Jen Maxwell Transcript

This project was the culminating project of a cross-curricular cohort. So — the kids — they came into this cohort, and they earned credit for English First Peoples 12, and Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12 — which is a social studies credit in British Columbia — and Career Life Education 12. And so, they had all those courses all taught together by myself and my colleague Angela Bowie, and they earned credit for all three in a double block. And so, we had looked at all different kinds of topics related to Indigenous histories, and contemporary realities, and Indigenous teachings. And so, at the very end of it the kids were invited to look at the 94 calls to action, and then assess where the government was at — in, sort of, responding to these Calls to Action. And the kids were quite shocked. And we used the Beyond 94 website and, you know, some of the calls haven't been touched at all 10 years later. And so, their final project was to engage authentically with the Calls to Action, choose a topic area that we had explored in class, and then how to share their knowledge with somebody else. So, whether it be peers, or other teachers, or community members, and, sort of like, get that information. Not just about the Calls to Action but about their chosen subject area as well. 

We had lots and lots of kids that are Indigenous from different nations across Canada. We had lots of kids that were new-ish immigrants as well. And students who were of settler ancestry and their families had been around in the area for many generations. And so, it was a real mix. It was also really big — there were big discrepancies in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds as well in the class, and even in terms of academic achievement. So, we had students in our class that had struggled for years in school and this was finally something that was really resonating with them. And then we had students who had been sort of on the path, "I'm going into law, I'm going into law enforcement, I'm going into medicine." You know, that they understood they were taking this coursework because they knew that it was going to be immediately relevant to them to understand Indigenous protocols and histories. So, they were from a really, really diverse background and I'd say the perspectives were different. But, I also had lots of Indigenous students that were in various stages of reconnecting with their own histories. And some of the things that they learned in our cohort were things that they they didn't know before about their own history. 

When I took on this cohort, like, I'm of settler ancestry — my ancestors are English and French. And definitely when it comes to Indigenous histories, and cultures, and protocols, the more you learn the more you're like, "I don't know anything at all." And so, I felt, like, hesitant going into it. And I had lots of conversations with Indigenous colleagues. Like should I go for this? And should I — am I the right person to be teaching this? And so, I position myself as a learner alongside my students. And so, we really got to share that experience together. It was very, very transformative. It was very rewarding. 

And the kids started to see — actually, the kids started to get really critical of all the things that had just been accepted norms. And so, the kids started to look around the room and look at, like, okay our, like, Western colonial school system. And they're looking at the First People's Principles of Learning, which was developed by the First Nations Education Steering Committee in British Columbia. It was, like, Knowledge Keepers, and Elders, and educators all came together and they put together these principles of learning. And it's about how we see how learning works, and so, our kids are looking at these and they're looking at, you know, the way our school system works and they're, like, mad. They're like, "There is a better way to do this." And so, I do feel like it kind of awoke something in them and, and it definitely stoked the flames in me too. That we can start to dismantle some of these things and engage in decolonizing and Indigenizing of pedagogy because we can. Because we don't have to just accept the things as they are. We can look at new ways of doing things that are going to respond to the whole child.