Category: Grad student stories

Teacher-Researcher Profile

An interview with Dr. Brandon Needham, Principal of Melville Comprehensive School (MCS) and 2020 CBC Future 40 Winner, who successfully defended his dissertation, “Critical Action Research: How One School Community Lives out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” on February 16, 2021. Co-supervisors were Dr. Twyla Salm and Dr. Jennifer Tupper. Committee members were Dr. Michael Cappello, Dr. Anna-Leah King, and Dr. Amber Fletcher. External examiner was Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook (University of Ottawa).

Why did you choose to do your graduate degree at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina?

I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Bachelor of Education – major in physical education and minor in history, and a Master’s degree in curriculum studies from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). I chose the University of Regina (U of R) for my doctoral work based on the reputation of the school, specifically, the notable research being conducted in the area of treaty and Indigenous education. My supervisor, and former U of R Dean of Education, Dr. Jennifer Tupper’s seminal work in treaty education became the basis to explore areas of reconciliation education.

The University of Regina was also one of the only doctoral programs not requiring a one-year residency for doctoral students, which allowed me to study and continue my job as an in-school administrator. This was very important for me, as I was not able to take an education leave from my school division to pursue a doctorate. The flexibility in the graduate programs at the U of R makes academia more accessible to those educators who still want to remain connected to a K-12 context and for that I was grateful.

What were the circumstances that led you to your research topic for your dissertation?

Having enrolled in the winter term of 2015, just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and the subsequent release of the Calls to Action occurred, this topic seemed timely. Prior to choosing this topic, I had conducted a research project with Dr. Michael Cottrell from the U of S on the implementation of treaty education through treaty catalyst teachers. My doctoral work was an evolution of this earlier work, which sought to investigate the challenges and opportunities in teaching students about the Indian Residential School (IRS) project.

What need were you identifying?

In my time as a classroom teacher and an in-school administrator, I have identified hesitancy from students and staff to engage fully in the teaching and learning of treaty education, and other Indigenous topics found in the curriculum. This was initially the case for me, too, as I began my teaching career. Having grown up in a town void of experiences with Indigenous peoples, I had to (un)learn many of the things I had come to know about Indigenous peoples. Through my various educational experiences, I gained a more nuanced understanding of myself as a White settler and the privilege that accompanies that position. Wanting to create meaningful change in my school community towards the goals of the TRC, this project offered the opportunity to invite others to consider their privileged positions. Much of the research conducted to this point had been with teacher-candidates; I felt that conducting the research project in my school may serve to help clarify the complexities of reconciliatory work in K-12 contexts.

Briefly outline your research question and findings.

The study was informed by the following research question: “What actions can a school community take to engage in the TRC Calls to Action to become a site where truth and reconciliation become possible?”

The findings of the study have been encapsulated in the following way: By living out the Calls to Action in our school community we learned to:

Begin with ourselves

  • Locate oneself in the context of settler-colonialism by confronting the various ways we have and continue to be shaped by it.
  • Understand the context of where the work is happening, seeking to understand the community we wish to transform.
  • Build capacity in ourselves so as to engage respectfully in difficult conversations we encountered on our journey of reconciliation.
  • Practice critical reflection and understand that the journey toward reconciliation is on-going and evolves with time.

Walk alongside Indigenous peoples on this journey

  • Bear witness to truth-telling (survivor stories and other Indigenous counter-stories).
  • Build and foster respectful relationships with Indigenous community members.
  • Create a support network (Indigenous organizations, community groups, academic institutions) to assist in the journey.

Engage in disruptive work

  • Work collectively and collaboratively to transform the teaching and learning of the residential school project, treaty education, Indigenous sovereignty, and ongoing colonial violence.
  • Encourage and influence those around us to include and infuse Indigenous perspectives, values, and cultural understanding into daily practice.
  • Transform the spaces and places in the school to reflect the historical significance of Indigenous peoples.
    Recognize the potential of schools and individuals in schools to be vehicles for reconciliatory actions.

What was memorable, a highlight about doing this research?

A highlight of doing this research project was having been fortunate enough to share this journey with the colleagues who participated in the study. Our group met several times over the course of the school year in the hope to live out the TRC Calls to Action in our school, which led to many meaningful conversations about the influence we have as teachers to make reconciliation more than aspirational.

What kinds of feedback have you received from others?

I have received very positive feedback from others. I have had an opportunity to share my findings through virtual conferences, with only positive comments coming from those sessions.

