Photo by Brigitte Tohm
It’s the end of the semester and time to reflect on how things went. I’m so happy I was able to go back to teaching, even though I had a very positive experience as an associate dean last year. I still have (I think) many more years of teaching in me. For now.
I tried to incorporate as many of the indigenous principles of learning that were shared at the indigenous education conference I went to in August at Camosun. As a result, I changed my classroom setup dramatically, pushing tables to the sides of the room and clearing a large space in the middle for sharing circles. And we had a lot of sharing circles. I feel like this worked really, really well in my classes to build community and help students support each other in their learning.
I did have frustrating moments that involved students who are not quite managing their frustrations. These students have had trauma and are coping fairly well, all things considered. But far too often for my liking, there will be an explosion that requires me to restate boundaries, be firm but compassionate with the exploder, and apply emotional first aid to the bystanders. It exhausts me and I need to find some better strategies for dealing with these situations. I got into one situation with a student who was getting very oppositional and when I asked them to step into the hall to speak with me privately, they refused. The other students were uncomfortable with the student sitting and stewing in the classroom, but I was worried about escalating the incident further, so I just said, “All right, if you choose to stay, you need to work quietly and not create a disturbance. If you want help I’m here, but I’m going to help other students now.” I reflected on it and later realized I should have said, “I’m asking you to step into the hall to provide you with privacy, but if you make the choice to stay in the classroom we will have to have this conversation in a place where others might overhear. It’s your choice,” and then followed through.
i will write more another time, but for now I’ll close with a link to an excellent thesis by an instructor teaching the high school version of my First Peoples English course: Integrating Indigenous and Eurocentric Pedagogies in the English First Peoples Curriculum by Naryn Searcy.