Queen’s educators discuss Truth & Reconciliation

Panel talks classroom implementation of recommendations

The panel discussed the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the classroom.

A panel of three non-Indigenous educators from the Queen’s community came together on Tuesday to discuss the importance of fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation (T&R) Recommendations in the classroom.

Held in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the panel featured Clarissa de Leon from the Faculty of Education and Centre for Teaching and Learning; Carolyn Prouse, assistant professor for the Department of Geography and Planning; and Toni Thornton from the Faculty of Arts & Science Online.

The event was titled “Taking up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations in your Classroom” and is one of two programs being held by the Centre for Teaching and Learning for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Panelists emphasized the need to take responsibility for (T&R) as non-Indigenous educators.

According to the panel, having an entirely non-Indigenous panel of speakers was intentional to lift the burden off Indigenous communities who are over-worked in their efforts to educate others and promote collaboration with Indigenous people in bringing the TRC into classrooms.

When addressing intention versus impact in teaching about Indigeneity, Thornton explained mistakes are inevitable in equity work and educators cannot be immobilized by mistakes.

Processing mistakes in the space as they happen and collaboratively working towards reconciliation is essential to being a non-Indigenous educator.

“It would be really unreasonable to expect that when we are doing this work, we [non-Indigenous educators] won’t make mistakes,” Thornton said. “We cannot let mistakes stop us from doing the work.”

“There has to be some kind of space where we understand that we will always have indigenous students in our class,” de Leon added.

De Leon suggested educators talk directly about residential schools and other traumas experienced by Indigenous communities by having conversations in the classroom that hold non-Indigenous students accountable and prioritizes the well-being of Indigenous students.

Panelists said teachers need to be aware of being vulnerable as an educator and a learner throughout the (T&R) process.

“Classrooms that teach about settler colonialism and forms of colonial violence are not classes always for Indigenous students,” Prouse said.

Prouse said that when engaging students with Indigenous content, teachers need to consider creating spaces in educational institutions that offer classes for Indigenous students as part of their Reconciliation work.

The classroom is not a place to foster traumatic experiences and histories that make Indigenous students and educators feel unwelcome, Prouse added.

“What we do in the classroom is also intimately related to the structures within which we teach, in which we engage the space and build our programs around the concerns of racialized and Indigenous students.”

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.