Were there any unexpected moments of grace coming out of your studies during a pandemic?

I would say an unexpected moment of grace that came out of this pandemic was shown by my supervisor, Dr. Tupper. She was extremely supportive and understanding of the challenges I faced as a graduate student, principal, and father of four children.

What are your hopes for how your work is taken up by others?

My hope is that this work is taken up in ways that continue to invite others to consider their positionality in our settler-colonial system and how they might use their privilege to explore the shared history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. More work is needed in how students take up and experience reconciliation education and it is my hope that this project can illuminate some of those possibilities.

While a student, Brandon Needham was named one of CBC’s 2020 Future Forty winners. Read the interview by clicking on the image

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Regina 3MT® Competition winner

Congratulations to MEd student Whitney Blaisdell on winning the University of Regina 3MT® competition. Along with the recognition, Blaisdell takes home $1500 and she will represent the U of R in the Western Regional 3MT® competition.

The three-minute thesis competition proved to be a “great challenge,” says Blaisdell: “I was surprised at how challenging it was to attempt to describe the importance and current state of play, the research methods I used, the emergent theory, and the implications of the research in three minutes!”

Blaisdell says she benefitted from other aspects of participating in the competition, including the “opportunity not only to share this research on play in an accessible format but also to listen to other students share their fascinating and important research. The finalists had the opportunity to attend a workshop on presenting with Dr. Kathryn Ricketts that was so helpful.”

Overall, Blaisdell says that she has had, “a wonderful experience studying here at the University of Regina in the Faculty of Education with the supervision of Dr. Marc Spooner and the support of Dr. Valerie Triggs and Dr. Patrick Lewis as members of my committee.”

As for the future, along with supporting the offshoots of her current research and doing more research around play, Blaisdell plans to follow her own advice–to play: “I look forward to taking a small break to play and enjoy some warm weather with my family.”

The University of Regina Graduate Student Association (URGSA) described the competition as follows:

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an internationally recognized competition for thesis-based graduate students in which participants present their scholarly and creative activity and its wider impact in 3 minutes or less. The challenge is to present complex research in an accessible and compelling way with the assistance of only one static slide. Created in 2008 by Dr. Alan Lawson at the University of Queensland, Australia, the 3MT® competition celebrates exciting and innovative graduate student research while promoting communication, public speaking, and storytelling skills. The competition offers an exciting and thought-provoking opportunity for graduate students, pushing them to consolidate their ideas and crystalize their research discoveries. Presenting in a 3MT® competition increases the capacity of graduate students to effectively explain their scholarly and creative activity in a clear and concise manner, and in a language appropriate to a general audience.

URGSA has posted a video of the competition to YouTube:

Grad student discusses talking to students about climate change on CBC’s What on Earth

Aysha Yaqoob (B.Ed. 2018) founded Pencils of Hope while a student. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

In today’s email communication from the U of R President Dr. Thomas Chase, faculty and staff were made aware that,

“Alumna and current #UofR Education grad student Aysha Yaqoob (BEd’18) is talking to young people about climate change.

Laura Lynch of CBC’s ‘What on Earth’ January 10 broadcast, a segment on talking with children about climate change, features award-winning U of R alumna and current MEd graduate student Aysha Yaqoob, who teaches at Balfour Collegiate in Regina.”

This interview is summarized in the what follows.

Lynch asks, “Why teach climate change in an English class,” Yaqoob outlines how her teaching practices were formed by her own experiences as a student, and what stuck with her were the things she could relate to.  So when she thinks about making learning relatable, she thinks about “bringing in real-life situations: what’s going on around them, [and] how they can contribute to it.” Yaqoob says, “I’ve learned that climate change is something young people really care about.”

Lynch then asks Yaqoob how teaching about climate change in a high-school English class “dovetail[s] with lessons about Shakespeare and grammar.” Yaqoob responds that the Saskatchewan English curriculum is thematic so quite open ended. The theme she builds around is Equity and Ethics, which ties into Shakespeare’s Macbeth and also climate change and climate crisis.  Yaqoob begins by asking students where they are at and what they already know about this topic. Yaqoob says, “Over the years, I have found that that’s usually the best way that we can start our learning and move forward.”

Students often think they know a lot about a topic but after their conversations, they realize “they only understand the tip of the iceberg,” says Yaqoob. Students are generally familiar with concepts such as reduce, reuse, recycle, and plastic straws, but with “some of the more complex conversations such as greenhouse gases, when we bring those in, a lot of kids are shocked,” Yaqoob says. “We are constantly debunking information or misinformation that they find online. That’s actually part of the course that I teach earlier on, that critical thinking piece, so by the end of it, they get pretty good at cross referencing, fact checking…so it’s a pretty cool experience that we do together.”

