Category Archives: STARSregina

Moving Forward, Never Forgetting

This experience has been vastly overwhelming – a process of unpacking and personal (emotional) growth.

I have recently become passionate about integrating social justice issues in the classroom. Naturally then, I was looking for ways to provide the students in me pre-internship classroom with an impactful, socially just experience. After dialoguing with my co-operating teacher and a few education professors, I decided that taking my students to the Moving Forward, Never Forgetting exhibit at the MAG was exactly the kind of experience my three-week block planning was missing. I had heard great things about the exhibit and really looked forward to the experience – my enthusiasm was evident, that is for sure!

Upon entering the gallery, my breath was immediately taken away. I am unsure as to whether this was because of the evident beauty among the diversity of the art pieces or because of the impactful first-impressions I felt from some of the pieces. I do not know what I was expecting walking into the exhibit – something that provided students with meaningful learning but was not “in your face”? I am really unsure.

I felt overwhelmed; I had trouble swallowing and felt my eyes welling up with tears. It was an emotional experience to say the least and I felt vulnerable and discomforted the entire time. The first thing to run through my mind: is this content appropriate for my grade six students? I began feeling guilty; if I had not attended this exhibit ahead of time with my university class, I may have naively walked my grade sixes into an experience that is too overwhelming for them. I do not think that in the short three-week period I have with them, I will be able to provide them with the knowledge base they need in order for the exhibit to be meaningfully impactful opposed to emotionally damaging. Our trip to the MAG was planned for the last day of the teaching block, meaning there would be little time afterward for me to provide the students with an opportunity to unpack the experience. All of this was running through my mind the entire time – was it fair for me to unload this heavy knowledge on the shoulders of eleven year olds without a strong background knowledge base and an authentic opportunity to unpack their emotions?

My entire view of teaching for social justice shifted in this moment – I had every intention of teaching about current controversial issues (i.e., missing and murdered Aboriginal women) and exposing the students to the experience of the MAG without even thinking twice about it. Thus far I have been approaching teaching for social justice in ways that are “impactful”, but may in fact be too “in your face”, opposed to approaching it in ways that are relational (with the students’ best interest at heart). Now, I am not saying that when planning to teach for social justice in the past that I have not had my students’ best interest at heart; I am however saying that I may have been so focused on the impactfulness of the issues opposed to the ways in which students may emotionally connect to the content. Essentially, this experience has “knocked me off of my social justice pedestal” – I no longer feel confident in teaching for social justice as I am now refiguring/navigating my approaches…

Another hesitancy lies in the lack of support I may receive as a pre-intern – what support do I have if there are families who are unhappy with my choice to bring their children to the MAG exhibit? Some of the content was quite explicit (i.e., “F*** Harper”) – it would be naïve for me to think that my students have not been exposed to such crudity, but I still felt hesitant. This is my largest fear when teaching for social justice playing out in real life, full force. I have always been questioning my ability to push past this ‘barrier’ (fear? discomfort?) and am now seeing how challenging this task may be. I truly think that this hesitancy among educators is, at times, what denies students from authentic, impactful learning experiences (such as the MAG exhibit). Through extensive dialogue with my co-operating teacher and administrator, I have decided against the community learning experience at the MAG during my three-week block – YAY! Fear has succumbed me! (I am questioning my role as a teacher working towards anti-oppressive practices…)

—–

The content and art pieces within the Moving Forward, Never Forgetting exhibit were emotionally moving for me. I strongly resonated/connected with multiple pieces and see value within the teaching experiences/conversations that can potentially arise from said pieces. All of the pieces are contemporary works; meaning, most inspiration has come from current issues. Now, when age appropriate, this can be a powerful gateway into classroom learning – when students are able to use their perspective and critical thinking skills to unpack current issues in response to an artwork, that is authentic learning! I took almost fifty photos during my time at the exhibit so I could continue to unpack/reflect on the experience once the tour was over. I was amazed at how beautifully the pieces expressed ideas of pain, hurt, forgiveness and reconciliation – all of which are emotions I believe are integral to “moving forward”.

