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Statistics from a recent study shows substantial general improvement in schooling outcomes among indigenous people in Canada. A study conducted by Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs in 2002 showed that the dropout rate among the aboriginals was 66%, as compared to 37% among non-Aboriginals. Such disproportionate lower rate of success in academics has been attributed to the discontinuity that exists between home cultures of the aboriginal students, and the environment and processes of the school. Aboriginal students, who migrated from their home communities to attend urban schools, were more than 80% of the teachers that were non-Aboriginals, and tended to perform dismally (Dodson, 1994).This has been attributed to the lack of inclusion of Aboriginal culture in the school curricula, and among teachers (Warren, E. et. al., 2004).
There are various aspects and sub aspects of Aboriginal culture that mediate or influence how they learn in a formal school setting. These aspects include community support, storytelling, using illustrations from their culture in the classroom, learning by modeling and observation, using of problem-solving circles, teacher respect towards them, and infusion of indigenous content in their studies. Inclusion of these Aboriginal perspectives in the curriculum calls for rigorous exploration to ensure that it serves the intended purpose of improving the performance of the Aboriginals, as well as making sure that the dominant-culture teachers catch up.
Not many teachers are of Aboriginal origin. Being a non-Aboriginal teacher, the Aboriginal students might tend to think that I am automatically biased against them. It would, therefore, be my job to make sure that they do not feel as such. I have to avoid anything that would portray me as a racist even in the slightest sense: by way of the examples I give in class, the kind of questions I ask students, or any jokes. Very few Aboriginal students have managed to graduate from high school, and even fewer- from teacher training colleges and universities. Those that have achieved the milestones face hurdles, such as marginalization and racism. Education is supposed to prepare Aboriginal students to take part fully in the economic life of the society they live in. Education should also develop youth, children as Aboriginal citizens, culturally and linguistically competent to be able to carry out their responsibilities as citizens.
The youth that come out of school ought to be grounded in a positive and strong Aboriginal identity. As the Aboriginal traditions dictate, education should develop the whole child, spiritually, physically, intellectually and emotionally. The current education system has failed to realize these goals. As a teacher, one should recognize that Aboriginal families and communities have a vital role in defining, what success for their children constitutes, and that their pride in their culture, and identity is recognized by this success. The teacher creates an atmosphere that is welcoming in the school and the classroom for Aboriginal parents. As a teacher, one should also incorporate Aboriginal culture and history into the school’s curriculum on an ongoing basis (Groome, 1995).
Teaching a class with Aboriginal kids is challenging. This is because one has to be careful about the kind of jokes you tell, and the examples you give in class. One has to ensure that in no way he does do or say anything that might make the Aboriginal students feel excluded and discriminated against. For the teacher to make sure that all the students, including the Aboriginals, in his class feel a sense of worth, he has to make sure that he gives an equal opportunity to all students. Nobody should feel that he/she has the upper hand, compared with the others. The teacher should not also be seen to favor any particular race. This calls for extra caution. All the statements have to be thoroughly analysed before they are uttered; otherwise, they could cause a rift between the students (Malin and Maidment, 2003).
Teachers have to teach a student not only as a person, but also as a member of a particular culture, family and community. It is paramount for the teacher to teach each student as an individual. This enables the teacher to recognize the varied cultural differences between his students and, hence, treat them accordingly. In this manner, he does not have to rely on stereotypes and preconceived notions about the student, his community, or family. Establishing relationship is vital to Aboriginal students, as it helps them to connect with the culture, where learning is based on relationships.
There are two challenges that successful Aboriginal teachers face: examining the students and being able to know what matters to them, and to devise ways to provide their collective interests and needs, so that they achieve success in school. Pivotal to a student's success in a learning institution is the interpersonal skills of the teacher. Teachers who are friendly, flexible, understanding, good listeners and trusting are easy for students to relate to. Teachers should not only talk about these attributes, but also model them. Teachers ought, for example, to listen authentically to students. This greatly raises the chances of success in the students; hence, they enjoy the school more. An effort by a teacher to connect with their students is always appreciated, and raises the student’s self- esteem, irrespective of background or race. The teacher needs to instill confidence in the students that they will always advocate for them.
The teacher needs to assure his students that he will do everything in his power to see that they succeed. They may not guarantee success, but assuring the students of their confidence in them can really boost their performance. Aboriginal students face discrimination and ethnocentrism. Teachers should assist the students to comprehend and process such issues, which border inevitability. Exemplary teachers are sensitive to a variety of cultural influences and family configurations, in which the students live. Successful teachers come up with strategies that are responsive to the needs of the students, and their nature. Teachers should come up with the ways to expand traditional practices and thoughts, regarding the success to beliefs that embrace a wide range of learners and honors diversity. This can be achieved by offering the students a chance to discover and explore their thoughts about success. The approach that is used by the teacher to assess and evaluate students also requires to be addressed so as to encompass a wider view of success. To fully comprehend and implement the aspect of multiple intelligences, the teacher needs to be encouraged to take opportunities.
We can never underscore the substantial effect of family on the success of Aboriginal students. Strategies that enhance and support the relationship between home and the school need to be incorporated in teaching. Conferences that are student ones enable the students to demonstrate, share, and celebrate their learning with both family and their teachers. The school community should initiate informal gatherings and invite the families of the students to attend them. Celebrations and cultural activities offer a chance for the students and their families to share with others, and honor their heritage together. Teachers have significant influence on students. Fundamental to quality learning is a positive relationship between the teacher and the student. Teachers are urged to, first, cement foundations and then construct a framework for the relationships (Nakata, 2003). To create a community of learners in the classroom, the teachers need to be culturally sensitive, trustworthy, regard the students as cohorts, advocate for them and authentically listen to them. One knows they have created a positive relationship, when the Aboriginal students start telling you about their family.