In her first year of teaching, Yaqoob realized that she needed to approach the topic differently so the students can feel empowered and inspired rather than panicked. After conversations with students, she and her students started to look at people who are making change, such as youth activists. Students wrote to people who were making decisions, such as the Mayor of Regina, the Provincial Government and the Prime Minister Trudeau.  Students did receive responses, and these contributed to a feeling of empowerment and advocacy.

Go to https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-429/clip/15817583 to hear the 7-minute exchange. Select the 10 January segment of “What on Earth” and forward to about the 12’15” mark.

Living in Colour: Blackness and Racial Justice and Equity in the Education Institution

Obianuju Juliet Bushi, PhD student, sessional lecturer, student advisor and newly elected Regina Catholic School Board trustee

The current coronavirus pandemic has created economic, social, educational, and political uncertainties in North America and worldwide. This pandemic has tested our systems and has changed the way we perform our daily living. Teaching and learning have taken a new form and classes have been restructured and redesigned to keep students and teachers safe and to minimize the spread of this deadly virus. In addition to the pandemic, education institutions have to respond to concerns and provide clear answers to tough questions from students, faculty, and non-teaching staff about their safety in school and the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning. Schools have also witnessed significant cuts in funding and resources that have affected the ways education resources become available and accessible based on needs, race, and class (Khalifa, 2013).

The issues of power and racial inequalities in schooling contexts have been a topic of discussion since the 1990s by many scholars of colour (see, for example, Derrick Bell, 1993; Gloria Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). In response to the inequitable access to education for minoritized students (Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, and other People of Colour), many post-secondary institutions have developed frameworks that address “whiteness” and are working to understand education policies and reforms (Khalifa, Dunbar & Douglas, 2013) and their impacts on Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) students and faculty members. Discrimination and racial inequalities against IBPOC people are invisible to those who are not affected by them because they are endemic, engrained, and normalized in educational institutions and policies.

The unlawful killing of 46-year-old George Floyd on the 25th of May in the United States sparked unrest all over the world with thousands of concerned citizens taking a stance against racial injustice and police brutality against Black people. Many “Black Lives Matter” rallies were held across the country with hundreds and thousands of protesters showing their support and marching in solidarity.

As a Black student in the Faculty of Education, I have received moral and social support from fellow students, my supervisor, and senior administrators. This act of responsibility and support also shows that more needs to be done to address racial injustice and inequalities that IBPOC students and faculty may experience within and outside our Faculty. It also indicates that educational institutions need to move beyond conversations to actions—from liberal multiculturalism to critically relevant practices, from abyssal thinking to critical thinking and post-abyssal thinking (thinking from the realm of the “other” by the “other”) and from a non-racist to anti-racist practice—to address barriers and challenges that continue to impact academic success and personal growth of students and to promote a safe space for IBPOC faculty members to be their authentic selves. So, one may ask, how can an educational institution that embodies whiteness and Eurocentric practices promote blackness and black scholarship?

As many education scholars will agree, education is politics, and so is our curriculum because it is created from a lens that privileges a particular construction of knowledge and the record of knowledge, which more often than not, favours dominant culture. As a graduate student, I have enjoyed classes that allowed me to share my story without having to think and speak like the dominant population. I have also enjoyed classes that were interactive and engaging especially for IBPOC students. More often, our voices are silenced and our knowledge and experiences go unnoticed and undervalued. The Faculty of Education has allowed me to grow as an aspiring critically aware educator and activist and I have cherished the support and resources I have received and continue to receive.

I started my post-graduate studies in curriculum and instruction in the Faculty of Education in 2015, a couple of years after completing my MPA. Since my start date, I have been very fortunate to have been granted a much-needed Leave of Absence (Personal and Maternity) that allowed me to balance my studies and family life. I have also been a Sessional Lecturer at First Nations University for over eight years and a faculty advisor for a couple of years now. I have had the privilege of working with faculty members in the capacity of a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) that allowed me to experience and gain crucial knowledge in the teacher education program. I have also built intellectual relationships with students, faculty, and preservice and in-service teachers and have improved my knowledge of the K-12 system. These experiences have also inspired me to continue my research work in “exploring the perceptions of Black-African students (K-12) school experience and mental wellness in Saskatchewan,” an area I am passionate about. As a recently elected board trustee in the Regina Catholic School Division, I hope to continue to inspire young people to be more involved in their various communities and capacities. I am also very fortunate to be on the Board with dedicated and passionate trustees that understand the importance of putting students first.