At this time, I am unsure as to what I am feeling – I am still so overwhelmed by the experience that I have succumbed to a sense of numbness. I have been continuously learning about our country’s shared history and the importance of reconciliation; however, attending the exhibit at the MAG made all of this feel so real to me. Yeah, I have been able to think about what it might be like for people living without privilege past and present; however, empathy has been powerfully ignited within myself… What am I feeling? I am unsure. Where do I go from here? I do not have a clue. This is a significant turning point in my journey towards teaching for social justice – a turning point that I did not see coming, but am sure will aid in the continuous shaping of myself as an educator.

reconciliation 1


Moving Forward, Never Forgetting

This experience has been vastly overwhelming – a process of unpacking and personal (emotional) growth.

I have recently become passionate about integrating social justice issues in the classroom. Naturally then, I was looking for ways to provide the students in me pre-internship classroom with an impactful, socially just experience. After dialoguing with my co-operating teacher and a few education professors, I decided that taking my students to the Moving Forward, Never Forgetting exhibit at the MAG was exactly the kind of experience my three-week block planning was missing. I had heard great things about the exhibit and really looked forward to the experience – my enthusiasm was evident, that is for sure!

Upon entering the gallery, my breath was immediately taken away. I am unsure as to whether this was because of the evident beauty among the diversity of the art pieces or because of the impactful first-impressions I felt from some of the pieces. I do not know what I was expecting walking into the exhibit – something that provided students with meaningful learning but was not “in your face”? I am really unsure.

I felt overwhelmed; I had trouble swallowing and felt my eyes welling up with tears. It was an emotional experience to say the least and I felt vulnerable and discomforted the entire time. The first thing to run through my mind: is this content appropriate for my grade six students? I began feeling guilty; if I had not attended this exhibit ahead of time with my university class, I may have naively walked my grade sixes into an experience that is too overwhelming for them. I do not think that in the short three-week period I have with them, I will be able to provide them with the knowledge base they need in order for the exhibit to be meaningfully impactful opposed to emotionally damaging. Our trip to the MAG was planned for the last day of the teaching block, meaning there would be little time afterward for me to provide the students with an opportunity to unpack the experience. All of this was running through my mind the entire time – was it fair for me to unload this heavy knowledge on the shoulders of eleven year olds without a strong background knowledge base and an authentic opportunity to unpack their emotions?

My entire view of teaching for social justice shifted in this moment – I had every intention of teaching about current controversial issues (i.e., missing and murdered Aboriginal women) and exposing the students to the experience of the MAG without even thinking twice about it. Thus far I have been approaching teaching for social justice in ways that are “impactful”, but may in fact be too “in your face”, opposed to approaching it in ways that are relational (with the students’ best interest at heart). Now, I am not saying that when planning to teach for social justice in the past that I have not had my students’ best interest at heart; I am however saying that I may have been so focused on the impactfulness of the issues opposed to the ways in which students may emotionally connect to the content. Essentially, this experience has “knocked me off of my social justice pedestal” – I no longer feel confident in teaching for social justice as I am now refiguring/navigating my approaches…

Another hesitancy lies in the lack of support I may receive as a pre-intern – what support do I have if there are families who are unhappy with my choice to bring their children to the MAG exhibit? Some of the content was quite explicit (i.e., “F*** Harper”) – it would be naïve for me to think that my students have not been exposed to such crudity, but I still felt hesitant. This is my largest fear when teaching for social justice playing out in real life, full force. I have always been questioning my ability to push past this ‘barrier’ (fear? discomfort?) and am now seeing how challenging this task may be. I truly think that this hesitancy among educators is, at times, what denies students from authentic, impactful learning experiences (such as the MAG exhibit). Through extensive dialogue with my co-operating teacher and administrator, I have decided against the community learning experience at the MAG during my three-week block – YAY! Fear has succumbed me! (I am questioning my role as a teacher working towards anti-oppressive practices…)

—–

The content and art pieces within the Moving Forward, Never Forgetting exhibit were emotionally moving for me. I strongly resonated/connected with multiple pieces and see value within the teaching experiences/conversations that can potentially arise from said pieces. All of the pieces are contemporary works; meaning, most inspiration has come from current issues. Now, when age appropriate, this can be a powerful gateway into classroom learning – when students are able to use their perspective and critical thinking skills to unpack current issues in response to an artwork, that is authentic learning! I took almost fifty photos during my time at the exhibit so I could continue to unpack/reflect on the experience once the tour was over. I was amazed at how beautifully the pieces expressed ideas of pain, hurt, forgiveness and reconciliation – all of which are emotions I believe are integral to “moving forward”.

