Time to Move On…

I have always said that as an Indigenous educated woman I have to be ten times better than others and even then it is not good enough. The district I work for has proved that time and time again and I’d like to move but teaching jobs are hard to come by.

Regardless of my education and how much I better myself I know that I will never get beyond a classroom teacher here. I am against a system that makes it difficult for me to advance myself in my career. I know that the district would never see it that way and they would say that I do not do enough as a leader. I recent put forth my resume to a Vice Principal position. I have a pretty impressive resume. I obtained my Leadership certificate and maintained a 4.0 GPA and I am also enrolled in a Masters program taking Educational Leadership.

It gets hard to maintain a good self esteem when you do everything you can to better yourself yet are never given a chance. As hard as it is on me I know that it isn’t about me. It’s about them. Working in a district that lacks a positive workplace culture is difficult. And I know it is time to live on. Hopefully next year will lead to more job opportunities and I can get out of this place. 🤞🏽

The Wraths of Junior High Students

Some junior high students are not always the most pleasant people. I find that junior high has always been a tough age to deal with but with the pandemic it seems like it is amplified. In all my years of teaching I have dealt with difficult students but never like this year. The amount of disrespect and disregard for other people is at an ultimate high with many junior high students.

The amount of times I have been sworn at and called down is outrageous. I’ve never experienced anything like it in the classroom. It saddens me to think that these students are our future…if their attitudes continue our future will be in jeopardy.

Today one student was quite rude to me when I proposed an alternative way to do a particular assignment. The student thought it was “dumb” and very loudly expressed her opinion. I did tell her that it was a suggestion and I was trying to make student’s lives easier. I also acknowledged that she was being rude and disrespectful. I don’t think she liked that. After doing her assignment she asked to use the washroom and I allowed her to. She seemed to be taking a long time so I emailed our secretary and she made an all call telling her to get back to class. She did not like this again and said I was picking on her because she was white. This blew my mind. I did not acknowledge it because I know at this age they are looking for confrontation.

It saddens me that this disrespectful attitude seems to be more prominent amongst this particular group of students. There is no personal responsibility for their actions. I pray that these students have a revelation of some sort.

Change Takes Time

As Indigenous people we know that regardless there are times when we will be followed in stores. This bothers me because some people think Indigenous people are not trust worthy and steal. Although I am fair there are still times when I do get followed, my father, however is very visible and I have witnessed numerous occasions where people follow him in a store and I know it’s due to racial profiling.

Yesterday we were followed in a convenience store. He specifically wanted to go to this particular store as it has been around for many years and he used to go there in the early 1970s. For him it was a bit of reminiscing and nostalgia. It was for me as well as I remember going there as a young child. It was a treat to go there as we always got something interesting there.

There are many magazines and books in the store as well as many other treasures such as home decor and other nicknacks. They even have an old stand where you can buy heated peanuts! My dad wanted to go there as we were staying at a hotel and wanted something to read. As soon as we made our way to the area where the books and magazines the worker followed us there. I observed her. She “straightened” out magazines and lined them up. I knew why she was there and it had nothing to do with cleaning or tidying up…it had everything to do with her mistrust of an Indigenous man.

Rather than getting mad and upset over it my dad handled it in a different way. I found a book that had a chapter which was solely based on a relative of ours. He immediately wanted to buy the book. The lady was nearby and he told her that our relative was in the book and discussed some of our family history. He went on to tell her the nature of his work and what had brought him to the area initially. She stuck around trying to look like she was being helpful but I knew deep down why she hung around. I thought my dad handled the situation rather well.

We discussed the situation afterwards on our way home. He told me that he wanted to leave a lasting impression with the lady. Instead of her thinking negatively about Indigenous Peoples she can think of the experience with my dad. He was friendly and presented himself as a human being rather than a stereotype. Perhaps the experience will change her way of thinking…it is said that it can take seven generations for change to occur. Change may start with her and trickle down to future generations. Change is good, even if it is slow.

Indigenous Allyship

In the field of education I have come across some really good allies, but I have also come across “allies” who are in it to benefit themselves. To me these are not “allies”, they are “performative allies”. They reap the benefits of their actions in order to get ahead in their jobs, for accolades, credit, or to put themselves in the spotlight. Their actions are not genuine as the ultimate goal is for self gain. Often their voices are amplified over Indigenous Peoples.

Aligning yourself with an Indigenous person can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on how the relationship is viewed. If it is solely for personal gain it will be eventually revealed. Allowing the Indigenous person to be heard and recognized is imperative. It is their lived experience that can help build allies’ understandings of our past, present, and future.

