Student Stories: Meet Bailey Johnson

Bailey Johnson – 4th Year, Metis

Bailey Johnson is Metis from Region 3 in the Okanagan Valley. Currently, Bailey is in 4th year NITEP with a special interest in social and emotional learning along with holistic teaching methods.

A Guide on How to Teach Truth

How many times have you been sitting in class and felt excluded within the narrative the class itself presents?

You don’t have to be a teacher to realize that the current educational school system is depriving learners of essential information that is relevant to their identity. In fact, if you were ever a student once in your life… ask yourself these questions:

  • Was my identity recognized within the lessons taught in class?
  • Did I learn about my history, my family, my culture in class?
  • Was I taught school in a way that honours my learning needs? Was the class content curated to enable me to understand, digest, and demonstrate my knowledge in a way that felt right for my abilities?
  • Was I able to contribute to the class conversation in any given subject based on how I identify and what I can relate to?
  • With the information acquired from school, did I feel as if I could return to my family or community and contribute in a way that holds meaning and also stays true to who I am and where I come from?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you may have been subject to a major flaw in the school system that has been prevalent within the school experiences of many:
Lack of relevance, accuracy, and authenticity.

To understand why this holds true, one must understand the foundation upon which the school system itself was built. The framework of the educational system we utilize today was curated during the Industrial Revolution to adhere to a progressing industrial, Eurocentric, and Western world. During this time, the idea surrounding grades and age groups came about. Learners moved through grades with the expectation that they adhere to specific modes of learning, obtain specific educational requirements, and be able to present their knowledge in a specific way solely based on the year they were born, leaving little room for personalization within the education system.
Now that the foundation is set, we can perceive how this has made the school system problematic to this day. With the foundations of a problematic school system stemming back to the Industrial Revolution, how can we create an environment built on relevant and current information for our students today?

Well… we must deconstruct our entire perception of what a school system is and what it should look like, and reconstruct our classroom and lesson plans based on the identities present in our classroom. We must also cater the execution of these lessons based on the specific needs of those identities.

Here are two tips to guide you to begin your journey of dismantling Eurocentric modes of understanding, and creating an inclusive learning environment:

    1. Being in a position of power, a teacher should not create lessons based on individual bias. One individual frame of reference can be used to contextualize information, but the teacher should make room for learners to contribute their own perspectives based on their own identities. This means modes of evaluation should move away from “one right answer”, to “what you know is your truth”. This requires open dialogue between student and teacher, but also the duality of passing of knowledge between student and student as well. With this, students will be able to validate themselves in the classroom, as well as learn a multitude of frames of references rather than the singular perspective of the teacher in the class.
    2. Teachers must make lesson plans relevant to where they are located. This includes land acknowledgements and the introduction of Indigenous knowledge systems. Teachers must ask themselves:
  • What land am I on?
  • What is the history of this land?
  • Who used to occupy this land?
  • Where are they now?
  • Why did they leave?
  • How do I benefit from this?

In order to learn in a way that is accurate, we must understand the history of the land that is giving us the space to learn from in the first place.

Now these are foundational concepts, and the premise is simple yet generally disregarded. The acknowledgement of the land, and opening the dialogue within your classroom are the first steps you can take to make your classroom more inclusive and relevant to the learners within it. From here, you can unlearn and relearn how Eurocentric systems have deprived you and your students of authentic education and create an educational space that respects and encourages individuality among students, learns from the land, and makes school an inclusive space for all individuals regardless of who or what they are.

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