At this time, I am unsure as to what I am feeling – I am still so overwhelmed by the experience that I have succumbed to a sense of numbness. I have been continuously learning about our country’s shared history and the importance of reconciliation; however, attending the exhibit at the MAG made all of this feel so real to me. Yeah, I have been able to think about what it might be like for people living without privilege past and present; however, empathy has been powerfully ignited within myself… What am I feeling? I am unsure. Where do I go from here? I do not have a clue. This is a significant turning point in my journey towards teaching for social justice – a turning point that I did not see coming, but am sure will aid in the continuous shaping of myself as an educator.

reconciliation 1


Family Matters

I felt as though at this time my journey alongside the Witness Blanket was not finished, not fulfilled (although I am sure it will never actually end) – as if something was missing, this chapter of my story was incomplete. In previous weeks, I have been talking extensively about the Witness Blanket and my experiences alongside this learning. My family and I have not always seen eye to eye in terms of sharing similar perspectives; however, I did feel as though they would benefit from spending some time alongside the Witness Blanket. Before posing this idea to them, I thought long and hard about the potential implications or repercussions of this experience – we have gotten into heated arguments/debates based on our diverse perspectives. Ultimately, I was unsure as to whether or not this would be productive learning or destructive learning for all parties involved. After reflecting on my hesitancies, I had decided that it was worth the risk – I could not let the fear of diverging perspectives prevent me from sharing this experience with them (not everyone is going to agree with me in any context, therefore I cannot let this fear prevent me from sharing this vitally important knowledge).

I was nervous to ask my family to participate in this alongside me – I had absolutely no clue what their reactions would be. I began by nervously babbling on about why the Witness Blanket has been so significant for me, followed by quickly throwing it out there – ‘will you come and spend some time with the Witness Blanket and myself tonight?’ To my surprise, they (my mom, dad and sister) had willingly agreed to participate – I was unsure as to what extent they would be emotionally invested, but the fact that they even agreed to come was HUGE (**if you knew my family and their hesitancies surrounding accepting narratives different than their own, you would understand how big of a deal a mere agreement truly is!).

When we arrived at the University, I was in utter shock to see their immediate engagement – we all split up and explored the content individually, at our own pace. Everyone was guiding their own learning based on level of prior knowledge and comfort. My sister had checked out emotionally quite quickly; when asking her why, she had explained that she really had no background knowledge that enabled her to understand the purpose of the piece (she has not attended the U of R and taken Indigenous Studies 100 – so is this a failure on behalf of our education [k-12] system? An occurrence I can only imagine to be so prevalent among individuals her age – I am most definitely coming to see the importance of providing students with this knowledge and educator roles within this learning…). I knew coming into this that she had little prior knowledge and I tried to prepare her as best as I could in a short amount of time – twelve years worth of Treaty Education knowledge jam packed into a twenty minute car ride to the university? Highly unlikely that much, if anything, was absorbed…

It was absolutely inspiring (and overwhelming) to see their active engagement and inquisitiveness throughout. Their thoughtfulness extended beyond the parameters of the short hour-long period spent with the Witness Blanket – over a week had passed since the experience and my aunt had told me about a conversation she had with my dad about his learning (again, HUGE! the fact that my dad felt the need to call her and tell her about his experience is so moving – this gives me hope for a future of moving forward). My intent behind spending time with my family alongside the Witness Blanket was not to change their perspectives (or who they are and what they believe); however, I do feel as though I impacted them in some way (no matter how significant or insignificant). Taking the first steps with my family and providing an opportunity and space to have uncomfortable conversations allowed for an emotional connection to emerge – no matter to what extent, I truly believe I played a part in starting their journey towards acknowledgement and bearing witness…

“Witness: to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception.”


Family Matters

I felt as though at this time my journey alongside the Witness Blanket was not finished, not fulfilled (although I am sure it will never actually end) – as if something was missing, this chapter of my story was incomplete. In previous weeks, I have been talking extensively about the Witness Blanket and my experiences alongside this learning. My family and I have not always seen eye to eye in terms of sharing similar perspectives; however, I did feel as though they would benefit from spending some time alongside the Witness Blanket. Before posing this idea to them, I thought long and hard about the potential implications or repercussions of this experience – we have gotten into heated arguments/debates based on our diverse perspectives. Ultimately, I was unsure as to whether or not this would be productive learning or destructive learning for all parties involved. After reflecting on my hesitancies, I had decided that it was worth the risk – I could not let the fear of diverging perspectives prevent me from sharing this experience with them (not everyone is going to agree with me in any context, therefore I cannot let this fear prevent me from sharing this vitally important knowledge).