Unfortunately, I have experienced the performative ally. I believe that every life experience is an opportunity to grow and learn regardless of the circumstances even if it was negative. I have learned from my experiences with performative allies. I know sometimes I trust too much and I need to listen to my intuition more. While I have learned my intuition is generally accurate, I lower my guard because I believe in the good of people. I think that’s part of my downfall. I trust too much.

In one situation I helped write a blog post with an individual. I added to what the individual wrote and added a couple quotes of my own. We began the process of writing about a year in a half ago. It sat after we were done. A lot of the work was hers but I did add to it and enhanced what was already there. The individual recently contacted me asking if it was okay to post and that she made some slight changes but said she couldn’t show me the changes. My guard went up right away. Why couldn’t she show me? When you write with someone it should always be an open book and both parties should have access to it prior to publishing. It’s the right thing to do. My intuition was on high alert and I actually listened to it. I know that having my name associated with her might not have been the best idea. There are a few Indigenous educators who have steered clear of her because they did not like how she presented herself online by speaking for us and often came across in an aggressive manner. The individual posted the blog prior to me even saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the blog post. I did tell her that I did not want my name on it as I didn’t have the time or energy to be looking for a copy we shared (and in reality it wasn’t the exact blog post anyways as she made some changes to it). You can tell she didn’t edit properly after taking my name off because she has “we” in the blog and now it only acknowledges her as the sole writer. If true allyship was present there would be an acknowledgment of someone helping her. It could have been stated that she did not write it on her own and she had help from an individual who wished to remain anonymous.

In another situation I noticed that a different “ally” was taking credit for ideas that I put forth rather than acknowledging where she got the ideas from. It disheartened me because I try and acknowledge those who are deserving of it. When I worked in curriculum my supervisor would often compliment me on my work. While I did accept the compliment I also told her that the work done was not possible without other team members. I feel it is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

Acknowledging the information received and also the suggestions given can help build bridges between Indigenous Peoples and society. Far too often non Indigenous voices have been amplified over ours and this still continues to this day. In the district I work for there is a non Indigenous person who is in charge of the Indigenous education. The team works with curriculum yet none of them have a background in education. One book was suggested as a novel study. I had let the person in charge know it was a novel that was not appropriate as it was written by a non Indigenous person and there was appropriation in the book. It is also a book that Elders from those communities do not approve. The answer given back to me was that they would discuss it with the team. 🤔 I don’t think it was ever discussed because the novel is still being recommended on the team’s Google Classroom.

When Indigenous Peoples are dismissed and not taken seriously there are consequences. For me, I back off and tend to shut down. I do not like being used or feeling like I am unheard. I feel like the true allies are ones who actually listen and try to understand us without projecting their own selfishness upon being a “good ally”.

Here’s an excellent video describing performative allyship:

Seventeen. (2017, July 17). What is performative allyship? . YouTube. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bm355j6HdKM

Student Teaching Experience

When I did my last student teaching I chose a school where I knew there was a high Indigenous population. I had family in the area and they allowed me to stay with them. Well, I was kind of with them. I was in basically an empty house with no heat at times. I had to keep the fire going so I wouldn’t freeze at night, but that is another story.

I was in a grade 3 class. The teacher was non-Indigenous. At first she seemed happy that I was there but I noticed she never helped with any resources or how to properly lesson plan. I slowly began to notice she wasn’t there to help me. I overheard a conversation between her and another teacher, she told the other teacher that she should get a student teacher so she could have someone do her supervision for her. I kept the comment to myself as I didn’t have a support system in the area and I definitely didn’t have one at the school even though my aunt worked there.

I was two hours away from the university I was attending and one weekend I traveled back so I could go to the Education Library and get some teacher resources. I was able to get a bunch of resources to help me out. The following Monday I was telling my cooperating teacher about the resources. She told me “oh, I have those resources right here” and she pointed to them on her shelf. I felt deflated. I spent time at the library and time traveling to and from the university to get those resources and she had them on her shelf?!?!

The cooperating teacher made things difficult for me while I was there. Communication was not very good at all. One day she pulled me out in the hallway and yelled at me while pointing her finger in my face. She said she didn’t know what to do with me. I could smell her breath. It smelled like stale wine. I was left feeling defeated once again. I tried to get resources only to find out she had her own. I tried to communicate with her only to be told she needed to leave right after school every day. I did all her supervision so it’s not like I could have talked to her during lunch.