The programming and the curriculum that is designed for indigenous students need to show a caring attitude towards them. Teachers can increase the Aboriginals students’ chances of success by involving them in curriculum development. Expanding learning experiences beyond the school to the community enables the student to thrive. The teacher should, therefore, be in a position to come up with ways to involve the community into the classroom, and vice versa. Learning experiences that explore their heritage, which is culturally rich, are a key component of instruction and curriculum for the Aboriginal students. Culture is not taught, it is learned. It is, however, recommended that a teacher teaches the concept of culture and offer opportunities for the students to share, participate and explore their beliefs, thoughts, practices and knowledge. Students and teachers become learners in this sense. The informal and natural exchange of information offers a chance to walk in each others shoes, and it creates a spirit of understanding, acceptance, and curiosity.
Teachers and family play a substantial role in the studies and lives of Aboriginal students. Teachers should concentrate on providing opportunities that promote the building of peer relationships. Adopting instructional strategies and offering learning environment that foster symbiotic bonds cultivates this rapport. Teachers should also present occasions for Aboriginal students to come up with a culture of their own in the classroom, in a manner that empowers them, and enhances their capability to embrace the school (Philips, 2005). Teachers were not successful in dealing with Aboriginals in the past simply because they were not well equipped. Most were willing to do what was needed to see Aboriginals’ achieving success, just like their fellow non-Aboriginals. The attention to an Aboriginal student is vital for their self- esteem. Self-esteem is the connection between emotional-mental, physical, and spiritual realms. The success of an Aboriginal student depends on the schools and educators, respecting his views. The pedagogy inside the class has to be inclusive of the Aboriginal language and culture.
Some of the factors that lead to the success of Aboriginal students are family encouragement and support, adequate family incomes, supportive peer friendship, and favorable government policies. Factors within classroom and school are support services that are positive, culturally relevant curriculum among others. It is hard to distinguish some Aboriginal students from the others. They look and act pretty the same as the other students. They use similar language and display, as well as similar attitude as the other kids. Some may be blue-eyed, have a fair complexion or even be blonde. Some aboriginal students look and act differently. The biggest influence on both aboriginal and non-aboriginal are the influences of their cultures, history and families. The teacher should be able to dig deep into each of these influences; hence, it will be easier for them to create an understanding of the students’ lives.
Normally, when people meet for the first time, they will ask each other what and who they are. In Aboriginal communities people have a tendency to ask people who their families are, who they are, and where they are from. The responses to these questions expose a lot about the person’s tradition, languages and customs, as well as help to create a relationship. A teacher should be able to recognize whether a student is aboriginal or not. Hair, skin and eye colour, or even family names cannot be used to establish the identity of a student. The best way for the teacher to know a student’s identity would be to share stories about him with majority of his students. This works to create a model for the student. The teacher can later invite the students to share their stories about their backgrounds and themselves. Students are able to talk more on a one-on-one rather than in a group. As a teacher, one should be aware that not all of the student would be willing to be pointed out as Aboriginals in front of their peers. Most Aboriginals are ashamed of their cultural identity, due to colonization, and some of them would want to associate themselves with another ethnic formation instead (Aveling, 2007). The teacher should, therefore, create an environment that is safe for each of the students to associate themselves with their particular ethnic group.
One of the ways, in which the performance of Aboriginal students can be improved at schools, is by integrating aspects of their culture in the curriculum. This works by appraising the impact on class attendance, academic achievement, and school retention among particular groups of indigenous students. This integration of the Aboriginal perspectives in the curriculum has resulted in better performance among the aboriginal students. Performance trends among these students have been rather discouraging, and the research suggests that pedagogy and culturally responsive curriculum only cannot provide effective and functional agenda in reversing of performance trends among indigenous students. A comprehensive and holistic approach that encompasses the larger economic, social and political variables that are affecting learning institutions might provide a lasting and more meaningful intervention.
Another challenge, facing the Aboriginal students is that the community and family responsibilities are in conflict with schooling expectations, and poses as one of the biggest challenges to the students. Normally, an Aboriginal faces the community or family obligations, which conflict with school expectations. Aboriginal students will most often prioritize the community or family obligations, even if it means being discontinued from school. Students do not seem to comprehend the repercussions of some of the decisions they make, for instance, missing classes for a whole week to attend funeral (Purdie, 2000).
Yet another challenge facing Aboriginals is their different communication styles, which puts them in conflict with fellow classmates and instructors. These students are usually hesitant to seek assistance or speak up in class, if they are being challenged by their program. Some of them even avoid direct eye contact. The teachers who are not aware of such differences might interpret it as insubordination or disinterest, and they might hesitate to proactively assist the student. Those students who attend school in urban areas away from their home areas have issues with transitioning to such an urban environment (Harrison, 2011). They also tend to experience a feeling of isolation. They usually find themselves in a self dilemma, as they get exposed to a cultural environment that is different. They might experience sabotage by friends and family or, in some cases, self sabotage.
Negative attitude towards Aboriginal students is also common in some learning institutions. They also face racism outside these learning institutions, as they try to find housing and applying for bank accounts. These students also have family-related and personal health issues, incarceration, addiction and violence at a rate that is higher than that of the other students (Beresford, 2003).
Aboriginals are a minority group. This trend is also reflected at schools, whereby there are very few Aboriginal students in most schools. This might make them feel discriminated against. Most of them also suffer culture shock as they transit from their home areas to urban areas as they come to study in urban areas. This is where the teachers come in, so that they restore their esteem to level of the other kids, or better. It is not a simple role, considering that most teachers are non-Aboriginals; hence, they may not understand each other clearly.