Reading Response 1
Cara Zurzolo’s article, “Where Does Policy Come From? Exploring the experiences of non-Aboriginal teachers integrating Aboriginal perspectives into the curriculum” explores the difficulty and discomfort teachers often experience when trying to integrate Aboriginal perspectives into lessons and every day teaching. The article explains a study conducted on teachers who felt very strongly about teaching for social justice and therefore by including Aboriginal perspectives, but who felt they had little support or confidence in approaching such a thing, even though it was required of them. I chose this article because I felt a connection between the teachers in it. Through my experience in the education program I have come to learn and really appreciate the fact that aboriginal perspectives must be included in all subject areas and as much as possible, I can clearly see the benefits this will provide to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, however, I still feel very uncomfortable and unsure on how to do this. I don’t feel I have the confidence in the subject or the knowledge that would make it effective for my students. The issue of not knowing how to effectively incorporate Aboriginal perspectives into lessons draws me to focus this paper on building a support group of people who a teacher can trade ideas and resources with in order to gain the confidence and support needed, just as the teachers in this article did.
This article is helpful to a student-teacher like me because it addresses the many concerns I have with the curriculum and addressing Aboriginal perspectives and issues. It acknowledges the fact that the curriculum includes these requirements but that sometimes this is not enough. Ultimately it is the teacher who will shape the learning of the students, not the curriculum, so if a teacher does not feel well equipped to address these topics, then it really doesn’t matter what the curriculum states or requires a teacher to teach about. Since, the teachers in the study valued the idea of including and integrating aboriginal perspectives, they went in search for ways that they could learn to affectively do so. The most helpful support they found was that of other colleagues as well as from organizations that dedicated their time to social justice. In all of my education classes, one thing that has really stood out to me is how crucial it is for teachers, especially new ones to find and work with a support group. We have been taught that isolating yourself and not sharing ideas, thoughts, and concerns will only lead to failure in teaching and that the best strategy to deal with discouraging issues is to share ideas, resources, and information with other colleagues. The teachers in this article were able to conquer some of their concerns with incorporating Aboriginal perspectives by seeking help from outside organizations and colleagues.
This article suggests a first step that teachers can take if they are unsure of how they can effectively integrate Aboriginal resources and perspectives into their teaching, it addresses that even though teachers should probably play a critical role in developing policies around these issues, that this is often not a reality. Teachers are often left on their own to explore ways of integrating Aboriginal perspectives into their teaching, and for people like myself who have very little knowledge or background with Aboriginal perspectives, this can be a very difficult and intimidating task. This article made me feel frustrated and uncomfortable because it is quite apparent that including Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom is not always an easy task, it made me question how can I, someone who has very little experience with Aboriginal perspectives include them in a meaningful way, without it becoming merely a checklist to my teaching?
My major is health, and I feel that I would be able to incorporate many Aboriginal perspectives into health classes, I feel very comfortable with the Aboriginal perspective of health because I have had a lot of exposure to it, but if and when I teach other subjects I am not sure I have enough background knowledge to begin to effectively include them in my teachings, and this is where most of my discomfort comes from. I don’t want having the “perspectives of Aboriginal people” to become a checklist, a teacher shouldn’t look at his or her lesson and say “okay, I included the medicine wheel in this lesson so I’ve done my job”. It needs to become something deeper and meaningful, but if a teacher doesn’t have the knowledge or support then it can become very discouraging. Looking back at my own elementary and high school experiences I can’t recall many times that Aboriginal perspectives where included, I don’t even think they were addressed in History class. It wasn’t until my first year of University that I started to understand how important it is to include Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom and how big of an issue it really is. I remember thinking after my first Indigenous studies class, “I am going to teach for social justice, I am going to start addressing these issues with my students and start including Aboriginal perspectives in everything I teach”, it didn’t take long for me to realize how making these thoughts a reality would be a difficult task. That’s not to say I’ve given up on it, I am just discovering the obstacles teachers face while trying to address these issues.
The notion of seeking help and support from other colleagues and organizations and groups inside and outside of the school is something I plan to embrace. With the help of others, the task of including Aboriginal perspectives in a meaningful way doesn’t seem so scary. It can be frustrating for a teacher when the curriculum and policies tell you to do something, but you have no idea on how to do so, but through the support of others it is possible to succeed. I feel that this Reading Response showed me that there is no right answer on how to do something in the classroom, and that ultimately it is up to me as a teacher to explore different ways to successfully integrate Aboriginal perspectives into my classroom. This assignment also showed me that I have some major anxiety and concerns around Aboriginal content because I am so unfamiliar with it; it showed me that I need to branch out and talk about these concerns with fellow classmates and instructors. The assignment has also led me to wonder why we as student-teachers don’t have more access and exposure to workshops that may help alleviate some of the nervousness around including Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom and why such an important aspect of education is touched on so briefly in our classes, why are we only required to take one Indigenous Studies class and is that enough?