2018 - 2019 School Year
Our district has developed a Student-Focused version of our Three-Year Education Plan 2018-2021, which articulates the district strategies for school improvement from a student stance (written in green below). In the month of September, our committee work is advancing our key strategies to ensure that Alberta Education System Supports First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Students’ Success (Outcome Two).
Students will use the Gallup Student Poll Survey results to set goals to increase hope, engagement, entrepreneurial aspirations, and career and financial literacy. Our Building Communities of Hope project in St. Albert Catholic High School and École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d'Youville is a school-university partnership to work with students to make visible sources of hope in their lives within and beyond school. Their experiences in developing visual and digital representations of “hope spaces” will be shared with others in our district community.
Students will experience how indigenous culture and spirituality connects with our Catholic faith. To connect our Catholic faith to Indigenous culture and faith, our Religious Education Consultant is introducing School Chaplains to prayer table artifacts that celebrate our Indigenous communities’ identities, spirituality, and cultural connections. In the September Chaplain meeting, each School Chaplain was given a Métis sash and inuksuk. Some basic facts about each artifact were shared and discussed (e.g., the interwoven threads of the Métis sash represent the cultural sharing between French and Indigenous communities; and the inuksuk symbolizes that “someone has been here” and “this is the way”). Such connections will be visible on prayer tables and used to teach to students through religious education programming and school-wide liturgies and events. Elders and parents of Indigenous students from Alexander First Nation First Nation, St. Albert, Morinville, and Legal communities will be invited to share their histories and stories, and teachings about such artifacts.
Students will learn how to take an active role in Truth and Reconciliation through activities shared with them through teacher professional development led within our district. On September 26th, our ATA Walking Together Consultant led staff through a session to take back to their schools or to lead at district-wide PD on November 9th about Indigenous Alberta and Indigenous Ways of Knowing.
Sessions like this are important to begin to prepare our staff to meet the Teaching Quality Standard (2018) that will come into effect September 1, 2019: A teacher develops and applies foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit for benefit of all students. Achievement of this competency is demonstrated by indicators such as: “supporting learning experiences of all students by using resources that accurately reflect and demonstrate the strength and diversity of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit” communities and individuals.
2017 - 2018 School Year
This collaborative project began with a mission – to create a professional learning resource that would support educators to grow in their collective understanding of Truth and Reconciliation. In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2012) report, the Canadian government defined “reconciliation” as learning what it means to establish and maintain mutually respectful relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.
To that end, there must be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour (pp. 6–7). The TRC presented 94 Calls to Action that outline concrete steps that can be taken to begin the process of reconciliation, and we focused on Education for Reconciliation, 62-65 (pp. 7-9). As educators, we sought the guidance of our local elders in understanding Education for Reconciliation. They urged us “to do something” and “not just to talk about it”.
Given their extensive backgrounds in education and health care in the Cree community of Alexander First Nation Kipohtakaw, they had many excellent suggestions as to how to begin this journey. One of the first steps was to share the stories of residential school survivors through elders and through multimodal texts (print, visual, digital, drama, art). “Put literature in the libraries and in the hands of our students” and “share the work of indigenous role models.” To that end, we approached the Executive Director of the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC), Therese deChamplain-Good and our local St. Albert-Sturgeon Regional Collaborative Service Delivery (RCSD) community and applied for grant funds to develop this kit.
We are now using this kit (literature and activities) in K-12 classrooms and in our School Council and Board meetings.
Residential Schooling Education for All Staff
Historically, residential schools have been known as locations of cultural assimilation and genocide of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children across Canada. Today, Alberta schools are working towards reconciliation of such a history by sharing the "truth" of this past and looking at how to best cultivate positive and respectful relationships among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
The Advisory Committee Members participated in a residential schooling session to enable them as lead staff to share and educate each of the 16 district schools. In the school sessions, staff were actively engaged in examining the history, impacts, and legacy of residential schooling, including the effects of inter-generational trauma. Tools, resources, and strategies that contribute to the development of mutually respectful relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians were explored.
2016 - 2017 School Year
Edna Arcand, Alexander First Nation Elder and Billie-Jo Grant, a Métis teacher at V.J. Maloney
The Blanket Exercise is “a teaching tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada” (http://kairosblanketexercise.org/ ). The Blanket Exercise involves participants in reading scripts and taking on roles of Indigenous and non-Indigenous figures in the scripts. The scripts re-present what took place from the late 1800s to the present between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through well-known historic events such as residential schooling. Through reading scripts and taking on the roles, participants, in a sense, re-live what happened. In Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, we developed locally written scripts in addition to Kairos scripts. The locally developed scripts were constructed with the support of our elders, Edna and Ella Arcand, who are Cree First Nation elders from Alexander First Nation. Because the history shared through this dramatic teaching tool involves participants in our local history, participants tell us that they “feel” very moved by taking part in the process.
On December 9, 2016 and January 27, 2017, we have provided all staff within our jurisdiction and outside members from within our local community an opportunity to take part in our locally written version of the Kairos Blanket Exercise for adults. We worked with our elders, Ella and Edna Arcand, to contribute locally developed scripts about our indigenous communities’ histories, emphasizing the knowledges, perspectives, and histories of our Cree First Nations peoples who lived through residential schooling in the local areas within and surrounding St. Albert.
Our 16 schools are leading the way in sharing this learning opportunity with their parents through communication with their School Councils and through opportunities to take part in blanket ceremonies at their schools.
Our 16 schools are leading the way in sharing this learning opportunity with their parents through communication with their School Councils and through opportunities to take part in blanket ceremonies.