By Obianuju Juliet Bushi, PhD student, sessional lecturer, student advisor and newly elected Regina Catholic School Board trustee

Click here to read Obianuju Juliet Bushi’s Opinion piece in CBC News “Sask.’s next government must address barriers Black people face.”

SCPOR Trainee Funding Program recipients

PhD Candidate Natalie Owl is the recipient of a SCPOR Trainee Funding Program award (2019-2020: $10,000 and 2020-2021 $5000) for her patient-oriented research project, “Cultural Continuity and Self-determination: Resolving Sociolinguistic and Historic Trauma Impacts on Nishnaabemwin Revitalization.” Owl is working under the supervision of  Dr. A. Blair Stonechild.

PhD Candidate Obianuju Juliet Bushi is the recipient of a SCPOR Trainee Funding Program award (2019-2021 $4936/year) for her patient-oriented research project, “Understanding Racial Identity Formation, Mental Health, and Well-being of African-Canadian (Black) School Children in Saskatchewan through a Community-Based Summer Program.” Bushi is working under the supervision of Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich.

Grad student recipient of the APEG Saskatchewan Award

Graduate student Megan Moore is the recipient of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists Saskatchewan (APEG) 2020 Friends of the Profession Award.

“The Friend of the Professions Award was created in 2013 to recognize exceptional achievements or unique contributions by a non-member in the promotion of the professions in Saskatchewan.

Moore is the Program Coordinator for the Educating Youth in Engineering and Science (EYES) Program at the University of Regina. EYES operates through the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences and reaches more than 30,000 youth in Saskatchewan each year.

Megan began working with EYES in September 2016, but has been working with youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming since May 2013 with Destination Exploration at the University of Lethbridge. Megan graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Biological Science and Psychology.

She currently is studying for a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Regina. Megan has always had a passion for STEM outreach and education. She volunteered with Let’s Talk Science and the Canada Wide Science Fair while she was attending the University of Lethbridge.

Megan is always in search of innovative ways to inspire youth to love STEM as much as she does. There is nothing more exciting for Megan then getting to experience the “a-ha” moment when a youth experiences the wonder of STEM.

Having grown up in a small rural community, Megan is passionate about equitable access for all youth regardless of socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, disability or any non-traditional status that may prevent youth from seeing themselves in STEM. Megan works tirelessly to build safe spaces for youth and continues to disrupt established STEM spaces. She truly believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to be great and that it is her duty to ensure that EYES is accessible for everyone.” (Source: https://www.apegs.ca/e-edge/Archive/Edge186/awards.html)

IPHRC/SCPOR funding renewed

PhD Candidate (Education Psychology) Shana Cardinal has been renewed as recipient of an Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) / Saskatchewan Centre for Patient Oriented Research (SCPOR) Research Award in the amount of $30,000 for her doctoral research, which Cardinal says involves, “analyzing the contexts and frameworks through which Indigenous children and youth mental health may be viewed, with particular emphasis on the impacts of social determinants and cultural assumptions.”  Through her research, Cardinal says she “hopes to determine ways in which we can better support Indigenous students as they progress through Pre-K to 12 education system.”

The IPHRC/SCPOR grant has facilitated Cardinal’s ability to complete coursework requirements for her PhD program and to begin a review of the literature by locating, assembling, and reviewing resources to support her doctoral research.  The grant has given Cardinal, “numerous educational and mentorship opportunities specifically related to Indigenous research methodologies and practices,” she says.

The IPHRC/SCPOR Trainee program has facilitated the growth of Cardinal’s professional networks. These networks have “broadened my perspective and expanded my thinking about my research questions within the context of the mental health of Indigenous children and youth,” says Cardinal.

 

Cynthia Chamber Award recipient

Jessica Irvine (BEd ’08, MEd ’19) is recipient of the CSSE-SCEE Cynthia Chambers Award for her master’s thesis, “Writing and Teaching Curriculum With Relationships in Our Place: A Critical Meta-Analysis of Saskatchewan Core French Curricula’s Cultural Indicators,” which she successfully defended on November 29, 2019. Irvine was supervised by Dr. Heather Phipps. Committee members were
Dr. Valerie Mulholland and Dr. Anna-Leah King. The External Examiner was Dr. Michale Akinpelu, La Cité Universitaire Francophone. The following is an interview with Irvine.