I was nervous to ask my family to participate in this alongside me – I had absolutely no clue what their reactions would be. I began by nervously babbling on about why the Witness Blanket has been so significant for me, followed by quickly throwing it out there – ‘will you come and spend some time with the Witness Blanket and myself tonight?’ To my surprise, they (my mom, dad and sister) had willingly agreed to participate – I was unsure as to what extent they would be emotionally invested, but the fact that they even agreed to come was HUGE (**if you knew my family and their hesitancies surrounding accepting narratives different than their own, you would understand how big of a deal a mere agreement truly is!).

When we arrived at the University, I was in utter shock to see their immediate engagement – we all split up and explored the content individually, at our own pace. Everyone was guiding their own learning based on level of prior knowledge and comfort. My sister had checked out emotionally quite quickly; when asking her why, she had explained that she really had no background knowledge that enabled her to understand the purpose of the piece (she has not attended the U of R and taken Indigenous Studies 100 – so is this a failure on behalf of our education [k-12] system? An occurrence I can only imagine to be so prevalent among individuals her age – I am most definitely coming to see the importance of providing students with this knowledge and educator roles within this learning…). I knew coming into this that she had little prior knowledge and I tried to prepare her as best as I could in a short amount of time – twelve years worth of Treaty Education knowledge jam packed into a twenty minute car ride to the university? Highly unlikely that much, if anything, was absorbed…

It was absolutely inspiring (and overwhelming) to see their active engagement and inquisitiveness throughout. Their thoughtfulness extended beyond the parameters of the short hour-long period spent with the Witness Blanket – over a week had passed since the experience and my aunt had told me about a conversation she had with my dad about his learning (again, HUGE! the fact that my dad felt the need to call her and tell her about his experience is so moving – this gives me hope for a future of moving forward). My intent behind spending time with my family alongside the Witness Blanket was not to change their perspectives (or who they are and what they believe); however, I do feel as though I impacted them in some way (no matter how significant or insignificant). Taking the first steps with my family and providing an opportunity and space to have uncomfortable conversations allowed for an emotional connection to emerge – no matter to what extent, I truly believe I played a part in starting their journey towards acknowledgement and bearing witness…

“Witness: to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception.”


P (people) – L (land) – A (acknowledge) – C (community, creator) – E (experiences).

The concept of place has strongly resonated with me throughout this experience thus far; I have come to realize the importance of our connection with place, recognizing the ways in which place shapes our lives. Community, in many aspects, shapes who we are and where we are headed in our journey. I truly believe that community, and within that spectrum family and relationships, have a significant impact on the current perspectives, values and beliefs that we hold – we are, at times, products of where we are from.

I am coming to understand the importance of place in our journey and the ways in which where we have been can affect where we are headed. Prior to the experiences I have had in the past few years, the concept of place has not been an overly relevant (conscious) understanding of mine – meaning, I had never really considered the ways in which my upbringing has influenced my identity development and exploration (The epitome of white privilege! I did not have to think about place, as I did not see it contextually relevant – I was completely oblivious to this understanding). However, I am beginning to see the ways in which my connections with the land in various locations hold such strong emotional value for myself. I have begun to wonder about all of the places that have impacted my being (either directly or indirectly). I have begun to ask questions about those ‘missing pieces’ amongst my ancestry that I have never really explored. I am wondering the ways in which my connection to the land would strengthen as a result of being cognizant of my relationships with place. I am thinking about the ways in which I can appreciate the land (and place) and all that it has offered me throughout my life thus far.

During the first week of this semester, Sean spoke about “stories that live on the land”; I began to reminisce about the times I have spent in the Qu’Appelle valley – spending time with loved ones, fishing on the lake, and appreciating the beauty the land has to offer. I am wondering the extent of the narratives this place has seen, as well as the stories it continues to hold onto. I am starting to understand who I am as a Treaty Person, born and raised on Treaty 4 land, and what this means for me as a future educator. I am thinking about a trip to Fort Qu’Appelle and Lebret Saskatchewan where we spent time at the Treaty 4 monuments and the grounds of the Lebret Residential School; we discussed and imagined narratives of the people whose life memories were completely based upon this land. We thought about the ways in which where we were standing in that very moment influenced the outcomes of lives who once stood there also. We reflected… The opportunities for learning and personal development (growth) alongside the land and place can be so impactful for students – I feel as though we spend so much time focusing on learning experiences that are unauthentic because they connect to the curriculum; meanwhile, we are neglecting the teachings all around us in our community. We need to be taking learning outside of the classroom walls – we walk to school, drive to work, etc. in the same way everyday. I am wondering how many of us have actually ever went and spent some time out on that land (considering the land on which we live and the stories it has to offer).


