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Iñupiaq in Action

This past fall, we were writing animal counting stories in my first-grade class. I had one of the best experiences as I was working...

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Educating Students about the Lived Experience in Canada

Schools across Canada have recognized National Day of Truth and Reconciliation for two years to incorporate the legacy of residential schools into the classroom. Now, education leaders are actively ensuring that educators continue to integrate these lessons into all levels and aspects of teaching and learning, year round.

Notably, we are seeing an increase in Indigenous curriculum-aligned content being implemented in schools in various provinces. In fact, many classrooms in Vancouver are planning to implement required Indigenous-focused coursework in the upcoming school year for students, especially those pursuing a British Columbia (BC) Certificate of Graduation.1 This mandate is the first of many steps educators are taking to provide
advancements in Indigenous education in Canada. Teachers will be educating students
about the lived Indigenous experience in Canada; the question is, how can they be
sure they are facilitating accurate and truthful conversations in the classroom and turning
these conversations into action?

Keeping Curriculum-Aligned Content Authentic
When it comes to Indigenous history, there is a responsibility to certify that every aspect of history is acknowledged, and that includes ensuring curriculum-aligned resources and tools being used in classrooms must be current, relevant, and accurate. BC, particularly Vancouver’s education system, will set an example for other provinces and territories as they introduce mandatory curriculum changes aimed at promoting truth and reconciliation as a nation.

To ensure not only BC classrooms but all classrooms across the country deliver curriculum-aligned and culturally relevant Indigenous teachings, it is important to engage and consult with Indigenous peoples. Learning about firsthand perspectives, cultures, traditions, ceremonies, and contemporary life is imperative to deliver authentic experiences and teachings to learners across the country. As the national director of education for reconciliation, equity, and inclusion at Nelson, Canada’s only heritage education content provider, I find our Indigenous Advisory Circles are among the most rewarding aspects of my role. As part of the circles, to ensure Indigenous lived experiences and history are authentically reflected in Nelson’s trusted resources, I collaborate with Indigenous knowledge keepers, elders, community leaders, and educators from across Canada.

The goal of the circles is to ensure that students will have an in-depth understanding of Indigenous peoples—both past and present. For educators, our mission is to make sure that they are equipped with accurate and current information to confidently teach about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

The Promising Future of Edtech
Over the next few years, the demand for education technology (edtech) will continue to grow significantly. Despite technology being in the education sector for years, many subjects related to Indigenous education are only available in print and can take years to make it into classrooms. We live in a transformative and evolving world. Whether new discoveries are made across the globe or new curriculum updates are made in Canada, technology is imperative to get historically accurate information to students and teachers in a timely manner, or as developments are happening. Edtech has uniquely bridged this gap of timely access to Indigenous knowledge, teachings, and understandings.

Getting a Head Start on Indigenous Education
Here are four ways in which teachers can prepare to bring Indigenous education to students throughout the year:

1. Collaborate with other educators, colleagues, and consultants teaching Indigenous education to learn more about their effective strategies. Sharing knowledge is not merely helpful but imperative, as it will reveal new ideas or areas of content that can be incorporated into lesson plans. By learning from peers, teachers can develop solid practices for turning conversations into action.

2. Read articles and books written by Indigenous authors to learn about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit history, contemporary lifestyles, and issues. To teach about Indigenous peoples, teachers must educate themselves and conduct research before bringing it into the classroom.

3. Explore professional learning opportunities throughout the school year such as webinars, podcasts, conferences, and workshops. Educators must be equipped to teach Indigenous content in the classroom, and professional development can help strengthen their confidence in this important subject.

4. Engage with local Indigenous communities in the school district to build trusting reciprocal relationships. Connecting with these communities can help teachers learn about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture, traditions, perspectives, and lived experiences in their regions.

Meaningful Opportunities Ahead
The growth of technology and the demand for customizable educational solutions have created an ever-growing need for schools to develop curriculum-aligned content that can better educate Canadians about the Indigenous lived experience.

Over the next few years, there will be a continued emphasis on providing historically accurate and authentic experiences for students and their learning about Indigenous peoples. It is integral that Indigenous history and the significant contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people have a place in the classroom.

Links
1. www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/k-12/support/indigenous-focused-graduation-requirements
2. https://cfjctoday.com/2023/05/08/first-annual-indigenous-student-leadership-summit-to-be-held-in-kamloops

Linda Isaac is a member of Alderville First Nation and is the national director of education for reconciliation, equity, and inclusion at Nelson (www.nelson.com).

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