Friday, 1 November 2013

Non-Aboriginal Teachers and the Students' Culture: Radio Documentary

This documentary discussed how teachers do and should take into consideration the lives and culture of Aboriginal students when they are teaching.  There are many students out there, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal that have difficulties at home which could have an impact on their life in school.  This narrative brings together the thoughts of Canada’s own “8th Fire” host, Wab Kinew, Australian educator Chris Garner, Native Studies professor, Emily Faries, American Indian Specialist, Debra Lehmkul, as well as a Louis Riel School Division teacher, Melodie.

Some of the issues of Aboriginal students and what teachers can do to help them through these issues are discussed in this documentary.  Kinew gives his expert advice on everything from the stress of students to their cultural traditions.  Garner tells us how we can help our students succeed in the classroom, Faries tells us that we need to show the students that they need to be proud of their heritage.  Lastly, Lehmkul and Melodie then showed us how they incorporate Aboriginal traditions into their classrooms.

Produced and Narrated by Craig MacFarlane; Katie Adamson; and Cheri Reimer
1.  Batman Begins theme

2. Poncharelli Young Bird Northern Cree Powwow

3. Buffy Ste-Marie: Darling Don't Cry
4. Eagle and Hawk, Mother Earth (from Indian Summer Music Awards)
5. Ryan d'aoust - York Boat Days
6. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves theme


  1. Another compelling radio documentary created by our classmates, good job! The scope of this blog posting cannot handle all of the information provided, so therefore it will focus on a key area. Conveniently it also relates with the presentation heard today (November 5, 2013) in class. One of the interviewees (Chris) suggested there needs to be a sense of belonging for students to care. I strongly agree with this suggestion. Students will become more engaged, passionate, and involved when they are given a sense of belonging. This concept, universal in nature, is even seen within our University courses. A good example provided in this documentary is how Aboriginal individuals who immerse themselves in their culture and language are less likely to become involved in drugs and alcohol. When an individual becomes involved in their culture and language a sense of hope is developed and a search for their true history begins.
    True history, what is that? Let us explore this a little more. Is it right to teach young people true history, that is radically different than the usual history of the United States? Will it not create disillusionment of a country and distrust in a government? Is it right to take down the usual heroes of the United States like Christopher Columbus, Andrew Jackson, and Theodor Roosevelt? Should we then tell kids that Columbus, who is taught as a hero, mutilated Indians, kidnapped them, and killed them all in the pursuit for gold? Or that Roosevelt was really a war monger, using military options to exploit, and congratulated an American general on the massacre of Philippians. Should we tell young people? We should not deceive them, we should be honest. It is not about taking down the heroes but rather giving young people an alternate set of heroes, of ideal figures (Zinn 2009).
    As teachers, neigh, as individuals within society our duty is to teach in a holistic manner which will indisputably teach a true history. That is, to help each person find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning (Miller, 1999). For these reasons and many more it is imperative that we teach our students, Aboriginal or not, true history and allow them to find a sense of belonging in this world while holistically supporting them.

  2. I liked what was said about relevance being a key aspect of teaching, but I have an issue with the applicability of it in our current curriculum. This is one of those buzz-words in education right now. We try to make the content relevant to all of our students, but the thing that makes it difficult is that we are seeing the content through our own worldview. We can see how it might be relevant to us, but it is more difficult to convey how it might be relevant to a student from a different cultural background. Our culture teaches us that we just learn these things because we have to. We go to school because we have to in order to graduate, get a job, make money, and support our family. I don’t know if that constitutes relevance.
    Take science for example, if you are balancing chemical equations in Grade 10 Science, it is difficult to think about how that might be applicable to your students, when the only time you ever needed it was in Grade 11 Chemistry... Maybe our curriculum needs some adjustment in the mandatory courses to reflect everyday uses of the concepts for all students, not just those that are going to continue on in chemistry. There is no question that “science” i.e. the study of the natural and physical world through observation and experiment (Wikipedia) is relevant to all of us. We engage in science every day. When we are kids we build things and knock them over, we fall down, we throw objects, we mix our food together to see if it still tastes good, we discover the difference between a fly and a mosquito. This is science. Why does the average person need to know how to balance a chemical equation? My point is, in order to be relevant, our mandatory curriculum should be based more on the things that help us in our everyday lives. We can talk about mixing chemicals together and finding the results or we can talk about safely handling chemicals because these things could be relevant and useful to everybody. i.e. cooking is mixing chemicals, cleaning the house requires knowledge of warning signs or perhaps natural alternatives. If students want to learn more about the numbers and the specifics because they need it for their careers or they are just interested in knowing that, then the optional courses should offer that.
    This idea of relevance is a good and valid idea, but our curriculum needs to be shifted around so that the mandatory courses include the things that will benefit all students, not just those that wish to continue on in a certain subject. If the curriculum talks more about concepts, it is easier to include perspectives from different cultures and allow discussion about the ideas from many different points of view. Personally, I think this would be way more fun to teach and learn.

