School Name: Simon Cunningham
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Christian Oskam Oskam_C@surreyschools.ca
Monique Ivens Ivens_M@surreyschools.ca
Juniper Ridington Ridington_J@surreyschools.ca
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Social Studies, Other: Cross curricular
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), First Peoples Principles of Learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Staff professional development relating to Indigenous Learning.
Scanning: We surveyed our staff, since our focus is on staff wide professional development. For this reason, we adapted the scanning questions to be geared to their comfort around teaching Aboriginal Education. We compiled our answers and found trends of discomfort and uncertainty toward teaching Indigenous content.
Focus: There was a general sense from scanning that our staff believe in the value of Aboriginal Education. That said, they felt discouraged and ignorant as to how to do this effectively. They seemed to be in need of professional sources of information and guidance.
Hunch: We think that educators do not want to do the wrong thing so are hesitant to engage in Aboriginal Education. This may create a sense of professional stagnation that prevents new/Indigenous ways of knowing from being explored. We would like to address this directly to increase the comfort of our teachers, so they are willing to push their own practice.
New Professional Learning: We decided to work on two different book studies to develop our understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing. The first was based around reading Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith, and attending the Speaking Our Truth Night of Learning with the author.
We also formed a book club to read and discuss Sara Davidson and Robert Davidson’s Potlatch as Pedagogy. We had Sara booked for a Pro-D day in May, but due to Covid-19 we have rebooked her for September.
Taking Action: Based on what came out of our discussions around Speaking Our Truth, we brought our learning into our staff meetings and professional development days (including online meetings during distance learning). Since it was important to us to spread our new knowledge to our staff, this was a vital step. We felt it was important to continue to focus on this, even during challenging times. It sparked further discussion, which we hope to continue in September when Sara Davidson visits for our school wide professional development.
Checking: Unfortunately we did not have the impact that we wanted. We were able to reach one third of our staff through our first book club — by having them directly participate, and everyone else through our share outs. However, when Covid-19 suspended in school instruction, we had to go to a more remote form of sharing; thus, we didn’t have a chance to follow up with a few of our planned activities (i.e. First People’s in Residence Weeks and Sara Davidson’s visit). We are hopeful that our momentum will carry forward into next year.
Reflections/Advice: We plan to dig deeper into Potlatch as Pedagogy, as a staff and follow up with suggestions from Speaking Our Truth (i.e. how to be an ally, how to support reconciliation- specifically within our school).
We advise continuing to build upon the knowledge that you unearth as a group, in order to maintain interest and open up to the uncomfortable discussions around reconciliation that we, as educators, need to have.