We facilitate collective empowerment by supporting Indigenous students through family and community connections.
It can help to have a good relationship between the school and indigenous services if there are any in the community. Teachers need to feel they can ask questions and get support. When we don’t know something we may stay away instead of asking questions and learning. If we are too scared we won’t help students because we are avoiding who they are.
Connecting with indigenous communities and families is an important way to understand the experiences, perspectives and needs of our self-identified First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, enabling us to more effectively ensure their well-being and support their learning.
In some cases, we may encounter resistance or disinterest when we attempt to build connections with family members or caregivers of Aboriginal students. Placing this experience in the historical and social Canadian context brings meaning to these challenges. Approaching the situation with an attitude of compassion and non-judgment and the intent to listen and understand are the most effective strategies.
If we encounter barriers when reaching out to First Nations, Métis and Inuit family members or caregivers, we can verify their support systems and seek to build their connections with community services (where they exist). For example, when issuing an invitation to a meeting, we can respond to resistance, distrust or uncertainty by asking:
- "Is there an agency you work with?"
- "Is there a support person you want to bring to the meeting?"
Consulting and engaging culturally specific services can provide an indispensable support. Such services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit families have knowledge, experience and skills to share, equipping and supporting teachers to ask and learn about students’ needs, rather than making assumptions.
For more information and strategies about working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit parents, families and caregivers, consult COPA’s multimedia resource, A Circle of Caring on copahabitat.ca.