7.7 Emergent patterns of teacher learning?
While it is not possible for us to know with absolute certainty on the basis of our interviews and the cases we’ve reviewed in this and other sections of the report, there appears to be sufficient evidence to support a claim that the AESN inquiry method develops, for many teachers, an evolution towards deeper, more culturally inclusive teaching practice. We think this is enabled in a number of different ways. Our earlier discussion promoted how the structure of the AESN encourages the sharing of teacher learning, and this is part of how this is accomplished. We also believe that the requirement to engage teachers with the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements is another important context that enables teachers to think more about the approaches they are using to engage Aboriginal learners. Certainly how Aboriginal education principles are reflected in some of these Agreements is another means through which teachers can more fully engage in thinking about and implementing more holistic approaches to Aboriginal education; and in particular when teachers focus on those goals that emphasize belonging and creating enhanced life opportunities. But it is also because the Network principals, Drs. Halbert and Kaser, continually profile the work of lead AESN members who are taking ever deeper, more collaborative and pedagogically inclusive approaches to their inquiries. These members often become teacher leaders in their own districts existing inquiry teams, and can be asked to share their work in regional meetings. And because they model their own explorations as learning and continue to ask new questions of themselves, their work is not viewed as a challenge to others’ practice, but rather a model that can be shared, used, re-created and/or reinvented. The learning is the gift they share as they bridge from one stage of learning to another.
Since the English 12 First Peoples resources were purchased in the alternate school that I used to work at, I have watched the First Nations students with whom I work become more engaged. We not only offered this new course, but I also provided all of my students in every other English course the option of readings designed for the English 12 First Peoples course. When given these options, most of the First Nations students would choose them. I would often watch students who rarely completed readings to complete the readings and the assignments. I realized at this time how vital course content relevant to First Nations students is.
This year I have moved to a new school. I was disappointed to learn that none of the English First Peoples courses have had enough students sign up to make the courses viable despite a population that is thirty percent First Nations students. My administrator gave me the task of increase the First Peoples resources and helping other teachers integrate them into their courses. I began this year feeling my way in what felt like the dark. The school had purchased lots of English 12 First Peoples resources but had stopped there. Armed with the English 10/11 Resource list and some suggestions from teachers in other schools, I began to search for and purchase both student and teacher resources. Some of the teachers, especially the Communications teacher in my school, have been open to the new resources and have experienced the success of using resources that are relevant to their students. However, many of the staff are entrenched in using the older, more standard resources.
Attending the AESN meeting this fall was a turning point for me. Listening to the presenters instilled more strongly the importance of making it easy and desirable for my staff to integrate these resources. In addition, it renewed both mine and my vice-principal’s desire to get enough numbers to run the English First Peoples courses within our school. We have both been promoting this course with the upcoming grade nine students and may reach our goal of thirty enrolled students which would enable the course to run. Since the meeting, I have polled the English department teachers and asked them if they would be willing to make a point of increase First Nations content into their programs in hopes of increasing engagement. All of the members are willing to do this. To date, not all have, but as I continue to collect and create teaching guides that will make this easy, I believe they will. The meeting also gave me new contacts and, in turn, these contacts have given me other contacts for resources and recommendations. I know that our school is in its infancy in regards to increasing its aboriginal understandings, but I believe that the growth will now continue, especially if we maintain our connection to AESN .