  3. ‘Teachers need to accommodate students that are struggling at home. Teacher’s need to care for students at school to meet their needs,’ I think this is essential for success; teachers need to provide support to their students and not only the aboriginal students. Be persistent and continue to maintain the positive relationships between teacher and students. William Glasser, a well-known educational theorist states that ‘the most important need is love and belonging, as closeness and connectedness with the people we care about is a requisite for satisfying all of the needs.’ This reinforces what the radio documentary outlines that as a teacher we need to be there to provide that support to all the students in the class.
    The documentary outlines that lessons and learning should be relevant to the students – of course! I think all students will benefit when they see the potential of being able to use their learning in ‘the real world’. There are many helpful resources in helping to integrate relevant topics into the classroom such as and Knowing your students and establishing that supportive relationship will aid in being able to select relevant lessons for the class.
    Stereotypes and racism, affects self-esteem and self-worth – teach them they should embrace their heritage and I think this is everyone in the class as well. As Melodie states that their home-life always affects a student’s schooling in both positive and negative ways no matter if they are Aboriginal or not. Celebrating the diversity in the classroom and being able to learn about the various cultures in the class and your own on a deeper level is essential for increasing the self-worth and decreasing the stereotypes. Not only should Aboriginal culture be incorporated into the classroom all the culture represented in the class should be. But how is this possible if there are no supports coming from the school division? When will inclusion be the norm and how will we keep the Aboriginal culture alive?

  4. Wow! What an excellent radio documentary guys! I love your representation of relevance and how you approached this from an aboriginal perspective. Curriculum should matter to all of our students, but our job as educators is to make curriculum relevant to all of our students, not just our middle-class, non-aboriginal students. The point that was made that our culture is intrinsically valuable, and that this intrinsic, internalization of culture can help lead people to success. There is indeed a lot of racism still out there, and while it would be great to be able to say that we’re overcoming it, I still think there is lots of apprehension when it comes to the instruction of either newcomer immigrant families, as well as aboriginal students. We need to begin looking at inclusion as more than just a ministerial mandate, but about creating an environment that contains relevant ties to all of our students. Jon Young, in his articles entitled School and curriculum reform: Manitoba frameworks & multicultural teacher education, notes that “contention that the "managerial" and "technical" orientation that dominates the implementation of [...] school and curriculum reforms is inconsistent with a version of multicultural education for which the significance of race and culture to school experience is viewed as complex, contextual, and which requires the active engagement of teachers in its daily construction” (143). I agree in that the curricular reforms regarding the integration of inclusive views on race and culture is a daily task. There is only so much that the Manitoba Inclusion Act Implementation Guide can help teachers with when it comes to making pedagogy both relevant and inclusive. We, as teachers, need to take a more active role in how we propose and demonstrate inclusion. The teacher, Melodie, that you interviewed, had a good point in saying that there isn’t a sense of consistency across the board in Manitoba when it comes to inclusive acts. What a great documentary! Excellent work!