What personal and/or professional circumstances prompted you to take your master’s degree?

I have been a Core French educator with Regina Public Schools since 2008. Primarily, and most recently, I teach elementary, Grades 1-8. When the new elementary Core French curriculum was released in 2010, I felt disconnected to it. I also felt students were disconnected to Core French overall and most complained about having to take it. I couldn’t figure out why that was. I began to question if it was me as a teacher? Or me as a person? I came to a point where I had to find the answers and how to change this negative response to Core French or I’d lose the passion to teach Core French that I’ve had since I was a child.

I also felt overwhelmed by the Core French curriculum, which has outcomes and indicators for student tasks based on the recommendation of 120-200 minutes of French education per week. Students only receive 60-90 minutes typically in a week due to timetable constraints.

Further, the new curriculum introduced several Indigenous cultural knowledge strands. Because I completed my Bachelor of Education in 2008, I did not have any teacher training or education on Indigenous content in the curriculum. To be honest, I was scared to teach it as I wasn’t sure I could or if I’d teach it wrong. For the first few years of the new curriculum, I avoided Indigenous content.

However, in the 2015-2016 school year, when I was teaching a unit about the fur trade, about Carnaval de Québec, to Grades 6 – 8, a student spoke up and said that he wished we learned more about the Indigenous people and their languages in school. He expressed that my lesson on the fur trade is another example that French came after Indigenous languages, so why are they rarely taught? The student had a Cree and Saulteaux background and what he really was asking “Why aren’t we learning more about what’s relevant to me, too?”

His question promoted a class discussion and almost every student had the same final thought when I collected sticky notes—because the Indigenous were here before the French and there is so much intertwined history with both cultures—why is it we are only seeing the one side in schools? Why is it we are only offered Core French at a majority of schools?

This led me to applying for my Master’s of Education, to a course-route program initially. But after the first few classes, I realized that what brought me back to school and learning was my students’ questions which couldn’t be answered unless I confronted the issue full on by writing a thesis on it.

Why did you choose the U of R to do your Master’s degree?

Mainly it was about being able to teach and learn at the same time. I didn’t want to take a leave to go to another university as I felt that I would learn more by teaching at the same time of my learning—really my unlearning, too.

I also wanted to take classes at the U of R because I knew many professors who would be able to help me on this journey. The University’s dedication to reconciliation was important to me.

What was your rationale for framing your research with Senator Sinclair’s (2016) four questions: Where do I come from; where am I going; why am I here; and who am I?

I was fortunate to hear Senator Sinclair speak at the Woodrow Lecture. When I heard him ask these questions, my mind immediately returned to my classroom with my students who were really asking me those exact questions. And I realized, that as their teacher, I didn’t even have the answers to those questions. I had to be able to answer them first if I was ever going to be an educator that helped guide students to their own answers. By framing my research with those questions, I was forcing myself to answer the questions from my students.

What was your initial research question? Did your question change as you researched?

Without recognizing it, my initial research question began in my first course with Dr. Lace Brogden. One of the articles I was assigned to present on was by Dr. Cynthia Chambers. Her theories on land-based learning and culturally appropriate curricula began to inspire me to want to learn more about the land I lived on. My second course, Indigenous Methodologies taught by Dr. JoLee Sasakamoose, was the first of many unlearnings. I encountered many moments of discomfort as I learned new perspectives that were never a part of my previous education. I formed several supportive relationships in this course that I still am blessed to have in my life now. I also took a directed reading course with Dr. Heather Phipps focused on Life Writing and Literary Métissage as an Ethos for Our Times by Dr. Cynthia Chambers, Dr. Erika Hasebe-Ludt, and the late Dr. Carl Leggo. The course and text guided me to my research question. I knew I wanted to find out if or how French and Indigenous languages and culture could both be taught through a Core French program without forgetting my role as a French educator, but also not forgetting that I’m an educator on Treaty 4 lands.

My final research questions that changed and focused over time in my thesis were: Does Saskatchewan’s Core French curricula advocate for Core French programs to integrate Indigenous knowledges, culture, and languages that meets the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in Education of culturally appropriate curricula? How can the Saskatchewan Core French curricula make space for both French and Indigenous culture and languages, along with multiple other cultures, in our diverse province?

What were your findings?