P (people) – L (land) – A (acknowledge) – C (community, creator) – E (experiences).

The concept of place has strongly resonated with me throughout this experience thus far; I have come to realize the importance of our connection with place, recognizing the ways in which place shapes our lives. Community, in many aspects, shapes who we are and where we are headed in our journey. I truly believe that community, and within that spectrum family and relationships, have a significant impact on the current perspectives, values and beliefs that we hold – we are, at times, products of where we are from.

I am coming to understand the importance of place in our journey and the ways in which where we have been can affect where we are headed. Prior to the experiences I have had in the past few years, the concept of place has not been an overly relevant (conscious) understanding of mine – meaning, I had never really considered the ways in which my upbringing has influenced my identity development and exploration (The epitome of white privilege! I did not have to think about place, as I did not see it contextually relevant – I was completely oblivious to this understanding). However, I am beginning to see the ways in which my connections with the land in various locations hold such strong emotional value for myself. I have begun to wonder about all of the places that have impacted my being (either directly or indirectly). I have begun to ask questions about those ‘missing pieces’ amongst my ancestry that I have never really explored. I am wondering the ways in which my connection to the land would strengthen as a result of being cognizant of my relationships with place. I am thinking about the ways in which I can appreciate the land (and place) and all that it has offered me throughout my life thus far.

During the first week of this semester, Sean spoke about “stories that live on the land”; I began to reminisce about the times I have spent in the Qu’Appelle valley – spending time with loved ones, fishing on the lake, and appreciating the beauty the land has to offer. I am wondering the extent of the narratives this place has seen, as well as the stories it continues to hold onto. I am starting to understand who I am as a Treaty Person, born and raised on Treaty 4 land, and what this means for me as a future educator. I am thinking about a trip to Fort Qu’Appelle and Lebret Saskatchewan where we spent time at the Treaty 4 monuments and the grounds of the Lebret Residential School; we discussed and imagined narratives of the people whose life memories were completely based upon this land. We thought about the ways in which where we were standing in that very moment influenced the outcomes of lives who once stood there also. We reflected… The opportunities for learning and personal development (growth) alongside the land and place can be so impactful for students – I feel as though we spend so much time focusing on learning experiences that are unauthentic because they connect to the curriculum; meanwhile, we are neglecting the teachings all around us in our community. We need to be taking learning outside of the classroom walls – we walk to school, drive to work, etc. in the same way everyday. I am wondering how many of us have actually ever went and spent some time out on that land (considering the land on which we live and the stories it has to offer).


Sitting (Learning) In Good Company

Sitting with the Witness Blanket brings new insight each time; the details within the piece seem to be endless – I am continuously noticing new elements. I am continuously experiencing new emotions; I am continuously broadening my perspectives…I am (and I think I always will be) learning (and unlearning).

Here I am, spending time sitting on the floor blogging as I take in this experience; there are people walking past me, giving me strange looks – I can only imagine what they are thinking (‘the girl who befriended the blanket’, I am sure!). I often wonder why there are so many people who pass by the Witness Blanket every day, yet never take the time to stop and take in its beauty. Maybe they are not ready to go to that ‘place’ within themselves yet; when speaking with Joseph, he shared his observation: people are either overtly ready for reconciliation or avoiding it (and the emotions involved) like the plague. Either way, I think people need to come to terms with everything that has happened at their own pace, on their own terms – gestures of reconciliation will not be authentic if it is forced or imposed on individuals.

I am wondering about the ways in which I can use powerful entities, such as the Witness Blanket, in my teaching experiences. I feel as though it leaves experience open for interpretation and provides a gentle approach to impacting lives. There are many entry points for discussion, learning, reflection and understanding via the Witness Blanket – all of which can shift perspective and the ways in which view our experiences. The Witness Blanket allows for us to honor the lives of the children who attended Residential Schools (the survivors and the fallen); all of the learning I have done surrounding Residential Schools did not become real for me until I was able to view the Witness Blanket – there is nothing more impactful (powerful) than an emotional connection, something I plan to [eventually] share with my students…

witness 1


Sitting (Learning) In Good Company

Sitting with the Witness Blanket brings new insight each time; the details within the piece seem to be endless – I am continuously noticing new elements. I am continuously experiencing new emotions; I am continuously broadening my perspectives…I am (and I think I always will be) learning (and unlearning).

