An Examination of the Role of White Teachers Working in Aboriginal Communities
O’Connor, B. (2013). An Examination of the Role of White Teachers Working in Aboriginal Communities.
Research in education asserts that racism and discrimination in schools and in our wider society are factors that impede the success of Aboriginal learners. White teachers, who currently make up the majority of those who teach Aboriginal students in British Columbia, have a role to play in transforming our schools. This requires them to challenge their own preconceptions and confront structures of power and dominance. Through semi-structured interviews and a focus group session, this qualitative, case study fills a gap in the literature by exploring the views of seven White teachers, working in rural Southern British Columbia. It seeks to understand how they describe their experiences and perceptions of their role in order to learn how they can best be supported to combat the inequity that exists within the system. The findings of the study demonstrate that while some teachers do have an understanding of the impact of race in the classroom, others maintain ‘colour-blind’ perspectives. Although they expressed the desire to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing in curriculum, many participants felt that the decision to do so was largely left to them as classroom teachers. They also expressed anxiety about doing so in a respectful and authentic way. Relationships with students and community members were viewed as vital; however, those who were new to the community expressed the desire to make stronger connections with both parents and community members. Time living in the community was viewed as an important factor in developing these relationships. Areas where teachers can be supported to work as allies alongside community members towards a more equitable system for Aboriginal students are highlighted through the analysis of the findings of this case study.