I am old enough to remember when every book I read in school had a male protagonist and every pronoun referenced a “he.” During my time in school, a shift happened: first pronouns started sometimes being “she” and then the novels and stories we read started having female protagonists. At first, that felt strange, but soon it just became normal. Looking back now, it seems obvious that both boys and girls should see themselves in the stories we read, the history we study, and the references and examples we make in school. Why did we ever do it differently?
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has challenged schools to include teaching about Indigenous history and culture in their curricula. At Centennial School, we think it’s more than that; we think it’s important for all of our students see themselves in the stories we read, the history we study and the references and examples we make. We have challenged ourselves to learn more about how to do that.
This year, Centennial staff have had professional development in treaty education from knowledge keepers from the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. We have worked with author, David Robertson, to learn ways to incorporate contemporary Indigenous perspectives into lessons we are already teaching. We have worked with Program Leaders in Sunrise School Division on our literacy and active learning goals and have sometimes used Indigenous poetry and literature as the resources to achieve these goals. We have sent staff to a divisional outdoor learning day and have spent time learning how to use the outdoors as another classroom as outlined in our active learning school goal. Our Educational Assistants have attended professional development to learn about current Indigenous topics and they took part in a faceless dolls activity.
Centennial students have benefitted from going outside to learn. They have listened to Indigenous stories during I Love to Read Month activities. They have created a medicine wheel as they learned more about how they learn and they have been exposed to the seven teachings. They have had opportunities to learn from elders and knowledge keepers. A Manitoba Theatre for Young People play came to our school and was a perfect example of what we are trying to do. The play focused on three heroines, one of whom just happened to be a Chippewayan peacemaker.
All of our students need to see themselves in the work we do in the school. That is important for effective learning to happen. For some, this shift might initially feel strange. We are confident, however, that it won’t take long for us to wonder why we ever did things differently.