Here I am, spending time sitting on the floor blogging as I take in this experience; there are people walking past me, giving me strange looks – I can only imagine what they are thinking (‘the girl who befriended the blanket’, I am sure!). I often wonder why there are so many people who pass by the Witness Blanket every day, yet never take the time to stop and take in its beauty. Maybe they are not ready to go to that ‘place’ within themselves yet; when speaking with Joseph, he shared his observation: people are either overtly ready for reconciliation or avoiding it (and the emotions involved) like the plague. Either way, I think people need to come to terms with everything that has happened at their own pace, on their own terms – gestures of reconciliation will not be authentic if it is forced or imposed on individuals.

I am wondering about the ways in which I can use powerful entities, such as the Witness Blanket, in my teaching experiences. I feel as though it leaves experience open for interpretation and provides a gentle approach to impacting lives. There are many entry points for discussion, learning, reflection and understanding via the Witness Blanket – all of which can shift perspective and the ways in which view our experiences. The Witness Blanket allows for us to honor the lives of the children who attended Residential Schools (the survivors and the fallen); all of the learning I have done surrounding Residential Schools did not become real for me until I was able to view the Witness Blanket – there is nothing more impactful (powerful) than an emotional connection, something I plan to [eventually] share with my students…

witness 1


“Why Can’t We Just Move Forward?”

In the days leading up to giving student tours of the Witness Blanket, I worked hard to prepare myself – researching, reading, furthering my knowledge so I could be prepared if students had questions. My biggest fear – not being an adequate tour guide for these students. What would happen if I were unable to answer some of their questions? How would their perspective of me shift if they saw me as inadequate? All of these thoughts overtook my mind,,, I was well aware that there would be no way I could come close to being an ‘expert’ on the Blanket; however, I wanted to try to be the best version of myself upon giving the tours – I did not want to let the students down.

“What do the students know and how can we continue this learning together?”

My insecurities quickly vanished once I was with the students – I do not know why I put so much pressure on myself… we are all learning! I began with a brainstorming session, where I had the students gather around a few poster boars. Their task was to write down everything they knew about Residential Schools – no thought or idea was wrong! The point of this activity was for me to gain a better understanding as to where the students were at in terms of background knowledge – I would then adapt my teaching as required. I was shocked to see how much the student actually knew; my feelings of inferiority slowly crept back in, but for a different reason this time…I had underestimated what the students would know and was worried I would not be able to teach them anything new! The dynamics shifted as we began to discuss what they had written down through brainstorming – I quickly realized that in this experience, they would be the teacher and I would be the learner…quite an empowering experience to say the least!

As we began to explore the Witness Blanket itself, the students were so excited; I began by allowing the students time to explore the artifacts before digging into the information (activity before content). The Witness Blanket can be overwhelming, as there is so much to take in, but at the same time powerful, as the beauty of the pieces speak for themselves. Some students chose to take a step back and view the Blanket from afar, while others took a more ‘up close and personal’ approach with the blanket – I was understanding of both experiences, as I had felt a multiplicities of emotions thus far in this process (hesitancy, fear, excitement, interest, etc.). Once the exploration began to wrap up, we dove right into discussion. The students had so many questions and it was a refreshing experience to have an informal conversation about things the students and I had both been wondering about lately.

Our session ended by unpacking our thoughts, perspectives and conversations. I truly believe that this reflective aspect of the experience was vital – spending time with the Witness Blanket is an overwhelming venture, reflecting is key. We revisited our initial brainstorming and began to discuss what we are now wondering. I was, again, surprised at some of the things the students had to say and was at a loss for words when trying to respond to some of their questions thoughtfully:

 “Why can’t we just move forward? Why can’t we forget about what has         happened in the past? Like the Treaties. Why do we still have Treaties when it is not fair for everyone? Why can’t we re-write the Treaties and make things better for everyone now and in the future? It’s just not fair. I wish that I could take some of the pain so our First Nations people can start to feel better.”

