Discovering that First Nation student high school completion was far below the mainstream average was very altering to me because a quality and informed education opens many doors to the future that non-completion closes. Upon examining the issue, I discovered that many proposed solutions were authored by theorists & ivory-tower professionals rather than involving student voices, experiences, direction, and insights into the core of the solution & ways forward.
By means of the context of a MA Thesis (guided and advised by the Chair of a University Sociology Department), a number of First Nation students and First Nation educators/educational leaders were given an opportunity to share their insight, voices, and experiences by means of open-ended interviews to highlight where supports were lacking and needed and where strengths were strong and could be utilized to better support First Nation and indigenous learners in surrounding school districts.
One insight gained by such shared experiences and voices of students was that the hurdles to support (as well as the supported areas they felt needed to be increased) went beyond the classroom and the school environment into community quality and well-being, family support and encouragement, connection to culture, as well as a number of other factors in the four major areas of school and education, family and relations, community and surroundings, and cultural affinity and relationships with culture keepers. In fact, they felt 'surrounded' by both the issues that impacted them in a negative way (which hindered performance in schools), but felt that the potential sources of support also surrounded them - and change is needed.
By means of such student interviews to convey their unique perspectives, voices, experiences, and messages (& supplemented by regional educators and education leaders), a better understanding of the problems & solutions began to take shape.
These insights and voices were then supplemented by; current and dynamic educational research, Anishinaabe cultural teachings shared to better support student performance, and advising by a number of Anishinaabe mentors.
Beyond the research reflections, the study prompted the development of a framework for a partnership model of educational support specifically for indigenous learners. The model, titled The Gikino Amawaagan First Nation Student Education Support Wheel, creates a community of teaching and learning by forging partnerships between the student & surrounding partners whom are interrelated in their responsibilities to support learning (a defining characteristic of traditional education).
These interrelated partners are family and relations, community members and community leaders/representatives, those who carry the culture and teachings such as elders/lodge-keepers, and school administrators and classroom teachers.
Four declarations such as sobriety, support, stability, and support actively keep the partnerships strong, as well as partnership fundamentals developed & maintained by the Seven Grandfather Teachings and indigenous spiritual world view.
The defining characteristic of this educational support framework is that is was guided and given life by student experiences, quality research, educational leaders and administrators, cultural teachings, and advising by my elders.
I truly hope that many of our youth will be impacted in positive ways and it will help open doors of opportunity for them by giving them dynamic avenues of true support in school.
I began this project with a responsibility to give back to my community. For generations, our young people have been the target of deplorable methods of colonization by means of the education they received. This is my contribution to reverse the situation the best I can.
Various school districts have requested copies of the model & the accompanying summary application document, found here: http://freepdfhosting.com/fdd56748ee.pdf