When Indigenous Peoples experience racism, we know. We just know as we’ve experienced it our entire lives. I do believe there was some underlining racism there, but I couldn’t prove it so I didn’t discuss it with my university facilitator. I did mention it to my aunt who worked there (my aunt who is non-Indigenous).

I spoke to my university facilitator about the barriers I faced in the cooperating teacher’s classroom. He basically told me to sweep it under the rug and move on. Unfortunately that never happened as the cooperating teacher couldn’t let go and was mean to me afterwards. She would have snarky comments. Eventually I met with the principal about my experience there. He talked to the teacher (and as she walked into his office she snarky said hello to me) and I talked to people at the university. It decided that it was best to be placed elsewhere.

My aunt told me that I was not to bring up the racism I thought I experienced because “she had to work there when I was done”. I think this disappointed me the most. I know she had seen racism as she married into an Indigenous family, but I also know she hasn’t experienced it like we have. I would have thought family would have each other’s backs, but that wasn’t the case. It was a tough situation, but I did learn about human nature and how people protect themselves regardless of being family.

I’ve always been told things happen for a reason. And even though I went through a bad experience I ended up in a classroom where the teacher adored me.

Mental Health

Everyone’s mental health is touched by this pandemic. The varying degrees of how people are affected and cope is vast. I know for myself being a teacher in a middle school is extremely tough. In all my years of teaching I have not experienced the level of disrespect and disregard that I witness on a daily basis…and it’s draining. So draining.

As a teacher I take pride on my classroom management. A former colleague dubbed me as “the student whisperer” as I have been able to manage classes that are difficult. Not this year though. This year is very different. Strategies that worked in the past are not working. I’m finding a lot of students to be more entitled than ever before. Failing a class? Well, it must be the teacher’s fault. Not turning in assignments? Well, that definitely is the teacher fault. Not passing a test or quiz? Again, that has to be the teacher’s fault. There are no responsibilities taken. Teachers are blamed by students for their failures. We are used as scapegoats and I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting. It’s draining.

Not only are we scapegoats but we are sometimes their “punching bags”.

“I hate this class.”

“Liar.” This was said in front of the principal.

“What a f**ken loser!”

“What kind of teacher are you?” in a smug, snarky voice.

Those are just some of the comments that have been directed at me this year.

Not all students are like this. I feel bad for the students who are there to learn. The amount of times I have heard students say they hate their classmates is unbelievable. Even other students notice the negativity in classes. They say their peers are disrespectful, rude, and ignorant. They can’t stand the way they treat the adults in the building but they do not say anything for fear of repercussion. They know they will retaliate. They know it’ll happen at school or online. I’m at a loss on how to help students and it’s taking its toll on me.

Throughout my years of teaching I have learned not to take my “work” home with me. This year is difficult. I told my spouse the other day “In the manner that some students treat me is like an abusive relationship where I can do nothing right and I’m always in the wrong and I’m constantly being put down. I know I shouldn’t allow them to get to me but when you have several kids like that it’s hard. In all my years of teaching I have never come across this before.”

And that’s where I’m at…mentally drained. I know I need to take care of me and my mental health.

Reconnecting and Research

Recently on a Facebook page a lady posted saying she is Métis and has a Métis ancestor. The ancestor happens to be my great x 3 grandfather who is from the Red River. She claims that he was a colonizer amongst some other negative things.

I dug further into who she was as I do not know her as a relative nor does my family. To me, she looks non-Indigenous but I know some Indigenous peoples are white presenting. While digging further I saw she asked about moving onto a Métis settlement. 🤔 Interesting I thought. So is there a selfish reason for claiming to be Métis or is there a genuine need to reconnect? Only she can answer that.

Reading her post disheartened me. She doesn’t know the family history very well. I shared her post with my dad and he said someone needs to set her straight. I agree.

Another family member commented on the post and the lady commented back. The original poster’s replies told me she hadn’t done her research as there were gaps in her understanding.

When people with no connection to family history start posting negative claims it hurts the family. It perpetuates a negativeness in the eyes of those who do not know us or our history; a history that has been passed down from generation to generation. There is little regard or recognition for how her posts affect those with lived experience.

It is no wonder when people claim to be Indigenous there is sometimes hesitancy to believe it. Good research consists of thorough reading, interviewing, and seeking out other additional information. It also includes looking at resources that are valid and reliable. Who is the author? Whose perspective is being told? Are there biases present?

I have no problem with people reconnecting. The issue I have is promoting information that is not accurate as it can be damaging.

Trauma Response

Who would have thought having a Parent Teacher Interview would leave a teacher in trauma response?