    Young, J., & Graham, R. J. (2000). School and curriculum reform: Manitoba frameworks & multicultural teacher education.Canadian Ethnic Studies, 32(3), 142. Retrieved from

  5. As far as implications for teaching are concerned I have two take-away messages from this documentary. Firstly, all students including Aboriginal students must have their hierarchy of needs met if they will be successful at school. Secondly, incorporating student culture is an important way to help reduce racism and nourish pride of heritage and culture.
    Wab Kinew brings up a few important points including the importance of student’s basic needs being met. All too often students come to school without their basic needs being met which greatly hinders their ability to succeed. For these students it is important to have those needs met at school. Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy if physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization (Bilash, 2011). According to Dr. Bilash of the University of Alberta it is in the best interest of both the teacher and students to be aware of the hierarchy and us the content to construct lessons and a classroom environment. By incorporating the hierarchy, school changes from a threatening environment to a welcoming environment where students can be encouraged and supported to become successful. This is important for all students, but even more integral for students who do not receive this necessary support at home.
    Secondly Wab Kinew supports the inclusion of student culture as a means to reduce racism and nourish pride of heritage and culture. Louis Riel School Division is taking great steps to incorporate the seven teachings in their school as well as putting teachers and students in contact with a variety of Aboriginal community resources. When students are involved in different cultures in this way the cultures that are adjacent to theirs become a norm to participate in. By forming these habits students no longer view Aboriginal culture as completely separate from them and therefore will hopefully help in supporting the culture rather than demonstrating racism against it.
    Bilash, O. (2011, January). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from Best of Bilash: Improving Second Language Education:

  6. That introduction song was intense, and very clever with those commercial breaks! I think this is a great radio documentary! You started off the following questions: How has aboriginal culture been accommodated in the past years?, How do teachers accommodate these aboriginal students now?, and what does authentic aboriginal education look like? These questions really got me thinking about my own practice as a teacher, and past aboriginal students I have taught in my practicum experience.
    First of all you mention, Wab Kinew believes, “teachers have to help students overcome social struggles. This begins by addressing their habits including stress. This is the foundation for the success of any aboriginal students.” I agree strongly with his points. I think this can not only benefit aboriginal students but all students. In today’s society I feel as though children and youth aren’t having the opportunity to participate in social situations outside of school, that one may have had 10 or 20 years ago. As Kinew mentions more and more children are coming broken homes, and from dysfunctional families, so therefore teachers need to model and guide students in social situations, and when students are over coming stress.
    Another point that struck to me was that teachers encourage students take action for social change. Recently at We Day Manitoba, Wab Kinew spoke about the impact students can have with social change. He spoke specially about how the Idle No More protest is trying to stop the “them” and “us’ relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. Social awareness and taking action on this issues can happen right in Winnipeg, and I think need to be aware of this and bring it into their classroom.
    Lastly, it was nice to hear from Melody. She pinpointed how aboriginal perspectives are brought in to the classroom. It is nice to hear that the Louis Riel School Division is providing these resources for teacher and students through the Rene Deleurme Centre, and hopefully these resources will be seen throughout Manitoba in many short years to come.

  7. I find it very interesting how Wab Kinew says, “Teachers have to help students overcome social struggles. This begins by addressing their habits, including stress.” Mentioned earlier is the fact that a very small proportion (less than 3%) of Canadian educators identifies as aboriginal. With so few positive aboriginal role models within the educational setting it is not surprising to me that less than 6% of the aboriginal population in Canada holds a university degree. Wab mentions that the way to combat this is to give them TLC and accommodate students who deal with stress in their personal lives due to social struggles at home. I agree that a teacher should always be willing to offer support and a caring and safe environment to a child, regardless of their race or socioeconomic background as Melodie mentions later on.
    I feel that a lack of positive role models of similar ethnicity within the education system is perpetuating the daily stress that an aboriginal student may feel. For teachers It can be hard as a person not from that culture to teach through that cultural lens. One of the biggest things I feel that educators can do would be to bring in positive role models from various cultures to speak about curriculum subjects. I mention people of various cultures because I do not believe that this is solely an aboriginal issue. Many other marginalized cultures could benefit from many of the improvements needed for aboriginal students. I also believe everyone would benefit from many different perspectives. Educators also have to acknowledge the various cultures within their class. This will undoubtedly foster a more positive attitude in students leading to greater success academically, a reduction in stress and hopefully understanding of multiple cultural perspectives. These three things undoubtedly lead to academic success that may continue down the road.