Levels 1-7 Core French curricula is not culturally appropriate and has many stereotypes and content that was not integrated with feedback from Indigenous peoples. I think what surprised me the most was that my focus was to determine if the Indigenous content in the cultural indicators were appropriate, but what was also revealed in the focus groups was that the French culture, the culture the curriculum was created for, also had many stereotypes and misconceptions of French culture.

Participants strongly recommended that the curriculum should be rewritten but this time, with educators of Core French, members of the French community, and the Indigenous community invited to the process.

For part of the focus group discussion, it was debated whether or not Indigenous culture even belonged in the Core French curriculum. In the end, all participants, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous strongly agreed that it did as a part of where we live but that the following four foci should be implemented into the curriculum making AND the curriculum teaching process:

  • Building relationships. If you are not Indigenous, you need to talk to someone who is an Elder or knowledge keeper. You need to ask permission before teaching Indigenous content so you are guided how to do it, and sometimes you may be told you cannot teach it as you are not qualifeid to share that knowledge. Some knowledges have be taught from the Elders and knowledge keepers.
    Teach from your place. The Core French curriculum tried to throw in content from across Canada and the world. Focus on your place whether that be Regina, Treaty 4 or perhaps in Saskatoon on Treaty 6. Teach what is relevant to the students in the environment they live and learn from.
  • Spiritual content—be very careful of this. It may not be appropriate to teach this from within the classroom as it should be experienced in a real setting.
  • We have to find the third space—in Core French, that space is to teach French culture and language but it must allow for other cultures of my place to not be overshadowed. But as a Core French educator, I also can’t forget that my role is to teach French, too. This space needs to allow for learning from others and asking for help when needed, to not assume I am teaching the right thing when it comes to Indigenous cultural indicators, but also to not skip teaching them as I’m afraid to do so.

Describe an “aha” moment for you as you researched your topic?

While the focus groups and myself all had various backgrounds—we really had one common goal—our children. It didn’t matter if anyone disagreed or didn’t see one aspect the same as someone else did. The participants listened to each other, created a safe place for discussion, often changed their perspectives upon hearing another, brought themselves to many uncomfortable conversations, and learned from each other—and came to a common understanding. It wasn’t easy but seeing my participants in this process really showed me that curriculum could be done in a similar way. And that there are people willing to give their time for it, yet often the invitation to the process is not extended. I realized for myself that while I cannot change the curriculum, I can change how I approach it and how I teach it. As one participant said—the curriculum is mainly just a guide.

How has your research changed how you approach teaching and learning?

I see the curriculum completely different. Before I saw it as almost the “bible” that had all the right answers. This has changed. I refer to it for ideas on what to teach but then I seek out the sources I need to teach that content and ask them “What should I or shouldn’t I teach with this?” I feel my connection to where I’m from has deepened, and I put relationships first in my classroom and with my colleagues. Students are excited and eager to learn when I come to their class and it isn’t because it’s French. It’s because I’ve taken the time to understand why I’m teaching Core French and I try to make the program relevant to my students, too.

My passion for this knowledge led me to wanting to build more of a community for Core French educators as well. Often we are the only one in a school building with multiple classrooms. I became lead facilitator for the Community of Practice for Core French educators in Regina Public Schools four years ago, and in the past couple years, I’ve helped bring together a province-wide group of Core French educators where there are optional virtual meetings and Professional Development. It isn’t an official role or even a paid one, but it is a necessary role that my research led me to. The Ministry of Education isn’t going to spend the money to update the curriculum in the near future, but by building relationships with those who teach Core French in my place, whether that be just Regina or the whole province, we can work together to change how we teach the curriculum using the knowledge I’ve gained from the research process and from what the participants have helped me to unlearn and learn.

This is just the beginning as well—I just recently finished my research and I have so much more to learn.

Honouring the Ojibwa language

When Natalie Owl (PhD candidate) was a girl living on the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation on the northern Ontario shores of Lake Huron, her parents – survivors of the Indian residential school and the day school systems – chose to raise their three daughters and son in a traditional Ojibwa life.

“We led healthy lives, picking berries, hunting moose, fishing, and working the trapline without electricity or running water,” the University of Regina PhD candidate (ABD) recalls. “My parents were strict – no drinking, drugs, or cigarettes. My father didn’t talk much about his time in residential school, and I think that he has yet to come to terms with that experience. My mom went to a day school, and as a result, she was able to retain more of the language because she spoke it at home every night. My mom has helped us keep our language alive.”

Excerpt from Discourse Magazine Autumn 2019/Winter 2020

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