Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

5.5 Shifting teacher beliefs about Aboriginal learners

As is evidenced in the Prince Rupert Partnership Agreement, culturally responsive teaching is understood to be a powerful pedagogy through which teachers should engage their students in deepened forms of learning that acknowledge the significant contributions Aboriginal peoples have made to Canada, BC , and the Prince Rupert region. This is particularly important in the context of school districts that have largely non-Aboriginal educators working with Aboriginal learners. Dismantling pre-existing beliefs, including those that characterize Aboriginal learners as “deficit”, is a central purpose of the AES Network . Throughout my interviews with teachers from Conrad school, there were references to thinking about their students differently—more positively and with an emphasis on care and understanding—as well as references to their own need to uncover and learn more about the historical past of residential schooling and its impacts on Aboriginal communities. Repeated references to the “richness” of Aboriginal literature, the historical contributions of the Ts’msyen nation as part of “our story”, the importance of connecting with community members, leaders and Elders in shared knowledge creation; and how connecting to Aboriginal knowledge and culture provided a means of their students’ “connecting to a bigger story” permeated our conversation. While overt references to the colonial history of schooling were absent from their conversations, it was evident that these teachers were becoming engaged with and responsive to the goal of creating culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy in their everyday practice. In this school, Aboriginal education is not an add on: it is widely integrated into how educators think about their role as teachers and learners.