Culturally Responsive Teaching ~ Community of Practice Day 2

One of the reasons why I enjoy the community of practice model is due to the process of ongoing learning. To be a life long learner we then are admitting that we do not yet know everything, and I found this to be very true on the 2nd day of our community of practice “We see, we feel, we change” that took place on November 12th.

We began the day by watching Simon Sinek talk about leadership and that we need to start with ‘why’ in our practice. Why do we need to think differently, why do we need to see leadership function from a why perspective first. How do we teach from the why out? Resources are the what, strategies are the how, but why we need to do this should be our start.

When leadership flows from our sense of self it extends into our circle of influence and we need to be culturally responsive and culturally responsible to those cultures we are engaging with and teaching about. When world views collide, one is at risk of becoming marginalized and left in a dependent state. How can learning be engaging or empowering from a disadvantaged point of view? Dr Ottman posited that it takes a generation (12-25 years) for society to change, with the last Indian Residential School in Canada closing in 1996, we are at the mid-point of a change and there remains work to be done.

We next reviewed the MindshiftChangeModel by Rolf Smith which challenges us to think differently and that real change happens at an internal place, if we want to think differently. People tend to change with they are shown a truth that influences their feelings. With that emotional connection, we need to have a deep sense of understanding of the culture of our students. Until we have that connection, change remains difficult.

While watching the DVD Muffins for Granny, a project Nadia McLaren completed to understand her grandmother and the experience the Indian Residential School had on her, my learning moment materialized. One of the Elders shared his first day of the IRS he was sent to and how the statue of the Crucifixion of Jesus had impacted him. He expressed his wonder in the film about how could people do that to another human being and what did He do to deserve that: because the Elder did not want to end up like that. While that impression certainly leaves one to ponder, this was not the learning moment: for me it was that this Elder had no idea who was being depicted in the statue. That was a big shift in thought for me.

Addressing misconceptions needs to be done to not only facilitate a mind-shift but also cause us to ask why? Why do I have those thoughts and are they accurate? Misconceptions cause divisions in society and as educators, we can use our circle of influence to empower society to grow and shatter misconceptions. With going through a mind-shift, we need to allow ourselves time to not only self-reflect but patience as well.

Day 3 will be held on December 3rd and in the short time between sessions, members of “We see, we feel, we change” will be engaged in learning with Dr Ottman though BlackBoard and more readings.



Culturally Responsive Teaching ~ Community of Practice

The first Community of Practice day on October 5th brought together Rocky View staff from across the division in professional communities of learning. Dr Jacqueline Ottman from the University of Calgary and Elizabeth Cressman from the Calgary Regional Consortium are facilitating the journey of becoming a culturally responsive teacher for those registered in the community “we see, we feel, we change.” Participants will become leaders in their schools as culturally responsive teachers and will also challenge personal believes and values, making this a very deep and rewarding professional learning community.

The first day began with a review of Dr Ottman’s literature review on Aboriginal perspectives and a discussion on what is the difference between perspectives and point of views. Perspective essentially means  a consensus from a group of individuals’ point of views and this is very complex. Once a definition of perspective is reached, it can be built on from there. We can only understand what knowledge we are given, and when developing perspectives, it is crucial to take into account not only what we understand to be true, but more importantly what we do not understand.

Some of our students function in our schools with symptoms of a root cause, often some form of trauma. Once students begin to understand or gain knowledge of this trauma, not only does their point of view alter, but they begin to go through the grieving process, beginning with anger and this needs to be supported. The history of each student, and the history of Canada including the Indian Residential Schools belongs to everyone and  how it affects our interactions with each other. This comes down to the affective domain and how we influence the students we interact with.

Donald Schon discusses how we influence others by using our tacit knowledge, as this knowledge is ingrained within ourselves through the development of our personal point of views. We need to raise our own awareness of ourselves and reflect both in action and on action (questioning why?). This is central to reflective thought and to becoming a culturally responsive teacher.

To begin this reflective practice, participants discussed stereotypes specific to Aboriginal people and the reality was shared with the group. Jane Elliot  delivers a harsh message that not only targets stereotypes, but exposes participants in her workshops to the hard reality marginalized people live with daily. Using her blue-eyed and brown-eyed experiment, she gathers people together to expose them to the tacit racism within that community. After watching her video “Indecently Exposed” participants debriefed the video and discussed scenes that resonated, leading to very rich discussion. Jane Elliot shares in the video that society can either change or not change but we need people to understand why they need to.

Another piece of this work is incorporating story into our classrooms. Over the next 3 sessions, this will be built in as a strategy to culturally responsive teaching. Story is not only a powerful learning tool, but engagement tool. Stories facilitate relationship building and establish a safe and caring classroom. Some stories though are not always positive, but learning needs to be taken from them as well such as this story: Shannen’s Dream.

Next steps for participants will be to continue reading and communicating with the group via BlackBoard at the U of C until the next session on November 12th.