I am sure at this point my jaw hit the floor; I was so moved by each student’s expression of empathy. If nothing else, I know that this experience has tugged on the heartstrings of many as we discussed the ways in which we can move forward as one – reaching a point of reconciliation. I may not have been an expert coming into this experience, but that is okay. I may have learned more than I actually taught during the time spent with the students. I now see the power behind conversation – dialogue helps us to expand our perspectives and grow in ways we might have never imagined. It is through conversation that we find ourselves and others coming together, walking together; navigating this journey as one.

It is truly amazing how one sole entity, such as the Witness Blanket, can evoke a multiplicity of emotions while bringing so many people together. I am now able to see the importance of this piece in response to reconciliation – when you spend time with the Witness Blanket, it really makes you think about what has happened in the past. It really makes you wonder why our history tells itself like it does. It makes you feel a glimmering sense of hope for the future; it allows you to begin to see yourself within this narrative past, present and future – an empowering entity all on its own.


“Why Can’t We Just Move Forward?”

In the days leading up to giving student tours of the Witness Blanket, I worked hard to prepare myself – researching, reading, furthering my knowledge so I could be prepared if students had questions. My biggest fear – not being an adequate tour guide for these students. What would happen if I were unable to answer some of their questions? How would their perspective of me shift if they saw me as inadequate? All of these thoughts overtook my mind,,, I was well aware that there would be no way I could come close to being an ‘expert’ on the Blanket; however, I wanted to try to be the best version of myself upon giving the tours – I did not want to let the students down.

“What do the students know and how can we continue this learning together?”

My insecurities quickly vanished once I was with the students – I do not know why I put so much pressure on myself… we are all learning! I began with a brainstorming session, where I had the students gather around a few poster boars. Their task was to write down everything they knew about Residential Schools – no thought or idea was wrong! The point of this activity was for me to gain a better understanding as to where the students were at in terms of background knowledge – I would then adapt my teaching as required. I was shocked to see how much the student actually knew; my feelings of inferiority slowly crept back in, but for a different reason this time…I had underestimated what the students would know and was worried I would not be able to teach them anything new! The dynamics shifted as we began to discuss what they had written down through brainstorming – I quickly realized that in this experience, they would be the teacher and I would be the learner…quite an empowering experience to say the least!

As we began to explore the Witness Blanket itself, the students were so excited; I began by allowing the students time to explore the artifacts before digging into the information (activity before content). The Witness Blanket can be overwhelming, as there is so much to take in, but at the same time powerful, as the beauty of the pieces speak for themselves. Some students chose to take a step back and view the Blanket from afar, while others took a more ‘up close and personal’ approach with the blanket – I was understanding of both experiences, as I had felt a multiplicities of emotions thus far in this process (hesitancy, fear, excitement, interest, etc.). Once the exploration began to wrap up, we dove right into discussion. The students had so many questions and it was a refreshing experience to have an informal conversation about things the students and I had both been wondering about lately.

Our session ended by unpacking our thoughts, perspectives and conversations. I truly believe that this reflective aspect of the experience was vital – spending time with the Witness Blanket is an overwhelming venture, reflecting is key. We revisited our initial brainstorming and began to discuss what we are now wondering. I was, again, surprised at some of the things the students had to say and was at a loss for words when trying to respond to some of their questions thoughtfully:

 “Why can’t we just move forward? Why can’t we forget about what has         happened in the past? Like the Treaties. Why do we still have Treaties when it is not fair for everyone? Why can’t we re-write the Treaties and make things better for everyone now and in the future? It’s just not fair. I wish that I could take some of the pain so our First Nations people can start to feel better.”

I am sure at this point my jaw hit the floor; I was so moved by each student’s expression of empathy. If nothing else, I know that this experience has tugged on the heartstrings of many as we discussed the ways in which we can move forward as one – reaching a point of reconciliation. I may not have been an expert coming into this experience, but that is okay. I may have learned more than I actually taught during the time spent with the students. I now see the power behind conversation – dialogue helps us to expand our perspectives and grow in ways we might have never imagined. It is through conversation that we find ourselves and others coming together, walking together; navigating this journey as one.

It is truly amazing how one sole entity, such as the Witness Blanket, can evoke a multiplicity of emotions while bringing so many people together. I am now able to see the importance of this piece in response to reconciliation – when you spend time with the Witness Blanket, it really makes you think about what has happened in the past. It really makes you wonder why our history tells itself like it does. It makes you feel a glimmering sense of hope for the future; it allows you to begin to see yourself within this narrative past, present and future – an empowering entity all on its own.