Walking the Good Path in Life: Digital Citizenship and The Seven Grandfather Teachings

Photo 2012-11-12 10 39 36 AMFrom a First Nations perspective, you ‘Walk the Good Path’ when you demonstrate The Seven Grandfather Teachings. When you live your best life, you demonstrate Truth, Love, Humility, Courage, Honesty, Respect, & Bravery.

Now, this is true in our physical worlds, as it is in our virtual and digital worlds.

We all have a responsibility to help ALL people ‘Walk the Good Path’ in life.

In terms of our Education System, our Educators, just as our Children, are in need of the Seven Grandfather Teachings to continually learn how to create positive working environments, embed culturally relevant  and culturally responsive teaching practices for our students to foster confidence, and not fear.

Every single day, educators and students need to be honoured with open communication networks with staff, parents, and the community.

All people, need:

Love and Respect to strive for a mutual understanding of our own diversity;

Bravery to engage in Holistic Education each day and learn to live in harmony with each other;

Courage to follow the very Educational Initiatives that are put into place for the betterment of our students, and our society;

Humility to admit that we don’t have all of the answers;

Truth and Honesty to help us understand initiatives such as the Aboriginal Education Strategy that are a great benefit for all students, not just those self-identified as First Nations, Metis & Inuit.

The children of today are the leaders for tomorrow.

IF we train our children well, and treat them well, and honour their voices, THEN they will feel trusted, loved, and develop the courage to walk the good path toward their futures.

It is important to truly respect others, acknowledge their good work, cultural diversity, admit mistakes, strive to attain mutual understanding, create positive working environments, foster confidence and not fear.

Tens of Thousands of Educators have such an important leadership role in raising and educating an entire generation of children for the future. Just as it takes an entire ‘Village to Raise a Child’; our children, educators and other professionals also need Love, Respect, Humility, Courage, Bravery, Honesty, and Truth to grow as human beings, and continue to make the world a better place. Not just for now, but for generations to come.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

Photo 2012-11-12 10 39 36 AM

The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.

In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.

We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.

After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:

13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.

As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.

As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.

Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.

Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.

According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.

I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.

Deborah & Ian McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in Education for First Nations, Metis, & Inuit Students

Embedding culturally-relevant pedagogy into teaching can help students to:

  • build self-esteem, understanding, and tolerance between individuals, classrooms, and greater community;
  • increase open and acceptable communication among and between students, staff, admin, parents, and community;
  • build respect, aid in collaboration, and allows for integrated and differentiated teaching approaches that benefit all diverse cultural backgrounds and special needs for all students.

Students benefit from culturally responsive teaching approaches because it:

  • fosters less fear and greater confidence,
  • increases the feeling of being understood, decreases the feeling like they must assimilate to fit in,
  • helps individuals to embrace and feel accepted for their own culture, and
  • allows students to feel comfortable to always set higher standards for learning and achievement, because they are accepted and understood.

The truth is, we never know what our student’s cultural backgrounds are. Just because students may appear to be Caucasian, does not mean that they are not of First Nations, Metis, or Inuit heritage, or another cultural background.

Questions Educators can Consider:

  • How many of our students self-identify?
  • What are the residual effects of the Indian Act and Residential school system that we are unable to ‘see’ just because a student looks to be Caucasian?
  • Do we have to know the cultures of all of our students

Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices can accomplish, an increased awareness and mutual understanding of our diversity. Educators don’t necessarily need to know each and every culture, but we should aim to understand that they exist, and aim to understand each student as a whole person, including the cultures that make each and every one of them special and unique.

Differentiated Instruction practices, and using a wide variety of resources, including the students themselves, and other members of the community can help to infuse diversity into the classroom as well. If we are using resources that do not include diversity, this can also be an important discussion point, and opportunity to engage in further inquiry, and critical thinking.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices can be infused using a variety of Differentiate Teaching strategies, talking circles, Holistic Teaching practices, and through students own research and sharing within the classroom.