Most times parents are pretty good when you talk to them. They are concerned about their child or they just want to hear the good things we have to say. In all my years of teaching I have never had an interview quite like tonight.

To start the interview the parent asked why his child had a 47%. I spoke about missing assignments, low marks on assignments, and a low test mark. I also discussed the lack of seeking help when asked by myself or the EA in the classroom. At no point in time did the parent acknowledge the child and their lack of helping themselves or lack of self advocacy. Instead the parent placed the blame on me. He offered me teaching advice (he is not an educator). He told me I was unapproachable and that their child never had issues like this in previous years. He also told me I should be talking to the previous teacher about their child.

My mouth was literally opened wide in disbelief. I did tell the parent I was offended by what was said. I also mentioned I have been teaching since 2002. That didn’t sit well with him and he said that told him I wasn’t willing to change. I was still in shock so I redirected the conversation as it was going nowhere.

Even with trying to redirect it didn’t help much. I just sat and listen to the parent and agreed to things he said. I told him that our 15 minutes were up and I had another call to make.

When I got off the phone I cried.

I analyzed the situation with a couple of friends who happen to be Indigenous educators. We all said the same thing: trauma. This situation re-traumatized me. I felt worthless. The parent made me feel inadequate and that I wasn’t doing my job properly.

I know that’s not the case but when you live your whole life feeling inadequate and worthless it’s hard not to feel that way again when someone belittles you.

A few years ago I had an in-person interview with this parent. He said I am probably one of those people who read Harlequin romance novels. I didn’t appreciate the remark and said “actually I’m reading this book right now”. It was Jordan Tootoo’s book. He never said anything after that. I know in that instance he was trying to make me feel less than him.

Rather than speak from a place of superiority, speak from a place of love and understanding. Thinking you can tell others what to do when you have no experience is totally uncalled for.

I know I won’t be having a parent teacher interview with this parent by myself ever again.

Proper Terminology

I belong to several teacher social media groups. I even started one because I saw the need for teachers to have access to grassroots Indigenous peoples and resources. It’s important for teachers to have a good grasp of foundational knowledge.

In the field of education there are many acronyms. In my province one that is frequently used is “FNMI” (First Nation, Métis, and Inuit). Many educators use this acronym without thinking about it. I know I used it before without thinking of the ramifications.

While working away from the classroom and working on curriculum I learned a lot. One of the first things I learned was the acronym FNMI should not be used. Many Elders do not like it. It diminishes us and it also pan-indigenous us. And in reality what group of people identify by an acronym?

I have noticed when people address the acronym there are some people who react in a negative manner. These people are usually non-Indigenous or people who claim to be Indigenous. They have little to no ties to community or our identity. On a teacher social media page one teacher said they weren’t using an acronym, they were using a shortened version of the words. 🤷🏽‍♀️ Ummm, nope. It’s definitely an acronym.

When we start being cognizant of the terminology we use we can move forward in a positive manner. “Indigenous Peoples” is a good start rather than an acronym. Better yet, use the specific group someone belongs to. And best of all use our languages. For example, instead of Cree woman use nehiyaw iskwew. Cree is a colonized word for us.

Indigenous Veterans Day

Indigenous Veterans Day is November 8. Many people, including my students, do not know the significance of the day. This does not surprise me and I believe more education is needed as the general public does not know or understand the battles we face. They definitely do not know the road blocks faced by Indigenous veterans. My great grandfather fought in WW 2 and had to give up his status upon return to Canada. There are more veterans like him. As a result my family lost status.

This morning I read an article in The Globe and Mail. It was titled “The road to recognition has been hard and long for Indigenous veterans”. I saw it on Facebook and looked at the comments. I know I shouldn’t have looked. There were many comments about “everyone should be equal”, “this is another way to divide people”, “well, how lucky we are to have you enlighten us…” and the list could go on. Many people laughed at my comment and some responded negatively. Only one person was decent enough to say they would research more. All of this doesn’t surprise me. The lack of education is significant. This is why we, as Indigenous Peoples, continue to face stereotypes and racism.

I blocked a few people today as I know some people will never change regardless of the information presented to them. Our future is our youth. Perhaps one day we will actually gain ground towards reconciliation. I know a lot of our Elders do not believe in reconciliation because before we get there the truth must be acknowledged. Many people do not acknowledge our truths. My dad often talks about seeing change in seven generations. I won’t be around to see that, but I do hope some of my family does see it. And I hope it’s amazing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have people know our histories from our perspective and for them to empathize rather than judge?

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-the-long-road-to-recognition-indigenous-veterans-to-be-honoured-on/