources available with the BCTF taking a lead with workshops, web links, ebooks, and print resources. A few such as Projet du coeur are in French.
“Beyond 150CA”, a recent on-line seminar organized by Andrea Eidinger, overflows with a rich collection of arguments, resources, and follow-up possibilities. Presented in Twitter feeds, it begins with a keynote address from Kamloops Archaeologist and blogger Joanna Hammond: “History In Deed: Stories to Recall, Repair, Rebalance.” Scrolling down you can find members of Canada’s History contributing among many other thoughtful commentators. (As a social media sceptic, I am happy to say that Twitter is clearly not just the medium of tawdry lads.)