Examples of Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices:

  • Providing Continuous Communication with parents in appropriate ways that meet their needs
  • Inviting parents to communicate
  • Recognizing own limitations and communicating them
  • Conducting needs assessments and surveys for parents
  • Sending home Weekly or monthly newsletters
  • Researching cultural backgrounds of students
  • Touring student’s neighborhoods
  • Understanding student’s behaviours in light of community norms
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Creating respectful environments
  • Adapting lessons to reflect ways of communicating and learning that are familiar for students
  • Differentiating instruction
  • Teaching and talk to students about differences between individuals
  • Encouraging students to direct their own learning
  • Working with other students on projects that are culturally relevant to them
  • Culturally mediated Instruction
  • Helping students to recognize that there are more than one way to interpret a statement, event or action,
  • Setting realistic yet rigorous goals
  • Allowing for opportunities to share culture
  • Teaching students to question and challenge their own beliefs and actions
  • Creating meaningful connections between curriculum and real life
  • Giving Choices of working alone or in groups
  • Integrating units around universal themes
  • Accessing appropriate websites, videos, and links that will support your Pedagogy
  • Using eLearning strategies to share and teach others about student cultures

Teaching Strategies & Best Practices:

  1. The use of ‘Talking Circles’ within the classroom to introduce cultural perspectives into the classroom is very important. Additional benefits of Talking Circles can include turn taking, respect, creating a classroom community, sending positive messages relating to Character Education & Inclusiveness, and building Community, Culture, & Caring into the Education system.
  2. Engaging in Holistic Teaching is also important so that educators can help students to connect personal feelings, emotions, and experiences with the knowledge to create meaning.
  3. Integrating Medicine Wheel Teachings into the Curriculum is valuable to integrate First Nations, Metis & Inuit perspectives, and create a positive classroom community for behavior and learning, and helping students reflect on their own gifts & strengths, and to set personal and educational goals.
  4. Engaging in ‘Storytelling’ where students can create their own ‘Stories’ or legends about their special gifts.

Best Practices can also Include:

  • Helping families out by filling out paperwork etc.;
  • Going that extra mile to help make personal connections to teachers and staff
  • Incorporating cultural teachings across the curriculum into content areas including science, art, music, language, history, geography, & social studies
  • Inviting families to share with the classrooms and schools if they are comfortable
  • Helping to connect families to community network supports
  • Teaching students to deconstruct bias in learning resources
  • Inviting Aboriginal Elders, Storytellers, Authors & Artists into the classroom
  • Using resources that represent an Authentic voice
  • Technology may or may not be used within the home, so use this form of communication with caution. We must use it in ways that support our families and students, not alienate them.


Deborah McCallum

Restorative Practice Circles

Restorative Practice Circles are based upon the First Nations tradition of Talking Circles. First Nations, Metis & Inuit cultures are built upon oral traditions, therefore Talking Circles have been important ways to maintain and pass down important cultural teachings.

Restorative Practice is a form of justice, where in the classroom, it could be comprised of the person or people who hurt someone else, the person or people who were hurt, and anyone else involved in the incident. Rather than merely punish the wrongdoer, or engage in assertive discipline, everyone has a turn to speak, and it facilitates a deeper understanding of the hurt or incident, what happened, and greater satisfaction among all people in the circle. It incorporates some of the benefits of Talking Circles, in a way that promotes a holistic form of justice.

Restorative Circles provide many benefits including:

  • Fostering turn taking
  • Increasing respect
  • Creating a classroom community
  • Sending positive messages relating to Character, Culture, and Community
  • Allows for everyone to be heard and honoured

The Restorative Circles also work on much deeper levels as well. They provide excellent strategies for incorporating Cognitive, Developmental, Social, and Emotional benefits into the classroom including:

  • The ability to tailor the circle to the specific Developmental stages and needs of the students
  • The ability to be heard is often very therapeutic as well, which can increase student learning and involvement
  • Building strong working alliances in the classroom
  • Building reflection, and metacognition skills into the classroom structure
  • Building social relationships by increasing participation and interactions among students and between students that follow students outside of the classroom
  • Giving Students a greater ‘voice’

The use of Restorative Circles also serves as a great organizational tool or framework that can help Educators with decision making, lesson planning, accommodation of individual learning differences and embedding assessment strategies into the curriculum.

Considerations for Restorative Practice Circles: .

Teachers need to be cognizant of the skills necessary to effectively managing Restorative Practice Circles. These circles have the ability to be very therapeutic in nature as well, and Educators need to know effective ways of managing content being shared. Such skills may include, the ability to provide explicit feedback, positive reinforcement, effective acknowledgement of all participants, and ensuring consistency, good modeling skills, positive feedback, and allowing for adequate ‘Pause Times’ between responses and sharing.

The use of Talking Circles in education provides many benefits to students, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. But let us not dismiss the importance of Restorative Circles as well as important ways to honour the Cultures of our First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples in our Schools and Communities.


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.